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Title: Sturdy and Strong - How George Andrews Made His Way
Author: Henty, G. A. (George Alfred), 1832-1902
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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                          STURDY AND STRONG

                             G. A. HENTY


      [Illustration: "SURLY JOE SAT WITH A CHILD ON EITHER SIDE,
                     TELLING THEM SEA STORIES."--_Frontispiece._
                                            _Sturdy and Strong._]



                          STURDY AND STRONG
                  _How George Andrews Made His Way_

                                  BY
                             G. A. HENTY

      AUTHOR OF "THE YOUNG CARTHAGINIAN," "WITH CLIVE IN INDIA,"
    "IN FREEDOM'S CAUSE," "THE LION OF THE NORTH," "FACING DEATH,"
                           ETC., ETC., ETC.


                               NEW YORK
                       THE FEDERAL BOOK COMPANY
                              PUBLISHERS



PREFACE.


Whatever may be said as to distinction of classes in England, it is
certain that in no country in the world is the upward path more open
to those who brace themselves to climb it than in our own. The
proportion of those who remain absolutely stationary is comparatively
small. We are all living on a hillside, and we must either go up or
down. It is easier to descend than to ascend; but he who fixes his
eyes upwards, nerves himself for the climb, and determines with all
his might and power to win his way towards the top, is sure to find
himself at the end of his day at a far higher level than when he
started upon his journey. It may be said, and sometimes foolishly is
said, that luck is everything; but in nineteen cases out of twenty
what is called luck is simply a combination of opportunity, and of the
readiness and quickness to turn that opportunity to advantage. The
voyager must take every advantage of wind, tide, and current, if he
would make a favorable journey; and for success in life it is
necessary not only to be earnest, steadfast, and true, but to have the
faculty of turning every opportunity to the best advantage; just as a
climber utilizes every tuft of grass, every little shrub, every
projecting rock, as a hold for his hands or feet. George Andrews had
what may be called luck--that is, he had opportunities and took
advantage of them, and his rise in life was consequently far more
rapid than if he had let them pass without grasping them; but in any
case his steadiness, perseverance, and determination to get on would
assuredly have made their way in the long run. If similar qualities
and similar determinations are yours, you need not despair of similar
success in life.

                                                        G. A. HENTY.



CONTENTS.


       STURDY AND STRONG:           PAGE
    I. ALONE,                          1
   II. TWO FRIENDS,                   25
  III. WORK,                          48
   IV. HOME,                          74
    V. AN ADVENTURE,                  97
   VI. FIRE!                         117
  VII. SAVED!                        142
       DO YOUR DUTY,                 165
       SURLY JOE,                    231
       A FISH-WIFE'S DREAM,          257



STURDY AND STRONG.



CHAPTER I.

ALONE.


"You heard what he said, George?"

"Oh, mother, mother!"

"Don't sob so, my boy; he is right. I have seen it coming a long time,
and, hard as it seems, it will be better. There is no disgrace in it.
I have tried my best, and if my health had not broken down we might
have managed, but you see it was not to be. I shall not mind it, dear;
it is really only for your sake that I care about it at all."

The boy had ceased sobbing, and sat now with a white set face.

"Mother, it will break my heart to think that I cannot keep you from
this. If we could only have managed for a year or two I could have
earned more then; but to think of you--you in the workhouse!"

"In a workhouse infirmary, my boy," his mother said gently. "You see it
is not as if it were from any fault of ours. We have done our best. You
and I have managed for two years; but what with my health and my eyes
breaking down we can do so no longer. I hope it will not be for long,
dear. You see I shall have rest and quiet, and I hope I shall soon be
able to be out again."

"Not soon, mother. The doctor said you ought not to use your eyes for
months."

"Even months pass quickly, George, when one has hope. I have felt this
coming so long that I shall be easier and happier now it has come. After
all, what is a workhouse infirmary but a hospital, and it would not seem
so very dreadful to you my going into a hospital; the difference is only
in name; both are, after all, charities, but the one is kept up out of
subscriptions, the other from the rates."

His mother's words conveyed but little comfort to George Andrews. He had
just come in from his work, and had heard what the parish doctor had
told his mother.

"I can do nothing for you here, Mrs. Andrews. You must have rest and
quiet for your eyes, and not only that, but you must have strengthening
food. It is no use my blinking the truth. It is painful for you, I know.
I can well understand that; but I see no other way. If you refuse to go
I won't answer for your life."

"I will go, doctor," she had answered quietly. "I know that it will be
best. It will be a blow to my boy, but I see no other way."

"If you don't want your boy to be alone in the world, ma'am, you will do
as I advise you. I will go round in the morning and get you the order of
admission, and as I shall be driving out that way I will, if you like,
take you myself."

"Thank you, doctor; you are very good. Yes, I will be ready in the
morning, and I thank you for your offer."

"Very well, then, that's settled," the doctor said briskly. "At ten
o'clock I will be here."

Although a little rough in manner, Dr. Jeffries was a kind-hearted and
humane man.

"Poor woman," he said to himself as he went downstairs, "it is hard for
her. It is easy to see that she is a lady, and a thorough lady too; but
what can I do for her! I might get her a little temporary help, but that
would be of no use--she is completely broken down with anxiety and
insufficient food, and unless her eyes have a long holiday she will lose
her sight. No, there's nothing else for it, but it is hard."

It was hard. Mrs. Andrews was, as the doctor said, a lady. She had lost
both her parents while she was at school. She had no near relations, and
as she was sixteen when her mother died she had remained at school
finishing her education and teaching the younger children. Then she had
obtained a situation as governess in a gentleman's family, and two years
afterwards had married a young barrister who was a frequent visitor at
the house.

Mr. Andrews was looked upon as a rising man, and for the first seven or
eight years of her marriage his wife's life had been a very happy one.
Then her husband was prostrated by a fever which he caught in one of the
midland towns while on circuit, and although he partially recovered he
was never himself again. His power of work seemed to be lost; a languor
which he could not overcome took possession of him. A troublesome cough
ere long attacked him, and two years later Mrs. Andrews was a widow, and
her boy, then nine years old, an orphan.

During the last two years of his life Mr. Andrews had earned but
little in his profession. The comfortable house which he occupied had
been given up, and they had removed to one much smaller. But in spite
of this, debts mounted up, and when, after his death, the remaining
furniture was sold and everything settled, there remained only about
two hundred pounds. Mrs. Andrews tried to get some pupils among her
late husband's friends, but during the last two years she had lost
sight of many of these, and now met with but poor success among the
others. She was a quiet and retiring woman, and shrank from continuous
solicitations, and at the end of three years she found her little
store exhausted.

Hitherto she had kept George at school, but could no longer do so,
and, giving up her lodging in Brompton, went down to Croydon, where
someone had told her that they thought she would have a better chance
of obtaining pupils, but the cards which some of the tradesmen allowed
her to put in the window led to no result, and finding this to be the
case she applied at one of the milliner's for work. This she obtained,
and for a year supported herself and her boy by needlework.

From the time when George left school she had gone on teaching him his
lessons; but on the day when he was thirteen years old he declared
that he would no longer submit to his mother working for both of them,
and, setting out, called at shop after shop inquiring if they wanted
an errand-boy. He succeeded at last in getting a place at a grocer's
where he was to receive three shillings a week and his meals, going
home to sleep at night in the closet-like little attic adjoining the
one room which his mother could now afford.

For a while they were more comfortable than they had been for some
time; now that his mother had no longer George to feed, her earnings
and the three shillings he brought home every Saturday night enabled
them to live in comparative ease, and on Sunday something like a feast
was always prepared. But six months later Mrs. Andrews felt her
eyesight failing, the lids became inflamed, and a dull aching pain
settled in the eyeballs. Soon she could only work for a short time
together, her earnings became smaller and smaller, and her employers
presently told her that she kept the work so long in hand that they
could no longer employ her. There was now only George's three
shillings a week to rely upon, and this was swallowed up by the rent.
In despair she had applied to the parish doctor about her eyes. For a
fortnight he attended her, and at the end of that time had
peremptorily given the order of which she had told her son.

To her it was a relief; she had seen that it must come. Piece by piece
every article of clothing she possessed, save those she wore, had been
pawned for food, and every resource was now exhausted. She was worn
out with the struggle, and the certainty of rest and food overcame her
repugnance to the house. For George's sake too, much as she knew he
would feel her having to accept such a refuge, she was glad that the
struggle was at an end. The lad had for the last six months suffered
greatly for her sake. Every meal to which he sat down at his
employer's seemed to choke him as he contrasted it with the fare to
which she was reduced, although, as far as possible, she had concealed
from him how sore was her strait.

George cried himself to sleep that night, and he could scarce speak
when he said good-by to his mother in the morning, for he could not
tell when he should see her again.

"You will stop where you are, my boy, will you not?"

"I cannot promise, mother. I don't know yet what I shall do; but
please don't ask me to promise anything. You must let me do what I
think best. I have got to make a home for you when you are cured. I am
fourteen now, and am as strong as most boys of my age. I ought to be
able to earn a shilling a day somehow, and with seven shillings a
week, mother, and you just working a little, you know, so as not to
hurt your eyes, we ought to be able to do. Don't you bother about me,
mother. I want to try anyhow what I can do till you come out. When you
do, then I will do whatever you tell me; that's fair, isn't it?"

Mrs. Andrews would have remonstrated, but he said:

"Well, mother, you see at the worst I can get a year's character from
Dutton, so that if I can't get anything else to do I can get the same
sort of place again, and as I am a year older than I was when he took
me, and can tie up parcels neatly now, I ought to get a little more
anyhow. You see I shall be safe enough, and though I have never
grumbled, you know, mother--have I?--I think I would rather do
anything than be a grocer's boy. I would rather, when I grow up, be a
bricklayer's laborer, or a plowman, or do any what I call man's work,
than be pottering about behind a counter, with a white apron on,
weighing out sugar and currants."

"I can't blame you, George," Mrs. Andrews said with a sigh. "It's
natural, my boy. If I get my eyesight and my health again, when you
grow up to be a man we will lay by a little money, and you and I will
go out together to one of the colonies. It will be easier to rise
again there than here, and with hard work both of us might surely hope
to get on. There must be plenty of villages in Australia and Canada
where I could do well with teaching, and you could get work in
whatever way you may be inclined to. So, my boy, let us set that
before us. It will be something to hope for and work for, and will
cheer us to go through whatever may betide us up to that time."

"Yes, mother," George said. "It will be comfort indeed to have
something to look forward to. Nothing can comfort me much to-day; but
if anything could it would be some such plan as that."

The last words he said to his mother as, blinded with tears, he kissed
her before starting to work, were:

"I shall think of our plan every day, and look forward to that more
than anything else in the world--next to your coming to me again."

At ten o'clock Dr. Jeffries drove up to Mrs. Andrews' humble lodging
in a brougham instead of his ordinary gig, having borrowed the
carriage from one of the few of his patients who kept such a vehicle,
on purpose to take Mrs. Andrews, for she was so weak and worn that he
was sure she would not be able to sit upright in a gig for the three
miles that had to be traversed. He managed in the course of his rounds
to pass the workhouse again in the afternoon, and brought George,
before he left work, a line written in pencil on a leaf torn from his
pocketbook:

     "My darling, I am very comfortable. Everything is clean and
     nice, and the doctor and people kind. Do not fret about
     me.--Your loving mother."

Although George's expressed resolution of leaving his present
situation, and seeking to earn his living in some other way, caused
Mrs. Andrews much anxiety, she had not sought strongly to dissuade him
from it. No doubt it would be wiser for him to stay in his present
situation, where he was well treated and well fed, and it certainly
seemed improbable to her that he would be able to get a better living
elsewhere. Still she could not blame him for wishing at least to try.
She herself shared to some extent his prejudice against the work in
which he was employed. There is no disgrace in honest work; but she
felt that she would rather see him engaged in hard manual labor than
as a shop boy. At any rate, as he said, if he failed he could come
back again to Croydon, and, with a year's character from his present
employer, would probably be able to obtain a situation similar to that
which he now held. She was somewhat comforted, too, by a few words
the doctor had said to her during their drive.

"I think you are fortunate in your son, Mrs. Andrews. He seems to me a
fine steady boy. If I can, in any way, do him a good turn while you
are away from him, I will."

George remained for another month in his situation, for he knew that
it would never do to start on his undertaking penniless. At the end of
that time, having saved up ten shillings, and having given notice to
his employer, he left the shop for the last time, and started to walk
to London. It was not until he began to enter the crowded streets that
he felt the full magnitude of his undertaking. To be alone in London,
a solitary atom in the busy mass of humanity, is a trying situation
even for a man; to a boy of fourteen it is terrible. Buying a penny
roll, George sat down to eat it in one of the niches of a bridge over
the river, and then kneeling up watched the barges and steamers
passing below him.

Had it not been for his mother, his first thought, like that of most
English boys thrown on the world, would have been to go to sea; but
this idea he had from the first steadily set aside as out of the
question. His plan was to obtain employment as a boy in some
manufacturing work, for he thought that there, by steadiness and
perseverance, he might make his way.

On one thing he was resolved. He would make his money last as long as
possible. Three penny-worth of bread a day would, he calculated, be
sufficient for his wants. As to sleeping, he thought he might manage
to sleep anywhere; it was summer time and the nights were warm. He had
no idea what the price of a bed would be, or how to set about getting
a lodging. He did not care how roughly he lived so that he could but
make his money last. The first few days he determined to look about
him. Something might turn up. If it did not he would set about getting
a place in earnest. He had crossed Waterloo Bridge, and, keeping
straight on, found himself in Covent Garden, where he was astonished
and delighted at the quantities of fruit, vegetables, and flowers.

Although he twice set out in different directions to explore the
streets, he each time returned to Covent Garden. There were many lads
of his own age playing about there, and he thought that from them he
might get some hints as to how to set about earning a living. They
looked ragged and poor enough, but they might be able to tell him
something--about sleeping, for instance. For although before starting
the idea of sleeping anywhere had seemed natural enough, it looked
more formidable now that he was face to face with it.

Going to a cook-shop in a street off the market he bought two slices
of plum-pudding. He rather grudged the twopence which he paid; but he
felt that it might be well laid out. Provided with the pudding he
returned to the market, sat himself down on an empty basket, and began
to eat slowly and leisurely.

In a short time he noticed a lad of about his own age watching him
greedily.

He was far from being a respectable-looking boy. His clothes were
ragged, and his toes could be seen through a hole in his boot. He wore
neither hat nor cap, and his hair looked as if it had not been combed
since the day of his birth. There was a sharp, pinched look on his
face. But had he been washed and combed and decently clad he would not
have been a bad-looking boy. At any rate George liked his face better
than most he had seen in the market, and he longed for a talk with
someone. So he held out his other slice of pudding, and said:

"Have a bit?"

"Oh, yes!" the boy replied "Walker, eh?"

"No, I mean it, really. Will you have a bit?"

"No larks?" asked the boy.

"No; no larks. Here you are."

Feeling assured now that no trick was intended the boy approached,
took without a word the pudding which George held out, and, seating
himself on a basket close to him, took a great bite.

"Where do you live?" George asked, when the slice of pudding had half
disappeared.

"Anywheres," the boy replied, waving his hand round.

"I mean, where do you sleep?"

The boy nodded, to intimate that his sleeping-place was included in
the general description of his domicile.

"And no one interferes with you?" George inquired.

"The beaks, they moves you on when they ketches you; but ef yer get
under a cart or in among the baskets you generally dodges 'em."

"And suppose you want to pay for a place to sleep, where do you go and
how much do you pay?"

"Tuppence," the boy said; "or if yer want a first-rate, fourpence.
Does yer want to find a crib?" he asked doubtfully, examining his
companion.

"Well, yes," George said. "I want to find some quiet place where I can
sleep, cheap, you know."

"Out of work?" the boy inquired.

"Yes. I haven't got anything to do at present. I am looking for a
place, you know."

"Don't know no one about?"

"No; I have just come in from Croydon."

The boy shook his head.

"Don't know nothing as would suit," he said. "Why, yer'd get them
clothes and any money yet had walked off with the wery fust night."

"I should not get a room to myself, I suppose, even for fourpence?"
George asked, making a rapid calculation that this would come to two
and fourpence per week, as much as his mother had paid for a
comparatively comfortable room in Croydon.

The boy opened his eyes in astonishment at his companion requiring a
room for himself.

"Lor' bless yer, yer'd have a score of them with yer!"

"I don't care about a bed," George said. "Just some place to sleep in.
Just some straw in any quiet corner."

This seemed more reasonable to the boy, and he thought the matter
over.

"Well," he said at last, "I knows of a place where they puts up the
hosses of the market carts. I knows a hostler there. Sometimes when
it's wery cold he lets me sleep up in the loft. Aint it warm and
comfortable just! I helps him with the hosses sometimes, and that's
why. I will ax him if yer likes."

George assented at once. His ideas as to the possibility of sleeping
in the open air had vanished when he saw the surroundings, and a bed
in a quiet loft seemed to him vastly better than sleeping in a room
with twenty others.

"How do you live?" he asked the lad, "and what's your name?"

"They calls me the Shadder," the boy said rather proudly; "but my real
name's Bill."

"Why do they call you the Shadow?" George asked.

"'Cause the bobbies finds it so hard to lay hands on me," Bill
replied.

"But what do they want to lay hands on you for?" George asked.

"Why, for bagging things, in course," Bill replied calmly.

"Bagging things? Do you mean stealing?" George said, greatly shocked.

"Well, not regular prigging," the Shadow replied; "not wipes, yer
know, nor tickers, nor them kind of things. I aint never prigged
nothing of that kind."

"Well, what is it then you do--prig?" George asked, mystified.

"Apples or cabbages, or a bunch of radishes, onions sometimes, or
'taters. That aint regular prigging, you know."

"Well, it seems to me the same sort of thing," George said, after a
pause.

"I tell yer it aint the same sort of thing at all," the Shadow said
angrily. "Everyone as aint a fool knows that taters aint wipes, and no
one can't say as a apple and a ticker are the same."

"No, not the same," George agreed; "but you see one is just as much
stealing as the other."

"No, it aint," the boy reasserted. "One is the same as money and
t'other aint. I am hungry and I nips a apple off a stall. No one aint
the worse for it. You don't suppose as they misses a apple here? Why,
there's wagon-loads of 'em, and lots of 'em is rotten. Well, it aint
no more if I takes one than if it was rotten. Is it now?"

George thought there was a difference, but he did not feel equal to
explaining it.

"The policemen must think differently," he said at last, "else they
wouldn't be always trying to catch you."

"Who cares for the bobbies?" Bill said contemptuously. "I don't; and I
don't want no more jaw with you about it. If yer don't likes it, yer
leaves it. I didn't ask for yer company, did I? So now then."

George had really taken a fancy to the boy, and moreover he saw that
in the event of a quarrel his chance of finding a refuge for the night
was small. In his sense of utter loneliness in the great city he was
loath to break with the only acquaintance he had made.

"I didn't mean to offend you, Bill," he said; "only I was sorry to
hear you say you took things. It seems to me you might get into
trouble; and it would be better after all to work for a living."

"What sort of work?" Bill said derisively. "Who's agoing to give me
work? Does yer think I have only got to walk into a shop and ask for
'ployment? They wouldn't want to know nothing about my character, I
suppose? nor where I had worked before? nor where my feyther lived?
nor nothing? Oh, no, of course not! It's blooming easy to get work
about here; only got to ax for it, that's all. Good wages and all
found, that's your kind."

"I don't suppose it's easy," George said; "but it seems to me people
could get something to do if they tried."

"Tried!" the boy said bitterly. "Do yer think we don't try! Why, we
are always trying to earn a copper or two. Why, we begins at three
o'clock in the morning when the market-carts come in, and we goes on
till they comes out of that there theater at night, just trying to
pick up a copper. Sometimes one does and sometimes one doesn't. It's a
good day, I tell you, when we have made a tanner by the end of it.
Don't tell me! And now as to this ere stable; yer means it?"

"Yes," George said; "certainly I mean it."

"Wery well then, you be here at this corner at nine o'clock. I will go
before that and square it with Ned. That's the chap I was speaking
of."

"I had better give you something to give him," George said. "Will a
shilling do?"

"Yes, a bob will do for three or four nights. Are you going to trust
me with it?"

"Of course I am," George replied. "I am sure you wouldn't be so mean
as to do me out of it; besides, you told me that you never stole money
and those sort of things."

"It aint everyone as would trust me with a bob for all that," Bill
replied; "and yer are running a risk, yer know, and I tells yer if yer
goes on with that sort of game yer'll get took in rarely afore yer've
done. Well, hand it over. I aint a-going to bilk yer."

The Shadow spoke carelessly, but this proof of confidence on the part
of his companion really touched him, and as he went off he said to
himself, "He aint a bad sort, that chap, though he is so precious
green. I must look arter him a bit and see he don't get into no
mischief."

George, on his part, as he walked away down into the Strand again,
felt that he had certainly run a risk in thus intrusting a tenth of
his capital to his new acquaintance; but the boy's face and manner had
attracted him, and he felt that, although the Shadow's notions of
right and wrong might be of a confused nature, he meant to act
straight toward him.

George passed the intervening hours before the time named for his
meeting in Covent Garden in staring into the shop windows in the
Strand, and in wondering at the constant stream of vehicles and foot
passengers flowing steadily out westward. He was nearly knocked under
the wheels of the vehicles a score of times from his ignorance as to
the rule of the road, and at last he was so confused by the jostling
and pushing that he was glad to turn down a side street and to sit
down for a time on a doorstep.

When nine o'clock approached he went into a baker's shop and bought a
loaf, which would, he thought, do for supper and breakfast for himself
and his companion. Having further invested threepence in cheese, he
made his way up to the market.

The Shadow was standing at the corner whistling loudly.

"Oh, here yer be! That's all right; come along. I have squared Ned,
and it's all right."

He led the way down two or three streets and then stopped at a
gateway.

"You stop here," he said, "and I will see as there aint no one but Ned
about."

He returned in a minute.

"It's all clear! Ned, he's a-rubbing down a hoss; he won't take no
notice of yer as yer pass. He don't want to see yer, yer know, 'cause
in case anyone comed and found yer up there he could swear he never
saw yer go in, and didn't know nothing about yer. I will go with yer
to the door, and then yer will see a ladder in the corner; if yer whip
up that yer'll find it all right up there."

"But you are coming too, aint you?" George asked.

"Oh, no, I aint a-coming. Yer don't want a chap like me up there. I
might pick yer pocket, yer know; besides I aint your sort."

"Oh, nonsense!" George said. "I should like to have you with me, Bill;
I should really. Besides, what's the difference between us? We have
both got to work for ourselves and make our way in the world."

"There's a lot of difference. Yer don't talk the way as I do; yer have
been brought up different. Don't tell me."

"I may have been brought up differently, Bill. I have been fortunate
there; but now, you see, I have got to get my living in the best way I
can, and if I have had a better education than you have, you know ever
so much more about London and how to get your living than I do, so
that makes us quits."

"Oh, wery well," Bill said; "it's all the same to this child. So if
yer aint too proud, here goes."

He led the way down a stable yard, past several doors, showing the
empty stalls which would be all filled when the market carts arrived.
At the last door on the right he stopped. George looked in. At the
further end a man was rubbing down a horse by the faint light of a
lantern, the rest of the stable was in darkness.

"This way," Bill whispered.

Keeping close behind him, George entered the stable. The boy stopped
in the corner.

"Here's the ladder. I will go up fust and give yer a hand when yer
gets to the top."

George stood quiet until his companion had mounted, and then ascended
the ladder, which was fixed against the wall. Presently a voice
whispered in his ear:

"Give us your hand. Mind how yer puts your foot."

In a minute he was standing in the loft. His companion drew him along
in the darkness, and in a few steps arrived at a pile of hay.

"There yer are," Bill said in a low voice; "yer 'ave only to make
yourself comfortable there. Now mind you don't fall down one of the
holes into the mangers."

"I wish we had a little light," George said, as he ensconced himself
in the hay.

"I will give you some light in a minute," Bill said, as he left his
side, and directly afterwards a door opened and the light of a
gaslight in the yard streamed in.

"That's where they pitches the hay in," Bill said as he rejoined him.
"I shuts it up afore I goes to sleep, 'cause the master he comes out
sometimes when the carts comes in, and there would be a blooming row
if he saw it open; but we are all right now."

"That's much nicer," George said. "Now here's a loaf I brought with
me. We will cut it in half and put by a half for the morning, and eat
the other half between us now, and I have got some cheese here too."

"That's tiptop!" the boy said. "Yer're a good sort, I could see that,
and I am pretty empty, I am, for I aint had nothing except that bit
of duff yer gave me since morning, and I only had a crust then. 'Cept
for running against you I aint been lucky to-day. Couldn't get a job
nohows, and it aint for want of trying neither."

For some minutes the boys ate in silence. George had given much the
largest portion to his companion, for he himself was too dead tired to
be very hungry. When he had finished, he said:

"Look here, Bill; we will talk in the morning. I am so dead beat I can
scarcely keep my eyes open, so I will just say my prayers and go off
to sleep."

"Say your prayers!" Bill said in astonishment. "Do yer mean to say as
yer says prayers!"

"Of course I do," George replied; "don't you?"

"Never said one in my life," Bill said decidedly; "don't know how,
don't see as it would do no good ef I did."

"It would do good, Bill," George said. "I hope some day you will think
differently, and I will teach you some you will like."

"I don't want to know none," Bill said positively. "A missionary chap,
he came and prayed with an old woman I lodged with once. I could not
make head nor tail of it, and she died just the same, so you see what
good did it do her?"

But George was too tired to enter upon a theological argument. He was
already half asleep, and Bill's voice sounded a long way off.

"Good-night," he muttered; "I will talk to you in the morning," and in
another minute he was fast asleep.

Bill took an armful of hay and shook it lightly over his companion;
then he closed the door of the loft and threw himself on the hay, and
was soon also sound asleep. When George woke in the morning the
daylight was streaming in through the cracks of the door. His
companion was gone. He heard the voices of several men in the yard,
while a steady champing noise and an occasional shout or the sound of
a scraping on the stones told him the stalls below were all full now.

George felt that he had better remain where he was. Bill had told him
the evening before that the horses and carts generally set out again
at about nine o'clock, and he thought he had better wait till they had
gone before he slipped down below. Closing his eyes he was very soon
off to sleep again. When he woke, Bill was sitting by his side looking
at him.

"Well, you are a oner to sleep," the boy said. "Why, it's nigh ten
o'clock, and it's time for us to be moving. Ned will be going off in a
few minutes, and the stables will be locked up till the evening."

"Is there time to eat our bread and cheese?" George asked.

"No, we had better eat it when we get down to the market; come
along."

George at once rose, shook the hay off his clothes, and descended the
ladder, Bill leading the way. There was no one in the stable, and the
yard was also empty. On reaching the market they sat down on two empty
baskets, and at once began to eat their bread and cheese.



CHAPTER II.

TWO FRIENDS.


"I did wake before, Bill," George said after he had eaten a few
mouthfuls; "but you were out."

"Yes, I turned out as soon as the carts began to come in," Bill said,
"and a wery good morning I have had. One old chap gave me twopence for
looking arter his hoss and cart while he went into the market with his
flowers. But the best move was just now. A chap as was driving off
with flowers, one of them swell West-end shops, I expect, by the look
of the trap, let his rug fall. He didn't see it till I ran after him
with it, then he gave me a tanner; that was something like. Have yer
finished yer bread and cheese?"

"Yes," George said, "and I could manage a drink of water if I could
get one."

"There's a fountain handy," Bill said; "but you come along with me, I
am agoing to stand two cups of coffee if yer aint too proud to take
it;" and he looked doubtfully at his companion.

"I am not at all too proud," George said, for he saw that the
slightest hesitation would hurt his companion's feelings.

"It aint fust-rate coffee," Bill said, as with a brightened look on
his face he turned and led the way to a little coffee-stall; "but it's
hot and sweet, and yer can't expect more nor that for a penny."

George found the coffee really better than he had expected, and Bill
was evidently very much gratified at his expression of approval.

"Now," he said, when they had both finished, "for a draw of 'baccy,"
and he produced a short clay pipe. "Don't yer smoke?"

"No, I haven't begun yet."

"Ah! ye don't know what a comfort a pipe is," Bill said. "Why, when
yer are cold and hungry and down on your luck a pipe is a wonderful
thing, and so cheap; why, a ounce of 'baccy will fill yer thirty pipes
if yer don't squeeze it in too hard. Well, an ounce of 'baccy costs
threepence halfpenny, so, as I makes out, yer gets eight pipes for a
penny; and now," he went on when he had filled and lit his pipe,
"let's know what's yer game."

"You mean what am I going to do?" George asked.

Bill nodded.

"I want to get employment in some sort of works. I have been an
errand-boy in a grocer's for more than a year, and I have got a
written character from my master in my pocket; but I don't like the
sort of thing; I would rather work with my own hands. There are plenty
of works where they employ boys, and you know one might get on as one
gets older. The first thing is to find out whereabouts works of that
sort are."

"There are lots of works at the East End, I have heard tell," Bill
said; "and then there's Clerkenwell and King's Cross, they aint so far
off, and there are works there, all sorts of works, I should say; but
I don't know nuffin' about that sort of work. The only work as I have
done is holding hosses and carrying plants into the market, and
sometimes when I have done pretty well I goes down and lays out what I
got in _Echoes_, or _Globes_, or _Evening Standards_; that pays yer,
that does, for if yer can sell them all yer will get a bob for eight
penn'orth of papers, that gives yer fourpence for an hour's work, and
I calls that blooming good, and can't yer get a tuck-out for a bob!
Oh, no, I should think not! Well, what shall it be? I knows the way
out to Whitechapel and to Clerkenwell, so whichever yer likes I can
show yer."

"If Clerkenwell's the nearest we may as well try that first," George
said, "and I shall be much obliged to you for showing the way."

The two boys spent the whole day in going from workshop to workshop
for employment; but the answers to his application were unvarying:
either he was too young or there was no place vacant. George took the
disappointment quietly, for he had made up his mind that he would have
difficulty in getting a place; but Bill became quite angry on behalf
of his companion.

"This is worse nor the market," he said. "A chap can pick up a few
coppers there, and here we have been a-tramping about all day and aint
done nothing."

Day after day George set out on his quest, but all was without
success. He and Bill still slept in the loft, and after the first day
he took to getting up at the same time as his companion, and going out
with him to try and pick up a few pence from the men with the
market-carts. Every other morning they were able to lie later, as
there were only regular marketdays three mornings a week.

On market mornings he found that he earned more than Bill, his better
clothes giving him an advantage, as the men were more willing to trust
their carts and rugs to the care of a quiet, respectable-looking boy
than to that of the arabs who frequented the Garden. But all that was
earned was laid out in common between the two boys, and George found
himself seldom obliged to draw above a few pence on his private stock.
He had by this time told the Shadow exactly how much money he had, and
the boy, seeing the difficulty that George found in getting work, was
most averse to the store being trenched upon, and always gave his vote
against the smallest addition to their ordinary fare of bread and
cheese being purchased, except from their earnings of the day. This
George felt was the more creditable on Bill's part, inasmuch as the
latter had, in deference to his prejudices, abstained from the petty
thefts of fruit with which before he had seasoned his dry crusts.

George had learned now what Bill knew of his history, which was little
enough. He supposed he had had a father, but he knew nothing of him;
whether he had died, or whether he had cut away and left mother, Bill
had no idea. His mother he remembered well, though she had died when
he was, as he said, a little chap. He spoke of her always in a hushed
voice, and in a tone of reverence, as a superior being.

"We was poor, you know," he said to George, "and I know mother was
often short of grub, but she was just kind. I don't never remember her
whacking me; always spoke soft and low like; she was good, she was.
She used to pray, you know, and what I remember most is as the night
afore she was took away to a hospital she says, 'Try and live honest,
Bill; it will be hard, but try, my boy. Don't you take to stealing,
however poor you may be;' and I aint," Bill said earnestly over and
over again. "When I has seed any chap going along with a ticker handy,
which I could have boned and got away among the carts as safe as
ninepence, or when I has seed a woman with her purse a-sticking out of
them outside pockets, and I aint had a penny to bless myself with, and
perhaps nothing to eat all day, I have felt it hard not to make a
grab; but I just thought of what she said, and I aint done it. As I
told yer, I have often nabbed things off the stalls or out of the
baskets or carts. It didn't seem to me as that was stealing, but as
you says it is, I aint going to do so no more. Now look yer here,
George; they tells me as the parsons says as when people die and they
are good they goes up there, yer know."

George nodded, for there was a question in his companion's tone.

"Then, of course," Bill went on, "she is up there. Now it aint likely
as ever I should see her again, 'cause, you know, there aint nothing
good about me; but if she was to come my way, wherever I might be, and
was to say to me, 'Bill, have you been a-stealing?' do yer think she
would feel very bad about them 'ere apples and things?"

"No, Bill, I am sure she would not. You see you didn't quite know that
was stealing, and you kept from stealing the things that you thought
she spoke of, and now that you see it is wrong taking even little
things you are not going to take them any more."

"That I won't, so help me bob!" the boy said; "not if I never gets
another apple between my teeth."

"That's right, Bill. You see you ought to do it, not only to please
your mother, but to please God. That's what my mother has told me over
and over again."

"Has she now?" Bill said with great interest, "and did you use to prig
apples and sichlike sometimes?"

"No," George said, "not that sort of thing; but she was talking of
things in general. Of doing things that were wrong, such as telling
lies and deceiving, and that sort of thing."

"And your mother thinks as God knows all about it?"

George nodded.

"And that he don't like it, eh, when things is done bad?"

George nodded again.

"Lor', what a time he must have of it!" Bill said in solemn wonder.
"Why, I heard a woman say last week as six children was enough to
worrit anyone into the grave; and just to think of all of us!" and
Bill waved his arm in a comprehensive way and repeated, "What a time
he must have of it!"

For a time the boys sat silent in their loft, Bill wondering over the
problem that had presented itself to him, and George trying to find
some appropriate explanation in reply to the difficulty Bill had
started. At last he said:

"I am afraid, Bill, that I can't explain all this to you, for I am not
accustomed to talk about such things. My mother talks to me sometimes,
and of course I went to church regularly; but that's different from my
talking about it; but you know what we have got to do is to try and
please God, and love him because he loves us."

"That's whear it is," Bill said; "that's what I've heard fellows say
beats 'em. If he loves a chap like me how is it he don't do something
for him? why don't he get you a place, for instance? You aint been
a-prigging apples or a-putting him out. That's what I wants to know."

"Yes, Bill, but as I have heard my mother say, it would be very hard
to understand if this world were the only one; but you see we are only
here a little time, and after that there's on and on and on, right up
without any end, and what does it matter if we are poor or unhappy in
this little time if we are going to be ever so happy afterwards? This
is only a sort of little trial to see how we behave, as it were, and
if we do the best we can, even though that best is very little, then
you see we get a tremendous reward. For instance, you would not think
a man was unkind who kept you five minutes holding his horse on a cold
day, if he were going to give you enough to get you clothes and good
lodging for the rest of your life."

"No, I should think not," Bill said fervently; "so it's like that, is
it?"

George nodded. "Like that, only more."

"My eye!" Bill murmured to himself, lost in astonishment at this new
view of things.

After that there were few evenings when, before they nestled
themselves down in the hay, the boys did not talk on this subject. At
first George felt awkward and nervous in speaking of it, for like the
generality of English boys, however earnest their convictions may be,
he was shy of speaking what he felt; but his companion's eagerness to
know more of this, to him, new story encouraged him to speak, and
having in his bundle a small Bible which his mother had given him, he
took to reading to Bill a chapter or two in the mornings when they had
not to go out to the early market.

It is true that Bill's questions frequently puzzled him. The boy saw
things in a light so wholly different from that in which he himself
had been accustomed to regard them that he found a great difficulty in
replying to them.

George wrote a letter to his mother, telling her exactly what he was
doing, for he knew that if he only said that he had not yet succeeded
in getting work she would be very anxious about him, and although he
had nothing satisfactory to tell her, at least he could tell her that
he had sufficient to eat and as much comfort as he cared for. Twice he
received replies from her, directed to him at a little coffee-house,
which, when they had had luck, the boys occasionally patronized. As
time went on without his succeeding in obtaining employment George's
hopes fell, and at last he said to his mate; "I will try for another
fortnight, Bill, and if at the end of that time I don't get anything
to do I shall go back to Croydon again."

"But yer can earn yer living here!" Bill remonstrated.

"I can earn enough to prevent me from starving, but that is all,
Bill. I came up to London in hopes of getting something to do by which
I might some day make my way up; if I were to stop here like this I
should be going down, and a nice sight I should be to mother if, when
she gets well enough to come out of the infirmary, I were to go back
all in rags."

"What sort of a place is Croydon?" Bill asked. "Is there any chance of
picking up a living there? 'cause I tells yer fair, if yer goes off I
goes with yer. I aint a-thinking of living with yer, George; but we
might see each other sometime, mightn't we? Yer wouldn't mind that?"

"Mind it! certainly not, Bill! You have been a good friend to me, and
I should be sorry to think of you all alone here."

"Oh, blow being a good friend to yer!" Bill replied. "I aint done
nothing except put yer in the way of getting a sleeping-place, and as
it's given me one too I have had the best of that job. It's been good
of yer to take up with a chap like me as don't know how to read or
write or nothing, and as aint no good anyway. But you will let me go
with yer to Croydon, won't yer?"

"Certainly I will, Bill; but you won't be able to see much of me. I
shall have to get a place like the last. The man I was with said he
would take me back again if I wanted to come, and you know I am all
day in the shop or going out with parcels, and of course you would
have to be busy too at something."

"What sort of thing do yer think, George? I can hold a hoss, but that
aint much for a living. One may go for days without getting a chance."

"I should say, Bill, that your best chance would be to try and get
work either in a brickfield or with a market-gardener. At any rate we
should be able to get a talk for half an hour in the evening. I was
always done at nine o'clock, and if we were both in work we could take
a room together."

Bill shook his head.

"That would be wery nice, but I couldn't have it, George. I knows as I
aint fit company for yer, and if yer was with a shop-keeping bloke he
would think yer was going to run off with the money if he knew yer
kept company with a chap like me. No, the 'greement must be as yer
goes yer ways and I goes mine; but I hopes as yer will find suffin to
do up here, not 'cause as I wouldn't like to go down to this place of
yourn, but because yer have set yer heart on getting work here."

A week later the two boys were out late in Covent Garden trying to
earn a few pence by fetching up cabs and carriages for people coming
out from a concert in the floral hall. George had just succeeded in
earning threepence, and had returned to the entrance to the hall, and
was watching the people come out, and trying to get another job.
Presently a gentleman, with a girl of some nine or ten years old, came
out and took their place on the footpath.

"Can I call you a carriage, sir?" George asked.

"No, thank you, lad, a man has gone for it."

George fell back and stood watching the girl, who was in a white
dress, with a little hood trimmed with swansdown over her head.

Presently his eye fell on something on which the light glittered as it
hung from her neck. Just as he was looking a hand reached over her
shoulder, there was a jerk, and a sudden cry from the child, then a
boy dived into the crowd, and at the same moment George dashed after
him. There was a cry of "Stop, thief!" and several hands made a grab
at George as he dived through the crowd; but he slipped through them
and was soon in the roadway.

Some twenty yards ahead of him he saw the boy running. He turned up
Bow Street and then dashed down an alley. He did not know that he was
followed until suddenly George sprang upon his back, and the two fell
with a crash, the young thief undermost. George seized his right hand,
and kneeling upon him, twisted it behind his back and forced him to
open his fingers, the boy, taken by surprise, and not knowing who was
his assailant, making but slight resistance.

George seized the gold locket and dashed back at full speed into the
market, and was soon in the thick of the crowd round the entrance. The
gentleman was standing talking to a policeman, who was taking a note
of the description of the lost trinket. The girl was standing by
crying.

"Here is your locket," George said, putting it into her hand. "I saw
the boy take it, and have got it from him."

"Oh, papa! papa!" the girl cried. "Here is my locket again."

"Why, where did you get it from?" her father asked in astonishment.

"This boy has just given it to me," she replied. "He says he took it
from the boy who stole it."

"Which boy, Nellie? Which is the boy who brought it back?"

The girl looked round, but George was gone.

"Why didn't you stop him, my dear?" her father said. "Of course I
should wish to thank and reward him, for the locket was a very
valuable one, and the more so to us from its having belonged to your
mother. Did you notice the boy, policeman?"

"No, sir, I did not see him at all."

"Was he a poor boy, Nellie?"

"Not a very, very poor boy, father," the girl replied. "At least I
don't think so; but I only looked at his face. He didn't speak like a
poor boy at all."

"Would you know him again?"

"Oh, yes, I am sure I should. He was a good-looking boy with a nice
face."

"Well, I am very sorry he has gone away, my dear. Evidently he does
not want a reward, but at any rate I should have liked to thank him.
Are you always on this beat, policeman?"

"I am on night duty, sir, while the concerts are on."

"At any rate, I dare say you know the constables who are about here in
the daytime. I wish you would mention the fact to them, and ask them
if they get any clew to the boy who has rendered me this service, to
let me know. Here is a card with my name and address."

After restoring the locket George made his way to the entrance to the
stables, where he generally met Bill after the theater had closed and
there was no farther chance of earning money. It was not till half an
hour later that the boy came running up.

"I have got eightpence," he said. "That is something like luck. I got
three jobs. One stood me fourpence, the other two gave me tuppence
each. What do yer say? Shall we have a cup of coffee afore we turns
in?"

"I think we had better not, Bill. I have got sixpence. We will put
that by, with the sixpence we saved the other day, for the hostler. We
haven't given him anything for some time. Your eightpence will get us
a good breakfast in the morning."

When they had comfortably nestled themselves in the hay George told
his companion how he had rescued and restored the locket.

"And he didn't give yer nuffin! I never heerd tell of such a scaly
trick as that. I should ha' said it ought to have been good for a bob
anyway."

"I did not wait to see, Bill. Directly I had given the little girl her
locket I bolted."

"Well, that were soft. Why couldn't yer have waited to have seen what
the bloke meant to give yer?"

"I did not want to be paid for such a thing as that," George replied.
"I don't mind being paid when I have done a job for anyone; but this
was different altogether."

Bill meditated for a minute or two.

"I can't see no difference, nohow," he said at last. "Yer did him a
good turn, and got the thing back. I dare say it were worth five bob."

"A good deal more than that, Bill."

"More nor that! Well, then, he ought to have come down handsome.
Didn't yer run like winking, and didn't yer jump on the chap's back
and knock him down, and didn't yer run back again? And warn't there a
chance, ef one of the bobbies had got hold of yer collar and found it
in yer hand, of yer being had up for stealing it? And then yer walks
off and don't give him a chance of giving yer nuffin. My eye, but yer
are a flat!"

"I don't suppose you will quite understand, Bill. But when people do a
thing to oblige somebody, and not as a piece of regular work, they
don't expect to be paid. I shouldn't have liked it if they had offered
me money for such a thing."

"Well, ef yer says so, no doubt it's right," Bill rejoined; "but it
seems a rum sort of notion to me. When people loses things they
expects to pay to get 'em back. Why, don't yer see outside the p'lice
station, and in the shop winders, papers offering so much for giving
back things as is lost. I can't read 'em myself, yer know; but chaps
have read 'em to me. Why, I've heerd of as much as five quid being
offered for watches and sichlike as was lost by ladies coming out of
theayters, and I have often thought what a turn of luck it would be to
light on one of 'em. And now yer says as I oughtn't to take the money
ef I found it."

"No, I don't say that, Bill. If you found a thing and saw a reward
offered, and you wanted the money, you would have good right to take
it. But, you see, in this case I saw how sorry the girl was at losing
her locket, and I went after it to please her, and I was quite content
that I got it back for her."

Bill tried again to think the matter over in his mind, but he was
getting warm and sleepy, and in a few minutes was sound off.

Two or three days later the lads had, to their great satisfaction,
obtained a job. Walnuts were just coming in, and the boys were engaged
to take off the green shucks. Bill was particularly pleased, for he
had never before been taken on for such a job, and he considered it a
sort of promotion. Five or six women were also employed, and as the
group were standing round some great baskets Bill suddenly nudged his
friend:

"I say, my eye, aint that little gal pretty?"

George looked up from his work and at once recognized the girl to whom
he had restored the locket. Her eye fell on him at the same moment.

"There, papa!" she exclaimed. "I told you if you brought me down to
the market I felt sure I should know the boy again if I saw him.
That's him, the one looking down into the basket. But he knew me
again, for I saw him look surprised when he noticed me."

The gentleman made his way through the women to George.

"My lad, are you the boy who restored the locket to my daughter three
evenings ago?"

"Yes, sir," George said, coloring as he looked up. "I was standing
close by when the boy took it, so I gave chase and brought it back,
and that's all."

"You were off again in such a hurry that we hadn't time to thank you.
Just come across to my daughter. I suppose you can leave your work for
a minute?"

"Yes, sir. We are working by the job," George said, and looking rather
shamefaced he followed the gentleman to the sidewalk.

"This is your boy, as you call him, Nellie."

"I was sure I should know him again," the child said, "though I only
saw him for a moment. We are very much obliged to you, boy, papa and
me, because it had been mamma's locket, and we should have been very
sorry to have lost it."

"I am glad I was able to get it back for you," George said; "but I
don't want to be thanked for doing it; and I don't want to be paid
either, thank you, sir," he said, flushing as the gentleman put his
hand into his pocket.

"No! and why not?" the gentleman said in surprise. "You have done me a
great service, and there is no reason why I should not pay you for it.
If I had lost it I would gladly have paid a reward to get it back."

"Thank you, sir," George said quietly; "but all the same I would
rather not be paid for a little thing like that."

"You are a strange fellow," the gentleman said again. "One does not
expect to find a boy in the market here refusing money when he has
earned it."

"I should not refuse it if I had earned it," George said; "but I don't
call getting back a locket for a young lady who has lost it earning
money."

"How do you live, lad? You don't speak like a boy who has been brought
up in the market here."

"I have only been here three months," George said. "I came up to
London to look for work, but could not get any. Most days I go about
looking for it, and do what odd jobs I can get when there's a chance."

"What sort of work do you want? Have you been accustomed to any work?
Perhaps I could help you."

"I have been a year as an errand-boy," George answered; "but I didn't
like it, and I thought I would rather get some sort of work that I
could work at when I got to be a man instead of sticking in a shop."

"Did you run away from home, then?" the gentleman asked.

"No, sir. My mother was ill and went into an infirmary, and so as I
was alone I thought I would come to London and try to get the sort of
work I liked; but I have tried almost all over London."

"And are you all alone here?"

"No, sir, not quite alone. I found a friend in that boy there, and we
have worked together since I came up."

"Well, lad, if you really want work I can give it you."

"Oh, thank you, sir!" George exclaimed fervently.

"And your friend too, if he likes. I have some works down at Limehouse
and employ a good many boys. Here is the address;" and he took a card
from his pocket, wrote a few words on the back of it, and handed it to
George.

"Ask for the foreman, and give him that, and he will arrange for you
to begin work on Monday. Come along, Nellie; we have got to buy the
fruit for to-morrow, you know."

So saying he took his daughter's hand, and George, wild with delight,
ran off to tell Bill that he had obtained work for them both.

"Well, Nellie, are you satisfied?"

"Yes, I am glad you could give him work, papa; didn't he look pleased?
Wasn't it funny his saying he wouldn't have any money?"

"Yes; I hardly expected to have met with a refusal in Covent Garden;
but you were right, child, and you are a better judge of character
than I gave you credit for. You said he was a nice-looking lad, and
spoke like a gentleman, and he does. He is really a very good style of
boy. Of course he is shabby and dirty now, and you see he has been an
errand-boy at a grocer's; but he must have been better brought up than
the generality of such lads. The one he called his friend looked a
wild sort of specimen, altogether a different sort of boy. I should
say he was one of the regular arabs hanging about this place. If so, I
expect a very few days' work will sicken him; but I shouldn't be
surprised if your boy, as you call him, sticks to it."

The next morning the two boys presented themselves at Mr. Penrose's
works at Limehouse. These were sawing and planing works, and the sound
of many wheels, and the hoarse rasping sound of saws innumerable, came
out through the open windows of the building as they entered the yard.

"Now what do you boys want?" a workman said as he appeared at one of
the doors.

"We want to see the foreman," George said. "I have a card for him from
Mr. Penrose."

"I will let him know," the man replied.

Two minutes later the foreman came out, and George handed him the
card. He read what Mr. Penrose had written upon it and said:

"Very well, you can come in on Monday; pay, eight shillings a week;
seven o'clock; there, that will do. Oh, what are your names?" taking
out a pocket-book. "George Andrews and William Smith;" and then, with
a nod, he went back into his room, while the boys, almost bewildered
at the rapidity with which the business had been arranged, went out
into the street again.

"There we are, Bill, employed," George said in delight.

"Yes, there we is," Bill agreed, but in a more doubtful tone; "it's a
rum start, aint it? I don't expect I shall make much hand of it, but I
am wery glad for you, George."

"Why shouldn't you make much hand of it? You are as strong as I am."

"Yes; but then, you see, I aint been accustomed to work regular, and I
expect I shan't like it--not at first; but I am going to try. George,
don't yer think as I aint agoing to try. I aint that sort; still I
expects I shall get the sack afore long."

"Nonsense, Bill! you will like it when you once get accustomed to it,
and it's a thousand times better having to draw your pay regularly at
the end of the week than to get up in the morning not knowing whether
you are going to have breakfast or not. Won't mother be pleased when I
write and tell her I have got a place! Last time she wrote she said
that she was a great deal better, and the doctor thought she would be
out in the spring, and then I hope she will be coming up here, and
that will be jolly."

"Yes, that's just it," Bill said; "that's whear it is; you and I will
get on fust-rate, but it aint likely as your mother would put up with
a chap like me."

"My mother knows that you have been a good friend to me, Bill, and
that will be quite enough for her. You wait till you see her."

"My eye, what a lot of little houses there is about here!" Bill said,
"just all the same pattern; and how wide the streets is to what they
is up Drury Lane!"

"Yes, we ought to have no difficulty in getting a room here, Bill, now
that we shall have money to pay for it; only think, we shall have
sixteen shillings a week between us!"

"It's a lot of money," Bill said vaguely. "Sixteen bob! My eye, there
aint no saying what it will buy! I wish I looked a little bit more
respectable," he said, with a new feeling as to the deficiencies of
his attire. "It didn't matter in the Garden; but to go to work with a
lot of other chaps, these togs aint what you may call spicy."

"They certainly are not, Bill," George said with a laugh. "We must see
what we can manage."

George's own clothes were worn and old, but they looked respectable
indeed by the side of those of his companion. Bill's elbows were both
out, the jacket was torn and ragged, he had no waistcoat, and his
trousers were far too large for him, and were kept up by a single
brace, and were patched in a dozen places.

When George first met him he was shoeless, but soon after they had set
up housekeeping together George had bought from a cobbler's stall a
pair of boots for two shillings, and these, although now almost
falling to pieces, were still the best part of Bill's outfit.



CHAPTER III.

WORK.


The next morning George went out with the bundle containing his Sunday
clothes, which had been untouched since his arrival in town, and going
to an old-clothes shop he exchanged them for a suit of working clothes
in fair condition, and then returning hid his bundle in the hay and
rejoined Bill, who had from early morning been at work shelling
walnuts. Although Bill was somewhat surprised at his companion not
beginning work at the usual time he asked no questions, for his faith
in George was so unbounded that everything he did was right in his
eyes.

"There is our last day's work in the market, Bill," George said as
they reached their loft that evening.

"It's your last day's work, George, I aint no doubt; but I expects it
aint mine by a long way. I have been a-thinking over this 'ere go, and
I don't think as it will act nohow. In the first place I aint fit to
go to such a place, and they are sure to make it hot for me."

"That's nonsense, Bill; there are lots of roughish sort of boys in
works of that sort, and you will soon be at home with the rest."

"In the next place," Bill went on, unheeding the interruption, "I
shall be getting into some blooming row or other afore I have been
there a week, and they will like enough turn you out as well as me.
That's what I am a-thinking most on, George. If they chucks me the
chances are as they chucks you too; and if they did that arter all the
pains you have had to get a place I should go straight off and make a
hole in the water. That's how I looks at it."

"But I don't think, Bill, that there's any chance of your getting into
a row. Of course at first we must both expect to be blown up
sometimes, but if we do our best and don't answer back again we shall
do as well as the others."

"Oh, I shouldn't cheek 'em back," Bill said. "I am pretty well used to
getting blown up. Every one's always at it, and I know well enough as
it don't pay to cheek back, not unless you have got a market-cart
between you and a clear road for a bolt. I wasn't born yesterday.
Yer've been wery good to me, you have, George, and before any harm
should come to yer through me, s'help me, I'd chuck myself under a
market-wagon."

"I know you would, Bill; but, whatever you say, you have been a far
greater help to me than I have to you. Anyhow we are not going to part
now. You are coming to work with me to start with, and I know you will
do your best to keep your place. If you fail, well, so much the worse,
it can't be helped; but after our being sent there by Mr. Penrose I
feel quite sure that the foreman would not turn me off even if he had
to get rid of you."

"D'yer think so?"

"I do, indeed, Bill."

"Will yer take yer davey?"

"Yes, if it's any satisfaction to you, Bill, I will take my davey that
I do not think that they would turn me off even if they sent you
away."

"And yer really wants me to go with yer, so help yer?"

"Really and truly, Bill."

"Wery well, George, then I goes; but mind yer, it's 'cause yer wishes
me."

So saying, Bill curled himself up in the hay, and George soon heard by
his regular breathing that he was sound asleep.

The next morning, before anyone was stirring, they went down into the
yard, as was their custom on Sunday mornings, for a good wash,
stripping to the waist and taking it by turns to pump over each other.
Bill had at first protested against the fashion, saying as he did very
well and did not see no use in it; but seeing that George really
enjoyed it he followed his example. After a morning or two, indeed,
and with the aid of a piece of soap which George had bought, Bill got
himself so bright and shiny as to excite much sarcastic comment and
remark from his former companions, which led to more than one
pugilistic encounter.

That morning George remained behind in the loft for a minute or two
after Bill had run down, attired only in his trousers. When Bill went
up the ladder after his ablutions he began hunting about in the hay.

"What are you up to, Bill?"

"Blest if I can find my shirt. Here's two of yourn knocking about, but
I can't see where's mine, nor my jacket neither."

"It's no use your looking, Bill, for you won't find them, and even if
you found them you couldn't put 'em on. I have torn them up."

"Torn up my jacket!" Bill exclaimed in consternation. "What lark are
yer up to now, George?"

"No lark at all. We are going together to work to-morrow, and you
could not go as you were; so you put on that shirt and those things,"
and he threw over the clothes he had procured the day before.

Bill looked in astonishment.

"Why, where did yer get 'em, George? I knows yer only had four bob
with what we got yesterday. Yer didn't find 'em, and yer didn't--no,
in course yer didn't--nip 'em."

"No, I didn't steal them certainly," George said, laughing. "I swapped
my Sunday clothes for them yesterday. I can do without them very well
till we earn enough to get another suit. There, don't say anything
about it, Bill, else I will punch your head."

Bill stared at him with open eyes for a minute, and then threw
himself down in the hay and burst into tears.

"Oh, I say, don't do that!" George exclaimed. "What have you to cry
about?"

"Aint it enough to make a cove cry," Bill sobbed, "to find a chap
doing things for him like that? I wish I may die if I don't feel as if
I should bust. It's too much, that's what it is, and it's all on one
side; that's the wust of it."

"I dare say you will make it even some time, Bill; so don't let's say
anything more about it, but put on your clothes. We will have a cup of
coffee each and a loaf between us for breakfast, and then we will go
for a walk into the park, the same as we did last Sunday, and hear the
preaching."

The next morning they were up at their accustomed hour and arrived at
the works at Limehouse before the doors were opened. Presently some
men and boys arrived, the doors were opened, and the two boys followed
the others in.

"Hallo! who are you?" the man at the gate asked.

George gave their names, and the man looked at his time-book.

"Yes, it's all right; you are the new boys. You are to go into that
planing-shop," and he pointed to one of the doors opening into the
yard.

The boys were not long before they were at work. Bill was ordered to
take planks from a large pile and to hand them to a man, who passed
them under one of the planing-machines. George was told to take them
away as fast as they were finished and pile them against a wall. When
the machines stopped for any adjustment or alteration both were to
sweep up the shavings and ram them into bags, in which they were
carried to the engine-house.

For a time the boys were almost dazzled by the whirl of the machinery,
the rapid motion of the numerous wheels and shafting overhead, and of
the broad bands which carried the power from them to the machinery on
the floor, by the storm of shavings which flew from the cutters, and
the unceasing activity which prevailed around them. Beyond receiving
an occasional order, shouted in a loud tone--for conversation in an
ordinary voice would have been inaudible--nothing occurred till the
bell rang at half-past eight for breakfast. Then the machinery
suddenly stopped, and a strange hush succeeded the din which had
prevailed.

"How long have we got now?" George asked the man from whose bench he
had been taking the planks.

"Half an hour," the man said as he hurried away.

"Well, what do you think of it, Bill?" George asked when they had got
outside.

"Didn't think as there could be such a row," Bill replied. "Why, talk
about the Garden! Lor', why it aint nothing to it. I hardly knew what
I was a-doing at first."

"No more did I, Bill. You must mind what you do and not touch any of
those straps and wheels and things. I know when I was at Croydon there
was a man killed in a sawmill there by being caught in the strap; they
said it drew him up and smashed him against the ceiling. And now we
had better look out for a baker's."

"I suppose there aint a coffee-stall nowhere handy?"

"I don't suppose there is, Bill; at any rate we have no time to spare
to look for one. There's a pump in the yard, so we can have a drink of
water as we come back. Well, the work doesn't seem very hard, Bill,"
George said as they ate their bread.

"No, it aint hard," Bill admitted, "if it weren't for all them
rattling wheels. But I expect it aint going to be like that regular.
They've just gived us an easy job to begin with. Yer'll see it will be
worse presently."

"We shall soon get accustomed to the noise, Bill, and I don't think we
shall find the work any harder. They don't put boys at hard work, but
just jobs like we are doing, to help the men."

"What shall we do about night, George?"

"I think that at dinner-time we had better ask the man we work for. He
looks a good-natured sort of chap. He may know of someone he could
recommend us to."

They worked steadily till dinner-time; then as they came out George
said to the man with whom they were working:

"We want to get a room. We have been lodging together in London, and
don't know anyone down here. I thought perhaps you could tell us of
some quiet, respectable people who have a room to let?"

The man looked at George more closely than he had hitherto done.

"Well, there aint many people as would care about taking in two boys,
but you seem a well-spoken young chap and different to most of 'em. Do
you think you could keep regular hours, and not come clattering in and
out fifty times in the evening, and playing tom-fools' tricks of all
sorts?"

"I don't think we should be troublesome," George said; "and I am quite
sure we shouldn't be noisy."

"You would want to be cooked for, in course?"

"No, I don't think so," George said. "Beyond hot water for a cup of
tea in the evening, we should not want much cooking done, especially
if there is a coffee-stall anywhere where we could get a cup in the
morning."

"You haven't got any traps, I suppose?"

George looked puzzled.

"I mean bed and chairs, and so on."

George shook his head.

"We might get them afterwards, but we haven't any now."

"Well, I don't mind trying you young fellows. I have got a bedroom in
my place empty. A brother of mine who lodged and worked with me has
just got a job as foreman down in the country. At any rate I will try
you for a week, and if at the end of that time you and my missis don't
get on together you must shift. Two bob a week. I suppose that will
about suit you?"

George said that would suit very well, and expressed his thanks to the
man for taking them in.

They had been walking briskly since they left the works, and now
stopped suddenly before the door of a house in a row. It was just like
its neighbor, except that George noticed that the blinds and windows
were cleaner than the others, and that the door had been newly painted
and varnished.

"Here we are," the man said. "You had best come in and see the missis
and the room. Missis!" he shouted, and a woman appeared from the
backroom. "I have let Harry's room, mother," he said, "and these are
the new lodgers."

"My stars, John!" she exclaimed; "you don't mean to say that you let
the room to them two boys. I should have thought you had better sense.
Why, they will be trampling up and down the stairs like young hosses,
wear out the oil cloth, and frighten the baby into fits. I never did
hear such a thing!"

"I think they are quiet boys, Bessie, and won't give much trouble. At
any rate I have agreed to try them for a week, and if you don't get
on with them at the end of that time, of course they must go. They
have only come to work at the shop to-day; they work with me, and as
far as I can see they are quiet young chaps enough. Come along, lads,
I will show you your room."

It was halfway up the stairs, at the back of the house, over the
kitchen, which was built out there. It was a comfortable little room,
not large, but sufficiently so for two boys. There was a bed, a chest
of drawers, two chairs, and a dressing-table, and a strip of carpet
ran alongside the bed, and there was, moreover, a small fireplace.

"Will that do for you?" the man asked.

"Capitally," George said; "it could not be nicer;" while Bill was so
taken aback by its comfort and luxury that he was speechless.

"Well, that's settled, then," the man said. "If you have got any
things you can bring 'em in when you like."

"We have not got any to speak of," George said, flushing a little. "I
came up from the country three months ago to look for work, and beyond
odd jobs I have had nothing to do since, so that everything I had is
pretty well gone; but I can pay a week's rent in advance," he said,
putting his hand in his pocket.

"Oh, you needn't mind that!" the man said; "as you work in the shop
it's safe enough. Now I must get my dinner, else I shall be late for
work."

"Well, Bill, what do you think of that?" George asked as they left the
house.

"My eye," Bill exclaimed in admiration; "aint it nice just! Why, yer
couldn't get a room like that, not furnished, anywhere near the
market, not at four bob a week. Aint it clean just; so help me if the
house don't look as if it has been scrubbed down every day! What a
woman that must be for washing!"

"Yes; we shall have to rub our feet well, Bill, and make as little
mess as we can in going in and out."

"I should think so," Bill said. "It don't seem to me as if it could be
true as we're to have such a room as that to ourselves, and to walk
into a house bold without being afraid as somebody would have his eye
on you, and chivey you; and eight bob a week for grub regular."

"Well, let's get some bread and cheese, Bill; pretty near half our
time must be gone, and mind we must be very saving at first. There
will be several things to get; a kettle and a teapot, and a coffeepot,
and some cups and saucers, and we shall want a gridiron for frying
rashers of bacon upon."

"My eye, won't it be prime!" Bill broke in.

"And we shall want some towels," George went on with his enumeration.

"Towels!" repeated Bill. "What are they like?"

"They are cloths for wiping your hands and face after you have
washed."

"Well, if yer says we wants 'em, George, of course we must get 'em;
but I've always found my hands dried quick enough by themselves,
especially if I gived 'em a rub on my trousers."

"And then, Bill, you know," George went on, "I want to save every
penny we can, so as to get some things to furnish two rooms by the
time mother comes out."

"Yes, in course we must," Bill agreed warmly, though a slight shade
passed over his face at the thought that they were not to be always
alone together. "Well, yer know, George, I am game for anythink. I can
hold on with a penn'orth of bread a day. I have done it over and over,
and if yer says the word I am ready to do it again."

"No, Bill, we needn't do that," George laughed. "Still, we must live
as cheap as we can. We will stick to bread for breakfast, and bread
and cheese for dinner, and bread for supper, with sometimes a rasher
as a great treat. At any rate we will try to live on six shillings a
week."

"Oh! we can do that fine," Bill said confidently; "and then two
shillings for rent, and that will leave us eight shillings a week to
put by."

"Mother said that the doctor didn't think she would be able to come
out 'til the spring. We are just at the beginning of November, so if
she comes out the first of April, that's five months, say twenty-two
weeks. Twenty-two weeks at eight shillings, let me see. That's eight
pounds in twenty weeks, eight pounds sixteen altogether, that would
furnish two rooms very well, I should think."

"My eye, I should think so!" Bill exclaimed, for to his mind eight
pound sixteen was an almost unheard-of sum, and the fact that his
companion had been able to calculate it increased if possible his
admiration for him.

It needed but two or three days to reconcile Mrs. Grimstone to her new
lodgers.

"I wouldn't have believed," she said at the end of the week to a
neighbor, "as two boys could have been that quiet. They comes in after
work as regular as the master. They rubs their feet on the mat, and
you can scarce hear 'em go upstairs, and I don't hear no more of 'em
till they goes out agin in the morning. They don't come back here to
breakfast or dinner. Eats it, I suppose, standing like."

"But what do they do with themselves all the evening, Mrs. Grimstone?"

"One of 'em reads to the other. I think I can hear a voice going
regular over the kitchen."

"And how's their room?"

"As clean and tidy as a new pin. They don't lock the door when they
goes out, and I looked in yesterday, expecting to find it like a
pigsty; but they had made the bed afore starting for work, and set
everything in its place, and laid the fire like for when they come
back."

Mrs. Grimstone was right. George had expended six pence in as many
old books at a bookstall. One of them was a spelling-book, and he had
at once set to work teaching Bill his letters. Bill had at first
protested. "He had done very well without reading, and didn't see much
good in it." However, as George insisted he gave way, as he would have
done to any proposition whatever upon which his friend had set his
mind. So for an hour every evening after they had finished tea Bill
worked at his letters and spelling, and then George read aloud to him
from one of the other books.

"You must get on as fast as you can this winter, Bill," he said;
"because when the summer evenings come we shall want to go for long
walks."

They found that they did very well upon the sum they agreed on. Tea
and sugar cost less than George had expected. Mrs. Grimstone took in
for them regularly a halfpenny-worth of milk, and for tea they were
generally able to afford a bloater between them, or a very thin rasher
of bacon. Their enjoyment of their meals was immense. Bill indeed
frequently protested that they were spending too much money; but
George said as long as they kept within the sum agreed upon, and paid
their rent, coal, candles, and what little washing they required out
of the eight shillings a week, they were doing very well.

They had by this time got accustomed to the din of the machinery, and
were able to work in comfort. Mr. Penrose had several times come
through the room, and had given them a nod. After they had been there
a month he spoke to Grimstone.

"How do those boys do their work?"

"Wonderful well, sir; they are the two best boys we have ever had. No
skylarking about, and I never have to wait a minute for a plank. They
generally comes in a few minutes before time and gets the bench
cleared up. They are first-rate boys. They lodge with me, and two
quieter and better-behaved chaps in a house there never was."

"I am glad to hear it," Mr. Penrose said. "I am interested in them,
and am pleased to hear so good an account."

That Saturday, to their surprise, when they went to get their money
they received ten shillings apiece.

"That's two shillings too much," George said as the money was handed
to them.

"That's all right," the foreman said. "The governor ordered you both
to have a rise."

"My eye!" Bill said as they went out. "What do you think of that,
George? Four bob a week more to put by regularly. How much more will
that make by the time your mother comes?"

"We won't put it all by, Bill. I think the other will be enough. This
four shillings a week we will put aside at present for clothes. We
want two more shirts apiece, and some more stockings, and we shall
want some shoes before long, and another suit of clothes each. We must
keep ourselves decent, you know."

From the time when they began work the boys had gone regularly every
Sunday morning to a small iron church near their lodging, and they
also went to an evening service once a week. Their talk, too, at home
was often on religion, for Bill was extremely anxious to learn, and
although his questions and remarks often puzzled George to answer, he
was always ready to explain things as far as he could.

February came, and to George's delight he heard, from his mother that
she was so much better that the doctor thought that when she came out
at the end of April she would be as strong as she had ever been. Her
eyes had benefited greatly by her long rest, and she said that she was
sure she should be able to do work as before. She had written several
times since they had been at Limehouse, expressing her great pleasure
at hearing that George was so well and comfortable. At Christmas, the
works being closed for four days, George had gone down to see her, and
they had a delightful talk together. Christmas had indeed been a
memorable occasion to the boys, for on Christmas Eve the carrier had
left a basket at Grimstone's directed "George Andrews." The boys had
prepared their Christmas dinner, consisting of some fine rashers of
bacon and sixpenny-worth of cold plum pudding from a cook-shop, and
had already rather lamented this outlay, for Mrs. Grimstone had that
afternoon invited them to dine downstairs. George was reading from a
book which he bought for a penny that morning when there was a knock
at the door, and Mrs. Grimstone said:

"Here is a hamper for you, George."

"A hamper for me!" George exclaimed in astonishment, opening the door.
"Why, whoever could have sent a hamper for me! It must be a mistake."

"That's your name on the direction, anyhows," Mrs. Grimstone said.

"Yes, that's my name, sure enough," George agreed, and at once began
to unknot the string which fastened down the lid.

"Here is a Christmas card at the top!" he shouted. He turned it over.
On the back were the words:

"With all good wishes, Helen Penrose."

"Well, that is kind," George said in rather a husky voice; and indeed
it was the kindness that prompted the gift rather than the gift itself
that touched him.

"Now, then, George," Bill remonstrated; "never mind that there card,
let's see what's inside."

The hamper was unpacked, and was found to contain a cold goose, a
Christmas pudding, and some oranges and apples. These were all placed
on the table, and when Mrs. Grimstone had retired Bill executed a
war-dance in triumph and delight.

"I never did see such a game," he said at last, as he sat down
exhausted. "There's a Christmas dinner for yer! Why, it's like them
stories of the genii you was a-telling me about--chaps as come
whenever yer rubbed a ring or an old lamp, and brought a tuck-out or
whatever yer asked for. Of course that wasn't true; yer told me it
wasn't, and I shouldn't have believed it if yer hadn't, but this 'ere
is true. Now I sees, George, as what yer said was right and what I
said was wrong. I thought yer were a flat 'cause yer wouldn't take
nothing for getting back that there locket, and now yer see what's
come of it, two good berths for us and a Christmas dinner fit for a
king. Now what are we going to do with it, 'cause yer know we dines
with them downstairs to-morrow?"

"The best thing we can do, I think," George answered, "will be to
invite all of them downstairs, Bob Grimstone, his wife, and the three
young uns, to supper, not to-morrow night nor the night after, because
I shan't be back from Croydon till late, but say the evening after."

"But we can't hold them all," Bill said, looking round the room.

"No, we can't hold them here, certainly, but I dare say they will let
us have the feed in their parlor. There will be nothing to get, you
know, but some bread and butter, and some beer for Bob. Mrs. Grimstone
don't take it, so we must have plenty of tea."

"I should like some beer too, just for once, George, with such a
blow-out as that."

"No, no, Bill, you and I will stick to tea. You know we agreed that we
wouldn't take beer. If we begin it once we shall want it again, so we
are not going to alter from what we agreed to. We see plenty of the
misery which drink causes all round and the way in which money is
wasted over it. I like a glass of beer as well as you do, and when I
get to be a man I dare say I shall take a glass with my dinner
regularly, though I won't do even that if I find it makes me want to
take more; but anyhow at present we can do without it."

Bill agreed, and the dinner-party downstairs and the supper two nights
afterwards came off in due course, and were both most successful.

The acknowledgment of the gift had been a matter of some trouble to
George, but he had finally bought a pretty New Year's card and had
written on the back, "with the grateful thanks of George Andrews," and
had sent it to the daughter of his employer.

At the beginning of April George had consulted Grimstone and his wife
as to the question of preparing a home for his mother.

"How much would two rooms cost?" he had asked; "one a good-sized one
and the other the same size as ours."

"Four shillings or four and sixpence," Mrs. Grimstone replied.

"And supposing we had a parlor and two little bedrooms?"

"Five and sixpence or six shillings, I should say," Mrs. Grimstone
replied.

"And how much for a whole house?"

"It depends upon the size. We pay seven shillings a week, but you
might get one without the kitchen and bedroom over it behind for six
shillings."

"That would be much the nicest," George said, "only it would cost such
a lot to furnish it."

"But you needn't furnish it all at once," Mrs. Grimstone suggested.
"Just a kitchen and two bedrooms for a start, and you can put things
into the parlor afterwards. That's the way we did when we first
married. But you must have some furniture."

"And how much will it cost for the kitchen and two bedrooms?"

"Of course going cheaply to work and buying the things secondhand, I
should say I could pick up the things for you, so that you could do
very well," Mrs. Grimstone said, "for six or seven pounds."

"That will do capitally," George said, "for by the end of this month
Bill and I will have more than ten pounds laid by."

"What! since you came here?" Grimstone exclaimed in astonishment. "Do
you mean to say you boys have laid by five pounds apiece?"

"Yes, and bought a lot of things too," his wife put in.

"Why, you must have been starving yourselves!"

"We don't look like it," George laughed. "I am sure Bill is a stone
heavier than when he came here."

"Well, young chap, it does you a lot of credit," Bob Grimstone said.
"It isn't every boy, by a long way, would stint himself as you must
have done for the last five months to make a comfortable home for his
mother, for I know lots of men who are earning their two quid a week
and has their old people in the workhouse. Well, all I can say is that
if I or the missis here can be of any use to you in taking a house we
shall be right down glad."

"Thank you," George said. "We will look about for a house, and when we
have fixed on one if you or Mrs. Grimstone will go about it for us I
shall be much obliged, for I don't think landlords would be inclined
to let a house to two boys."

"All right, George! we will do that for you with pleasure. Besides,
you know, there are things, when you are going to take a house, that
you stand out for; such as papering and painting, or putting in a new
range, and things of that sort."

After their dinner on the following Sunday the two boys set out
house-hunting.

"If it's within a mile that will do," George said. "It doesn't matter
about our going home in the breakfast time. We can bring our grub in a
basket and our tea in a bottle, as several of the hands do; but if
it's over a mile we shall have to hurry to get there and back for
dinner. Still there are plenty of houses in a mile."

There were indeed plenty of houses, in long regular rows, bare and
hard-looking, but George wanted to find something more pleasant and
homelike than these. Late in the afternoon he came upon what he
wanted. It was just about a mile from the works and beyond the lines
of regular streets. Here he found a turning off the main road with but
eight houses in it, four on each side. It looked as if the man who
built them had intended to run a street down for some distance, but
had either been unable to obtain enough ground or had changed his
mind.

They stood in pairs, each with its garden in front, with a bow-window
and little portico. They appeared to be inhabited by a different class
to those who lived in the rows, chiefly by city clerks, for the
gardens were nicely kept, the blinds were clean and spotless, muslin
curtains hung in the windows, and fancy tables with pretty ornaments
stood between them. Fortunately one of them, the last on the left-hand
side, was to let.

"What do you think of this, Bill?"

"It seems to be just the thing; but how about the rent, George? I
should think they were awful dear."

"I don't suppose they are any more than the houses in the rows, Bill.
They are very small, you see, and I don't suppose they would suit
workmen as well as the others; at any rate we will see."

Whereupon George noted down on a scrap of paper the name of the agent
of whom inquiry was to be made.

"No. 8," he said; "but what's the name of the street? Oh, there it is.
Laburnum Villas. No. 8 Laburnum Villas; that sounds first-rate,
doesn't it? I will get Mrs. Grimstone to go round to the agent
to-morrow."

This Mrs. Grimstone agreed to do directly she was asked. After
speaking to her husband she said, "I will get the key from the agent's
and will be there just after twelve to-morrow, so if you go there
straight when you get out you will be able to see the rooms and what
state it's in."

"But how about Bob's dinner?" George asked.

"Oh, he will have it cold to-morrow, and I will set it out for him
before I start."

"That is very kind, Mrs. Grimstone, thank you very much. It would be
just the thing."

Accordingly, at ten minutes past twelve on the following day the two
boys arrived breathless at No. 8 Laburnum Villas.

"Hurrah!" George shouted, "there is Mrs. Grimstone at the window."

The door was opened and they rushed in.

"It's a tidy little place," Mrs. Grimstone said; "and it's in good
order and won't want any money laying out upon it."

The house was certainly small, but the boys were delighted with it. On
the ground-floor were two little rooms opening with folding doors,
and a little kitchen built out behind. There was a room over this, and
two rooms above the sitting rooms.

"That's just the right number," George said, "a bedroom each for us;
it couldn't be nicer; and what pretty paper!"

"And there is a good long slip of garden behind," Mrs. Grimstone said,
"where you could grow lots of vegetables. Of course in the front you
would have flowers."

"And how much do they want for it?"

"Seven and sixpence a week, including rates and taxes. I call it dear
for its size, but then of course it's got the garden and it looks
pretty and nice. The agent says it's been painted and papered from top
to bottom since the last people left, but he says the owner won't let
it unless somebody comes who is likely to stop, and he will want
references of respectability."

"All right!" George said; "I can manage that," for he had already been
thinking of the question in his mind; "and we can manage seven and
sixpence a week; can't we, Bill?"

"We will try, anyhow," Bill said stoutly, for he was as much pleased
with the cottage as George was.

They explored the garden behind the house. This was about a hundred
feet long by twenty-five wide. Half of it was covered with stumps of a
plantation of cabbages, the other half was empty and had evidently
been dug up by the last tenants ready for planting.

"Why, I should think we shall be able to grow all our own potatoes
here!" George exclaimed in delight.

Mrs. Grimstone was a country woman, and she shook her head.

"You wouldn't be able to do that, George, not if you gave it all up to
potatoes; but if you planted the further end with potatoes you might
get a good many, and then, you know, at this end you might have three
or four rows of peas and French beans, and lettuces and such like, but
you will have to get some manure to put in. Things won't grow without
manure even in the country, and I am sure they won't here; and then
you know you can have flowers in the front of the house. But it's time
for you to be off, else you will be late at the works. I am sure it's
more than half an hour since you came in. I will take the key back and
tell them they shall have an answer by Wednesday or Thursday."

George did not think they could have been a quarter of an hour;
however, he and Bill started at a trot, which they increased into a
run at the top of their speed when the first clock they saw pointed to
seven minutes to one. The bell was ringing as they approached the
works; it stopped when they were within fifty yards, and the gate was
just closing as they rushed up.

"Too late," the man said.

"Oh, do let us through," George panted out; "it's the first time we
have ever been late, and we have run a mile to be here in time!"

"Oh, it's you, is it?" the man said, opening the gate a few inches to
look through. "Ah, well I will let you in this time, 'cause you are
well-behaved young chaps; but don't you run it so close another time,
else you will have to lose your hour."



CHAPTER IV.

HOME.


That evening George wrote a letter to Dr. Jeffries at Croydon, saying
that he had taken a little house for his mother to come to when she
came out of the infirmary, and as he had kindly said that he would
render her help if he could, would he be good enough to write to the
agent whose address he gave, saying that Mrs. Andrews, who was about
taking No. 8 Laburnum Villas, was a person of respectability.

The following evening he received a letter from the doctor saying that
he had written to the agent, and that he was glad indeed to hear that
George was getting on so well that he was able to provide a home for
his mother.

On Wednesday at dinner-time Mrs. Grimstone handed George a key.

"There you are, George. You are master of the house now. The agent
said the reference was most satisfactory; so I paid him the seven and
sixpence you gave me for a week's rent in advance, and you can go in
when you like. We shall be sorry to lose you both, for I don't want
two better lodgers. You don't give no trouble, and all has been quiet
and pleasant in the house; and to think what a taking I was in that
day as Bob brought you here for the first time, to think as he had let
the room to two boys. But there, one never knows, and I wouldn't have
believed it as boys could be so quiet in a house."

"Now we must begin to see about furniture," Bob Grimstone said. "The
best plan, I think, will be for you two to go round of an evening to
all the shops in the neighborhood, and mark off just what you think
will suit you. You put down the prices stuck on them, and just what
they are, and then the missis can go in the morning and bargain for
them. She will get them five shillings in the pound cheaper than you
would. It's wonderful how women do beat men down, to be sure. When a
man hears what's the price of a thing he leaves it or takes it just as
he likes, but a woman begins by offering half the sum. Then the chap
says no, and she makes as if she was going away; he lets her go a
little way and then he hollers after her, and comes down a goodish bit
in the price. Then she says she don't particularly want it and
shouldn't think of giving any such price as that. Then he tries again,
and so they gets on till they hit on a figure as suits them both. You
see that little tea-caddy in the corner? My wife was just three weeks
buying that caddy. The chap wanted seven and six for it, and she
offered him half a crown. He came down half a crown at the end of the
first week, and at last she got it for three and nine. Now, the first
thing you have got to do is to make out a list. First of all you have
got to put down the things as you must have, and then the things you
can do without, though you will get them if you can afford it. Mother
will help you at that."

So Mrs. Grimstone and George sat down with paper and a pencil, and
George was absolutely horrified at the list of things which Mrs.
Grimstone declared were absolutely indispensable. However, after much
discussion, some few items were marked as doubtful. When the list was
finished the two boys started on an exploring expedition, and the next
week all their evenings were fully occupied. In ten days after they
began the three bedrooms and the kitchen were really smartly
furnished, Mrs. Grimstone proving a wonderful hand at bargaining, and
making the ten pounds go farther than George had believed possible. On
the Sunday Bob went with his wife and the boys to inspect the house.

"It's a very comfortable little place," he said, "and that front
bedroom with the chintz curtains the missis made up is as nice a
little room as you want to see. As to the others they will do well
enough for you boys."

The only articles of furniture in the sitting room were two long
muslin curtains, which Mrs. Grimstone had bought a bargain at a shop
selling off; for it was agreed that this was necessary to give the
house a furnished appearance. Bob Grimstone was so much pleased at
what had been done that he shared George's feeling of regret that one
of the sitting rooms could not also be furnished, and on the walk home
said:

"Look here, George. I know you would like to have the house nice for
your mother. You couldn't make one of those sitting rooms comfortable
not under a five-pound note, not even with the missis to market for
you, but you might for that. I have got a little money laid by in the
savings-bank, and I will lend you five pounds, and welcome, if you
like to take it. I know it will be just as safe with you as it will be
there."

"Thank you very much, Bob--thank you very much, but I won't take it.
In the first place, I should like mother to know that the furniture is
all ours, bought out of Bill's savings and mine; and in the next
place, I should find it hard at first to pay back anything. I think we
can just manage on our money, but that will be all. I told you mother
does work, but she mayn't be able to get any at first, so we can't
reckon on that. When she does, you know, we shall be able gradually to
buy the furniture."

"Well, perhaps you are right, George," the man said after a pause.
"You would have been welcome to the money: but perhaps you are right
not to take it. I borrowed a little money when I first went into
housekeeping, and it took a wonderful trouble to pay off, and if
there's illness or anything of that sort it weighs on you. Not that I
should be in any hurry about it. It wouldn't worry me, but it would
worry you."

A week later Mrs. Andrews was to leave the infirmary, and on Saturday
George asked for a day off to go down to fetch her. Every evening
through the week he and Bill had worked away at digging up the garden.
Fortunately there was a moon, for it was dark by the time they came
out from the works. Bill was charged with the commission to lay in the
store of provisions for the Sunday, and he was to be sure to have a
capital fire and tea ready by four o'clock, the hour at which George
calculated he would be back.

Very delighted was George as in his best suit--for he and Bill had two
suits each now--he stepped out of the train at Croydon and walked to
the workhouse. His mother had told him that she would meet him at the
gate at half-past two, and punctually at the time he was there. A few
minutes later Mrs. Andrews came out, not dressed as he had seen her at
Christmas, in the infirmary garb, but in her own clothes. George gave
a cry of delight as he ran forward to meet her.

"My darling mother! and you are looking quite yourself again."

"I am, thank God, George. It has seemed a long nine months, but the
rest and quiet have done wonders for me. Everyone has been very kind;
and of course the knowledge, dear boy, that you had got work that you
liked helped me to get strong again. And you are looking well too; and
your friend, I hope he is well?"

"Quite well, mother, but in a great fright about you. He is glad you
are coming because I am glad; but the poor fellow has quite made up
his mind that you won't like him and you won't think him a fit
companion for me. I told him over and over again that you are not that
sort; but nothing can persuade him. Of course, mother, he doesn't talk
good grammar, and he uses some queer expressions; but he is very much
changed in that way since I first knew him, and he tries very hard,
and don't mind a bit how often I correct him, and he is beginning to
read easy words quite well; and he is one of the best-hearted fellows
in the world."

"If he is kind to you, George, and fond of you, that's enough for me,"
Mrs. Andrews said; "but I have no doubt I shall soon like him for
himself. You could not like him as much as you do if there were not
something nice about him. And you have succeeded in getting a room for
me in the house in which you lodge?" for George had never mentioned a
word in his letter about taking a house, and had asked Dr. Jeffries if
he should see his mother to say nothing to her about his application
to him.

"Yes, that's all right, mother," he replied briskly.

"And you have got some new clothes since I saw you last, George. You
wanted them; yours were getting rather shabby when I saw you at
Christmas."

"Yes, mother, they were."

"I suppose you had to part with your best suit while you were so long
out of work?"

"That was it, mother; but you see I have been able to get some more
things. They are only cheap ones, you know, but they will do very well
until I can afford better ones. I am not walking too fast for you, am
I? But we shall just catch the train. Or look here, would you mind
going straight by yourself to the railway station? Then you can walk
slowly. I will go round and get your box. I went into our old place as
I came along, and Mrs. Larkins said she would bring it downstairs for
me as I came back."

"No, I would rather go round with you, George. I want to thank her for
having kept it for me so long. Even if we do miss the train it will
not matter much, as it will make no difference whether we get in town
an hour earlier or later."

As George could not explain his special reason for desiring to catch
that train he was obliged to agree, and they stopped a quarter of an
hour at their old lodging, as Mrs. Larkins insisted upon their having
a cup of tea which she had prepared for them. However, when they
reached the station they found that a train was going shortly, and
when they reached town they were not so very much later than George
had calculated upon.

They took a cab, for although Mrs. Andrews' box was not heavy, it was
too much for George to carry that distance; besides, Mrs. Andrews
herself was tired from her walk to the station from the infirmary,
having had no exercise for so long. When they got into the
neighborhood of Limehouse George got outside to direct the cabman. It
was just a quarter past four when the cab drew up at No. 8 Laburnum
Villas.

"Why, is this the house?" Mrs. Andrews asked in surprise as George
jumped down and opened the door. "Why, you told me in one of your
letters it was a house in a row. What a pretty little place! It is
really here, George?"

"It is here, mother; we moved the other day. There is Bill at the
door;" but Bill, having opened the door, ran away out into the garden,
and George, having paid the cabman, carried his mother's box in and
entered the house with her.

"Straight on, mother, into the little room at the end."

"What a snug little kitchen!" Mrs. Andrews said as she entered it;
"and tea all laid and ready! What, have they lent you the room for
this evening?"

"My dear mother," George said, throwing his arms round her neck,
"this is your kitchen and your house, all there is of it, only the
sitting room isn't furnished yet. We must wait for that, you know."

"What! you have taken a whole house, my boy! that is very nice; but
can we afford it, George? It seems too good to be true."

"It is quite true, mother, and I think it's a dear little house, and
will be splendid when we have got it all furnished. Now come up and
see the bedrooms. This is Bill's, you know," and he opened the door on
the staircase, "and this is mine, and this is yours."

"Oh, what a pretty little room!" Mrs. Andrews said: "but, my dear
George, the rent of this house and the hire of the furniture will
surely be more than we can afford to pay. I know what a good manager
you are, my boy, but I have such a horror of getting into debt that it
almost frightens me."

"The rent of the house is seven and sixpence a week, mother, with
rates and taxes, and we can afford that out of Bill's earnings and
mine, even if you did not do any work at all; and as to the furniture,
it is every bit paid for out of our savings since we went to work."

On hearing which Mrs. Andrews threw her arms round George's neck and
burst into tears of happiness. She was not very strong, and the
thought of the sacrifices these two boys must have made to get a
house together for her completely overpowered her.

"It seems impossible, George," she said when she had recovered
herself. "Why, you have only been earning ten shillings a week each,
and you have had to keep yourselves and get clothes and all sorts of
things; it seems impossible."

"It has not cost so much as you think, mother, and Bill and I had both
learned to live cheap in Covent Garden; but now let us go downstairs;
you have not seen Bill yet, and I know tea will be ready."

But Bill had not yet come in, and George had to go out into the garden
to fetch him.

"Come on, Bill; mother is delighted with everything. She won't eat
you, you know."

"No, she won't eat me, George; but she will think me an out-and-out
sort of 'ottentot," which word had turned up in a book the boys had
been reading on an evening previously.

"Well, wait till she says so; come along."

So linking his arm in Bill's, George drew him along, and brought him
shamefaced and bashful into the kitchen.

"This is Bill, mother."

"I am glad to see you, Bill," Mrs. Andrews said, holding out her hand.
"I have heard so much of you from George that I seem to know you quite
well."

Bill put his hand out shyly.

"I am sure we shall get on well together," Mrs. Andrews went on. "I
shall never forget that you were a friend to my boy when he was
friendless in London."

"It's all the t'other way, ma'am," Bill said eagerly; "don't you go
for to think it. Why, just look what George has done for me! There was
I, a-hanging about the Garden, pretty nigh starving, and sure to get
quadded sooner or later; and now here I am living decent, and earning
a good wage; and he has taught me to read, ma'am, and to know about
things, and aint been ashamed of me, though I am so different to what
he is. I tell you, ma'am, there aint no saying what a friend he's been
to me, and I aint done nothing for him as I can see."

"Well, Bill, you perhaps both owe each other something," Mrs. Andrews
said: "and I owe you something as well as my son, for George tells me
that it is to your self-denial as well as to his own that I owe this
delightful surprise of finding a home ready for me; and now," she went
on, seeing how confused and unhappy Bill looked, "I think you two
ought to make tea this evening, for you are the hosts, and I am the
guest. In future it will be my turn."

"All right, mother! you sit down in this armchair; Bill, you do the
rashers, and I will pour the water into the pot and then toast the
muffins."

Bill was at home now; such culinary efforts as they had hitherto
attempted had generally fallen to his share, as he had a greater
aptitude for the work than George had, and a dish of bacon fried to a
turn was soon upon the table.

Mrs. Andrews had been watching Bill closely, and was pleased with the
result of her observation. Bill was indeed greatly improved in
appearance since he had first made George's acquaintance. His cheeks
had filled out, and his face had lost its hardness of outline; the
quick, restless, hunted expression of his eyes had nearly died out,
and he no longer looked as if constantly on the watch to dodge an
expected cuff; his face had always had a large share of that merriment
and love of fun which seem the common portion of the London arabs, and
seldom desert them under all their hardships; but it was a happier and
brighter spirit now, and had altogether lost its reckless character. A
similar change is always observable among the waifs picked up off the
streets by the London refuges after they have been a few months on
board a training ship.

When all was ready the party sat down to their meal. Mrs. Andrews
undertook the pouring out of the tea, saying that although she was a
guest, as the only lady present she should naturally preside. George
cut the bread, and Bill served the bacon. The muffins were piled on a
plate in the front of the fire as a second course.

It was perhaps the happiest meal that any of the three had ever sat
down to. Mrs. Andrews was not only happy at finding so comfortable a
home prepared for her, but was filled with a deep feeling of pride and
thankfulness at the evidence of the love, steadiness, and
self-sacrifice of her son. George was delighted at having his mother
with him again, and at seeing her happiness and contentment at the
home he had prepared for her. Bill was delighted because George was
so, and he was moreover vastly relieved at finding Mrs. Andrews less
terrible than he had depicted her.

After tea was cleared away they talked together for a while, and then
Bill--feeling with instinctive delicacy that George and his mother
would like to talk together for a time--said he should take a turn for
an hour, and on getting outside the house executed so wild a war-dance
of satisfaction that it was fortunate it was dark, or Laburnum Villas
would have been astonished and scandalized at the spectacle.

"I like your friend Bill very much," Mrs. Andrews said when she was
alone with George. "I was sure from what you told me that he must be a
good-hearted lad; but brought up as he has been, poor boy, I feared a
little that he would scarcely be a desirable companion in point of
manners. Of course, as you say, his grammar is a little peculiar; but
his manners are wonderfully quiet and nice, considering all."

"Look what an example he's had, mother," George laughed; "but really
he has taken great pains ever since he knew that you were coming
home. He has been asking me to tell him of anything he does which is
not right, especially about eating and that sort of thing. You see he
had never used a fork till we came down here, and he made me show him
directly how it should be held and what to do with it. It has been
quite funny to me to see him watching me at meals, and doing exactly
the same."

"And you have taught him to read, George?"

"Yes, mother."

"And something of better things, George?" she asked.

"Yes, mother, as much as I could. He didn't know anything when I met
him; but he goes to church with me now regularly, and says his prayers
every night, and I can tell you he thinks a lot of it. More, I think,
than I ever did," he added honestly.

"Perhaps he has done you as much good as you have done him, George."

"Perhaps he has, mother; yes, I think so. When you see a chap so very
earnest for a thing you can't help being earnest yourself; besides,
you know, mother," he went on a little shyly, for George had not been
accustomed to talk much of these matters with his mother--"you see
when one's down in the world and hard up, and not quite sure about the
next meal, and without any friend, one seems to think more of these
things than one does when one is jolly at school with other fellows."

"Perhaps so, George, though I do not know why it should be so, for the
more blessings one has the more reason for love and gratitude to the
giver. However, dear, I think we have both reason to be grateful now,
have we not?"

"That we have, mother. Only think of the difference since we said
good-by to each other last summer! Now here you are strong and well
again, and we are together and don't mean to be separated, and I have
got a place I like and have a good chance of getting on in, and we
have got a pretty little house all to ourselves, and you will be able
to live a little like a lady again,--I mean as you were accustomed
to,--and everything is so nice. Oh, mother, I am sure we have every
reason to be grateful!"

"We have indeed, George, and I even more than you, in the proofs you
have given me that my son is likely to turn out all that even I could
wish him."

Bill's hour was a very long one.

"You must not go out of an evening, Bill, to get out of our way," Mrs.
Andrews said when he returned, "else I shall think that I am in your
way. It was kind of you to think of it the first evening, and George
and I are glad to have had a long talk together, but in future I hope
you won't do it. You see there will be lots to do of an evening. There
will be your lessons and George's, for I hope now that he's settled he
will give up an hour or two every evening to study. Not Latin and
Greek, George," she added, smiling, seeing a look of something like
dismay in George's face, "that will be only a waste of time to you
now, but a study of such things as may be useful to you in your
present work and in your future life, and a steady course of reading
really good books by good authors. Then perhaps when you have both
done your work, you will take it by turns to read out loud while I do
my sewing. Then perhaps some day, who knows, if we get on very
flourishingly, after we have furnished our sitting room, we may be
able to indulge in the luxury of a piano again and have a little music
of an evening."

"That will be jolly, mother. Why, it will be really like old times,
when you used to sing to me!"

Mrs. Andrews' eyes filled with tears at the thought of the old times,
but she kept them back bravely, so as not to mar, even for a moment,
the happiness of this first evening. So they chatted till nine
o'clock, when they had supper. After it was over Mrs. Andrews left the
room for a minute and went upstairs and opened her box, and returned
with a Bible in her hand.

"I think, boys," she said, "we ought to end this first happy evening
in our new home by thanking God together for his blessings."

"I am sure we ought, mother," George said, and Bill's face expressed
his approval.

So Mrs. Andrews read a chapter, and then they knelt and thanked God
for his blessings, and the custom thus begun was continued henceforth
in No. 8 Laburnum Villas.

Hitherto George and his companion had found things much more pleasant
at the works than they had expected. They had, of course, had
principally to do with Bob Grimstone; still there were many other men
in the shop, and at times, when his bench was standing idle while some
slight alterations or adjustment of machinery were made, they were set
to work with others. Men are quick to see when boys are doing their
best, and, finding the lads intent upon their work and given neither
to idleness nor skylarking, they seldom had a sharp word addressed to
them. But after Mrs. Andrews had come home they found themselves
addressed in a warmer and more kindly manner by the men. Bob Grimstone
had told two or three of his mates of the sacrifices the boys had made
to save up money to make a home for the mother of one of them when she
came out of hospital. They were not less impressed than he had been,
and the story went the round of the workshops and even came to the
ears of the foreman, and there was not a man there but expressed
himself in warm terms of surprise and admiration that two lads should
for six months have stinted themselves of food in order to lay by half
their pay for such a purpose.

"There's precious few would have done such a thing," one of the older
workmen said, "not one in a thousand; why, not one chap in a hundred,
even when he's going to be married, will stint himself like that to
make a home for the gal he is going to make his wife, so as to start
housekeeping out of debt; and as to doing it for a mother, where will
you find 'em? In course a man ought to do as much for his mother as
for the gal who is agoing to be his wife, seeing how much he owes her;
but how many does it, that's what I says, how many does it?"

So after that the boys were surprised to find how many of the men,
when they met them at the gate, would give them a kindly nod or a
hearty, "Good-morning, young chaps!"

A day or two after Mrs. Andrews had settled in Laburnum Villas she
went up to town and called upon a number of shops, asking for work. As
she was able to give an excellent reference to the firm for whom she
had worked at Croydon she succeeded before the end of the week in
obtaining millinery work for a firm in St. Paul's Churchyard, and as
she had excellent taste and was very quick at her needle she was soon
able to earn considerably more than she had done at Croydon.

The three were equally determined that they would live as closely as
possible until the sitting-rooms were furnished, and by strict
management they kept within the boys' pay, Mrs. Andrews' earnings
being devoted to the grand purpose. The small articles were bought
first, and each week there was great congratulation and pleasure as
some new article was placed in the rooms. Then there was a pause for
some time, then came the chairs, then after an interval a table, and
lastly the carpet. This crowning glory was not attained until the end
of July. After this they moved solemnly into the sitting-room,
agreeing that the looking-glass, chiffonier, and sofa could be added
at a more gradual rate, and that the whole of Mrs. Andrews' earnings
need no longer be devoted.

"Now, boys," Mrs. Andrews said on that memorable evening, "I want you
in future, when you come in, to change your working clothes before you
come in here to your teas. So long as we lived in the kitchen I have
let things go on, but I think there's something in the old saying,
'Company clothes, company manners,' and I think it is good when boys
come in that they should lay aside their heavy-nailed shoes and their
working clothes. Certainly such boots and clothes are apt to render
people clumsy in their movements, and the difference of walk which you
observe between men of different classes arises very greatly from the
clumsy, heavy boots which workingmen must wear."

"But what does it matter, mother?" George urged, for it seemed to him
that it would be rather a trouble to change his clothes every day.
"These little things don't make any real difference to a man."

"Not any vital difference, George, but a real difference for all
that. Manners make the man, you know! that is, they influence
strangers and people who only know him in connection with business. If
two men apply together for a place the chances are strongly in favor
of the man with the best manners getting it. Besides, my boy, I think
the observance of little courtesies of this kind make home pleasanter
and brighter. You see I always change my dress before tea, and I am
sure you prefer my sitting down to the table tidy and neat with a
fresh collar and cuffs, to my taking my place in my working dress with
odds and ends of threads and litter clinging to it."

"Of course I do, mother, and I see what you mean now. Certainly I will
change my things in future. You don't mind, do you, Bill?"

Bill would not have minded in the least any amount of trouble by which
he could give the slightest satisfaction to Mrs. Andrews, who had now
a place in his affections closely approximating to that which George
occupied.

During the summer months the programme for the evening was not carried
out as arranged, for at the end of April Mrs. Andrews herself declared
that there must be a change.

"The evenings are getting light enough now for a walk after tea, boys,
and you must therefore cut short our reading and studies till the days
close in again in the autumn. It would do you good to get out in the
air a bit."

"But will you come with us, mother?"

"No, George. Sometimes as evenings get longer we may make little
excursions together: go across the river to Greenwich and spend two or
three hours in the park, or take a steamer and go up the river to Kew;
but as a general thing you had better take your rambles together. I
have my front garden to look after, the vegetables are your work, you
know, and if I like I can go out and do whatever shopping I have to do
while you two are away."

So the boys took to going out walks, which got longer and longer as
the evenings drew out, and when they were not disposed for a long
ramble they would go down to a disused wharf and sit there and watch
the barges drifting down the river or tacking backwards and forwards,
if there was a wind, with their great brown and yellow sails hauled
tautly in, and the great steamers dropping quietly down the river, and
the little busy tugs dragging great ships after them. There was an
endless source of amusement in wondering from what ports the various
craft had come or what was their destination.

"What seems most wonderful to me, George," Bill said one day, "when
one looks at them big steamers----"

"Those," George corrected.

"Thank ye--at those big steamers, is to think that they can be tossed
about, and the sea go over them, as one reads about, just the same
way as the wave they make when they goes down----"

"Go down, Bill."

"Thank ye--go down the river, tosses the little boats about; it don't
seem possible that water can toss itself about so high as that, does
it?"

"It does seem extraordinary, Bill; we know that it is so because there
are constantly wrecks; but looking at the water it does not seem
possible that it should rise up into waves large enough to knock one
of those great steamers in pieces. Some day, Bill, not this year, of
course, because the house isn't finished, but next year, I hope we
shall be able all of us to go down for a trip to the sea. I have seen
it stuck up you can go to Margate and back for three or four
shillings; and though Bob Grimstone says that isn't regular sea, it
would be enough to show us something of what it's like."

The garden occupied a good deal of the boys' time. Bill's long
experience in the market had given him an interest in vegetables, and
he was always ready for an hour's work in the garden after tea. The
results of much labor and plenty of manure were not unsatisfactory,
and Mrs. Andrews was delighted with her regular supply of fresh
vegetables. Bill's anticipation, however, of the amount that could be
grown in a limited space were by no means fulfilled, and seeing the
small amount which could be daily gathered, and recalling the
countless piled-up wagons which he had been accustomed to see in
Covent Garden, he was continually expressing his astonishment at the
enormous quantity of ground which must be employed in keeping up the
supply of the market.

They did not that year get the trip to Margate; but in the autumn,
after the great work of furnishing was finished, they did get several
long jaunts, once out to Epping Forest on an omnibus, once in a
steamer up to Kew, and several times across to Greenwich Park. Mrs.
Andrews found it a very happy summer, free from the wear of anxiety,
which, more even than the work, had brought on her long illness. She
grew stronger and better than she had ever expected to be again, and
those who had only known the pale, harassed-looking needlewoman of
Croydon would not have recognized her now; indeed, as George said
sometimes, his mother looked younger and younger every day. She had
married very young, and was still scarcely five-and-thirty, and
although she laughed and said that George was a foolish boy when he
said that people always took her for his sister, she really looked
some years younger than she was. Her step had regained its elasticity,
and there was a ring of gladness and happiness in her voice which was
very attractive, and even strangers sometimes looked round as they
passed the bright, pleasant-looking woman chatting gayly with the two
healthy, good-looking young fellows.



CHAPTER V.

AN ADVENTURE.


In August the annual outing, or, as it was called, the bean-feast, at
the works took place. Usually the men went in vans down into Epping
Forest; but this year it was determined that a steamer should be
engaged to take the whole party with their wives and families down to
Gravesend. They were to make an early start, and on arriving there all
were to do as they pleased until they assembled to dine in a pavilion
at one of the hotels. After this they were to go to the gardens and
amuse themselves there until the steamer started in the evening. The
party embarked at Blackwell at ten o'clock in the morning. George and
Bill got together up in the bow of the steamer, and were delighted
with their voyage down, their only regret being that Mrs. Andrews had
declined to accompany them, saying that she would far rather go with
them alone than with so large a party.

"What shall we do, Bill?" George said, when they landed. "We are not
to dine till two, so we have two good hours before us. I vote we hire
a boat and go out. It will be ten times as jolly here as up in that
crowded river by London."

This was said in reference to various short rows which they had had
in boats belonging to barges which had been sometimes lent them for
half an hour of an evening by a good-natured bargeman as they hung
about the wharves.

"I suppose you can row, young chaps?" the waterman, whom they hired
the boat of, said.

"Oh, yes, we can row!" George replied with the confidence of youth.

"Mind the tide is running out strong," the waterman said.

"All right, we will mind," George answered, scarce heeding his words;
and getting out the oars they pushed off.

For some little time they rowed among the anchored vessels, both being
especially filled with delight at the yachts moored opposite the
clubhouses. These were new craft to them, and the beauty and neatness
of everything struck them with surprise and admiration. Tide had only
turned a short time before they got into their boat, and while keeping
near the shore they had no difficulty in rowing against it.

Presently they determined to have a look at a fine East-Indiaman
moored well out in the stream a short distance below Gravesend. They
ceased rowing when they approached her, and sat idly on their oars
talking over the distant voyage on which she was probably about to
start, and the country she might visit, George was telling his
companion the ports she would touch if her destination was China, and
absorbed in their conversation they paid no attention to anything
else, until George gave a sudden exclamation.

"Good gracious, Bill! Why, the ship is ever so far behind. It is two
miles, I should think, from the town. We must set to work or we shan't
be back in time for dinner."

The boys' knowledge of the navigation of the Thames was not sufficient
to tell them that to row against tide it is necessary to keep close
inshore, and turning the boat's head they set to work to row back in
the middle of the river. Their knowledge of rowing was but slight, and
the mere operation of their oars took up all their attention. They
rowed away till their hands burned and the perspiration ran down their
faces.

After half an hour of this George looked round, thinking that he ought
to be near to the vessel by this time. He uttered an exclamation of
surprise and dismay. Neither the ship nor Gravesend were visible.
Their puny efforts had availed nothing against the sweeping tide. They
had already, without knowing it, swept round the turn in the river,
and were now entering Sea Reach.

"My goodness, Bill! what are we to do? Just look at that buoy; we are
going past it as fast as a horse could trot. Look what a width the
river is. What on earth are we to do?"

"I have no idea," Bill replied. "Where shall we go to if we go on like
this?"

"Right out to sea, I should think," George said. "I do not know how
far it is; but the river seems to get wider and wider in front."

"Perhaps," Bill suggested, "the tide will turn again and take us
back."

"Not it," George said. "It was against us, you know, all the way down,
and could only have turned a little while before we got in the boat.
Look at that line of barges sailing down on the right-hand side. I
vote we pull to them and ask the men what we had better do. Anyhow we
could row to the land and get out there and wait till tide turns. It
turned at about eleven, so that it will turn again somewhere about
five. The steamer is not to start till eight, so we shall be back in
plenty of time to catch it. We shall lose the dinner and the fun in
the gardens, but that can't be helped."

"That don't make no odds," Bill said cheerfully; "this is a regular
venture, this is; but I say, shan't we have to pay a lot for the
boat?"

"Yes," George assented mournfully; "but perhaps the man will let us
off cheap when he sees we couldn't help it. He looked a good-tempered
sort of chap. Come, let us set to work. Every minute it is taking us
further away."

They set steadily to work. The boat was a large and heavy one, and
their progress was by no means rapid.

"How thick it's getting!" George exclaimed suddenly.

"Aint it just!" Bill assented. "My eye, George, I can't see the
barges!"

Unobserved by them a fog had been steadily creeping up the river. They
were just at its edge when they made the discovery. Another two
minutes and it rolled thickly over them, and they could not see ten
yards away. They looked at each other in silent bewilderment.

"What's to be done, George?" Bill said at length in awe-struck tones.

"I don't know, Bill; I haven't an idea. It's no use rowing, that I
see, for we don't know which way the boat's head is pointing."

"Well, it can't be helped," Bill said philosophically. "I am going to
have a pipe. Oh, I say, aint my hands blistered!"

"All right, you can have your pipe, Bill, but keep your oar in your
hand to be ready to row."

"What for?" Bill demanded. "I thought you said it warn't no use
rowing!"

"No more it is, Bill; but we must look out for those big buoys. If the
tide were to sweep us against one of them we should capsize to a
certainty. That must have been a big steamer," he went on, as the boat
rolled suddenly. "It's lucky we were pretty well over towards the side
of the river, before the fog came on. Listen--there's another. I can
hear the beat of her engines. I have an idea, Bill!" he exclaimed
suddenly. "We know the steamers were passing to the left of us when
the fog came on. If we listen to their whistles and the sound of their
paddles, and then row to the right, we shall get to the bank at last."

"Yes, that's a good idea," Bill agreed, laying down the pipe he had
just lighted. "There's a whistle over there."

"Yes, and another the other way," George said, puzzled. "Why, how can
that be! Oh, I suppose one is coming up the river and one down, but
it's awfully confusing."

It was so, but by dint of listening intently the boys gained some idea
of the proper direction; but they could only row a few strokes at a
time, being obliged to stop continually to listen for fresh guidance.

Fortunately for them the fog lay low on the water, and the upper spars
of the steamers were above it, and men placed there were able to
direct those on deck as to their course. Had it not been for this the
steamers must all have anchored. As it was they proceeded slowly and
cautiously on their way, whistling freely to warn any small craft,
that might be hidden in the fog, of their coming.

Half an hour's rowing and the boys gave a simultaneous exclamation.
The boat had quietly grounded on the edge of a mud flat. They could
not see the bank, and had no idea how far distant it was. Bill at once
offered to get overboard and reconnoiter, but George would not hear of
it.

"You might not be able to find your way back, Bill, or you might sink
in the mud and not be able to get out again. No, we won't separate;
and, look here, we must keep the boat afloat just at the edge of the
mud. If we were to get left here we should not float again till tide
comes up to us, and that wouldn't be till about two hours before high
tide, and it won't be high, you know, until twelve o'clock at night."

"I wish this fog would clear off!" Bill said, looking round at the
wall of white vapor which surrounded them. "It regular confuses a
chap. I say, I expect they are just sitting down to dinner at present.
I feel awfully hungry."

"It's no use thinking about that, Bill. We shall be a good deal more
hungry before we are done; but I am so glad we have found the land and
stopped going out to sea that I don't mind being hungry."

"But I say, George, if this fog keeps on how are we to find our way
back to Gravesend?"

"The only way will be, Bill, to keep quite close to the edge of the
mud--just as close as the boat will swim. That way, you know, we must
come to Gravesend at last."

"So we must. I didn't think of that. You have got a good head, George,
you have. I should never have thought about the way to find the bank
if it hadn't been for you, and might have gone on floating and
floating till we was starved."

"This fog can't last forever, Bill."

"No, but I have known them last a week in London."

"Yes, but not in August, Bill."

"No, not in August," Bill assented; "but you see these here fogs may
last just as long down here in August as they do in London in
November."

"I don't think so, Bill. Anyhow it doesn't matter to us; we have got
the land for a guide, and I hope we shall be back in Gravesend before
it's quite dark."

"But if we don't, George?"

"Well, if we don't we must run her ashore before it gets too dark, and
wait till it is morning. We shall be all right if we keep quite cool
and use our senses. If we had something to eat I shouldn't mind a bit,
except that mother will be getting anxious about us. It's a regular
adventure, and we shall have something to talk about for a long time.
Look out, Bill, we must push her further off--she's getting aground!"

For an hour they sat and chatted.

"Hullo! what's that?" Bill exclaimed at last. "That's the rattle of a
chain. I expect it's a barge anchoring somewhere near. Listen; I can
hear voices. I vote we hollo."

George lifted up his voice in a lusty shout. The shout was repeated
not very far off, and was followed by the shout of "Who are you?"

"We have drifted down from Gravesend and lost our way," George
shouted back. "We will come on board if you will let us."

"All right!" the voice replied; "I will go on shouting and you row to
my voice."

It was but a hundred yards, and then a voice close at hand said
sharply:

"Row bow hard or you will be across the chain."

Bill rowed hard, and George, looking round, saw that they were close
to the bows of a barge. Half a dozen more strokes and they were
alongside. Bill seized a hand-rope and sprang onto the barge, and the
boat was soon towing astern.

"Well, young men, however did you manage to get here?" one of the
bargemen asked. "It's lucky for you you weren't taken out to sea with
the tide."

George related the history of their voyage and how they had managed to
reach the shore.

"Well, you are good-plucked uns anyhow," the man said; "aint they,
Jack? Most chaps your age would just have sat in the boat and howled,
and a good many longshoremen too. You have done the best thing you
could under the circumstances."

"Where are we?" George asked.

"You are on board the _Sarah and Jane_ topsail barge, that's where you
are, about three parts down Sea Reach. We know our way pretty well
even in a fog, but we agreed it was no use trying to find the Swashway
with it as thick as this, so we brought up."

"Where is the Swashway?" George asked.

"The Swashway is a channel where the barges go when they are making
for Sheerness. It's well buoyed out and easy enough to follow with the
help of Sheerness lights on a dark night; but these fogs are worse
than anything. It aint no use groping about for the buoy when you
can't see ten yards ahead, and you might find yourself high and dry on
the mud and have to wait till next tide. Mayhap this fog will clear
off before evening, and we shall be able to work in; and now I expect
you two young uns would like some grub. Come below."

The two boys joyfully followed into the little cabin, and were soon
satisfying their hunger on bread and cold meat. The bargee drew a jug
of water from the breaker and placed it before them.

"The fire has gone out," he said, "or I would give yer a cup of
tea--that's our tipple; we don't keep spirits on board the _Sarah and
Jane_. I like a drop on shore, but it aint stuff to have on a barge,
where you wants your senses handy at all times. And now what are you
thinking of doing?" he asked when the boys had finished.

"What we had made up our minds to do was to lie where we were at the
edge of the mud till tide turned, and then to keep as close to the
shore as we could until we got back to Gravesend. The steamer we came
by does not go back till late, and we thought we should be back by
that time."

"No, you wouldn't," the man said. "Out in the middle of the stream you
would be back in two hours easy, but not close inshore. The tide
don't help you much there, and half your time you are in eddies and
back-currents. No, you wouldn't be back in Gravesend by eight noway."

"Then what would you advise us to do?"

"Well, just at present I won't give no advice at all. We will see how
things are going after a bit. Now let's take a look round."

So saying he climbed the ladder to the deck, followed by the boys. The
white fog still shut the boat in like a curtain.

"What do you think of it, Jack?"

"Don't know," the other replied. "Thought just now there was a puff of
air coming down the river. I wish it would, or we shan't make
Sheerness to-night, much less Rochester. Yes, that's a puff sure
enough. You are in luck, young uns. Like enough in half an hour there
will be a brisk wind blowing, driving all this fog out to sea before
it."

Another and another puff came, and tiny ripples swept across the
oil-like face of the water.

"It's a-coming, sure enough," the bargeman said. "I'd bet a pot of
beer as the fog will have lifted in a quarter of an hour."

Stronger and stronger came the puffs of wind.

The fog seemed as if stirred by an invisible hand. It was no longer a
dull, uniform whitish-gray; dark shadows seemed to flit across it, and
sometimes the view of the water extended here and there.

"There's the shore!" Bill exclaimed suddenly, but ere George could
turn round to look it was gone again.

"I shall have the anchor up directly, lads. Now I tell you what will
be the best thing for you if the wind holds, as I expect it will. We
shall be at Sheerness in little over an hour--that will make it four
o'clock," he added, consulting his watch, "and the young flood will be
coming up soon afterwards, and I shall go up with the first of it to
Rochester. We shall get there maybe somewhere about seven o'clock. Now
the best thing I can do for you is to tow that ere boat up to
Rochester with me, and you can get a train there that will take you up
to town in goodish time."

"You are very kind," George said; "but what are we to do about the
boat?"

"I shall be going back to-morrow night, or more likely next morning,
and I will take her along and hand her over to her rightful owner at
Gravesend."

"James Kitson."

"Yes, I know him."

"But how about paying for it?" George said. "I am afraid he will
expect a great deal of money, for it has been away all the time, and
we have only got six shillings between us."

"You will want that to get up to town. Never mind about the boat. I
will put that square for you. I will tell Kitson as how you have been
shipwrecked, and he will think himself precious lucky in getting the
boat without being damaged. If I take the trouble to tow it up to
Rochester and back, he needn't grumble about getting no fare."

"I would rather pay something," George said; "though, you see, we
can't afford to pay much."

"Well, then, you send him a post-office order for five bob. I will
tell him you are going to send him that, and he will thank his stars
he has got so well out of it. If you had drifted out to sea, as he
expects you have by this time, and the boat didn't get smashed by a
steamer, you would likely enough have been taken off by one of them;
but the captain wouldn't have troubled himself about that old tub. I
looks upon Kitson as being in luck this job, so don't you worry about
him. There, the mist's driving off fast. We will up with the kedge."

The boys lent a hand at the windlass, and the anchor was soon hanging
from the bow. Then the brail of the mainsail was loosed, and the great
sail shaken out. The foresail was hoisted, and in a few minutes the
_Sarah and Jane_ was running before a brisk wind down Sea Reach.

The fog had rolled off now, and it was clear astern, though a thick
bank still hung over the river ahead, but this was rapidly melting
away; and the bargeman, who told them his name was Will Atkins,
pointed out a large building low down on the water ahead.

"That's Sheerness Fort," he said. "You can lend Jack a hand to get up
the topsail. The wind is rising every minute, and we shall soon be
bowling along hand over hand."

Both ahead and astern of them were a line of barges, which had, like
the _Sarah and Jane_, anchored when the fog was thickest, and were,
like her, making their way to Sheerness. The wind was blowing briskly
now, and the barge made her way through the water at a rate which
surprised the boys.

"I had no idea that barges sailed so fast," George said.

"There are not many craft can beat them," Atkins replied. "With a
breeze so strong that they can only just carry their topsails, they
will hold their own with pretty nigh anything afloat. There are mighty
few yachts can keep alongside us when we are doing our best."

As Atkins had predicted, in little over an hour they brought up just
inside the mouth of the Medway, and dropped the anchor to wait till
the tide turned to help them up to Rochester. At six o'clock they were
again under way. The wind had fortunately veered round somewhat to the
north of west, and they were able for the most part to lay their
course, so that soon after seven they were abreast of the dockyard,
and a few minutes later dropped anchor off Rochester.

"Jump into the boat, boys," the good-natured bargeman said; "I will
put you ashore at once. There is the station close to the end of the
bridge."

With many very hearty thanks for his kindness the lads jumped ashore
and hurried up to the station. They found that there would be a train
in half an hour, and by nine o'clock they arrived in town.

Before they had landed the bargeman had scrawled on a piece of paper,
"Your boat was picked up by the _Sarah and Jane_. Will bring her back
on return trip. No damage done. William Atkins." This he had handed to
the boys, and they now got an envelope and directed it to "James
Kitson, Waterman, Gravesend," and posted it, and then set out to walk
home.

"It's not been the sort of day we expected," George said; "but it's
been good fun, hasn't it?"

"Grand!" Bill agreed. "But I didn't think so when we were in the
middle of that fog listening to them whistles and trying to find out
the way. I didn't say much, George, but I felt downright funky."

"I didn't like it either, Bill. There was such a horribly lonely
feeling, lost in the fog there; but it was all right as soon as we
touched the mouth, and got an idea where we were. I was worrying most
about mother getting anxious if we did not get back to-night, and a
little about what we should have to pay for the boat. It was lucky
that bargeman took the matter in his hands for us. I expect we should
have had to pay over a pound. He was an awfully good fellow, wasn't
he?"

"I should just think he was," Bill said. "He was a good un, and no
mistake. It aint cost us so very much either, considering."

"That it hasn't, Bill. Two and threepence apiece railway fare, that's
four and sixpence, and five bob we are to send down for the boat, nine
shillings and sixpence. Well, we should have paid two shillings for
the boat anyhow, and I expect we should have spent another shilling
apiece in things at the gardens, perhaps more; that would make four
shillings anyhow, so we have only spent about five shillings more than
we calculated. And haven't we got a lot to talk about! It's been a
regular adventure."

"It has," Bill said doubtfully; "but I don't think I want many more of
them kind of adventures. It's all right now, you know, but it wasn't
jolly at the time. I always thought as adventures was jolly; but that
didn't seem to me to have no jolliness about it, not when we was out
there. It's all very well to hear tell of shipwrecks and fights with
savages, but I expect there aint no larks about it at the time. I
suppose you will send that five bob off to-morrow, and get it off your
mind?"

"No. Atkins said we had better not send it for another three or four
days. The man will have got his boat back all right then, and the five
bob would come upon him unexpectedly. He was going to tell Kitson that
he had arranged with us that was what we were to pay, as we couldn't
afford more; but he will never expect to get it, so when it comes he
will be only too glad to receive it."

They were met at the door of the house by Bob Grimstone, who was just
coming out.

"Why, what have you boys been up to?" he said angrily. "I have been
wondering all day what has become of you, and the missis has done
nothing but worry and fidget. It's regular spoilt the day. What have
you been up to? I haven't seen you since we got ashore at Gravesend,
and I have just come round to ask your mother if she has heard of
you."

"I am very sorry, Bob, but it wasn't our fault, at least it was not
altogether our fault. We went for a row, and the tide took us down,
and then the fog came on and we got lost."

"I expected better of you," Grimstone said angrily. "Foggy, indeed!
I've been anxious and worried all day. I did think as you warn't like
other boys, but could be trusted, and then you go and play such a
prank as this. Well, go in; your mother is in a nice taking about
you."

"My dear mother," George said as he ran in, "I am so sorry you have
been uneasy about us, awfully sorry; but really it hasn't been our
fault altogether."

"Never mind that now, George," Mrs. Andrews said, throwing her arms
round his neck. "Fortunately I did not know anything about it till Mr.
Grimstone came in a few minutes ago. I had been expecting you in for
some little time, but I supposed the steamer was late, and I was not
at all uneasy till Mr. Grimstone came in and said that he had not
seen either of you since the steamer got to Gravesend, and that you
had not come back with the rest. Is Bill with you?"

"Yes, mother; he is at the door talking to Bob."

"Ask Mr. Grimstone to come in again," Mrs. Andrews said. "He has been
most kind, and he had promised to go down to Gravesend by the first
train in the morning if you did not come home to-night, and to make
inquiries about you there. He tried to cheer me up by saying that as
you were together nothing could very well happen to you and that
probably you had only got into some boyish scrape--perhaps, he
suggested, only gone out into the country and had helped yourselves to
some apples, and had so got locked up."

Bob, however, would not come in again, but went off saying he would
hear all about it in the morning, but would go off to tell his wife at
once that they had returned safely, for "that she was in such a worry
as never was."

Hearing that the boys had had nothing to eat since two o'clock, Mrs.
Andrews at once laid the table for supper; and when they had finished
it listened to George's account of their adventure.

"You had a very narrow escape, boys," she said when they had finished.
"You might have been swept out to sea, or run down by a steamer in the
fog. I hope to-night that you will neither of you forget to thank God
for his protection through the danger you have run; and I do hope, my
dear boys, that you will be more careful in future."

The next evening, after work was over, George went in to Bob
Grimstone's and told them all that had happened. When the story was
told, Bob agreed that after all it was not altogether their fault, and
that, indeed, they had, in some respects, justified his opinion of
them. Mrs. Grimstone, however, was not so easily pacified. They had
come back, she said; but it was more than likely that they wouldn't
have come back at all, but might have been drifting out far at sea,
perhaps cutting each other's throats and eating each other alive,
which was, as the good woman said, what she had heard happened when
boats were lost at sea.

Two days later they sent off the money to the waterman, and received
in reply a letter from him saying that the boat had been brought
safely back by the _Sarah and Jane_ and that he was glad to get the
five shillings.

"Bill Atkins told me as you said you would send it; but knowing what
boys is, I say fair as I didn't expect to see the color of your money.
It aint everyone as would have paid up when they got safe away, and I
consider as you have behaved handsome."

They had heard from Atkins of the wharf off which the _Sarah and Jane_
might generally be found moored, between her cruises, and after one or
two ineffectual attempts they one day found the barge there when they
rowed up to the spot. She had but just returned from a trip to
Rochester and Bill Atkins was still on board. He was very glad to see
the boys, but they had great difficulty in persuading him to accept a
pound of tobacco which their mother had sent off to him with her
compliments as a token of gratitude for his kindness to them.

"Well, young chaps, I didn't look for nothing of the sort, but seeing
as your mother has got it for me it wouldn't be manners to say no.
Well, look here, any time as you are disposed for a sail down to
Rochester and back you're free of the _Sarah and Jane_, and heartily
glad shall I be to have you with me."

The boys thanked him for the offer, but said as they were still at
work there was but small chance of their being able to accept it, but
that they should be glad to come and have a chat with him sometimes
when he was in the Pool.



CHAPTER VI.

FIRE!


One Saturday evening early in October the boys had been for a long
walk down among the marshes. They had told Mrs. Andrews they would be
late, and it was past eight o'clock when they came along past the
works.

"We shan't get home at this hour again for some time, I expect,"
George said, "for they say that we are going to begin to work overtime
on Monday, and that the orders are so heavy that it will very likely
have to be kept up all through the winter."

"I am glad it didn't begin earlier," Bill replied; "it would have been
horrid if we had lost all our walks while the weather was fine. How
dark the place looks how it's shut up, and how quiet and still it is
after the rattle we are accustomed to!"

"Stop a moment," George said, putting his hand on his arm.

"What is it, George?"

"I don't know. It seemed to me, for a moment, as if I saw the big
stack clearly and then it was dark again."

"How could that be, George?"

"I don't know; it looked to me as if it was a reflection of light
from one of the windows at the back there. There it is again."

"Yes, I saw it," Bill agreed. "What can it be?"

"I don't know, Bill; let's run around to the back. There might
be--it's awful to think of--but there might be a fire."

The boys ran down a narrow lane by the side of the works onto a piece
of waste ground behind.

"Look, Bill, look at the glare in the molding-room. There must be
fire. Here, help to put this bit of old timber against the wall."

The piece of wood was placed into position, the two lads climbed up it
onto the wall, and dropped into the yard within. Just as they did so
there was a clatter of falling glass, followed by a glare of light as
a body of flame burst out from one of the windows.

"Let's ring the dinner-bell, Bill; that will call people's attention,
and then we must do the best we can."

They ran along until they reached the front gate, and then, seizing
the bell-rope, rang it violently.

In a minute or two there was a clatter of feet outside, and shouts of
"What's the matter?"

"There is a fire in the molding-room," George shouted; "run for the
engines, someone, and break the gate open. Now come on, Bill."

The two boys ran towards that part of the building where the flames
had been seen, broke a window, and climbed in. There was an almost
stifling smell of burning wood and at a door at the end of the
planing-room they could see a light flame flickering through the
cracks of the door leading into the molding-room, which was next to
it.

"Quick, Bill, screw that leather pipe onto the hydrant. We must stop
it from getting through here till the engines come."

The hydrant communicated with the great tank at the top of the
building, and as soon as the hose was screwed on and Bill stood with
the nozzle directed towards the burning door, George turned the cock
and volumes of water flew out.

The first result seemed disastrous. The door was already nearly burned
through, and, as the powerful jet flew against it, it seemed to
crumble away and a mass of flame darted out from the molding-room. The
joists and timbers supporting the floor above the planing-room would
have caught at once, but the boys deluged them with water, as also the
framework of the door, and then, throwing the stream of water into the
blazing workshop, they kept down the flames near the door. The smoke
was stifling.

"We shall be choked, George!" Bill gasped.

"Lie down, Bill. I have heard the air is always better near the
ground."

This they found to be the case, and they were still able to direct the
jet of water. But three or four minutes had elapsed when the outer
door of the planing-house was unlocked and Bob Grimstone and several
other men rushed in, but were at once driven back by the smoke. George
had recognized Grimstone's voice, and shouted:

"This way, Bob, the fire hasn't got through yet. Come and lend a hand,
for it's gaining on us in spite of the water. You can breathe if you
kneel down."

Grimstone, with two or three of the men, crawled in and joined the
boys.

"What! is it you, George? How on earth did you get here?" Bob
exclaimed.

"We saw a light as we were passing, and got in from behind. When we
saw what it was we rang the alarm-bell, and then came on here to do
what we could till help came."

"You are good-plucked, you are," Grimstone said admiringly; "but I am
afraid it's not much good."

"You take the hose, Bob, and keep the rafters drenched there. Bill and
I will crawl forward and clear the shavings out of the way if we can.
They have caught half a dozen times already."

The two boys crawled forward, and although the heat was tremendous
they managed to clear away the shavings for a considerable distance.
The smoke and heat were so great that they were obliged to crawl back
into the outer air, where for a while they lay almost insensible.
There were crowds of men in the yard now, but most of them were round
at the back, powerless to aid at present, and only watching the
flames as they roared through the whole of the windows of the
molding-room.

Men were hurrying past with buckets of water, and one of them, seeing
the condition of the boys, dashed some over their heads and faces, and
they presently staggered to their feet. It was now a quarter of an
hour since they had first given the alarm, and they were just about to
re-enter the planing-shop to rejoin Bill when they met him and his
comrades coming out.

"All the water's gone," he said; "if the engines aint here in a minute
or two it will be too late."

But just at that moment there was a cheer outside, and immediately
afterwards a fire-engine dashed through the gate. Grimstone ran up to
the firemen as they leaped off.

"The great thing," he said, "is to prevent it spreading from that shop
into this. We have been keeping it back till now, but the tank has
just run dry."

While the other firemen were fitting the hose to the fire-plug just
outside the gates one of them made his way into the planing-room to
ascertain the exact position of affairs.

"Quick, lads," he said; "there's no time to be lost; the fire is
making its way through. Another five minutes and we should have been
too late to save any of this block. Is there any communication through
the upper floors?" he asked Grimstone.

"Yes, there is a door on each floor,"

"Have you got any empty sacks about the place?"

"Yes, there is a pile of them in there."

The fireman gave instructions to one of his comrades, while he himself
made his way into the planing-room with the hose; the other got out
the sacks, and assisted by Grimstone and some of the hands drenched
them with water, and then proceeding to the door on the first floor
piled them against it.

"It is hot already," he said as he laid his hand upon it. "Now, do you
men bring me buckets of water. Keep the sacks drenched till another
engine comes up."

George and Bill, finding they could be of no more use, made their way
out to the back and joined the crowd watching the flames, which had
already spread to the first floor. They were, however, with the rest
of the lookers-on, speedily turned out of the yard by the police, who,
having now arrived in sufficient strength, proceeded at once to clear
the premises of all save a score or two of men who were engaged in
assisting the firemen.

As the boys went out through the front gate another engine dashed up
at full speed, dropping lighted cinders on its way.

"Hurray!" Bill said; "this is a steamer. I expect they will do now."

Then the boys made their way round again to the back, and by means of
the pieces of timber established themselves on the wall, where they
were soon joined by a number of others, and watched the struggle with
the flames.

In half an hour six engines were on the spot; but even this force had
no visible effect upon the flames in that portion of the building in
which they had taken possession, and the firemen turned the whole of
their efforts to prevent it from spreading.

The party wall dividing it from the main building was a very strong
one; but so hot had it become that the floor boards touching it were
over and over again in flames.

A score of men with saws and axes cut away the flooring adjoining the
doors on the first and second stories. The planing-room was
fortunately not boarded. While a portion of the fire brigade worked
unceasingly in preventing the spread of the flames in this direction,
the rest turned their attention to the great wood piles, which were
repeatedly ignited by the fragments of burning wood.

Presently the roof fell in, and the flames shot up high into the air,
but grand as the sight was, the boys did not wait any longer looking
on. Their faces smarted severely from the heat to which they had been
exposed; their hands had been a good deal burned by the shavings;
their hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes were singed, and the eyeballs
ached with the glare.

"I will run home now, Bill; mother will likely enough hear of the
fire, and as we said we should be back soon after eight she will be
getting anxious."

"I will go and tell her it's all right; you stop and see the end of it
here."

But this George would not hear of.

"Very well, then, I will go with you. I must get some grease or
something to put on my face and hands; they are smarting awfully."

Mrs. Andrews gave an exclamation of surprise and alarm as the boys
entered. The irritation of the wood smoke had so much inflamed their
eyes that they could scarcely see out of them, and their faces looked
like pieces of raw beef.

"Whatever has happened, boys?" she exclaimed.

"There's a great fire at Penrose's, mother; it broke out just as we
were passing, so we stopped to help for a bit, and then came home to
tell you, thinking that you might be anxious."

"A fire at the works!" Mrs. Andrews exclaimed; "that is dreadful.
Dreadful for Mr. Penrose, and for all of you who work there; more,
perhaps, for you than for him, for no doubt he is insured, and you may
be out of work for months. Thank God I have plenty of work, so I dare
say we shall be able to tide it over."

"It is not all burned, mother; only the molding-shop and the floors
above it are on fire at present, and as there are six fire-engines at
work, and they keep on arriving every minute, I hope they will save
the rest; and now, mother, what can we do to our faces and hands, they
are smarting awfully?"

"Dear me, George, are you burnt? I thought you were only dreadfully
hot."

"We feel hot, mother, just as if our faces were being roasted."

"I will get some oil, that will be the best thing," Mrs. Andrews said,
hurrying away to the kitchen, and coming back with a piece of
cotton-wool, and some olive-oil in a cup.

"You are burned, George. Why, child, your hair is all singed, and your
eyebrows and eyelashes. Why, what have you been doing to yourselves?
There could have been no occasion to put your heads into the flames
like that. Why, your hands are worse still; they are quite blistered.
I had better wrap them up in cotton-wool."

"It's the inside that's the worst, mother; perhaps if you put a bit of
cotton-wool there and tie it round the back it will do; we can't go
out with our hands all swaddled round like that. And now, please,
directly you have done we want to go down again to see the fire. Just
you go up to the road corner, mother. It's a grand sight, I can tell
you."

"We will have tea first," Mrs. Andrews said decidedly; "everything has
been ready except pouring the water in since eight o'clock, and it's a
quarter past nine now. After we have done I will put on my bonnet and
walk down with you as near as I can get. I am not going to lose you
out of my sight again."

So after their meal they went down together, but could not get
anywhere near the works, all the approaches now being guarded by the
police. It was a grand sight, but the worst was over, and there was a
general feeling of confidence in the crowd that it would spread no
further. A dozen engines were at work now. Some of the firemen were on
the roof, some on the stacks of timber, which looked red-hot from the
deep glow from the fire. The flames were intermittent now, sometimes
leaping up high above the shell of the burned-out buildings, then
dying down again.

"Thank God it's no worse!" Mrs. Andrews said fervently. "It would have
been a bad winter for a great many down here if the fire had spread;
as it is, not a quarter of the buildings are burned."

"No, nothing like that, mother; not above a tenth, I should say. It's
lucky that there was a strong wall between that and the next shops, or
it must all have gone. I have heard them say that part was added on
five or six years ago, so that the wall at the end of the planing-shop
was an outside wall before; that accounts for its being so thick."

After looking on for about half an hour they went back home. But
neither of the boys got much sleep that night, the excitement they had
gone through and the pain of their burns keeping them wide awake till
nearly morning. As Mrs. Andrews heard no movement in their
rooms--whereas they were usually up and about almost as early on
Sundays as on other days, being unable to sleep after their usual
hour for rising--she did not disturb them. George was the first to
awake, and looking out of the window felt sure by the light that it
was later than usual. He put his head out of the door and shouted:

"Bill, are you up?" There was no answer. "Mother, are you up; what
o'clock is it?"

"Up! hours ago, George. Why, it's past eleven!"

George gave an exclamation of astonishment and rushed into Bill's
room. The latter had woke at his shout.

"It's past eleven, Bill, and mother has been up for hours;" and he
dashed off again to his room to dress. It was but a few minutes before
they came downstairs just at the same moment.

"Why didn't you wake us, mother?"

"Because I thought it better to let you sleep on, George. I guessed
that your burns had kept you awake for some time."

"That they did. I thought I was never going to get to sleep," George
said; and Bill gave a similar account of himself. "Still, mother, a
short night does no harm for once, and you haven't been able to get to
church."

"It does not matter for once, George. What figures you both are!"

"We are figures," George said ruefully. "I hardly knew myself when I
looked in the glass. My eyes are almost shut up, and the skin is
peeling off my nose, and my hair is all rough and scrubby; and Bill
looks as bad as I do. You are a figure, Bill!" and George burst into a
fit of laughter.

"He's no worse than you, George; but come along, breakfast is
waiting."

"You haven't waited breakfast for us, I hope, mother?"

"I made myself a cup of tea the first thing, boys, and had a slice of
bread and butter, for I thought you might not be down for some time;
but I am quite ready to join you; we have got fish. I put them down
directly you called."

"Well, I am glad you are not starving, mother; and I am glad too you
didn't have your regular breakfast. It would have been horrid to sit
down on Sunday morning without you, when it's the only regular
breakfast we get in the week."

Just as they had finished their meal there was a knock at the door. It
was Bob Grimstone. Bill opened the door.

"Well, how are you to-day, lad? I thought I would just come round and
see. You look pretty badly burned; and so do you, George," he added,
as he followed Bill into the sitting room.

"Good-day, Mrs. Andrews."

"Good-morning, Mr. Grimstone," Mrs. Andrews said. Since her coming the
Grimstones had several times come in on Sunday afternoon to Laburnum
Villas. Mrs. Andrews would, indeed, have wished them to come in more
frequently, for she felt much indebted to them for their kindness to
George, and, moreover, liked them for themselves, for both were good
specimens of their class.

"I see you were busy last night too, Mr. Grimstone; your face looks
scorched; but you did not manage to get yourself burned as these silly
boys did. What a blessing it is for us all that the fire did not
spread!"

"Well, Mrs. Andrews, I don't think those two lads can have told you
what they did, for if they had you would hardly call them silly boys."

Mrs. Andrews looked surprised.

"They told me they lent a hand to put out the fire--I think those were
George's words--but they did not tell me anything else."

"They saved the building, ma'am. If it hadn't been for them there
would not have been a stick or stone of Penrose's standing now; the
shops and the wood piles would all have gone, and we should all have
been idle for six months to come; there is no doubt about that at
all."

"Why, how was that, Mr. Grimstone? How was it they did more than
anyone else?"

"In the first place they discovered it, ma'am, and rung the
alarm-bell; it mightn't have been found out for another five minutes,
and five minutes would have been enough for the fire. In the next
place, when they had given the alarm they did the only thing that
could have saved the place: they got into the planing-shop and turned
on the hose there, and fought the fire from spreading through the
door till we got in seven or eight minutes later. It was all we could
do to stop it then; but if they hadn't done what they did the
planing-shop would have been alight from end to end, and the floors
above it too, before the first engine arrived, and then nothing could
have saved the whole lot. I can tell you, Mrs. Andrews, that there
isn't a man on the works, nor the wife of a man, who doesn't feel that
they owe these two lads their living through the winter. I don't know
what Mr. Penrose will say about it, but I know what we all feel."

"Why, George," Mrs. Andrews said, while her eyes were filled with
happy tears at the praises of her son, "why did you not tell me about
it?"

"Why, mother, there was not anything to tell," George said, "and Bob
has made a great fuss about nothing. As I told you, we saw a light as
we came along and when we went round behind and got on the wall we saw
the place was on fire, so we rang the alarm-bell, and then turned on
the hose and flooded the place with water till Bob and some more came
to help us."

"It sounds very simple, Mrs. Andrews, but I can tell you it wasn't so.
When we opened the door of the planing-shop it was so full of smoke
that it didn't seem as if anyone could breathe there for a minute, and
as we could see the glare of the flames at the other end we thought
the place was gone. We should have gone out and waited for the engines
if we hadn't heard the boys sing out that they were there; and even
though we knelt down and crawled in, as they shouted to us to do, we
were pretty nearly stifled. When we took the hose they crawled forward
and got the shavings cleared away; that was how they burned their
hands, I expect; and I hear they tumbled down insensible when they got
out. Now, ma'am, they may make light of it, but if ever two young
chaps behaved like heroes they did, and you have every right to be
proud of them--I say of them, because although Bill's no son of yours
I know he is what you and your boy have made him. He was telling me
about it one day."

"Will work go on to-morrow as usual, Bob?" George asked, in order to
change the subject.

"In some of the shops it will, no doubt," Bob said; "but in our shop
and the floors above it it will take a day or two to clear up. I saw
the foreman just now, and he tells me that a strong gang of carpenters
will be put on, for both the floors are burned away at the end of the
wall and pretty near twenty feet of the roof are charred. Two
surveyors are coming down this afternoon to examine the wall and say
whether it is safe. The walls of the shops that are burned out must
come down, of course. The surveyor says that if the wall at the end of
the planing-room looks pretty strong they will build up another wall
against it as soon as it gets cold enough and the rubbish is cleared
away for men to work; that will make a strong job of it, and there
won't be any loss of time. Of course if the old one has to come down
there can't be much work done in the shops till it's finished. The
governor got down about ten o'clock last night. A messenger went up to
him almost directly after the fire broke out, but he was out at
dinner, and by the time he got down here all danger of it spreading
was over. He had a talk with the foreman and arranged about the wall
with him. He is as anxious as we are that there should be no delay,
for there are some heavy orders in, and, of course, he doesn't want
them taken anywhere else."

"Will you look at their hands, Mr. Grimstone. I don't know much about
it, but they seem to be badly burned."

"That they are, ma'am," Mr. Grimstone said when he had examined them;
"pretty nigh raw. If I might give an opinion, I should say as the
doctor had better see them; they are precious painful, aint they,
George?"

"They do feel as if they were on fire, Bob, but I don't see any use in
a doctor. I don't suppose he can do more than mother has."

"Perhaps not, George, but he had better see them for all that; he may
give you some cooling lotion for them, and I can tell you burns on the
hand are apt to be serious matters, for the muscles of the fingers may
get stiffened. I have known two or three cases like that. You had
better go at once to Dr. Maxwell; he always attends if there are any
accidents at the works. You know the house, George; it is about
halfway between this and the works."

"Yes, you had better go at once, boys," Mrs. Andrews said; "there, put
on your hats and be off."

"I will walk with them. I must be off anyway, for the missis will be
waiting dinner for me."

"Are we to pay, mother?"

"No, not till you have done, George. I dare say you will have to have
your hands dressed several times."

"There won't be any occasion to pay him, Mrs. Andrews. The firm always
pays the doctor in case of accidents, and you may be very sure that in
this case they will be only too glad."

"Well, in any case, George," Mrs. Andrews said, "you can tell the
doctor that you will pay when he says that you need not come to him
again. If Mr. Penrose hears about it and chooses to pay I should not
think of refusing, as you have been burned in his service; but
certainly I should not assume that he will do so."

"Shall I go in with you, boys?" Bob asked when they reached the door.
"I know the doctor; he attended me two years ago when I pretty nigh
had my finger taken off by one of the cutters."

"Yes, please, Bob, I wish you would."

They were shown into the surgery, where the doctor soon joined them.

"I've brought these two young chaps for you to look at their hands,
Dr. Maxwell. They got them burnt last night at the fire. Mrs.
Andrews, the mother of this lad, wished me to say that she would pay
the charges when you have done with them; but as if it hadn't been for
them the works would have been burnt down as sure as you are standing
there, I expect the firm will take the matter in their own hands."

"Yes, they are nasty burns," the doctor said, examining the boys'
hands. "Can you open and shut them, boy?"

"I think I could if tried, sir," George said, "but I shouldn't like to
try, for if I move my fingers at all it hurts them awfully."

"I see you have had oil and cotton-wool on your hands."

"Yes."

"The best thing you can do, boys, is to put on some soothing
poultices. Tell your mother to get some linseed and mix it with
olive-oil. I will give you a bottle of laudanum. Let her put about
twenty drops of that into the oil before she mixes it with the
linseed. Every four or five hours change the poultices. I think you
will find that will relieve the pain a good deal. I see your faces are
scorched too. You can do nothing better than keep them moistened with
sweet-oil. I should advise you to keep as quiet as possible for three
or four days."

"But we shall want to get to work, sir," George said.

"Nonsense! You will be very lucky if you can use your hands in
another fortnight. I will send in the usual certificate to the works."

"Will you tell the foreman, Bob," George said when they left the
doctor's, "how it is we can't come to work? You tell him we wanted to,
and that we hope to come back as soon as our hands are all right;
because, you see, the men and boys at the shops which have been burnt
down will be all out of work, and it would be awful if we found our
places filled up when we went to work again."

"Don't you be afraid, George; there is no fear of your being out of
work after what you have done."

"Well, what did the doctor say?" was Mrs. Andrews' first question when
they returned home.

"He didn't say much, mother, except that we must not think of going to
work for a fortnight anyhow, and we are to have poultices made with
linseed mixed with oil, and twenty drops of laudanum from this bottle,
and it must be put on fresh every three or four hours. I am afraid it
will be an awful trouble."

"The trouble won't matter," Mrs. Andrews said brightly. "Did he say
you were to go to bed?"

"No, mother; but we were to keep as quiet as we could."

"Then in that case, George, I think you had better go to bed."

"No; I am sure we had better not," George said. "I should toss and
fidget about there horridly. The best thing will be for us to sit
here, and then we shall be all together. And if you talk to us, and
perhaps read to us, we shan't feel it half so much. What are you going
to do, mother?" he asked five minutes afterwards, as Mrs. Andrews came
down with her bonnet on.

"I am going to get some linseed, George, of course. I haven't got any
in the house."

"But it's Sunday, mother, and the shops will be shut."

"I shall get it at the chemist's, George. They will always supply
things that are needed even on Sunday. People are ill on Sunday as
well as any other day, you know. I shan't be gone more than a quarter
of an hour. You must keep very quiet till I come back."

The boys found a good deal of relief from the effect of the poultices,
and were very much better after a good night's rest. At ten o'clock
the next morning, as Mrs. Andrews was sitting at her work, with the
boys both on the hearthrug in front of the fire, there was a knock at
the door. It was a loud double knock, quite unlike the ordinary
summons of the baker's boy, who was the only regular caller. The boys
jumped up in surprise.

"Who can that be, mother?"

"We shall soon see," Mrs. Andrews said quietly.

She was not surprised, on opening the door, to see a gentleman
standing there, whom, by the description the boys had given of him,
she guessed to be their employer. A little girl was standing by his
side.

"Is this Mrs. Andrews?" the gentleman asked.

"I am Mrs. Andrews," the lady answered quietly.

"My name is Penrose. I have called with my daughter to inquire after
the two lads--one of them your son, I believe--who so gallantly saved
my place from being burned down on Saturday evening. I only heard
about it late yesterday evening, when I came down to arrange about
some matters with the foreman. He did not know the facts of the case
on Saturday night, but had learned them yesterday, and there can be no
doubt whatever, from what he says, that had it not been for the
presence of mind and bravery of these two lads nothing could have
saved the entire works and all the wood piles from destruction. I told
my daughter this morning, and she insisted on coming down with me. You
know she is already indebted to your son for saving a locket which we
both greatly valued."

"Will you walk in, sir?" and Mrs. Andrews showed them into the sitting
room.

Mr. Penrose had been somewhat surprised by Mrs. Andrews' manner,
although the foreman, in telling him of the boys' conduct, had also
stated what he knew about them.

"They are out-of-the-way sort of boys, sir," he said. "There was quite
a talk about them in the shops in the spring. They lodged with
Grimstone, and it seems that after they had been here at work five
months Andrews' mother, who had been ill, was coming to them, and they
got Grimstone to take a house for them, and it turned out that ever
since they had been at work here they had been putting by half their
wages to furnish a place for her, so they must have lived on about
five shillings a week each and got clothes for themselves out of it.
Now, sir, boys as would do that aint ordinary boys, and there was
quite a talk among the men about it. I hear from Grimstone that Mrs.
Andrews is a superior sort of person, he says quite a lady. She does
work, I believe, for some London shop."

Mr. Penrose, therefore, was prepared to find the boys in a more
comfortable abode than usual, and their mother what the foreman called
a superior sort of woman; but he perceived at once by her address that
Grimstone's estimate had been a correct one, and that she was indeed a
lady. The prettiness of the little sitting room, with its comfortable
furniture, its snowy curtains and pretty belongings, heightened this
feeling.

"I have come to see you, boys," he said, "and to tell you how indebted
I feel to you for your exertions on Saturday. There is no doubt that
had it not been for you the place would have been entirely burned. It
was fully insured, but it would have been a serious matter for me, as
I should have lost four or five months' work, and it would have been
still more serious for the men to have been thrown out of employment
at this time of the year, so we all feel very much indebted to you. I
hope you are not much burned."

"Oh, no, sir! our hands are burned a bit, but they will be all right
in a few days. Bill and I are very glad, sir, that we happened to be
passing, and were able to give the alarm and do something to stop the
flames till the others came up; but we don't feel that it was anything
out of the way. It was just a piece of fun and excitement to us."

"They didn't say anything about it, Mr. Penrose, when they came home,
and it was only when one of the men came in next day to ask after them
that I heard that they had really been of use."

"It is all very well to say so, lads," Mr. Penrose replied; "but there
is no doubt you showed a great deal of courage, as well as presence of
mind, and you may be sure that I shall not forget it. And now, Mrs.
Andrews," he said, turning round to her, "I feel rather in a false
position. I came round to see the lads, who, when I last saw them,
were not in very flourishing circumstances, and I was going to make
them a present for the service they had done me, and my daughter has
brought them a basket with some wine, jelly, and other things such as
are good for sick boys. Finding them as I find them, in your care and
in such a home, you see I feel a difficulty about it altogether."

"Thank you, sir," Mrs. Andrews said, "for the kindness of your
intention; but my boys--for although one is in no way related to me I
feel towards him as if he were my own--would not like to take money
for doing their duty towards their employer."

"No, indeed!" George and Bill exclaimed simultaneously.

"As you see, sir, thanks to the work you were good enough to give the
boys and to my needle,"--and she glanced towards the articles on the
table,--"we are very comfortable; but I am sure the boys will be very
glad to accept the things which your daughter has been so kind as to
bring down for them, and will feel very much obliged for her
thoughtfulness."

"That is right," Mr. Penrose said, relieved. "Nelly, you may as well
leave the basket as it is. I am sure you don't want to carry it back
again?"

"No, papa," Nelly said; and indeed even the empty basket would have
been more than the child could well have carried. It had come on the
top of the carriage to the railway-station, and a porter had
accompanied Mr. Penrose with it to Laburnum Villas.

"You would have hardly known your young friend. Would you, Nelly?"

"I don't think I should," she said, shaking her head. "He looks
dreadfully burned, and his hair is all funny and frizzled."

"It will soon grow again," George said, smiling. "The doctor says our
faces will be all right when the skin is peeled off. Thank you very
much, Miss Penrose, for all the nice things. It was a fortunate day
indeed for us when I caught that boy stealing your locket."

"And it was a fortunate day for us too," Mr. Penrose responded. "Now,
Mrs. Andrews, we will say good-by. You will not mind my calling again
to see how the boys are getting on?"

"It will be very kind of you, sir, and we shall be glad to see you,"
Mrs. Andrews replied; "but I hope in a few days they will both be out
of the doctor's hands."

"I can't shake hands with you," Mr. Penrose said, patting the boys on
the shoulder, "but I hope next time I see you to be able to do so.
Good-morning, Mrs. Andrews."



CHAPTER VII.

SAVED!


"Now let us have a look at the basket, mother," George said as Mrs.
Andrews returned into the room after seeing her two visitors off.
"It's very kind of him, isn't it? and I am glad he didn't offer us
money; that would have been horrid, wouldn't it?"

"I am glad he did not, too, George. Mr. Penrose is evidently a
gentleman of delicacy and refinement of feeling, and he saw that he
would give pain if he did so."

"You see it too, don't you, Bill?" George asked. "You know you thought
I was a fool not to take money when he offered it for getting back the
locket; but you see it in the same way now, don't you?"

"Yes; I shouldn't have liked to take money," Bill said. "I sees----"

"See," Mrs. Andrews corrected.

"Thank you. I see things different--differently," he corrected
himself, seeing that George was about to speak, "to what I did then."

"Now, mother," George said, "let us open the basket; it's almost as
big as a clothes-basket, isn't it?"

The cover was lifted and the contents, which had after much thought
been settled by Nelly herself, were disclosed. There were two bottles
of port-wine, a large mold of jelly, a great cake, two dozen oranges,
some apples, a box of preserved fruit, some almonds and raisins, two
packets of Everton toffee, a dozen mince-pies, and four pots of
black-currant jelly, on the cover of one of which was written in a
sprawling hand, "Two teaspoonfuls stirred up in a tumbler of water for
a drink at night."

"This will make a grand feast, mother; what a jolly collection, isn't
it? I think Miss Penrose must have chosen it herself, don't you?"

"It certainly looks like it, George," Mrs. Andrews replied, smiling.
"I do not think any grownup person would have chosen mince-pies and
toffee as appropriate for sick boys."

"Yes; but she must have known we were not badly burned, mother; and
besides, you see, she put in currant-jelly to make drinks, and there
are the oranges too. I vote that we have an orange and some toffee at
once, Bill."

"I have tasted oranges," Bill said, "lots of them in the market, but I
never tasted toffee."

"It's first-rate, I can tell you."

"Why, they look like bits of tin," Bill said as the packet was opened.

George burst into a laugh.

"That's tin-foil, that's only to wrap it up; you peel that off, Bill,
and you will find the toffee inside. Now, mother, you have a glass of
wine and a piece of cake."

"I will have a piece of cake, George; but I am not going to open the
wine. We will put that by in case of illness or of any very
extraordinary occasion."

"I am glad the other things won't keep, mother, or I expect you would
be wanting to put them all away. Isn't this toffee good, Bill?"

"First-rate," Bill agreed. "What is it made of?"

"Sugar and butter melted together over the fire."

"You are like two children," Mrs. Andrews laughed, "instead of boys
getting on for sixteen years old. Now I must clear this table again
and get to work; I promised these four bonnets should be sent in
to-morrow morning, and there's lots to be done to them yet."

It was three weeks before the boys were able to go to work again. The
foreman came round on Saturdays with their wages. Mr. Penrose called
again; this time they were out, but he chatted for some time with Mrs.
Andrews.

"I don't wish to pry into your affairs, Mrs. Andrews," he said, after
asking about the boys; "but I have a motive for asking if your son
has, as I suppose he has, from his way of speaking, had a fair
education."

"He was at school up to the age of twelve," Mrs. Andrews said quietly;
"circumstances at that time obliged me to remove him; but I have
since done what I could myself towards continuing his education, and
he still works regularly of an evening."

"Why I ask, Mrs. Andrews, was that I should like in time to place him
in the counting-house. I say in time, because I think it will be
better for him for the next two or three years to continue to work in
the shops. I will have him moved from shop to shop so as to learn
thoroughly the various branches of the business. That is what I should
do had I a son of my own to bring into the business. It will make him
more valuable afterwards, and fit him to take a good position either
in my shops or in any similar business should an opening occur."

"I am greatly obliged to you, sir," Mrs. Andrews said gratefully;
"though I say it myself, a better boy never lived."

"I am sure he is by what I have heard of him, and I shall be only too
glad, after the service he has rendered me, to do everything in my
power to push him forward. His friend, I hear, has not had the same
advantages. At the time I first saw him he looked a regular young
arab."

"So he was, sir; but he is a fine young fellow. He was very kind to my
boy when he was alone in London, and gave up his former life to be
with him. George taught him to read before I came here, and he has
worked hard ever since. No one could be nicer in the house than he is,
and had I been his own mother he could not be more dutiful or anxious
to please. Indeed I may say that I am indebted for my home here as
much to him as to my own boy."

"I am glad to hear you say so, Mrs. Andrews, for of course I should
wish to do something for him too. At any rate, I will give him, like
your son, every opportunity of learning the business, and he will in
time be fit for a position of foreman of a shop--by no means a bad one
for a lad who has had such a beginning as he has had. After that, of
course, it must depend upon himself. I think, if you will allow me to
suggest, it would be as well that you should not tell them the nature
of our conversation. Of course it is for you to decide; but, however
steady boys they are, it might make them a little less able to get on
well with their associates in a shop if they know that they are going
to be advanced."

"I don't think it would make any difference to them, sir; but at the
same time I do think it would be as well not to tell them."

One day Bill was out by himself as the men were coming out of the
shop, and he stopped to speak to Bob Grimstone.

"Oh! I am glad to find you without George," Bob said; "'cause I want
to talk to you. Look here! the men in all the shops have made a
subscription to give you and George a present. Everyone feels that
it's your doing that we have not got to idle all this winter, and when
someone started the idea there wasn't a man in the two shops that
didn't agree with him. I am the treasurer, I am, and it's come to
just thirty pounds. Now I don't know what you two boys would like,
whether you would like it in money, or whether you would like it in
something else, so I thought I would ask you first. I thought you
would know what George would like, seeing what friends you are, and
then you know it would come as a surprise to him. Now, what do you
say?"

"Its very kind of you," Bill said. "I am sure George would like
anything better than money, and so should I."

"Well, you think it over, Bill, and let me know in a day or two. We
were thinking of a watch for each of you, with an inscription, saying
it was presented to you by your shopmates for having saved the
factory, and so kept them at work for months just at the beginning of
winter. That's what seemed to me that you would like; but if there is
anything you would like better, just you say so. You come down here
to-morrow or next day, when you have thought it over, and give me an
answer. Of course you can consult George if you think best."

Bill met Bob Grimstone on the following day.

"I have thought it over," he said, "and I know what George and me
would like better than any possible thing you could get."

"Well, what is it, Bill?"

"Well, what we have set our minds on, and what we were going to save
up our money to get, was a piano for George's mother. I heard her say
that we could get a very nice one for about thirty pounds, and it
would be splendid if you were all to give it her."

"Very well, Bill, then a piano it shall be. I know a chap as works at
Kirkman's, and I expect he will be able to give us a good one for the
money."

Accordingly on the Saturday afternoon before the boys were going to
work again, Mrs. Andrews and George were astonished at seeing a cart
stop before the house, and the foreman, Bob Grimstone, and four other
men coming up to the door.

Bill ran and opened the door, and the men entered. He had been
apprised of the time that they might be expected, and at once showed
them in.

"Mrs. Andrews," the foreman said, "I and my mates here are a
deputation from the hands employed in the shop, and we have come to
offer you a little sort of testimonial of what we feel we owe your son
and Bill Smith for putting out the fire and saving the shops. If it
hadn't been for them it would have been a bad winter for us all. So
after thinking it over and finding out what form of testimonial the
lads would like best, we have got you a piano, which we hope you may
live long to play on and enjoy. We had proposed to give them a watch
each; but we found that they would rather that it took the form of a
piano."

"Oh, how good and kind of you all!" Mrs. Andrews said, much affected.
"I shall indeed be proud of your gift, both for itself and for the
kind feeling towards my boys which it expresses."

"Then, ma'am, with your permission we will just bring it in;" and the
deputation retired to assist with the piano.

"Oh, boys, how could you do it without telling me!" Mrs. Andrews
exclaimed.

George had hitherto stood speechless with surprise.

"But I didn't know anything about it, mother. I don't know what they
mean by saying that we would rather have it than watches. Of course we
would, a hundred times; but I don't know how they knew it."

"Then it must have been your kind thought, Bill."

"It wasn't no kind thought, Mrs. Andrews, but they spoke to me about
it, and I knew that a piano was what we should like better than
anything else, and I didn't say anything about it, because Bob
Grimstone thought that it would be nicer to be a surprise to George as
well as to you."

"You are right, old boy," George said, shaking Bill by the hand; "why,
there never was such a good idea; it is splendid, mother, isn't it?"

The men now appeared at the door with the piano. This was at once
placed in the position which had long ago been decided upon as the
best place for the piano when it should come. Mrs. Andrews opened it,
and there on the front was a silver plate with the inscription:

"To Mrs. Andrews from the Employees at Messrs. Penrose & Co., in token
of their gratitude to George Andrews and William Smith for their
courage and presence of mind, by which the factory was saved from
being destroyed by fire on Saturday the 23d of October, 1857."

The tears which stood in Mrs. Andrews' eyes rendered it difficult for
her to read the inscription.

"I thank you, indeed," she said. "Now, perhaps you would like to hear
its tones." So saying she sat down and played "Home, Sweet Home." "It
has a charming touch," she said as she rose, "and, you see, the air
was an appropriate one, for your gift will serve to make home even
sweeter than before. Give, please, my grateful thanks, and those of my
boys, to all who have subscribed."

The inhabitants of No. 8 Laburnum Villas had long been a subject of
considerable discussion and interest to their neighbors, for the
appearance of the boys as they came home of an evening in their
working clothes seemed altogether incongruous with that of their
mother and with the neatness and prettiness of the villa, and was,
indeed, considered derogatory to the respectability of Laburnum Villas
in general. Upon this evening they were still further mystified at
hearing the notes of a female voice of great power and sweetness,
accompanied by a piano, played evidently by an accomplished musician,
issuing from the house. As to the boys, they thought that, next only
to that of the home-coming of Mrs. Andrews, never was such a happy
evening spent in the world.

I do not think that in all London there was a household that enjoyed
that winter more than did the inmates of No. 8 Laburnum Villas. Their
total earnings were about thirty-five shillings a week, much less than
that of many a mechanic, but ample for them not only to live, but to
live in comfort and even refinement. No stranger, who had looked into
the pretty drawing room in the evening, would have dreamed that the
lady at the piano worked as a milliner for her living, or that the
lads were boys in a manufactory.

When spring came they began to plan various trips and excursions which
could be taken on bank holidays or during the long summer evenings,
when an event happened which, for a time, cut short all their plans.
The word had been passed round the shops the first thing in the
morning that Mr. Penrose was coming down with a party of ladies and
gentlemen to go over the works, and that things were to be made as
tidy as possible.

Accordingly there was a general clearing up, and vast quantities of
shavings and sawdust were swept up from the floors, although when the
machines had run again for a few hours no one would have thought that
a broom had been seen in the place for weeks.

George was now in a shop where a number of machines were at work
grooving, mortising, and performing other work to prepare the wood for
builders' purposes. The party arrived just as work had recommenced
after dinner.

There were ten or twelve gentlemen and as many ladies. Nelly Penrose,
with two girls about her own age, accompanied the party. They stopped
for a time in each shop while Mr. Penrose explained the nature of the
work and the various points of the machinery.

They had passed through most of the other rooms before they entered
that in which George was engaged, and the young girls, taking but
little interest in the details of the machinery, wandered somewhat
away from the rest of the party, chatting among themselves. George had
his eye upon them, and was wishing that Mr. Penrose would turn round
and speak to them, for they were moving about carelessly and not
paying sufficient heed to the machinery.

Suddenly he threw down his work and darted forward with a shout; but
he was too late, a revolving-band had caught Nelly Penrose's dress. In
an instant she was dragged forward and in another moment would have
been whirled into the middle of the machinery.

There was a violent scream, followed by a sudden crash and a harsh
grating sound, and then the whole of the machinery on that side of the
room came to a standstill. For a moment no one knew what had
happened. Mr. Penrose and some of his friends rushed forward to raise
Nelly. Her hand was held fast between the band and the pulley, and the
band had to be cut to relieve it.

"What an escape! what an escape!" Mr. Penrose murmured, as he lifted
her. "Another second and nothing could have saved her. But what
stopped the machinery?" and for the first time he looked round the
shop. There was a little group of men a few yards away, and, having
handed Nelly, who was crying bitterly, for her hand was much bruised,
to one of the ladies, he stepped towards them. The foreman came
forward to meet him.

"I think, sir, you had better get the ladies out of the shop. I am
afraid young Andrews is badly hurt."

"How is it? What is the matter?" Mr. Penrose asked.

"I think, sir, he saw the danger your daughter was in, and shoved his
foot in between two of the cog-wheels."

"You don't say so!" Mr. Penrose exclaimed, as he pushed forward among
the men.

Two of them were supporting George Andrews, who, as pale as death, lay
in their arms. One of his feet was jammed in between two of the
cog-wheels. He was scarcely conscious.

"Good Heavens," Mr. Penrose exclaimed in a low tone, "his foot must be
completely crushed! Have you thrown off the driving belt, Williams?"

"Yes, sir, I did that first thing."

"That's right; now work away for your lives, lads." This was said to
two men who had already seized spanners and were unscrewing the bolts
of the bearings in order to enable the upper shafting to be lifted and
the cog-wheel removed. Then Mr. Penrose returned to his friends.

"Pray leave the shop," he said, "and go down into the office. There's
been a bad accident; a noble young fellow has sacrificed himself to
save Nelly's life, and is, I fear, terribly hurt. Williams, send off a
man instantly for the surgeon. Let him jump into one of the cabs he
will find waiting at the gate, and tell the man to drive as hard as he
can go. If Dr. Maxwell is not at home let him fetch someone else."

George had indeed sacrificed himself to save Nelly Penrose. When he
saw the band catch her dress he had looked round for an instant for
something with which to stop the machinery, but there was nothing at
hand, and without an instant's hesitation he had thrust his foot
between the cog-wheels. He had on very heavy, thickly nailed working
boots, and the iron-bound sole threw the cogs out of gear and bent the
shaft, thereby stopping the machinery. George felt a dull, sickening
pain, which seemed to numb and paralyze him all over, and he
remembered little more until, on the shafting being removed, his foot
was extricated and he was laid gently down on a heap of shavings. The
first thing he realized when he was conscious was that someone was
pouring some liquid, which half-choked him, down his throat.

When he opened his eyes, Mr. Penrose, kneeling beside him, was
supporting his head, while on the other side knelt Bill Smith, the
tears streaming down his cheeks and struggling to suppress his sobs.

"What is it, Bill? What's the matter?" Then the remembrance of what
had passed flashed upon him.

"Is she safe; was I in time?"

"Quite safe, my dear boy. Thank God, your noble sacrifice was not in
vain," Mr. Penrose answered with quivering lips, for he too had the
greatest difficulty in restraining his emotion.

"Am I badly hurt, sir?" George asked after a pause, "because, if so,
will you please send home for mother? I don't feel in any pain, but I
feel strange and weak."

"It is your foot, my boy. I fear that it is badly crushed, but
otherwise you are unhurt. Your boot threw the machinery out of gear."

In ten minutes the doctor arrived. He had already been informed of the
nature of the accident.

"Is it any use trying to cut the boot off?" Mr. Penrose asked in a low
voice as Dr. Maxwell stooped over George's leg.

"Not the slightest," the doctor answered in the same tone. "The foot
is crushed to a pulp. It must come off at the ankle. Nothing can save
it. He had better be taken home at once. You had best send to Guy's
and get an operating surgeon for him. I would rather it were done by
someone whose hand is more used than mine to this sort of work."

"I am a governor of Guy's," Mr. Penrose said, "and will send off at
once for one of their best men. You are not afraid of the case, I
hope, Dr. Maxwell?"

"Not of the local injury," Dr. Maxwell replied; "but the shock to the
system of such a smash is very severe. However, he has youth,
strength, and a good constitution, so we must hope for the best. The
chances are all in his favor. We are thinking of taking you home, my
boy," he went on, speaking aloud to George. "Are you in any great
pain?"

"I am not in any pain, sir; only I feel awfully cold, and, please,
will someone go on before and tell mother. Bill had better not go; he
would frighten her to death and make her think it was much worse than
it is."

"I will go myself," Mr. Penrose replied. "I will prepare her for your
coming."

"Drink some more of this brandy," the doctor said; "that will warm you
and give you strength for your journey."

There was a stretcher always kept at the works in case of emergency,
and George was placed on this and covered with some rugs. Four of the
men raised it onto their shoulders and set out, Mr. Penrose at once
driving on to prepare Mrs. Andrews.

Bill followed the procession heart-broken. When it neared home he
fell behind and wandered away, not being able to bring himself to
witness the grief of Mrs. Andrews. For hours he wandered about,
sitting down in waste places and crying as if his heart would break.
"If it had been me it wouldn't have mattered," he kept on
exclaiming--"wouldn't have mattered a bit. It wouldn't have been no
odds one way or the other. There, we have always been together in the
shops till this week, and now when we get separated this is what comes
of it. Here am I, walking about all right, and George all crushed up,
and his mother breaking her heart. Why, I would rather a hundred times
that they had smashed me up all over than have gone and hurt George
like that!"

It was dark before he made his way back, and, entering at the back
door, took off his boots, and was about to creep upstairs when Mrs.
Andrews came out of the kitchen.

"Oh, Mrs. Andrews!" he exclaimed, and the tears again burst from him.

"Do not cry, Bill; George is in God's hands, and the doctors have
every hope that he will recover. They are upstairs with him now, with
a nurse whom Mr. Penrose has fetched down from the hospital. He will
have to lose his foot, poor boy," she added with a sob that she could
not repress, "but we should feel very thankful that it is no worse
after such an accident as that. The doctor says that his thick boots
saved him. If it hadn't been for that his whole leg would have been
drawn into the machinery, and then nothing could have saved him. Now I
must go upstairs, as I only came down for some hot water."

"May I go up to him, Mrs. Andrews?"

"I think, my boy, you had better stop down here for the present for
both your sakes. I will let you know when you can go up to him."

So Bill crouched before the fire and waited. He heard movements
upstairs and wondered what they were doing and why they didn't keep
quiet, and when he would be allowed to go up. Once or twice the nurse
came down for hot water, but Bill did not speak to her; but in half an
hour Mrs. Andrews herself returned, looking, Bill thought, even paler
than before.

"I have just slipped down to tell you, my boy, that it's all over.
They gave him chloroform, and have taken his foot off."

"And didn't it hurt it awful?" Bill asked in an awed voice.

"Not in the least. He knew nothing about it, and the first thing he
asked when he came to was when they were going to begin. They will be
going away directly, and then you can come up and sit quietly in his
room if you like. The doctors say he will probably drop asleep."

Bill was obliged to go outside again and wrestle with himself before
he felt that he was fit to go up into George's room. It was a long
struggle, and had George caught his muttered remonstrances to himself
he would have felt that Bill had suffered a bad relapse into his
former method of talking. It came out in jerks between his sobs.

"Come, none of that now. Aint yer ashamed of yerself, a-howling and
a-blubbering like a gal! Call yerself a man!--you are a babby, that's
what you are. Now, dry up, and let's have no more of it."

But it was a long time before he again mastered himself; then he went
to the scullery and held his head under the tap till the water took
away his breath, then polished his face till it shone, and then went
and sat quietly down till Mrs. Andrews came in and told him that he
could go upstairs to George. He went up to the bedside and took
George's hand, but he could not trust himself to speak.

"Well, Bill, old boy," George said cheerily, but in a somewhat lower
voice than usual, "this is a sudden go, isn't it?"

Bill nodded. He was still speechless.

"Don't you take it to heart, Bill," George said, feeling that the lad
was shaking from head to foot. "It won't make much odds, you know. I
shall soon be about again all right. I expect they will be able to put
on an artificial foot, and I shall be stumping about as well as ever,
though I shouldn't be much good at a race."

"I wish it had been me," Bill broke out. "I would have jammed my head
in between them wheels cheerful, that I would, rather than you should
have gone and done it."

"Fortunately there was no time," George said with a smile. "Don't you
fret yourself, Bill; one can get on well enough without a foot, and it
didn't hurt me a bit coming off. No, nor the squeeze either, not
regular hurting; it was just a sort of scrunch, and then I didn't feel
anything more. Why, I have often hurt myself ten times as much at play
and thought nothing of it. I expect it looked much worse to you than
it felt to me."

"We will talk of it another time," Bill said huskily. "Your mother
said I wasn't to talk, and I wasn't to let you talk, but just to sit
down here quiet, and you are to try to go off to sleep." So saying he
sat down by the bedside. George asked one or two more questions, but
Bill only shook his head. Presently George closed his eyes, and a
short time afterwards his quiet regular breathing showed that he was
asleep.

The next six weeks passed pleasantly enough to George. Every day
hampers containing flowers and various niceties in the way of food
were sent down by Mr. Penrose, and that gentleman himself very
frequently called in for a chat with him. As soon as the wound had
healed an instrument-maker came down from town to measure him for an
artificial foot, but before he was able to wear this he could get
about on crutches.

The first day that he was downstairs Mr. Penrose brought Nelly down
to see him. The child looked pale and awed as he came in.

"My little girl has asked me to thank you for her, George," Mr.
Penrose said as she advanced timidly and placed her hand in his. "I
have not said much to you about my own feelings and I won't say much
about hers; but you can understand what we both feel. Why, my boy, it
was a good Providence, indeed, which threw you in my way! I thought so
when you saved the mill from destruction. I feel it tenfold more now
that you have saved my child. The ways of God are, indeed, strange.
Who would have thought that all this could have sprung from that boy
snatching the locket from Helen as we came out of the theater! And now
about the future, George. I owe you a great debt, infinitely greater
than I can ever repay; but what I can do I will. In the future I shall
regard you as my son, and I hope that you will look to me as to a
father. I have been talking to your mother, and she says that she
thinks your tastes lie altogether in the direction of engineering. Is
that so?"

"Yes, sir. I have often thought I would rather be an engineer than
anything else, but I don't like----"

"Never mind what you like and what you don't like," Mr. Penrose said
quietly. "You belong to me now, you know and must do as you are told.
What I propose is this, that you shall go to a good school for
another three years, and I will then apprentice you to a first-class
engineer, either mechanical or civil as you may then prefer, and when
you have learned your business I will take good care that you are
pushed on. What do you say to that?"

"I think it is too much altogether," George said.

"Never mind about that," Mr. Penrose said, "that is my business. If
that is the only objection we can imagine it settled. There is another
thing. I know how attached you are to your friend Bill, and I am
indebted to him, too, for the part he played at the fire, so I
propose, if he is willing, to put him to a good middle-class school
for a bit. In the course of a couple of years he will get a sufficient
education to get on fairly with, and then I propose, according as you
may choose to be a civil or mechanical engineer, to place him with a
mason or smith; then by the time that you are ready to start in
business he will be ready to take a place under you, so that you may
again work together."

"Oh, thank you, sir!" George exclaimed, even more pleased at the news
relating to Bill than at his own good fortune, great as was the
delight which the prospect opened by Mr. Penrose's offer caused him.

As soon as George could be moved, Mr. Penrose sent him with his mother
and Bill down to the seaside. Here George rapidly regained strength,
and when, after a stay there of two months, he returned to town, he
was able to walk so well with his artificial foot that his loss would
not have been noticed by a stranger.

The arrangements settled by Mr. Penrose were all in due time carried
out. George went for three years to a good school, and was then
apprenticed to one of the leading civil engineers. With him he
remained five years and then went out for him to survey a railroad
about to be constructed in Brazil, and remained there as one of the
staff who superintended its construction. Bill, who was now a clever
young mason, accompanied him, and through George's interest with the
contractor obtained the sub-contract for the masonry of some of the
bridges and culverts.

This was ten years ago, and George Andrews is now one of the most
rising engineers of the day, and whatever business he undertakes his
friend Bill is still his right-hand man. Mr. Penrose has been in all
respects as good as his word, and has been ready to assist George with
his personal influence in all his undertakings, and in all respects
has treated him as a son, while Nelly has regarded him with the
affection of a sister.

Both George and Bill have been married some years, and Mrs. Andrews
the elder is one of the proudest and happiest of mothers. She still
lives with her son at the earnest request of his wife, who is often
left alone during George's frequent absence abroad on professional
duties. As for Bill, he has not even yet got over his wonder at his
own good fortune, and ever blesses the day when he first met George in
Covent Garden.



DO YOUR DUTY.


Early in the month of March, 1801, an old sailor was sitting on a
bench gazing over the stretch of sea which lies between Hayling Island
and the Isle of Wight. The prospect was a lively one, for in those
days ships of war were constantly running in and out, and great
convoys of merchantmen sailed under the protection of our cruisers;
and the traffic between Spithead and Portsmouth resembled that of a
much frequented road.

Peter Langley had been a boatswain in the king's service, and had
settled down in his old age on a pension, and lived in a small cottage
near the western extremity of Hayling Island. Here he could see what
was going on at Spithead, and when he needed a talk with his old
"chums" could get into his boat, which was lying hauled up on the
sand, and with a good wind arrive in an hour at the Hard. He was
sitting at present on a portion of a wreck thrown up by a very high
tide on the sandy slope, when his meditations were disturbed by a
light step behind him, and a lad in a sailor's dress, some fifteen
years of age, with a bright honest face, came running down behind him.

"Hallo, dad!"

"Hallo, my boy! Bless me, who'd ha' thought o' seeing you!" and the
old man clasped the boy in his arms in a way that showed the close
relationship between the two. "I didn't expect you for another week."

"No! we've made a quick passage of it," the boy said; "fine wind all
the way up, with a gale or two in the right quarter. We only arrived
in the river on Monday, and as soon as we were fairly in dock I got
leave to run down to see you."

"What were you in such a hurry for?" the old sailor said. "It's the
duty of every hand to stop by the ship till she's cleared out."

"I have always stayed before till the crew were paid off; but no
sooner had we cast anchor than one of the owners came on board, and
told the captain that another cargo was ready, that the ship was to be
unloaded with all speed, and to take in cargo and sail again in a
fortnight at the utmost, as a fleet was on the point of sailing for
the West Indies under a strong convoy."

"A fortnight! That's sharp work," the old sailor said. "And the goods
will have to be bundled out and in again with double speed. I know
what it will be. You will be going out with the paint all wet, and
those lubbers the stevedores will rub it off as fast as it's put on.
Well, a few days at sea will shake all down into its place. But how
did you get leave?"

"I am rather a favorite with the first officer," the lad said. "The
men who desired to leave were to be discharged at once and a fresh
gang taken on board, so I asked him directly the news came round if I
might have four days away. He agreed at once, and I came down by the
night coach; and here I am for eight-and-forty hours."

"It's a short stay," the old sailor said, "after more than a year
away, but we mustn't waste the time in regretting it. You've grown,
Harry, and are getting on fast. In another couple of years you'll be
fit to join a king's ship. I suppose you've got over your silly idea
about sticking to the merchant service. It's all very well to learn
your business there as a boy, and I grant that in some things a
merchantman is a better school than a king's ship. They have fewer
hands, and each man has to do more and to learn to think for himself.
Still, after all, there's no place like a saucy frigate for excitement
and happiness."

"I don't know, dad," the boy said. "I have been learning a little
navigation. The first officer has been very kind to me, and I hope in
the course of two or three years to pass and get a berth as a third
mate. Still, I should like three or four years on board a man-of-war."

"I should think so," the old sailor said, "for a man ought to do his
duty to his country."

"But there are plenty of men to do their duty to their country," the
boy said.

"Not a bit of it!" the sailor exclaimed. "There's a great difficulty
in finding hands for the navy. Everyone wants to throw their duty upon
everyone else. They all hanker after the higher wages and loafing life
on board a merchantman, and hate to keep themselves smart and clean as
they must do in a king's ship. If I had my way, every tar should serve
at least five years of his life on board a man-of-war. It is above all
things essential, Harry, that you should do your duty."

"I am ready to do my duty, dad," the boy said, "when the time comes. I
do it now to the best of my power, and I have in my pocket a letter
from the first officer to you. He told you when you went down with me
to see me off on my last voyage that he would keep an eye upon me, and
he has done so."

"That's right," the old man said. "As you say, Harry, a man may do his
duty anywhere; still, for all that, it is part of his duty, if he be a
sailor, to help his majesty, for a time at least, against his enemies.
Look at me. Why, I served man and boy for nigh fifty years, and was in
action one way and another over a hundred times, and here I am now
with a snug little pension, and as comfortable as his gracious majesty
himself. What can you want more than that?"

"I don't know that I can want more," the boy said, "in its way, at
least; but there are other ways in the merchant service. I might
command a ship by the time I am thirty, and be my own master instead
of being a mere part of a machine. I have heard the balls flying too,"
he said, laughing.

"What! did you have a brush with Mounseer?" the old tar said, greatly
interested.

"Yes; we had a bit of a fight with a large privateer off the coast of
Spain. Fortunately the old bark carries a long eighteen, as well as
her twelves, and when the Frenchman found that we could play at long
bowls as well as himself he soon drew off, but not before we had
drilled a few holes in his sails and knocked away a bit of his
bulwarks."

"Were you hit, Harry?"

"Yes, two or three shots hulled her, but they did little damage beyond
knocking away a few of the fittings and frightening the lady
passengers. We had a strong crew, and a good many were sorry that the
skipper did not hide his teeth and let the Frenchman come close before
he opened fire. We should like to have towed him up the river with our
flag over the tricolor."

"There, you see, Harry," the old sailor said, "you were just as ready
to fight as if you had been on a man-of-war; and while in a sailing
ship you only get a chance if one of these privateers happens to see
you, in a king's ship you go looking about for an enemy, and when you
see one the chances are he is bigger, instead of smaller, than
yourself."

"Ah! well, dad, we shall never quite agree on it, I expect," the boy
said; "but for all that, I do mean to serve for a few years in a
man-of-war. I expect that we may have a chance of seeing some
fighting in the West Indies. There are, they say, several French
cruisers in that direction, and although we shall have a considerable
convoy the Frenchmen generally have the legs of our ships. I believe
that some of the vessels of the convoy are taking out troops, and that
we are going to have a slap at some of the French islands. Has there
been any news here since I went?"

"Nothing beyond a few rows with the smugglers. The revenue officers
have a busy time here. There's no such place for smuggling on the
coast as between Portsmouth and Chichester. These creeks are just the
places for smugglers, and there's so much traffic in the Channel that
a solitary lugger does not attract the attention of the coastguard as
it does where the sea's more empty. However, I don't trouble myself
one way or the other about it. I may know a good deal of the
smuggling, or I may not, but it's no business of mine. If it were my
duty to lend a hand to the coast-guard, I should do it; but as it
isn't, I have no ill-will to the smugglers, and am content enough to
get my spirits cheap."

"But, dad, surely it's your duty to prevent the king being cheated?"
Harry said with a smile.

"If the king himself were going to touch the money," the old sailor
said sturdily, "I would lend a hand to see that he got it, but there's
no saying where this money would have gone. Besides, if the spirits
hadn't been run, they would not have been brought over here at all,
so after all the revenue is none the worse for the smuggling."

The boy laughed. "You can cheat yourself, dad, when you like, but you
know as well as I do that smuggling's dishonest, and that those who
smuggle cheat the revenue."

"Ah, well!" the sailor said, "it may be so, but I don't clearly see
that it's my duty to give information in the matter. If I did feel as
it were going to be my duty, I should let all my neighbors know it,
and take mighty good care that they didn't say anything within earshot
of me, that I might feel called on to repeat. And now, let's go up to
the cottage and see the old woman."

"I looked in there for a moment," Harry said, "as I passed. Mother
looks as hale and hearty as she did when I left, and so do you, dad."

"Yes, we have nothing to complain of," the old man said. "I have been
so thoroughly seasoned with salt water that it would take a long time
for me to decay."

When they got up to the cottage they found that Jane Langley had got
breakfast prepared. Rashers of bacon were smoking on the table, and a
large tankard of beer stood by, for in those days the use of tea had
not become general in this country.

"Have you heard, mother," Peter Langley said, "that the boy is to
leave us again in forty-eight hours?"

"No, indeed," the old woman said; "but this is hard news. I had hoped
that you would be with us for a bit, my boy, for we're getting on fast
in life, and may not be here when you return."

"Oh, mother! we will not think of such a thing as that," Harry said.
"Father was just saying that he's so seasoned that even time cannot
make much of such a tough morsel; and you seem as hearty as he is."

"Aye, boy," Peter said, "that be true, but when old oak does come
down, he generally falls sudden. However, we won't make our first meal
sad by talking of what might be."

Gayly during the meal they chatted over the incidents of Harry's
voyage to India and back. It was his second trip. The lad had had a
much better education than most boys in his rank of life at that time,
the boatswain having placed him at the age of ten in charge of a
schoolmaster at Portsmouth. When Harry had reached that age Peter had
retired from the service, and had settled down at Hayling, but for two
years longer he had kept Harry at school. Then he had apprenticed him
to a firm of shipowners in London, and one of the officers under whom
Peter had served had spoken to the heads of the firm, so that the boy
was put in a ship commanded by a kind and considerate officer, and to
whose charge he was specially recommended. Thus he had not forgotten
what he had learned at school, as is too often the case with lads in
his position. His skipper had seen that he not only kept up what he
knew, but that he studied for an hour or so each day such subjects as
would be useful to him in his career.

After breakfast the pair again went out onto the sandhills, Peter, as
usual, carrying a huge telescope with him, with which he was in the
habit of surveying every ship as she rounded the west of the island
and came running in through the channel to Portsmouth. Most of the
men-of-war he knew in an instant, and the others he could make a
shrewd guess at. Generally when alone with Harry he was full of talk
of the sea, of good advice as to the lad's future bearing, and of
suggestions and hints as to the best course to be adopted in various
emergencies. But to-day he appeared unusually thoughtful, and smoked
his pipe, and looked out in silence over the sea, scarcely even
lifting his telescope to his eye.

"I've been thinking, Harry," he said at last, "that as you are going
away again, and, as the old woman says, you may not find us both here
when you come back, it is right that I should tell you a little more
about yourself. I once told you, years ago, that you were not my son,
and that I would give you more particulars some day."

The lad looked anxiously up at the old sailor. It was a matter which
he had often thought over in his mind, for although he loved the
honest tar and his good wife as much as he could have done his natural
parents, still, since he had known that he was their adopted son only,
he had naturally wondered much as to who his parents were, and what
was their condition in life.

"I thought it as well," the old sailor began, "not to tell you this
here yarn until you were getting on. Boys' heads get upset with a
little breeze, especially if they have no ballast, and though it isn't
likely now that you will ever get any clew as to your birth, and it
will make no difference whether it was a duke or a ship's caulker who
was your father, still it's right that you should know the facts, as
no one can say when they start on a voyage in life what craft they may
fall aboard before they've done. It may be, Harry, that as you intends
to stick to the merchant service--saving, of course, that little time
you mean to serve on board a king's ship--you may rise to be a
skipper, and perhaps an owner. It may be, boy, that as a skipper you
may fall in love with some taut craft sailing in your convoy. I've
seen such things before now, and then the fact that you might be, for
aught you know, the son of a marquis instead of being that of a
boatswain, might score in your favor. Women have curious notions, and
though, for my part, I can't see that it makes much difference where
the keel of a craft was laid as long as it's sound and well-built,
there are those who thinks different.

"Well, to tell you the yarn. It were nigh fourteen years ago that I
was boatswain aboard the _Alert_ frigate, as taut a craft as ever
sailed. We had a smart captain and as good a crew as you'd want to
see. We were cruising in the West Indies, and had for months been,
off and on, in chase of a craft that had done much damage there. She
carried a black flag, and her skipper was said to be the biggest
villain that ever even commanded a pirate. Scarce a week passed but
some ship was missing. It mattered little to him whether she sailed
under the English, the French, or the Spanish flag; all was fish to
him. Many and many a vessel sailed laden that never reached Europe.
Sometimes a few charred timbers would be thrown up on the shore of the
islands, showing that the ship to which they belonged had been taken
and burned before she had gone many days on her way. Often and often
had the pirate been chased. She was bark-rigged, which was in itself a
very unusual thing with pirates--indeed, I never knew of one before.
But she had been, I believe, a merchantman captured by the pirate, and
was such a beauty that he hoisted his flag on her, and handed his own
schooner over to his mate. Somehow or other he had altered her
ballast, and maybe lengthened her a bit, for those pirates have a
rendezvous in some of the islands, where they are so strong that they
can, if need be, build a ship of their own. Anyhow, she was the
fastest ship of her class that ever was seen on those seas, and though
our cruisers had over and over again chased her, she laughed at them,
and would for a whole day keep just out of reach of their bow-chasers
with half her sails set, while the cruisers were staggering under
every rag they could put on their masts. Then when she was tired of
that game she would hoist her full canvas and leave the king's vessel
behind as if she was standing still. Once or twice she nearly got
caught by cruisers coming up in different directions, but each time
she managed to slip away without ever having a rope or stay started by
a shot. We in the _Alert_ had been on her footsteps a dozen times, but
had had no more luck than the rest of them, and the mere name of the
_Seamew_ was sufficient to put any one of us into a passion. There
wasn't one of the ship's company, from the captain down to the
powder-monkey, who wouldn't have cheerfully given a year's pay to get
alongside the _Seamew_. The _Alert_ carried thirty-two guns, and our
crew was stronger than usual in a vessel of that size, for there was a
good deal of boat service, and it was considered that at any moment
'Yellow Jack' might lay a good many hands up--or down, as the case may
be. Well, one night we were at anchor in Porto Rico, and the first
lieutenant had strolled up with two of the middies to the top of a
hill just before the sun went down. He had taken a glass with him.
Just as the night was falling, a middy on our quarter-deck, who was
looking at the shore with a glass, said to the second lieutenant, who
was on watch:

"'Look, sir; here comes Mr. Jones with Keen and Hobart down that hill
as if he were running a race. He isn't likely to be racing the
middies. What can he be after?'

"'No,' the second lieutenant said, with a smile; 'Mr. Jones is hardly
likely to be racing the middies'; which, indeed, was true enough, for
the first lieutenant was as stiff as a ramrod--a good officer, but as
strict a martinet as ever I sailed under.

"The second lieutenant took the glasses, and saw that, whatever the
reason might be, it was as the midshipman had said. The news that Mr.
Jones was coming down the hill, running as if Old Nick was after him,
soon spread, and there was quite an excitement on the quarter-deck as
to what could be the matter.

"Ten minutes afterwards the gig was seen coming off to the ship, and
it was evident, by the way the spray was flying and the oars bending,
that the men were pulling as if for life or death. By this time the
news had spread through the ship, and the captain himself was on the
quarter-deck.

"'Give me the speaking-trumpet,' he said, and as the boat came within
call he shouted, 'What's the matter, Mr. Jones? Is anything wrong?'

"'I've sighted,' the lieutenant said, standing up and making a trumpet
with his two hands, 'two craft together round the point of the island
some fifteen miles at sea. They're low down on the sea-line, but by
their look I think that one is the _Seamew_ and the other a
merchantman she has captured.'

"Not a moment was lost. The captain gave the orders sharp and quick.
The men, who were all standing about, were in a minute clustering on
the yards, and never was canvas got on a ship faster than it was on
the _Alert_ that evening. Before the boat was fairly run up to the
davits the anchor was at the cat-head, and the _Alert's_ bows were
pointing seawards. Five minutes afterwards, with every stitch of
canvas set, we were running out of the harbor. The first lieutenant
had taken the bearings pretty accurately, and as there was a brisk
evening breeze blowing we spun along at a famous rate. By this time it
was dark, and we had every hope that we might come upon the pirate
before she had finished transferring the cargo of her prize under her
own hatches. Not a light was shown, and as the moon was not up we
hoped to get within gunshot before being seen, as the pirate, seeing
no craft within sight before the sun went down, would not suspect that
the _Alert_ could be on his traces. We had to sail close to the wind
till we were round the point of the island, and then to run nearly
before it towards the spot where the vessels had been seen. In two
hours from the time of starting we reckoned that we must be getting
close to them if they still remained hove-to.

"All of a sudden, some two miles ahead, a point or two off the
starboard bow, a great flame shot up. Every moment it grew and grew
until we could see a large ship in flames, while another lay about a
quarter of a mile distant. Three or four boats were pulling from the
ship in flames towards the other, and as this was a bark we had no
doubt that we had caught the _Seamew_ at her villainous work. The
pirate was lying between us and the burning merchantman, so that while
her spars stood out clear and distinct against the glare of light we
must have been invisible to her. The word was passed quickly forward
for the men to go to quarters. Every gun was double-shotted and run
out, and then, all being ready for the fight, the men stripped to
their waists, cutlasses and boarding-pikes ready to hand, we waited
with breathless anxiety. We were already within range of our
bow-chasers, and as yet there was no sign that the pirate was
conscious of our presence. The boats were now near him, and no doubt
those on board were looking rather in their direction than to
windward. Rapidly the _Alert_ tore through the water, the sail
trimmers were all ready to take in her light canvas at a moment's
notice. The officers clustered on the quarter-deck, and the men stood
by their guns with every eye strained at the pirate. Nearer and nearer
we came, and our hopes rose higher and higher. We were within a mile
now, when suddenly a great movement was seen on board the pirate. The
breeze was steady, and the sea quiet, and loud words of command could
be heard shouted as a swarm of men ran up the rattlins. It was clear
we were seen. There was no further need of concealment, and the
captain gave word for the bow-chasers to open. Quickly as the pirate
got her canvas spread--and I do think that sharp as we had been on
board the _Alert_, the _Seamew_ was even quicker in getting under
canvas--we were scarce a quarter of a mile from her when she got
fairly under way. Up to this moment not a gun had spoken save the two
bow-chasers, as the captain would not yaw her until the last moment
Then round she came and poured a broadside into the _Seamew_. Orders
had been given to fire high, and every man was on his mettle. The
maintop-mast of the _Seamew_ fell, snapped at the cap; the peak
halyards of the mizzen were shot away, and a number of holes were
drilled through her sails. A loud cheer broke from our men. Fast as
the _Seamew_ was she was sufficiently crippled now to prevent her
getting away, and at last she was to show whether she could fight as
well as run, and I must say for her she did.

"She carried but twenty guns against our thirty-two, but they were of
far heavier metal, and after ten minutes the _Alert_ was as much
bruised and battered as if she had been fighting a Frenchman of equal
size for an hour. However, we had not been idle, and as our shot had
been principally directed against the enemy's rigging, as our great
object was to cripple her and so prevent her from getting away, she
was by this time a mere wreck above, although her sides were scarcely
touched; whereas two of our ports had been knocked into one, and some
thirty of our men had been struck down either by shot or by splinters.
Pouring a last broadside into her, the captain ordered the _Alert_ to
be brought alongside the _Seamew_. There was no need to call upon the
boarders to be ready. Every man was prepared, and as the vessels came
alongside our men rushed to the assault. But the crew of the _Seamew_
were as eager to board us as we were them, and upon the very bulwarks
a desperate combat ensued. Strong as we were, the _Seamew_ carried
fully as many hands, and as they were fighting with halters round
their necks it's little wonder that they fought so well.

"I've been in a good many fights, but never did I see one like that.
Each man hacked, and hewed, and wielded his boarding-pike as if the
whole fight depended upon his single exertions. Gradually the men
whose places were at the guns on the starboard side left their places
and joined in the fight, while those on the port side continued to
pour a fire of grape into the enemy. It was near half an hour before
we got a fair footing on the pirate's deck, and then steadily and
gradually we fought our way forward. But it was another half-hour
after the pirate captain and all his officers had been killed, and
fully half the crew cut down, that the rest surrendered.

"On board the _Alert_ we had fully one-third of our complement killed
or wounded. Mr. Jones had been shot through the head; the second and
third lieutenants were both badly wounded, and the captain himself had
had his jaw broken by a pistol fired in his face. I got this scar on
my cheek, which spoiled my beauty for the rest of my life, but as I
had been over thirty years married to the old woman that made but
little difference. Never were a crew more glorious than we were that
night. Even the wounded felt that the victory had been cheaply
purchased. We had captured the scourge of these seas, which had for
ten years laughed at all the fastest cruisers of our navy, and we felt
as proud as if we had captured a French first-rate.

"All hands were at work next day in repairing damages. I was up aloft
seeing to the fitting of fresh gear to the topgallant-mast when I saw
something floating at sea which took my attention. It seemed to me
like a box, and an empty one, for it floated high on the water. Its
lid seemed to be open, and I thought once or twice that I saw
something inside. I slid down to the quarter-deck and reported what I
had seen. The third lieutenant, who was doing duty with his arm in a
sling, was not disposed to take the men off their work to lower a
boat; but as I pointed out that the box might have belonged to the
merchantman which had been burned overnight, and that it might afford
some clew as to the name of the ship, he consented, and with four
hands I was soon rowing towards the box.

"I don't know what I had expected to see, but I was never more
surprised than when, getting there, I found that it was a trunk, and
that in it, sitting up, was a child about eighteen months old. That
was you, Harry. In the bottom of the trunk were a locket with a
woman's likeness in it, a curious Indian bangle, and a few other
articles of jewelry. How you got there we never knew, but the
supposition was that when the pirate was overhauling the merchantman,
and her true nature was ascertained, some mother, knowing the fate
that awaited all on board, had put you in an open trunk, had thrown in
what ornaments she had about her, and had dropped the trunk overboard,
in hopes that it might drift away and be picked up by some passing
ship. It was a wild venture, with a thousand to one against its
success, but the Lord had watched over it, and there you were as snug
and comfortable as if you had been laying in your own cot, though, by
the way, you were squalling as loud as a litter of kittens, and I
expect had missed your breakfast considerably. You were sitting up,
and it was lucky that you were backward of your age, for, although by
your size we guessed you to be eighteen months, you were still unable
to walk. If you had been as active as some chaps of that age you would
have scrambled onto your feet, and no doubt capsized your boat.

"Well, we brought you on board, and there was a great talk as to what
was to be done with you; but as I was your discoverer I claimed you as
a lawful prize, and I thought you would amuse the old woman while I
was at sea, and perhaps be a comfort to me when I got laid up in
ordinary, as indeed you have been. So that's all I know, Harry. Every
inquiry was made, but we never heard of any ship which exactly
answered to the description. You see, beyond the fact that she was a
square-rigged ship we could say but little about her. The ornaments
found in the box seemed to show that she had come from the East
Indies, but of course that could not be, for what would she be doing
there? But at any rate the person who put you into the trunk, and who
was no doubt your mother, had been to the East Indies, or at least had
been given those ornaments by someone who had, for there was no doubt
where they were turned out.

"Well, on board the _Alert_ everyone got promoted. There was enough
valuable property found on board the _Seamew_ to give us a handsome
sum all round, and it was my share of the prize-money that enabled me
to buy this little cottage, and went no small way towards paying for
your schooling and board. As no one else claimed you, and your friends
could not be heard of, no one disputed my right to your guardianship;
and so, my boy, here you have been cruising about the world as Harry
Langley ever since."

The old sailor was silent, and Harry was some time before he spoke.

"Well, dad, you may not have been my real father, but no one could
have been a better father to me than you have, and as it isn't likely
now that I shall ever hit upon a clew which could lead me to discover
who I am, I shall continue to regard you as my real father. Still, as
you say, it may perhaps in life be some advantage to me to be able to
claim that I am the son of a marquis;" and he laughed merrily. They
talked the matter over for some time, and then Harry changed the
subject.

"Are all our friends well?" Harry asked.

"All except poor Tom Hardy. He slipped his cable six months since, and
his wife, poor old soul, is gone to some friends near Winchester."

"Who's living in the cottage?"

"Black Jack has taken it."

"What! has he moved from his old place, then?"

"No, it is said that he's taken it for a Frenchy, who comes down off
and on. They say he's in the smuggling business with Black Jack, and
that he disposes of the silks and wines that are brought over in the
_Lucy_, and that Jack trades over in France with his friends. The
lieutenant at the coast-guard station has his eye upon him, and I
believe that some day they will catch Black Jack as he runs his cargo;
but he's a slippery customer. It would be a good day for Hayling if
they could do so, for he and his crew do a lot of harm to the place.
They look more like men who have belonged to the _Seamew_ I was
talking to you about than honest English fishermen."

"It is a curious thing, dad, that the Frenchman should be coming
backwards and forwards here, and I wonder that the revenue people
don't inquire into it."

"I don't suppose that they know very much about it, Harry. He comes
off and on, generally arriving at night, and leaving a few hours
afterwards. I hear about these things because everyone knows that old
Peter Langley is not the chap to put his nose into other people's
business. I don't like these goings on, I must say, and consider they
will end badly. However, it is no business of ours, lad. We get our
brandy cheap in Hayling--nowhere cheaper, I should say--and that,
after all, is the matter that concerns us most. The wind's rising
fast; I think we're in for a gale."

It was as Peter said. The clouds were rising fast behind the island,
the waves were breaking with a short, sharp sound upon the beach,
white heads were beginning to show themselves out at sea, the fishing
craft were running in towards Portsmouth under reefed sails, the
men-of-war at Spithead could be seen sending down their topmasts, and
everything betokened that it would be a nasty night.

"What time must you leave, Harry?"

"I shall go off at three to-morrow morning; shall cross the ferry, and
catch the coach as it goes along at eight. I promised that I would be
back on the following morning, and I would not fail in keeping my
appointment, for as the captain has been so good I should be sorry
that he should think that I had broken my word."

In the course of the day Harry went over to the village and saw many
of his boy friends. Bill Simpkins, however, his great chum, happened
to be away, but his parents said that he would be back at nine in the
evening. He had gone over to Winchester to see a brother who was in a
regiment quartered there. Accordingly, soon after nine o'clock Harry
said to his father that he would just walk over to have a chat with
his friend, and be back in an hour or so.

"Thou had best stop at home and go to bed at once," Jane Langley said;
"if thou hast to start at three o'clock, it were time thou wert in bed
now."

"I am accustomed to short nights," Harry said, laughing, "and I shall
be able to sleep long to-morrow."

Putting on his hat, he nodded to the old couple, and went off at a run
into the darkness.

The road was a wide one, and but little frequented, and the grass grew
thick over a considerable portion of the sides, therefore as he ran
along with a light, springy tread the sound of his footsteps was
deadened. As he came along by the cottage of which he had been
speaking to Peter Langley he heard the sound of voices within. Being
curious to see what this mysterious Frenchman was like, Harry paused,
lightly lifted the latch of the gate, and entered the little garden.
He had intended to peep in at the window, and having satisfied his
curiosity to be off; but just as he reached the door the latter opened
suddenly, and Harry had only time to draw back behind the little porch
before two men came out. In one Harry recognized by his voice the
smuggler Black Jack; the other was by his halting English evidently
the foreigner. They stopped for a moment, looking out into the night.

"I tell you," the smuggler said, "it's going to be a storm, and no
mistake. The _Lucy_ is a tight craft, and has weathered gales when
many a bigger ship has gone down. Still, I don't like running out into
it without necessity."

"Necezity," said the Frenchman. "I sould have sought zat ze earning of
five hundred pounds was as urgent a necezity as was wanted."

"Aye, the money will be handy enough," the smuggler said, "though one
does put one's head into the noose to earn it. However, the sum is
bigger than usual, and, as you say, the affair is important."

"Bah!" the Frenchman said, "what does it matter about ze nooze? It
hasn't got over your zick neck or my zin one, and till it does we
needn't trouble about it. I tell you zis is ze most important dispatch
we have ever sent, and if it gets safe to hand zey cannot grudge us
double pay. I have ridden from London wizout stopping, and have killed
a horse worth fifty of your guineas. However, zat matters not. Zis
letter should fetch us ze money to pay for a dozen horses and a dozen
of your _Lucys_."

"All right!" the smuggler said; "in an hour we will be off. Letters
like that in your pocket are best not kept on hand. You are sure that
the _Chasse Marée_ will put out to meet us in such weather as we are
likely to have?"

"She will put out if a hurricane's blowing," the Frenchman said. "Zey
know ze importance of ze news, which is expected, and which I am
bringing zem. _Mon Dieu!_ what sums have been paid to get ze news
zat's in zis little dispatch!"

"Do you know what it is?" the smuggler said.

"Not for certain," the Frenchman replied, "but I believe it is ze
orders zat are to be sent to ze British fleet, and zat zey are about
to strike a great blow zomewhere."

"Well," the smuggler said, "I will go round and tell the boys. I
warned them to be in readiness, and I will send them straight down to
the beach. In a quarter of an hour I will return for you."

While this conversation had been going on Harry had been standing
against the porch, the sides of which were filled with latticework
over which a creeper grew. He had been frightened at the importance of
the secret that he was hearing, and had been rapidly meditating in his
mind how this all-portant information which was about to be conveyed
to the enemy could be stopped. He had made up his mind that the
instant the smuggler moved out he would make his way down to the
village, tell the tale to half a dozen men, and have the Frenchman
seized. He saw at once that it would be difficult, for the smuggler
and his gang were not men to be attacked with impunity, and the
fishers of the village would hesitate in taking part in such a
struggle merely on the information of a boy. However, Harry saw that
it was the only chance.

In his anxiety to stand close to the lattice and so hide himself from
the view of the two men who were standing on the little garden-path in
front, he pressed too hard against it. The woodwork was rotten with
age, and suddenly with a crash it gave way.

With an oath the smuggler turned round, and he and the Frenchman
dashed to the spot, and in an instant had collared the lad. In a
moment he was dragged into the room.

"We must cut his throat, mounseer," the smuggler said, with a terrible
imprecation. "The scoundrel has heard what we've said, and our lives
won't be worth a minute's purchase if he were to be let free. Stand by
and I'll knock out his brains;" and he seized a heavy poker from the
side of the hearth.

"No, no," the Frenchman said, "don't let us have blood. Zere might be
inquiries, and zese sings will sometimes be found. Better take him to
sea wis you in ze _Lucy_, and hand him over to ze _Chasse Marée_. Zey
will take care zat he does not come back again."

"I will take care myself," the smuggler said. "I'm not going to risk
my neck on the chance of his blabbing. It's better, as you say, to
have no blood, but as soon as the _Lucy's_ at sea overboard he goes."

"We can talk of it," the Frenchman said. "I'm wis you zat he must be
silenced, but it may be better--my plan zan yours. Zis boy belongs, I
suppose, to ze village?"

"Yes," the smuggler said, "I know him by sight. He's the son of an
old man-of-war's man who lives half a mile away."

"Well, you see, some of your men might some day, if they quarreled wis
you, or in zeir drink, drop some words which might lead to inquiries.
Better put him on board ze _Chasse Marée_. I will see ze matter is
settled."

Harry had spoken no word from the time he was grasped. He felt in an
instant that his life was forfeited, and was surprised that he had not
been instantly killed. He had not raised his voice to hallo, for he
knew that no cottagers were near, and was sure that an attempt to give
the alarm would insure his instant death. To struggle would have been
useless. He was unarmed, and although a stout lad, was but a child in
the grasp of a powerful man like the smuggler. He saw, too, that on
the instant the Frenchman had drawn a dagger from his breast, and
though more quiet than the smuggler he felt by the tone of his voice
that he was as determined as his colleague that his silence should be
secured by death.

In another minute he was bound and thrown into a corner. The Frenchman
then took his seat near him, assuring him in a low tone that he would
at his first movement plant his dagger in his heart. The smuggler
strolled off to summon his crew, and for a quarter of an hour silence
reigned in the cottage.

"You are one fool," the Frenchman said at last, as if he had been
thinking the matter over--"one meddlesome fool. Why you want to listen
at people's doors and learn zeir secrets? I don't want to kill you,
but what are we to do? You make us kill you. You push your own head
into ze trap. Zat is ze way wis boys. Zey are forever meddling in
affairs zat concern zem not, and zen we have ze trouble to kill zem. I
would give a hundred pounds if zis had not happened; but what can I
do? It is my life against yours, and alzough I am sorry to have to do
it--_parbleu!_ my life is of much more value zan zat of a fishing boy.
Bah! you are one meddlesome fool."

So exasperated was the Frenchman at the trouble which the prying of
this lad had brought upon him that he got up and angrily gave him a
kick. A few minutes later the smuggler returned.

"The men have all gone down to the boat," he said briefly. "Come
along, mounseer. Bring that tin case with you, and those pistols."

"Zere is no fear zat I forget ze tin case," the Frenchman said. "As to
ze pistols--zey are not of much use. However, I will take zem;" and he
thrust them into the pockets of his coat.

The smuggler stooped, picked up Harry, threw him onto a sail which he
had laid on the ground, wrapped this round him, and then cast him over
his shoulder.

"I'm not likely to meet anyone on my way to the boat," he said, "but
should I do so I'm taking the mainsail of the _Lucy_ down to her."

In another minute Harry heard the door slam, and then he felt himself
being carried steadily along, his weight being as nothing to the
smuggler. Not a word was spoken between the two men on their way down
to the shore. Presently Harry felt by the deadened sound of the
footsteps, and by the more uneven motion, that he was being carried
over the sandy slopes down to the edge of the sea, and through the
canvas he could hear the loud roar of the waves, which were now
breaking violently.

Presently he was flung roughly down on the sands. A minute later he
was lifted by the head and feet, and swung into a boat. Not a word was
spoken as it was shoved off through the breakers, and after ten
minutes' hard rowing he felt a shock, and knew that they were
alongside of the _Lucy_. He was hauled up on deck. He heard a few
words of command, and then felt the vessel was on her way. A minute or
two later the covering was unloosed. His cords were cut, and the
smuggler said to him, "You can't get away now, and may as well make
yourself handy for the present. Give a haul on that rope."

The _Lucy_ was, in fact, short-handed, two of the six men who composed
her crew being absent. She was a lugger of some twenty-five tons'
burden, built something like an ordinary fishing-boat, but longer and
lower, and was, in fact, used for fishing when her crew were not
engaged upon other adventures. She was a remarkably fast craft, and
had more than once showed her heels with success when chased by the
revenue cutters. She owed her immunity from capture, however, chiefly
to her appearance, as from her size and build she generally passed
unsuspected as an innocent fisherman.

The storm increased in violence, and the little lugger, although a
good sea-boat, had difficulty in making her way almost in the teeth of
the gale. She was bound, Harry gained from a word or two dropped by
the captain, for the mouth of the Loire, off which she was to be met
by the _Chasse Marée_. Long before morning the coast of England was
out of sight, and the lugger was struggling down Channel bravely
holding her way in the sou'westerly gale.

"Will she be zere true to her time?" the Frenchman asked the smuggler.

"Aye, she will do it," Black Jack said, "if the wind holds as at
present. Two o'clock in the morning is the time named, and if your
people are as punctual as I shall be, the five hundred pounds will be
gained. There's one thing--in such a gale as is blowing to-day none of
our cruisers who may be off the coast are likely to trouble themselves
about a boat like ours. They may wonder what we are doing at sea, but
are scarcely likely to chase us."

Once or twice in the course of the day large vessels were seen in the
distance, which Harry knew, by the cut of their sails, to be English
cruisers. All were, however, lying-to under the smallest canvas, and
Harry knew that any assistance from them was out of the question.
Towards evening the gale moderated, but the sea was still very high.
During the day Harry had turned over in his mind every possible plan
by which he might destroy the tin case which contained, as he knew,
such important documents. From what he had gathered he learned that
the success of some great undertaking upon which the British fleet
were about to embark would be marred if these papers were to find
their way into the hands of the French authorities. His own life he
regarded as absolutely forfeited, for he was sure that no sooner was
he fairly on board the French _Chasse Marée_ than he would, at the
orders of the French spy, be thrown overboard, and that his life had
been so preserved, not from any feeling of mercy, but in order that
his death might be accomplished with less risk to those whose safety
demanded it.

He was determined, if opportunity presented, to seize the little case
and to leap overboard with it. The French spy never for one moment put
it down. It was a small tin case, with a handle at the top, and some
eight inches long by three inches wide, and the same deep. Sometimes
the Frenchman put it in his pocket, beyond which it projected, but
even then he took the precaution always to keep his hand upon it.
During the day Harry was constantly employed in work on board the
lugger, hauling at ropes and acting as if he were one of the regular
crew. He had shared in the meals with the men, but beyond a curse now
and then not a word had been addressed to him by any on board. The
night came on; the wind was still going down, but the sea was very
heavy. From the occasional rifts in the clouds the stars could be seen
shining brightly, and once or twice the moon broke through and spread
a light over the angry sea. As time went on the smuggler became
anxious, and kept a keen lookout ahead.

"It is past two," he exclaimed presently to the Frenchman, "and we are
nearly off the mouth of the river. When the moon shone out just now I
thought I caught sight of a vessel coming out, and I believe to
windward an English cruiser is lying. However, I will get ready the
lanterns."

The next time the moon came out a vessel was clearly seen. The
smuggler raised the lantern above the bulwarks, held it there for half
a minute, and then lowered it. This he repeated three times. A moment
later a similar signal was made on the bows of the vessel.

"That's her," the smuggler exclaimed exultingly, "and the five hundred
pounds is as good as in my pocket!"

As he spoke a bright flash was seen to windward.

"Confound it!" the smuggler said, "that cruiser has caught sight of
the Frenchman. However, we shall be on board in plenty of time, and
whether she gets safe to shore or not matters not much to me. I shall
have done my part of the work, and you, mounseer, will give me the
order for payment on London."

"It's done, my friend," the Frenchman said; "you've done your work
well. Here's the order."

By this time the French craft was within a distance of a quarter of a
mile, running down at a great pace under her reefed sails.

"It'll be no easy matter to get on board," the smuggler said, "for the
sea is running tremendously. They will have to throw a rope, and you
will have to catch it, mounseer, and jump overboard. I suppose your
dispatch-box is water-tight?"

"And the boy?" the Frenchman asked.

"Let them throw another rope," the smuggler said, "and you can haul
him on board too. It won't make much matter whether I slip the noose
round his body or his neck. The last will be the easiest plan perhaps,
for then, if he happens not to be alive when you pull him out, it
would be an accident; and even if anyone chooses to peach, they can't
swear that it was purposely done."

Harry was standing near, and heard the words. He was close to the helm
at the time, and watched with intense anxiety as the _Chasse Marée_
ran rapidly down to them. It was clear that what had to be done must
be done quickly, for another flash came up from the cruiser; and
although in the din of the wind and the toss of the waves it could not
be seen where her shot had fallen, the brightness of the flash showed
that she had come up since the last shot was discharged. The _Chasse
Marée_ ran down, and as she came her captain stood upon the bulwarks
and shouted at the top of his voice "Keep her steady, and as I run
past I will throw a rope."

"Throw two," Black Jack shouted. "There are two to come on board."

The course taken by the _Chasse Marée_ would bring her along at a
distance of some ten yards from the side of the lugger. At the moment
a squall came, and the lugger's head turned a little towards the
approaching craft. When she was just upon them Harry saw that his one
chance of escape had come. With a sudden rush he knocked the man at
the helm from his footing, and put the tiller up hard. The lugger paid
off instantly. Black Jack, with an oath, turned round and sprang at
Harry. The lad leaped beneath his uplifted hand, sprang at the
Frenchman, who was standing with his back to him, and snatching the
tin box from his hand leaped overboard.

Momentary as had been his hold upon the tiller it had been sufficient.
The vessel had paid off from the wind, and before the helmsman could
regain his feet, or Black Jack could seize the tiller, she lay across
the course of the _Chasse Marée_; and in another moment the French
craft plunged down upon her, and with a crash the _Lucy_ sank under
her bows, and went down with all on board.

As Harry sank beneath the waves he heard a shout of dismay from those
on board the _Lucy_. When he came up a minute later he saw the _Chasse
Marée_ plowing her way from him, but no sign of the _Lucy_ was to be
seen. Harry was a good swimmer, and fortunately the dispatch-box which
he grasped was water-tight, and buttoning it within his jacket he felt
that it kept his head easily above the water. He swam as well as he
could away from the spot where the Lucy had disappeared, for he knew
that if Black Jack or the Frenchman had escaped being run down and
should see him, his death was certain--not indeed that his chances
were in any case good, but with the natural hopefulness of boyhood he
clung to life, and resolved to make a fight for it as long as
possible. Had it not been for the dispatch-box he must have speedily
succumbed, for in so heavy a sea it was difficult in the extreme to
swim. However, after a short time he turned his back to the wind, and
suffered himself quietly to drift.

Hour passed after hour, and at last, to his intense delight, morning
began to break. He saw on his right the low shores of the French
coast, and looking round beheld seaward the British cruiser which had
fired at the _Chasse Marée_. She was running quietly along the coast,
and was evidently on guard at the mouth of the river. The sea had now
gone down much, and the sun rose bright in an almost cloudless sky.

Invigorated by the sight of the vessel Harry at once swam towards her.
She was farther out by a mile than the spot where he was swimming, and
was some two miles astern of him. She was sailing but slowly, and he
hoped that by the time she came along he would be able to get within
a distance whence he might be seen. His fear was that she might run
back before she reached the spot where she would be nearer to him.

With all his strength he swam steadily out, keeping his eye fixed
steadily on the ship. Still she came onward, and was within half a
mile when she was abreast of him. Then raising himself as high as he
could from the water, he shouted at the top of his voice. Again and
again he splashed with his hands to make as much spray and commotion
as possible in order to attract attention. His heart almost stood
still with joy as he heard an answering hail, and a moment later he
saw the vessel come round into the wind, and lay there with her sails
back. Then a boat was lowered, and five minutes later he was hauled
in, his senses almost leaving him now that the time for exertion had
passed. It was not until he had been lifted onto the deck of the
_Viper_, and brandy had been poured down his throat, that he was able
to speak. As soon as he was sufficiently recovered he was sent for to
the captain's cabin.

"And who are you, boy, and whence do you come?" the captain asked. "Do
you belong to the _Chasse Marée_, which we chased in the night?"

The officer spoke in French, supposing that Harry had fallen overboard
from that craft.

"I am English, sir," Harry said, "and escaped from a lugger which was
run down by the French craft just as you were firing at her."

"I thought," exclaimed the captain, "that my eyes had not been wrong.
I was sure that I saw a small fishing-boat close to the _Chasse
Marée_. We lost sight of her when a cloud came over the moon, and
thought we must have been mistaken. How came you there in an English
fishing-boat?"

Harry modestly told the story, and produced the dispatch-box.

"This is important news indeed," the officer said, "and your conduct
has been in every way most gallant. What is your name, lad?"

"Harry Langley," he replied. "I am an apprentice on board the Indiaman
_Dundas Castle_, and was to have sailed this week in the convoy for
the West Indies."

"You will not be able to do that now," the captain said. "This is most
important. However, the steward will take charge of you, and I will
talk to you again presently."

The steward was called, and was told to put Harry into a cot slung for
him, and to give him a bowl of warm soup; and in a few minutes the lad
was asleep.

The _Viper_ shortly afterwards hauled her wind, and ran down to a
consort who was keeping watch with her over the mouth of the Loire.
The captain repaired on board the other ship, whose commander was his
senior officer, and a consultation was held between them, after which
the _Viper_ was again got under sail and shaped her course for
Portsmouth.

The wind was fair, and the next morning the _Viper_ passed through
the Needles, and soon afterwards anchored at Spithead. Here a large
number of men-of-war and frigates were at anchor, and above two of the
largest floated the flags of admirals. The _Viper_ had made her signal
as she came in sight of the fleet, and a reply was instantly run up
from the masthead of the admiral's ship, directing the captain to come
on board immediately the anchor was dropped. The moment this was done
the captain's gig was lowered, and calling to Harry to follow him the
captain took his seat in the stern-sheets, and rowed for the admiral's
ship. Directing the lad to remain on deck, the captain at once entered
the admiral's cabin, and a few minutes later the admiral's orderly
summoned Harry to enter.

Admiral Sir Hyde Parker had evidently had a breakfast party, for a
number of naval officers, including Admiral Nelson and most of the
captains of the men-of-war, were seated round the table. The admiral
turned to Harry.

"So you are the lad who has brought this box of dispatches?"

"Yes, sir," Harry said modestly.

"Tell us your story over again," the admiral said. "It's a strange
one."

Harry again repeated the account of his adventures from the time of
leaving his father's cottage. When he had done Admiral Nelson
exclaimed:

"Very well, my lad. You could not have acted with more presence of
mind had you been a captain of the fleet. You showed great bravery
and did your duty nobly."

"There wasn't much bravery, sir," Harry said modestly, "for I knew
that they were going to kill me anyhow, so that it made no difference.
But I was determined, if possible, that the dispatches should be
destroyed."

The admiral smiled. He was not accustomed to hear his dicta even so
slightly questioned by a lad.

"You are an apprentice in the merchant service, Captain Skinner tells
me," Sir Hyde Parker said, "and have been two years at sea."

"Yes, sir," Harry said.

"Would you like to be on the quarter-deck of one of his majesty's
vessels, instead of that of a merchantman?"

Harry's eyes glistened at the question.

"I should indeed, sir," he said.

"Then you shall be, my boy," the admiral answered. "Have any of you
gentlemen a vacancy in the midshipmen's berth? If not, I'll have him
ranked as a supernumerary on board my ship."

"I am short of a midshipman, Sir Hyde," one of the captains said.
"Poor little De Lisle fell overboard the night before last as we came
round from Plymouth. He was about the size of this lad, and I'll
arrange for him to have his togs. I like his look, and I should be
glad to have him with me. I am sure he will be a credit to the
service."

"That's settled, then," the admiral said. "You are now, sir," he said,
turning to Harry again, "an officer in his majesty's service, and, as
Captain Ball remarks, I am sure you will do credit to the service. A
lad who does his duty when death is staring him in the face, and
without a hope that the act of devotion will ever be known or
recognized, is sure to make a brave and worthy officer."

Harry's new captain wrote a few words on a piece of paper, and said to
the admiral's servant, "Will you tell the midshipman of my gig to come
here?"

A minute afterwards the midshipman entered. The captain gave him the
slip of paper and said, "Take this young gentleman on board the ship
with you at once, and present him to Mr. Francis, and with him give
this note. He will be your shipmate in future. See that he's made
comfortable."

The midshipman then beckoned to Harry to follow him, gazing askance,
and with no slight astonishment in his face, at the appearance of his
new messmate. Harry's attire, indeed, was not in accordance with the
received ideas of that of a midshipman freshly joining a ship. His
clothes were all so much shrunk that his ankles showed below his
trousers, and his wrists below his coat-sleeves. Without a word the
midshipman took his place in the stern-sheets, and beckoned Harry to
sit beside him.

"Where have you sprung from?" he said shortly.

"I hail last from the admiral's cabin," Harry said with a laugh.
"Before that from his majesty's ship _Viper_, and before that from the
sea."

"You look like the sea," said the midshipman. "But what have you been
doing? Have you served before?"

"Not in a king's ship," Harry said; "I have only just been appointed."

The midshipman was too surprised at Harry's appearance to question him
further. He felt that there was some mystery in the affair, and that
it would be better for him to wait until he saw the footing upon which
Harry was placed. He had little doubt from the fact of his appointment
being made under such circumstances that there must be something at
once singular and noteworthy about it.

Upon reaching the ship Harry's new messmate at once led him up to the
first lieutenant, and presented the captain's note. The lieutenant
opened it and glanced at the contents. They were brief:

"Harry Langley has been appointed midshipman on board the _Cæsar_, and
has been promoted by Sir Hyde Parker himself. He has performed a most
gallant action, and one of the greatest importance. Make him at home
at once, and let him have poor De Lisle's kit. I will arrange about
it."

The senior midshipman was at once sent for by Mr. Francis, and Harry
handed over to him. The first lieutenant intimated to him briefly the
contents of the captain's letter, telling the midshipman to make him
as comfortable as possible.

Harry was led below to the cockpit, where his arrival was greeted with
a storm of questions, as his appearance on the quarter-deck had
naturally excited a great deal of observation. The midshipman who had
come with him could, of course, furnish no information, and beyond the
brief fact mentioned by the captain and repeated by the first
lieutenant, his new conductor could say no more.

"Just wait," the midshipman said, "till he's got into his new clothes
and looks presentable. He's in my charge, and I am to make him
comfortable. As he has been put on the quarter-deck by Sir Hyde
himself you may be sure he has done something out of the way."

In a few minutes Harry was rigged out in full midshipman's dress, and
being a very good-looking and gentlemanly lad, his appearance
favorably impressed his new messmates, who had at first been disposed
to resent the intrusion among themselves of a youngster whose
appearance was at least the reverse of reputable.

"Now," said one of the passed mates, "this meeting will resolve itself
into a committee. Let everyone who can, sit down; and let those who
can't, stand quiet. I am the president of the court. Now, prisoner at
the bar," he said, "what is your name?"

"Harry Langley."

"And how came you here?"

"I was brought in the captain's gig."

"No equivocation, prisoner. I mean what brought you onto the
quarter-deck?"

"I had the good luck," Harry said, "to prevent a very important
dispatch falling into the hands of the French."

"The deuce you had!" the president said; "and how was that? That is to
say," he said, "if there's no secret about it?"

"None at all," Harry said, "the matter was very simple;" and for the
second time that morning he told the story.

When he had done there was a general exclamation of approval among
those present, and the midshipmen crowded round him, shaking his hand,
patting him on the back, and declaring that he was a trump.

"The prisoner is acquitted," the president said, "and is received as a
worthy member of this noble body. Boy!"

"Yes, sir."

"Go to the purser and ask him to send in two bottles of rum for this
honorable mess to drink the health of a new comrade."

Presently the boy returned.

"The purser says, sir, who is going to pay for the rum?"

There was a roar of laughter among the middies, for the master's mate,
who had acted as president, was notoriously in the purser's books to
the full amount of his credit. However, a midshipman, who happened
that morning to have received a remittance, undertook to stand the
liquor to the mess, and Harry's health was drunk with all honors.

"I suppose," one of the midshipmen said, "that the contents of the
dispatch were with reference to the point to which we are all bound. I
wonder where it can be?"

Here an animated discussion arose as to the various points against
which the attack of the fleet, now rapidly assembling at Spithead,
might be directed. So far no whisper of its probable course had been
made public, and it was believed indeed that even the captains of the
fleet were ignorant of its object.

Upon the following day Harry at once obtained leave to go on shore for
twenty-four hours. Immediately he reached the Head he chartered a
wherry, and was on the point of sailing when he heard a well-known
voice among a group of sailors standing near him.

"I can't make head or tail of it," Peter Langley said. "My boy left me
merely to go down to the village, and was to have returned the first
thing in the morning to join his ship in London. Well, he never came
back no more. What he did with himself, unless he sailed in a
smuggling lugger which put out an hour or two afterwards, I can't make
out. The boy would never have shipped in that craft willingly, and I
can see no reason why he should have gone otherwise. He didn't cross
the ferry, and I can't help suspecting there was some foul play. When
Black Jack returns I will have it out of him if I kill him for it. He
has a strong party there, and I want half a dozen good tight hands to
come with me to Hayling. He will probably be back in a couple of days,
and if we tackle him directly he lands we may find out something about
him. Who will go with me?"

Half a dozen voices exclaimed that they were willing to assist their
old mate, when suddenly Harry stepped in among them, saying, "There's
no occasion for that. I can tell them all about him."

Peter Langley stepped backwards in his astonishment, and stared
open-mouthed at Harry.

"Dash my buttons!" he exclaimed; "why, if it isn't Harry himself, and
in a midshipman's rig. What means this, my boy?"

"It means, father, that I am a midshipman on board his majesty's ship
_Cæsar_."

Peter stood for a moment as one stupefied with astonishment, and then
threw his tarpaulin high in the air with a shout of delight. It fell
into the water, and the tide carried it away; Peter gave it no further
thought, but, seizing Harry's hand, wrung it with enthusiastic
delight.

"This is news indeed, my boy," he said. "To think of seeing you on the
quarter-deck, and that so soon!"

It was some minutes before Harry could shake himself free from his
friends, all of whom were old chums of the boatswain, and had known
him in his childhood. Drawing Peter aside at last he took him to a
quiet hotel, and there, to the intense astonishment of the veteran, he
related to him the circumstances which had led to his elevation. The
old sailor was alternately filled with wrath and admiration, and it
was only the consideration that beyond doubt Black Jack and the
Frenchman had both perished in the _Lucy_ that restrained him from
instantly rushing off to take vengeance upon them.

An hour later the pair took a wherry and sailed to Hayling, where the
joy of Peter was rivaled by that of Harry's foster-mother. That
evening Peter went out and so copiously ordered grog for all the
seafaring population in honor of the event that the village was a
scene of rejoicing and festivity such as was unknown in its quiet
annals.

The next day Harry rejoined his ship, and commenced his regular duties
as a midshipman on board.

A week later the whole of the ships destined to take part in it had
arrived. The "Blue Peter" was hoisted at the ship's head, and on a gun
firing from the admiral's ship the anchors were weighed, and the fleet
soon left Spithead behind them. It consisted of eighteen sail of the
line, with a number of frigates and gunboats. The expedition was
commanded by Sir Hyde Parker, with Admiral Nelson second in command.
Contrary to the general expedition they sailed eastward instead of
passing through the Solent, and, coasting along the south of England,
passed through the Straits of Dover and stood out into the North Sea.

Harry had had an interview with his captain four days after he had
joined. The latter told him that the dispatch-box which he had taken
had been sent up to London, and that its contents proved to be of the
highest importance, and that the Lords of the Admiralty had themselves
written to the admiral expressing their extreme satisfaction at the
capture, saying that the whole of their plans would have been
disconcerted had the papers fallen into the hands of the enemy. They
were pleased to express their strong approval of the conduct of Harry
Langley, and gave their assurance that when the time came his claim
for promotion should not be ignored.

"So, my lad," the captain said, "you may be sure that when you have
passed your cadetship you will get your epaulette without loss of
time, and if you are steady and well conducted you may look out for a
brilliant position. It is not many lads who enter the navy under such
favorable conditions. I should advise you to study hard in order to
fit yourself for command when the time should come. From what you tell
me your education has not been neglected, and I have no doubt you know
as much as the majority of my midshipmen as to books. But books are
not all. An officer in his majesty's service should be a gentleman.
That you are that in manner, I am happy to see. But it is desirable
also that an officer should be able in all society to hold his own in
point of general knowledge with other gentlemen. Midshipmen, as a
class, are too much given to shirking their studies, and to think that
if an officer can handle and fight a ship it is all that is required.
It may be all that is absolutely necessary, but you will find that the
men who have most made their mark are all something more than rough
sailors. I need say nothing to you as to the necessity of at all times
and hazards doing your duty. That is a lesson that you have clearly
already learned."

As the fleet still kept east, expectation rose higher and higher as to
the object of the expedition. Some supposed that a dash was to be made
on Holland. Others conceived that the object of the expedition must be
one of the North German or Russian forts, and the latter were
confirmed in their ideas when one fine morning the fleet were found to
be entering the Sound. Instead of passing through, however, the fleet
anchored here, out of gunshot of the forts of Copenhagen; and great
was the astonishment of the officers and men alike of the fleet when
it became known that an ultimatum had been sent on shore, and that the
Danes (who had been regarded as a neutral power) were called upon at
once to surrender their fleet to the English.

Upon the face of facts known to the world at large, this was indeed a
most monstrous breach of justice and right. The Danes had taken no
part in the great struggle which had been going on, and their
sympathies were generally supposed to be with the English rather than
the French. Thus, for a fleet to appear before the capital of Denmark,
and to summon its king to surrender his fleet, appeared a high-handed
act of brute force.

In fact, however, the English government had learned that negotiations
had been proceeding between the Danish government and the French; and
that a great scheme had been agreed upon, by which the Danes should
join the French at a given moment, and the united fleets being
augmented by ships of other powers, a sudden attack would be made upon
England. Had this secret confederation not been interfered with, the
position of England would have been seriously threatened. The fleet
which the allies would have been able to put onto the scene would have
greatly exceeded that which England could have mustered to defend her
coast, and although peace nominally prevailed between England and
Denmark the English ministry considered itself justified--and
posterity has agreed in the verdict--in taking time by the forelock,
and striking a blow before their seeming ally had time to throw off
the mask and to join in the projected attack upon them.

It was the news of this secret resolve on the part of the cabinet
that, having in some way been obtained by a heavy bribe from a
subordinate in the admiralty, was being carried over in cipher to
France in the _Lucy_, and had it reached its destination the Danes
would have been warned in time, and the enterprise undertaken by
Parker and Nelson would have been impossible, for the forts of
Copenhagen, aided by the fleet in the harbor, were too strong to have
been attacked had they been thoroughly prepared for the strife. As all
these matters were unknown to the officers of the fleet, great was the
astonishment when the captains of the ships assembled in the admiral's
cabin, and each received orders as to the position which his vessel
was to take up, and the part it was to bear in the contest. This being
settled, the captains returned to their respective ships.

Several days were spent in negotiations, but as the Danes finally
refused compliance with the English demands the long-looked-for signal
was hoisted and the fleet stood in through the Sound. It was a fine
sight as the leading squadron, consisting of twelve line-of-battle
ships and a number of frigates under Admiral Nelson, steered on
through the Sound, followed at a short distance by Sir Hyde Parker
with the rest of the fleet. The Danish forts on the Sound cannonaded
them, but their fire was very ineffectual, and the fleet without
replying steered on until they had attained the position intended for
them. The Danes were prepared for action. Their fleet of thirteen
men-of-war and a number of frigates, supported by floating batteries
mounting seventy heavy guns, was moored in a line four miles long in
front of the town, and was further supported by the forts on shore.

This great force was to be engaged by the squadron of Admiral Nelson
alone, as that of Sir Hyde Parker remained outside menacing the
formidable Crown Batteries and preventing these from adding their fire
to that of the fleet and other shore batteries upon Nelson's squadron.

The _Cæsar_, the leading ship of the fleet, had been directed to sail
right past the line of ships and to operate against a detached fort
standing on a spit of land on the right flank of the Danish position.
This fort mounted many guns, much superior to those of the Cæsar in
weight, but the crew were in high spirits at the prospect of a fight,
little as they understood the cause for which they were engaged.
Stripping to the waist, they clustered round the guns, each officer at
his post, Harry, with two other midshipmen, being upon the
quarter-deck near the captain to carry orders from him as might be
required to different parts of the ship. As the _Cæsar_ passed along
the line of ships to take up her position she was saluted by a storm
of fire from the Danish vessels, to which she made no reply. She
suffered, however, but little injury, although shot and shell whistled
between the masts and struck the water on all sides of her, several
striking the hull with a dull, crashing sound, while her sails were
pierced with holes. Harry felt that he was rather pale, and was
disgusted with himself at the feeling of discomfort which he
experienced. But there is nothing that tries the nerves more than
standing the fire of an enemy before it is time to set to work to
reply. As soon as orders were given for the _Cæsar's_ fire to be
opened, directly the guns could be brought to bear, and the roar of
her cannon answered those of the fort, the feeling of uneasiness on
Harry's part disappeared, and was succeeded by that of the excitement
of battle. The din was prodigious. Along the whole line the British
fleet was engaged, and the boom of the heavy guns of the ships, forts,
and batteries, and the rattle of musketry from the tops of the ships,
kept up a deep roar like that of incessant thunder.

"The water is very shallow, sir," the first lieutenant reported to the
captain. "There are but two fathoms under her foot. The wind, too, is
dropping so much that we have scarcely steerage-way, and the current
is sweeping us along fast."

"Prepare to anchor, Mr. Francis," the captain said.

He had scarcely spoken, however, when there was a slight shivering
sensation in the ship, and it was known by all on board that she was
aground, and that on a falling tide. While the starboard guns were
kept at work the men were called off from those of the port side,
boats were lowered and hawsers were got out, and every effort was made
to tow the ship off the shoal. The sailors pulled hard in spite of the
storm of shot and shell which fell round them from the fort and the
nearest Danish ships. But the _Cæsar_ was fast. Calling the men on
board again, the captain requested the first lieutenant to go aloft
and see what was going on in other parts of the line. He returned with
the news that four or five other ships were plainly aground, and that
things appeared to be going badly. In the meantime the _Cæsar_ was
suffering heavily. The fire of the fort was well directed, and the
gunners, working their pieces under comparative shelter, were able to
pour their fire steadily into the _Cæsar_, while a floating battery
and two frigates also kept up an incessant fire.

The number of killed and wounded was already large, but as only the
guns of the starboard side could be worked the fire was kept up with
unabated zeal, and the fort bore many signs of the accuracy of the
fire. The parapet was in many places shot away and several of the guns
put out of action. But the _Cæsar_ was clearly overmatched, and the
captain hastily wrote a note to the admiral, stating that the ship was
aground and was altogether overmatched, and begging that another
vessel might be dispatched to his aid, if one could be spared, in
order to partially relieve her of the enemy's fire.

"Here, Mr. Langley, take the gig and row off to the flagship
instantly."

Harry obeyed orders. Through the storm of shot and shell which was
flying, striking up the water in all directions, he made his way to
the admirals ship, which was lying nearly a mile away.

Admiral Nelson opened the note and read it through.

"Tell Captain Ball," he said, "that I haven't a ship to spare.
Several are aground, and all hard pressed. He must do the best he can.
Ah! you are the lad whom I saw in Sir Hyde Parker's cabin, are you
not?"

"Yes, sir."

The Admiral nodded in token of approval, and Harry prepared to leave.
Suddenly a thought struck him, and running into the captain's cabin he
asked the steward for a small tablecloth.

"What on earth d'you want it for?" he exclaimed.

"Never mind. Give it me at once."

Seizing the tablecloth he ran down into the boat. As they returned
towards the _Cæsar_ they could see how hardly matters were going with
her. One of her masts was down. Her sides were battered and torn, and
several of her port-holes were knocked into one. Still her fire
continued unabated, but it was clear that she could not much longer
resist.

"Do you think she must haul down her flag?" Harry said to the coxswain
of the boat.

"Aye, aye, sir," the coxswain said. "Wood and iron can't stand such a
pounding as that much longer. Most captains would have hauled down the
flag long before this, and even our skipper can't stand out much
longer. There won't be a man alive to fight her."

"Will you do as I order?" Harry said.

"Aye, sir," the coxswain said in surprise, "I will do what you like;"
for the story of the conduct by which Harry had gained his
midshipman's promotion had been repeated through the ship, and the men
were all proud of the lad who had behaved so pluckily.

"At least," Harry said, "it may do good, and it can't do harm. Where's
the boat-hook? Fasten this tablecloth to it and pull for the fort."

The coxswain gave an exclamation of surprise, but did as Harry told
him, and with the white flag flying the boat pulled straight towards
the fort. As he was seen to do so the fire of the latter, which had
been directed towards the boat, ceased, although the duel between the
battery and the _Cæsar_ continued with unabated vigor. Harry steered
direct to the steps on the sea face and mounted to the interior of the
fort, where, on saying that he brought a message from the captain, he
was at once conducted to the commandant.

"I am come, sir," Harry said, "from the captain to beg of you to
surrender at once. Your guns have been nobly fought, but two more
ships are coming down to engage with you, and the captain would fain
save further effusion of life. You have done all that brave men could
do, but the fight everywhere goes against you, and further resistance
is vain. In a quarter of an hour a fire will be centered upon your
guns that will mean annihilation, and the captain therefore begs you
to spare the brave men under your orders from further sacrifice."

Taken by surprise by this sudden demand, which was fortunately at the
moment backed up by two ships of the squadron which had hitherto taken
no part in the action being seen sailing in, the governor, after a
hasty consultation with his officers, resolved to surrender, and two
minutes afterwards the Danish flag was hauled down in the fort and the
white flag run up. One of the Danish officers was directed to return
with Harry to the ship to notify the captain of the surrender of the
fort.

The astonishment of Captain Ball at seeing the course of his boat
suddenly altered, a white flag hoisted, and the gig proceeding direct
to the fort, had been extreme, and he could only suppose that Harry
had received some orders direct from the admiral and that a general
cessation of hostilities was ordered. His surprise became astonishment
when he saw the Danish flag disappear and the white flag hoisted in
its place; and a shout of relief and exultation echoed from stem to
stern of the _Cæsar_, for all had felt that the conflict was hopeless
and that in a few minutes the _Cæsar_ must strike her flag. All sorts
of conjectures were rife as to the sudden and unexpected surrender of
the fort, and expectation was at its highest when the gig was seen
rowing out again with a Danish officer by the side of the midshipman.

On reaching the ship's side Harry ascended the ladder with the Danish
officer, and advancing to Captain Ball said:

"This officer, sir, has, in compliance with the summons which I took
to the commander of the fort in your name, come off to surrender."

The Danish officer advanced and handed his sword to the captain,
saying:

"In the name of the commander of the fort I surrender."

The captain handed him back his sword, and ordering Harry to follow
him at once entered his cabin. His astonishment was unbounded when the
latter informed him what he had done, with many apologies for having
taken the matter into his own hands.

"I saw," he said, "that the _Cæsar_ was being knocked to pieces, and
the coxswain told me that it was impossible she could much longer
resist. I therefore thought that I could do no harm by calling upon
the governor to surrender, and that it was possible that I might
succeed, as you see that I have."

"You certainly have saved the _Cæsar_," Captain Ball said warmly, "and
we are all indeed indebted to you. It was a piece of astounding
impudence indeed for a midshipman to convey a message with which his
captain had not charged him; but success in the present case a
thousand times condones the offense. You have indeed done well, young
sir, and I and the ship's company are vastly indebted to you. I will
report the matter to the admiral."

A hundred men speedily took their places in the boats. Lieutenant
Francis was sent ashore to take possession, and a few minutes later
the British flag was flying upon the fort.

Ordering Harry to accompany him, Captain Ball at once took his place
in his gig and rowed to the flagship. The battle was still raging, and
to the practiced eye there was no doubt that the English fleet was
suffering very severely. Captain Ball mounted the quarter-deck, and
saluting the admiral reported that the fort with which he was engaged
had struck, but that the _Cæsar_ being aground was unable to render
any assistance to the general attack.

"A good many of us are aground, Ball," Admiral Nelson said, "but I
congratulate you on having caused the fort to haul down its colors.
Several of the Danish men-of-war have struck, but we cannot take
possession, and fresh boat-loads of men came off from shore, and their
fire has reopened. Our position is an unpleasant one. Sir Hyde Parker
has signaled to me to draw off, but so far I have paid no attention. I
fear that we shall have to haul off and leave some four or five ships
to the enemy."

"The fact is," Captain Ball said, "it wasn't I who made the fort haul
down its flag, but this midshipman of mine."

"Ha!" said the admiral, glancing at Harry, who, at Captain Ball's
order, had left the boat and was standing a short distance off. "How
on earth did he do that?"

"When you told him, sir, that you could give us no aid he took upon
himself, instead of returning to the ship, to row straight to the
fort with one of your tablecloths fastened to the boat-hook, and
summoned the commander in my name to surrender at once so as to save
all further effusion of life, seeing that more ships were bearing down
and that he had done all that a brave man could, and should now think
of the lives of his troops."

"An impudent little rascal!" the admiral exclaimed. "Midshipmen were
impudent enough in my days, but this boy beats everything. However,
his idea was an excellent one, and, by Jupiter! I will adopt it
myself. A man should never be above learning, and we are in such a
sore strait that one catches at a straw."

So saying, the admiral, calling to his own captain, entered his cabin,
and at once indited a letter to the King of Denmark begging him to
surrender in order to save the blood of his subjects, expressing
admiration at the way in which they had fought, and saying that they
had done all that was possible to save honor, and might now surrender
with a full consciousness of having done their duty. This missive was
at once dispatched to shore, and the admiral awaited with anxiety its
result.

A half-hour elapsed, the firing continuing with unabated fury.

"By Jove, Ball," the admiral suddenly exclaimed, "there's the white
flag!" and a tremendous cheer broke along the whole of the British
ships as the flag of truce waved over the principal fort of
Copenhagen. Instantly the fire on both sides ceased. Boats passed
between the shore and the flagship with the proposals for surrender
and conditions. Nelson insisted that the Danish fleet should be
surrendered, in so firm and decisive a tone as to convince the king
that he had it in his power completely to destroy the town, and had
only so far desisted from motives of humanity. At length, to the
intense relief of the admiral and his principal officers, who knew how
sore the strait was, and to the delight of the sailors, the
negotiations were completed, and the victory of Copenhagen won.

"Where's that boy?" the admiral asked.

"That boy" was unfortunately no longer on the quarter-deck. One of the
last shots fired from the Danish fleet had struck him above the knee,
carrying away his leg. He had at once been carried down to the
cockpit, and was attended to by the surgeons of the flagship. In the
excitement of an action men take but little heed of what is happening
around them, and the fall of the young midshipman was unnoticed by his
captain. Now, however, that the battle was over, Captain Ball looked
round for his midshipman, and was filled with sorrow upon hearing what
had happened. He hurried below to the wounded boy, whose leg had
already been amputated, above the point at which the ball had severed
it, by the surgeon.

"The white flag has been hoisted, my lad," he said, "and Copenhagen
has been captured, and to you more than to anyone is this great
victory due. I am sorry, indeed, that you should have been shot."

Harry smiled faintly.

"It is the fortune of war, sir. My career in the navy has not been a
long one. It is but a fortnight since I got my commission, and now I
am leaving it altogether."

"Leaving the navy, perhaps," the captain said cheerfully, "but not
leaving life, I hope. I trust there's a long one before you; but
Admiral Nelson will, I am sure, be as grieved as I am that the career
of a young officer, who promised to rise to the highest honors of his
profession and be a credit and glory to his country, has been cut
short."

A short time later the admiral himself came down and shook hands with
the boy, and thanked him for his services, and cheered him up by
telling him that he would take care that his presence of mind and
courage should be known.

For some days Harry lay between life and death, but by the time that
the ship sailed into Portsmouth harbor the doctors had considerable
hope that he would pull round. He was carried at once to the Naval
Hospital, and a few hours later Peter Langley was by his bedside. His
captain frequently came to see him, and upon one occasion came while
his foster-father was sitting by his bedside.

"Ah, Peter, is it you?" he said. "Your son told me that you had served
his majesty; but I didn't recognize the name as that of my old
boatswain on board the _Cleopatra_."

"I am glad to see your honor," Peter said; "but I wish it had been on
any other occasion. However, I think that the lad will not slip his
wind this time; but he's fretting that his career on blue water is at
an end."

"It is sad that it should be so," Captain Ball said; "but there are
many men who may live to a good age and will have done less for their
country than this lad in the short time he was at sea. First, he
prevented the dispatch, which would have warned the enemy of what was
coming, from reaching them; and, in the second place, his sharpness
and readiness saved no small portion of Admiral Nelson's fleet, and
converted what threatened to be a defeat into a victory. You must be
proud of your son, old salt."

"Has not the boy told you, sir, that he's not my son?" the boatswain
said.

"No, indeed!" Captain Ball exclaimed, surprised; "on the contrary, he
spoke of you as his father."

In a few words Peter Langley related the circumstances of the finding
of Harry when a baby. Captain Ball was silent for a while, and then
said, "Do you know, Peter, that I have been greatly struck by the
resemblance of that lad to an old friend and school-fellow of mine, a
Mr. Harper? They are as like as two peas--that is, he is exactly what
my friend was at his age. My friend never was married; but I remember
hearing a good many years ago--I should say some fifteen years ago,
which would be about in accordance with this lad's age--that he had
lost a sister at sea. The ship she was in was supposed to have
foundered, and was never heard of again. She was the wife of the
captain, and was taking her first voyage with him. Of course it may be
a mere coincidence; still the likeness is so strong that it would be
worth while making some inquiries. Have you anything by which the
child can be identified?"

"There are some trinkets, sir, of Indian workmanship for the most
part, and a locket. I will bring them over to your honor to-morrow if
you will let me."

"Do so," Captain Ball said; "I am going up to London to-morrow, and
shall see my friend. Don't speak to the boy about it, for it's a
thousand to one against its being more than a coincidence. Still I
hope sincerely for his sake that it may be so."

The next evening Captain Ball went up by coach to London, and the
following day called upon his friend, who was a rich retired
East-Indian director. He told the story as Peter had told it to him.

"The dates answer," he said; "and, curiously, although the ship was
lost in the West Indies, it's likely enough that the ornaments of my
poor sister would have been Indian, as I was in the habit of often
sending her home things from Calcutta."

"I have them with me," Captain Ball said, and produced the little
packet which Peter had given him.

The old gentleman glanced at the ornaments, and then, taking the
locket, pressed the spring. He gave a cry as he saw the portrait
within it, and exclaimed, "Yes, that's the likeness of my sister as
she was when I last saw her! What an extraordinary discovery! Where is
the lad of whom you have been speaking? for surely he is my nephew,
the son of my sister Mary and Jack Peters."

Captain Ball then related the story of Harry's doings from the time he
had known him, and the old gentleman was greatly moved at the tale of
bravery. The very next day he went down to Portsmouth with Captain
Ball, and Harry, to his astonishment, found himself claimed as nephew
by the friend of his captain.

When Harry was well enough to be moved he went up to London with his
uncle, and a fortnight later received an official letter directing him
to attend at the Board of Admiralty.

Donning his midshipman uniform he proceeded thither in his uncle's
carriage, and walked with crutches--for his wound was not as yet
sufficiently healed to allow him to wear an artificial leg--to the
board-room. Here were assembled the first lord and his colleagues.
Admiral Nelson was also present, and at once greeted him kindly.

A seat was placed for him, and the first lord then addressed him. "Mr.
Peters, Admiral Nelson has brought to our notice the clever stratagem
by which, on your own initiation and without instruction, you obtained
the surrender of the Danish fort, and saved the _Cæsar_ at a time when
she was aground and altogether overmatched. Admiral Nelson has also
been good enough to say that it was the success which attended your
action which suggested to him the course that he took which brought
the battle to a happy termination. Thus we cannot but feel that the
victory which has been won is in no small degree due to you. Moreover,
we are mindful that it was your bravery and quickness which prevented
the news of the intended sailing of the fleet from reaching the
Continent, in which case the attack could not have been carried out.
Under such extraordinary and exceptional circumstances we feel that an
extraordinary and exceptional acknowledgment is due to you. We all
feel very deep regret that the loss of your leg will render you unfit
for active service at sea, and has deprived his majesty of the loss of
so meritorious and most promising a young officer. We are about,
therefore, to take a course altogether without precedent. You will be
continued on the full-pay list all your life, you will at once be
promoted to the rank of lieutenant, three years hence to that of
commander, and again in another three years to the rank of post
captain. The board are glad to hear from Captain Ball that you are in
good hands, and wish you every good fortune in life."

Harry was so overcome with pleasure that he could only stammer a word
or two of thanks, and the first lord, his colleagues, and Admiral
Nelson having warmly shaken hands with him, he was taken back to the
carriage, still in a state of bewilderment at the honor which had been
bestowed upon him.

There is little more to tell. Having no other relations his uncle
adopted him as his heir, and the only further connection that Harry
had with the sea was that when he was twenty-one he possessed the
fastest and best-equipped yacht which sailed out of an English port.
Later on he sat in Parliament, married, and to the end of his life
declared that, after all, the luckiest point in his career was the
cutting off of his leg by the last shot fired by the Danish batteries,
for that, had this not happened, he should never have known who he
was, would never have met the wife whom he dearly loved, and would
have passed his life as a miserable bachelor. Peter Langley, when not
at sea with Harry in his yacht, lived in a snug cottage at Southsea,
and had never reason to the end of his life to regret the time when he
sighted the floating box from the tops of the _Alert_.



SURLY JOE.


"You wonder why I am called Surly Joe, sir? No, as you say, I hope I
don't deserve the title now; but I did once, and a name like that
sticks to a man for life. Well, sir, the fish are not biting at
present, and I don't mind if I tell you how I got it."

The speaker was a boatman, a man some fifty years old, broad and
weather-beaten; he had but one arm. I had been spending a month's
well-earned holiday at Scarborough, and had been making the most of
it, sailing or fishing every day. Upon my first arrival I had gone out
with the one-armed boatman, and as he was a cheery companion, and his
boat, the _Grateful Mary_, was the best and fastest on the strand, I
had stuck to him throughout. The boatmen at our watering-places soon
learn when a visitor fixes upon a particular boat, and cease to
importune him with offers of a sail; consequently it became an
understood thing after a day or two that I was private property, and
as soon as I was seen making my way across the wet, soppy sand, which
is the one drawback to the pleasure of Scarborough, a shout would at
once be raised for Surly Joe. The name seemed a singularly
inappropriate one; but it was not until the very day before I was
returning to town that I made any remark on the subject. By this time
we had become great allies; for what with a bathe in the morning
early, a sail before lunch, and a fishing expedition afterwards, I had
almost lived on board the _Grateful Mary_. The day had been too clear
and bright for fishing; the curly-headed, barefooted boy who assisted
Joe had grown tired of watching us catch nothing, and had fallen
asleep in the bow of the boat; and the motion, as the boat rose and
fell gently on the swell, was so eminently provocative of sleep that I
had nodded once or twice as I sat with my eyes fixed on my line. Then
the happy idea had occurred to me to remark that I wondered why my
companion was called by a nickname which seemed so singularly
inappropriate. Joe's offer to tell me how he obtained it woke me at
once. I refilled my pipe,--an invariable custom, I observe, with
smokers when they are sitting down to listen to a story,--passed my
pouch to Joe, who followed my example; and when we had "lighted up"
Joe began:

"Well, sir, it's about twelve years ago. I was a strong, active chap
then--not that I aint strong now, for I can shove a boat over the
sandbar with any man on the shore--but I aint as active as I were. I
warn't called Surly Joe then, and I had my two arms like other men. My
nickname then was Curly; 'cause, you see, my hair won't lay straight
on my head, not when it gets as wet as seaweed. I owned my own boat,
and the boys that worked with me warn't strangers, like Dick there,
but they were my own flesh and blood. I was mighty proud of the two
boys: fine straight tough-built lads was they, and as good-plucked uns
as any on the shore. I had lost their mother ten years, maybe, before
that, and I never thought of giving them another. One of 'em was about
twelve, just the size of Dick there; the other was a year older. Full
of tricks and mischief they was, but good boys, sir, and could handle
the boat nigh as well as I could. There was one thing they couldn't
do, sir--they couldn't swim. I used to tell 'em they ought to learn;
but there, you see, I can't swim myself, and out of all the men and
boys on this shore I don't suppose one in twenty on 'em can swim. Rum,
aint it, sir? All their lives in the water or on the water, seeing all
these visitors as comes here either swimming or learning to swim, and
yet they won't try. They talks about instinks; I don't believe in
instinks, else everybody who's got to pass his life on the water would
learn to swim, instead of being just the boys as never does learn.
That year, sir, I was doing well. There was a gentleman and his wife
and darter used to use my boat regular; morning and afternoon they'd
go out for a sail whenever it warn't too rough for the boat to put
out. I don't think the old gentleman and lady cared so much for it;
but they was just wrapped up in the girl, who was a pale, quiet sort
o' girl, who had come down to the sea for her health. She was
wonderful fond of the sea, and a deal o' good it did her; she warn't
like the same creature after she had been here two months.

"It was a roughish sort of afternoon, with squalls from the east, but
not too rough to go out: they was to go out at four o'clock, and they
came down punctual; but the gentleman says, when he gets down:

"'We have just got a telegram, Joe, to say as a friend is coming down
by the five-o'clock train, and we must be at the station to meet her,
she being an invalid; but I don't want Mary to lose her sail, so will
trust her with you.'

"'You'll take great care of her, Joe, and bring her back safe,' the
mother says, half laughing like; but I could see she were a little
anxious about lettin' her go alone, which had never happened before.

"'I'll take care of her, ma'am,' I says; 'you may take your oath I'll
bring her back if I comes back myself.'

"'Good-by, mamma,' the girl says as she steps on the plank; 'don't you
fidget: you know you can trust Joe; and I'll be back at half-past six
to dinner.'

"Well, sir, as we pushed off I felt somehow responsible like, and
although I'd told the boys before that one reef would be enough, I
made 'em put in another before I hoisted the sail. There warn't many
boats out, for there was more sea on than most visitors care to face;
but once fairly outside we went along through it splendid. When we got
within a mile of Fley, I asks her if we should turn, or go on for a
bit farther.

"'We shall go back as quick as we've come, shan't we, Joe?'

"'Just about the same, miss; the wind's straight on the shore.'

"'We haven't been out twenty minutes,' she says, looking at her watch;
'I'd rather go a bit farther.'

"Well, sir, we ran till we were off the brig. The wind was freshening,
and the gusts coming down strong; it was backing round rather to the
north too, and the sea was getting up.

"'I a'most think, miss, we'd better run into Filey,' I says; 'and you
could go across by the coach.'

"'But there's no danger, is there, Joe?'

"'No, miss, there aint no danger; but we shall get a ducking before we
get back; there's rain in that squall to windward.'

"'Oh, I don't care a bit for rain, Joe; and the coach won't get in
till half-past seven, and mamma would be in a dreadful fright. Oh, I'd
so much rather go on!'

"I did not say no more, but I put her about, and in another few
minutes the squall was down upon us. The rain came against us as if it
wanted to knock holes in the boat, and the wind just howled again. A
sharper squall I don't know as ever I was put in. It was so black you
couldn't have seen two boats' length. I eased off the sheet, and put
the helm up; but something went wrong, and--I don't know rightly how
it was, sir. I've thought it over hundreds and hundreds of times, and
I can't reason it out in any sort of form. But the 'sponsibility of
that young gal weighed on me, I expect, and I must somehow ha' lost my
head--I don't know, I can't account for it; but there it was, and in
less time than it takes me to tell you we were all in the water.
Whatever I'd ha' been before, I was cool enough now. I threw one arm
round the gal, as I felt her going, and with the other I caught hold
of the side of the boat. We was under water for a moment, and then I
made shift to get hold of the rudder as she floated bottom upwards.
The boys had stuck to her too, but they couldn't get hold of the keel;
for you know how deep them boats are forward, drawing nigh a foot of
water there more than they does astern. However, after a bit, they
managed to get down to'rds the stern, and get a hand on the keel about
halfway along. They couldn't come no nigher, because, as you know, the
keel of them boats only runs halfway along. 'Hould on, lads!' I
shouted; 'hould on for your lives! They'll have seen us from the
cliff, and 'll have a lugger out here for us in no time.'

"I said so to cheer them up; but I knew in my heart that a lugger, to
get out with that wind on, would have to run right into t'other side
o' the bay before she could get room enough to weather the brig. The
girl hadn't spoken a word since the squall struck us, except that she
gave a little short cry as the boat went over; and when we came up she
got her hands on the rudder, and held on there as well as she could
with my help. The squall did not last five minutes; and when it
cleared off I could look round and judge of our chances. They weren't
good. There was a party of people on the cliff, and another on the
brig, who were making their way out as far as they could on the brig,
for it were about half-tide. They must have seen us go over as we went
into the squall, for as we lifted I could see over the brig, and there
was a man galloping on horseback along the sands to'rds Filey as hard
as he could go. We were, maybe, a quarter of a mile off the brig, and
I saw that we should drift down on it before a boat could beat out of
the bay and get round to us. The sea was breaking on it, as it always
does break if there's ever so little wind from the east, and the spray
was flying up fifty feet in places where the waves hit the face of the
rock. There aint a worse place on all the coast than this, running as
it do nigh a mile out from the head, and bare at low water. The waves
broke over the boat heavy, and I had as much as I could do to hold on
by one hand to the rudder, which swung backwards and forwards with
every wave. As to the boys, I knew they couldn't hold on if they
couldn't get onto the bottom of the boat; so I shouted to 'em to try
to climb up. But they couldn't do it, sir; they'd tried already, over
and over again. It would ha' been easy enough in calm water; but with
the boat rolling and such waves going over her, and knocking them back
again when they'd half got up, it was too much for 'em. If I'd ha'
been free I could have got 'em up by working round to the side
opposite 'em, and given them a hand to haul them up; but as it was,
with only one hand free, it took me all my time to hold on where I
was. The girl saw it too, for she turned her face round to me, and
spoke for the first time.

"'Let me go, please,' says she, 'and help your boys.'

"'I can't do it,' said I. 'I've got to hold you till we're both
drowned together.'

"I spoke short and hard, sir; for, if you'll believe me, I was
actually beginning to hate that gal. There was my own two boys
a-struggling for their lives, and I couldn't lend a hand to help 'em,
because I was hampered by that white-faced thing. She saw it in my
face, for she gave a sort of little cry, and said:

"'Oh, do--do let me go!'

"I didn't answer a word, but held on all the harder. Presently
Bill--he was my youngest boy--sang out:

"'Father, can't you get round and lend us a hand to get up? I can't
hold on much longer.'

"'I can't help you, Bill,' says I. 'I've given my promise to take this
young woman back, and I must keep my word. Her life's more precious to
her father than yours is to me, no doubt, and she's got to be saved.'

"It was cruel of me, sir, and altogether unjust, and I knew it was
when I said it, but I couldn't help it. I felt as if I had a devil in
me. I was just mad with sorrow and hopelessness, and yet each word
seemed to come as cold and hard from me as if it was frozen. For a
moment she didn't move, and then, all of a sudden like, she gave a
twist out of my arms and went straight down. I grabbed at her, and
just got hold of her cloak and pulled her up again. She never moved
after that, but just lay quiet on my arm as if she was dead. Her head
was back, half in, half out of the water; and it was only by the tears
that run down sometimes through her eyelids, and by a little sob in
her breast, that I knew that she was sensible.

"Presently Bill says, 'Good-by, father. God bless you!' and then he
let go his hold and went down. Five minutes afterwards, maybe, though
it seemed a week to me, Jack did the same.

"There we was--the girl and I--alone.

"I think now, sir, looking back upon it, as I was mad then. I felt
somehow as that the gal had drowned my two boys; and the devil kept
whispering to me to beat her white face in, and then to go with her to
the bottom. I should ha' done it too, but my promise kept me back. I
had sworn she should get safe to shore if I could, and it seemed to me
that included the promise that I would do my best for us both to get
there. I was getting weak now, and sometimes I seemed to wander, and
my thoughts got mixed up, and I talked to the boys as if they could
hear me. Once or twice my hold had slipped, and I had hard work enough
to get hold again. I was sensible enough to know as it couldn't last
much longer, and, talking as in my sleep, I had told the boys I would
be with 'em in a minute or two, when a sound of shouting quite close
roused me up sudden.

"Then I saw we had drifted close to the brig. Some men had climbed
along, taking hold hand-in-hand when they passed across places where
the sea was already breaking over, and bringing with them the rope
which, as I afterwards heard, the man on horseback had brought back
from Filey. It was a brave deed on their part, sir, for the tide was
rising fast. When they saw I lifted my head and could hear them they
shouted that they would throw me the rope, and that I must leave go of
the boat, which would have smashed us to pieces, as I knew, if she had
struck the rocks with us. Where they were standing the rock was full
six feet above the sea; but a little farther it shelved down, and each
wave ran three feet deep across the brig. They asked me could I swim;
and when I shook my head, for I was too far gone to speak now, one of
'em jumped in with the end of the rope. He twisted it round the two of
us, and shouted to his friends to pull. It was time, for we weren't
much above a boat's length from the brig. Three of the chaps as had
the rope run down to the low part of the rock and pulled together,
while another two kept hold of the end of the rope and kept on the
rock, so as to prevent us all being washed across the brig together. I
don't remember much more about it. I let go the boat, sank down at
once, as if the girl and I had been lead, felt a tug of the rope, and
then, just as the water seemed choking me, a great smash, and I
remember nothing else. When I came to my right senses again I was in a
bed at Filey. I had had a bad knock on the head, and my right arm,
which had been round the girl, was just splintered. They took it off
that night. The first thing as they told me when I came round was that
the gal was safe. I don't know whether I was glad or sorry to hear it.
I was glad, because I had kept my promise and brought her back alive.
I was sorry, because I hated her like pison. Why should she have been
saved when my two boys was drowned? She was well-plucked, was that
gal, for she had never quite lost her senses; and the moment she had
got warm in bed with hot blankets, and suchlike she wanted to get dry
clothes and to go straight on to Scarborough in a carriage. However,
the doctor would not hear of it, and she wrote a little letter saying
as she was all right; and a man galloped off with it on horseback, and
got there just as they had got a carriage to the door to drive over to
Filey to ask if there was any news there about the boat. They came
over and slept there, and she went back with them next day. I heard
all this afterwards, for I was off my head, what with the blow I had
got and one thing and another, before I had been there an hour. And I
raved and cussed at the girl, they tell me, so that they wouldn't let
her father in to see me.

"It was nigh a fortnight before I came to myself, to find my arm gone,
and then I was another month before I was out of bed. They came over
to Filey when I was sensible, and I hear they had got the best doctor
over from Scarborough to see me, and paid everything for me till I was
well, but I wouldn't see them when they came. I was quite as bitter
against her as I had been when I was in the sea drowning; and I was so
fierce when they talked of coming in that the doctor told them it
would make me bad again if they came. So they went up to London, and
when I could get about they sent me a letter, the gal herself and her
father and mother, thanking me, I suppose; but I don't know, for I
just tore 'em into pieces without reading them. Then a lawyer of the
town here came to me and said he'd 'struction to buy me a new boat,
and to buy a 'nuity for me. I told him his 'nuity couldn't bring my
boys back again, and that I warn't going to take blood-money; and as
to the boat, I'd knock a hole in her and sink her if she came. A year
after that lawyer came to me again, and said he'd more 'structions;
and I told him though I'd only one arm left I was man enough still to
knock his head off his shoulders, and that I'd do it if he came to me
with his 'structions or anything else.

"By this time I'd settled down to work on the shore, and had got the
name of Surly Joe. Rightly enough, too. I had one of them planks with
wheels that people use to get in and out of the boats; and as the
boatmen on the shore was all good to me, being sorry for my loss, and
so telling my story to people as went out with them, I got enough to
live on comfortable, only there was nothing comfortable about me. I
wouldn't speak a word, good or bad, to a soul for days together,
unless it was to swear at anyone as tried to talk to me. I hated
everyone, and myself wuss nor all. I was always cussing the rocks that
didn't kill me, and wondering how many years I'd got to go on at this
work before my turn came. Fortunately I'd never cared for drink; but
sometimes I'd find my thoughts too hard for me, and I'd go and drink
glass after glass till I tumbled under the table.

"At first my old mates tried to get me round, and made offers to me to
take a share in their boats, or to make one in a fishing voyage; but I
would not hear them, and in time they dropped off one by one, and left
me to myself, and for six years there wasn't a surlier,
wuss-conditioned, lonelier chap, not in all England, than I was. Well,
sir, one day--it was just at the beginning of the season, but was too
rough a day for sailing--I was a-sitting down on the steps of a
machine doing nothing, just wondering and wondering why things was as
they was, when two little gals cum up. One was, maybe, five, and the
other a year younger. I didn't notice as they'd just cum away from the
side of a lady and gentleman. I never did notice nothing that didn't
just concern me; but I did see that they had a nurse not far off. The
biggest girl had great big eyes, dark and soft, and she looked up into
my face, and held out a broken wooden spade and a bit of string, and
says she, 'Sailor-man, please mend our spade.' I was struck all of a
heap like; for though I had been mighty fond of little children in the
old days, and was still always careful of lifting them into boats, my
name and my black looks had been enough, and none of them had spoken
to me for years. I felt quite strange like when that child spoke out
to me, a'most like what I've read Robinson Crusoe, he as was wrecked
on the island, felt when he saw the mark of a foot.

"I goes to hold out my hand, and then I draws it back, and says,
gruff, 'Don't you see I aint got but one hand? Go to your nurse.'

"I expected to see her run right off; but she didn't, but stood as
quiet as may be, with her eyes looking up into my face.

"'Nurse can't mend spade; break again when Nina digs. Nina will hold
spade together, sailor-man tie it up strong.'

"I didn't answer at once; but I saw her lip quiver, and it was plain
she had been crying just before; so I put my hand into my pocket and
brings out a bit of string, for the stuff she'd got in her hand was
of no account; and I says, in a strange sort of voice, as I hardly
knew as my own, 'All right, missy, I'll tie it.'

"So she held the broken pieces together, and I ties 'em up with the
aid of my hand and my teeth, and makes a strong, ship-shape job of it.
I did it sitting on the bottom step, with a child standing on each
side watching me. When I had done it the eldest took it, and felt it.

"'That is nice and strong,' she said; 'thank you. Annie, say thank
you.'

"'T'ank you,' she said; and, with a little pat on my arm as a good-by,
the little ones trotted away to a nurse sitting some little distance
off.

"It may seem a little thing to you, sir, just a half-minute's talk to
a child; but it warn't a little thing to me. It seemed regularly to
upset me like; and I sat there thinking it over and wondering what was
come over me, till an hour afterwards they went past me with their
nurse; and the little things ran up to me and said, 'The spade's quite
good now--good-by, sailor-man!' and went on again. So I shook it off
and went to my work; for as the tide rose the wind dropped, and a few
boats went out; and thinking what a fool I was, was gruffer and
surlier than ever.

"Next morning I was lending a mate a hand painting a boat, when I saw
the two children coming along the sand again, and I wondered to
myself whether they would know me again, or think any more of me, and
though I wanted them to do so I turned my back to the way they was
coming, and went on with my painting. Somehow I felt wonderful glad
when I heard their little feet come, pattering along the sand, and
they sang out:

"'Good-morning, sailor-man!'

"'Good-morning!' says I, short-like, as if I didn't want no talk; and
I goes on with my work without turning round.

"Just then one of the men at the boats hails me.

"'Joe, there's a party coming down.'

"'I'm busy,' shouts I back; 'shove the plank out yourself.'

"The children stopped quiet by me for a minute or two, watching me at
work, and then the eldest says:

"'May we get inside the boat, Joe? we've never been inside a boat, and
we do want to so much.'

"'My hand is all covered with paint,' says I, making a fight with
myself against giving in.

"Then the little one said:

"'Oo stoop down, Joe; sissy and me take hold round oor neck; then oo
stand up and we det in.'

"Well, sir, the touch of their little arms and those soft little faces
against my cheeks as they got in fairly knocked me over, and it was
some time before I could see what I was doing.

"Once in, they never stopped talking. They asked about everything, and
I had to answer them; and as I got accustomed to it the words came
freer, till I was talking away with them as if I had known 'em all my
life. Once I asked them didn't their papa and mamma ever take 'em out
for a sail, and they shook their heads and said mammy hated the sea,
and said it was a cruel sea; by which I judged as she must have lost
someone dear to her by it.

"Well, sir, I must cut a long story short. Those children used to come
every day down to talk with me, and I got to look for it regular; and
if it was a wet day and they couldn't come I'd be regular put out by
it; and I got to getting apples and cakes in my pockets for them.
After a fortnight I took to carrying them across the wet sands and
putting them on the stand as I wheeled it out and back with people to
the boats. I didn't do it till they'd asked their mother, and brought
back the message that she knew she could trust them with me.

"All this time it never once struck me as strange that their nurse
should sit with a baby-brother of theirs at a distance, and let them
play with me by the hour together, without calling them away, for I
wondered so much at myself, and to find myself telling stories to 'em
just as I'd do with children who came out sailing with me in the old
time, and in knowing as I was so wrapped up in 'em that I couldn't
wonder at anything else. Natural like, I changed a good deal in other
respects, and I got to give a good-morning to mates as I had scarce
spoken with for years; and the moment the children turned down onto
the sands there'd be sure to be a shout of 'There's your little
ladies, Joe.'

"I don't know why my mates should ha' been pleased to see me coming
round, for I had made myself onpleasant enough on the shore; but
they'd made 'lowances for me, and they met me as kindly as if I'd cum
back from a vyage. They did it just quiet like, and would just say,
natural, 'Lend us a hand here, Joe, boy,' or 'Give us a shoulder over
the bank, Joe,' and ask me what I thought o' the weather. It was a
hard day for me when, after staying nigh two months, the little ladies
came to say good-by. It warn't as bad as might have been, though, for
they were going to stay with some friends near York, and were to come
back again in a fortnight before they went back to London. But they
kissed me, and cried, and gave me a pipe and a lot o' 'bacca, and I
was to think of them whenever I smoked it, and they would be sure to
think of me, for they loved me very much.

"That very afternoon, sir, as I was standing by my stage, Jim
Saunders--he'd been mate with me before I owned a boat of my own--says
out loud:

"'Lor', here's my party a-coming down, and I've jammed my hand so as I
can't hoist a sail. Who'll come out and lend me a hand?'

"Well, everyone says they were busy, and couldn't come; but I believe
now as the whole thing was a got-up plan to get me afloat again; and
then Jim turns to me as if a sudden idea had struck him.

"'Come, Joe, lend us a hand for the sake o' old times; come along, old
chap.'

"I was taken aback like, and could only say something about my stage;
but half a dozen chaps volunteers to look after my stage, and afore I
scarce knew what I was after I was bundled aboard the boat; and as the
party got in I'm blest if I don't think as every chap on the shore
runs in to help shove her off, and a score of hands was held out just
to give me a shake as we started.

"I don't think I was much good on that vyage, for I went and sat up in
the bow, with my back to the others, and my eyes fixed far ahead.

"I needn't tell you, sir, when I'd once broken the ice I went regular
to the sea again, and handed my stage over to a poor fellow who had
lost his craft and a leg the winter before.

"One day when I came in from a sail I saw two little figures upon the
sands, and it needed no word from anyone to tell me my little ladies
had come back. They jumped and clapped their hands when they saw me,
and would have run across the water to meet me hadn't I shouted to
them to wait just a minute till I should be with them.

"'We've been waiting a long time, Joe. Where have you been?'

"'I've been out sailing, missy.'

"'Joe, don't you know it's wicked to tell stories? You told us you
should never go on sea any more.'

"'No more I didn't think I should, missy; and I don't suppose I ever
should if I hadn't met you, though you won't understand that. However,
I've give up the stage, and have taken to the sea again.'

"'I'm glad of that, Joe,' the eldest said, 'and mamma will be glad
too.'

"'Why should mamma be glad, little one?' I asked.

"'Mamma will be glad,' she said positively. 'I know she will be glad
when I tells her.'

"We'd sat down by this time, and I began to talk to them about their
mamma. Mamma very good, very kind, very pretty, they both agreed; and
then they went on telling me about their home in London, and their
carriage and amusements. Presently they stopped, and I could see the
eldest wanted to say something particular, for she puckered up her
forehead as she always did when she was very serious; and then she
said, with her hands folded before her, almost as if she was saying a
lesson:

"'Mamma very happy woman. She's got two little girls and baby-brother,
and papa love her so much; but there's one thing keeps her from being
quite happy.'

"'Is there, missy?' I asked. 'She ought to be happy with all these
things. What is it?'

"'Mamma once had someone do a great thing for her. If it hadn't been
for him Nina and sissy and little baby-brother could never have been
born, and papa would never have had dear mamma to love; but it cost
the man who did it a great deal--all he cared for; and now he won't
let mamma and papa and us love him and help him; and it makes mamma
unhappy when she thinks of it.'

"Here she had evidently finished what she had heard her mamma say, for
her forehead got smooth again, and she began to fill my pockets with
sand.

"'It don't sound likely, missy, that doesn't,' I says. 'It don't stand
to reason nohow. You can't have understood what mamma said.'

"'Mamma said it over and over again, lots of time,' Nina said. 'Nina
quite sure she said right.'

"We didn't say no more about it then, though after the children had
gone I wondered to myself how a chap could go on so foolish as that.
Well, sir, three days after come round from Whitby this very boat, the
_Grateful Mary_. She was sent care of Joe Denton; and as that was me,
I had her hauled up on the beach till I should hear whose she was.
Several visitors that had been out with me had said, promiscuous like,
that they should like to have a boat of their own, and I supposed they
had bought her at Whitby and sent her down, though why they should
have sent her to my care I couldn't quite see.

"Two days afterwards them children come down, and says:

"'We want you to go through the town to the other cliff with us, Joe.'

"'I can't,' says I. 'I'm all right talking to you here, missies; but I
shouldn't be a credit to you in the town, and your pa wouldn't be
best pleased if he was to see you walking about in the streets with a
boatman.'

"'Papa said we might ask you, Joe.'

"I shook my head, and the little ladies ran off to their nurse, who
come back with them and says:

"'Master told me to say he should be pertickler glad if you would go
with the young ladies.'

"'Oh, very well,' I says; 'if their pa don't object, and they wishes
it, I'd go with 'em anywheres. You wait here a quarter of an hour,
while I goes and cleans myself, and I'll go with you.'

"When I comes back the youngest takes my hand, and the oldest holds by
my jacket, and we goes up into High Street, and across to the other
cliff. We goes along till we comes to a pretty little cottage looking
over the sea. There was a garden in front, new planted with flowers.

"'Are you sure you are going right?' says I, when they turned in.

"They nodded, and ran up to the door and turned the handle.

"'Come in, Joe,' they said; and they dragged me into a parlor, where a
lady and gentleman was sitting.

"The gentleman got up.

"'My little girls have spoken so much to me about you, Joe, that I
feel that we know each other already.'

"'Yes, sir, surely,' says I.

"'Well, Joe, do you know that I owe you a great deal as to these
little girls?'

"'Bless you, sir, it's I as owe a great deal to the little missies;
they have made a changed man of me, they have; you ask anyone on the
shore.'

"'I hope they have, Joe; for had they not got round your heart, and
led you to your better self, I could never have done what I have done,
for you would have rendered it useless.'

"I didn't say nothing, sir, for I could make neither head nor tail of
what he was saying, and, I dessay, looked as surprised as might be.
Then he takes a step forward, and he puts a hand on my shoulder, and
says he:

"'Joe, have you never guessed who these little girls were?'

"I looked first at the children, and then at him, and then at the
lady, who had a veil down, but was wiping her eyes underneath it. I
was downright flummuxed.

"'I see you haven't,' the gentleman went on. 'Well, Joe, it is time
you should know now. I owe to you all that is dear to me in this
world, and our one unhappiness has been that you would not hear us,
that you had lost everything and would not let us do anything to
lighten your blow.'

"Still, sir, I couldn't make out what he meant, and began to think
that I was mad, or that he was. Then the lady stood up and threw back
her veil, and come up in front of me with the tears a-running down
her face; and I fell back a step, and sits down suddenly in a chair,
for, sure enough, it was that gal. Different to what I had seen her
last, healthy-looking and well--older, in course; a woman now, and the
mother of my little ladies.

"She stood before me, sir, with her hands out before her, pleading
like.

"'Don't hate me any more, Joe. Let my children stand between us. I
know what you have suffered, and, in all my happiness, the thought of
your loneliness has been a trouble, as my husband will tell you. I so
often thought of you--a broken, lonely man. I have talked to the
children of you till they loved the man that saved their mother's
life. I cannot give you what you have lost, Joe--no one can do that;
but you may make us happy in making you comfortable. At least, if you
cannot help hating me, let the love I know you bear my children weigh
with you.'

"As she spoke the children were hanging on me; and when she stopped
the little one said:

"'Oh, Joe, oo must be dood; oo mustn't hate mamma, and make her cry!'

"Well, sir, I know as I need tell you more about it. You can imagine
how I quite broke down, like a great baby, and called myself every
kind of name, saying only that I thought, and I a'most think so now,
that I had been somehow mad from the moment the squall struck the
_Kate_ till the time I first met the little girls.

"When I thought o' that, and how I'd cut that poor gal to her drowning
heart with my words, I could ha' knelt to her if she'd ha' let me. At
last, when I was quiet, she explained that this cottage and its
furniture and the _Grateful Mary_ was all for me; and we'd a great
fight over it, and I only gave in when at last she says that if I
didn't do as she wanted she'd never come down to Scarborough with the
little ladies no more; but that if I 'greed they'd come down regular
every year, and that the little girls should go out sailing with me
regular in the _Grateful Mary_.

"Well, sir, there was no arguing against that, was there? So here I
am; and next week I expect Miss Mary that was, with her husband, who's
a Parliament man, as she was engaged to be married to at the time of
the upset, and my little ladies, who is getting quite big girls too.
And if you hadn't been going away I'd ha' sailed round the castle
tower, and I'd ha' pointed out the cottage to you. Yes, sir, I see
what you are going to ask. I found it lonely there; and I found the
widow of a old mate of mine who seemed to think as how she could make
me comfortable; and comfortable I am, sir--no words could say how
comfortable I am; and do you know, sir, I'm blest if there aint a Joe
up there at this identical time, only he's a very little one, and has
got both arms. So you see, sir, I have got about as little right as
has any chap in this mortial world to the name of Surly Joe."



A FISH-WIFE'S DREAM.


Falmouth is not a fashionable watering-place. Capitalists and
speculative builders have somehow left it alone, and, except for its
great hotel, standing in a position, as far as I know, unrivaled,
there have been comparatively few additions to it in the last quarter
of a century. Were I a yachtsman I should make Falmouth my
headquarters: blow high, blow low, there are shelter and plenty of
sailing room, while in fine weather there is a glorious coast along
which to cruise--something very different from the flat shores from
Southampton to Brighton. It is some six years since that I was lying
in the harbor, having sailed round in a friend's yacht from Cowes.
Upon the day after we had come in my friend went into Truro, and I
landed, strolled up, and sat down on a bench high on the seaward face
of the hill that shelters the inner harbor.

An old coastguardsman came along. I offered him tobacco, and in five
minutes we were in full talk.

"I suppose those are the pilchard boats far out there?"

"Aye, that's the pilchard fleet."

"Do they do well generally?"

"Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't; it's an uncertain fish the
pilchard, and it's a rough life is fishing on this coast. There aint a
good harbor not this side of the Lizard; and if they're caught in a
gale from the southeast it goes hard with them. With a southwester
they can run back here."

"Were you ever a fisherman yourself?"

"Aye, I began life at it; I went a-fishing as a boy well-nigh fifty
year back, but I got a sickener of it, and tramped to Plymouth and
shipped in a frigate there, and served all my time in queen's ships."

"Did you get sick of fishing because of the hardships of the life, or
from any particular circumstance?"

"I got wrecked on the Scillys. There was fifty boats lost that night,
and scarce a hand was saved. I shouldn't have been saved myself if it
had not been for a dream of mother's."

"That's curious," I said. "Would you mind telling me about it?"

The old sailor did not speak for a minute or two; and then, after a
sharp puff at his pipe, he told me the following story, of which I
have but slightly altered the wording:

I lived with mother at Tregannock. It's a bit of a village now, as it
was then. My father had been washed overboard and drowned two years
before. I was his only son. The boat I sailed in was mother's, and
four men and myself worked her in shares. I was twenty-one, or maybe
twenty-two, years old then. It was one day early in October. We had
had a bad season, and times were hard. We'd agreed to start at eight
o'clock in the morning. I was up at five, and went down to the boats
to see as everything was ready. When I got back mother had made
breakfast; and when we sat down I saw that the old woman had been
crying, and looked altogether queer like.

"My boy," says she, "I want you not to go out this trip."

"Not go out!" said I; "not go out, mother! Why? What's happened? Your
share and mine didn't come to three pounds last month, and it would be
a talk if I didn't go out in the _Jane_. Why, what is it?"

"My boy," says she, "I've had a dream as how you was drowned."

"Drowned!" said I; "I'm not going to be drowned, mother."

But what she said made me feel creepy like, for us Cornishmen goes a
good deal on dreams and tokens; and sure enough mother had dreamed
father was going to be drowned before he started on that last trip of
his.

"That's not all, Will," she said. "I dreamed of you in bed, and a chap
was leaning over you cutting your throat."

I didn't care much for going on with my breakfast after that; but in a
minute or two I plucks up and says:

"Well, mother, you're wrong, anyhow; for if I be drowned no one has no
call to cut my throat."

"I didn't see you downright drowned in my dream," she said. "You was
in the sea--a terribly rough sea--at night, and the waves were
breaking down on you."

"I can't help going, mother," I says, after a bit. "It's a fine day,
and it's our boat. All the lads and girls in the village would laugh
at me if I stayed at home."

"That's just what your father said; and he went to his death."

And my mother, as she says this, puts her apron over her head and
began to cry again. I'd more than half a mind to give way; but you
know what young chaps are. The thought of what the girls of the place
would say about my being afraid to go was too much for me.

At last, when mother saw I was bent on going, she got up and said:

"Well, Will, if my prayers can't keep you back, will you do something
else I ask you?"

"I will, mother," said I--"anything but stay back."

She went off without a word into her bedroom, and she came back with
something in her arms.

"Look here, Will, I made this for your father, and he wouldn't have
it; now I ask you to take it, and put it on if a storm comes on. You
see, you can put it on under your dreadnaught coat, and no one will
be any the wiser."

The thing she brought in was two flat Dutch spirit-bottles, sewn
between two pieces of canvas. It had got strings sewed on for tying
round the body, and put on as she did to show me how, one bottle each
side of the chest, it lay pretty flat.

"Now, Will, these bottles will keep you up for hours. A gentleman who
was staying in the village before you was born was talking about
wrecks, and he said that a couple of empty bottles, well corked, would
keep up a fair swimmer for hours. So I made it; but no words could get
your father to try it, though he was willing enough to say that it
would probably keep him afloat. You'll try it, won't you, Will?"

I didn't much like taking it, but I thought there wasn't much chance
of a storm, and that if I put it under my coat and hid it away down in
the forecastle, no one would see it; and so to please her I said I'd
take it, and that if a bad storm came on I would slip it on.

"I will put a wineglass of brandy into one of the bottles," mother
said. "It may be useful to you; who can say?"

I got the life-preserver, as you call it nowadays, on board without
its being seen, and stowed it away in my locker. I felt glad now I'd
got it, for mother's dream had made me feel uneasy; and on my way down
old Dick Tremaine said to me:

"I don't like the look of the sky, lad."

"No!" says I; "why, it looks fine enough."

"Too fine, lad. I tell ye, boy, I don't like the look of it. I think
we're going to have a bad blow."

I told the others what he had said; but they didn't heed much. Two
boats had come in that morning with a fine catch, and after the bad
time we'd been having it would have taken a lot to keep them in after
that.

We thought no more about it after we had once started. The wind was
light and puffy; but we had great luck, and were too busy to watch the
weather. What wind there was, was northerly; but towards sunset it
dropped suddenly, and as the sails flapped we looked round at the sky.

"I fear old Dick was right, lads," Jabez Harper, who was skipper,
said, "and I wish we had taken more heed to his words. That's about as
wild a sunset as may be; and look how that drift is nearing our boat."

Even I, who was the youngest of them, was old enough to read the signs
of a storm--the heavy bank of dark clouds, the pale-yellow broken
light, the horse-tails high up in the sky, and the small broken
irregular masses of cloud that hurried across them. Instinctively we
looked round towards the coast. It was fully fifteen miles away, and
we were to the east of it. The great change in the appearance of the
sky had taken place in the last half-hour; previous to that time there
had been nothing which would have struck any but a man grown old upon
the coast like Dick Tremaine.

"Reef the mainsail," Jabez said, "and the foresail too; take in the
mizzen. Like enough it will come with a squall, and we'd best be as
snug as may be. What do you say? shall we throw over some of the
fish?"

It was a hard thing to agree to; but every minute the sky was
changing. The scud was flying thicker and faster overhead, and the
land was lost in a black cloud that seemed to touch the water.

"We needn't throw 'em all out," Jabez said; "if we get rid of half
she'll be about in her best trim; and she's as good a sea-boat as
there is on the coast. Come, lads, don't look at it."

It was, as he said, no use looking at it, and in five minutes half our
catch of the day was overboard. The _Jane_ was a half-decked boat,
yawl-rigged; she wasn't built in our parts, but had been brought round
from somewhere east by a gentleman as a fishing-craft. He had used her
for two years, and had got tired of the sport, and my father had
bought her of him. She wasn't the sort of boat generally used about
here, but we all liked her, and swore by her.

"It will be a tremendous blow for the first few minutes, I reckon,"
Jabez said after a while. "Lower down her sails altogether; get her
head to it with a sweep. I'll take the helm; Harry, you stand ready to
hoist the foresail a few feet; and, Will, you and John stand by the
hoists of the mainsail. We must show enough to keep her laying-to as
long as we can. You'd best get your coats out and put 'em on, and
batten down the hatch."

I let the others go down first, and when they came up I went in, tied
the life-belt round me, and put on my oilskin. I fetched out a bottle
of hollands from my locker, and then came out and fastened the hatch.

"Here comes the first puff," Jabez said.

I stowed away the bottle among some ropes for our future use, and took
hold of the throat halyard.

"Here it comes," Jabez said, as a white line appeared under the cloud
of mist and darkness ahead, and then with a roar it was upon us.

I have been at sea, man and boy, for forty years, and I never remember
in these latitudes such a squall as that. For a few minutes I could
scarcely see or breathe. The spray flew in sheets over us, and the
wind roared so that you wouldn't have heard a sixty-eight-pounder ten
yards off. At first I thought we were going down bodily. It was lucky
we had taken every stitch of canvas off her, for, as she spun round,
the force of the wind against the masts and rigging all but capsized
her. In five minutes the first burst was over, and we were running
before it under our close-reefed foresail only. There was no occasion
for us to stand by the halyards now, and we all gathered in the stern,
and crouched down in the well. Although the sun had only gone down
half an hour it was pitch-dark, except that the white foam round us
gave a sort of dim light that made the sky look all the blacker. The
sea got up in less time than it takes in telling, and we were soon
obliged to hoist the foresail a bit higher to prevent the waves from
coming in over the stern. For three hours we tore on before the gale,
and then it lulled almost as suddenly as it had come on. There had
scarcely been a word spoken between us during this time. I was half
asleep in spite of the showers of spray. Jim Hackers, who was always
smoking, puffed away steadily; Jabez was steering still, and the
others were quite quiet. With the sudden lull we were all on our feet.

"Is it all over, Jabez?" I asked.

"It's only begun," he said. "I scarce remember such a gale as this
since I was a boy. Pass that bottle of yours round, Will; we shall be
busy again directly. One of you take the helm; I'm stiff with the wet.
We shall have it round from the south in a few minutes."

There was scarce a breath of wind now, and she rolled so I thought she
would have turned turtle.

"Get out a sweep," Jabez said, "and bring her head round."

We had scarcely done so ere the first squall from behind struck us,
and in five minutes we were running back as fast as we had come. The
wind was at first south, but settled round to southeast. We got up a
little more sail now, and made a shift to keep her to the west, for
with this wind we should have been ashore long before morning if we
had run straight before it. The sea had been heavy--it was tremendous
now; and, light and seaworthy as the _Jane_ was, we had to keep baling
as the sea broke into her. Over and over again I thought that it was
all over with us as the great waves towered above our stern, but they
slipped under us as we went driving on at twelve or fourteen knots an
hour. I stood up by the side of Jabez, and asked him what he thought
of it.

"I can't keep her off the wind," he said; "we must run, and by
midnight we shall be among the Scillys. Then it's a toss-up."

Jabez's calculations could not have been far out, for it was just
midnight, as far as I could tell, when we saw a flash right ahead.

"That's a ship on one of the Scillys," Jabez said. "I wish I knew
which it was."

He tried to bring her a little more up into the wind, but she nearly
lay over onto her beam-ends, and Jabez let her go ahead again. We saw
one more flash, and then a broad faint light. The ship was burning a
blue light. She was not a mile ahead now, and we could see she was a
large vessel. I had often been to the Scillys before, and knew them as
well as I did our coast, but I could not see the land. It was as Jabez
had said--a toss-up. If we just missed one of them we might manage to
bring up under its lee; but if we ran dead into one or other of them
the _Jane_ would break up like an egg-shell.

We were rapidly running down upon the wreck when the glare of a fire
on shore shone up. It was a great blaze, and we could faintly see the
land and a white cottage some hundred yards from the shore.

"I know it," Jabez shouted; "we are close to the end of the island; we
may miss it yet. Hoist the mainsail a bit."

I leapt up with another to seize the halyards, when a great wave
struck us; she gave a roll, and the next moment I was in the water.

After the first wild efforts I felt calm like. I knew the shore was
but half a mile ahead, and that the wind would set me dead upon it. I
loosened my tarpaulin coat and shook it off, and I found that with
mother's belt I could keep easily enough afloat, though I was half
drowned with the waves as they swept in from behind me. My mother's
dream cheered me up, for, according to that, it did not seem as I was
to be drowned, whatever was to come afterwards. I drifted past the
wreck within a hundred yards or so. They were still burning blue
lights; but the sea made a clean sweep over her, and I saw that in a
very few minutes she would go to pieces. Many times as the seas broke
over me I quite gave up hope of reaching shore; but I was a fair
swimmer, and the bottles buoyed me up, and I struggled on.

I could see the fire on shore, but the surf that broke against the
rocks showed a certain death if I made for it, and I tried hard to
work to the left, where I could see no breaking surf. It seemed to me
that the fire was built close to the end of the island. As I came
close I found that this was so. I drifted past the point of land not
fifty feet off, where the waves were sending their spray a hundred
feet up; then I made a great struggle, and got in under the lee of the
point. There was a little bay with a shelving shore, and here I made a
shift to land. Five minutes to rest, and then I made my way towards
the fire. There was no one there, and I went to the edge of the rocks.
Here four or five men with ropes were standing, trying to secure some
of the casks, chests, and wreckage from the ship. The surf was full of
floating objects, but nothing could stand the shock of a crash against
those rocks. The water was deep alongside, and the waves, as they
struck, flew up in spray, which made standing almost impossible.

The men came round me when they saw me. There was no hearing one speak
in the noise of the storm; so I made signs I had landed behind the
point, and that if they came with their ropes to the point they might
get something as it floated past. They went off, and I sat down by the
fire, wrung my clothes as well as I could,--I thought nothing of the
wet, for one is wet through half the time in a fishing-boat,--took off
mother's belt, and found one of the bottles had broke as I got ashore;
but luckily it was the one which was quite empty. I got the cork out
of the other, and had a drink of brandy, and then felt pretty right
again. I had good hopes the boat was all right, for she would get
round the point easy, and Jabez would bring her up under the lee of
the island. I thought I would go and see if I could help the others,
and perhaps save someone drifting from the wreck; but I did not think
there was very much chance, for she lay some little distance to the
right, and I hardly thought a swimmer could keep off the shore.

Just as I was going to move I saw two of them coming back. They had a
body between them, and they put it down a little distance from the
fire. I was on the other side, and they had forgotten all about me.
They stooped over the figure, and I could not see what they were
doing. I got up and went over, and they gave a start when they saw me.
"Is he alive?" says I. "Dunno," one of 'em growled; and I could see
pretty well that if I had not been there it would have gone hard with
the chap. He was a foreign, Jewish-looking fellow, and had around him
one of the ship's life-buoys. There were lots of rings on his fingers,
and he had a belt round his waist that looked pretty well stuffed out.
I put my hand to his heart, and found he still breathed; and then I
poured a few drops of brandy which remained in my bottle down his
throat.

While I was doing this the two men had talked to each other aside.
"He's alive, all right," says I. "That's a good job," one of 'em said;
but I knew he didn't think so. "We'll carry him up to our cottage.
You'll be all the better for a sleep; it must be past two o'clock by
this time."

They took the chap up, and carried him to the cottage, and put him on
a bed. He was moaning a little, and between us we undressed him and
got him into bed. "I doubt he'll come round," I said.

"I don't believe he will. Will you have a drink of whisky?"

I was mighty glad to do so, and then, throwing off my wet clothes, I
got into the other bed, for there were two in the room.

The men said they were going down again to see what they could get.
They left the whisky bottle on the table, and as soon as I was alone I
jumped out and poured a little into the other chap's teeth, so as to
give him as good a chance as I could; but I didn't much think he'd get
round, and then I got into bed and shut my eyes. I was just going off,
when, with a sudden jump, I sat straight up. Mother's dream came right
across me. I was out of bed in a moment, and looked at the door. There
was no bolt, so I put a couple of chairs against it. Then I took my
clasp-knife out of my pocket and opened it. I gave the other chap a
shake, but there was no sense in him, and I got into bed again. I
thought to myself they would never risk a fight when they saw me armed
and ready. But I soon found that I couldn't keep awake; so I got up
and dressed in my wet clothes, and went to the door. I found it was
fastened on the outside. I soon opened the window and got out, but
before I did that I rolled up some clothes and put 'em in the bed, and
made a sort of likeness of a man there. The poor fellow in bed was
lying very still now, and I felt pretty sure that he would not live
till morning. The candle was a fresh one when they had first lighted
it, and I left it burning.

When I had got out I shut the window, and went away fifty yards or so,
where I could hear them come back. Presently I heard some footsteps
coming from the opposite direction. Then I heard a voice I knew say,
"There is the fire; we shall soon know whether the poor lad has got
ashore."

"Here am I, Jabez," I said. "Hush!" as he and the other were going to
break into a shout of welcome, "hush! Some wreckers are coming up
directly to cut my throat and that of another chap in that cottage."

In a word or two I told them all about it; and they agreed to wait
with me and see the end of it. Jabez had brought the _Jane_ up under
the lee of the island, and, leaving two of the men on board, had come
on shore in the cobble with the other to look for me, but with very
faint hopes of finding me.

"You had best get hold of something to fight with, if you mean to take
these fellows, Jabez."

"A good lump of rock is as good a weapon as another," Jabez said.

Our plan was soon arranged, and half an hour later we heard footsteps
coming up from the shore again. Two men passed us, went into the
cottage, and shut the door. Jabez and I made round to the window,
where we could see in, and John Redpath stood at the door. He was to
open it and rush in when he heard us shout. We stood a little back,
but we could see well into the room. Presently we saw the door open
very quietly, little by little. A hand came through and moved the
chairs, and then it opened wide. Then the two men entered. One, a big
fellow, had a knife in his hand, and drew towards the bed, where, as
it seemed, I was sleeping, with my head covered up by the clothes. The
other had no knife in his hand, and came towards the other bed.

"Get ready, lad," Jabez said to me.

The big fellow raised his knife and plunged it down into the figure,
throwing his weight onto it at the same moment, while the smaller man
snatched the pillow from under the other's head and clapped it over
his face, and threw his weight on it. As they did so we pushed the
casement open and leapt in. I seized the smaller man, who was
suffocating the other chap, and before he could draw his knife I had
him on the ground and my knee on his chest. The big fellow had leapt
up. He gave a howl of rage as Jabez rushed at him, and stood at bay
with his knife. Jabez stopped, however, and threw his lump of rock, as
big as a baby's head, right into his stomach. It just tumbled him over
like a cannon-shot. John burst in through the door, and we had 'em
both tied tightly before five minutes was over. Then we lit a big fire
in the kitchen, and with warm clothes and some hot whisky and water
we got the foreign chap pretty well round.

In the morning I went off and found a village on the other side of the
island. I woke them up and told my story, and, to do 'em justice,
though there were some who would have shielded the fellows we had
caught, the best part were on our side. Some of 'em told me there had
been suspicion upon these men, and that they bore a bad name. There
was no magistrate in the island, and no one objected when I said we
would take them across to Penzance and give them in charge there.

So we did; and they were tried and got transportation for life for
attempting to murder the foreign chap, who, it turned out, was a
Brazilian Jew, with diamonds. He offered us all sorts of presents, but
we would have none; but that's neither here nor there.

So you see, master, mother's dream saved me from drowning and from
having my throat cut. I gave up fishing after that and went into the
queen's service. Mother sold the boat, and went to live with a sister
of hers at Truro. The Scilly Islands have changed since those times,
and you'll meet as much kindness there if you're wrecked as you will
anywhere else; but they were a rough lot in those days, and I had a
pretty close shave of it, hadn't I?



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