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´╗┐Title: Adventures of Working Men - From the Notebook of a Working Surgeon
Author: Fenn, George Manville, 1831-1909
Language: English
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Adventures of Working Men
From the Notebook of a Working Surgeon
By George Manville Fenn
Illustrations by Anon
Published by Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Co, London.
Adventures of Working Men, by George Manville Fenn.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
ADVENTURES OF WORKING MEN, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.



CHAPTER ONE.

MY PATIENTS.

I have had patients enough in a busy life as a working surgeon, you may
be sure, but of all that I have had, young or old, give me your genuine,
simple-hearted working man; for whether he be down with an ordinary
sickness or an extraordinary accident, he is always the same--enduring,
forbearing, hopeful, and with that thorough faith in his medical man
that does so much towards helping on a cure.

Wealthy patients as a rule do not possess that faith in their doctor.
They always seem to expect that a disease which has been coming on,
perhaps, for months, can be cured right off in a few hours by a touch of
the doctor's hand.  If this result does not follow, and I may tell you
at once it never does--unless it be in a case of toothache, and a tooth
is drawn--the patient is peevish and fretful, the doctor is looked upon
as unskilful, and, money being no object, the chances are that before
the doctor or surgeon has had a chance, another practitioner is called
in.

On the other hand, a quiet stalwart working man comes to you with a
childlike faith and simplicity; he is at one with you; and he helps his
cure by his simple profound belief in your skill.

A great deal of working-class doctoring and surgery has fallen to my
lot, for fate threw me into a mixed practice.  Sooner than wait at home
idle for patients who might never come, I have made a point of taking
any man's practice _pro tem_, while the owner was ill, or away upon a
holiday, and so improved my own knowledge better than I should have done
by reading ever so hard.  The consequence is that I have been a good
deal about the country, and amongst a great variety of people, and the
result of my experience is that your genuine working man, if he has been
unspoiled by publicans, and those sinners, the demagogues, who are
always putting false notions into his head, is a thoroughly sterling
individual.  That is the rule.  I need not quote the exceptions, for
there are black sheep enough among them, even as there are among other
classes.  Take him all in all, the British workman is a being of whom we
may well be proud, and the better he is treated the brighter the colours
in which he will come out.

Of course he has his weak points; we all have them, and very unpleasant
creatures we should be without.  A man all strong points is the kind of
being to avoid.  Have nothing to do with him.  Depend upon it the
finest--the most human of God's creatures, are those who have their
share of imperfections mingled with the good that is in every one more
or less.

They are men, these workers, who need the surgeon more than ordinary
people, for too often their lives are the lives of soldiers fighting in
the battle of life; and many are the wounded and slain.

I used at one time--from no love of the morbid, please bear in mind, but
from genuine desire to study my profession--to think that I should like
to go out as an army surgeon, and be with a regiment through some
terrible war.  For it seemed to me that nothing could do more towards
making a professional man prompt and full of resources than being called
upon to help his suffering fellow-creatures--shot down, cut down,
trampled beneath horses' feet, blown up, bayoneted, hurt in one of the
thousand ways incidental to warfare, besides suffering from the many
diseases that follow in an army's train.  But I very soon learned that
there was no need for any such adventure, for I could find ample demands
on such poor skill as I possessed by devoting myself to the great army
of toilers fighting in our midst.  Talk of demands upon a man's energy
and skill; calls upon his nerve; needs for promptness and presence of
mind!  There are plenty such in our every-day life; for, shocking as it
may sound, the tale of killed and wounded every week in busy England is
terribly heavy.  Go to some manufacturing town where steam hisses and
pants, and there is the throb and whirr of machinery from morn till
night--yes, and onward still from night to morn--where the furnaces are
never allowed to slacken--go there and visit the infirmary, and you will
find plenty of wounded in the course of the year.  You have the same
result, too, in the agricultural districts, where, peaceful as is the
labourer's pursuit, he cannot avoid mishaps with horses, waggons,
threshing-machines, even with his simple working tools.  In busy London
itself the immense variety of calls upon the surgeon's skill leaves him
little to desire in the way of experience.

Many years of sheer toil have caused a kind of friendship to grow up
between me and the working man.  In fact I consider myself a working
man, and a hard-worker.  I have told you how I like him for a patient,
but I have not told you of the many good qualities that I have found,
too often lying latent in his breast.  Those I will touch upon
incidentally in the course of these pages, for years ago the fancy came
upon me to make a kind of note-book of particular cases, principally for
my own amusement.  Not a surgical or medical note-book, but a few short
jottings of the peculiarities of the cases, and these short jottings
grew into long ones, so that now I present them to the reader as so many
sketches of working men--adventures, that is to say, met with in their
particular avocations.

Sometimes I have been called in to attend the workman for the special
case of which his little narrative treats, for I have thought it better
for the most part to let him tell his story in his own words; and now I
come to look through my collection--the gatherings of many years--I find
that I have a strange variety of incident, some of which in their peril
and danger will show those who have never given a thought to such a
subject, how many are the risks to which the busy ants of our great hill
are exposed, and how often they go about their daily tasks with their
lives in their hands.



CHAPTER TWO.

MY PATIENT THE STOKER.

I would not wish for a better specimen of faith and confidence than was
shown by one of my patients, Edward Brown, a stoker, with whose little
narrative I will commence my sketches.

"Ah! doctor," he said one day, "I wish you had had to do with me when I
came back from the East."

"Why?"  I said, and went on dressing a very serious injury he had
received to one hand, caused by his crushing it between a large piece of
coal and the edge of the furnace door.

"Because I should have got better much quicker if I had known you."

"Perhaps not," I said, "your own medical man may have done his best."

"Perhaps he did," was the reply.  "But, lor! hard down I was just then.
It brings it all up again--those words."

"What words?"  I said.  "There, don't let that bandage be touched by
anyone."

"`In the midst of life we are in death.'"

"Why, Brown!"  I exclaimed.

"Yes sir, those were the words--`In the midst of life we are in death.'
And they sounded so quiet and solemn, that Mary and I stopped short
close to the old-fashioned gate at the little churchyard; and then, as
if we moved and thought together, we went in softly to the funeral, and
stood at a little distance, me with my hat off and Mary with her head
bent down, till the service was over.

"There it all is again as I'm telling it to you, come back as fresh and
clear as if I was looking at it now: a nice little old-fashioned church,
with a stone wall round the yard, where the graves lay pretty thick and
close, but all looking green and flowery and old, a great clump of the
biggest and oldest yew-trees I ever saw, and a tall thick hedge
separating the churchyard from the clergyman's house.  The sun was
shining brightly, turning the moss-covered roofs of the church and
vicarage into gold; from the trees close by came the faint twittering of
birds, and away past the village houses bathed in the bright afternoon
sunshine there were the fields of crimson clover, and the banks full of
golden broom and gorse.  Over all was a sense of such peace and silence
that it seemed as if there was nothing terrible, only a quiet sadness in
the funeral, with its few mourners round the open grave, and the
grey-haired clergyman standing by; and last of all, when Mary and I went
up and looked into the grave, and read on the coffin-plate, `Aged _77_.'
one couldn't help feeling that the poor soul had only gone to sleep
tired with a long life.

"It was my fancy perhaps, but as we strolled round that churchyard, and
read a tombstone here and a board there, it seemed as if no sooner had
the parson gone in to take off his surplice, and the mourners left the
churchyard, than the whole place woke up again into busy life.  A
chaffinch came and jerked out its bit of a song in one of the yews, the
Guinea-fowls in a farm close by set up their loud crying, the geese
shrieked on the green, and creaking, and rattling and bumping, there
came along a high-filled waggon of the sweetest hay that ever was caught
in loose handfuls by the boughs of the trees, and then fell softly back
into the road.

"We were very quiet, Mary and I, as we strolled out of the churchyard,
down one of the lanes; and then crossing a stile, we went through a
couple of fields, and sat down on another stile, with the high hedge on
one side of us and the meadow, that they were beginning to mow at the
other end, one glorious bed of flowers and soft feathery grass.

"`Polly,' I says at last, breaking the silence, `ain't this heavenly?'

"`And you feel better?' she says, laying her hand on mine.

"`Better!'  I says, taking a long draught of the soft sweet-scented air,
and filling my chest--`better, old girl!  I feel as if I was growing
backwards into a boy.'

"`And you fifty last week!' she says.

"`Yes,' I says, smiling, `and you forty-seven next week.'  And then we
sat thinking for a bit.

"`Polly,' I says at last, as I sat there drinking in that soft breeze,
and feeling it give me strength, `it's worth being ill only to feel as I
do now.'

"For you see I'd been very bad, else I dare say I'm not the man to go
hanging about churchyards and watching funerals: I'm a stoker, and my
work lies in steamers trading to the East.  I'd come home from my last
voyage bad with fever, caught out in one of those nasty hot bad-smelling
ports--been carried home to die, as my mates thought; and it was being
like this, and getting better, that had set me thinking so seriously,
and made me so quiet; not that I was ever a noisy sort of man, as any
one who knows me will say.  And now, after getting better, the doctor
had said I must go into the country to get strength; so as there was no
more voyaging till I was strong, there was nothing for it but to leave
the youngsters under the care of the eldest girl and a neighbour, and
come and take lodgings out in this quiet Surrey village.

"Polly never thought I should get better, and one time no more did I;
for about a month before this time, as I lay hollow-eyed and yellow on
the bed, knowing, too, how bad I looked--for I used to make young Dick
bring me the looking-glass every morning--the doctor came as usual, and
like a blunt Englishman I put it to him flat.

"`Doctor,' I says, `you don't think I shall get better?' and I looked
him straight in the face.

"`Oh, come, come, my man!' he says, smiling, `we never look at the black
side like that.'

"`None of that, doctor,' I says; `out with it like a man.  I can stand
it: I've been expecting to be drowned or blown up half my life, so I
shan't be scared at what you say.'

"`Well, my man,' he says, `your symptoms are of a very grave nature.
You see the fever had undermined you before you came home, and unless--'

"`All right, doctor,' I says; `I understand: you mean that unless you
can get a new plate in the boiler, she won't stand another voyage.'

"`Oh, come! we won't look upon it as a hopeless case,' he says; `there's
always hope;' and after a little more talk, he shook hands and went
away.

"Next day, when he came, I had been thinking it all over, and was ready
for him.  I don't believe I was a bit better; in fact, I know I was
drifting fast, and I saw it in his eyes as well.

"I waited till he had asked me his different questions, and then just as
he was getting up to go, I asked him to sit down again.

"`Polly, my dear,' I says, `I just want a few words with the doctor;'
and she put her apron up to her eyes and went out, closing the door
after her very softly, while the doctor looked at me curious-like, and
waited for me to speak.

"`Doctor,' I says, `you've about given me up.  There, don't shake your
head, for I know.  Now don't you think I'm afraid to die, for I don't
believe I am; but look here: there's seven children downstairs, and if I
leave my wife a widow with the few pounds I've been able to save, what's
to become of them?  Can't you pull me through?'

"`My dear fellow,' he says, `honestly I've done everything I can for
your case.'

"`That's what you think, doctor,' I says, `but look here: I've been at
sea thirty years, and in seven wrecks.  It's been like dodging death
with me a score of times.  Why, I pulled my wife there regularly out of
the hands of death, and I'm not going to give up now.  I've been--'

"`Stop, stop,' he says gently.  `You're exciting yourself.'

"`Not a bit,' I says, though my voice was quite a whisper.  `I've had
this over all night, and I've come to think I must be up and doing my
duty.'

"`But, my good man--' he began.

"`Listen to me, doctor,' I says.  `A score of times I might have given
up and been drowned, but I made a fight for it and was saved.  Now I
mean to make a fight for it here, for the sake of the wife and bairns.
I don't mean to die, doctor, without a struggle.  I believe this here,
that life's given to us all as a treasure to keep; we might throw it
away by our own folly at any time, but there's hundreds of times when we
may preserve it, and we never know whether we can save it till we try.
Give me a drink of that water.'

"He held the glass to my lips, and I took a big draught and went on, he
seeming all the time to be stopping to humour me in my madness.

"`That's better, doctor,' I says.  `Now look here, sir, speaking as one
who has sailed the seas, it's a terrible stormy time with me; there's a
lee shore close at hand, the fires are drowned out, and unless we can
get up a bit of sail, there's no chance for me.  Now then, doctor, can
you get up a bit of sail?'

"`I'll go and send you something that will quiet you,' he said, rising.

"`Thank ye, doctor,' I says, smiling to myself.  `And now look here,' I
says, `I'm not going to give up till the last; and when that last comes,
and the ship's going down, why, I shall have a try if I can't swim to
safety.  If that fails, and I can really feel that it is to be, why, I
hope I shall go down into the great deep calmly, like a hopeful man,
praying that Somebody above will forgive me all I've done amiss, and
stretch out His fatherly hand to my little ones at home.'

"He went away, and I dropped asleep, worn out with my exertion.

"When I woke, Polly was standing by the bedside watching me, with a
bottle and glass on the little table.

"As soon as she saw my eyes open, she shook up the stuff, and poured it
into a wine-glass.

"`Is that what the doctor sent?'  I says.

"`Yes, dear; you were to take it directly.'

"`Then I shan't take it,' I says.  `He's given me up, and that stuff's
only to keep me quiet.  Polly, you go and make me some beef-tea, and
make it strong.'

"She looked horrified, poor old girl, and was going to beg me to take
hold of the rotten life-belt he'd sent me, when I held out my shaking
hand for it, took the glass, and let it tilt over--there was only about
a couple of teaspoonfuls in it--and the stuff fell on the carpet.

"I saw the tears come in her eyes, but she said nothing--only put down
the glass, and ran out to make the beef-tea.

"The doctor didn't come till late next day, and I was lying very still
and drowsy, half asleep like, but I was awake enough to hear him whisper
to Polly, `Sinking fast;' and I heard her give such a heart-broken sob,
that as the next great wave came on the sea where I was floating, I
struck out with all my might, rose over it, and floated gently down the
other side.

"For the next four days--putting it as a drowning man striving for his
life like a true-hearted fellow--it was like great foaming waves coming
to wash over me, but the shore still in sight, and me trying hard to
reach it.

"And it was a grim, hard fight: a dozen times I could have given up,
folded my arms, and said goodbye to the dear old watching face safe on
shore; but a look at that always cheered me, and I fought on again and
again, till at last the sea seemed to go down, and, in utter weariness,
I turned on my back to float restfully with the tide bearing me
shorewards, till I touched the sands, crept up them, and fell down worn
out, to sleep in the warm sun--safe!

"That's a curious way of putting it, you may say, but it seems natural
to me to mix it up with the things of seagoing life, and the manner in
which I've seen so many fight hard for their lives.  It was just like
striving in the midst of a storm to me, and when at last I did fall into
a deep sleep, I felt surprised--like to find myself lying in my own bed,
with Polly watching by me; and when I stretched out my hand, and took
hers, she let loose what she had kept hidden from me before, and,
falling on her knees by my bedside, she sobbed for very joy.

"`As much beef-tea and brandy as you can get him to take,' the doctor
says, that afternoon; and it wasn't long before I got from slops to
solids, and then was sent, as I told you, into the country to get
strong, while the doctor got no end of praise for the cure he had made.

"I never said a word though, even to Polly, for he did his best; but I
don't think any medicine would have cured me then.

"I was saying a little while back that I pulled my wife regularly out of
the hands of death, and of course that was when we were both quite
young; though, for the matter of that, I don't feel much different, and
can't well see the change.  That was in one of the Cape steamers, when I
first took to stoking.  They were little ramshackle sort of boats in
those days, and how it was more weren't lost puzzles me.  It was more
due to the weather than the make or finding of the ships, I can tell
you, that they used to steer their way safe to port; and yet the
passengers, poor things, knowing no better, used to take passage, ay,
and make a voyage too, from which they never got back.

"Well, I was working on board a steamer as they used to call the
_Equator_, heavy laden and with about twenty passengers on board.  We
started down Channel and away with all well, till we got right down off
the west coast of Africa, when there came one of the heaviest storms I
was ever in.  Even for a well-found steamer, such as they can build
to-day, it would have been a hard fight; but with our poor shaky wooden
tub, it was a hopeless case from the first.

"Our skipper made a brave fight of it, though, and tried hard to make
for one of the ports; but, bless you! what can a man do when, after ten
days' knocking about, the coals run out, and the fires, that have been
kept going with wood and oil, and everything that can be thrust into the
furnaces, are drowned; when the paddle-wheels are only in the way, every
bit of sail set is blown clean out of the bolt-ropes, and at last the
ship begins to drift fast for a lee shore?

"That was our case, and every hour the sea seemed to get higher, and the
wind more fierce, while I heard from more than one man how fast the
water was gaining below.

"My mate and I didn't want any telling, though.  We'd been driven up out
of the stoke-hole like a pair of drowned rats, and came on deck to find
the bulwarks ripped away, and the sea every now and then leaping aboard,
and washing the lumber about in all directions.

"The skipper was behaving very well, and he kept us all at the pumps,
turn and turn in spells, but we might as well have tried to pump the sea
dry; and when, with the water gaining fast, we told him what we thought,
he owned as it was no use, and we gave up.

"We'd all been at it, crew and passengers, about forty of us altogether,
including the women--five of them they were, and they were all on deck,
lashed in a sheltered place, close to the poop.  Very pitiful it was to
see them fighting hard at first and clinging to the side, but only to
grow weaker, half-drowned as they were; and I saw two sink down at last
and hang drooping-like from their lashings, dead, for not a soul could
do them a turn.

"I was holding on by the shrouds when the mate got to the skipper's
side, and I saw in his blank white face what he was telling him.  Of
course we couldn't hear his words in such a storm, but we didn't want
to, for we knew well enough he was saying--

"`She's sinking!'

"Next moment there was a rush made for the boats, and two of the
passengers cut loose a couple of the women; place was made for them
before the first boat was too full, and she was lowered down, cast off,
and a big wave carried her clear of the steamer.  I saw her for a moment
on the top of the ridge, and then she plunged down the other side out of
our sight--and that of everybody else; for how long she lived, who can
say?  She was never picked up or heard of again.

"Giving a bit of a cheer, our chaps turned to the next, and were getting
in when there came a wave like a mountain, ripped her from the davits,
and when I shook the water from my eyes, there she was hanging by one
end, stove in, and the men who had tried to launch her gone--skipper and
mate as well.

"There were only seven of us now, and I could see besides the three
women lashed to the side, and only one of them was alive; and for a bit
no one moved, everybody being stunned-like with horror; but there came a
lull, and feeling that the steamer was sinking under our feet, I shouted
out to the boys to come on, and we ran to the last boat, climbed in, and
were casting off, when I happened to catch sight of the women lashed
under the bulwarks there.

"`Hold hard!'  I roars, for I saw one of them wave her hand.

"`Come on, you fool,' shouts my mate, `she's going down!'

"I pray I may never be put to it again like that, with all a man's
selfish desire for life fighting against him.  For a moment I shut my
eyes, and they began to lower; but I was obliged to open them again, and
as I did so, I saw a wild scared face, with long wet hair clinging round
it, and a pair of little white hands were stretched out to me as if for
help.

"`Hold hard!'  I shouts.

"`No, no,' roared out two or three, `there isn't a moment;' and as the
boat was being lowered from the davits, I made a jump, caught the
bulwarks with my hands, and climbed back on board, just as the boat
kissed the water, was unhooked, and floated away.

"Then as I crept, hand-over-hand, to the girl's side, whipped out my
knife, and was cutting her loose, while her weak arms clung to me, I
felt a horrible feeling of despair come over me, for the boat was
leaving us; and I knew what a coward I was at heart, as I had to fight
with myself so as not to leave the girl to her fate, and leap overboard
to swim for my life.  I got the better of it, though--went down on my
knees, so as not to see the boat, and got the poor trembling, clinging
creature loose.

"`Now, my lass,' I says, `quick'--and I raised her up--`hold on by the
side while I make fast a rope round you.'

"And then I stood up to hail the boat--the boat as warn't there, for in
those brief moments she must have capsized, and we were alone on the
sinking steamer, which now lay in the trough of the sea.

"As soon as I got over the horror of the feeling, a sort of stony
despair came over me; but when I saw that little pale appealing face at
my side, looking to me for help, that brought the manhood back, and in
saying encouraging things to her, I did myself good.

"My first idea was to make something that would float us, but I gave
that up directly, for I could feel that I was helpless; and getting the
poor girl more into shelter, I took a bit of tobacco in a sort of stolid
way, and sat down with a cork life-buoy over my arm, one which I had cut
loose from where it had hung forgotten behind the wheel.

"But I never used it, for the storm went down fast, and the steamer
floated still, waterlogged, for three days, when we were picked up by a
passing vessel, half-starved, but hoping.  And during that time my
companion had told me that she was the attendant of one of the lady
passengers on board; and at last, when we parted at the Cape, she kissed
my hand, and called me her hero, who had saved her life--poor grimey me,
you know!

"We warn't long, though, before we met again, for somehow we'd settled
that we'd write; and a twelvemonth after, Mary was back in England, and
my wife.  That's why I said I took her like out of the hands of death,
though in a selfish sort of way, being far, you know, from perfect.  But
what I say, speaking as Edward Brown, stoker, is this: Make a good fight
of it, no matter how black things may look, and leave the rest to Him."

He nodded gravely at me, placed his bandaged hand in the sling I had
contrived, and went away without another word.



CHAPTER THREE.

MY PATIENT THE WELL-SINKER.

"It's no more than I expected, doctor," said my patient, Goodsell, a
stern, hard-featured, grey-haired man, with keen, yet good-natured eyes;
and he shifted his head a little on the pillow to look at me.  "Good job
it's no worse, ain't it?"

"It is a mercy you were not killed," I said.

"You're right, doctor," he replied, smiling.  "Two inches to the left,
and the iron rim of the bucket would have broken my skull instead of my
shoulder, eh? and then my boy could have carried on the business."

"You take it very philosophically," I said.

"To be sure, doctor.  Why not?  A man must die some time; and he may
just as well die at work, as a miserable creature in bed.  I expects to
die by my business, straightforward and honourable.  The pitcher that
goes oftenest to the well is sure to be broken at last," he added, with
a laugh.  "I'm a pitcher always going to the well, and shall be broken
at last.

"I've been a well-sinker ever since I was quite a lad; my father was a
well-sinker afore me, and he got sent to sleep with the foul air at the
bottom of a well, and never got waked again; and I, being the eldest of
six, and only fourteen, had to set at it to keep the family, while
father's master, being a kind-hearted sort of man, took me on, and gave
me as good wages as he could, for my father had been a sort of favourite
of his, from being a first-class, steady workman.  My grandfather was a
well-sinker too, and he got buried alive, he did, poor old chap, through
a fall of earth; while his father--my great-grandfather, you know--was
knocked on the head by the sinker's bucket; for the rope broke when they
were drawing it up full of earth, and it fell on the old gentleman, and
ended him.  I ain't got killed yet, I ain't; but my turn'll come some
day, I suppose, for it's in our profession, you know.  But then you must
have water; and ours is a very valuable trade--so what is to be will be,
and what's the good of fretting?  It don't do to be always fidgeting
about danger in your way through life, but what we have to do is to go
straight ahead, and do our duty, and trust to Providence for the rest.

"Now, after all these years--and I'm 'most fifty, you know--I never look
down a well without having the creeps, and I never go down one without
having the creeps; for they're queer, dark, echoing, shadowy, grave-like
sort of holes, and one thinks of the depth, and the darkness, and the
water, and of how little chance there is of escape, and so on, if one
fell; and perhaps this is a bit owing to one or two narrow escapes I've
had, and them making me a bit nervous.  Soon as I get right to work I
forget all the fidgeting, but the first starting is certainly rather
nervous work for me, though I don't believe as I ever told any one of it
before.

"That well down at Rowborough need to be like a nightmare to me, and
laid heavier upon me than any, well ever did before; but I kept on to my
work like the rest, and we gradually went on lower and lower, step after
step, month after month, always expecting to strike a main-spring, but
never succeeding.  Now it was loamy earth, then yellow clay, then
gravel, then blue clay, then more gravel, then sand for far enough, then
flinty soil, and then chalk, and so on month after month; but never any
water worth speaking about.  Of course we struck water times enough, and
it bothered us a good deal to stop it out, but it was only from little
upper springs, while what we wanted was the deep spring from far below--
one that, when we tapped it, should come up strongly and give a good
supply of water for the deep well.

"We were years digging that well--years; for money being in plenty, and
them wanting a good supply of water, our orders were to keep on, and we
did dig--down, down a good six hundred feet; and, mind you, the farther
you get from the surface the slower the work gets on, on account of the
time taken in sending the stuff up.  Now, when I talk of six hundred
feet, you mustn't suppose I mean a bored well, quite a little hole,
perhaps six inches across, but one dug all the way, and a good nine foot
in diameter.

"That was a fine well--is a fine well, I may say--with one of the best
supplies of clear soft water in this country, and that too in a place
where good water is terribly scarce.  Our firm had the job; and I was
one of the men put on at the beginning, and I was on it till it was
finished.

"We did not go straight down all the way, but when we got down to the
chalk made a sort of chamber, and cut out sideways for a bit, and then
began digging down again another shaft, this making it more convenient
for the drawing up of the rubbish dug out; every scrap of which had, of
course, to be taken to the surface.

"You perhaps hardly think of what it is being lowered down five hundred
feet in a bucket, and then working by the light of a lantern in the
bottom of the pit, whose walls you have to take care shall be carefully
bricked up as you go on down, for fear they should fall in upon you.  It
is that hot you can hardly bear it, for very little fresh air comes down
there; while, if it was not for smothering the thoughts, one might
always be in dread of an accident.  Now here, instead of feeling afraid
of an incoming of the water, what we were most afraid of was that we
should never get any water at all; and after all the labour bestowed on
the place, it seemed quite disheartening to strike upon nothing but
beggarly little rills worth nothing.  But our governor was a George
Stephenson sort of a man, and he had taken it into his head that we must
get to water sooner or later, and he used to say that when we did strike
it there would be plenty.  So we dug on, slowly and surely, day after
day, month after month, till some of the men got scared of the job on
account of the depth, and left it.  We had had no accidents, though, for
everything had been worked out carefully and quietly, and though this
was an underground place, every part was finished as carefully and truly
as if it had been in full light of the sun.

"Last of all, we'd got down a good six hundred feet, while, according to
appearances, it seemed that we might go on a good six hundred more
before we got to water; while in my case it seemed to be now part of my
regular life to go down there, day after day, to work my spell, and I
used to dig and lay bricks, dig and lay bricks, without thinking about
water, or when it was coming, though the governor used to warn us to be
careful in case when it did come it should come very fast.

"We did most part of our work by buckets and windlass; but, all the
same, we had stagings and ladders down to the bottom, ever so many feet;
and one day when I was down with a mate--only us two right at the
bottom, though, of course, there were others at the stages and top--I
was digging away and filling the bucket, giving the signal and sending
it up, when I got looking at the course of bricks my mate was laying,
and, as you will see, bricklayers in wells lay their bricks one under
the other, and not one on the top of another like they would in building
a house.

"All at once he says to me, `Just shovel this gravel away again; there
ain't room to get a brick under.'

"`There was plenty of room just now,' I says, `for I took notice.  The
bricks give a little from up above.'

"Well, he thought so too, and went on with his work, while I went on
with mine, picking and shovelling up the loose gravel and putting it in
the bucket; but, though I worked pretty hard, I seemed to make no way;
and, instead of him being able to go on and lay another course of
bricks, he had to take a shovel and help me.

"`It's rum, ain't it?' he says, after we'd been digging hard for about
an hour.  `Something's wrong; or else the place is bewitched.  Here we
haven't sunk an inch this last hour, I'll swear, though we've sent up no
end of bucketfuls.  There's the last course of bricks just where it was,
and I'm blest if I don't think it's sunk a bit in!'

"`Well, it does look like it,' I said, `certainly; and I 'spose the
brickwork's giving a bit from the tremendous weight up above.  You've
been working too hard, Tom,' I says, laughing, `and your work hasn't had
time to set.'

"`Well, I've only kept up with you,' he says, quite serious; `but I
'spose it's as you say, and we'll take it a bit easier, for this is
labour in vain.'

"It really looked so, for after another hour we seemed to be just where
we were before, and I began almost to think it very likely something
really was wrong, but what I couldn't tell.  This was something new to
me, for I had never been in so deep a well before, and I felt puzzled.
It seemed no use to dig, for we got no lower; and once I really thought
that instead of our getting any deeper, we were making the well
shallower; but the next moment I laughed at this stupid thought, and
filled and started the bucket, when, dinner-time being come, we laid
down our tools, and made our way up to daylight; but before I started, I
could not help feeling more puzzled than ever, for now, on one side,
there was the bottom course of bricks quite below the loose gravel and
sand.

"I didn't say anything to my mate, and, truth to tell, I forgot all
about it the next moment, for I was thinking of dinner; and I didn't
recollect it again until after two, when we were nearly at the bottom,
when it came back with a flash, and I then seemed to see the cause of it
all.

"I was at the bottom, and Tom above me, and we were just below the last
staging, when I heard a strange roaring, rumbling noise that turned my
very blood cold; for it seemed to me then, as I stood on, the rounds of
that bottom ladder, that a wild beast was breaking loose, and about to
tear at me and drag me off the rungs, and for a few seconds I couldn't
speak or move, till Tom sings out:

"`Hallo! what's up?' and that seemed to give me breath.

"`Up, up!'  I shouted; `the water!' and he started climbing again as
hard as he could, and me panting and snorting after him, for, with a
tremendous bubbling, roaring rush, the water, that had been forcing the
earth slowly upwards for hours past, had now pushed its way through, and
as we reached the second stage, we heard the one below us regularly
burst up, and saw the ladder we had just left sink down.

"Heard in that hollow, echoing well, hundreds of feet from the surface,
and under such circumstances, the roar of the water was something awful
to listen to.  We could not see it, but it was coming up seething and
bubbling like a fountain, while the pressure beneath must have been
something fearful.

"As we got higher our progress was slower, for the men on the upper
stages were before us; and though they had taken the alarm from our
shouts and the bellowing of the water, they did not travel so fast as we
did.  Stage after stage was forced up, and ladder after ladder sunk down
as we got higher, and never did I feel such a relief as when we stood in
the chamber cut out of the chalk, where we could look up and see the
little ring of daylight far above us; and then, half a dozen men as we
were, we clung to the bucket and rope, and gave the signal for them to
wind up, the water leaping round our feet as we slowly rose.

"As it happened it was a new and a strong rope, or it must have given
way with the tremendous strain put upon it, and I shivered again and
again as we swung backwards and forwards, while my only wonder now is
that some of us did not fall back from sheer fright.

"But we reached the surface safely, with the water bubbling and running
after us nearly the whole way, for it rose to within fifty feet of the
top, and has stayed at that height ever since; but though one man
fainted, and we all looked white and scared, no one was hurt.  Ah! it
was the narrowest escape I ever had.

"Our tools we lost, of course, but a great deal of the woodwork and many
of the short ladders floated up, and were brought out.  It would take a
good deal to make me forget the well that grew shallower the more we
shovelled out the gravel.  For a supply of water no town can be better
off than Rowborough; and then, look at the depth--six hundred feet!"

Poor old Goodsell had a hard time of it, and suffered great pain before
I got his shoulder well, and even then he never was able to carry on his
occupation as of old.  For it was a terrible accident, the rope
breaking, and a bucket used in drawing up the earth from a well falling
upon his shoulder; and, as he said, a couple of inches more to the left,
and he would have been killed.



CHAPTER FOUR.

MY UNDERGROUND PATIENT.

I had a very singular case, one day, being called in to attend, in a
busy part of London, upon a curious-looking man who lay in bed suffering
from the effects of bad gas.  He was a peculiar-looking fellow, with
grizzled black hair, excessively sallow skin, piercing eyes, and his
face was as strangely and terribly seamed with the smallpox.

I had some little trouble with his case, which was the result of his
having been prisoned for some hours in one of the sewers that run like
arteries under London.  A sudden flood had come on, and he had been
compelled with a companion to retreat to a higher level, where the foul
air had accumulated, and he had had a narrow escape for his life.

As he amended!  Used to chat with him about his avocation, and I was
much struck by the coolness with which he used to talk about his work,
and incidentally I learned whence came the seaming in his face.

"You see, sir," he said, "the danger's nothing if a man has what you
call presence of mind--has his wits about him, you know.  For instance,
say he's in danger, or what not, and he steps out with his right foot,
and he steps out of danger; but say he steps out with his left foot, and
he loses his life.  Sounds but very little, that does; but it makes two
steps difference between the right way and the wrong way, and that's
enough to settle it all; sound or cripple, home or hospital, fireside or
a hole in the churchyard.  Presence of mind's everything to a working
man, and it's a pity they can't teach a little more of it in schools to
the boys.  I don't want to boast, for I'm very thankful; but a little
bit of quiet thought has saved my life more than once, when poor
fellows, mates of mine, have been in better places and lost theirs.

"I'm a queer sort of fellow, always having been fond of moling and
working underground from a boy.  Why, when I went to school, nothing
pleased me better than setting up what we called a robbers' cave in the
old hill, where they dug the bright red sand; and there, of a Wednesday
afternoon, we'd go and climb up the side to the steep pitch where it was
all honeycombed by the sand-martins, and then, just like them, we'd go
on burrowing and digging in at the side, scooping away in the beautiful
clean sand, till I should think one summer we had dug in twenty feet.
Grand place that was, so we thought, and fine and proud we used to be;
and the only wonder is that the unsupported roof did not come down and
bury some half-dozen of us.  Small sets-out of that sort of course we
did have, parts of the side falling down; but as long as it did not bury
our heads we rather enjoyed it, and laughed at one another.

"Well, my old love for underground work seemed to cling to me when I
grew up, and that's how it is I've always been employed so much upon
sewers.  They're nasty places, to say the best of them; but, then, as
they're made for the health of a town, and it's somebody's duty to work
down in them, why, one does it in a regular sort of way, and forgets all
the nastiness.

"Now, just shut your eyes for a few minutes and fancy you're close at my
elbow, and I'll try if I can't take you down with me into a sewer, and
you shall have the nice little adventure over again that happened to
me--nothing to signify, you know, only a trifling affair; but rather
startling to a man all the same.  The sewerage is altered now a good
deal, and the great main stream goes far down the river, but I'm talking
about the time when all the sewers emptied themselves straight into the
Thames.

"Now, we've got an opening here in the street on account of a stoppage,
and we've gone down ladder after ladder, and from stage to stage, until
we are at the bottom, where the brick arch has been cut away, and now
I'm calling it all up again, as you shall hear.

"I don't think I ever knew what fear was in those days--I mean fear in
my work, for, being the way in which I got my daily bread, danger seemed
nothing, and I went anywhere, as I did on the night I am speaking of.
It was a very large sewer, and through not having any clock at home, I'd
come out a good hour before my time.  I stopped talking to the men I was
to relieve for some little time, waiting for my mates to come--the job
being kept on with, night and day.  Last of all, I lit a bit of candle
in one of the lanterns, and, taking it, stepped down into the water,
which came nearly to the tops of my boots, and began wading up stream.

"Now, when I say up to the tops of my boots, I mean high navigator's
boots that covered the thigh; and so I went wading along, holding my
lantern above my head, and taking a good look at the brickwork, to see
if I could find any sore places--it being of course of great consequence
that all should be sound and strong.

"Strange wild places those are when you are not busy!  Dark as pitch,
and with every plash in the water echoing along quite loud when by you,
and then whispering off in a curious creepy way, as if curious creatures
in the far-off dark were talking about it, and wondering at you for
going down there.  Over your head the black, damp brickwork; both sides
of you, wet, slimy brickwork; and under your feet slippery brickwork,
covered inches deep with a soft yielding mud that gives way under your
feet, and makes walking hard work.  In some places the mud is swept
nearly clean away, and then you go splashing along, while always in a
curious, echoing, musical way, comes the sound of running water,
dripping water, plashing water, seeming always to be playing one
melancholy strange tune, sad and sweet, and peculiar.  Busy at work, one
don't notice it, but when looking about, as I was, it all seemed to
strike me in a way I can't explain.

"Slowly on through the running water, holding my lantern up, and always
looking at the same sight--a little spot of brickwork shining in the
light of my bit of candle, and all beyond that black darkness.  The
light shone, too, a little off the top of the water in a queer
glimmering way, as at every step I took there were little waves sent on
before me to go beating and leaping up against the sides.  But every now
and then I could hear a little splash, and see the water on the move in
a strange way in front, presenting just the same appearance as if some
one was drawing a stick through it, and leaving a widening trail behind.

"I said `in a strange way,' but it wasn't a strange way to me, for I
knew it well enough, and had seen it so often that I took hardly any
notice of it.  If I had had a strong light I should have seen a little
dark shape leap from the opening of a drain into the water, and then
disappear for a few moments, to come up again, and swim along quite
fast; but with such a light as I had I could only see the disturbed
water.

"Bats were old friends of mine, and did not trouble me in the least, as
I went on, now turning to the right and now to the left, sometimes going
back a little, and then pushing on again, till all at once, without a
moment's warning, out went my bit of candle, and I was in complete
darkness.

"Well, I growled a good deal at that--not that I minded the dark, but it
put a stop to the bit of overlooking I was upon; and though in most
cases I had a bit or two of extra candle, it so happened that this time
I hadn't a scrap, and all I had to do was to get back.

"I suppose I hadn't gone a dozen yards before I stopped short, with the
cold sweat standing all over my face, and my breath coming thick and
short, for, instead of the low musical, whispering tinkle of the water,
there was a rushing noise I well knew coming along a large sewer to the
left, and for want of the bit of presence of mind that I ought to have
had then, instead of rushing up stream past the mouth of the opening, I
must run down; and then came a curious wild, confused state of mind that
I can always call back now when I like to go into the dark for a few
minutes--when I was being borne along by a furious rush of water that
seemed to fill the sewer, washing me before it now up and now down, like
a cork in a stream.

"As a matter of course, I must try to do everything to make matters
worse, and keep on fighting against a power that would have borne fifty
men before it.  But that was an awful minute--I call it a minute, though
I dare say the struggle only lasted a few moments--when I seemed dashed
against a corner, and there I was fighting my way with the stream
carrying me swiftly along, but seeming weaker every moment; and at last
I was standing, with my hands thrust into a side drain to keep me
steady, while I coughed and panted, and tried to get my breath once
more, feeling all the while dizzy and confused, and unable to make out
where I was.

"The rush of water was now past, and the sewer two feet above its
regular level; but, stunned as I had been, I could not get into my
regular way of thinking, nor collect myself as to what I ought to do
next; and it is no light thing to be fifty foot under ground in a dark
tunnel with the water rushing furiously by, and you not able to think.

"When I say able to think, I mean not regularly, for I could think too
much, and that too about things that I did not want to think about, for
they troubled me.  What I ought to have thought of then was the keeping
of myself cool and trying to get out, but I couldn't move, for I fancied
that if I did I must be swept away again.  Now, I had often been along
the sewers when the water was deeper than it now was and running
swifter, but for all that I was afraid to move.

"How I magnified the danger, and made out no end of fanciful images in
the darkness, all of them seeming to point to my end, and telling me
that I should never get out alive!  Then I got calling up all the
accidents and horrors of that great place where I was.  First I
recollected how two poor fellows came down not very far from where I
stood--half a mile perhaps--and were working in one of the small drains
that was half stopped with soil and rubbish; they were down on one knee,
in a bent position, and shovelling the mud back from one to another
underneath them, and working towards a man-hole, when a rush of water
came, and they struggled on against it till a mate at the man-hole, who
stood there with a lantern and shouted, just got hold of the first man's
hand, when there came a sharper rush than ever from above, and the poor
fellow was gone.  I was one of those who hunted for them the next day,
now in one branch and then in another, going up culverts and drains of
all sizes, where I thought it possible they could have been swept, for
there had been a watch kept at the mouths, and hurdles put down to stop
anything from being washed out.  A whole week I was on that job before I
found both, the last being in a narrow place, where the poor fellows
must have crawled.

"Nice thing that was to think of at such a time!  But it would come, and
I seemed to have no power to stop it.  Then I recollected about the mate
of mine who lost his life in the foul air which collects sometimes in
places where there isn't a free current; and then, too, about the rat
case, where the man who came up off the river-shore got amongst the
rats, or else fell down in a fit, and the way he came out was in a
basket, for there was nothing left but his bones.

"Ah! nice things these were for a man to get thinking of, shivering as I
was there in the dark!  But I didn't shiver long, for I came all over
hot and feverish, and I should have yelled for help but I was afraid,
for the idea had come upon me that if I made the slightest noise I
should have the rats about me; and although it was pitch dark, I seemed
to see them waiting in droves, clustering like bees all over the sides
of the sewer, clinging to the top and swimming across and across the
surface of the water.  There they all were plain enough, with their
bright black eyes and sharp noses, while I kept on fancying how keen
their teeth must be.  We always supposed that they would attack a man in
the dark, but as we never went unprovided with lights there was never
any case known among us of a fight with them.  But now, in the dark as I
was, I quite made up my mind that they were waiting till I made a
movement, and that then they would be swarming over me in all
directions; and I shuddered, and my blood ran cold, as I thought of what
would follow.

"Every drip--every little hollow splash, or ripple against the side
seemed to me to be made by rats; the beating of my heart against my ribs
with its heavy throb seemed to be the hurrying by of the little patting
animals, and at times I fancied that I could hear their eager panting as
they were scuffling by, hunting for me.  Bats everywhere, as it seemed
to me; and again and again I was feeling myself all over to see if any
were clinging to me or climbing up, for the motion of the water as it
swept on seemed for all the world like the little wretches brushing
against my side.

"I don't believe now that there was a rat near me all the time, for it
was all pure imagination.  Still the imagination was so strong that it
was worse than reality, and even in what came afterwards I don't think I
suffered more.  It seems to be that one's nerves at such a time get
worked up to a dreadful pitch, and everything one thinks of seems to
come strongly before one, so that if the horror was strung up much
tighter, nature could not bear it.

"I could bear no more then as I stood there; and knowing all the while--
or feeling all the while--that to move was to bring the rats upon me, I
started off, bewildered so that I had no idea where I was, only feeling
that I must go with the stream to get out of the sewer, whichever branch
I was in.  So I tore on with the water up to my middle, but getting
deeper and deeper every minute as I ran my hand along the wall, now
turning to the left, now to the right, and shuddering every moment as I
fancied I felt a rat touch me.  But I had been walking and wading along
for a good half-hour before I felt one, and then just as I fancied I saw
a gleam of light peer out of the darkness right in front, something ran
hastily up my breast and shoulder, and then leaped off with a splash
into the water.

"If I had not grasped at the slippery side of the sewer and supported
myself, I must have gone down; and to have sunk down in four feet of
water was certain death, in the state I then was in; but I kept up, and
giving a shout, half-shriek, half-yell, I dashed on towards where I
fancied I had seen the light.

"Fancied, indeed, for it seemed to grow darker as I went on, and I grew
more and more confused every moment.  If I could only have known where I
was for a single instant, that would have been sufficient, even to
knowing only what particular branch I was in; but I was too confused to
try and make out any of the marks that might have told me.

"There it was again--a scratching of tiny claws and a hurried rush up my
breast, over my shoulder, something wet and cold brushing my face, then
the half-leap, half-start I gave, and the sharp splash in the water as
the beast leaped off me.  And then it came quicker and faster--two and
three--six--a dozen upon me, and as I tore them off they bit me
savagely, making their little teeth meet in my hands, and hanging there;
while more than one vicious bite in the face made me yell out with pain.

"The horrible fear seemed now to have gone, strange as it may appear to
say so.  I was mad with rage now, and fought desperately for my life, as
the rats swarmed round and attacked me furiously, without giving me a
moment's rest.  I had a large knife, which I managed to get open and
strike with, but it was more than useless, for my enemies were so small
and active and constant in their attacks that I could not get a fair
blow at them, and dashing away the blade I was glad enough to fight them
with their own weapons, and bit and tore at them, seizing them one after
another in my hands, and either crushing or dashing them up against the
sides of the sewer.

"But it seemed toil in vain, for as I dashed one off half a dozen
swarmed up me, over my arms and back, covering my chest, fastening on to
the bare parts of my neck, and making my face run down with blood.

"`Can't last much longer!'  I remember thinking; but I felt that I must
fight on to the last, and I kept on tearing the squeaking vermin off,
and crushing them in my hands, often so that they had no chance of
biting; but there must have been hundreds swarming round me, waiting
until others were beaten off to make a lodgment.  Now I was dashing up
stream as hard as I could, in the hope that I could shake them off; and
as I waded splashing along I tore those off that were upon me, but they
hunted me as dogs would a hare; and though it was dense black darkness
there, so that I groped my way along with outstretched hands, it seemed
to me that the little beasts could see well enough, and kept dashing up
me as fast as I could beat them off.

"Splashing along as I was, I had a better chance of keeping the vermin
off; but then I could not keep it up.  I must have been struggling about
for hours now, and was worn out, for even at the best of times it is
terribly hard work walking in water; and now that I was drenched with
it, and had my great thigh boots full, the toil was fearful, and I felt
that I must give in.

"`I wouldn't mind so much,' I thought, `if I could find a dry spot where
I could lie down;' but the idea of this double death was dreadful, and
spurred me on again to new efforts, so that I kept on rushing forward by
spurts, my breath coming in groans and sobs, while I kept the vermin off
my face as well as I could.

"`It's all over!'  I groaned at last, sinking on my knees close to the
side of the sewer, and nearly going under, as my legs slipped in the
ooze at the bottom.  But I stopped that by trying to force my nails in
one of the cracks between the slimy bricks, and as the rats came at me
there was only my head and neck up above the filthy water; while I gave
a long shriek that drove them back for a moment.  And now it seemed to
me that I could see the little wretches coming at me, and, yes--no--yes,
I could see a faint gleam on the top of the water, and then it was
brighter, and I heard a shout which I believe I answered, though I can
recollect no more.

"Well, they ain't such very deep marks, sir--only just through the skin,
you know; but they spoil a man's beauty, which they say is just
skin-deep.  Lots of people have thought as I've had the smallpox very
bad, and I let them, for this here as you've heard the whole story about
is one of the things as I don't like to bring up very often.  I always
feel as if I'd been very close to the end and had been dragged back,
which makes me feel solemn, and I always back out when any mate tries to
draw the story out of me, for they're uncommon fond of hearing it over
and over again.  Joe Stock--that's one of them--he could tell you the
part as I can't about how they hunted for me and shouted till they were
tired--going miles, you know, for it would surprise you to thoroughly
know what there is under the streets of London.

"`Harry,' he's said to me before now, `I never see such a sight in my
life, and when I saw you get up off your knees, mate, and come a reeling
towards me, I'm blest if I didn't think it was somethin' no canny, and I
nearly dropped my lantern and ran for it.  There was your face all
streaming down with blood, and your hands the same, and as to the noise
you was making--ugh!' he'd say, `it was awful bad.'

"And now, just one word of advice, sir--don't you never go down no
sewers without two or three bits of candle in your pocket--high up in
the breast of your jacket, you know--and plenty of lucifers in a
watertight tin box, or perhaps you may get in such a mess as I did."

Very good advice, no doubt; but after seeing the place where three men
went down to work some short time since, listening to the hollow musical
drip of the water, and the strange whisperings of the long tunnels;
after listening to the history of the hard fight against a sudden rush
of water told me by the sturdy toiler, who shuddered and turned pale as
he recalled the desperate fight for life, and then, in lowered tones,
narrated how he had found his poor mate's body washed into a narrow
culvert, I felt quite satisfied, and I don't think I shall ever make any
explorations in a sewer.

In fact, I never see a grating open, or meet one of the sturdy fellows
in his blue Jersey shirt and high boots without thinking of my patient,
and the risks such people run to earn their daily bread.



CHAPTER FIVE.

MY BLACK PATIENT.

There's a very terrible disease upon which a great deal has been
written, but not a great deal done.  In fact, it is difficult to deal
with special diseases brought on by the toiler's work.  It is a vexed
question what to do or how to treat the consumption that attacks the
needle-grinders and other dry grinders; the horrible sufferings of those
who inhale the dust of deadly minerals; the bone disease of the workers
in phosphorus and many other ills brought on by working at particular
trades.

The disease I allude to in particular is one that attacks that familiar
personage, the chimney sweep, and I have often had to treat some poor
fellow or another for it.

There was one man who stands in my note-book as J.J.--John Johnson, I
had under my care several times, and we came to be very good friends,
for under that sooty skin of his--I never saw it once really clean--
there was a great deal of true humanity and tenderness of heart, as I
soon found from the way in which he behaved to his wife.

"Why don't you chimney sweeps--Ramoneurs as you call yourselves now--
invent a better cry than svi-thee-up?"

"Ramoneur," he said with a husky chuckle.  "Yes, that's it, doctor.
Fine, aint it?  I allus calls myself a plain sweep, though.  That's good
enough for me."

"But you might do without that yell of yours," I said.  "London cries
are a terrible nuisance, though I don't know that I'd care to have them
done away with.  Your _svi-thee-up_ don't sound much like sweep."

"_Svi-thee-up, svi-thee-up_," he cried, as he lay there in bed, to the
utter astonishment of his wife.  "Don't sound much like sweep?  No, it
don't; but then one has to have one's own regular cry, as folks may know
us by.  Why, listen to any of them of a morning about the street, and
who'd think it was creases as this one was a hollering, or Yarmouth
bloaters that one; or that `Yow-hoo!' meant new milk?  It ain't what we
say--it's the sound of our voices.  Don't the servant gals as hears us
of a morning know what it means well enough when the bell rings, and
them sleepy a-bed?  Oh, no, not at all!  But there's no mussy for 'em,
and we jangles away at the bell, and hollers a good 'un till they lets
us in; for, you see, it comes nat'ral when you're obliged to be up
yourself, and out in the cold, to not like other folks to be snugging it
in bed.

"But, then, it's one's work, you know, and I dunno whether it was that
or the sutt as give me this here coarse voice, which nothing clears
now--most likely it was the sutt.  How times are altered, though, since
I was a boy!  That there climbing boy Act o' Parliament made a reg'lar
revolution in our business, and now here we goes with this here bundle
o' canes, with a round brush at the end, like a great, long screw
fishing-rod, you know, all in jints, and made o' the best Malacky cane,
so as to go into all the ins and outs, and bend about anywhere, till
it's right above the pot, and bending and swinging down.  But they're
poor things, bless you, and don't sweep a chimbley half like a boy used.
You never hears the rattle of a brush at the top of a chimbley-pot now,
and the boy giving his `hillo--hallo--hullo--o--o--o!' to show as he'd
not been shamming and skulking half-way up the flue.  Why, that was one
of the cheery sounds as you used to hear early in the mornin', when you
was tucked up warm in bed; for there was always somebody's chimbley a
being swept.

"Puts me in mind again of when I was a little bit of a fellow, and at
home with mother, as I can recollect with her nice pleasant face, and a
widder's cap round it.  Hard pushed, poor thing, when she took me to Joe
Barkby, the chimbley sweep, as said he'd teach me the trade if she
liked.  And there was I, shivering along aside her one morning, when she
was obliged to take me to Joe, and we got there to find him sitting over
his brexfass, and he arst mother to have some; but her heart was too
full, poor thing, and she wouldn't, and was going away, and Joe sent me
to the door to let her out; and that's one of the things as I shall
never forget--no, not if I lives to a hundred--my mother's poor, sad,
weary face, and the longing look she give me when we'd said `Good bye,'
and I was going to shut the door after her.  Such a sad, longing look,
as if she could have caught me up and run off with me.  I saw it as she
stood on the step, and me with the door in my hand--that there green
door, with a bright brass knocker, and brass plate with `Barkby,
Chimbley Sweep,' on it.  There was tears in her eyes, too; and I felt so
miserable myself I didn't know what to do as I stood watching her, and
she came and give me one more kiss, saying, `God bless you!' and then I
shut the door a little more, and a little more, till I could see the
same sad look through quite a little crack; and then it was close shut,
and I was wiping my eyes with my knuckles.

"Ah!  I've often thought since as I shut that door a deal too soon; but
I was too young to know all as that poor thing must have suffered.

"Barkby warn't a bad sort; but then, what can you expect from a sweep?
He didn't behave so very bad to us little chummies; but there it was--up
at four, and tramp through the cold, dark streets, hot or cold, wet or
dry; and then stand shivering till you could wake up the servants--an
hour, perhaps, sometimes.  Then in you went to the cold, miserable
house, with the carpets all up, or p'r'aps you had to wait no one knows
how long while the gal was yawning, and knick-knick-knicking with a
flint and steel over a tinder-box, and then blowing the spark till you
could get a brimstone match alight.  Then there was the forks to get for
us to stick the black cloth in front of the fireplace, and then there
was one's brush, and the black cap to pull down over one's face, pass
under the cloth, and begin swarming up the chimbley all in the dark.

"It was very trying to a little bit of a chap of ten years old, you
know--quite fresh to the job; and though Barkby give me lots of
encouragement, without being too chuff, it seemed awful as soon as I got
hold of the bars, which was quite warm then, and began feeling my way,
hot, and smothery, and sneezy, in my cap, till I give my head such a
pelt against some of the brickwork that I began to cry; for, though I'd
done plenty of low ones this was the first high chimbley as I'd been put
to.  But I chokes it down, as I stood there with my little bare toes all
amongst the cinders, and then began to climb.

"Every now and then Barkby shoves his head under the cloth, and `Go
ahead, boy,' he'd say; and I kep' on going ahead as fast as I could, for
I was afeared on him, though he never spoke very gruff to me; but I had
heard him go on and cuss awful, and I didn't want to put him out.  So
there was I, poor little chap--I'm sorry for myself even now, you know--
swarming up a little bit at a time, crying away quietly, and rubbing the
skin off my poor knees and elbows, while the place felt that hot and
stuffy I could hardly breathe, cramped up as I was.

"Now, you wouldn't think as any one could see in the dark, with his eyes
close shut, and a thick cap over his face, pulled right down to keep the
sutt from getting up his nose--you wouldn't think anyone could see
anything there; but I could, quite plain; and what do you think it was?
Why, my mother's face, looking at me so sad, and sweet, and smiling,
through her tears, that it made me give quite a choking sob every now
and then and climb away as hard as ever I could, though my toes and
knees seemed to have the skin quite off, and smarted ever so; while I
kep' on slipping a bit every now and then, for I was new at climbing,
and this was a long chimbley, from the housekeeper's room of a great
house, right from under ground, to the top.

"Sometimes I'd stop and have a cry, for I'd feel beat out, and the face
as had cheered me on was gone; but then I'd hear Barkby's choky voice
come muttering up the floo, same as I've shouted to lots o' boys in my
time, `Go ahead, boy!' and I'd go ahead again, though at last I was
sobbing and choking as hard as I could, for I kep' on thinking as I
should never get to the top, and be stuck there always in the chimbley,
never to come out no more.

"`I won't be a sweep, I won't be a sweep,' I says, sobbing and crying;
and all the time making up my mind as I'd run away first chance, and go
home again; and then, after a good long struggle, I was in the pot, with
my head out, then my arms out, and the cap off for the cool wind to blow
in my face.

"And, ah! how cool and pleasant that first puff of wind was, and how the
fear and horror seemed to go away as I climbed out, and stood looking
about me; till all at once I started, for there came up out of the pot,
buzzing like, Barkby's voice, as he calls out, `Go ahead, boy!'

"So then I set to rattling away with my brush-handle to show as I was
out, and then climbs down on to the roof, and begins looking about me.
It was just getting daylight, so that I could see my way about, and all
seemed so fresh and strange that, with my brush in my hand, I begins to
wander over the roofs, climbing up the slates and sliding down t'other
side, which was good fun, and worth doing two or three times over.  Then
I got to a parapet, and leaned looking over into the street, and
thinking of what a way it would be to tumble; but so far off being
afraid, I got on to the stone coping, and walked along ever so far, till
I came to an attic window, where I could peep in and see a man lying
asleep, with his mouth half open; then I climbed up another slope, and
had another slide down; and then another, and another, till I forgot all
about my sore knees; and at last sat astride of the highest part,
looking about me at the view I had of the tops of houses as far as I
could see, for it was getting quite light now.

"All at once I turned all of a horrible fright, for I recklected about
Barkby, and felt almost as if he'd got hold of me, and was thrashing me
for being so long.  I ran to the first chimbley stack, but that wasn't
right, for I knew as the one I came up was a-top of a slate-sloping
roof.  Then I ran to another, thinking I should know the one I came out
of by the sutt upon it.  But they'd all got sutt upon 'em--every
chimbley-pot I looked at, and so I hunted about from one to another till
I got all in a muddle, and didn't know where I was nor which pot I'd got
out of.  Last of all, shaking and trembling, I makes sure as I'd got the
right one, and climbing up I managed, after nearly tumbling off, to get
my legs in, when pulling down my cap, I let myself through a bit at a
time, and leaving go I slipped with a regular rush, nobody knows how
far, till I came to a bend in the chimbley, where I stopped short--
scraped, and bruised, and trembling, while I felt that confused I
couldn't move.

"After a bit I came round a little, and, whimpering and crying to
myself, I began to feel my way about a bit with my toes, and then got
along a little away straight like, when the chimbley took another bend
down, and stiffly and slowly I let myself down a little and a little
till my feet touched cold iron, and I could get no farther.  But after
thinking a bit, I made out where I was, and that I was standing on the
register of a fireplace, so I begins to lift it up with my toes as well
as I could, when crash it went down again, and there came such a
squealing and screeching as made me begin climbing up again as fast as I
could till I reached the bend, where I stopped and had another cry, I
felt so miserable; and then I shrunk up and shivered, for there came a
roar and a rattle that echoed up the chimbley, while the sutt came
falling down in a way that nearly smothered me.

"Now, I knew enough to tell myself that the people being frightened had
fired a gun up the chimbley, while the turn round as it took had saved
me from being hurt.  So I sat squatted up quite still, and then heard
some one shout out `Hallo!' two or three times, and then `Puss, puss,
puss!'  Then I could hear voices whispering a bit, and then the register
was banged down, as I supposed by the noise.

"Only fancy! sitting in a bend of the chimbley shivering with fear, and
half smothered with heat and sutt, while your breath comes heavy and
thick from the cap over your face!  Not nice, it ain't; and more than
once I've felt a bit sorry for the poor boys as I've sent up chimbleys
in my time.  But there I was, and I soon began scrambling up again, and
worked hard, for the chimbley was wider than the other one.  Last of all
I got up to the pot, and out on to the stack, and then again I had a
good cry.

"Now, when I'd rubbed my eyes again, I had another look round, and felt
as if I was at the wrong pot, so I scrambled down, slipped over the
slates, and got to a stack in front, when I felt sure I was right, for
there were black finger-marks on the red pot; so I got up, slipped my
legs in, and taking care this time that I didn't fall, began to lower
myself down slowly, though I was all of a twitter to know what Barkby
would do to me for being so long.  Now I'd slip a little bit, being so
sore and rubbed I could hardly stop myself; and then I'd manage to let
myself down gently; but all at once the chimbley seemed to open so wide,
being an old one I suppose, that I couldn't reach very well with my back
and elbows pressed out; so, feeling myself slipping again, I tried to
stick my nails in the bricks, at the same time drawing my knees 'most up
to my chin, when down I went perhaps a dozen feet, and then, where there
was a bit of a curve, I stuck reg'lar wedged in all of a heap, nose and
chin altogether, knees up against the bricks on one side, and my back
against the other, and me not able to move.

"For a bit I was so frightened that I never tried to stir, but last of
all the horrid fix I was in came upon me like a clap, and there I was,
half choked, dripping with perspiration, and shuddering in every limb,
wedged in where all was dark as Egypt.

"After a bit I managed to drag off my cap, thinking that I could then
see the daylight through the pot.  But no; the chimbley curved about too
much, and all was dark as ever; while what puzzled me was, that I
couldn't breathe any easier now the cap was off, for it seemed hot, and
close, and stuffy, though I thought that was through me being so
frightened, for I never fancied now but I was in the right chimbley, and
wondered that Barkby didn't shout.

"All at once there came a terrible fear all over me--a feeling that I've
never forgotten, nor never shall as long as I'm a sweep.  It was as if
all the blood in my body had run out and left me weak, and helpless, and
faint, for down below I could hear a heavy beat-beat-beat noise, that I
knew well enough, and up under me came a rush of hot smoke that nearly
suffocated me right off; when I gave such a horrid shriek of fear as
I've never forgot neither, for the sound of it frightened me worse.

"It didn't sound like my voice at all, as I kept on shrieking, and
groaning, and crying for help, too frightened to move, though I've often
thought since as a little twisting on my part would have set me loose,
to try and climb up again.  But, bless you, no; I could do nothing but
shout and cry, with the noise I made sounding hollow and stifly, and the
heat and smoke coming up so as to nearly choke me over and over again.

"I knew fast enough now that I had come down a chimbley where there had
been a clear fire, and now some one had put lumps of coal on, and been
breaking them up; and in the fright I was in I could do nothing else but
shout away till my voice got weak and wiry, and I coughed and wheezed
for breath.

"But I hadn't been crying for nothing, though; for soon I heard some one
shout up the chimbley, and then came a deal of poking and noise, and the
smoke and heat came curling up by me worse than ever, so that I thought
it was all over with me, but at the same time came a whole lot of hot,
bad-smelling steam; and then some one knocked at the bricks close by my
head, and I heard a buzzing sound, when I gave a hoarse sort of cry, and
then felt stupid and half asleep.

"By-and-by there was a terrible knocking and hammering close beside me,
getting louder and louder every moment; and yet it didn't seem to matter
to me, for I hardly knew what was going on, though the voices came
nearer and the noise plainer, and at last I've a bit of recollection of
hearing some one say `Fetch brandy,' and I wondered whether they meant
Barkby, while I could feel the fresh air coming upon me.  Then I seemed
to waken up a bit, and see the daylight through a big hole, where there
was ever so much rough broken bricks and mortar between me and the
light; and next thing I recollect is lying upon a mattress, with a fine
gentleman leaning over me, and holding my hand in his.

"`Don't,' I says in a whisper; `It's all sutty.'  Then I see him smile,
and he asked me how I was.

"`Oh, there ain't no bones broke,' I says; `only Barkby'll half kill
me.'

"`What for?' says another gentleman.

"`Why, coming down the wrong chimbley,' I says; and then, warming up a
bit with my wrongs, `But 'twarn't my fault,' I says.  `Who could tell
t'other from which, when there warn't no numbers nor nothink on 'em, and
they was all alike, so as you didn't know which to come down, and him a
swearing acause you was so long?  Where is he?'  I says in a whisper.

"One looked at t'other, and there was six or seven people about me; for
I was lying on the mattress put on the floor close aside a great hole in
the wall, and a heap o' bricks and mortar.

"`Who?' says the first gent, who was a doctor.

"`Why, Barkby,' I says; `my guv'nor, who sent me up number seven's
chimbley.'

"`Oh, he's not here,' says someone.  `This ain't number seven; this is
number ten.  Send to seven,' he says.

"Then they began talking a bit; and I heard something said about `poor
boy,' and `fearful groans,' and `horrid position;' and they thought I
didn't hear 'em, for I'd got my eyes shut, meaning to sham Abram when
Barkby came, for fear he should hurt me; but I needn't have shammed, for
I couldn't neither stand nor sit up for a week arter; and I believe
arter all, it's that has had something to do with me being so
husky-voiced.

"Old Barkby never hit me a stroke, and I believe arter all he was sorry
for me; but a sweep's is a queer life even now, though afore the act was
passed some poor boys was used cruel, and more than one got stuck in a
floo, to be pulled out dead."



CHAPTER SIX.

MY SHEFFIELD PATIENT.

Plenty of you know Sheffield by name; but I think those who know it by
nature are few and far between.  If you tried to give me your
impressions of the place, you would most likely begin to talk of a
black, smoky town, full of forges, factories, and furnaces, with steam
blasts hissing, and Nasmyth hammers thudding and thundering all day
long.  But there you would stop, although you were right as far as you
went.  Let me say a little more, speaking as one who knows the place,
and tell you that it lies snugly embosomed in glorious hills, curving
and sweeping between which are some of the loveliest vales in England.
The town is in parts dingy enough, and there is more smoke than is
pleasant; but don't imagine that all Sheffield's sons are toiling
continually in a choking atmosphere.  There is a class of men--a large
class, and one that has attained to a not very enviable notoriety in
Sheffield--I mean the grinders--whose task is performed under far
different circumstances; and when I describe one wheel, I am only
painting one of hundreds clustering round the busy town, ready to
sharpen and polish the blades for which Sheffield has long been famed.

Through every vale there flows a stream, fed by lesser rivulets, making
their way down little valleys rich in wood and dell.  Wherever such a
streamlet runs trickling over the rocks, or bubbling amongst the stones,
water rights have been established, hundreds of years old; busy hands
have formed dams, and the pent-up water is used for turning some huge
water-wheel, which in its turn sets in motion ten, twenty, or thirty
stones in the long shed beside it, the whole being known in the district
as "a wheel."

One of my favourite walks lay along by a tiny bubbling brook, overhung
with trees, up past wheel after wheel, following the streamlet towards
its head, higher up the gorge through which it ran--a vale where you
might stand and fancy yourself miles from man and his busy doings, as
you listened to the silvery tinkle of the water playing amidst the
pebbles, the sweet twittering song of birds overhead, or the hum of bees
busy amidst the catkins and the blossoms; watched the flashing of the
bright water as the sun glistened and darted amidst the leaves, till on
the breeze would come the "plash, plash," of the water-wheel, and the
faintly-heard harsh "chir-r-r-r" of blade upon grindstone, When,
recollecting that man was bound to earn his bread in the sweat of his
brow, one would leave the beauties around, and hurry on to some visit.

I had a patient who used to work in one of those pleasant little vales--
a patient to whom it fell to my lot to render, next to life, almost one
of the greatest services man can render to man.

He was genial and patient, handsome too, and I used to think what a fine
manly looking fellow he must have been before he suffered from the
dastardly outrage of which he was the victim.

He was very low spirited during the early part of his illness and he
used to talk to me in a quiet patient way about the valley, and I was
surprised to find how fond he was of nature and its beauties, some of
the sentiments that came from his lips being far above what one would
have expected from such a man.

My bill, I am sorry to say, was a very long one with him, but he laughed
and said that he had been a long patient.

"Why Doctor," he said one evening many many months after his accident,
and when he had quite recovered, and as he spoke he took his wife's
hand, "I shouldn't have found fault if it had been twice as much.  I
only wish it was, and I had the money to pay you that or four times as
much.  But you haven't made a very handsome job of me: has he, Jenny?"

There were tears in his wife's eyes, though there was a smile upon her
lip, and I knew that she was one who, as he told me, looked upon the
heart.

"Ah, Doctor," he said to me as he went over the troublous past, "it was
very pleasant there working where you had only to lift your eyes from
the wet whirling stone and look out of the open shed window at the
bright blue sky and sunshine.  There was not much listening to the birds
there amongst the hurrying din of the rushing stones, and the chafing of
band, and shriek of steel blade being ground; but the toil seemed
pleasanter there, with nothing but the waving trees to stay the light of
God's sunshine, and I used to feel free and happy, and able to drink in
long draughts of bright, pure air, whenever I straightened myself from
my task, and gathered strength for the next spell.

"I could have been very happy there on that wheel, old and ramshackle
place as it was, if people would only have let me.  I was making a
pretty good wage, and putting by a little every week, for at that time
it had come into my head that I should like to take to myself a wife.
Now, I'd lived nine-and-twenty years without such a thing coming
seriously to mind, but one Sunday, when having a stroll out on the
Glossop Road with John Ross--a young fellow who worked along with me--we
met some one with her mother and father; and from that afternoon I was a
changed man.

"I don't know anything about beauty, and features, and that sort of
thing; but I know that Jenny Lee's face was the sweetest and brightest I
ever saw; and for the rest of the time we were together I could do
nothing but feast upon it with my eyes.

"John Ross knew the old people; and when I came to reckon afterwards, I
could see plainly enough why my companion had chosen the Glossop Road:
for they asked us to walk with them as far as their cottage, which was
nigh at hand; and we did, and stayed to tea, and then they walked part
of the way back in the cool of the evening.  When we parted, and John
Ross began to chatter about them, it seemed as if a dark cloud was
settling down over my life, and that all around was beginning to look
black and dismal.

"`You'll go with me again, Harry?' he said to me as we parted.  `I
shan't wait till Sunday, but run over on Wednesday night.'

"`I don't know, I'll see,' I said; and then we parted.

"I went out that afternoon happy and light-hearted, I came back mad and
angry.  `He wants me to go with him to talk to the old people, while he
can chatter, and say empty nothings to that girl, who is as much too
good for him as she is for--'

"`Me!'  I said after a pause, for I seemed to grow sensible all at once,
and to see that I was making myself what I called rather stupid.  Then I
began to take myself to task, and to consider about the state of
affairs, seeing how that John Ross's visits were evidently favoured by
the old people, perhaps by their daughter, and therefore, why was I to
thrust myself in the way, and, besides being miserable myself, make two
or three others the same?

"`I'll go to bed and have a good night's rest,' I said, `and so forget
all about it.'

"How easy it is to make one's arrangements, but how hard sometimes to
follow them out!  I had no sleep at all that night; and so far from
getting up and going to begin the fresh week's work light-hearted and
happy, and determined not to pay any more visits along with John Ross, I
was dull, disheartened, and worrying myself as to whether Jenny Lee
cared anything for my companion.

"`If she does,' I said to myself, `I'll keep away, but if she does not,
why may she not be brought to think about me?'

"Somehow or another, John Ross had always made companion of me, in spite
of our having very different opinions upon certain subjects.  He was
for, and I was strongly against trades unions.  He always used to tell
me that he should convert me in time; but although we had been intimate
for three years, that time had not come yet.  On the contrary, certain
outrages that had disgusted the working men, had embittered me against
the unions.  However, we kept friends; and it was not upon that question
that he became my most bitter enemy.

"After many a long consultation with myself, I had determined to go with
Ross to the Lees only once more, and had gone; but somehow that `only
once more' grew into another and another visit; till from going with
John Ross alone, I got into the habit of calling without him, and was
always well received.  Jenny was pleasant and merry, and chatty, and the
old folks were sociable; and the pleasure derived from these visits
smothered the remorse I might otherwise have felt, for I could plainly
see, from John Ross's manner, how jealous and annoyed he was.  And yet
his visits always seemed welcome.  There was the same cheery greeting
from the old folks, the same ready hand-shake from Jenny; but matters
went on until, from being friends, John Ross and I furiously hated one
another, even to complete avoidance; while, from the honest, matured
thoughts of later years, I can feel now that it was without cause,
Jenny's feelings towards us being as innocent and friendly as ever dwelt
in the breast of a true-hearted English girl.

"But we could not see that, and in turn accused her of lightness and
coquetry, of playing off one against the other, and thought bitterly of
much that was kindly, true, and well meant.

"As may be supposed, each feelings bore bitter fruit.  John Ross accused
me of treachery, and sowing dissension, ending by desiring, with
threats, that I should go to the Lees no more; while I, just as angry,
declared that unless forbidden by Jenny, I should go there as frequently
as I desired.

"We came to blows.  It was during dinner hour, and the wheel was
stopped; we had been talking by the dam side, and at last, when in his
anger he had struck me, I had furiously returned the blow; then more
passed, and after a sharp struggle, I shook myself free, when, unable to
save himself, John Ross fell heavily into the deep water, and plunged
out of sight for a few moments.  But there was no danger, for as he came
up he was within reach, and he seized my outstretched hand, and I helped
him out, my anger gone, and ready to laugh at him, as he stood there
pale and dripping.

"`I shan't forget this,' he said, shaking his fist in my face.

"`Pooh! nonsense, man!'  I exclaimed, catching the threatening hand in
both mine.  `Let bygones be bygones, and make friends.'  But snatching
his hand away, he dashed in amongst the trees, and in a few moments was
out of sight.

"I did not go up to the Lees that night, but the next evening upon
walking up after work-hours, I found John Ross there; and that on all
sides I was received with a studied coldness.  The old people were quite
gruff, and their daughter only replied quietly to my questions.  I soon
found that my presence acted as a restraint upon the party, and with a
reproachful look at Jenny I rose to go.

"I did not see the tears that rose to Jenny's eyes as I left; for I was
meeting the triumphant looks of John Ross, and trying to smother down
the bitterness that rose in my breast.

"`He must have been poisoning them against me,' I muttered, as I took my
solitary way towards the town.  `I wonder what he has said!' then I
began to think of how I had come between him and his happiness, and
accused myself of selfishness, and at last reached my lodgings
determined to fight down my disappointment, and to try to forget it in
work.

"I fought hard, and it would be beyond words to tell the misery of my
solitary heart as I kept steadfastly from the Lees, working early and
late to drive away my thoughts, and too much taken up with my own
affairs to observe the strange, sullen way in which I was treated by the
other men in the wheel.  I did notice John Ross's scowls; but knowing
their cause, I did not pay much heed to them, telling myself that I was
serving him to the best of my ability, and that if he knew all I
suffered, he would only be too glad to offer me the hand of good
fellowship.

"`He'll find it out for himself some day,' I said, with a sigh, and went
on with my work.

"Of course you know what I mean by the wheel-bands, doctor?  You know
that to every grindstone there are endless leathern straps, to connect
them with the main shafts set in motion by the water-wheel; and by means
of these connections each man's stone is made to revolve.  As a matter
of course, if these bands were removed, a man's grindstone would be
motionless, and work impossible; and though such acts were common enough
in some wheels, nothing of the kind had taken place on our stream, so
that I was perfectly astounded one morning upon going to work to find
that my bands had been cut.

"I took it to be meant as a joke, so, though much annoyed, I merely set
to, and looking as good-humoured as possible, repaired my bands after a
rough fashion, so that, saving one or two breaks down, I managed to get
a pretty good day's work done.

"There was plenty of bantering going on, not of a pleasant, jovial kind,
but of a sneering, harsh nature, and I went home that night disheartened
and put out.  I did not give John Ross the credit of the trick, as being
too small; and I began to hope, too, that he saw me in my right light.
But there was another stab for me that night, for passing along one of
the streets whom should I meet but John himself, walking by the side of
Jenny Lee and her mother.

"Jenny gazed hard at me, for I moved to her as I passed; but it seemed
to me that she only looked on my salute with contempt, and I passed on
feeling more bitter than ever.

"The next morning on going to work my bands were gone, and the only
reply to my inquiries was a hoarse kind of laughter mingled with jeers.
I could see now plainly enough that, probably incited by John Ross, the
men intended to make my life so unpleasant at the wheel that I should be
glad to seek for work elsewhere.

"`Don't want no such independent men here,' shouted somebody, and
several other remarks were made of a like nature.

"`I can give way when I'm in the wrong, John Ross,' I muttered to
myself; `but if you're at the bottom of this, I intend to show you that
mine is consistency of behaviour and not cowardice.'  So, quietly
leaving the wheel, I took no heed of the laughter and jeers of the men,
but went back to the town, bought new bands, and, to the surprise of
those who had thought me driven away, went on with my work as though
nothing had happened.

"`I should take them bands home t'-night, lad,' said one, jeeringly.

"`Ay, they wean't be safe here,' said another.

"But I let them banter away, though I took care that my new bands should
not be stolen, rolling them up and carrying them away with me every
night when I left off work.

"This only served to increase the animosity of the men, and sneers and
sullen looks were hurled at me from morn till night, till at times I
began to ask myself whether it would not be wiser to seek elsewhere for
work.  But I always came to one conclusion--that I was in the right, and
that it would be miserable cowardice on my part to give up.

"So I kept on suffering in silence every insult and annoyance, such as,
to their disgrace be it said, some working men are only too ready to
heap upon any fellow-toiler who has had the misfortune to make himself
obnoxious.

"And so matters went on till one morning, when, passing a number of
lowering faces, I made my way to my seat, slipped on my bands, and then,
not noticing that the others were lingering about against door and
window, took up the first of the knife-blades I had to grind, and
applied it to the stone.  There was the sharp `chirring' noise, the
sparks darted away from beneath the blade, and then there was a sharp
blinding flash, a dull report, and I felt myself dashed back, scorched,
half stunned, and helpless, but still sensible enough to know that some
cowardly hand had placed a quantity of gunpowder where the sparks from
my stone would fly--a cruel unmanly trick that was not new in those
days--and as I lay there and groaned, I believe it was as much from
agony of mind as of body; for it seemed so mean, so despicable, that it
was hard to believe that men living in a Christian country could be
guilty of such an act.

"But there were some there who did not sympathise with the outrage; and
three or four lifted me up, and would have taken me to the infirmary,
but I begged them to bear me to my lodgings, and then fetch a doctor,
and they brought you.

"`I'd tell 'ee, lad, who put in the poother,' said one of them,
whispering in my ear, `but I darn't.'

"`I don't want to know, Jack Burkin,' I groaned, as I lay there in the
dark, `I'd rather not hear;' and as I spoke, my heart seemed to tell me
who was my enemy.

"`I wish the poor girl might have chosen a better husband,' I said to
myself that night, as I lay there sleepless from pain, when you had done
what you could for me, and I lay waiting for the day.  Not that I could
see it, for all was blank to me now; and as I thought, I pictured myself
as I felt I should be in the future--a tall, stout man, with vacant eyes
and a seamed and scarred face: for I knew that I was fearfully scorched,
and that hair, eyebrows, and lashes were burned off, and my face
terribly disfigured.

"It was a bitter time that, but though the pain was still most keen, I
laughed at it after the first four-and-twenty hours, glorying in and
blessing the day that had laid me helpless there; and I'll tell you the
reason why.

"John Ross had overshot the mark, while I had been blinder than I was at
the present time, when a happy light darted into my understanding, and I
learnt that I was not to be the solitary man I had expected.

"I was lying in pain and bitterness on the afternoon after the accident,
all in darkness.  You remember you had been to dress my blackened face
and hands once more, but you did not give me much comfort when I asked
you about my sight.

"`Remember' I said, `I told you to be hopeful, for I was in great
doubt.'

"`And what was I to do when blind?'  I asked myself.  Certainly, I had
saved up a little money, but I knew that would not last long, and that
it would be sunken by the doctor's bill.

"`Pity I did not go into the infirmary,' I groaned, and then I felt
ready to eat my words, for a sweet little sad voice, that made my heart
leap, said, `May I come in?'

"I could not have answered to have saved my life, but only groan and try
to turn away my face, lest she should see it--my blackened and scarred
face, disfigured with cotton-wool and dressing, my head with every scrap
of hair scorched off--and, had I been able, I should have tried to hide
it with my hands, but they too, with my arms, were burned and bandaged,
and I could only slightly turn my head and groan, as I thought of my
past manly looks, and trembled to be seen by the bright-faced girl who
had first made my heart to beat more swiftly.

"`May I come in?' was repeated again, but still I could not answer; and
then there was the light sound of a step crossing the chamber floor, a
rustle by the bedside, and I heard some one go down upon her knees, and
felt two little gentle hands laid upon one of my arms, and a sweet
little voice sobbing, `Oh, Harry! oh, Harry! that it should come to
this!'

"Speak?  I could not speak; and as to pain, I believe, with the
exultation then in my heart, I could have borne the keenest pangs that
ever fell to the lot of man.

"She did not love John Ross, then, and never had, or she would not have
come to me thus to lay bare the secret of her pure young heart.  Had I
been well and strong, and had the sense to have followed up the
opportunity once given, she would have been quiet and retiring; but now,
in this perilous time--for I learnt after that I was in danger, and that
this was known--Jenny had come to my bedside, like some ministering
angel, to tend and comfort me.

"I could speak at last though, even if it was but in a whisper; and in
those long hours, as she sat by my bed, all reserve was cast aside; and,
speaking as one who only looked upon things as they might have been, I
told her how I loved her, and how I had kept away, believing that she
would be happier with John Ross.

"I learnt now of his pettiness, of the way in which he had defamed me;
but let that pass.  I could forgive him all since I learned that he had
never gained entrance to the little heart beating by my side.  I
learned, too, of Jenny's suspicions, aroused by a purchase she had seen
the young man make, at a shop in the town, one day when she was not
perceived; but I would not have the thought harboured, for I bore him no
malice then.  And at last I groaned again, and the weak tears forced
themselves into my poor smarting eyes as the thought would come of what
might have been, and of how I must not indulge in such ideas now,
binding the fresh young girl by my side to a scarred and blinded man.  I
knew that I must be hideous to look upon, but in my ignorance I knew not
the heart placed by God in a true woman's breast, and I could only groan
again as I felt a little soft cheek laid to mine, cruelly burned as it
was, and the tender sympathising voice ask me if I was in much pain.

"`Only of the heart, Jenny,' I whispered, `as I think of what I might
have been.'

"And then her sobbing question, as she asked me not to think it
unmaidenly and bold of her to come to me, and to talk as she had done.

"What could I say, but ask God's blessing upon her head as her little
light step crossed the floor?  And then the brightness seemed to have
gone, and all was once more dark.

"Day after day she was at my side, to read to me gentle words of hope
and resignation; and when, more than once, I spoke of my altered looks,
my scarred face and sightless eyes, telling her how it cut me to the
heart to say it, but that all this must end, for I should not be acting
as a man if I bound her to such a wreck, spoiling her fair young life,
did she not tell me she could love me better than if I had been as I was
before, begging me not to send her away, lest I should break her heart?

"And it was almost in happiness that day that I lay there, very weak and
helpless.  You remember when I had been delirious, and very nigh unto
death.  The light still burned, but the oil was low and the flame danced
and flickered so that at any moment it might expire.  In the days of my
strength I had looked upon death with horror, trembling almost at the
name; but now, quite sensible as I lay there, as I thought, waiting for
its coming, it was with a strange calm feeling of resignation.  There
was no dread; I only felt happy and at ease, for those pure little lips
at my side had hour after hour offered up prayers in my behalf to where
prayers are heard, and with the sincere hope of forgiveness for what I
had done amiss, I lay waiting till my eyes should close in the last long
sleep.  I was sorry, and yet glad, for I felt that it would be cruel to
poor Jenny to get well; and though I knew her true heart and her love
for me, what was there in the future for her if she took to her heart a
husband who was blind and maimed?

"And then the flame grew stronger, ceasing to flicker, and burning with
a faint but steady flame--a flame that brightened day by day, and hope
would come back, whispered as it was in my too willing ears.

"Then, too, there came a day when there was, as it were, a pale dawn
before my eyes--a dawn which took months before it fully broke into day;
when after a good long look at my altered face, I took the stick I had
not yet been able to lay aside, and one bright afternoon in early spring
made my way up to the Lees, to find the old folks out, but Jenny at
home.

"And we talked long and earnestly that day, for I had made up my mind to
be a man.  I knew that I should always be plain, almost to distortion,
and I told myself that it was my duty to offer once more to set her
free.

"Jenny had been weeping silently for some time, when, turning to me, she
said, gently.  `Don't think me irreverent, Harry, but do you remember
how God chose David to be king over his people?'

"I nodded, for my heart seemed swelled unto bursting, and I could not
speak.

"`He looked upon the heart,' sobbed Jenny; `and oh, Harry, I have tried
to choose my king like that.'

"People call this world a vale of sorrows, and I pity those who always
speak like that, for they can never have felt the happiness that was
mine that night, as two fond arms clasped my neck, and a loving cheek
was laid to mine, and they were those of her who has been my wife these
fifteen happy years.

"I believe that there are those who think us a strangely-matched couple,
and that our little ones all favour their mother; but they don't know
all, for my foolish little wife is even proud of her husband."

"And well she may be!"  I said to myself as I went away, thinking what a
blot these trade outrages have been upon working-class history, and how
generous stout-hearted men often allow themselves to be led away by the
mouthing idlers of their workshops--by men who are constantly declaiming
against their betters, and who want as they say for all to be free and
equal, with as much sense as the child who cried for the moon.



CHAPTER SEVEN.

MY NON-STRIKING PATIENT.

I had just such a man as my Sheffield grinder to tend once for a broken
leg.  Samuel Harris was his name, and a very bad fracture I had to deal
with.

He lay there without a murmur as I made my examination and then shook my
head.

"Seems nasty, don't it, doctor," he said coolly.

"It's a very serious fracture," I said, "and I'm really afraid,--"

"That I shall lose my leg?" he said, anticipating my words.

"I will try and save it," I replied, "but you must be prepared for
amputation at any moment."

"All right doctor," he said, "I'm in your hands.  I won't grumble.  If
you do take it off, though, and it don't kill me, I'll see if I can't
contrive something better than those old wooden legs, that some fellows
peg about on."

"Well we'll see," I said, "and if you'll look at matters in that
cheerful way perhaps we shall get on."

I saved that man's leg: for a more patient fellow under suffering it was
impossible to find, and in the course of various conversations with him,
we talked of strikes and outrages, and the various trade disputes, and
by degrees he talked about himself and his experiences over similar
affaire.

"Ah!" he said, "some men can always make plenty of friends without
taking any trouble, and some can make plenty of enemies in the same way;
and that last seems to have been my luck through life.  I suppose as an
ordinary mechanic I'm not such a very bad sort, and I'll tell you why:
after about a dozen years of married life there's always a pleasant
smile to welcome me home--a sweet look that I always answer with a grin
which spreads all over my rough, dirty face till it gets lost on each
side in my whiskers, and up a-top in my hair.  Then, too, for all I'm a
big, grim-looking fellow, as my mates call Sour Sam, the little ones
never seem a bit frightened of me; but one comes and gets hold of my
cap, and another my coat, and one come and pulls before, and another
comes and pushes behind, till they get me in my chair beside the table;
and I know times and times I haven't had half a meal for the young
rebels climbing on me; for, somehow or another, if there is any time in
the day that goes fast, it's dinner hour.  You get sat down, and toss
this little one, and play with that, and eat two or three mouthfuls, and
then it's time to go back to the shop, and grime yourself up again with
steel filings and oil.

"I was such a grim, gruff fellow, that my shopmates took precious little
notice of me; and one day, after it had been brewing for some time, they
all turned out--hundred and forty of 'em.

"Now, I was so took aback, and it come upon me so unexpectedly, that I
put on my coat and came out with the rest, and stood outside the gates;
but as soon as I was outside, I felt mad at having done so, and would
have gone back, only it was too late, and what my shopmates had settled
it seemed that I must abide by.  So, thinking of how it would end, I
walked home, though two or three called me a sneak for not joining their
meeting at a public-house hard by.  After sitting by the fire for an
hour I made up my mind what I should do, and that was to go back to
work, for I didn't want to strike, and felt that the treatment we got at
the works was quite as good as we deserved; and it didn't seem fair to
me to look upon my employer as an enemy because he had had so much
better luck in the world than I had.  So back I went without a word, and
as I got near the gates there were three or four of our chaps hanging
about.

"`Where going, Sam?' says one.

"`Works,' I says, gruffly.

"`What for?' he says; and just then some others came up, and then from
here and there more and more, till fifty or sixty stood round.

"`I'm going into the works,' I said, roughly, and trying to shove my way
on.

"`Well, but what for!' he says, with a sort of half laugh.  `We haven't
heard that they've given the rise, but being a favourite you got the
news first.  Why didn't you tell us, mate?'

"Of course I didn't like his bantering way, nor I didn't like the half
laugh which followed; but I said nothing, only tried to push through the
crowd, when being brought up short I swallowed down a sort of feeling of
rage that seemed to come up my throat, and facing round, I says boldly:

"`Harry Perkins, you're on strike, as yer call it; well, I'm not.  You
don't mean work: I do; and I'm off into the shop.'

"Well, this seemed to stagger him for a moment, but the next minute half
a dozen fellows had hold of me, and I was dragged back right into the
middle of the crowd, and the voices I heard naming the pump and river
told me I should get some rather rough usage; but the English obstinacy
in me began to kick against this treatment, and, shouting out loudly, on
the chance of there being some present of my way of thinking, I says:

"`I mean work, mates, and down with the strikers.  Who's on my side?'
when fifteen or twenty came forward, and then I can't tell you how it
was, for I always was hot-blooded; the next minute we all seemed to be
raging and tearing at one another in a regular fight; men shouting, and
swearing, and striking fiercely at one another; some down and trampled
upon; some wrestling together; and the crowd swaying backwards forwards,
here and there, and the battle growing more and more bitter every
moment.

"You can't see much in a fight like this, when you have an enemy to
contend with the whole time; but I saw that the men now all came out in
their true colours, and that the sides were evenly balanced, for a good
half had turned out more from feeling bound to act as the others did,
than from being dissatisfied with the rate of pay; while now, seeing the
stand I had made on their side, they felt bound to take my part in
return, and, as I said before, the fight grew fiercer every moment,
while headed by Perkins, the man who had spoken to me, the other side
was making head, and we were being beaten back step by step and driven
along a narrow street, but fighting desperately the whole time.

"Every now and then a chap on one side or the other would stagger out
bleeding and wild, and make his way on to a doorstep, or up one of the
courts that connected the street with the next, and more than one went
down with a groan; while by some means or other about eight or nine of
our side were driven up a court by some of the other party, when, seeing
the chance, I shouted to them to follow, and we all ran hard, pursued by
our enemies for twenty yards or so, when they turned back.

"`Come on,' I shouted, and, leading the way, I got into the next street,
led them along it a little way, and then turned down the next court.
`Keep together,' I said, `and we'll take 'em behind;' and the next
minute we were back in the street, where our mates still fought on
desperately, for in my heart I believe every blow struck on our side was
nerved by the thought of home, and those we worked for.

"Next moment we took them in the rear, with a desperate rush, cheering
as we did so, and tumbling them over right and left; whilst our mates in
front who were just then giving way, cheered again and the fight was
hotter than ever.  But now, hemmed in between the two parties, the
strikers fought desperately, and I caught sight of Perkins with a small
hammer in his hand, knocking down first one and then another poor
fellow, who crawled out of the struggling mob as well as he could.

"There were no police visible, but they could have done nothing if they
had been there; but every window was crowded with people, while men's
wives came harrying up, and shrieking to the people looking on to stop
the fight.

"Just then I had downed the man opposed to me, when I heard a heavy
blow, and turning, saw the man who worked at the next vice to me go down
from a crack on the forehead from Perkins's hammer, and the next moment
I stood on one side just in time to avoid a blow aimed at me, when the
handle caught me on the shoulder, and the hammer-head snapped off,
falling upon the ground behind me.

"I believe I was half-mad then with pain and excitement as I leaped at
Perkins, and closed with him; when, being both big, stout fellows, and
heads of the row, the desperate struggle going on between us seemed to
act like magic on the others, who stopped to watch us as we wrestled
together here and there--now up, now down, the centre of a busy throng,
cheering and shouting us on, as if we had been two wild beasts fighting
for their amusement.

"I'm not going to give you a long description of a hard fight, nor of
the savage feelings that burned in my brain, as mad with fury I tore at
him again and again; for I often look back upon that time with feelings
of shame, though I can't help thinking that I only acted as most men
would have done in such a case.  All I can tell you is that I've a
recollection of giving and receiving fierce blows, of falling, being
picked up, and being cheered on, and muttering through my set teeth
`It's for those at home,' till there came a fiercer and longer struggle
than ever, ending in both falling heavily; and I shall never forget the
sickening crash with which my opponent's head came down upon the
kerb-stone.

"Then, blind and giddy, I was standing panting there with a policeman
hold of each arm, but only to be dragged from him next moment by my
mates, who bore me away cheering.

"Early next morning, though, the police were at my place, and I followed
them quietly, shuddering as I went, for I heard that Perkins was in a
dying state.  Then came the examination before the magistrates, and I
was remanded a day or two till the doctors had given in their opinion.
Our heads of the firm, though, took great interest in the case as soon
as they knew all the particulars; and one of the cleverest counsel they
could get took my affairs in hand, which ended in my being discharged,
for Perkins grew better; but a good many of us were fined pretty smartly
for the breach of the peace.

"The workshop was open directly, and quite half the men went back to
work; but from that day I began to find out that our town was no place
for me.  My employers were kind enough, and I was not a penny the worse
in pocket for my encounter; but it grew plainer and plainer to me, day
by day, that I should be driven out of the place.  Threatening letters
came; once I was struck down from behind as I came home on a dark night,
and though I felt sure the man I caught a glance of was Perkins, I could
not swear it.  Then came news of the cowardly tricks at Sheffield--
throwing powder into houses--and my wife grew pale and ill with
apprehension; while what filled the measure up to the brim was my poor
lass being set upon and insulted one night only a few yards from our
door, so near that I heard her call `Help,' and knew the voice, and ran
out.

"The next week I was sitting in our empty room; the floor trampled and
dirty with the feet of those who had been to the sale of the things in
our bit of a four-roomed house.  And the things had sold well, too; for
my mates had sent their wives, and one had bought one thing, and another
another.  But I was down-hearted and sad at seeing first one little
familiar thing and then another dragged away, while the thought of being
driven out of the place was bitter to me.  The wife and children had
gone on to London, and there was no one there to see me as something
which showed there were weak places in the strong man came into my eyes.

"But I had to choke that down, for a knock came at the door, and it
sounded hollow and strange in the empty place.  It was a letter; just in
time, too, for I was thinking just before of locking up the place and
going away, but fancied I should just like one pipe of tobacco for the
last where I had spent so many quiet evenings.  However, I opened the
letter, and then started to run after the postman, feeling that it must
be a mistake, for inside was a crisp new twenty-pound note, with a few
lines telling me that it was from two friends who regretted the loss to
the town and its works, of an honest, upright man, and begging my
acceptance of the trifle enclosed, as a testimony of the esteem in which
my services had been held.

"Twenty pounds, sir--a larger sum than I had ever before owned at once;
but as I'm an honest man I thought more of the words of that letter then
than I did of the money; while through being weak, I suppose, there was
a wet spot or two upon the note when I put it away.

"After it was dark that night, I went and thanked those from whom I knew
it had come, though they would not own to it; but the senior partner
slapped me on the shoulder as I went out, and he said:

"`There's too much holding aloof between master and man, Samuel Harris;
but if all mechanics were like you we should have no more strikes.'"

"He was quite right," I said, nodding.

"Think so, sir? perhaps he was, perhaps he was not, but depend upon it
the best way is to give and take all you can.  Striking's expensive work
for both sides; but you see the thing is this--what makes the trouble is
that neither side likes to be beat."



CHAPTER EIGHT.

MY PATIENT, THE DRIVER.

I wish I could put Solomon Gann before you in the flesh; for a finer
broad-shouldered specimen of humanity I never saw.  He was gruff, bluff,
swarthy; and rugged as his face was, it always bore a pleasant smile,
just as if he had said to you, "Ah! all right; things are rough; but I'm
going to take it coolly."

And he was cool; nobody cooler--even in cases of emergency; and a better
man for an engine-driver could not have been chosen.

I first met Solomon Gann in connection with an accident at Grandton,
where I and other surgeons were called in to attend the sufferers by a
collision with a goods train.  After that I attended him two or three
times; for he came to me in preference to the Company's surgeon, and he
used to give me scraps of information about his life, and tell me little
incidents in his career.

"Glorious profession, ain't it, Sir," he said.  "Grows more important
every day, does the railway profession, and is likely to.  Ah! people in
our great-grandfathers' days would have opened their eyes if you had
talked about being an engine-driver; and I ain't much like a four-horse
mail coachee, am I?  Rum set out, the rail.  Not so many years back, and
there wasn't such a thing; and now it employs its thousands, beginning
with your superintendents, and going down through clerks, and guards,
and drivers, and so on, to the lowest porter or cleaner on the line.

"I've had some experience, I have.  I was cleaner in the engine-house
afore I got put on to stoke; and I'm not going to say that
engine-drivers are worse off than other men because I happen to be one:
for we want a little alteration right through the whole machine: a
little easing in this collar; a little less stuffing there; them nuts
give a turn with the screw-hammer; and the oily rag put over the working
gear a little more oftener, while the ile-can itself ain't spared.
Don't you see, you know, I'm a speaking metaphorically; and of course I
mean the whole of the railways' servants.

"The Public, perhaps--and he's a terrible humbug that fellow Public--
thinks we are well paid and discontented; and leaving out danger, let me
ask him how he would like to be racing along at express speed through a
storm of wind and rain, or snow, or hail, for fifty miles without
stopping, blinded almost, cut to pieces almost; or roasting on a
broiling summer's day; or running through the pitchiest, blackest
night--Sunday and week-day all the year round.  `Well, you're paid for
it,' says the public.  So we are, and pretty good wages as times goes;
but those wages don't pay a man for the wear and tear of his
constitution; and though there's so much fuss made about the beauty of
the British constitution, and people brag about it to an extent that's
quite sickening, when you come down to the small bit of British
constitution locked up in a single British person's chest--him being an
engine-driver, you know--you'll find that constitution wears, and gets
weak, and liable to being touched up with the cold, or heat, or what
not; and it's a precious ticklish thing to mend--so now then!

"We don't want to grumble too much, but railway work isn't all lying
down on a feather-bed, smoking shag at threepence an ounce, and drinking
porter at threepence a pot in your own jugs; we have to work, and think
too, or else there would soon be an alteration in the companies'
dividends.  Accidents will happen, do what we will to stop 'em, and
there's no mistake about it, our accidents are, as a rule, bad ones--
terrible bad ones, even when life and limb don't get touched.  Only an
engine damaged, perhaps, but that can easily wear a thousand pound;
while a hundred's as good as nothing when a few trucks and coaches are
knocked into matchwood.  Then, too, when we have a bad `pitch-in,' as we
call it, look at the thousands as the company has to pull out for
damages to injured folks.  One chap, I see, got seven thousand the other
day for having his back damaged; and I don't know but what I'd think it
a good bargain to be knocked about to that tune.  But, there, they
wouldn't think my whole carcase worth half as much.  But our work ain't
feather-bed work, I can tell you; and as to risk, why, we all of us come
in for that more or less, though we get so used to it that we don't seem
to see the danger.

"Oh! you'll say `Familiarity breeds contempt,' or something else fine;
but just you come and stoke, or drive, or guard, or be signalman, or
pointsman, every day of your life, and just see if you'll pull a blessed
long face and be seeing a skillington with a hour-glass in one hand and
a harpoon in t'other, ready to stick it into yours or somebody else's
wesket every precious hour of the day.  It's all worry fine to talk, but
a man can't be always thinking of dying when he is so busy thinking
about living, and making a living for half-a-dozen mouths at home.  I
like to be serious, and think of the end in a quiet, proper way, as a
man should; but it's my humble opinion as the man who is seeing grim
death at every turn and in every movement, has got his liver into a
precious bad state, and the sooner he goes to the doctor the better.
'Taint natural, nor it ain't reasonable; and though we often get the
credit of being careless, I mean to say we don't deserve it half the
times, and the very fact of often being in risky places makes you think
nothing of 'em.  It's natural, you know, and a wonderful wise thing,
too; for if we were always to be thinking of the danger, it's my
belief--my honest belief--that your railway accidents would be doubled;
for the men would be that anxious and worried that they would work
badly, and in a few years knock up altogether, with their nerves
shattered to pieces.

"I've been on the line twenty year, and of course I've seen a little in
that space, and I could tell you hundreds of things about the different
dangers, if I had time.  Now, for instance, I'll tell you what's a great
danger that some railway servants has to encounter, and that is being at
a small country station, say where perhaps very few trains stop in a
day.  It don't matter whether it's clerk or porter, the danger's the
same; there's the fast trains thundering by over and over again, twenty
times a day may be, and after a time you get so used to them that _you
don't hear them coming_; and many's the time some poor fellow has
stepped down to cross the line right in front of one, when--there, you
know the old story, and I've got one horror to tell you, and that will
be quite enough, I dare say.

"`Carelessness--want of caution--the man had been years in the company's
service, and must have known better,' says the public.  But there--
that's just it--it's that constant being amongst the perils that makes a
man forget things that he ought to recollect; and are you going to try
and make me believe a man can have such power over his thinking
apparatus that he can recollect everything?  He must be a very perfect
piece of goods if there is such a one, and one as would go for ever, I
should think, without a touch of the oily rag.  No spots of rust on him,
I'll wager.

"Shunting's hard work--terrible hard work--for men; I mean the shunting
of goods trains at the little stations--picking up empty trucks, and
setting down the full ones; coupling, and uncoupling; and waving of
lanterns, and shouting and muddling about; and mostly in the dark; for,
you see, the passenger traffic is nearly all in the day-time, while we
carry on the goods work by night.  Ah! shunting's queer work where
there's many sidings, and you are tripping over point-handles, and rods,
or looking one way for the train and going butt on to an empty truck the
other way.  There's some sad stories relating to shunting--stories of
fine young fellows crushed to death in a moment; let alone those of the
poor chaps you may see to this day at some of the crossings with wooden
legs or one sleeve empty--soldiers, you know, who have been wounded in
the battle of life, and I think as worthy of medals as anybody.

"Of course, you know, a `pitch-in' will come some time spite of all
care; and I've been in one or two in my time, but never to get hurt.  I
remember one day going down our line and getting pretty close to a
junction where another line crossed the down so as to get on to the up.
I knew that it was somewhere about the time for the up train to come
along, for it was generally five minutes before me, and I passed it
about a couple of miles before I got to the junction--me going fast, it
slow.  Sometimes we were first, and then it was kept back by signal till
we had passed, so that on the day I am talking of, I thought nothing of
it that my signal was up `All clear,' though the up train hadn't
crossed, and with my stoker shovelling in the coal, I opened the
screamer and on we were darting at a good speed--ours always having been
reckoned a fast line.

"All at once, though, I turned as I had never turned before--thoroughly
struck aback; for as I neared the station I saw the signal altered, and
at the same moment the up train coming round the curve; then it was
crossing my line; and it seemed to me that the next moment we should cut
it right in two and go on through it.  But we were not quite so nigh as
that, and before we got close up I had shut off, reversed, and was
screwing down the break, for my stoker seemed struck helpless; then I
just caught a glimpse of him as he leaped off; there was a crash, and I
was lying half stunned back amongst the coal in the tender, and we were
still dashing on for nearly a mile before I was quite recovered and the
train at a standstill.

"I was half stupid for a bit, and on putting my hand to my head I found
that it was bleeding, whilst the screen was bent right down over me, and
had saved my life, no doubt.  As far as I could see then there was no
more damage done to us, and just then the guard came running up and
shook hands when he found I'd got off so well.

"`But where's Joe?' he says, meaning my stoker.

"`He went off,' I says, `just as we went into 'em.  How about t'other
train?'

"`Let's run back,' he says; and I put her gently back; but all the while
in a muddly sort of way, as if I wasn't quite right in my head, which
bled powerful.  Then there was a good deal of shouting and noise amongst
the passengers; but my guard went along the foot-board from coach to
coach till he had quieted them all pretty well, and then by that time
they signalled to us to stop.

"Not many ruins to see, there wasn't, only the guard's break of the up
train, which my engine had struck full, and another few seconds of time
would have let us go clear; while how the points didn't throw us off I
can't tell, for it's quite a wonder that my train kept on the line.

"The guard's break was knocked all to shivers, of course, but he had
jumped out and escaped with a bruise or two; but not so poor Joe, as I
soon saw; for when I asked about him, they showed me something lying
under a tarpaulin which a doctor was just putting straight again.  But
of all things that struck me on the day of that accident there was
nothing like the face of the poor young fellow as had the management of
the signal.  I never saw a face so pale and ghastly and frightened
before.  But there let it rest.  I suppose he was frightened and
confused at seeing the two trains coming in together; and as better men
have done afore now, he lost his nerve.

"Ever kill anyone?  What! run him down?  Yes, one.  Shocking thing, too,
and one I don't much like talking about; but then, it was not my fault,
and I did my best to save him: but then, what can you do when you're
going nearly a mile a minute?

"That was a shunting case, that was, with a goods train, at a little
station, past which we on the express down used to go at the rate I said
just now.  This goods up used to stop there, and be picking up and
setting down nearly every day when we passed.  I used to give a whistle,
and then it was touch and go, and we were thundering along and past
them.  But one day as we were running along the straight I could see the
guard signalling his engine-driver to back a bit to run into a siding,
as it came out at the inquest, for some empties, and to do this, what
does he do but step on to the down line, and right in front of my train.

"Now all he had to do was to step off again, for he had plenty of time,
and keep in the six-foot till we were gone by.  I set the whistle going,
and I saw his driver waving his hand to him, and a man at the station
seemed to me to be shouting; and all this I noticed as we tore along;
and then he did not move, while I felt my blood creep like, as I leaned
round the screen, holding on to the handle; and just as if he could hear
me I shouted to him to take care as I wrenched the handle and signed my
stoker to grind down the break.

"But there, bless you, it was impossible to stop, and though I felt no
shock, it seems to me that my heart did, and when we pulled up in a
wonderful short time, my stoker and I were looking at one another in a
queer scared way, for the buffer had caught the poor fellow and driven
him along; then the wheels had him, and he was tossed at last into the
six-foot to lie with his life-blood soaking into the gravel.

"I'm a big, stout fellow, but as I ran back towards the station I felt
sick, and my head was in a whirl; while I seemed to be hearing the
thundering-by of the train, the shriek of the whistle, the grinding and
screeching of the braked wheels, and seeing that poor fellow torn to
pieces.  And then I got close up to the spot where there was something
lying, and others were coming up to it, all feeling the same creeping,
horrified sensation as they trembled and gathered up the pieces of what
had a minute before been one of themselves.

"What ought I to have done?  Gone back to my engine, helped the men from
the station, thrown sand and ballast over the horrible stains?  What
ought I to have done?  I don't know.  But I'll tell you what I did do.
I went and sat down on the bank beside the line, and cried like a great
girl.

"But no one saw it, for I had my hands over my face, and them down on my
knees, while a gentleman from my train, thinking I was faint, gave me
some brandy from his flask, and then I went back to my engine and
finished my journey.

"No fault of mine, you know, and though in the heat of a fight a man may
perhaps strike down another without feeling any sorrow, yet to cause the
death of a fellow servant, when in the ordinary daily work of one's
life, had something very awful in it, and it was a long time before I
could run down past that station without feeling my heart beat faster,
and a strange shuddering sensation come over me.

"I could tell you some strange stories of our life, sir, not one of the
easiest, but I think we'll stop here for to-day."



CHAPTER NINE.

MY PATIENT AT THE FIRE.

"And you don't think she'll be marked, sir?"

"No; scarcely at all," I said.  "Poor child! she feels the shock more
than anything."

"Thank God!" he said, fervently.  "I'd sooner have lost my own life than
she should have suffered.  You see, sir, I get blaming myself for taking
her; but she said she would so like to see a pantomime, and I thought it
would be such a treat.  I don't think I shall ever take her, though,
again."

"How did it happen?"  I said.

"Ah! that's what nobody seems to know, sir," he said.  "It was a
terribly full night at the theatre; and though we reached the doors in
very good time, with my poor little lassie in high glee, I found we were
behind a great many more; and I half wished that I had left work
earlier, so as not to disappoint the child.  The only pity is, though,
that we could get in at all; but we did, and tried to go slowly up the
great corkscrew staircase, crowded with good-tempered people, laughing,
and pushing their way up.  Twice over I felt disposed to give it up; but
I thought the child would be so disappointed, and I kept on, taking her
upon my back at last when the crowding was worst, and at last getting
past the pay barrier, and hurrying up the almost endless steps.

"There was a regular sea of heads before me when I stood at last looking
for a favourable spot, and soon finding that taking a seat meant seeing
nothing of the performance, I contrived to wedge my way along between
two rows of seats occupied by people loud in their protestations that
there was no room, till I found a standing-place in front of one of the
stout supports of the upper gallery--a pillar that I have always thought
of since as the saving of my life.

"I am not going to discuss whether theatres are good or bad places, but
I know that night the greatest enjoyment I had was in watching my little
girl's animated countenance, as her eyes rested now upon the handsome
chandelier, now upon the boxes full of well-dressed people, then half
dancing with pleasure at the strains from the orchestra, while her
delight bordered almost upon excitement when the curtain drew up and a
showy piece was performed.

"Hundreds must have been turned from the doors that night, for,
excepting in the principal parts of the house, there was not standing
room, while the heat was frightful.  In our poor part of the house we
had been wedged in till there was not a vacant spot to be seen, and
between the acts the men and women, with their baskets of apples and
oranges, came forcing their way through, and were terribly angry with
me, as I stood leaning against my pillar, for standing in their way.

"All at once I turned all of a cold shiver, and then the blood seemed to
run back to my heart, while my hands were wet with perspiration; for
quite plainly I had smelt that unmistakable odour of burning wood.  I
looked about me; all was as it should be; people were eating, drinking,
and laughing; the curtain was down, and the orchestra sending out its
lively strains.

"`Fancy,' I thought to myself; and I leaned back against my pillar once
more, resting my hands upon my child's shoulders, as we stood there
exactly opposite the centre of the stage, and consequently as far from
the doors as possible; while the recollection of that tremendous
corkscrew staircase made me shudder again, and, fancy or no fancy, I
took hold of the child's arm, meaning to force myself through the crowd,
and get out.  Once I nearly started, but hesitated, thinking how
disappointed she would be to leave when the best part of the performance
was to come; twice I was going, and so hesitated for about five
minutes--just long enough to have enabled me to reach the staircase and
begin running down.  Just five minutes; and then smelling the fire once
more, I grasped the child's arm, said `Come along,' and had made two
steps, when I saw that I was too late, and dashed back to where I had
stood a minute before, by the pillar.

"I won't call it presence of mind, for fear of being considered vain;
but I felt sure that, if I wished to save my child's life, my place was
by that pillar in the centre, for I knew the people would rush right and
left towards the doors at the first alarm.

"And now, what made me start back? why, the sight of several people
hurrying towards the door; of one here and another there starting up and
looking anxiously round as if aware of coming danger; of people
whispering together; and anxious faces beginning to show amongst those
which smiled.  Then came a dead pause; the band had ceased playing, and
the musicians were hurrying out through the door beneath the stage,
upsetting their music-stands as they went.  Still, people did not move,
but seemed wondering, till right at the top above the curtain there was
a faint flash of light, and a tiny wreath of faint blue smoke, when a
shriek, which rang through the whole place, was heard--the most
horrible, despairing cry I ever heard--a cry which acted like a shock to
every soul present, and unlocked their voices, for before the eye had
seen another flash, the whole audience was afoot, shrieking, yelling,
and swaying backwards and forwards in a way most horrible, and never to
be forgotten.  Box doors crashed, as men flung them open and the
hurrying crowd in the passage dashed them to again, making the people
shriek more than ever, as they fancied themselves fastened in.

"First one and then another man rushed from behind the curtain upon the
stage, moving his arms and speaking; but they might as well have shouted
to a storm, as the cry of `Fire!' rang through the house, and people
tore towards the doors.  Self, self, self, seemed to be the only thought
as men clambered into the upper gallery, or dropped down into ours.
Scores climbed down into the boxes; hundreds dashed frantically along,
trampling others under foot, and even clambering over the heads of the
dense, wedged-in throng, trying to reach the doors; but all hindering
one another.

"It would have been a madman's act; but I wanted to run, too, and be one
of the surging crowd--to be in action at a time when one's blood ran
cold to hear the horrible groans and shrieks of the frightened mob,
wedged into a mass, from which now and then a horrid cry rose from a
poor wretch beaten down and trampled under foot.  I closed my eyes for a
moment, but I could see plainly enough the horrors that were going on
upon that staircase, and yet I had to fight hard against not only self,
but the mob who swayed backwards and forwards past me, some making for
one door, some for the other, perhaps only to return again shrieking
with horror; while more than one, in climbing over the rails in front of
the gallery, fell headlong into the pit.

"As soon as I had been able to collect myself a little, I had caught
hold of my child and thrust her at full length beneath the nearest seat,
and there she lay, too terrified to move, while people leaped from form
to form, over and over her, and I all the time clung desperately to that
pillar where I had stood all the evening.  More than once I was nearly
dragged away; but it acted as a break to the violence of the onslaughts,
and whichever way the crowd came, I sheltered myself behind it.

"I felt that it was madness to try and get out, though, had I been
alone, I should have tried to reach the pit by climbing from tier to
tier; but with a child it was impossible.  My best plan seemed to be to
follow the example of a grey-haired old man who was holding on by the
railings in front of the gallery and calmly, to all appearance, watching
the leaping of the fire, though I shuddered as I saw the progress it was
making: the curtain was dropping in fiery flakes upon the stage; scenery
and woodwork were falling crashing down; while from over the chandelier
in the centre of the ceiling a red glowing light kept playing, towards
which the smoke floated in wreaths.

"Crash! crash! crash! wings and flies kept falling upon the stage, now
from back to front one blaze, from which the sparks, like a golden
whirlwind, rushed up amidst the smoke; while the roar became fiercer and
fiercer as the currents of air rushed towards the body of flame and
fanned it into fresh fury.  The glow now fell upon my face, and I turned
to fly, for there seemed greater danger in staying than in attempting to
escape.  The gallery was now nearly empty, though the cries, shouts, and
groans from the staircase were still awful.

"I had already leaped over two or three benches, when I remembered the
child, and dashed to drag out the little trembling thing, pale and
half-stifled with the wreathing smoke which spread through the place.
The next moment I had her on my back, and hurried to the right-hand
door; but here the struggle and turmoil were fearful, and I turned and
made my way to the other, climbing over the broken-down barrier at the
back of the gallery, beneath which lay two women groaning.

"I looked back: there were the flames, now crawling round the pillars on
each side the stage, and licking and playing amongst the curtains of the
private boxes.  The audience had all gone from the other parts of the
house, but men were darting out of the orchestra door, bringing with
them loads of anything valuable they could rescue from the flames.

"In front of the gallery still sat the old man leaning over the
railings, and with a half-dread upon me that something was wrong, I
hurried back and shook him heavily, when I started back in horror as he
fell across the benches, turning up the most distorted face I ever saw
as he lay evidently in a fit from fright.

"The flames were coming nearer and nearer, and the smoke grew more and
more stifling.  The anxiety to be out of this horrible place was
intense, but I could not go and leave a fellow-creature helpless in such
a situation; so once more making my way to the open door, I set the
child down close by the women, leaped back from bench to bench, and
somehow contrived to lift the old man and drag him to the top of the
staircase, where I staggered against the wall overcome with dread, for
the child was gone.  `Had she been taken down the stairs?'  I asked the
women, and shook them roughly to get an answer, but they were quite
insensible.  It was too much to bear, and I dashed down the staircase,
up which still came the sounds of yelling and struggling, as the people
fought their way towards safety; but every here and there the crippled
and wounded of the fight were left behind, to slowly crawl downwards,
their countenances blanched with horror.

"Round and round, ever downwards, I hurried till I came upon a party of
men coming up, headed by a body of policemen--for the staircase was at
length open; and in reply to my anxious inquiries, I learnt that they
had met someone carrying a child, and the next moment I was down in the
entrance catching the little one out of the arms of the man who had
turned back to bring her down.

"And now, as I stood there faint and exhausted, I But first one and then
another brought out, crushed and bleeding, till I staggered off, the
child taking me home, further and further from the lurid light behind,
towards which people were hurrying from all directions; for I was giddy
and confused, but none the less thanks for for my escape."



CHAPTER TEN.

MY PATIENTS AT THE MINE.

My residence in Sheffield made me pretty well acquainted with the
Yorkshire character, bluff, rough, frank, and hospitable.  The first
impressions of Yorkshire are perhaps not pleasant, but you soon find
that beneath the rough crust there is a great deal that is very
warm-hearted and kind.

Upon more than one occasion some terrible accident at one of the coal
pits of the South Yorkshire collieries took me out of the town to supply
the extra help needed at such a time, and more than once I have been
present at terribly heart-rending sights.

I know nothing more shocking, unless it be a wreck, than one of those
coal pit accidents, where a shift of men have gone down in robust health
to their work, and then there has been a noise like thunder, the news
has run like lightning, and the first cry is whose man or whose boy was
down.

It was during one of those journeys when I had been summoned to help,
that, strolling towards a neighbouring pit for the sake of change and
rest after a couple of days' very hard toil amongst the injured by fire
and the falling of the mine roof, I came upon the manager of the
neighbouring mine.

He nodded to me in a familiar way.

"Nice morning," he said.

"Yes, but cold," I replied.

"Yes, it is cold.  How are you going on yonder?"

"I don't think there'll be any more deaths," I said.  "The poor fellows
are getting on now."

"Thank God!" he said with a genuine reverence in his tone of voice, "and
keep such an accident far from my pit."

"Amen to that," I replied.  "Is this your pit, then?"

"I call it mine," he said laughing, "but it's a company's.  I'm
manager."

"Indeed," I said, "then perhaps you can gratify my wish to go down."

"Go down?" he said laughing, "Yes, if you'll come and stay with us a
night or two."

I hesitated, but he pressed me.

"I should like you to come, doctor.  A word or two from you would go
well home to my pit-lads who are terribly careless.  You being a doctor
and a scientific man would be believed."

"How did you know I was a doctor?"  I asked.

"How did I know thou wast a doctor?  Why, didn't I come over to
Stannicliffe pit, and see you at work with the poor lads.  Say you'll
come doctor, you'll do your work better after a change, and I'll send
word over that you are here if you're wanted."

"On those conditions I'll come then," I said.  "Is that your house?"

"Yes, that's my house under the hillside there, facing the south, where
the lights are; you saw it as you came up.  Pretty?  Well, as pretty as
we can make it.  Looks like an oasis in a black desert; and hard work it
is to keep it decent with so many pits about, each belching out its
clouds of villainous smoke black as the coal which makes it; for you see
we have not only the fires for the pumping and cage engine, but those at
the bottom of the ventilating shafts, and the soot they send floating
out into the air is something startling, without counting the sulphurous
vapours which ruin vegetation.

"Of course, if you like to go down you can go.  I'll go with you.  Oh
yes: I've often been down.  I should think I have!  Hundreds of times.
Why, I've handled the pick myself in the two-foot seam as an ordinary
pitman, though I'm manager now.  I don't see any cause to be ashamed of
it.  And, after all, it's nothing new here in Yorkshire.  I could point
out a score of men who have been at work in the factories, now holding
great works of their own.

"Accidents?  Well, yes; we do have accidents, in spite of all
precautions and inspection, but not so bad as at Stannicliffe.  I'll
tell you of one by and by.  Now you, coming down to see a coal pit, look
upon it as a dangerous place.  Without being cowardly, you'll shudder
when we go down the great black shaft a couple of hundred yards, and
you'll then walk as if you were going through a powder-magazine.  But
you know what you used to write in your copy-book at school,
`Familiarity breeds contempt.'  Truer words were never written, and I
see it proved every week.  It's dangerous work going up and down our
pit, and yet the men will laugh, and talk, and do things that will
almost make your blood run cold.  It is like throwing a spark amongst
gunpowder to open a lamp in some parts of our mine; but our men, for the
sake of a pipe, will ran all risks, even to lighting matches on the
walls, and taking naked candles to stick up, that they may see better to
work.

"Yes, we've had some bad accidents here, but I shall never forget one
that happened five-and-twenty years ago.  Tell you about it?  Good: but
it shall be after tea, by the warm fireside, and then if you like to go
down the pit in the morning, why, go you shall.

"There, that's cosy.  This is the time I always enjoy--after tea, with
the curtains drawn; the wind driving the snow in great pats against the
window-panes as it howls down the hillside, and makes the fire roar up
the chimney.  Not particular over a scuttle of coals here, you see.  One
of your London friends was down once, and he declared that if he lived
here he should amuse himself all day long with poker and shovel.

"And now, about this story of the accident I promised--only to hear this
you must learn a little more beside.  _You_ needn't go out of the room,
my dear.

"Well, as I told you, it was five-and-twenty years ago, and I was just
five-and-twenty years old then--working as regular pitman on the day or
night shift.  Dirty work, of course, but there was soap in the land even
in those days; and when I came up, after a good wash and a change, I
could always enjoy a read, such times as I didn't go to the
night-school, where, always having been a sort of reading fellow, I used
to help teach the boys, and on Sundays I used to go to the school and
help there.

"Of course it was all done in a rough way, for hands that had been busy
with a coal-pick all day were not, you will say, much fit for using a
pen at night.  However, I used to go, and it was there I found out that
teaching was a thing that paid you back a hundred per cent, interest,
for you could not teach others without teaching yourself.

"But--I may as well own to it--it was the teaching at the Sunday-school
I used to look forward to, for it was there I used to see Mary Andrews,
the daughter of one of our head pitmen.  He was not so very high up,
only at the pit village he lived in one of the best houses, and had
about double the wages of the ordinary men.

"Consequently, Mary Andrews was a little better dressed and better
educated than the general run of girls about there; and there was
something about her face that used, in its quiet earnestness, to set me
anxiously watching her all the time she was teaching, till I used to
wake up of a sudden to the fact that the boys in my class were all at
play, when, flushing red all over the face, I used to leave off staring
over to the girls' part of the big school-room, and try to make up for
lost time.

"I can't tell you when it began, but at that time I used somehow to
associate Mary Andrews' pale innocent face with everything I did.  Every
blow I drove into a coal-seam with my sharp pick used to be industry for
Mary's sake.  Of an evening, when I washed off the black and tidied up
my hair, it used to be so that she might not be ashamed of me if we met;
and even every time I made my head ache with some calculation out of my
arithmetic--ten times as difficult because I had no one to help me--I
used to strive and try on till I conquered, because it was all for
Mary's sake.

"Not that I dared to have told her so, I thought, but somehow the
influence of Mary used to lift me up more and more, till I should no
more have thought of going to join the other pitmen in a public-house
than of trying to fly.

"It was about this time that I got talking to a young fellow about my
age who worked in my shift.  John Kelsey his name was, and I used to
think it a pity that a fine clever fellow like he was, handsome, stout,
and strong, should be so fond of the low habits, dog-fighting and
wrestling, so popular amongst our men, who enjoyed nothing better than
getting over to Sheffield or Rotherham for what they called a day's
sport, which generally meant unfitness for work during the rest of the
week.

"`Well,' said John, `your ways seem to pay you,' and he laughed and went
away; and I thought no more of it till about a month after, when I found
out that I was what people who make use of plain simple language call in
love, and I'll tell you how I found it out.

"I was going along one evening past old Andrews' house, when the door
opened for a moment as if some one was coming out, but, as if I had been
seen, it was closed directly.  In that short moment, though, I had heard
a laugh, and that laugh I was sure was John Kelsey's.

"I felt on fire for a few moments, as I stood there unable to move, and
then as I dragged myself away the feeling that came over me was one of
blank misery and despair.  I could have leaned my head up against the
first wall I came to and cried like a child; but that feeling passed off
to be succeeded by one of rage.  For, as the blindness dropped from my
eyes, I saw clearly that not only did I dearly love Mary Andrews--love
her with all a strong man's first love, such a love as one would feel
who had till now made his sole companions of his books--but that I was
forestalled, that John Kelsey was evidently a regular visitor there,
and, for aught I knew to the contrary, was her acknowledged lover.

"I did not like playing the spy; but, with a faint feeling of hope on me
that I might have been mistaken, I walked back past the house, and there
was no mistake, John Kelsey's head was plainly enough to be seen upon
the blind, and I went home in despair.

"How I looked forward to the next Sunday, half resolved to boldly tell
Mary of my love, and to ask her whether there was any truth in that
which I imagined, though I almost felt as if I should not dare.

"Sunday came at last, and somehow I was rather late when I entered the
great school-room, one end of which was devoted to the girls, the other
to the boys.  At the first glance I saw that Mary was in her place; at
the second all the blood in my body seemed to rush to my heart, for
there, standing talking to the superintendent, was John Kelsey, and the
next minute he had a class of the youngest children placed in his
charge, and he was hearing them read.

"`He has done this on account of what I said to him,' was my first
thought, and I felt glad; but directly after I was in misery, for my
eyes rested upon Mary Andrews, and that explained all--it was for her
sake he had come.

"I don't know how that afternoon passed, nor anything else, only that as
soon as the children were dismissed I saw John Kelsey go up to Mary's
side and walk home with her; and then I walked out up the hillside,
wandering here and there amongst the mouths of the old unused pits half
full of water, and thinking to myself that I might just as well be down
there in one of them, for there was no more hope or pleasure for me in
this world.

"Time slipped on, and I could plainly see one thing that troubled me
sorely; John was evidently making an outward show of being a hardworking
fellow, striving hard for improvement, so as to stand well in old
Andrews' eyes, while I knew for a fact that he was as drunken and
dissipated as any young fellow that worked in the pit.

"I could not tell Andrews this, nor I could not tell Mary.  If she loved
him it would grieve her terribly, and be dishonourable as well, and
perhaps he might improve.  I can tell him though, I thought, and I made
up my mind that I would; and meeting him one night, evidently hot and
excited with liquor, I spoke to him about it.

"`If you truly love that girl, John,' I said, `you'll give up this sort
of thing.'

"He called me a meddling fool, said he had watched me, that he knew I
had a hankering after her myself, but she only laughed at me; and one
way and another so galled me that we fought.  I went home that night
braised, sore, and ashamed of my passion; while he went to the Andrews'
and said he had had to thrash me for speaking insultingly about Mary.

"I heard this afterwards, and I don't know how it was but I wrote to her
telling her it was false, and that I loved her too well ever to have
acted so.

"When next we met I felt that she must have read my letter and laughed
at me.  At all events, John Kelsey did, and I had the mortification of
seeing that old Andrews evidently favoured his visits.

"John still kept up his attendance at the school, but he was at the far
end; and more than once when I looked up it was to find Mary Andrews
with her eyes fixed on me.  She lowered them though directly, and soon
after it seemed to me that she turned them upon John.

"It seems to me that a man never learns till he is well on in life how
he should behave towards the woman of; his choice, and how much better
it would be if he would go and, in a straightforward, manly fashion,
tell her of his feelings.  I was like the rest, I could not do it; but
allowed six months to pass away over my head.

"I was sitting over my breakfast before starting for work, when I heard
a sound, and knew what it meant before there were shrieks in the
village, and women running out and making for the pit's mouth a quarter
of a mile away.  I tell you I turned sick with horror, for I knew that
at least twenty men would be down on the night shift; and though it was
close upon their leaving time, they could not have come up yet.

"`Pit's fired! pit's fired!'  I heard people shrieking; not that there
was any need, for there wasn't a soul that didn't know it, the pit
having spoken for itself.  And as I hurried out I thought all in a flash
like of what a day it would be for some families there, and I seemed to
see a long procession of rough coffins going to the churchyard, and to
hear the wailings of the widow and the fatherless.

"There was no seeming, though, in the wailings, for the poor frightened
women, with their shawls pinned over their heads, were crying and
shrieking to one another as they ran on.

"I didn't lose any time, as you may suppose, in running to the pit's
mouth, but those who lived nearer were there long before me; and by the
time I got there I found that the cage had brought up part of the men
and three who were insensible, and that it was just going down again.

"It went down directly; and just as it disappeared who should come
running up, pale and scared, but Mary Andrews.  She ran right up to the
knot of men who had come up, and who were talking loudly, in a wild,
frightened way, about how the pit had fired--they could not tell how--
and she looked from one to the other, and then at the men who were
scorched, and then she ran towards the pit's mouth where I was.

"`There's no one belonging to you down, is there?'  I asked her.

"`Oh yes--yes! my father was down, and John Kelsey.'

"As she said the first words, I felt ready for anything; but as she
finished her sentence, a cold chill came over me, and she saw the
change, and looked at me in a strange, half-angry way.

"`Here comes the cage up,' I said, trying hard to recover myself, and
going up to the bank by her side; but when half-a-dozen scorched and
blackened men stepped out, and we looked at their disfigured faces, poor
Mary gave a low wail of misery, and I head her say, softly, `Oh, father!
father! father!'

"It went right to my heart to hear her bitter cry, and I caught hold of
her hand.

"`Don't be down-hearted, Mary,' I said huskily; `there's hope yet.'

"Her eyes flashed through her tears, as she turned sharply on me; and
pressing her hand for a moment, I said, softly, `Try and think more
kindly of me, Mary.'  And then I turned to the men.

"`Now, then, who's going down?'

"`You can't go down,' shouted half-a-dozen voices; `the choke got 'most
the better of us.'

"`But there are two men down!'  I cried, savagely.  `You're not all
cowards, are you?'

"Three men stepped forward, and we got in the cage.

"`Who knows where Andrews was?'  I cried; and a faint voice from one of
the injured men told me.  Then I gave the warning, and we were lowered
down; it having been understood that at the first signal we made we were
to be drawn up sharply.

"The excitement kept me from being frightened; but there was a horrid
feeling of oppression in the air as we got lower and lower, and twice
over the men with me were for being drawn up.

"`It steals over you before you know it,' said one.

"`It laid me like in a sleep when Rotherby pit fired,' said another.

"`Would you leave old Andrews to die?'  I said, and they gave in.

"We reached the bottom, and I found no difficulty in breathing, and,
shouting to the men to come on, I ran in the direction where I had been
told we should find Andrews; but it was terrible work, for I expected
each moment to encounter the deadly gas that had robbed so many men of
their lives.  But I kept on, shouting to those behind me, till all at
once I tripped and fell over some one; and as soon as I could get myself
together, I lowered the light I carried, and, to my great delight, I
found it was Andrews.

"Whether dead or alive I could not tell then; but we lifted him amongst
us, and none too soon, for as I took my first step back I reeled, from a
curious giddy feeling which came over me.

"`Run if you can,' I said faintly; for my legs seemed to be sinking
under me.  I managed to keep on, though, and at our next turn we were in
purer air; but we knew it was a race for life, for the heavy gas was
rolling after us, ready to quench out our lives if we slackened speed
for an instant.  We pressed on, though, till we reached the cage, rolled
into it, more than climbed, and were drawn up, to be received with a
burst of cheers, Mary throwing her arms round her father's neck, and
sobbing bitterly.

"`I'm not much hurt,' he said feebly, the fresh air reviving him, as he
was laid gently down.  `God bless those brave lads who brought me up!
But there's another man down--John Kelsey.'

"No one spoke, no one moved; for all knew of the peril from which we had
just escaped.

"`I can't go myself, or I would,' said Andrews; `but you mustn't let him
lie there and burn.  I left him close up to the lead.  He tried to
follow me, but the falling coal struck him down.  I believe the pit's on
fire.'

"There was a low murmur amongst the men, and some of the women wailed
aloud; but still no one moved except old Andrews, who struggled up on
one arm, and looked up at us, his face black, and his whiskers and hair
all burnt off.

"`My lads,' he said feebly, `can't you do nothing to save your mate?'
and as he looked wildly from one to the other, I felt my heart like in
my mouth.

"`Do you all hear?' said a loud voice; and I started as I saw Mary
Andrews rise from where she had knelt holding her father's hand; `do you
all hear?--John Kelsey is left in the pit.  Are you not men enough to
go?'

"`Men can't go,' said one of the day-shift, gruffly; `no one could live
there.'

"`You have not tried,' again she cried passionately.  `Richard Oldshaw,'
she said, turning to me with a red glow upon her face, `John Kelsey is
down there dying, and asking for help.  Will not you go?'

"`And you wish me to go, then?'  I said, bitterly.

"`Yes,' she said.  `Would you have your fellow-creature lie there and
die, when God has given you the power and strength, and knowledge to
save him?'

"We stood there then, gazing in one another's eyes.

"`You love him so that you can't even help risking my life to save his,
Mary.  You know how dearly I love you, and that I'm ready to die for
your sake; but it seems hard--very hard to be sent like this.'

"That was what I thought, and she stood all the time watching me
eagerly, till I took hold of her hand and kissed it; and though she
looked away then, it seemed to me as though she pressed it very gently.

"The next minute I stepped up towards the pit's mouth, where there was a
dead silence, for no one would volunteer; and, in a half blustering way,
I said, `I'll go down.'

"There was a regular cheer rose up as I said those words; but I hardly
heeded it, for I was looking at Mary, and my heart sank as I saw her
standing there smiling with joy.

"`She thinks I shall save him,' I said to myself, bitterly, `Well, I'll
do it, if I die in the attempt; and God forgive her, for she has broken
my heart.'

"The next minute I had stepped into the cage, and it began to move, when
a voice calls out, `Hang it all, Dick Oldshaw shan't go alone!' and a
young pitman sprang in by my side.

"Then we began to descend, and through an opening I just caught sight of
Mary Andrews falling back senseless in the arms of the women.  Then all
was dark, and I was nerving myself for what I had to do.

"To go the way by which I had helped to save Andrews, was, I knew,
impossible; but I had hopes that by going round by one of the old
workings we might reach him, and I told my companion what I thought.

"`That's right--of course it is,' he said slapping me on the back.
`That's books, that is.  I wish I could read.'

"Turning short off as soon as we were at the bottom, I led the way,
holding my lamp high, and climbing and stumbling over the broken shale
that had fallen from the roof; for this part of the mine had not been
worked for years.  Now we were in parts where we could breathe freely,
and then working along where the dense gas made our lamps sputter and
crackle; and the opening of one for an instant would have been a flash,
and death for us both.  Twice over I thought we had lost our way; but I
had a plan of the pit at home, and often and often I had studied it,
little thinking it would ever stand me in such good stead as this; and
by pressing on I found that we were right, and gradually nearing the
point at which the accident had occurred.

"As we got nearer, I became aware of the air setting in a strong draught
in the direction in which we were going, and soon after we could make
out a dull glow, and then there was a deep roar.  The pit was indeed on
fire, and blazing furiously, so that as we got nearer, trembling--I'm
not ashamed to own it, for it was an awful sight--there was the coal
growing of a fierce red heat; but, fortunately, the draught set towards
an old shaft fully a quarter of a mile farther on, and so we were able
to approach till, with a cry of horror, I leaped over heap after heap of
coal, torn from the roof and wall by the explosion, to where, close to
the fire lay the body of John Kelsey--so close that his clothes were
already smouldering; and the fire scorched my face as I laid hold of him
and dragged him away.

"How we ever got him to the foot of the shaft I never could tell; for to
have carried him over the fallen coal of the disused galleries would
have been impossible.  It was either to risk the gas of the regular way,
or to lie down and die by his side.  I remember standing there for a few
moments, and sending a prayer up to Him who could save us; and then with
a word to my mate, we had John up between us, and staggered towards the
shaft in a strange, helpless, dreamy way.  To this day it seems to me
little less than a miracle how we could have lived; but the fire must
have ventilated the passages sufficiently to allow us to stagger slowly
along till we climbed into the cage, and were drawn up.

"I have some faint recollection of hearing a cheer, and of seeing the
dim light of the chill December day; but the only thing which made any
impression upon me was a voice which seemed to be Mary's, and a touch
that seemed to be that of her hand.  I heard a voice saying `Terribly
burned, but he's alive.  Got a pipe and matches in his hand;' and I knew
they were speaking about John Kelsey, and the thought came upon me once
more that I had saved him for her; and with an exceeding bitter cry, I
covered my poor fire blinded eyes, and lay there faint and
half-insensible.

"And it's not much more that I can recollect, only of being in a wild,
feverish state, wandering through dark passages, with fire burning my
head, and coal falling always, and ready to crush me; and I then seemed
to wake from a long, deep sleep, and to be thinking in a weak, troubled
way about getting up.

"It was a month, though, before I could do that, and then there was a
tender arm to help me, and a soft cheek ever ready to be laid to mine;
for in those long, weary hours of sickness Mary had been by my side to
cheer me back to health, and I had learned that I was loved."



CHAPTER ELEVEN.

MY SCALDED PATIENT.

"Thanky doctor.  Eh? feel faint? not a bit.  Why bless your heart, I
could bear twice as much without winking.  Scalding ain't nice, though."

My patient, a frank, open-faced fellow, smiled as if he liked it all the
same.

"There's something wrong with your boiler work, my man," I said, "or we
should not have so many explosions.  How is it?"

"Can't say, I'm sure, sir.  Been used to bilers all my life; but working
'em's different to making 'em.  There's something wrong, as you say, or
they wouldn't always be a-bustin'.  'Tain't once, nor twice, nor now and
then, for it's a thing as is always a-happening; and though I've never
had more than a scald or two myself, I've seen some strange sights; men
all blown to pieces, so that they were picked up afterwards in baskets;
men taken to the hospital with their flesh bulging to them in rags, and
there they'd lie writhing and tearing at the wrappings in such agony,
that--there, I ain't above owning it--I've cried like a child to see my
poor mates' sufferings.  And there they'd be day after day, till a sort
of calm came over them and the pain went, when they'd quite smile if you
spoke to 'em, they seemed so easy; and it would be because a gentle hand
was laid upon 'em, and they were going into the long sleep.

"Some gets better, but not when they're scalded badly; for it's strange
stuff, is steam.  Well, no; I'm not afraid, and never do feel afraid.
What's the good?  One's got it to do, and there's the mouths at home to
feed, so one can't afford it; and then the odds are precious long ones
against it's being one's own bustin'.  But now so many more steam
engines are coming into use, day by day, it seems as if something ought
to be done in the way of making bilers stronger.  Cheapness is
cheapness; but then a thing's dear at any price that makes such ruin as
I've seen sometimes; so why don't they try some tougher metal than
iron?--though certainly steam's strong enough to tear up anything.  But
there seems to me to be some fresh plan wanted for making bilers.  I
didn't work there, but I went and had a look d'reckly after that
horrible accident at the Big Works last autumn.  Well, there was about
an acre of buildings--sheds and setrer--swept away as if you'd battered
'em all down: great fire bricks weighing a hundred and a half, pitched
here and there like chaff; sheets of lead sent flying a hundred yards;
tall chimneys powdered down; and the big busted biler itself jumped
right out of its place; while as to the middle of it, that was torn off
and crumpled up, and blown like a sheet of paper, to a distance.  Plenty
of life lost there, and plenty of escapes; but what I took most notice
of was the plates torn off the biler--torn off as I said before, like so
much paper; while these sheets or plates of iron, had given way at the
rivets, and looked for all the world like postage stamps--torn off, of
coarse, along the perforating.

"`Now then,' I says to myself, `that's a thing as wants altering.  You
perforate the edges of your plates to admit rivets, and so takes half
their strength off--p'r'aps more; then you puts, perhaps, hot rivets in,
and they p'r'aps crystallises the iron'--only p'r'aps, mind, I don't say
so, only the raw edges of the biler looked crystally and brittle.
`Well, then, some day comes a hextry pressure o' steam, and up goes your
biler--busted, and spreading ruin and death and misery around.'

"`Then how are we to fasten our biler plates,' says you, `if we don't
rivet 'em?'  How should I know?  I ain't a scientific man--I only
stokes.  That's for you to find out.  But you ain't a-going to tell me,
are you, that you scientific men and biler makers can't find no other
way to make bilers only by riveting them?  Say you bends the plates'
edges over, and hooks one into the other like tin sarspan makers does
their tin.  They'd stand some strain that way, and you wouldn't weaken
your plates.  I ain't a biler maker or I should try that dodge, I think;
but there, that's only one way out of many as could be found by
experiment.

"Seems to me, sir, as if we English people hates anything new, and
always wants to keep to what our fathers and grandfathers had before us.
They went along and made their footmarks, and we go along after 'em,
putting our feet in just the same spots, thinking it must be right, come
what will of it.

"Had to do with engines many years.  Stoked locomotives and
stationeries, agricultural and manufactories, and printing offices, and
been down in the engine-rooms of steamers; and that last's about the
hottest and worst of all.  Killing work, you know, for anybody,
'specially in a hot country, where every breath of air that comes down
to you is already roasted, as it were, and don't do you no good.

"Bustins?  Well, no, only one, and that was quite enough; for though it
didn't hurt my body, it did hurt my heart, and if you happen to be a
father you'll understand what I mean.

"It was dinner-time at our works--a great place where the engine used to
be going to pump water night and day, so that there was two of us; and
one week I'd be on daywork, next week night work, and so on.  Now it so
happened that our water in that part was terribly hard--water that would
cover the inside of a biler with thick fur in no time.  But whether it
was that or no, I can't say; all I know is, that one dinner-time I went
out into the yard to wash my hands and have a cooler, when I heard a
strange, wild, rushing noise, and felt something hit me on the back of
the head.  Then turning round, I stood fixed to the spot, for the air
was black with tiles, and bricks and laths and rafters, while the whole
place seemed to be crumbling up together--just like as if you'd built up
a tall card house, and then tapped it so that it fell, one card on top
of another, till there was a little heap all lying close and snug; till
out of a tall building there was nothing left but some smoking ruins.

"I knew it was not my fault; for I'd looked at the gauge just before,
and the pressure of steam wasn't heavy.  I knew there was plenty of
water in the biler and the safety valve was all right; so that all I
could do was to be thankful for the accident happening at dinner-time,
and also for my own wonderful escape.  And then, though I wasn't hurt,
something seemed to come over me like a flash, and struck me to the
ground in an instant.

"When I came to, I fell, horribly sick and deathly like, and looked
about from face to face, wondering what was the matter; for I couldn't
make out why I should be lying on my back, with people round me in the
yard--one holding up my head, and another sprinkling my face with water.

"Then it all came back at once, and I shuddered as I turned my head and
looked at the ruined works; for I knew what it was struck me down to the
earth.  I said before it was like a flash, and it was--it was one quick
thought which came across my brain, for I knew that, being dinner-time,
my little golden-haired gal would have brought my 'lowance tied up in a
basin; and something told me that she had gone into the stoke-hole to
find me when I had gone into the yard.

"`Let me get up,' I says, and I ran towards the ruins and began tearing
away at the heap of brick rubbish, while the crowd now gathered
together, hearing that there was some one underneath, began tearing away
at the rubbish like fury.

"By-and-by the police came, and some gentlemen, and something like order
was got at, and the people worked well to get down to where the
stoke-hole had been.  I had said that there was someone there, but I
couldn't shape my month to say who it was; and some said it was one man,
and some another; but whoever they named seemed to come directly, back
from his dinner, or because he had heard the explosion.  So, by-and-by,
people began to look from one to another, and ask who it was.

"`Ask Wilum,' says some one, `he was here at the time;' and some one
asked me.  But I had no occasion to speak, for just then, alarmed at the
child's not going back as usual, the little gal's mother came shrieking
out and crying--

"`Where's little Patty? where's little Patty?' and then, when no one
spoke, she gave a sort of pitiful moan, and sank slowly down--first on
her knees, and then sideways on to a heap of bricks; and I remember
thinking it was best, for I could not find it in my heart to go to her
help, but kept on tearing away at the hot bricks and rubbish.

"It was puzzling and worriting; for one could not seem to be sure of
where anything had once stood, in the horrible confusion before us.  One
said the stoke-hole had been here, and another there; but even I who had
worked there two years, could not be sure.

"Hour after hour went by, and still we worked on; while as every big
rafter or beam was lifted and dragged away, I was obliged to turn my
head, for I felt sick, and the place seemed to swim, for I expected to
see Patty's little bright curls torn out and hanging to the jagged wood,
and that underneath there would be something horrible and crushed.

"I know it wasn't manly; but what can I say, when there was a little
bright, blue-eyed child in the case--one of those little things whose
look will make your great rough hand fall to your side when raised in
anger, while the tiny thing can lead you about and do what she likes
with you?  P'r'aps I ain't manly; but somehow, children always seems to
get the upper hand of me.

"And so on we worked, hour after hour; men getting tired and dropping
off, but always plenty more ready to take their places; while I--I never
thought of it, and kept on tearing away till my hands bled, and the
sweat ran down my face; but I turned away every time there was something
large lifted, for I said to myself `She must be under that!'  And then
again and again, in my mind, I seemed to see the torn and crushed face
of my darling, and her long curls dabbled in blood.

"In the midst of the piled-up, blackened ruins--bricks, mortar, tiles,
lead, and ragged and split beams, huge pieces of wood snapped and torn
like matches--we toiled on hour after hour till the dark night came,
when the gas pipes that had been laid bare and plugged were unstopped,
and the gas lit, so that it flared and blazed and cast a strange wild
light over the ruined place.  There had been flames burst forth two or
three times from parts of the ruins, but a few sprinklings from the fire
engine in attendance had put them out; and as we worked on the rubbish
grew cooler and cooler.

"Some said that the child could not have been there, but the sight of
her mother tearing out was sufficient, when once she got away from the
kind people who had her in their house--a house where but part of the
windows had been broken by the explosion--and came running to where I
was at work, snatching at the bricks and wood, till I got two or three
to take her back for I couldn't have left where I was to have saved my
life.  But I remember so well asking myself why it was that women will
let down their back hair when they're in a state of excitement, and make
'emselves look so wild.

"By-and-by someone came to say how bad my wife was, and that she wanted
to see me; but I felt that I couldn't go, and kept on in a fevered sort
of way, work, work; and I've thought since that if she had been dying it
would have been all the same.  However, I heard soon after that she
seemed a little better; and I found out afterwards that a doctor there
had given the poor thing something that seemed to calm her and she went
to sleep.

"It would have been a strong dose, though, that would have sent me off
to sleep, as still on, hour after hour, I worked there, never tiring,
but lifting beams that two or three men would have gone at, and tossing
the rubbish away like so much straw.

"The owners were kind enough, and did all they could to encourage the
men, sending out beer and other refreshments; but the heap of stuff to
move was something frightful, and more than once I felt quite in
despair, and ready to sit down and weakly cry.  But I was at it again
the next moment, and working with the best of them.

"`Hadn't you better leave now?' said one of my masters; `I'll see that
everything is done.'

"I gave him one look, and he laid his hand kindly on my shoulder, and
said no more to me about going; and I heard him say, `Poor fellow!' to
some one by him, as he turned away.

"We came upon the biler quite half-a-dozen yards out of its place,
ripped right across where the rivers went; while as for the engine, it
was one curious bit of iron tangle--rode, and bars, and pieces of iron
and brass, twisted and turned and bent about, like so much string; and
the great flywheel was broken in half-a-dozen places.

"This showed us now where the great cellar-like place--the stoke-hole--
was; and we worked down now towards that; but still clearing the way,
for how could I tell where the child might be?  But it was weary, slow
work; every now and then rigging up shears, and fastening ropes and
pulley and sheaf, to haul up some great piece of iron or a beam; and
willing as every one was, we made very little progress in the dark
night.

"Once we had to stop and batter away a wall with a scaffold pole; for
the police declared it to be unsafe, and the sergeant would not let us
work near it till it was down; and all the while I was raging like a
madman at the check.  But it was of no use, and the man was right.  He
was doing his duty, and not like me, searching for the little crushed
form of my darling in the cruel ruins.  The people made me worse, for
they would talk and say what they thought, so that I could hear.  One
would say she might still be alive, another would shake his head, and so
on; when I kept stopping, in spite of all I tried not, listening to what
they said, and it all seemed so much lost time.

"The engine-room was now cleared, and in spite of my trembling and
horror, as every big piece was disturbed, nothing had been found; but
all at once, as we were trying to clear behind the biler, and get down
to the stoke-hole, one of the men gate a cry.  I caught at the man
nearest to me, and then lights, rubbish, the strange wild scene, all
seemed to run round me, and I should have fallen only the man held me
up, and some one brought me some brandy.

"I was myself again directly, and stumbling over the bricks to where a
knot of men had collected, and a policeman had his bull's-eye lantern
open, and they were stooping to look at something that lay just under a
beam they had raised--to the left of where I expected she would be
found.

"`Smashed,' I heard some one, with his back to me, say; and then some
one else, `Poor little thing, she must have run past here!'

"Then, with my throat dry and my eyes staring, I crept up and thrust two
men aside, right and left, when the others made way for me without
speaking, and, when I got close up, I covered my face with my hands, and
softly knelt down.

"The policeman said something, and some one else spoke cheerily; but I
couldn't hear what they said, for my every thought was upon what I was
going to see.  And now, for the first time, the great, blinding tears
came gushing from my eyes, so that when I slowly took down first one
hand and then another, I was blinded, and could not see for a few
moments; till, stooping a little lower, there, smashed and flattened,
covered with mortar and dust, was my old red cotton handkercher tied
round the basin and plate that held my dinner, dropped here by my little
darling girl.

"For a few moments I was, as it were, struck dumb--it was so different a
sight to what I had expected to see; and then I leaped up and laughed,
and shouted, and danced--the relief was so great.

"`Come on!'  I cried again; and then, for an hour or more, we were at
it, working away till the light began to come in the east, and tell us
that it was daybreak.

"Late as it was, plenty of people had stopped all the time; for, somehow
or another, hundreds had got to know the little bright, golden-haired
thing that trotted backwards and forwards every day with my dinner
basin.  She was too little to do it, but then, bless you, that was our
pride; for the wife combed and brushed and dressed her up on purpose.
And fine and proud we used to be of the little thing, going and coming--
so old-fashioned.  Why, lots of heads used to be thrust out to watch
her; and seeing how pretty, and artless, and young she was, we used to
feel that every one would try and protect her; and it was so.  Time
after time, that night, I saw motherly-looking women, that I did not
know, with their aprons to their eyes, sobbing and crying; and though I
didn't notice it then, I remembered it well enough afterwards--ah! and
always shall; while the way in which some of the men worked--well-to-do
men, who would have thought themselves insulted if you'd offered 'em
five shillings for their night's job--showed how my poor little darling
had won the hearts of all around.  Often and often since, too, I could
have stopped this one, and shook hands with that one for their kindness;
only there's always that shut-upness about an Englishman that seems to
make him all heart at a time of sorrow, and a piece of solid bluntness
at every other time.

"Well, it was now just upon morning, and we were all worked up to a
pitch of excitement that nothing could be like.  We had been expecting
to come upon the poor child all the afternoon and night, but now there
could be no doubt of it.  She must be here; for we were now down in the
stoke-hole, working again with more vigour than had been shown for
hours.  Men's faces were flushed, and their teeth set.  They didn't
talk, only in Whispers; and the stuff went flying out as fast as others
could take it away.

"`Easy, easy,' the sergeant of police kept saying, as he and two of his
men kept us well lit with the strong light of their lanterns.

"But the men tore on, till at last the place was about cleared out, and
we had got to a mass of brick wall sloping against one side, and a
little woodwork on the other side, along with some rubbish.

"And now was the exciting time, as we went, four of us, at the brick
wall, and dragged at it, when some women up above shrieked out, and we
stood trembling, for it had crumbled down and lay all of a heap where we
had raised it from.

"`Quick!'  I shouted, huskily.  And we tore the bricks away till there
was hardly a scrap left, and we stood staring at one another.

"`Why, she ain't here, arter all!' says a policeman.

"`I'm blest,' says another.

"But I couldn't speak, for I did not know what to do; but stood staring
about as if I expected next to see the little darling come running up
again unhurt.

"`Try there,' says the sergeant.

"Then he turned on his light in a dark corner, where the bits of wood
lay, and I darted across and threw back two or three pieces, when I gave
a cry, and fell on my knees again.  For there was no mistake this time:
I had uncovered a little foot, and there was the white sock all
blood-stained; and I felt a great sob rise from my breast as I stooped
down and kissed the little red spot.

"`Steady,' said the sergeant; and then quickly, as I knelt there, they
reached over me, and lifted piece after piece away, till there, in the
grey light of the morning, I was looking upon the little motionless
figure, lying there with her golden hair, as I had fancied, dabbled in
blood from a cut in her little white forehead, where the blood had run,
but now lay hard and dry.  Covered with blood and scraps of mortar, she
lay stretched out there, and I felt as if my heart would break to see
the little, peaceful face almost with a smile upon it; while, as if out
of respect to my feelings, the men all drew back, till I knelt there
alone.

"And now far up in the sky the warm light of the rising sun shone, and
it was reflected down upon that tiny face, and as I knelt there in the
still silence of that early morn I could hear again and again a
half-stifled sob from those looking on.

"With trembling hands I leaned forward and gently raised her head; then,
passing one beneath her, I rose on my knee to bear her out, when I
stopped as if turned to stone, then left go, and clasped both my raw and
bleeding hands to my blackened forehead, as shrieking out--`My God,
she's alive!'  I fell back insensible; for those little blue eyes had
opened at my touch, and a voice, whispered the one word--

"`Father!'

"That's her, sir.  Fine girl she's grown, ain't she? but she was
beautiful as a child.  Hair ever so many shades lighter; and, unless you
went close up, you couldn't see the mark of that cut, though it was some
time before the scar gave over looking red.

"But really, you know, sir, there ought to be something done about these
bilers; for the rate at which they're a-bustin's fearful."



CHAPTER TWELVE.

MY PATIENT THE CAPTAIN.

Captain Greening as he was called was a curious old patient of mine whom
I had to attend pretty regularly when I lived at Basingstoke.  His title
of captain was derived from the fact that he had in his younger days
been captain of a barge plying along the canal.  His was a chronic case
that was incurable, so I rarely called upon him at a busy time, for
nothing pleased the old fellow better than buttonholing me for a long
talk.

"Look ye here, doctor," he'd say, "I like you, and it's a pleasure to be
ill that it is, so as to have you to talk to."

I believe that any good return would have done as well but I did not say
so, and we remained the best of friends.

I called upon him one day at his cottage where he very comfortably
enjoyed the snug winter of his days, and found him so excited over a
newspaper that he forgot all about his asthma, and could only answer my
questions with others.

"Have you seen about this Regent's Park accident?" he exclaimed.

"Yes," I replied, "I read it all yesterday morning.  Terrible affair."

"Awful, only it might have been so much worse.  There sit down, doctor.
You know I used to have a canal boat--monkey boat we called 'em, because
they are so long and thin."

"Yes, I know it," I said.

"Ah, and I've had a load of powder scores o' times both in monkey boats
and lighters on the Thames.  You ain't in a hurry to-day, doctor?"

"Not particularly," I said.

"That's good," said the old fellow.  "Asthma's better.  Look here,
doctor, I might have been blown up just as those poor chaps was at any
time, and I nearly was once."

"What, blown up by powder!"

"To be sure I was.  Look here, I take my long clay pipe off the table--
so; I pulls the lead tobacco box towards me--so; I fills my pipe-bowl--
so; and then I pulls open this neat little box, made like somebody's
first idea of a chest of drawers, takes out one of these little splints
of wood, rubs it on the table, no good--on the floor, no good--on the
sole of my boot, no good; but when I gives it a snap on the side of a
box--fizz, there's a bright little light, the wood burns, and I am
holding it to the bowl of my pipe, drawing in the smoke and puffing it
out again, looking at you pleasantly through the thin blue cloud, and--
how are you?

"Times is altered since I was a lad, I can tell you.  Why, as you know,
that there match wouldn't light not nowhere but on the box, so as to be
safe and keep children from playing with 'em and burning themselves, or
people treading on 'em and setting fire to places; and what I've got to
say is this, that it's a precious great convenience--so long as you've
got the box with you--and a strange sight different to what it was when
I was a boy.

"Now I'll just tell you how it was then, whether you know or whether you
don't know.  Lor' bless you, I've seen my old aunt do it lots o' times.
There used to be a round, flat tin box, not quite so big as the top of
your hat; and the lid on it used to be made into a candlestick, with a
socket to hold a dip.  Then into this box they used to stuff a lot of
old cotton rag, and set light to it--burn it till it was all black, and
the little sparkles was all a-running about in it, same as you've seen
'em chasing one another in a bit o' burnt paper.  Down upon it would
come a piece o' flat tin and smother all the sparkles out, 'cos no air
could get to 'em; and then they'd put on the lid, and there was your
tinder-box full o' tinder.

"Next, you know, you used to have a piece o' soft iron, curled round at
each end, so as you took hold on it, and held it like a knuckle-duster;
and also you had a bit o' common flint, such as you might pick up in any
road as wasn't paved with granite; and, lastly, you had a bundle--not a
box, mind, but a bundle--of matches, and them was thin splints o' wood,
like pipe lights, pointed at the ends same's wood palings, and dipped in
brimstone.  Them's what the poor people used to sell about the streets,
you know--a dozen of 'em spread out and tied like a lady's fan--in them
days, and made 'em theirselves, they did.  A piece o' even splitting
wood and a penn'orth o' brimstone was a stock in trade then, on which
many a poor creetur lived--helped by a bit o' begging.

"Say, then, you wanted a light--mind, you know, those was the days when
the sojers used to carry the musket they called Brown Bess, as went off
with a flint and steel, long before the percushin cap times--well, say
you wanted a light, you laid your match ready, took your tinder-box off
the chimneypiece, opened it, took the bit o' flint in one hand and the
steel or iron in the other, and at it you went--nick, nick, nick, nick,
nick, with the sparks flying like fun, till one of 'em dropped on your
black tinder, and seemed to lie there like a tiny star.  You were in
luck's way if you did that at the end of five minutes; and then you made
yourself into a pair o' human bellows, and blew away at that spark, till
it began to glow and get bigger, when you held to it one of the
brimstone matches, and that began to melt and burn blue, and flamed up;
when the chances was as the stifling stuff got up your nose, and down
your throat, and you choked, and sneezed, and puffed the match out, and
had to begin all over again.

"Well, that's a long rigmarole about old ways of getting a light; but I
mention it because we'd got one o' them set-outs on board, and that's
the way we used to work.  You know, after that came little bottles in
which you dipped a match, and lit it that way--in fosseros, I think you
call it.  Next came what was a reg'lar wonder to people then--lucifers,
which in them days was flat-headed matches, which you put between a
piece of doubled-up stuff, like a little book cover, and pulled 'em out
smart.  Soon after, some one brought out them as you rubbed on the
bottoms of the box on sand-paper, and they called them congreves; but by
degrees that name dropped out, and we got back to lucifers for name, and
now folks never says nothing but matches.

"In the days I'm telling you about, I was capen of a lighter--a big,
broad, flat barge, working on the Thames; not one of your narrow monkey
boats as run on the canals, though it was the blowing up of the
_Tilbury_ the other day as put me in mind of what I'm going to tell you
in my long-winded, roundabout fashion.  But I s'pose you ain't in no
hurry, so let me go on in my own way.

"You see, your genuine lighterman ain't a lively sort of a chap, the
natur' of his profession won't lot him be; for he's always doing things
in a quiet, slow, easy-going fashion.  Say he's in the river: well, he
tides up and he tides down, going as slow as you like, and only giving a
sweep now and then with a long oar, to keep the barge's head right, and
stay her from coming broadside on to the piers o' the bridges.

"Well, that's slow work, says you; and so it is.  And it ain't no better
when your bargeman gets into a canal, for then he's only towed by a
horse as ain't picked out acause he's a lovely Arab as gallops fifty
mile an hour--one and a half or two's about his cut, and that ain't
lively.  As for your new-fangled doing with your steam tugs, a-puffing,
and a-blowing, and as smoking, like foul chimneys on a foggy day, what I
got to say about them is as it's disgustin', and didn't ought to be
allowed.  Just look at 'em on the river now, a-drawing half-a-dozen
barges full o' coal at once, and stirring up the river right to the
bottom!  Ah! there warn't not no such doings when I was young, and a
good job too.

"Well, as I was going to tell you, I was capen of the _Betsy_--as fine a
lighter as you'd ha' found on the river in them days, and I'd got two
hands aboard with me.  There was Billy Jinks--Gimlet we used to call
him, because he squinted so.  I never did see a fellow as could squint
like Billy could.  He'd got a werry good pair o' eyes, on'y they was odd
uns and didn't fit.  They didn't belong to him, you know, and was
evidently put in his head in a hurry when he were made, and he couldn't
do nothing with 'em.  Them eyes of his used to do just whatever they
liked, and rolled and twissened about in a way as you never did see; and
I've often thought since as it was them eyes o' Billy's as made him take
to drink--and drink he could, like a fish.

"T'other chap was Bob Solly--Toeboy they used to call him on the river,
acause of his lame foot and the thick sole he used to wear to make one
leg same length as t'other; and perhaps, after all, it was Bob's toe as
made him such a drinking chap, and not the example as Gimlet set him.
Anyhow, that there don't matter; only when I'm a-telling a thing I likes
to be exact, as one used to be with the inwoices o' the goods one had to
deliver up or down the river.

"Well, I was going up and down the river with all sorts o' goods, from
ships, and wharves, and places--sundry things, you know, for I never had
no dealings with coals--and one day, down the river, we loaded up with
barrels off a wharf down by Tilbury--not the Tilbury as was blowed up
the other day, 'cause that was only a monkey boat, but Tilbury down the
river, you know; where there's the fort, and soldiers, and magazines,
and all them sort o' things.

"Loaded up we were, and the little barrels all lying snug, and covered
up with tarpaulins, and us a-waiting for the tide to come--for we was
going up to Dumphie's Wharf, up there at Isleworth--when Bob Solly comes
up to me, and he says, says he--

"`Guv'nor,' he says, `we ain't got no taties.'

"`Well, Bob,' I says, `then hadn't you better get some?'

"`Yes,' he says, `I will.'

"And then Gimlet, who had been standing by, he says--

"`And we ain't got no herrins.'

"The long and the short on it was that them two chaps goes ashore to buy
some herrins and some taties, so as we could cook 'em aboard in the
cabin, where we bargees reg'lar kind o' lived, you know.

"I ought to ha' knowed better; but I'd got an old _Weekly Dispatch_, as
was the big paper in them days, and I was a-spelling it over about the
corrynation o' King George the Fourth, and the jolly row there'd been up
by Westminster Abbey when Queen Carryline went up to the doors and said
as she wanted to be crowned too.  I might ha' knowed what ud follow, but
I was so wrapped up in that there old noosepaper, not being a fast
reader, that I never thought about it; and consequently, when it was
about low tide, and time for us to go, them two chaps was nowhere.

"`Seen anything o' my mates?'  I hollers to a chap ashore, for I was now
out in the stream.

"`They're up at the Blue Posties,' he says.  `Shall I fetch 'em?'

"`Yes, and be hanged to 'em!'  I says; and I goes down to the cabin,
vexed like, gets hold o' the flint and steel and my pipe, and was going
to fill it, when I remembered what we took aboard, and I put 'em all
back in the cupboard.

"Quarter of an hour arter, just as the tide was beginning to turn, them
two chaps comes aboard, reg'lar tossicated, not to say drunk, and werry
wild I was, and made 'em go down into the cabin, thinking as they'd
sleep it off; and then, casting loose, I put out one of the sweeps, and
we began to float gently up the river.

"I got on very comfortably that afternoon, never fouling any of the
ships lying in the Pool, getting well under London Bridge, and old
Blackfriars with its covered-in seats like small domes of St. Paul's cut
in half, and so on and under Westminster Bridge, which was very much
like the one at Blackfriars, and on and on, till the tide was at its
height, when I let go the anchors and went to look at them two chaps;
when, instead of being all fight, I found as the money as ought to have
bought herrins and taties had gone in a bottle of stuff which one of 'em
had smuggled in under his jacket, and they was wuss than ever.

"Of course I was precious wild; but as it's waste o' words to talk to
men in that state, I saved it up for them, went forward, and rolled
myself up in my jacket, pulled a bit o' tarpaulin over me, wished for a
pipe, and then began to think.

"Now, I suppose that I got thinking too hard, as I sat there looking at
the lights, blinking here and there ashore, as the tide ran hissing down
by the sides of the barge; for after a time I got too tired to think,
and I must have gone off fast asleep, for I got dreaming of all sorts of
horrible things through being in an uncomfortable position, and among
others--I suppose all on account of twenty ton of gunpowder I had on
board--I dreamed as it had blown up, and I was in our little boat,
rowing about on the river amongst burnt wood and bits of barge and
powder barrels, picking up the pieces of myself.

"Yes, rowing about and picking up the pieces of myself; because, I said
to myself, I ought to be buried decently, and not be left to go floating
about up and down with the tide.  I had a hard job, I remember--now
fishing up a foot, now a leg, and now pieces of my body.  How it was I
never seemed to ask myself, that I could be rowing about and fishing
myself up; but there it was, and I got quite cross at last because my
head gave me so much trouble: for every time I reached at it with one of
the oars it bobbed under water, and came up again, and rolled over and
over, and seemed to laugh at and wink at me, till, in a passion, I gave
it a heavy tap with the oar, and it went under again, and came up on the
other side of the boat, bobbing up and down like a big apple.

"`Now what's the good of making a fool of yourself?'  I says.  `Why
don't you come in the boat along with the rest of the pieces?'

"Then it opened its mouth, and says out loud--

"`I'm as thirsty as a fish.'

"Now, the idea of that head of mine being thirsty, when it was
swallowing water out there in the river, so tickled me that I began to
laugh, and that laughing woke me, all of a cold shiver, to find it very
dark, and these words seeming still to be buzzing in my ears--

"`I'm as thirsty as a fish.'

"What followed seems to me now just like some horrible nightmare; for as
I sat there, in the forepart of the boat, I could just make out Bob
Solly and Gimlet bending over a little keg, evidently as drunk as owls;
and I saw in a flash that they'd been busy with an augur, and bored a
hole in it, thinking it was spirit of some kind, when it was fine grain
powder.

"What did I do?  Nothing; but come all over of a cold sweat, the big
drops ran down my face, and I felt as if I couldn't move.  I knew well
enough what they'd done--they'd pulled up the tarpaulin, and dragged out
a cask, and were going as they thought to drink; and as I saw them
struggle along towards the cabin, I thought of my dream, and felt that
the barge would be blown to pieces.

"I wanted to jump overboard, and swim for my life; and even then I
remember smiling, and wondering whether I should go in a boat and pick
myself up.  Then I tried to go after them, to shout, to do something;
but the bones seemed to have been taken out of my body, and for the
first time in my life I knew what it was to be in a horrible state of
fear.

"That went, though, at last, and I stood up shivering and made for the
side.  I looked at our distance from shore--about fifty yards--and
kicked off my boots.  I raised my hands, and in another moment I should
have plunged overboard, when something seemed to say to me `You coward!'
and I stopped short.

"Of course: I was capen, and if I deserted the barge up she must go, and
Lord help the poor people ashore.

"But if I stayed?

"Well, I might save 'em.

"I ran aft along the side of the barge, feeling sure that it was all a
dream, for the men were out of sight; but when I reached the cabin
hatchway I heard words as chilled me right through.

"`It's awful queer, Bob,' Gimlet hiccupped; `the stuff's running out all
over my hands, and yet it ain't wet, and it tastes salt.'

"`We'll soon see what it's made on, lad,' says Gimlet, thickly; and then
I had the old nightmare feeling come over me, and couldn't stir--
couldn't speak, only listen, with the thought of twenty ton of powder
aboard and there, with the loose powder running all over them, was my
mate Gimlet busy with tinder-box, flint, and steel.

"Nick--nick--nick--nick!

"And I couldn't move.

"Nick--nick--nick--nick!

"I tried to get down the hatchway, but hadn't a muscle that would work.

"Nick--nick--nick--nick!

"There was a stoppage--a faint glow, as of a man blowing the tinder, and
I became myself again, and mad with fear, I crawled through the trap.

"Then there was the sputtering and blue burning of a brimstone match;
and I saw the faces of the two men quite plain.

"The splint blazed up.

"`We'll soon see what it's like now,' said Gimlet, thickly.  And he
lowered the burning match, and in that one moment I saw the barrel at
one side of the cabin, and the powder that had run out of the hole they
had bored running about over the white floor zig-zag, like a black
snake, and making a reg'lar train.

"At that same moment a burnt piece fell from the burning match, the
train fired and began to run over the floor, and I threw myself between
it and the barrel flat on the planks.

"I can't tell you how it was, only that some one uttered a horrible
yell, there was the sharp flash and hiss of the powder, my face was
scorched as I lay flat, and the place was full of smoke and as dark as
pitch.

"It seemed to be an hour, it may only have been a few seconds, when I
heard them two rush up on the little deck; then there were two heavy
splashes, and I knew that they were swimming ashore and I was alone.

"I daren't move, for the powder cask was touching me, and, for aught I
knew, there might be scores of sparks on my clothes.  And so I lay
there, expecting my dream to come true each moment, till I could bear it
no more, for a giddy feeling came over me, and I suppose I fainted.

"When I came to, the smoke had cleared away, but, all the same, I
daren't move for long enough; and at last, when my sense--what was
left--told me that if there had been any danger it would have been over
before now, I roused myself and edged a little away.  I felt ready to
faint again; but by degrees I got away, went on deck and threw my coat
into the river, looked myself all over, and then, fighting hard against
the wish to jump over and swim ashore, I forced myself to the hatchway,
looked down to see all black there as pitch, and then I knelt down on
that bit of a deck and said the first prayer to God as I'd said for
years.

"At daylight next morning I went below again; and I could see how we
were saved; for my throwing myself down had driven the light dust two
ways, and what with that and my body, the train when fired had not gone
within two feet of the barrel.

"It was a horrible shock, though; and I didn't get over it for years.  I
used to dream night after night about trying to get that bobbing head of
mine into the boat, and then I used to cry out and fancy I saw the
flash; but I got over it in time, and seldom had the horrible dream any
more.  But I had it the night after the _Tilbury_ went, for I thought a
good deal that day about my lucky escape, and that upset me more than it
did Toeboy and Gimlet, for they went ashore that night, and next day
were tossicated as ever.

"It's dangerous work, though, with that powder; and, speaking as an old
man, I say thank God I'm out of the trade."



CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

MY PATIENT THE QUARRYMAN.

I had a very pleasant visit once to Cornwall where a resident
practitioner who was an old friend asked me to come down and take his
practice for a couple of months.

This I did, and thoroughly enjoyed Cornwall and the common people with
their sing-song, intonation, and genuine honest simple ways.  During my
leisure, I used to fish for mackerel and a dozen other wholesome fish
that, freshly cooked, were delicious at the table.  Then I had many a
pleasant boating trip along the coast, the last being in company with a
very intelligent workman whom I had had to attend for a bad bruise on
one arm, caused by the falling over against it of a huge block of
granite in the yard of the works where he was employed.

Ezra Hanson was never tired of showing me the interesting bits of the
rugged shore if he could get me out with him for guide, and whenever I
had time, nothing pleased me better than placing myself in his care
either for a scramble amongst the rocks, picking up specimens, or out in
a boat skirting the shore.

I was out with him one day in the neighbourhood of the Lizard when he
gave me a very interesting account of an accident that befel him, and I
give it here nearly in his own words.

"We were out in a little boat rising and falling upon the heaving tide
under the shadow of the mighty cliffs that bound the shore, looking
awfully forbidding to a ship on a stormy night when the sea is covered
with foam; and as I sat almost awe stricken at the grandeur of the
scene, and the beauty of the sky reflections in the water, he began to
run on picturing all he could to me in the most vivid way, as he
illustrated it so to speak by pointing out the locality as it lay before
me dotted with lichen and the sea birds that made their homes upon the
shelves of the massive racks.

"`Look sir,' he said, pointing as we landed, `see what a change there is
in the colour.  Now we come to the serpentine.  That last black jagged
rock you learned people call trap or basalt, sir; and this, that we come
to now, serpentine.  We have it here in great variety as to colour; but
mostly it is of a deep blood-red, or a dark green, with white veins of
steatite or soapstone running through it.  That yonder's the quarry
where I work.  And now I'll show you the spot where I fell from; and
when we get on to that point which runs out towards those rocks--there,
where the water is all silvery foam--I can show you again the mouth of
the cave; for it's almost underneath our feet now; while here--you see
this chink, just as if the rock had been split at some time--you could
lower yourself down through it, and get into the cave; but I never yet
saw a man bold enough to do it.  I came up it, and that was enough for
me.  Now, listen at the roaring of the sea as it runs up the cave.  It's
all dark below there, or you might see the water rushing, and bubbling,
and foaming in.  Perhaps you're strong-nerved, and can stand it--I
can't.  It makes me shudder.'

"Five years ago I came down here as foreman, for we were busy at that
time quarrying this serpentine rock for ornamental masonry; and my duty
then was to investigate a bit here and there along the face of the rock
for good veins of the stone.  What we want, you see, are richly-marked,
showy pieces that will out and polish well; some being firm and good,
but when quarried out not having the requisite qualities for our work.
Many a time I've been all along the face of this precipice, climbing
from ledge to ledge, holding on to a rope fastened round my waist, and
chipping the rock here and there.  Now I'd swing ever so far to reach a
vein, then I'd be lowered down, then drawn up; for I always took care to
have three stout and true men up above at the end of the rope; while,
for further security, they'd drive a strong pin into the rock round
which to twist the rope.

"Fine veins I've marked down, too, at different times; and, from being
used to the work, our men will go on chipping and working away as coolly
as can be when the waves come thundering in, and then, striking the face
of the rock, fly up in a storm of spray, while the noise is deafening.
Of course they can't do that when the wind reaches them; but when
sheltered they'll take no more notice of the waves than if they were so
much smooth grass just beneath them, instead of perhaps a hundred feet
below.

"Now, lie down here, and crawl just up to the edge and look over.
There, that's a fine sight, isn't it?  There's no fear, for you can't
fall, even if you turn giddy.  Now, you might drop a plumb-line from
here right into those silvery breakers just beneath us, and the length
of that line would be two hundred and thirty feet.  Fine sight this,
isn't it?  There's the Lizard, with its lights; there to the left's
Black's Head; and in front of you, rock after rock fighting against the
long rolling waves that never cease their attacks, but as one is broken
and falls back into the ocean in hundreds of little waterfalls, another
comes tearing in to try and wear down the rock.  When the sea is very
calm, even from this height you may look down into the beautiful clear
water and see the rocks beneath, covered in places where they are
sheltered by richly-coloured seaweeds.  But now watch carefully where I
drop this big piece of rock.  There's a ledge down there, about a
hundred feet above the sea--a spot where I stood twice: the first time
by daylight, with a rope round my body; the second time by moonlight,
and without the rope.  Now watch, and when the stone strikes it will be
on the shelf I mean; for I think I can hit the spot, though, looking
down, one ledge is so confused with the other that I don't think I could
point it out so that you could understand.  Mind, too, when the stone
splits up into pieces, and you will see the birds fly out in all
directions.

"There, I thought I could do it.  That's the ledge, and there they go,
gulls and shag; but they don't mind; and after screaming like that for a
few minutes, and having a circle round, they'll settle down again as if
they had not been disturbed.

"Well, that was the ledge I stood on one day, after slowly clambering
down, with a rope round me, in search of a good, well-marked vein.  Now,
as a matter of course, we should not have set men to work there, for it
was too awkward a spot; but after swinging here, pulling there, and
gradually making my way along the face of the cliff, I saw that ledge
overhanging the mouth of the cave; and shouting to the men above to hold
on tightly, I felt so strong a desire to stand there, that I went on and
on--now ascending a little way, now scrambling down.  Twice I was about
to give it up; but after breathing a bit I had another try, for I had a
regular climbing fit upon me.  And at last there I stood; and then sat
with my legs dangling over the precipice till I felt rested; and then,
half-drawn, half-climbing, I made my way up.  Then thoroughly satisfied
that we should do no good in that direction, I went back to my lodgings,
with the intention of exploring somewhere else the next day.

"I went to bed very tired that night, and well recollect lying down; but
my next sensation was that of cold, and a deep roaring noise seemed
ringing in my ears.  I tried to think of what it could be, for I was too
sleepy to feel startled; and, stretching out my hands, they fell upon
the cold, bare rock.  I was thoroughly awake the next moment, though I
could not believe it; and I closed and opened my eyes again and again,
because it all seemed so utterly impossible.  I felt that I must be
asleep, and that this was a vivid dream--the consequence of the
excitement and exertion of the previous day.  So convinced was I that it
was a dream, that I began to wonder to myself how long it would last;
while ever came, as it were, right beneath me, that deep, heavy, rolling
roar of the waves, as they tumbled in over the rocks, dashed into the
caves, and then poured out again.

"At last I slowly opened my eyes, battling all the while with my
thoughts to make them take the direction I wanted.  But all in vain; for
as I looked there was the moon shining full upon me; the cool night
breeze was blowing; and right below me, just as we are looking upon them
now, only five times as rough, were the foam-topped waves rushing and
beating in.

"I tried again to think that it was a dream; but a cold shiver ran
through me--a shudder of fear and dread--and there I was digging my
nails into the crevices of the rock, whose grey moss crumbled under my
fingers; while, with a horrible dread seeming to turn me into stone
itself, I drew up my legs, and cowered close to the rock, ready even to
seize anything with my teeth if it would have made me more secure.

"That fit of horrible fear only lasted a few minutes, and then I seemed
to recover my nerve; and, standing up, I began to wonder how I had come
there, and to try and recall the ledges I had climbed along the day
before.  I had recognised the shelf again, from its peculiar shape, and
the steep rock at the end which stopped further travelling in one
direction; while for a moment I fancied that a trick had been played me,
and that I had been lowered down by a rope.  Under the influence of that
thought, I shouted two or three times; but my voice seemed lost, and the
cold chill of fear began to creep over me again, so that I felt that if
I wished to save my life I must fight for it.  So, thoroughly awakened
to my danger, and now feeling that from the excitement of what I had
gone through I must have climbed down in my sleep, I cheered myself on
with the idea that if I could climb down I could climb up again; and
then I cautiously made my way to the end of the ledge, when a thought
struck me, and I again sat down.

"Was it possible that I had climbed up?

"That wanted a little thinking out; and shivering there in my shirt and
trousers, with my bare feet bleeding, and making the rock feel slippery,
I sat on thinking; while the more I thought, the more possible it seemed
that I had climbed up from the ledge of rock that ran along to the cave
beneath.

"Trifling as this may seem, it acted as a stimulant to me; for I could
see pretty clearly in the moonlight, and it struck me that every foot I
lowered myself would make my position less perilous, while if I climbed
up the distance would be still greater to fall.  Not a thing to study
much in such great heights, where a fall of one or two hundred feet can
make but little difference to the unfortunate; but it cheered me then,
and, rousing up, I began to look where I had better begin.

"The ledge beneath me, as I looked down, did not seem far--for, as you
can see, these cliffs appear to be built up of great regular courses of
stone; and I began to let myself down over the side--first my legs; then
I was hanging over to my chest; then, with my fingers only clinging to
the rough rock, I was resting with my toes upon a point; but feeling my
hands giving way, I lowered myself yet more and more, still feeling
about with my feet, which could now find no rest.

"As I looked down, the distance had only seemed a few feet; but the
moonlight was deceptive, and I found that the next ledge was beyond my
reach.  I could not look down to see if I could drop, and it was only by
an effort that I kept the cold chill of fear from seizing upon me again.
A moment's thought reassured me; and dangerous as it seemed right up
there, on the face of such a precipice, I closed my eyes and dropped.

"Then, all trembling as I was, I laughed; for I had only dropped a few
inches, and it was upon a broader ledge than before; and without
stopping to rest, I searched along for another place to lower myself,
and soon found it; when, thoroughly desperate from my position--half
drunk, you may say, with excitement--I climbed along here, down there,
now with loose stones slipping from beneath me, now nearly falling, but
always making my way lower and lower, till I was quite half-way down,
when I stopped, regularly beaten, upon a ledge down to which I had
slipped.  There was the silvered water below me; the black face of the
rock overhanging me; and on either side rugged masses that would give me
no hold either to climb up, down, or side-wise.  To lower myself was
impossible, for the rock sloped away; to my left there was a large
split, while it seemed perfectly hopeless to try and climb again, and
find another way of getting down.

"However, I felt that if I stopped still I should soon turn giddy with
fright, and fall, for the ledge was only a few inches wide where I
stood; so, again rousing myself, I made an effort to climb up once more.
You may think that it would have been wiser to have stayed where I was,
in the hopes of attracting attention in the morning, and getting
assistance either from one of the quarrymen or by signalling one of the
boats that would be putting out from the cave; but, as I tell you, I
dared not keep still, and the only way I could keep off the horrible
dread was by trying to escape, and so exerting myself to my full
strength.  At last seizing a projecting fragment of the rock, just
within reach of my fingers as I stood, I drew myself up, and got my chin
above my hands, seeking all the while for a resting-place for my feet,
and at last getting my right foot upon a tiny ledge.

"I think I told you that my foot were bare and bleeding--painful, too,
they were--but I could not stop to think of that in the struggle I was
making for life; but all at once, as I was making an effort to get a
little higher, just at the moment when I put forth my whole strength, my
bloody foot slipped from the ledge, and I was hanging by my hands to the
rough piece of rock, my body swinging to and fro, my nails being torn
from their roots, while what I fancied then was the death-sweat stood
upon my face, and seemed to be trickling among the roots of my hair.

"As a young man I was always active, strong, and full of vigour, ready
to join in any athletic sports; proud, too, of my muscles, and the feats
I could perform.  But in those seconds--drawn out, as it were, into
hours--what a poor, frail, weak mortal I felt!  The strength upon which
I had so much prided myself seemed, as it were, nothing; and the brawny
arms, whose corded muscles I had been so fond of rolling up my shirt
sleeves to display, I felt were getting weaker and weaker every moment;
while beneath me, in an ever increasing, angry roar, I could hear the
waves, as if exulting and longing for their prey.

"As an earnest man, perhaps I should have prayed then; but what control
have we in great peril over our thoughts?  I think I once exclaimed,
`God help me!' and then my brain was one wild state of confusion; whilst
the great difficulty seemed to me to realise that I was going to die--to
fall headlong into the sea.  But even in my horror I could picture how
the water would fly sparkling up in the moonlight; while falling from
such a height I should be killed by striking upon one of the rocks just
beneath--all below me being a mass of foam.  Now, I thought, how long
would my arms bear the weight of my body, and why had I not practised
them more to such exertion?  Then, rousing myself once more, I made an
effort, and tried to find a resting-place for my feet.  Could I have
reached the ledge on which I had been standing, I would have given years
of my life; and then a sort of feeling of contempt for myself came upon
me, as I thought I was trying to bargain with Death by offering him a
few years of my unworthy life in exchange for the whole.  But to reach
the ledge I found was impossible, since I had leaped sideways from it to
gain the piece of rock I hung by, while every effort made me weaker and
weaker.  I should have shouted, but my mouth and throat were dry.  A
horrible pain seized the back of my neck, and I could feel my eyes
strained, and as if starting.  Once I thought I would loose my hold and
end my misery; but I was clinging for life, and I held on.

"It could only have been for a minute or two, but the time seemed
endless; while the thoughts flashed through my mind in a wild confusion,
faster and faster, as I felt my muscles giving way.  At last I felt that
I must fall, for my arms would bear the dead weight no longer; so, in a
last despairing effort, I drew myself up, found for an instant a
resting-place for my feet, then one knee was up by my hands, and the
next instant I should have been lying panting upon a shelf; but the
effort was made too late, and I believe a wild cry tore from my throat
as I lost my hold, and could feel the air whistling by my ears as I fell
down, down, what seemed an endless distance.

"Then came the cold plunge in the water--down into darkness, with the
waves thundering in my ears, and the strangling water gushing into my
nose.  I could not think; but nature seemed to be prompting me to
struggle on for my life, and, as I rose uninjured to the surface, I
struck out feebly to reach the rocks.

"It was a wonder that I was not killed, for all along beneath us the
shore is sown, as it were, with rocks of all sizes, covered at high
water; but I fell in a deep part--there I think it must have been, where
I throw this stone.  Seems a long time falling, don't it?  Now, there,
where you see the splash, and that's just in front of the cave, that
runs further in than we've ever found a man to penetrate as yet--for
it's always got water for a floor, and a boat can only go in for about
thirty yards when it grows narrow, and any one would have to swim as I
did that night, swimming on and on as the tide bore me, and that was
right into the black mouth of the cave, while I was too weak to struggle
against it--all I could do being to keep afloat.

"Now I was floating in; then, as the waves receded, I was drawn back,
shivering and shuddering, as I felt the long brown slimy strands of the
seaweed twining about my body like some horrible sea monster.  Now I
tried to hold by the rocky wall; but it was slippery, and glided by my
fingers.  But the cold shock of the water had done something to renew my
energy, and instead of growing more helpless, I found that I could swim
with more vigour after a few seconds; and once, as I floated over it, I
managed to get a resting-place upon a smooth piece of rock about a foot
under water.  But the next minute it was three feet from the surface, as
a wave came rolling in with the rising tide; and I was lifted off and
borne many yards farther into the darkness of the cave.

"The moonlight penetrated for some distance; but beyond that all looked
black and horrible, except where now and then I could see a wave break
over a rock, and then there was a flash of light, and the water sparkled
with the pale phosphorescent light--foul water, as the fishermen here
call it.  It was a horrible-looking place for an unnerved man to swim
into; but in my weak state I dare not try to face the rough water at the
mouth; so, as every wave came and bore me farther in, I swam on into the
darkness, with the fear upon me that some dreadful monster would lace
its arms round me and drag me under.  More than once I shrieked out, for
the seaweeds were thick here, and my feet were entangled; but I swam on,
till after many trials I found a piece of rock upon which I could climb,
and sit with the water washing round me and nearly hearing me off.

"And now I drooped, helpless and miserable; my remaining strength seemed
to go away, and I hung down my head, and cried like a child.  But that
fit went off, and rousing up a little I looked about me; but only to see
the moonlit, beautifully solemn mouth of the cave, with the silvery
water rushing in.  It looked beautiful and solemn to me, even then;
while the hollow, deep, echoing, musical roar of the waves at the mouth,
and in the lulls, the strange tinkling, mournful splash of the water
dripping from the roof, farther in, where it was all dark, sounded
dreadful to me.

"But the tide was rising, and I soon found that I must leave the rock I
was on, and swim or wade farther in; while now the horrible thought
came--would the tide fill the cavern, and should I be drowned at last?
The thought was so horrible, that I was very nearly jumping off and
trying to swim to the mouth, where, in my weak state, I must have lost
my life; for a strong man could not battle with the waves as the tide
rises.  I had often heard tell of this `Hugo,' as they call it here, but
no one had ever explored it that I know of; for it is only in the
calmest of weather that a boat could come near.  However, I sat still
for a few more moments, trying to pierce the darkness, and find a
resting-place higher up.  I dared not lower myself into the water again,
for thought after thought kept coming of the strange sea creatures that
might make the cave their home; but my indecision was put an end to by a
heavy wave that came rolling in, and I was lifted from my seat and borne
in again for some distance, and dashed against a stone, to whose slimy
sides I clung as the water rushed back.  Then I tried to find the bottom
with my feet, but all in vain; and striking out, I swam on farther and
farther into the darkness, helped on by a wave now and then, and
clinging to some projection to keep from being sucked back--for once
down again in the water, the dread seemed to some extent to leave me.

"On reaching a rock that I could climb upon, to my great joy I found
that I could get beyond the reach of the water; but I had to feel my
way, for by a bend of the cave I could now see no moonlit mouth, only a
shining reflection upon one of the wet walls of the place; while all
around me was a horrible black darkness, made ten times more dreadful by
the strange echoing wash and drip of the water in the far recesses.

"Perhaps a bolder man would have felt his nerves creep, as it were,
sitting, dripping and trembling, upon a slimy piece of stone in that
dreadful darkness, conjuring up horrors of a kind that at more calm
moments he could not describe; but knowing all the while, by merely
stretching out a foot now and then, that the tide was rising higher and
higher to sweep him off.  Now my feet were under water, then my knees,
and soon it rose so high that at every ninth wave--`the death wave,' as
we call it down here on the coast--I could feel myself lifted a little;
and at last, just as it was before, I was swept off, and swimming again
in the darkness to find another rock on which I could creep.  More than
once I touched something, with hand or foot, and snatched it
shudderingly back; while at such times the waves bore me backwards and
forwards as they ebbed and flowed.  As far as I could tell, the bottom
was quite beyond my reach, for I let down my feet again and again.  But
the cave grew much narrower; for now I struck my head against one side,
and then against the other, as I laboriously swam along farther and
farther, as it were, into the depths of the earth, till once more I came
against a part of the rock which I could climb up--this time, by feeling
carefully about, till I struck my head against the roof; and then
crouched once more shiveringly down, waiting in a half-dazed, swoon-like
state for the next time when I should have to make a struggle for life.
I felt dull and listless, my senses seemed to be numbed, and it was
almost in a dream that I half sat, half lay upon the wet rock, listening
to the wash of the waves, and the dull roar echoing from the cave mouth;
while close by me there seemed to be strange whispering sounds mingling
with the dripping from the roof, which fell always with a little
melodious plash.

"Sometimes I seemed to doze--a sort of stuporlike sleep from
exhaustion--and then I started with a cry, expecting that I was hanging
once more to the rock outside, or being swept away by a wave from the
rock upon which I was resting; and at last, far in as I was, there came
what to me was like hope of life--for at first very faint and pale, but
by degrees stronger, the light of day came down into the thick blackness
of that awful hole, cutting it like arrows, and striking upon the waters
before it became broken and spread around.

"As far as I could see, it came down from the roof eight or ten yards
from where I sat, but it was a long time before I could summon courage
to lower myself into the water, and swim along till I came beneath the
bright rays, when I found that they beamed through a rift in the roof
some ten feet above me; though, as I again drew myself out of the water
on to the rugged side, and then clambered into the rough, long rift, I
was so stiff and weak that every movement made me groan with pain.

"Now, come here again to where the rift is, and _you_ can look down, and
listen to the roar and bubbling of the water.  A strange, wild place,
but I made my way up to light and life once more; though I have never
found any man here yet with courage to go down, while how much farther
the hole penetrates into the bowels of the earth no one knows.  There
are plenty of such caves along the coast here, made by the water
gradually eating out a soft vein of stone from one that is harder; while
as to my leaving my bed like that, and climbing to where I had been the
day before, it must have been from over-excitement, I suppose.  But
there, such cases are common, and as a boy I often walked in my sleep,
and went by night to places where I could not have gone had I been
awake."



CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

MY PATIENTS THE FISHERMEN.

I dreamed about that cave night after night, and it was a long time
before I could get its weird echoes out of my mind.  I had only to go
down to the shore and listen to the wash of the waves to have my mason
friend's narrative come back in full force, till I felt quite a morbid
pleasure in listening to the fancied beating and echoing of the tide in
the hollow place.

I used to meet a good many of the fishermen down about the little pier,
and after a little bit of a case that I managed with one poor fellow who
had been for years leading a weary existence, I found that I might have
commanded the services of every fisherman there and had their boats at
pleasure.  There was always a pleasant smile for me when I went down,
and whenever a boat came in if I was seen upon the pier there was sure
to be a rough sunburnt face looking into mine as a great string of fish
was offered to me.

"They're fresh as daisies, doctor," the giver would say: a man, perhaps,
that I had hardly seen before, while the slightest hint at payment was
looked upon as an offence.

"And there's no knowing, doctor," said one man who presented me with a
delicious hake, "I may be down at any time and want your help and
advice.  Didn't you cure Sam Treporta?  Lookye here doctor, don't you go
away again, you stop and practice down here.  We'll be ill as often as
we can, and you shan't never want for a bit of fish so long as the
weather keeps fine."

It was one afternoon down on the little rugged granite pier that I heard
the story of Tom Trecarn and the bailiffs, and being rather a peculiar
adventure I give it as it was told to me.

"`Is that you, Tom?'

"`Iss, my son,' replied Tom, a great swarthy, black-whiskered,
fierce-looking, copper-coloured Cornish giant, in tarry canvas trousers,
and a blue worsted guernsey shirt--a tremendous fellow in his way--but
with a heart as soft and tender as that of his wife, whom he had just
addressed in the popular fashion of his part as `my son.'  Tom had just
come home from mackerel fishing off the Scilly Isles.  The take had only
been poor, for the wind had been unfavourable; but the few hundred fish
his lugger had brought in were sold, and with a few hake in his hand for
private consumption, Tom Trecarn had come home for a good night's rest.

"`Oh, Tom,' burst out his wife, throwing down that popular wind
instrument without which upon a grand scale no fisherman's granite
cottage is complete--`Oh, Tom,' said Mrs Trecarn, throwing down the
bellows, there known as the `Cornish organ'--`Oh, Tom, you're a ruined
man.'

"`Not yet, my son,' replied Tom, stoically; `but if things don't mend,
fishing won't be worth the salt for a score of pilchards.'

"`But Dan Pengelly's broken, Tom,' sobbed Mrs Trecarn.

"`Then we'll get him mended, my son,' said Tom, kissing her.

"`How many fish had ye?' sang a voice outside the cottage, in the
peculiar pleasant intonation common amongst the Cornish peasantry.

"`Thousand an' half,' sang back Tom to the inquiring neighbour.

"`Where did you shoot, lad?' sang the voice again.

"`West of Scilly, Eddard.  Bad times: wind heavy, and there's four
boats' fish.'

"`Pengelly's got the bailiffs in, Thomas,' sang the neighbour, now
thrusting his head in at the door.

"`Sorry for him,' sang Tom, preparing for a wash.

"`And I'm sorry for you, Thomas,' sang the neighbour.

"`What for?' said Tom, stoically.

"`Why, aint all your craft in his store, Tom?' inquired the neighbour.

"`Oh, yes--every net,' sobbed Mrs Trecarn; `and we're ruined.
Eighty-four pounds fifteen and seven-pence, too, those nets cost.'

"`But't aint nothing to us,' said Tom, turning a different colour, as an
ordinary man would have turned pale.

"`Why, your craft's seized too, lad; and ye'll lose it all,' cried the
neighbour, singing it right into the great fellow's ear.

"Down went the pitcher of water upon the stone floor in a wreck of
potsherds and splash, and crash went the staggering neighbour against
the side table set out with Mrs Trecarn's ornaments, as Tom rushed out
of the house, and up the street to Daniel Pengelly's store.

"Dan Pengelly's store was a well-known building in Carolyn, being a
long, low, granite-built and shale-roofed shed, where many of the
fishermen warehoused their herring and pilchard nets during the mackerel
season--the mackerel nets taking their turn to rest when dried, on
account of the pilchards making their appearance off the shores of
Mount's Bay.  For, as in patriarchal days men's wealth was in flocks and
herds, so here in these primitive Cornish fishing villages it is the
ambition of most men to become the owner of the red-sailed, fast-tacking
luggers which, from some hitherto unexplained phenomenon, sail like the
boats of every other fishing station--faster than any vessel that
ploughs the waves.  Failing to become the owner of a boat, the next
point is to be able to boast of having so many nets, many a
rough-looking, hard-handed fisherman being perhaps possessor of a couple
or three hundred pounds' worth, bought or bred (netted) by his wife and
daughters.

"To Dan Pengelly's store went Tom Trecarn, to find there a short,
fresh-coloured, pudgy man leaning against one of the doorposts, holding
the long clay pipe he smoked with one hand, and rubbing his nose with
the key he held in the other.

"`I want my nets out,' said Tom, coming up furious as a bull.  `I've got
eighty pound worth of craft in here as don't belong to the Pengellys.'

"`So have I,' and `So have I,' growled a couple of the group of men
lolling about and looking on in the idle way peculiar to fishermen when
winds are unfavourable.

"`Can't help that,' said the man, ceasing to rub his nose, and buttoning
up the key in his pocket.  `I'm in possession, and nothing can't come
out of here.  The goods are seized for debt.'

"`But I ain't nothing to do with Pengelly's debts,' said Tom.  `My nets
ain't going to pay for what he owes.  I earned my craft with the sweat
of my brow, and they're only stored here like those of other lads.'

"`Iss, my son--'tis so--'tis so,' said one or two of the bystanders,
nodding their heads approvingly.

"`I've got nothing to do with that,' said the man in possession; `the
goods are seized, and whatever's in Daniel Pengelly's store will be sold
if he don't pay up; and that's the law.'

"`Do you mean to tell me that the law says you're to sell one man's
goods to pay another man's debts?' said Tom.

"`Yes, if they're on the debtor's premises,' said the man, coolly.

"`Then I'm blest if I believe it,' cried Tom, furiously; `and if you
don't give up what belongs to me--'

"Here he strode so furiously up to the bailiff that a couple of
brother-fishermen rushed in, and between them hustled Trecarn off, and
back to his cottage, where the poor fellow sat down beside his weeping
wife, while the two ponderous fellows who had brought him home leaned
one on either side of the door, silent and foil of unspoken condolence.

"`Eighty-four pound!' groaned Tom.

"`Fifteen and seven-pence!' sobbed his wife.

"`Eight bran-new herring nets of mine,' said one of his friends.

"`And fifteen pound worth of my craft,' muttered the other.

"`And this is the law of the land, is it?' growled Tom.

"`They took Sam Kelynack's little mare same way as was grazing on
Tressillian's paddock,' said friend number one; and then they all joined
in a groan of sympathy.

"Now, in most places the men would have adjourned to a public-house to
talk over their troubles; but here in the Cornish fishing villages a
large percentage of the men are total abstainers; and Mrs Trecarn
having brewed a good cup of tea, and fried half-a-dozen split mackerel,
they all sat down and made a hearty meal; while during the discussion
that followed, some comfort seemed to come to the troubled spirits of
the men, so that about eight o'clock that night they went arm-in-arm
down the ill-paved street, singing a glee in good time, tune, and the
harmony so well preserved, that a musician would have paused in wonder
to find such an accomplishment amongst rough fishermen--an
accomplishment as common as brass bands amongst the Lancashire and
Yorkshire artisans.

"`Not another drop, I thanky,' said the bailiff to one of Tom's friends,
who stood by him tumbler in hand, stirring a stiff glass of grog.

"It was a fine night though it had been raining, and the water lay in
pools around, one of the largest being in front of the door stone of
Pengelly's store, beside which the bailiff stood; for though carefully
locked up, the man felt a disinclination to leave it, and he equally
disliked shutting himself inside and sleeping upon a heap of nets; so he
had treated the advances made by the man who had protected him from
Trecarn with pleasure, and between them they had finished one strong
tumbler of rum and water, and were well on with the second.

"`Not another drop! thanky,' said the bailiff; so Nicholas Harris again
broke his pledge, taking a moderate sip, and passed the glass once more
to the bailiff, who took it, sipped long and well, and then sighed;
while it was observable that the last draught had so paved the way for
more, that he made no further objections even when the glass was filled
for the third and fourth time--each time the liquor being made more
potent.

"At the filling of the fifth glass at eleven o'clock, when nearly the
whole village was asleep, Nicholas Harris, who seemed wonderfully sober,
considering, stopped and whispered to a couple of men in one of the
corners behind the store; and in another half-hour, the said two shadowy
figures came up to find the bailiff sitting in the pool of water in
front of the store, and shaking his head in a melancholy way at his
companion.

"`I don't feel well,' said Harris, `and I'm going home.  P'r'aps you'll
help that gentleman up to the King's Arms.'

"Neither of the new-comers spoke; but each seized the bailiff by an arm,
and tried to lift him to his feet.  But he did not wish to be lifted to
his feet, and sat him down down again in the wettest spot of the road,
making the water fly from beneath him, while every fresh attempt to get
him away was fiercely resisted.

"`Have you got it?' whispered one of the new-comers.

"`Ay, lad!' said the other, `it's all right.'

"`Then fetch a barrow.'

"The man spoken to came back in a few minutes with a wheelbarrow, by
which time the bailiff seemed in a state of hopeless collapse, and
remained so when he was lifted into the barrow.

"`Don't laugh,' whispered one man, as the other held his sides, and
stamped about with mirth to see his companion's efforts to get the man
in position; for he could not sit down, nor lie down, nor be placed
side-wise, nor cross-wise.  Once he was in a sitting posture and,
seizing the handles, the man started the barrow; but the bailiff slowly
slid down till his head rested upon the barrow wheel, and ground against
it.

"`P'raps you'll wheel him yourself next time,' he grumbled to his
laughing companion, who stepped up, seized the collapsed bailiff round
the waist and carried him in his arms as easily as a girl would a baby,
till he reached the village public-house, where he deposited his burden
beneath a cart-shed, while the peace of that end of the village was
disturbed no more until morning.

"The next day there was an application to the magistrates respecting the
nets that had been stolen from Pengelly's store--nets of the value of
over one handled pounds having been removed no one knew whither Nicholas
Harris was taken to task as having been seen with the bailiff drinking;
but he swore truthfully that he had gone home directly he quitted him,
and had lain in bed all the next day with a fearful headache.  His nets
were amongst those taken.  Pengelly proved that the other nets taken
were Trecarn's and Pollard's, but upon their places being searched only
some old nets were found, while the men themselves had put off for sea
early that morning.  However upon the magistrate learning from Pengelly
that every article belonging to him was safe upon his premises, he
turned round and whispered for some little time to his clerk, and it was
arranged that the case should be adjourned.

"That case was adjourned, and, as the sequel proved _sine die_, for no
further notice was taken.  Daniel Pengelly got into difficulties, and
his goods were sold--Tom Trecarn purchasing some of his nets; whilst it
was observable on all sides that both Tom and his friends were in
excellent spirits, though that might have been owing to the large take
of mackerel they brought in.  As to the proceedings of that night, the
morality is very questionable; but still, by way of excuse, it does seem
hard that under the present state of the law, even though a man can
substantially prove that goods upon a defaulter's premises are his own,
he must still lose them, as many a poor fellow has found to his cost.
However, the above narrative is a fact, and one's sympathies cannot fail
of tending towards the annexation of the nets."



CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

MY PATIENT THE PORTER.

My acquaintance with the engine-driver led on to one with a very broad
porter.  He was about the stoutest and tightest looking man I ever saw
to be active, and active he really was, bobbing about like a fat cork
float, and doing a great deal of work with very little effort, smiling
pleasantly the while.

Dick Masson was quite a philosopher in his way, but his philosophy did
not let him bear his fat with patience.  Like Hamlet, he used to say,
metaphorically of course, "Oh, that this too solid flesh would melt,"
for he several times came to me to see if I could not give him something
to make him thin.

"Really I can only recommend change of diet, Masson," I said.

"Why I should have thought, sir," he said, staring round the surgery,
"that you'd got doctor's stuff in some of them bottles as would have put
me right in no time."

I had to mix him a bottle of medicine to satisfy him: but it was the
change in his diet and an increase of work that recalled him somewhat.

I used to know Dick at a little station on the Far Eastern line when I
was staying in the neighbourhood, and on leaving there I lost sight of
him for five years, when one day in London I happened upon a cab driven
by an exceedingly stout man, and to my utter astonishment I found that
it was my old friend Dick.

"Why Masson," I exclaimed, "is that you?"

"Yes, doctor," he said with an unctuous chuckle, "half as much again of
me now as there used to be.  I were obliged to put up portering and take
to something easier.  This life suits me exactly.  It's hard on the
horse, certainly, but I was obliged to take to something lighter."

"Better have kept to a porter's life, Masson," I said; "You were much
lighter then."

"So I was doctor, so I was," he said, "but I were awful heavy then, and
when you've got to carry somebody's trunk or portemanty, and your
precious heavy self too, it's more than a man can stand."

"Yes, sir," said Dick to me one day in conversation, for he begged for
my address, and came and asked for a prescription just to ease off a
little of the taut, as he called it; "yes sir," he said, "I'm a working
man though I do drive a cab.  One o' them strange individuals that
everybody's been going into fits about lately as to what they should do
with us and for us, and a deal--a great deal more, how to legislate us
and represent us.  We don't want legislating an' representing.  I tell
you what we want, sir--we want letting alone.  Some people runs away
with the idea that your working man's a sort of native furrin wild
animal that wants keepers and bars an' all sorts to keep him in order--
that he's something different to your swell that holds up a 'sumtive
umbrelly at me when he wants a keb, and tells me, `Aw--to--aw, dwive to
the Gweat Westawn or Chawing Cwoss.'  Well, and p'r'aps they're right to
some extent; for your working man, air, is a different sort of thing.
Supposing we take your human being, sir, as a precious stone; well, set
down your working man as the rough pebble, whilst your swell's the thing
cut and polished.

"Fine thing that cutting and polishing, makes the stone shine and
twinkle and glitter like anything; but I have heard say that it takes a
little off the vally of the original stone; while, if it's badly cut,
it's old gooseberry.  Now, you know, sir, I have seen cases where I've
said to myself, `That stone's badly cut, Dick;' and at other times I've
set down a fare at a club or private house, or what not, and I've been
ready to ask myself what he was ever made for.  Ornament, p'r'aps.
Well, it might be for that; but, same time, it seems hardly likely that
Natur' had time to make things without their having any use.  You may
say flowers are only ornamental, but I don't quite see that sir; for it
always seemed to me as the smallest thing that grew had its purpose,
beginning with the little things, and then going on right up to the big
things, till you get to horses, whose proper use is, of course, to draw
kebs.

"I've been most everything in my day, sir, before I took to kebs, but of
all lines of life there isn't one where you get so much knowledge of
life, or see so much, as you do on a box; while of all places in the
world, there's no place like London.  I've never been out of it lately,
not farther than 'Ampton Court, or Ascot, or Epsom--stop; yes, I did
once have eight hours at the sea-side with the missis, and enough too.
What's the good of going all they miles when you can smell the sea air
any morning early on London Bridge, if the tide's coming in; or, easier
still, at any stall where they sell mussels or oysters?

"Talk about furrin abroad, give me London.  Why, where else d'yer see
such dirt--friendly dirt?  Sticks to you, and won't leave go.  Where
else is there such a breed of boys as ours, though they do always want
cutting down behind?  Where such pleecemen, though they are so precious
fond of interfering, and can't let a man stand five minutes without
moving him on?  No, sir, London's the place for me, even if it does pour
down rain, and plash up mud, till you tie a red cotton soaker round the
brims of your hat to keep the rain water from trickling through and down
your neck, for you see, it's soft enough for anything.

"London's the place, sir, for me; better than being a porter at
Gravelwick though you mightn't think it.

"Gentleman in uniform in those days.  Short corduroy jacket, trousis,
and weskit; red patch on the collar with F.E.R., in white letters, on
it, and a cap with the same letters in brass on the front.  Sort of
combination of the useful and ornamental, I were, in those days.

"Nice life, porter's, down at a small station with a level crossing.
Lively, too, opening gates, and shotting on 'em; trimming lamps,
lightin' 'em, and then going up a hiron ladder to the top of a pole to
stick 'em up for signals, with blue and red spectacles to put before
their bulls' eyes, so that they could see the trains a-coming, and tell
the driver in the distance whether it was all right.

"Day-time I used to help do that, too, by standing up like a himage
holding a flag till the train fizzed by; for it wasn't often as one
stopped there.  Sitting on a cab's lonely on a wet day; but talk about a
lonely life--porter's at a little station's 'nough to give you the
horrors.  I should have tried to commit sooicide myself, as others did,
if it hadn't been for my taters.

"Yes--my taters.  I had leave to garden a bit of the slope of the
cutting, and it used to be my aim to grow bigger taters than Jem
Tattley, at Slowcombe, twenty mile down the line; and we used to send
the fruit backwards and forrards by one of the guards to compare 'em.  I
beat him reg'lar, though, every year, 'cause I watered mine more in the
dry times; and proud I was of it.  Ah, it's a werry elewating kind o'
pursuit, is growing taters; and kep' up my spirits often when I used to
get low in the dark, soft, autumn times, and get afraid of being cut up
by one of the fast trains.

"Terribly dangerous they are to a man at a little station, for he gets
so used to the noise that he don't notice them coming, and then--There,
it would be nasty to tell you what comes to a pore porter who is not on
the look-out.

"I had a fair lot to do, but not enough; and my brightest days used to
be when, after sitting drowsing there on a barrow, some gent would come
by a stopping train--fishing p'r'aps, and want his traps carried to the
inn, two miles off; or down to the river, when our young station-master
would let me off, and I stopped with the gent fishing.

"Sometimes I give out the tickets--when they were wanted; but a deal of
my time was take up watching the big daisies growing on the gravelly
bank, along with the yaller ragwort; or counting how many poppies there
was, or watching the birds chirping in the furze-bushes.  I got to be
wonderful good friends with the birds.

"We had a siding there for goods; but, save a little corn now and then,
and one truck of coals belonging to an agent, there was nothing much
there.  There was no call for anything, for there would have been no
station there only that, when the line was made, the big gent as owned
the land all about wouldn't give way about the line going through his
property unless the company agreed to make a station, and arrange that
he could stop fast trains by signal whenever he wanted to go up to
London, or come down, or to have his friends; for, of course, he
wouldn't go by the penny-a-miler parliamentary that used to crawl down
and stop at Gravelwick.

"We had a very cheerful time of it in the early days there afore you
know'd the place, me and the station-masters--young fellows they used to
be--half-fledged, and I saw out six of them; for they used only to be
down there for a short time before they got a change.  I used to long to
be promoted, and tried two or three times; but they wouldn't hear of it;
and the smooth travelling inspector who used to come down would humbug
me by telling me that I was too vallerble a servant to the company to be
changed, for I acted as a sort of ballast to the young station-masters.

"This being the case, I got thinking I ought to get better pay, and I
told him so; and he said I was right, and promised to report the case;
but whether he did so or didn't, and, if he did, whether he made a load
enough report, I don't know; 'tall events, I never got no rise, but had
eighteen shillings a week when I went on the line, and eighteen
shillings a week when I came off, five years after.

"Me and the station-master used to chum it, the station being so
lonesome.  When the young chaps need first to come down, they used to
come the big bug, and keep me at a distance, and expect me to say `sir.'
But, lor' bless you, that soon went off, and they used to get me to
come and sit with them, to keep off the horrors--for we used to get 'em
bad down there--and then we'd play dominoes, or draughts, or cribbage,
when we didn't smoke.

"It was a awful lonesome place, and somehow people got to know it, and
they'd come from miles away to Gravelwick.

"`What for?' says you.

"There, you'd never guess, so I'll tell you--to commit suicide.

"It was too bad on 'em, because it made the place horrible.  I wasn't
afraid of ghosts; but after having one or two fellows come and put
themselves before the fast trains, and having inquests on 'em, for the
life of you you couldn't help fancying all sorts of horrors on the dark
nights.

"Why, that made several of our young station-masters go.  One of 'em
applied to be removed, and because they didn't move him he ran off--
threw up his place, he did--but I had to stay.

"Things got so bad at last that the station-master and me used to look
at every passenger as alighted at our station suspicious like if he was
a stranger; and we found out several this way, bless you; and if we
couldn't persuade 'em to go away to some other station to do what they
wanted, or contrive to bring 'em to a better turn of mind, we used to
lock 'em up in the lamp-room and telegraph to Tenderby for a policeman
to fetch 'em away.

"Oh, it was fine games, I can tell you, only it used to give you the
creeps; for some of these parties used to be wild and mad, though others
was only melancholy and stupid.

"Some on 'em was humbugs--chaps in love, and that sorter way--as never
meant to do it, only to make a fuss and be saved, so as their young
ladies could hear as they meant to die for their sake, and so on; but
others was in real earnest; for the fact of one doing it there seemed
like a 'traction to 'em, and they'd come for miles and miles right away
from London.

"It was a lively time being at a sooicidal station; and though the
station-masters and I kept the strictest of lookouts, we got done more'n
once; for a fellow would get out right smart, go off, and then,
artful-like, dodge back to the line a mile or so away, and the fust we'd
hear of it would be from an engine-driver who had gone over him.

"Well, it happens one day that I was alone at the station, when a quiet,
gentlemanly sort of a fellow gets out, smiles, asks me some questions
about the place, and chats pleasantly for a bit, says he means to have a
'tanical ramble--as he calls it--and finishes off by giving me
arf-crown.

"Now, if I'd been as wide-awake as I should have been, I might have
known as there was a screw loose.  What should a strange gent give me
arf a crown for if there wasn't?  But, bless you, clever and cunning as
I thought myself, I was that innercent that I pockets the coin, grins to
myself, and took no farther notice till, about arf an hour after, I
happens to look along the up line, when I turns sick as could be; for I
sees my gentleman walking between the rails, and the up express just
within a few minutes of being due.

"Even then he'd so thrown me off my guard that I never thought no Wrong,
only that he was looking on the railway banks for rhodum siduses, and
plants of that kind.

"So I shouts to him--

"`Get off that 'ere!' and waves my hands.

"But he takes no notice; and then, all at once, just as the wind brought
the sound of the coming express, if he didn't go down flat, and lay his
neck right on the off up-rail, ready for the engine-wheels to cut it
off.

"It was like pouring cold water down my back, but I was man enough to
act; and, running as hard as I could, I got up to where he lay--about
three hundred yards from the station.

"I makes no more ado, but seizes his legs, and tries to drag him away;
but he'd got tight hold of the rail with both hands--for it was where
the ballast was dear away from it, to let the rain run off--and I
couldn't move him; 'sides which, he began to kick at me fierce, roaring
at me to get away.

"Finding as I couldn't move him, and the train coming nearer, and being
afraid that I should get in danger myself if I got struggling with him,
I thought I'd try persuasion.

"`What are you going to do?'  I says.

"`Tired of life--tired of life--tired of life,' he kept on saying, in a
curious, despairing way.

"`Get up--get up.'

"For the train was coming on.  I could hear it roaring in the distance;
and I knew it would spin round the curve into sight, and then dash along
the straight to where we were.

"`Go away,' he cried, hoarsely; `tired of life.'

"`There was another fellow cut all to pieces there,' I says, to frighten
him.

"`I know--I know,' he said; `three hundred yards north of the station.'

"He must have read that in a noosepaper, and saved it up, you know.

"What to do I couldn't tell.  I wasn't able to move him, for he clung to
the rails as if he grew there, and the train was coming.

"All I could see to do was to run on and try to stop it; but that
wouldn't have done, for the engine would have been over the poor wretch
before the breaks would have acted; and at last, with the roar coming on
I stood there in the six foot, and I says, savage like--

"`It's too bad; see what a mess you'll make.'

"`What?' he says, lifting up his head, and staring at me a horribly
stiff, hard look, as of one half-dead.

"`See what a mess you'll make,' I says, `and I shall have to clean it
up.'

"`Mess?' he says, raising himself, and kneeling there in the six-foot on
the ballast.

"`Yes, mess,' I says,--`tatters, rags of clothes, and something so
horrid all over the line, that it's enough to make a strong man sick.'

"`I never thought of that,' he says, putting his hands to his head.

"And as he did so there was a shriek, a rush, a great wind, which sent
the dust and sticks flying, and the express thundered by, with that poor
chap staring hard.

"As it passed, he looked at it with a sort of shudder.

"`You don't know what a mess it makes,' I said, as he got slowly up.

"`No,' he says, in a curious way--`no, I never thought of that.'  And he
began to brush the dirt and dust off his clothes.  `But I thought it
would not hurt.'

"`Not you, perhaps,' I said, trying to keep his attention; `but how
about me?'

"`Yes, yes,' he muttered, `I never thought of that.'

"He stooped down, touched the rail with his finger, looked at it,
shuddered, and then looked up the line.

"`I tell you it's horrid,' I said; `and it's cowardly of a fellow to
come here for that.  Now, then, you'd best come on to the station.'

"`Yes,' he said again, `I never thought of that.'  And he let me brush
him down, and followed me like a lamb to the station, where, unbeknown
to him, I telegraphed to the town, and a constable came and took him by
the next train, with all the spirit regularly took out of him by my
words.

"I'd about forgotten that poor chap till about six months after, when he
came down by the stopping train, and shook hands with me, and gave me a
five pound note.

"I was afraid he was going to try it on again, but no, bless you.  He
thanked me with tears in his eyes, for saving his life, telling me he
was half-mad at the time, and determined--something polling him like--to
end his life.  He had felt no fear, and was glad the train was coming,
when my words sounded so queer and strange to him that they seemed, as
he said, to take all the romance out of the thing, and show it to him
in, to use his words, `its filthy, contemptible, cowardly shape.  If men
could see,' he said, `they would never commit such an act.'

"I saw him off again in the train, and was very glad when he was gone.

"That affair about settled me.  I was sick of it; and as soon as I
could--close upon a year arter, though--I came up to London and took to
cabbing, for I'd had quite enough of our old station."



CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

MY PATIENT THE CARPENTER.

"Bring him in," I said; and four stout fellows carried the insensible
figure of a well built young man into the surgery and laid him on the
couch.

"How was this?"  I exclaimed.  "There, shut the door, we don't want a
crowd in here."

"It was Harry Linney got teasing him, sir, and betting him he couldn't
climb up the outside of the church tower."

"And he climbed up and fell, eh?"  I said, going on with my examination.

"Yes; that's it," said one of the men, staring.

"How stupid!"  I exclaimed.  "Men like you to be always like a pack of
boys."

"Is he killed, doctor?" said another in awestruck tones.

"Killed? no;" I replied, "but he has broken his left arm, and yes--no--
yes--his collar-bone as well."

"Poor old chap," said a chorus of sympathising voices, and after
bandaging and splinting the injuries I sent the man home.

He was too healthy and active a man to be ill long, and he rapidly
improved, and in the course of my attendance I used to smile to myself
and wonder whether Darwin was not right about our descent from the
monkeys; for certainly the climbing propensity was very strong in Fred
Fincher, who used to laugh when I talked to him about the folly of men
to climb.

"Well, I dunno, sir," he said, "climbing's very useful sometimes.  I'm a
carpenter, and I have to climb a good deal about housetops in my trade,
and nobody says it's foolish then."

"That's a necessity," I replied.  "Yours was only a bit of foolish
bravado."

"Well, suppose it was, doctor," he said smiling.  "Anyhow I was not
killed.  It was nothing like getting up to oil the weathercock after
all."

"Oil what weathercock?"  I said.

"Our weathercock, sir."

"I don't know what you mean."

"I mean at the old place, sir.  You see this is how it was:--

"We'd got a weathercock a-top of our church spire at High Beechy; and it
was a cock in real earnest, just like the great Dorking in Farmer
Granger's yard; only the one on the spire was gilt, and shone in the sun
quite beautiful.

"There was another difference, though.  Farmer Granger's Dorking used to
crow in the morn, and sometimes on a moonlight night; but the gilt one
a-top of the steeple, after going on swinging round and round, to show
quietly which way the wind blew, took it into its head to stick fast in
calm weather, while in a rough wind--oh, lor' a' mercy! the way it would
screech and groan was enough to alarm the neighbourhood, and alarm the
neighbourhood it did.

"I wouldn't believe as it was the weathercock at first, but quite took
to old Mother Bonnett's notion as it was signs of the times, and a kind
of warning to High Beechy of something terrible to come to pass.

"But there, when you stood and saw it turning slowly round in the broad
daylight, and heard it squeal, why, you couldn't help yourself, but were
bound to believe.

"Just about that time a chap as called himself Steeple Jack--not the
real Steeple Jack, you know, but an impostor sort of fellow, who, we
heard afterwards, had been going about and getting sovereigns to climb
the spires, and oil the weathercocks, and do a bit of repairs, and then
going off without doing anything at all--well, this fellow came to High
Beechy, saw the Rector, and offered to go up, clean and scrape the
weathercock, oil it and all, without scaffolding, for a five pound note.

"Parson said it was too much, and consulted churchwarden Round, who said
`ditto;' and so Steeple Jack did not get the job even when he came down
to three pound, and then to a sovereign; for, bless you, we were too
sharp for him at High Beechy, and suspected that all he wanted was the
money, when, you know, we couldn't have made him go up, it being a risky
job.

"The weathercock went on squeaking then awfully, till one afternoon,
when we were out on the green with the cricketing tackle for practice,
the Rector being with me, for we were going to play Ramboro' Town next
week, and the Rector was our best bowler.

"He was a thorough gentleman was our Rector, and he used to say he loved
a game at cricket as much as ever, and as to making one of our eleven,
he used to do that, he said, because he was then sure that no one would
swear, or take more than was good for him.

"Speaking for our lot, I'm sure it made us all respect him the more; and
I tell you one thing it did besides, it seemed to make him our friend to
go to in all kind of trouble, and what's more, it fetched all our lot in
the cricket club to church when I'm afraid if it hadn't been out of
respect to the parson we should have stopped away.

"Why, I've known him on a hot evening at practice between the overs
suddenly cry `Hold hard!' with the ball in his hands, and say--

"`Tell you what, my lads, I think a glass of Tompkins's home-brewed
wouldn't be amiss just now.  Smith, my man, will you step across and
tell them to send me a gallon?'

"Then when it was brought all cool and foaming from out of the cellar,
and he took the first glass as a matter of course, he'd got a knack of
saying something sensible to a man in a way as did more good than the
preaching in a month of Sundays.

"`That!' he'd say, with a smack of the lips when he'd finished the cool
draught, `That's good, refreshing, invigorating, and hearty.  What a
pity it is some men will be such fools as to take more than is good for
them.  Come, my lads, another glass round, and then to work.'

"Why, you may laugh at me, but we all of us loved our parson, and he
could turn us all this way or that way with his little finger.

"Well, we were out on the green, as I said, and the talk turned about
oiling the weathercock, and about how we'd heard as Steeple Jack, as he
called himself, had undertaken to do Upperthorpe steeple, as is thirty
feet lower than ours, and had got the money and gone off.

"`I thought he was a rogue,' said Billy Johnson.  `He looked like it;
drinking sort of fellow.  Tell you what, I'm game to do it any time you
like.'

"`Not you,' says Joey Rance.  `It ain't in you.'

"`Ain't it,' says Billy, tightening his belt, and then--

"`My good man,' says the Rector, `I couldn't think of allowing it.'

"You see, ours was a splendid spire, standing altogether a hundred and
seventy feet six inches high; and as it says in the old history, was a
landmark and a beacon to the country for miles round.  There was a
square tower seventy feet high, and out of this sprang the spire,
tapering up a hundred feet, and certainly one of the finest in the
county.

"`Oh, I'd let him go, sir,' says Joey: `he can climb like a squirrel.'

"`Or a tom-cat,' says another.

"`More like a monkey,' says Sam Rowley, our wicket-keeper.

"`Never mind what I can climb like,' says Billy.  `I'm game to do it; so
here goes.'

"`But if you do get up,' said the Rector, `you will want tools to take
off and oil the weathercock, and you can't carry them.'

"Just then a message came from the house that the Rector was wanted, and
he went away in a hurry: and no sooner had he gone than there was no end
of chaff about Billy, which ended in his pulling up his belt another
hole, and saying--

"`I'm going.'

"`And what are you going to do when you get up there?'

"`Nothing,' he says, `but tie the rope up to the top of the spire, and
leave it for some of you clever chaps to do the work.'

"`What rope shall you use?'  I said.

"`The new well rope,' says Billy.  `It's over two hundred feet long.'

"Cricketing was set aside for that day, for Joey Rance went off and got
the rope, coming back with it coiled over his arm, and throwing it down
before Billy in a defiant sort of way, as much as to say--

"`There, now let's see you do it.'

"Without a word, Billy picked up the coil of rope and went in at the
belfry door, to come out soon after on the top of the tower, and then,
with one end of the rope made into a loop and thrown over his shoulders,
he went to one edge of the eight-sided spire and began to climb up from
crocket to crocket, which were about a yard apart, and looking like so
many ornamental knobs sticking out from the sides.

"We gave him a cheer as he began to go up, and then sat on the grass
wondering like to see how active and clever the fellow was as he went up
yard after yard climbing rapidly, and seeming as if he'd soon be at the
top.

"The whole of the village turned out in a state of excitement, and we
had hard work to keep two brave fellows from going up to try at other
corners of the spire.

"`He'll do it--he'll do it!' was the cry over and over again.

"And it seemed as if he would, for he went on rapidly till he was within
some thirty feet of the top; when all of a sudden he seemed to lose his
hold, and came sliding rapidly down between two rows of crockets, faster
and faster, till he disappeared behind the parapet of the tower.

"We held our breath, one and all, as we saw him fall, and a cold chill
of horror came upon us.  It was not until he had reached the top of the
tower that we roused ourselves to run to the belfry door, and began to
go up the newel staircase to get to the poor fellow, whom we expected to
find half-dead.

"`Hallo!' cried Billy's voice, as we got half-way up the corkscrew, `I'm
coming down.'

"`Aint you hurt, then?' cried Joey Rance.

"`No, not much,' said Billy, as we reached him by one of the loopholes
in the stone wall.  `Got some skin off, and a bit bruised.'

"`Why, we thought you were half killed,' we said.

"`Not I,' he replied, gruffly; `the rope caught over one of the
crockets, and that broke my fall a bit.'

"`Going to try again?' said Joey, with a sneer.

"`No, I aint going to try again, neither,' said Billy gruffly.  `I left
the rope up at the top there, thinking you were so clever you'd like to
go.'

"`Oh, I could do it if I liked,' said Joey.

"`Only you daren't,' said Bill, rubbing his elbows, and putting his lips
to his bleeding knuckles.

"`Daren't I?' said Joey.

"Without another word he pushed by Billy, and went on steadily up
towards the top of the tower.

"`I hope he'll like it,' said Billy, chuckling.  `It aint so easy as he
thinks.  Let's go down.  I'm a good bit shook, and want a drop of
brandy.'

"Poor fellow, he looked rather white when we got down; and to our
surprise on looking up, on hearing a cheer, there was Joey hard at work,
with the rope over his shoulder, climbing away, the lads cheering him
again and again as he climbed higher and higher, till he at last reached
the great copper support of the weathercock, and then, drawing himself
up a bit higher, he clung there motionless for a few minutes, and we
began to think that he had lost his nerve and was afraid to move.

"But that wasn't it--he was only gathering breath; and we gave him a
cheer, in which Billy Johnson heartily joined, as, up there looking as
small as a crow the plucky fellow gave the weathercock a spin round,
afterwards holding on by his legs, clasped round the copper support,
while he took the rope from his shoulders, undid the loop, and then tied
it securely to the great, strong copper rod.

"All this time he had had his straw hat on; and now, taking it off, he
gave it a skim away from him; and away it went right out into space, to
fall at last far from the foot of the tower.

"Joey now began to descend very slowly and carefully, as if the coming
down was worse than the going up, and more than once he slipped; but he
had tight hold of the rope with one hand, and that saved him, so that he
only rested, and then continued his task.

"You see, the spire sloped so that he did not hang away from it, but
against the stone sides; and so we went on watching him till he was
about half-way down, when he stopped to rest, and, pulling up the rope a
bit as he stood with one foot on a crocket, he tied in it a big loop,
slipped one leg right through, and sat in it, swinging to and fro as he
held on to the rope so as to rest his legs.

"We gave him another cheer, and so did the Rector, who just then came
up, when Joey waved his hand.

"As he did this, something occurred which took away my breath; for, poor
fellow, he seemed to slip, and, before we could utter a cry, he turned
over and hung head downwards, falling, with his leg slipping through the
loop, till his foot caught; and he hung by it, fighting hard for a few
moments to get back, but all in vain; and, as we watched him, his
struggles got weaker, so that he did not turn himself up so far when
trying to reach the loop where his ankle was caught; and at last he hung
there, swinging gently to and fro, only moving his hands.

"By this time the Rector, I and two more had got to the belfry door, and
we ran panting up the dark staircase till we got out upon the leads.

"`Hold on, Joey,' I shouted.  `I'm coming.'

"`Make haste,' he cried faintly, `I'm about done.'

"By this time I was about ten feet up, and climbing as hard as I could,
forgetting all the danger in the excitement; for I don't think I should
have dared to go up on another occasion.

"It was very hard work, and as I climbed the wind seemed to blow
terribly; but I got up and up, panting as I did so, till at last I was
clinging there with one foot resting on a crocket, wondering what I
should do.

"`Look sharp, lad,' said poor Joey, `It seems as if all my blood was
rushing into my head.'

"I leaned over and got hold of the rope close to his ankle, but do
anything more I could not.  I had all the will in the world to help the
poor fellow, but it took all my strength to keep myself with one hand
from falling; and as to raising my old companion, I neither had the
strength nor the idea as to how it could be done.

"The only way out of the difficulty seemed to be to take out my knife
and cut the rope, and then the poor fellow would be killed.

"`Come down,' cried a voice below me.

"Looking towards the leads, there was the Rector stripped to his shirt
and trousers, and with a coil of rope over his shoulder--for the new
well rope had proved to be long enough to let him cut off some five and
thirty feet.

"`Don't leave me,' groaned Joey, who was half fainting.  `I feel as if I
should fall any moment.  I say, lad, this is very awful!'

"`Here's the parson coming up,' I said.

"And so it was; for he went to the row of crockets on the other side of
Joey, who now hung, looking blue in the face, and with his eyes closed.

"`He must make haste--make haste,' he moaned, softly.

"I stopped, holding on, while the Rector climbed up quicker than either
of us had done it, drawing himself up by his arms in a wonderful way
till he was abreast of we two--me holding on, and Joey hanging on by one
foot.

"As soon as the Rector reached us, he said a few words of encouragement
to Joey, who did not speak a word, and then climbing higher, tied the
short rope he carried to the long rope just above the loop-knot which
held Joey's ankle.  Then coming down a little, he tied his rope tightly
round Joey, just under the armpits.

"`That will bear you, my lad,' he said.  `But catch fast hold of it with
your hands, while I cut your foot free.'

"Climbing up higher once more, he pulled out his knife, opened it with
his teeth, and then began to saw through the strands of the loop that
held Joey's ankle, till there was a snap, a jerk, and a heavy swinging
to and fro; for the poor fellow had fallen two or three feet, and was
now hanging by the rope round his breast right way upwards.

"He did not make any effort for a few minutes, and as cheer after cheer
came to us from below, he swung there, with us holding on for dear life.

"`Can you climb down now, Rance,' said the Rector, `if I cut you free?'

"`No, sir,' he said hoarsely, `I've no use in my arms or legs--they're
all pins and needles.'

"`Then we must lower you down,' said the Rector, calmly.  And getting
hold of the long piece of rope, he climbed up once more, as coolly as if
he was on an apple tree in his own orchard, and saw that the knots were
fast; then coming down, he passed his long rope through the one round
Joey's breast, and tied it again round him.

"`Now,' he said, `Fincher and I will hold on by this rope, and you can
let yourself slide through the other loop--one arm first, and then the
other, steadily.'

"The poor fellow had hard work to do it; but the loop was loose enough
to let him work it over his head, and then with the Rector striding
across from the crocket at one angle to that on the other, and me
holding on to the rope as well, we let him down, sliding with his back
to the stone, till his feet touched the leads, when he fell down all of
a heap.

"`Untie the rope,' said the Rector, `and get him down.'

"He spoke very hoarsely, shouting to them below; and a cheer came up.

"`Now, Fincher,' said the Rector, `we've got to get down.'

"As he spoke, he made a running noose in the rope with the end he held
in his hand, let it run up to the the big noose, and pulled it tight.

"Then he made an effort to get his legs together on one angle; but the
distance he had been striding was too great, and he couldn't recover
himself, but swung away by his hands.

"`I can't help it, Fincher--I must go first,' he cried.  And he was
already sliding down the rope as he spoke; but I was so unnerved and
giddy now, that I dared not look down.

"I believe I quite lost my head then for a few moments; for I was
clinging there for life a hundred and twenty feet above the ground, and
the wind seemed to be trying to push me from my hold.

"I was brought to myself, though, just as the landscape about me seemed
to be spinning round, by feeling the rope touch my side; and I clasped
it convulsively with both hands, and then, winding my legs round it,
slid rapidly down, the rope seeming to turn to fire as it passed through
my hands.

"A few moments later, and I was safe on the tower leads, trying like the
rest to smile at the danger we had passed through; but it was a faint
sickly kind of smile and we were all very glad to get down to the green,
and cared nothing for the cheers of the people.

"The rope was left hanging there, and stayed till it rotted away; but
somehow before a week was out, that weathercock stopped squeaking, as if
some one had been up to oil it, and, though nothing was said about it,
I've always felt as sure as sure that the Rector went up by himself and
did it early one morning before any one was up.

"He was cool-headed enough to do it, for he certainly saved Joe Rance's
life, and I know no one in the village would have done it without
bragging after.  At all events, the weathercock was oiled, and as I said
over and over again to Joey, `if Parson didn't oil that weathercock, who
did?'

"That all goes to prove what I say," I replied when he had finished.
"You were all guilty of foolhardiness just to gratify a little vanity."

"Well, you see, doctor, no man likes for his mates to think him a
coward."

"Let them think, so long as you know you are not."

"That's what Parson said," replied Fincher, "when he talked about it
next day."

"Then _Parson_, as you so politely call him, was quite right."



CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

MY PATIENT THE WAREHOUSEMAN.

"I don't grudge a man a glass of beer or anything of the sort," I said
to a patient of mine whom I was attending, and who it was said look more
than was good for him; "beer is very well in its way, but I'm certain of
one thing, and that is that a man is better without either beer or
spirits."

"What! in moderation, doctor?" he said.

"Yes, even in moderation; men existed and were well and strong and
happy, depend upon it, long before beer or mead was invented."

"Ah, doctor, I see you're a teetotaller," he said.

"Not I, my man, unless one who seldom takes wine, spirits, or beer be a
teetotaller.  When you get as old as I am, you will probably begin to
think that it is as well to take as much care as possible of the machine
in which you live.  Suppose you had some clean, pretty mechanism--your
watch, say, or a musical box, you would be very careful not to injure
it."

"Of course, doctor."

"Then, why take anything that is likely to destroy so wonderful a piece
of work as the human body?"

"But, does drinking beer destroy the body, doctor?"

"That depends," I said.  "If you have your half-pint or pint of beer for
dinner and supper, I believe, honestly, you would be better without it,
speaking as a doctor; but I don't believe that indulgence would keep you
from living in fair health to seventy, eighty, or ninety."

"Then where's the harm, doctor."

"The harm is drinking when you don't want it, and causing in yourself an
unnatural thirst or desire for strong drink that can never more be
quenched.  Look around among your fellow workmen, and see how many you
know who must have their half-pint before going to work, and their
half-pint at eleven o'clock, and at four o'clock, and after leaving off;
and at last get so that their machine won't go without oiling, and they
can't pass a public-house without wanting more and more."

"That's a true word, doctor."

"And what does it mean," I said; "in the more moderate cases decided
dejection; unnatural features; bloated face; injured intellect and
general discomfort; and in the worst cases delirium tremens, and death."

"Ah, but you are speaking of the worst cases, doctor, the regular
drunkards."

"No," I said, "I was speaking of the regular drinkers, the men who
rarely get drunk, for they are inured to the liquor they consume."

"I suppose you are right, doctor," he said; "Jacob Wood went regularly
mad with drink."

"I don't know Jacob Wood," I said; "but you may depend upon it if he did
go regularly mad, as you call it, he had drunk until his internal organs
were all in a state of disease that affected the brain; and if you'll
take my advice, my man--"

"You'd turn teetotaller?"

"No, I don't put so heavy a tie upon you," I replied, "you have been
used to your beer; well, if you feel to want it make a stringent rule
that you will never take any except with your meals; you'll be a better
man in a month, and will not need to come to me."

"Pity poor old Jacob Wood didn't come to you, doctor."

"It's a pity he did not," I said.  "Let me see, you are a warehouseman,
are you not?"

"Yee, sir, I work up in one of the great Tooley Street warehouses, seven
stories above the ground, and everywhere around me wool--bales upon
bales of wool which we crane up from waggons or lighters and in at an
open door, where, if a fellow had had a little drop too much and
slipped--well, seven stories would be an awful fall.

"Ours is a place worth going over, sir.  There's floors upon floors
beneath, stored with jute and dye-woods, teas, coffees, spices,
tobaccos, and lowest of all on the ground floor and in the cellarage,
tallows in great hogsheads.  Ah, it's a busy place, and the stores there
is worth some money, and no mistake.

"I remember Jacob Wood doctor," he said, drawing in a long breath as if
of pain, "and no wonder; but it's strange, how very little people see
danger when it's coming to them.

"I was at our warehouse one day, and had been down for half-a-pint,
when, `What's the matter with Jacob Wood this afternoon?' says one of
the men.

"But, excepting that he looked a little wild about the eyes, I didn't
see anything more about him than might often be seen in men who will
drink heavily at times; and so I said.  But at last, towards evening,
when I was longing to get away home to spend my evening comfortably, I
was left alone upon that floor with him, and felt a bit startled to see
him go all at once to the open door where the crane landed the bales,
and cut some strange capers, like a man going to dive off a board into
the sea.

"Putting down my work, which was getting ready two or three burst bales
for the hydraulic press, so that they might be tied up again, I slipped
quietly up behind him, and laid my hand upon his shoulder, when, with a
yell, he shrieked out.

"And the next moment, by the light of the gas on that foggy winter's
afternoon, we two were wrestling and fighting together, within a few
feet of the door, out of which we should have fallen clear a hundred
feet upon the stones of the wharf below.

"I should have shouted, but all power of speech seemed taken away, as
locked together we wrestled here and there, while his hot breath hissed
against my cheek, and I could look close into his wild, glowering eyes
as, flushing with rage, he bore me nearer and nearer to the doorway.

"Used as I was at all times to standing close to the edge and receiving
bales and packages, I could lean over usually without a shudder; but
now, with this madman slowly forcing me back towards the certain death,
I could feel the cold sweat standing upon my face, and trembled so with
dread that my resistance became feebler and feebler; till as a last
resource I managed to get my leg between my opponent's, and tripped him,
when we fell heavily.

"Fortunately for me my enemy was undermost, and the force with which his
head came against the warehouse floor partly stunned him, so that I
shook myself free, and turned and fled towards the stairs.  But the next
moment I thought of the open doorway, and the state the poor fellow was
in, so turned back to lock it, to ensure that he did not come by his
death by falling out before I could get assistance.

"My hand was on the door, but I could not close it, for Wood lay in the
way; and shuddering at how near he lay to the gulf, I stooped to draw
him on one side, when he started up and seized me again.

"To beat up his hands, and turn, and ran down between the piled-up bales
didn't take long, while roaring with rage I could hear him tearing after
me.

"The stairs were pretty close, but as I ran round the end of the bales I
found the door closed, and had to dart past to avoid being caught; when
I turned down another opening between the packages, and ran panting on.

"Big as the floor was, there was passage after passage between the wool,
which was piled-up eight or nine feet high, and I tore on in the hope o'
getting ahead so that I could dart through the stairs door, fasten it
after me, and so escape or summon assistance.  On and on I ran, now
getting ahead, and now with the panting breath close to my shoulder, so
that I expected every moment to feel a savage hand laid upon me to drag
me down.  At last he got so near that his hand brushed me; but, with a
yell of horror, I leaped forward again, dodged round a corner, ran down
a short passage, and again on, past pillars and piles, when turning
round I found that I was alone; and hurrying to about the centre of the
narrow passage, between the high walls of wool, I leaned against the
side panting and breathless.

"`Now, if I could but reach the door while he was at the other end,' I
thought, `I should be safe;' and I kept on nervously watching the two
ends of the passage lest I should be taken by surprise; when, to my
horror, I saw by the gas shining upon it a savage head peer round from
the end nearest the way of escape, watch me for a moment, and then
disappear.  It was now quite dim and twilight in all the passages, and
my first idea was to dart off in the opposite direction; but a little
thought told me that perhaps the wretch did not see me, and therefore I
had better stay where I was; and so I stood minute after minute
expecting to see him come round one end or the other, and dash down upon
me.

"I knew that about half-past five the watchman would come round, and
then I could give the alarm; but it wanted nearly an hour of that time,
and how I was to hold out till then I could not tell; for the very
thought unnerved me; and, overcome with fear, I could feel my knees
tremble and seem ready to give way beneath my weight.

"Five minutes passed--ten minutes--and still no sign.  My spirits rose a
little, and I began to hope that escape was yet possible, but abated
nothing of my watchfulness.  Another five minutes, and I had almost
determined upon trying to steal down towards the door, where the
reflection from the gaslight made the end of the passage quite bright,
while where I stood was in a fast-deepening shadow.  I took two steps
forward noiselessly, and then stopped; stole on again and stopped with a
dead silence all around, through which I could hear the singing of the
gas and the loud `throb, throb' of my heart.  I had somewhat recovered
my breath, and kept slinking silently on, every now and then looking
back to see that there was no pursuit.  What I should have liked, and
which would have been in accordance with my feelings at the moment,
would have been to dash forward; but I kept down the desire, and crept
slowly on between the two huge walls of wool bales piled some eight or
nine feet high.

"Only another three yards, and here I stopped, trembling in dread lest
Wood might be watching for me; but calling myself fool, coward, and cur,
I stepped on again; and at last, with the light shining full upon me,
leaned forward to peer cautiously round the edge of the bales.  Slowly
and quietly, nearer and nearer, till I looked round; and then, with a
horrible fascination upon me, I stopped still--for, in precisely the
same position, Wood was craning his neck forward to peep round at me;
and with eyes looking into eyes, and only three or four inches apart, we
stood what seemed minutes immovable.  Move I could not, speak I could
not, for my throat felt dry and hot; while my eyes, fixed and staring,
looked into those glaring, wild-beastlike orbs, which seemed to hold me
fixed to the earth as if some horrible nightmare was upon me.  I felt
that if I closed my eyes but for a moment he would spring at me; and at
last, clutching the wool firmly with one hand, I drew myself slowly
back, fixing his eyes the whole while, and then, as my strength seemed
to come back, I leapt round and fled down the passage once more, as I
heard a hideous yell, and saw Wood dash into the entrance.

"But there was silence again directly, and looking back as I reached the
middle, I could see that I was not pursued; when, fearing that with all
a madman's cunning he had gone round to try and trap me at the other
end, I stopped once more where I was, mentally praying for aid, as I
strained eyes and ears to catch sight of or hear my enemy.

"A quarter of an hour must have passed without a sound meeting my ears,
and I was hopefully calculating upon aid soon coming, when a slight
rustling noise seemed to have been made close by me, and I started and
looked eagerly towards the dark and then towards the light end of the
narrow passage I was in.

"Nothing to be seen; and the minutes again passed slowly on, when all at
once came the most horribly unearthly yell I ever heard from just above
my head, and then, overcome with terror as I shrank to the floor, I
looked up and knew that Wood had climbed over the top of the wool; and
as the thought flashed through my mind, he bounded down upon me and had
me by the throat.

"I struggled for a few moments, and then lights seemed dancing before my
eyes, blood rushing to my head; and, in a half-insensible state, I have
some recollection of being dragged along the floor into the gaslight,
and then pulled and thrust about for a few moments, when there came the
regular thud-thud of the little pump close by, and I could feel myself
moving upwards.  But all seemed so calm, and such a desire for sleep was
upon me, that it was not till there was a fearful sense of oppression
and tightness that I awoke to the consciousness that the wretch had
forced me on to the traveller of the hydraulic press, and was now
forcing in the water beneath the ram, so that in a few more seconds my
life would be crushed out.

"Thud-thud, thud-thud went the pump, and the pressure was awful; while
at the same time, as I vainly writhed and tried to press down the heavy
plate that was crushing me, I was conscious of a great light which shone
around, and which I thought was caused by the flushing sensation in my
eyes; but no, for directly there came the noise of shouting, louder
every moment; and then I made out, ringing up from the yard, those
horrid words, `Fire! fire!' and then I knew that Wood must have fired
the warehouse.

"Shouts, cries, and the noise of hurrying feet; and Wood stood in the
glare of light, looking first one way and then the other, as if
confused, for he had quitted the pump on the first noise of shouting.
All at once he darted away; and half fainting and suffocated with the
pressure, I could do nothing but groan feebly, after struggling a
little, to find every effort vain; and then with sharpened senses gaze
at the flames licking the roof of the floor I was on, and escaping up
the sides of wool bales, and the more inflammable goods that were in the
warehouse.  The smoke soon became blinding and the heat stifling; and
for me there seemed no hope, since I was sure no one would be able to
penetrate to where I was; when again I gave a struggle, and stretched
down my hand backwards to try and reach the tap, which would let off the
water and set me at liberty, or at least place me in a position to try
and escape the horrible death that seemed my fate.

"But no, the handle was far out of my reach; and I groaned and wept at
my helpless condition.  The press held me by the chest with awful power,
but my hands and arms were at liberty; while my head hanging down
backwards enabled me to see the flames creeping along faster and faster,
as I saw them reversed, and began to calculate how long it would be
before they would reach me and end my misery.

"All at once, when nearly fainting, my hand came in contact with the
iron bar used to lengthen the handle of the pump, to force in the water
with more ease when greater power was required; and then my heart gave a
leap as I thought I might be able to strike the handle of the tap and
let out the water.

"I grasped the bar, and then I began swinging it about slowly, to try
and strike the tap; but in vain, for I could do nothing with it from
only being able to swing it at random, for I could not see.  Nearer came
the flames, louder rose the shouts; and as I looked along the warehouse
I could see that all escape was out off by the stairs, even if I had
been at liberty; and now, completely overcome by the pressure and the
horror of my position, I groaned heavily, and the bar fell from my
grasp.

"`The last hope gone,' I thought; when at the same moment a familiar
sound struck my ear, for in falling the bar had struck upon the tap,
when there came the fierce gush of the compressed water, and the ram
began slowly to descend till I could crawl out, to fall fainting upon
the floor.

"But I was up again directly, for there was a fierce glow in the place;
and now I could see Wood busily at work tearing out wool to feed the
flames, and dashing everything else he could lay his hands upon into the
fire, which seemed at times to singe him.

"I looked round, for he took no notice of me; and I had before seen
there was no escape by the door, so, running to the open door by the
crane, I caught hold of the rope, and began lowering it down as fast as
possible, with the light shining full upon me, and the people below
either groaning with horror or cheering me on as I tore at the stout
rope, and sent the crane handle spinning round and round.

"Could I but get enough rope out before Wood's attention was taken, I
felt safe, for I knew that I could slide down easily enough; but, as I
dreaded, he caught sight of me, and leaving his fiery task, he rushed
towards the door; when, with a yell of terror, I leaped from the
flooring, clinging tightly to the rope, which began to run swiftly out
as I swung to and fro till it was all out, when the jerk nearly dashed
me off.  But, after sliding down some little way, I recovered myself,
and letting the rope glide slowly through my hands, I went lower and
lower, with my eyes fixed on the blazing floor above.

"All at once I felt the rope jerked and swung about, and I could see the
figure of Wood at it; and then again I was being drawn up, and I knew he
must be busy at the crane handle; but the next minute he must have
loosened his hold.

"There was a yell from the crowd, something dark dashed by me with a
rushing noise, and as I clung trembling to the rope I heard a horrible
dull thud, and slipping swiftly down the rope for the remainder of the
distance, I suppose I fell fainting by the side of Wood's mutilated
form.

"The fire was got under when our floor was burned out, though much
damage was done by water; but with the exception of a strange, nervous
timidity that I fancy I shall never get the better of, I was not much
the worse."

"And was Jacob Wood killed?"

"No, sir," he said; "he fell upon some bales of wool; but he was
dreadfully hurt, and never man enough to take his turn in the warehouse
again, and very glad we all were."

"And yet you men rather need an example."

"Well, yes, sir, we do," he said, thoughtfully; "but I'm going to turn
over a new leaf."



CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

MY PATIENT IN THE RIVER POLICE.

"Don't you find it very dreary at night upon the river?"  I said to one
of my regular patients--a river policeman--who preferred my services to
those of the divisional surgeon for a long bout of sciatica.

"Just like the old woman's eels, sir, and the skinning: one gets used to
it.  It's lonesome like of a night upwards; but there you have the
lights on the bridges and there's gas here and gas there; and a faint
roar comes over the housetops from out of the streets.  It's when you're
below bridge that it seems dull; where the big vessels are moored in the
black muddy stream, that goes hurrying by them with a low, rushing
noise--creeping and leaping at their slimy sides, covering their anchor
chains, or the buoy to which they swing, with all sorts of muddy refuse;
and sometimes of a night there'll be a body get hanging on somehow,
ready for us to find and take ashore.

"Now, if I give you a bit of tight chain going from a ship's bows to an
anchor down in the mud, on one side; and if I give you a dead body
floating along on the other side, you'd think directly as there'd be no
chance of the one stopping by the other--you'd think as one would float
down all slimy and horrible, touch against t'other, and then rising, it
would ride far enough out to sea.  But, Lor' bless you, that's where
you're wrong; for how it is I can't tell you, but it always seems to me,
and has seemed ever since I was in the river police, that dead bodies
lash and hang themselves somehow against mooring chains, on purpose that
they might be found, and get a decent burial.  Else how could they stop
as they do, over and over again?  I can't tell, nor you can't tell, nor
nobody can't tell; it's a nat'ral mystery, and mysteries is things as
gets over all of us.

"Since I was nearly being found myself, hitched on to a mooring chain--
for I'll lay any money that if I had been bested I should have gone
quite naturally all the same to where I'd seen so many before--I've got
to take a little more than a business interest in such things.  It's
very awful, you know; and though I'm an ignorant man, it often sets me
thinking on the dark nights when our galley's going slowly with the
stream, floating along the black, rushing river--yes, it often sets me
thinking about the state of affairs in our great city, and wondering
whether all our great civilisation's so good after all, when it brings
down stream to-night a decently-dressed body with the pockets inside
out, and marks as of blows on the swollen face; to-morrow night a
well-dressed body with no marks, and money and watch and all there; next
night the body of a young woman with an oldish face, but on that face a
weary, despairing look, that seems to say there was no rest anywhere but
in the river, and into the river she had come; next night, again,
perhaps another well-dressed body, most likely with a bit of paper and a
half washed-out address pinned inside the torn dress bosom--and this
one, perhaps, would be young, and fair, and pale, and sometimes not at
all horrible to look at.

"There, I've seen great, strong, rough men, used to all sorts of things,
stand with their hats off by such sights, and speak in even choky
voices, as if they could hardly keep back something that they would be
ashamed for others to see, down by some river stairs, where the muddy
tide has gone `lap, lap,' at one, two, or three o'clock in the morning.
Why, at such times I've often felt creepy myself; for people may say
what they like, but you never do get used to death, and whenever you
meet it you feel a strange sense of quietness stealing over you; and one
of the first things generally done when we land a body is, old or young,
to cover it with sheet or sack; and even then there's a horrible sort of
drawing of you in it; and I've sat before now watching, and unable to
get away from the uncouth covered thing, with the stream of water
trickling slowly away to get back to the river.

"But, there, I think you've had enough about what goes floating down the
river and floating up the the river, backwards and forwards, with the
tide grinding it against wharf, and pier, and buttress, till there's no
telling who or what it was.  I dare say you've had enough; but it's a
thing I could go on talking about for hours--beginning with me, or one
of my mates, or a River Jack finding of them, and then going on, through
the giving notice, and the inquest, and all the rest of it; and it's all
going on day after day, month after month, year after year.  Talk of the
River Jacks, though, what a singular thing it is: they never by any
chance find a body with any valuables about it; but always, when they
come across it, watch, money, pins, brooches, they're all gone; and
when, quite serious-like, I've asked them how they can account for it,
I've always got the same answer--a knowing wink of the left eye.

"Ours is a strange sort of life, and lots hardly know of our existence;
but, bless you, there'd soon be some rum goings-on if our little row
galleys were not always busy at work up and down the river.  You take
plenty of precautions on shore, don't you, where there's wealth?  Well,
don't you think there's as much need afloat, where there's millions of
pounds' worth of stuff almost at the mercy of the thief?  For though
sailors are pretty good at keeping watch out at sea, get 'em in port,
and watching with them means choosing the softest plank under the
bulwarks, and having a good caulk.  So that's where we come in useful--
working along with the Custom House officers to keep down the plundering
and smuggling that, but for us, would be carried on to an awful extent.
For, you see, there are gangs who make it a practice to work with
lightermen and with sailors; and sometimes by night, sometimes in open
day--they carry off prizes that are pretty valuable.

"River pirates you may call them, though they've got half a score of
cant names, and tea chests, bags of rice or sugar, kegs of spirits,
rolls of tobacco, all's fish that comes to their net; and if they can't
get things of that sort, why they'll go in for bits of sails, ropes and
chains, or blocks, anything even to a sheet of copper or a seaman's
kit--once they get their claws into it, there's not much chance of its
being seen again.

"It used to be ten times worse than it is now, and in those days there
was a fellow whom I'll call River Jack, who was about the most daring
and successful rascal that ever breathed.  We knew his games, but we
could never catch him in the fact; and at last of all I got so riled at
the fault found with us, as robbery after robbery took place, that one
night, after a row about a ship's bell stolen off the deck of a large
Swedish corn barque, I made up my mind that I'd never let things rest
till I'd caught Mr River Jack at some one or other of his games, and
had him sent out of the country.

"Now, talking was one thing and doing another, and just at that time I'd
been making arrangements for putting a stop to my activity by hanging a
weight round my neck.  I needn't mention any names, but there was a
young lady there--my wife now--that I used to go and see, and as soon as
ever it came to my time for going off to duty there used to be a scene,
for she got it into her head that I should be sure to meet with some
terrible accident on the river; and at last, from being rather soft
after her, what with the talk and tears, I used to be in anything but a
good trim for my spell.

"`There, don't be such a chicken,' I used to say, when she'd laid her
little head on my shoulder, and been talking a whole lot of unreasonable
nonsense; but it was of no use to talk, she would be a chicken; and one
night I went away, feeling as if I had caught the infection, for I never
felt more chicken-hearted in my life.

"An hour after I was on the river, with three more, pulling very gently
along in and out amongst the shadows of the great ships.  But whether we
were in the shadow or out, it did not make much difference, for a darker
night I never saw, and one and all we came to the conclusion that if we
were lucky, there must be something for us to do; for that some of River
Jack's gang would be at work we were one and all sure.  You see, it was
just the sort of night they would like; for looking out was no use,
since we could see nothing four yards ahead; all we could do was to wait
in the hope that our friends might come near us--and come they did.

"We had been paddling gently about for a couple of hours, and at last
had pulled under the stern of a great vessel that had come up the river
that evening, but had been too late to get into dock.  She was fresh
over from the East Indies; and besides saltpetre, and tea, and
cochineal, she had on board a large freight of odds and ends--
curiosities and such-like.  Of course we did not know this then; but a
big vessel like she was seemed very likely to prove a bait to the river
pirates, and there we lay holding on to the rudder chains.

"`I wish I was a-bed,' says Jack Murray, one of the men under me that
night.

"`I wish I was over a pipe and a glass of grog,' says Tom Grey, who was
another.

"And then we sat still again, knowing that we should be sure to hear of
something wrong in the morning, and knowing, too, that even if there was
some game carried on within a dozen yards of us we should not hear it.

"We were in luck, though, this night, for a minute after there was a
soft plash heard above the rushing of the river, something dark passed
over where a miserable glim of a lamp was shining.  Then there was a
faint low whistle from over our heads, another from out of the black
darkness where we heard the plash, and then a boat brushed close by us;
there was the sound as of something being lowered down, and before you
could say `Jack Robinson' we'd grappled that boat, and the man in it;
slipped on the handcuffs, and got him fast, with a bale of silk
handkerchiefs in his boat; and in a few minutes we'd got a couple of the
sailors as well.

"You may guess my surprise and delight when I took a look at our
prisoner with a lantern, to find that it was River Jack himself; and, to
make a long story short, he was convicted and sentenced to ten years'
transportation.

"`But I'll be back before that, Tom Johnson,' he shouts to me as soon as
he had got his sentence; `and when I do come--look out.'

"He was hurried out of court before he could say any more; but those
words somehow, for a time, sunk into my memory, and worried me a deal,
till I got married, and then I forgot them.

"Well, my married life was just the same as any other man's married
life, except that my wife always had such a dislike to my way of
business.  Twenty times over she would have had me leave it for
something else; but, as I said to her, `a bird in the hand's worth two
in the bush, 'specially if the one's bread and cheese and the other
ain't.'  For, you know, what was the good of me giving up the certain
sure for the certain chance?

"`But I do have such horrible dreams about you,' she says.

"`Dreams never come true,' says I.

"`Oh, yes, they do,' she says.  `My aunt once dreamt that they were
going to have the bailiffs in; only a month after, in they came.'

"`Well, I don't mind believing that,' says I, `for it's a very likely
thing to happen to any of us.'

"`But I'm always dreaming you're being drowned,' she says.

"`Well, then don't dream so any more,' I says huffishly, for I was in a
hurry to be off.

"And I ask you, just as a fair question, is it pleasant, if your duty
takes you on the water all day or all night, as the case may be, to have
the wife of your bosom always dreaming that you are brought home
drowned?

"I got to be obstinate at last, for it was all nonsense to think of
giving up a decent position on chance; so the more my wife dreamed about
me being drowned, the more I came home at regular times, sound as a
roach, and dry as a bone, except in wet weather.  Matters went on as
usual; chaps were caught stealing or smuggling, and they were imprisoned
or fined; and all this time I'd forgotten about River Jack, till one
evening, when, from information I'd received, I had myself rowed, as
soon as it was dark, on to one of half a score of lighters moored off
the Surrey shore, and loaded with the freight they had been taking out
of a full-rigged ship, just about a hundred yards ahead.  For, you see,
some owners won't go to the expense of having their vessel in dock, but
have it unladen where she lies.  I had had a hint or two that there was
likely to be something on the way; but as it was a light night, I knew
very well that if our boat lay anywhere on the watch, the consequence
would be that the plundering party would never come near.

"Well, I had myself rowed there, crept on to one lighter quietly,
loosened an end of a tarpaulin, got underneath, and made myself snug as
possible, giving my men orders to lay off behind a brig two hundred
yards away, ready to come up to my help when they heard me whistle.
Then, in a moment or two, I heard the oars dip, growing fainter and
fainter each moment, till all was still but the sighing of the wind, and
the lapping, rushing noise of the tide running down hard.

"What an easy thing it is to plan out anything on paper, or in your own
head, and what a different affair it turns out when you work it out in
practice!  Here was I lying snug in hiding, and all I'd got to do was to
wait patiently till anybody came to plunder the lighters, then jump up,
staff or pistol in hand, and arrest the lot; whistle, when our galley
would come up; the men be transferred into the boat; taken to the
station; and praise and promotion for me would most likely follow.

"That's how it was on paper; this is how it turned out in practice.

"I'd lain there for quite half an hour, in not the most comfortable of
positions, when, growing tired, I took a glance out through a hole I
slit with my knife in the tarpaulin; but all was still--nothing to be
heard but the rushing of the river past the great barge, and I lay back
once more, wondering whether the enemy would come, and, if they did
come, how long they would be first.

"I don't think I'm more of a coward than most men, but somehow just
about then I began to wish that I had made a couple of our fellows stay
with me; then I wished that it was morning; and then, as I turned cold
and shivering, I began to think about that dream of my wife's; and from
being cold I now grew hot and wet with perspiration, so that I was
thinking of lifting the tarpaulin a little, when I stopped the idea, for
I heard all at once a sharp, scratching noise.

"`Bats,' I said to myself; and I began to think of the amount of
mischief the little wretches do on shipboard, getting carried out, too,
in the bales to the lighters, and from them into warehouse and bonded
store.

"Then came the scratching again, and a slight rustling; and I uttered a
loud, sharp hiss to drive them away; for, shut up as I was, I did not
much like the idea of being nibbled by rats.

"That hiss did it; for it was all that some one wanted to know.  My
whereabouts was nearly guessed at: that showed it exactly.

"The rats seemed to have gone, and I was peering about in the darkness,
when there came another faint rustling noise, and then--_crash_--it was
as though half a dozen bales of cotton had been thrown upon me.  I was
nearly suffocated; but I had sense enough to know that several men had
thrown themselves upon the tarpaulin; that my enemies had been too much
for me, and had been lying in hiding beneath the coverings when I came,
and had now taken me at a disadvantage.

"The thoughts ran rapidly through my brain, and I struggled hard to get
myself sufficiently at liberty to blow my whistle, when a voice that I
seemed to know whispered--

"`Lie still, or we'll drive a knife through to you.'

"Struggling was, I knew, useless then; so I prepared myself for an
effort when opportunity offered.  But they were too much for me.  As the
tarpaulin was raised, three men crept under; a lot of oakum was thrust
into my mouth; my whistle taken away; the handcuffs in my pocket, ready
unlocked, thrust upon my own wrists; and, with many a warning growl, I
was rolled off the lighter side into a boat that I had supposed to
belong to one of the barges.

"`Now, Jack, you and Dick take him off,' was whispered; and I thought I
caught the word `Erith.'

"`They'll lay me in one of the reed-beds, bound hand and foot,' I
thought; `and the others will help clear this lighter the while.'

"I was so excited that I made a bit of a struggle, but only to have the
end of an oar brought down heavily across my forehead; and the next
moment some one leaned over me, and for a few seconds the glaring light
of a bull's-eye rested upon my face.

"The next minute my blood ran cold; for there was a low laugh at my ear,
and a voice I seemed to know said--

"`Every dog has its day, my lad.  It's my turn now!'

"I wanted no telling--I could understand all plainly enough.  River Jack
had come back, and he meant to have his revenge.

"But what would he do?  He would not mur--

"Pooh! nonsense! his companions would interfere.  But there was only one
here, and they were softly but swiftly rowing me down with the tide.  If
they would land me at Erith!  They said so; but then this scoundrel had
not known me, and now that we had openly recognised one another, he
could not afford to have me as a witness to his having returned before
his time.

"Was my wife's dream coming true?  I shuddered from head to foot as I
heard the washing of the water beneath the boat's keel; and then I
thought of the bodies I had seen brought out, and the mooring chains;
and then it seemed to me that I was to be as I had seen others, and a
horrible sweat of terror broke out on me.  But just then my attention
was taken up by a low muttering between the men, and Hope whispered that
one of them was opposing the other's plans.  Whatever was said, though,
silence followed, and they rowed on swiftly for what must have been a
quarter of an hour, though to me it seemed an age, when, before I could
do more than utter an inarticulate roar of despair, I was lifted quickly
to the boat's gunwale, and in another moment I was beneath the cold,
rushing water.

"A struggle or two brought me to the surface again, and I made an effort
with my fastened hands to reach the boat; but, with brutal indifference,
Jack placed the blade of his scull against my chest, and thrust me
under; and when I again rose, it was out of sight of those who had
thrown me in.

"Even in that time of agony, with the water burning and strangling in my
nostrils, and thundering in my ears, I could think of the plunder the
scoundrels would get; of how my men would stay waiting for my whistle;
of my wife's dream; and lastly, of the finding of my handcuffed body,
floating up and down with the tide.  The papers would call it a
mysterious murder, for I was sure to be found; but that River Jack would
have it brought home to him was not likely.

"I could do but little; every struggle seemed to send me lower; I tried
to float, but in vain; and the water whirled me round and round, drove
me against vessel sides that I could not clutch, past lights that I
could not hail, and I was fast lapsing into insensibility, when I struck
something hard, raised my arms over it, and clung there with my nostrils
above water--learning the secret of how bodies could hang to a mooring
chain.

"At the end of a fortnight's fever, I learned how that I had been found
soon after by another of our galleys, clinging to the mooring chain of a
great vessel; but it was for some time a question of doubt whether our
men had found a body with or without life.

"That's many years ago now, and such deeds have happily grown rare;
though you don't know of all that goes on down the river.  I'm in the
force still, and mean to stay; for River Jack was taken, and report says
he was shot by a sentry while attempting to escape, out in one of the
penal settlements."



CHAPTER NINETEEN.

MY PATIENT THE EMIGRANT.

Talking of penal settlements naturally suggests settlements that are not
penal, where our most enterprising unsuccessful men go to seek the home
and prosperity that they have not been able to discover here.  One such
man as this was Samson Harris, who, after twenty years of Australian
life, returned home with a comfortable competency for a man of his
class.  He was no millionaire, but he had made enough to live upon to
the end of his days, and then leave enough for his children.

I attended his family, the little that they needed of medical aid, and
finding him a thoroughly well-informed man, full of general knowledge, a
certain amount of intimacy ensued, and he at various times told me so
much of his life out at the Antipodes, that I was pretty well able to
picture it from beginning to end.

He gave me one very vivid account of an incident in his career which I
have endeavoured to reproduce.

From his description of his home, it might have been in one of the
midland counties, the scene was so calm and peaceful.  The roughly-built
cottage, with its familiar English objects here and there--the
loudly-ticking clock, the cleanly-scrubbed three-legged table; the big
old family Bible; the cage of white wicker, with its ragged-tailed
thrush hopping from perch to perch; and I picture to myself Samson
Harris seated there upon a stool in the midst of the humble room, before
a tin bucket of water, Englishman written boldly in the lines of his
rugged, ruddy, sun-tanned face, as he bent to his task of washing out
the barrel of his rifle--a necessity for protection in those early
settling days--making the water play up like a fountain from the nipple,
to the great delight of two rosy children who were looking on.

It might have been here, in one of the midland counties, but there was
something about the brightness of the afternoon sun which streamed in at
the open door, the blueness of the sky, the clearness of the atmosphere,
and the scenery around, that was not English.  The flowers that
clustered about the door and nodded round the rough window-frame, and
the objects that peeped here and there from some corner, too, told of a
foreign land; while the huge pines that shot up arrow-like towards the
sky were such as could be seen nowhere but in Australia.

"The poor brutes have been calling you, lass, for the last half-hour,"
said he, looking up as a tall, fair-haired girl entered the room where
he was busy, milking-pail in hand, and stood to watch the task with as
much interest as the children.

"They shan't wait any longer, father," said the girl; and she passed
slowly through the door, humming a cheery old country ditty, and was
gone.

The barrel was taken from the water, and wiped out; and then Harris set
to work oiling the lock.

"Hallo, what are you back for?" he exclaimed as a roughly-dressed,
heavy-faced man came up to the hut-door at a trot, his forehead
streaming with perspiration, which had marked its course in lighter
lines through his dust-grimed face.  Directly behind him came, at an
easy, loping swing, a tall, thin, fleshless-looking native, whose black
skin shone as he came into the hut after his companion.

"Blacks out," panted the heavy-faced man, seizing the door as if to shut
it, at the same time examining the cap upon the rifle he
carried--"Blacks out, master."

"Blacks out, Tom?" said Samson; "blacks out?  'Pon my word, I never saw
such a coward in my life.  Now what in the world were you lagged for
that your conscience must make you see a nigger in his paint behind
every tree, or peeping up above the scrub?  Blacks!  Poor, inoffensive
beggars.  Why, you had your rifle, hadn't you, ready to scare off a
hundred?  This makes six times you've run home to cry wolf.  And you've
left those sheep to take care of themselves," he continued, forcing the
ramrod into its place as he rose as if to leave the hut.

"'Tain't wolf this time, master; 'tain't, indeed," cried the man
earnestly; and then, seeing Harris's smile of incredulity, he relapsed
into a look of sullen injury, and stood leaning upon his rifle-barrel.

"Here, come along," said Samson.

"Load up first, master," said Tom.  "'Tis true, indeed," he exclaimed,
once more seeking to obtain credence for his story.  "I saw scores.  Ask
Teddy here."

Now Teddy--or, as he was known in his tribe, Bidgeebidgee--stood spear
in hand, showing his white teeth, and apparently listening intently,
from the way in which his nostrils expanded and twitched.  That
something was amiss was evident, for, leaning his spear against the
wall, he now took off the ragged blue shirt he wore, unfastened his
girdle, and set free a formidable-looking waddy, or club, before
throwing himself flat upon the ground to listen.

Samson paused, startled, and though uncharged, he involuntarily cocked
his piece as Teddy, the black shepherd, leaped up and exclaimed--

"Black fellows all a-coming--one--two--ten hundred."

The next instant he threw himself into an attitude of attack, poising
his spear for hurling at the first who should cross the threshold.

"Get out," exclaimed Samson, recovering himself; "here have I lived now
two years and only seen a party or two of the poor wretches begging,
and--"

"But they burned Riley's hut, and butchered his wife and children," said
Tom, earnestly.

"Don't believe it," said Samson, sturdily, "only a bugbear made up by
some of them pioneering chaps to frighten new-comers from going up
country and taking claims, so that they may have best choice
themselves."

"Wallace's boy's head was battered in," said Tom.

"Gammon," said Samson, who, however, could not help looking uneasily
towards the black.

"Then there was Ellis's poor gal; you know how they served her."

"Hold your tongue, will you?" growled Samson; "do you want to frighten
the women to death?" and as he spoke he clapped his hand over his
convict servant's mouth, and glanced uneasily towards the door which led
into the interior of the hut--one that was unusually large, for during
Samson's pleasant sojourn in this smiling wilderness, matters had
prospered with him, and bit by bit he had added to his dwelling, and
found himself compelled to make fresh arrangements for his flocks and
ever-multiplying herds.

"Did you call?" said a pleasant voice, and then the door opened, and
Samson's comely wife made her appearance.

"No," said Samson, "I didn't call, but--"

"Here a come," said Teddy, and all present heard the rapid beat of feet,
audible to the black's keen sense some time before.  Tom cocked and
raised his rifle; Samson snatched down a revolver from a hook over the
fireplace, knocking down and breaking a little china group of the
children in the wood, an ornament brought from the far-off English home.

But the next moment arms were lowered, and Teddy's spear was not thrown,
for two men, whose faces were known to all present, dashed panting into
the hut.

"Look out," one of them gasped, "the blacks are out."

"Now then, master!" cried Tom triumphantly.

"Don't see nothing blacker about than your face, neighbour," said Samson
dryly, as he turned to one of his visitors.  "Ain't neither of you
killed, are you?"

The man did not answer, but turning up the sleeve of his woollen shirt
to the elbow, showed a long, jagged but superficial scratch from the
upper joint to the wrist, with here the blood drying fast, there still
standing in beads upon the lips of the wound.

"I might have been," said the new-comer grimly, "if the fellow who threw
the spear that made that long scratch had been truer in his aim.  The
blacks are out strong, well armed, and in their war-paint; and if you
don't want them in here, Samson Harris, you'd better shut that door."

Half-grudgingly, the squatter made two steps towards the door; then he
stopped for he caught sight of his wife, standing with blanched and
drawn face, holding tightly her two children.  She did not speak; but,
as their eyes met, her lips parted to form one word which the father
read in an instant.  Thought after thought rushed lightning-like through
his brain; all the old colonists' tales and their horrors seemed to
force themselves upon him; the burning of Riley's hut, and the cruel
butchery of wife and children, and the other barbarities said to have
been committed; the child of a squatter named Wallace beaten to death
with clubs; the death of the blooming daughter of one Ellis.  A mist
seemed to swim before his eyes for an instant; but the next he had
shouted, "Come on, such of you as are men;" for he had again encountered
the agonised face of his wife--again interpreted that one word her lips
had parted to form, and he dashed to the hut-door; but only to be
grasped tightly by his convict servant, Tom.

"Let me go!" he shouted, "are you mad?" and he dealt the man a heavy
blow in the chest, and sent him staggering back, shouting--"Hold him,
hold him!"

"Let me go, Anderson--Jones!" cried Samson, again struggling to reach
the door, but held back by the new-comers.  "Are you mad, are you men,
when poor Mary is out there in the scrub?"

The wounded man gave more of a yell than a cry, as Samson Harris uttered
those words, and, loosing his hold of the father, he made for the door
himself, but only to fall heavily, tripped up by the waddy the black
shepherd had cunningly placed between his legs.

The fall was heavy; but as he went down two spears darted through the
open door, and stuck quivering one in the floor, the other in the table.
The next moment the door was dashed to by Teddy, and its rough wooden
bar laid across.

"Better there, than through you, Master Anderson," said Tom, dragging
the quivering spear out of the table, and passing it to Teddy.

The young man did not speak; but his eyes glared, and the curls of his
black beard seemed to move and writhe as his features worked.  Then,
grasping the rifle he held in his hand, he turned to Samson Harris,
saying in a husky voice--

"Are you ready?"

Samson forced a bullet down upon the powder of the rifle he was now
engaged in charging, and nodded his head by way of reply.

There was no opposition made now, and as Samson and Anderson prepared to
make a dash out to reach the scrub, Tom the convict, Anderson's
companion, and the black made as if to accompany them.

"No," said Samson hoarsely, "stay and protect them," and he pointed to
his wife and the two astonished children.  "Now open the door."

At his words, Teddy threw the door widely open, but before any one could
pass through, he dashed it to again, while as he did so, Samson groaned,
for, "thud--thud--thud" came the sound of three spears as they stuck in
the stout woodwork, one passing right through; and he knew that had they
stood in the doorway, it would have been to their death.

"Frank Anderson," said Samson in a low voice, holding out his hand, "I
always set my face against your coming here, for I didn't think you were
in earnest, my boy; and now--now--if it's to come to that--" and he
pointed to the spears, his voice shaking a little the while, "I should
like to make friends first, though I have gone on against you.  Frank
Anderson, I beg your pardon!"

The young man groaned, as he took the proffered hand, and then in the
same low voice he whispered--

"But Mary, when did she go?  Which way?"

"Heaven forgive me," exclaimed the wretched father, "and I'd forgotten
her till _she_ showed me my duty," and he nodded towards his trembling
wife.  "She took the pail and went to the cows, half--three-quarters of
an hour ago."

"But we must go to her," whispered the young man.

"Then you'll have to go with your skin as full of spears as a
porkypine's back, master," said Tom, who had crept closer to them.
"There; hark at that!" he exclaimed, as a burst of yells arose.
"There's a good two hundred of the black devils dancing about."

"It would be madness to go," said Samson, "and like sacrificing three
more lives; but she may have hid herself, and escaped."

The young man shuddered, and then raised his rifle, for a spear came
crashing through the window, but happily without striking any one.

"Here," said Samson, rousing up, "lend a hand?" and with the help of
those present, he half carried his wife and two children up a short
ladder to a roughly-formed loft, full of wool fleeces, and formed in the
low-pitched roof.

"There, creep under them," he cried, "and first pull up the ladder.  Now
hide yourselves there, you'll be safe for the present."

"Look out," shouted Tom, as Mrs Harris dragged up the ladder, and its
last rounds were beyond reach, while at the warning cry, Teddy the black
and Anderson discharged spear and rifle at a couple of blacks who
appeared at the inner door, having climbed in by one of the windows.
Then ensued a sharp struggle, in which desperate blows were given on
either side, and the inner room was cleared; but not before three of the
savage assailants lay writhing upon the floor, their life-blood staining
the white boards of the plain bed-chamber.

It was a dangerous task, and more than one spear flew through the window
as the bodies were hoisted up and thrown through: then the opening was
barricaded as well as those of the other little front windows of the
hut, and one or two stood at each, ready to meet the next assault.

The thin blue smoke of the discharged pieces floated slowly upwards, and
seemed to wreathe about over the trampled blood-stains, when a cry came
from Tom the convict, and almost at the same instant the report of his
piece, summoned help to the back half-kitchen, half wash-house, whose
little window was the only opening in the rear of the house.

The help was needed, for about a score of the blacks had dashed up to
the opening, and were trying to force their way in; but a well kept up
fire from rifle and revolver drove them back, with several of their
number bleeding, upon the ground.

"It's of no use to be merciful," exclaimed Anderson.  "They must be shot
down, or we shall be all butchered.  Take a steady aim, sir, for your
wife and children's sake; but I'd keep two or three shots left in my
revolver for the last."

Samson Harris turned and glared at the wild countenance of the young man
by his side, as if to ask what he meant, but the look was unnoticed,
for, as if thirsting for blood, Anderson kept on loading and firing
whenever one of their enemies offered his body as a fair mark.

At every shot that took effect, there was a wild yelling, above which
might be heard the shrieking and wailing of the gins as some famous
warrior of the tribe slackened his muscles, let fall spear, waddy,
shield, or boomerang, that he should hurl no more; but, in spite of
their losses, the attack was kept up now on one side, now on the other,
spear after spear flying through the little windows, or sticking in the
bedding with which they were barricaded, to be dragged out and sent
flying back by Teddy the black, who in his excitement had reduced his
costume still farther, only wanting a little yellow, red, and white
paint to emulate the warrior uniform of his enemies.

But at last the evening had set in, for the short twilight was past, and
the stars were looking down calmly upon the scene of the afternoon's
bloodshed.  Though but shortly before, dusky figure after dusky figure
might have been seen gliding from tree to tree, or darting across some
open spot, yelling and brandishing spear or club, now all was silent,
save at times the distant lowing of some of Samson's cattle or the
bleating of sheep.  Now and again, too, would come the barking and
howling of the dogs that had been driven away by the fierce native
onslaught--one of those raids made upon the settlers, whom they looked
upon as usurping their land.

Samson Harris seemed utterly prostrated by his agony of soul, for again
and again--almost incessantly--he kept picturing to himself the child he
accused himself of neglecting, struggling in the hands of the blacks.
He would have gone to seek her now, mad as the act would have been, in
the darkness of the night, surrounded as they were by enemies, but for
the prayers of his wife; and their only hope seemed to be that poor Mary
had taken the alarm and sought for refuge in the scrub, which extended
for some, distance in one direction.  This, he knew, would be but an act
of folly if she had been seen, for they would have tracked her footsteps
to the place of refuge with the greatest of ease; their prayer was that
she might have taken the alarm in time.  Anderson and his companion had
had a very narrow escape at the station they occupied some few miles
from Samson's home; but a bold front and a daring charge had enabled
them to combine their forces, so, as Anderson had hoped, to be of some
protection to Mary Harris, for whom he had, in spite of her father's
opposition, long entertained a warm feeling of admiration.

There was a chance that, under cover of the darkness, Mary might thread
her way amongst the blacks and reach the hut; and in this hope Anderson
stood at the open door watching the night through hour after hour, his
senses on the stretch.  More than once, too, with Teddy for companion,
he walked for some little distance round the hut; but stumbling over the
body of one of their enemies, he fell amongst the bushes with so loud a
crash that he was glad to retreat, and stand watching once more at his
post.

An inspection after the afternoon's struggle had proved that, beyond a
few scratches, the defenders of the hut had escaped unharmed; and but
for the fearful anxiety which oppressed all present, they would
hopefully have looked for the morning, ready to meet their enemy again
with renewed courage.  Provisions they had in plenty to sustain them, if
needs were, for weeks.  Ammunition, too, showed no sign of running
short, till Samson opened a little keg, to find that the powder it
should have contained was powder no more, but one hard mass, into which
it had been turned by the dripping from the roof.  The bad news was
conveyed from one to the other, and in grim silence the men examined
their powder-flasks, to find that he who was most wealthy possessed but
two charges beyond the one in his rifle.

"Will they attack again to-morrow?" was the oft-repeated question.  One
thought they would for revenge, and never rest content until all within
the hut were destroyed; another was of opinion that they would be too
demoralised, and that the morning light would find them all miles away;
but this last supposition was too fall of hope to be believed in.
Anderson and Harris rarely spoke, but while the others, fearless in the
knowledge that the natives never attack by night, slept heavily, they
watched on, repeating to themselves, as they pictured the solemn silence
of the vast woods around, the camp of the natives, and their savage
cruelties, the same words over and over again--

"Where was Mary?"

Watching the long night through, with straining eyes constantly directed
at every spot that seemed never so little darker than the night itself.
Bush, tree, farming implement, all in their turn were magnified into
enemies, performing the same duty as the inmates of the hut, and waiting
to spy out their weakness and the best place for the morrow's assault.
But as the night wore on, and the watchful stars still shed their
peaceful light, a change came over the wakeful ones, and objects that
had before been looked upon as enemies, were taken for the figure of her
whose absence had created such a void in more than one heart.  But
though Anderson started hopefully again and again, and roused the
sleeping black by his side, there was no rustling, gliding step, no
eager light form of the young girl, who, with beating heart, had
threaded her way amidst her sleeping enemies, and now bounded towards
the hut for shelter.

Anderson groaned, and could have torn his hair, as, disappointed,
feverish, and restless, he once more walked round the hut, listening
attentively for some sound where all was still in the vast region
around, even to solemnity.  But in vain; and could he have done so, he
might have sought in sleep that rest and refreshing his jaded body
needed.

Morning at last: first, the pale pearly grey; then the far-up faint pink
tinge; then the blushing, glowing clouds; then the gorgeous golden
arrows darting to the zenith; and lastly, as if with a bound, came the
glorious sun himself, to beam upon the earth with smiles, as though all
were peace, and sorrow a thing unknown.  But there was neither rest nor
peace, for with a series of frantic yells the blacks again showed
themselves, crying, leaping, dancing, shouting, partly to alarm their
enemies, partly to work themselves up to the fighting pitch.  Their
faces were streaked with a kind of red ochre and pipe-clay, while upon
the bark shields they carried, grotesquely-hideous human faces were
depicted, to intimidate those whom they attacked.  Nude, save for the
opossum-skin strip knotted loosely round their loins, they once more
came boldly up to their attack upon the hut, hurling spear and
boomerang--that singular weapon, which, failing to strike the object
aimed at, returns to the thrower's hand.

There was nothing for it, so far as the inmates were concerned, but to
fire till the last bullet and grain of powder should be expended, and
then trust to such weapons as they could muster for close quarters,
giving up being a question never once mooted; and now, as shot after
shot was fired, it was pitiful to see the effect in the bright red spot
or long gash in the flesh, where a bullet had struck obliquely.  But
when fighting in defence of life, men have but little compunction for
those who would rob them of the gift, and it was with a grim feeling of
satisfaction that savage after savage was seen to fall, till a tall,
daring fellow, who had dashed up to the hut, clapped his hand to his
chest, leaped in the air, and fell motionless, when Anderson threw down
his rifle, saying, "That's the last charge."

A gloomy silence ensued.  Men gazed from one to the other; then fixed
long and anxious looks upon those who had been their leaders in the
fight, as if expecting them to hit upon some plan of escape from the
death that seemed imminent.  Now they swept the approaches to the hut,
in hopes that some strong party of settlers might be on the way to them,
either bound for a new station, or, knowing that they were attacked,
with a mission for their rescue.  But in a place where a fresh face was
not seen once in three months, they knew well that such succour was next
to impossible.

Mrs Harris, patient, and calmer than any one present, still lay with
her little ones hidden in the wool-loft; but as from time to time, when
she came to the edge, her eye met that of Anderson, there was a mutual
reading of the agony each suffered, hidden though it was beneath the
semblance of stoicism.

The stillness that had followed upon the excitement of the fight seemed
at length to have grown unbearable: men felt that treachery was at work
somewhere, and momentarily expected an attack from some unguarded part.
They grew distrustful, and more than once Anderson caught himself going
from window to window, to see that a proper watch was kept where he
anticipated danger.

At length, half-maddened by the mental pain he suffered, Anderson cast
himself despairingly upon the floor of the hut, turning his face from
those around, that they might not see its workings.

The young man's action was not without its effect; for his companion,
the friend who had escaped with him from the blacks' assault upon the
previous day, now broke the silence, saying, in utter forgetfulness of
the woman and children--

"It's all over, my lads: we may as well shake hands all round, and make
a rush of it, right into the black mob, as stop here and be burnt out
like squirrels in a tree.  I can't hear this standing still any longer."

But though he looked from face to face, no man answered him, but on the
whole avoided his gaze, and watched on at the dusky figures of the
savages as they moved incessantly to and fro.  When, seeing that his
words were of none effect, he coolly laid aside his rifle, rolled up his
shirt sleeve, and opening a large knife, began to rub and sharpen it
upon the hearthstone.

The mental anxiety was frightful; for, let alone the thoughts of poor
Mary's fate, it was as though death were about to descend upon the
watchers from moment to moment, while they were debarred from making a
single struggle for life.

The morning fled, and noon came; and still there was no further attack,
and wounded figures had been seen to struggle and gradually stiffen into
the rigidity of death within their sight; others to crawl by slow
degrees into the shelter of the bushes, unheeded by their savage
companions.  But still no further attack was made, it seeming evident
that the blacks were holding a consultation amongst themselves in the
shelter of the trees and bushes but a short distance off.

Now a black figure would glide into sight, and look menacingly towards
the hut before darting out of sight once more.  Then there was a long
interval before another was seen; and then eyes were strained amongst
the trees in vain for a sight of their enemies.

The heat had been excessive, and the small supply of water within the
hut being exhausted, the men began to suffer terribly, what little they
had having been nobly given up to Mrs Harris and the children.  All at
once, though, Teddy seized a pail, and, lolling out his tongue like a
thirsty dog, began to pant and to make signs that he should be let out
to fetch water--signs that were quite unnecessary, for he had no
difficulty in making himself understood in his master's language.

But Harris was immovable, and ordered him back.  The black's fidelity
had been too often tried, and Samson felt that he could not afford to
risk the loss of one faithful servant at a time like this.  So Teddy put
down the pail upon seeing his master's mood, seized again waddy and
spear, and, panting and tongue-lolling, took his place at one of the
windows to watch again for his enemies.

His face was a study as he stood there watching: his eyes half closed,
mouth twitching, and nostrils working.  He was evidently perplexed, and
more than once made a movement as if to climb out of the window; but at
length his face changed into a fixed immobility, and he seemed waiting
till his master should command.

Hour after hour passed by, and all was still silent.  From watching,
Samson took to examining the powder-keg once more.  But it all seemed
turned to a solid mass, till with a hatchet he knocked off hoop after
hoop, cleared away the little staves, and struck the block heavily with
the hatchet, to find, when the shell was broken, that within were some
pounds of uninjured powder, at the sight of whose grimy grains men's
hearts rose, and rifles were loaded, and flasks eagerly filled.

In readiness once more, they waited the next attack; but the sun had
long begun to descend, and for hours they had neither heard a yell nor
seen a single figure gliding from amongst the trees.

"Um all gone," cried the black shepherd suddenly; "here Juno."

And in effect, frisking and playing about in front of the hut, one of
Samson's dogs had made its appearance, whining and howling till it was
admitted; but fearing that the blacks might still be within reach,
Samson kept his companions within doors, only yielding to the appeal of
Teddy that he might go out and see.

Teddy glided like a great snake out of the back window, and was soon
lost to sight; but before long a horse or two, some sheep, and the cows
came bleating and lowing about the hut, affording abundant proof that
the savages, of whom they had a wholesome dread--fleeing rapidly at the
sight of their spears--had departed.

And now began the search for Mary, all present knowing that sooner or
later they must find her, living or dead; though almost all felt, as
they set about their search with heavy hearts, that the wailing mother's
fears were not without cause.

In case of a surprise, they all kept together, fearing to shout, but
encouraging the dog to hunt around, when suddenly Anderson's rifle rose
to his shoulder, and he was about to fire, but perceived just in time
that the black figure rapidly approaching was that of Teddy the
shepherd.

"All gone right 'way," he said, nodding his head sagaciously as he
pointed out the faintly-marked trail made by the departing savages,
while he was loud in his declarations that they were "too much fright,
come back never--ever."  When asked what he thought about the missing
girl, he only shook his head, and would not answer till pressed, when
his reply was, "No know--try find;" and bending down, he began to scan
every footprint in the direction she would have been likely to take,
till darkness put a stop to the search, and all save Samson and Anderson
returned to the hut.

No one saw the agony of those two men, as now, slowly working their way
through the bushes, stumbling with utter weariness, they strode on till
nature would hold out no longer, and they sank down, worn out, to sleep
for an hour or two beneath the watching stars; but only to leap up,
reproaching themselves for their relaxed efforts, as they went back to
the hut to try and hear some tidings of the lost girl.

The haggard, drawn countenance of Samson Harris's wife saluted them as
they hurried up to the door of the hut, and in that encounter, where
each sought for news or hope, it was plain enough to read the bitter
tidings written in each anxious face.  Anderson turned away with a
groan, and was proceeding towards the dense scrub, when Samson called to
him to halt, as he kicked at the black shepherd to rouse him from his
heavy sleep.

Ten minutes after, with Teddy leading the way, they were examining the
ground, step by step, in the hope of finding the track by which Mary had
entered the scrub; but the grass was so trampled in every direction that
the task seemed hopeless.  Footprints and trails there were lacing and
interlacing, one destroying the identity of the other; but though
seeking, as it were, entirely in the dark, they pressed on hour after
hour.  Ever and again, either the father or Anderson shuddered when they
came upon some spot where blood sullied the fair green herbage with its
crimson stains; and when such a place occurred, they traced the
blood-spots tremblingly, and in dread lest they should stumble in their
next step upon the body of her they sought.

But no such harrowing sight met their gaze; and still to and fro they
searched, shouting at intervals, till night again put a stop to their
efforts.

Day after day passed of indefatigable search, and the thought occurred
again and again to Samson that the blacks must have dragged the poor
girl off with them in their retreat; but Teddy would not hear of it,
saying, "Wait a bit--find um soon; black feller no take white girl
away."  Anderson, too, seemed of opinion that Mary was still near at
hand, and with torn and bleeding hands and face he still kept up the
weary search, till long after it was certain that if the poor girl were
found in the scrub, life would be there no more.

Dense--impenetrable almost--the scrub extended mile after mile, mile
after mile, to an indefinite distance, presenting ever the same
features; so that if the poor girl had been alarmed by the savages and
hurried for safety into the wilderness, guide there was none; and, like
many another, she might toil on till she fell exhausted, to perish of
inanition.  To a dweller in England the idea of being lost in the bush
seems absurd; but out in the great Australian wilds, where everything is
on so grand--so apparently illimitable--a scale, strong and ardent men
have been before now known to wander from the beaten track to where
pathway there was none, and to wander on and on till death put an end to
their sufferings.

But had Mary wandered away in dread, fleeing for safety through the
thorny waste?  They could not answer the question; and, in spite of
making an ever-widening circle to try and discover the trail, all seemed
vain.  Samson would have pushed off by the track taken by the savages,
but for the persuasions of Anderson; and though so far disappointment
had attended his efforts, Teddy seemed pleased at the trust reposed in
him, and often, down upon hands and knees, he examined every blade of
grass and leaf.

The traces left by the marauding party extended right round the hut, and
for some distance back into the wild in every direction; and it was
beyond that circle that the principal efforts of the seekers were
directed; but days wore on without any success, the difficulty growing
greater each hour, in a land where vegetation is rapid and grass would
soon spring up where the foot had pressed, as was very apparent; for on
the eighth morning, when they again started upon their apparently
hopeless task, the tracks of the savages were in many places hardly to
be seen.  All dread of their enemies' return seemed lost in this great
trouble, and they wandered on, heedless of danger, till on this last day
they were at a spot many miles from home, where there was an opening in
the dense scrub--the rough head of rock and huge boulder being thrust
here and there through the soil to form a desolate wilderness, far as
eye could reach--mile after mile of rugged stony undulation, upon which
the sun beat down with a heat that was all but unbearable.

For days past Teddy had been taciturn and moody, hunting on still, and
apparently examining every inch of ground; but he hardly answered when
spoken to, apparently under the impression that Samson and Anderson were
disappointed in his tracking abilities, of which he was very proud, and
had before now often proved to be of no mean order.

Evening was fast approaching, when it seemed to Anderson that the black
had made some discovery, for he was pressing on in one particular
direction, though, when shouted to, he took no heed.  Tired and worn,
however, sick at heart with many disappointments, father and lover sat
down to rest, when at the end of about an hour they heard the well-known
"cooey" of the black, reiterated again and again.  So, desponding, they
rose and proceeded in the direction of the sound, to meet the black at
last, looking eager and yet startled--apparently afraid to communicate
his intelligence to Samson--and turning in his track to retrace his
steps for a couple of miles, when, just as night was falling, he halted,
stepped aside, and pointed onwards to where there was a little eminence
visible in front.

"For Heaven's sake push on," cried Anderson, huskily; but Samson grasped
at his arm, and would have stayed him had he not thrust him aside and
dashed forward, to be out of sight in a few moments amongst the bushes
which here grew thickly.

Five minutes passed and he did not return, when, staggering like a
drunken man, Samson followed in his steps, with eyes bent upon the
ground, and brain apparently stunned, feeling that some dread horror was
about to be revealed to him, but only in a numb, helpless way.  The
black came close behind, watching him intently, till, parting the
bushes, he came in sight of Anderson, kneeling by the figure they had so
long sought; for, lying as if peacefully sleeping, beneath the scanty
shadow of a stunted bush, through whose thin sharp leaves the evening
breeze sighed mournfully, was the sleeping girl, whose torn garments,
lacerated feet, and arm bent beneath her head, showed that she had
indeed fled from the approach of the savages, and wandered on and on
hopelessly till she had lain down, as she imagined, to sleep her last,
long sleep.  The hand which Anderson grasped was tightly clenched; but
in spite of its coldness, the thin blue lips, sunken eyes, and the
unnatural pallor of her face, it was evident that she lived.  The
father, though, knew it not, neither did Anderson; for, weeping like
children, they knelt on either side, dreading to move her, for she
seemed now doubly sacred in their eyes.

"Better than that we should never have found her," said Samson, in a
broken voice.

"Teddy sure a find her some day.  Now fetch a water, and give her
drink," exclaimed the black; and taking up what neither of the others
had noticed--the milking-pail that the poor girl must have carried from
day to day in her many wanderings--he went off and soon returned with
water.

"Keep back, fool!" exclaimed Anderson, as the black pushed up to Mary's
head, and scooping up some water in the hollow of his hand, he made as
if to pour it upon her lips.

"No dead," exclaimed Teddy; "give her drink.  Dah!" he ejaculated; for
at that moment Anderson gave a cry of joy on seeing a slight quivering
in one eyelid, while the thin blue lips parted to emit a sigh, faint as
that of the wind above their heads.

They had reached the poor girl in time; but so near had she been to her
last breath, that weeks elapsed, during which she lay almost insensible
upon the borders of that unknown land to which she had so nearly
travelled, before she could be said to be out of danger.

Hers was a simple story--one that she often told in after years to
Anderson's children, as, a happy wife, she sat beneath his prosperous
roof--a story of how she had finished milking one cow, and was carrying
her pail to the next, when the gliding form of a black in his war-paint
attracted her attention.  Her first idea was to flee to the hut; but
that she soon saw was utterly impossible, for figure after figure
appeared between her and safety, and all she could do was to back
quietly into the scrub, and then, with the pail she carried catching in
the bushes, so that the white milk splashed out from time to time, she
fled on hastily--always with the impression that she was being tracked.

How it was she clung to the pail always seemed to her a mystery; but it
was her salvation, for, utterly worn out at last, she had fallen on her
knees in the dense wood as darkness came on, dreading to move, and now
for the first time she remembered the milk, and drank eagerly of the
remaining but sadly-diminished supply.  The next day she wandered on and
on, helplessly lost, ever changing her course, and fleeing in dread from
the blacks she felt assured were on her trail.  The sour milk gave her
life and strength that day and the next, and the next, as she husbanded
and eked out the failing drops with water, till the time came when all
seemed a feverish dream, wherein she was struggling on through thorny
wastes, with the hot sun pouring its fervid beams upon her head.

She knew no more, for her next recollection was of waking in her own old
bed at the hut, as from a long and troubled dream, till a glance at her
wasted hands, and an attempt to rise, told her that the dream was true.



CHAPTER TWENTY.

MY EMIGRANT PATIENT'S FRIEND.

A friend of Samson Harris, whom I met at the old settler's house, gave
me the following account of his experience in Australia.  He had been a
neighbour of the old settler, had prospered as well, and had returned to
England about the same time.

I was rather amused at his idea of being a neighbour; for, on asking a
question or two, I found that they had lived a hundred miles apart, and
only met about once a year, at the station of a settler about midway
between them.

The conversation had turned upon the dangers to be encountered in the
new country, and among others snakes were mentioned.

"Ah, I can tell you something about snakes, doctor," he said.  "We had a
singular adventure.  It was soon after we had settled out in the up
country, and there was only another hut here and there in those days;
but, after years of knocking about at home, trying hard to get an honest
living and never succeeding, we had made up our minds to try Australia,
and here we were, living in the log hut I had knocked up for myself,
shepherding, and doing what little I could in the shape of gardening;
for, that being my right trade, with all the beautiful rich soil lying
fallow, it did seem a sin to me not to have a turn at it; so, getting
what seeds I could from Sydney, and adding to the few I had brought in
my chest, I managed to make quite a little Eden of the bit of land I
broke up round our hut.  We were not saving money--not to any extent--
but there was a roof over our heads, and no rent to pay, plenty of
vegetables of my own growing, and them costing nothing, plenty of work
to do, and, one sort and another, always plenty to eat; so that, after
what we had gone through in England, you may be sure we were willing
enough to try and put up with such inconveniences as fell to our share,
and, as a matter of course, there were things to encounter out in what
some people would call the wilderness, though it was a wilderness that
blossomed like the rose.  There were times, for instance, when, like
Harris, we were in dread of the blacks, who had done some very queer
things here and there about; then the place was terribly lonely, and out
of the way if you wanted a doctor; and Mary used to joke me because I
could never get half a pint of beer, but I found I could get on just as
well without it; and, my word, what a capital cup of tea we always did
have!

"Well, Mary came out to me one day looking that horribly ghastly that,
being naturally rather too fast at fancying troubles in advance, I saw
directly half a score of blacks coming to spear as, and some of them
knocking out the children's brains with their clubs--and not the first
time neither.  `Harry!' she gasped, in a strange, harsh, cracked voice;
and, as I started and looked up from my work, there was my wife coming
towards me, with her arms stretched out, her eyes fixed, and a look upon
her white face, that made me drop my spade and run to meet her.  I
caught her just as she was falling, when her eyes closed, and she gave a
shiver that seemed to shake her whole body; but in a few moments the
poor girl opened her eyes, and began to stare about her.  There were no
blacks to be seen.  Little Joe was sitting in the path playing, and,
though I looked along the edge of the scrub behind the house, I could
see no signs of danger; so I began to think she must have been taken
ill, and turned over in my own mind how I could get any help for her.

"Just then her face grew contracted again as her thoughts seemed to come
back, and gasping out once more, `Harry, Harry,' she gave a shudder and
said, `The baby--a snake!'

"I couldn't see myself, but I know I turned white, all the blood seeming
to rush to my heart, for if there is anything of which I am afraid it is
a snake, even going so far as to dislike eels, of which there was
abundance in the river close at hand.

"I don't know how we got there, but the next thing I remember is
standing at the hut window with Mary holding little Joe tight in her
arms, and me looking through at the cradle where our little thing of
nine months old was lying; and my heart seemed to be turning to ice as I
saw nestled in the foot of the cradle, partly hidden in the blanket, but
with some of its horrible coils full in sight, and its head resting upon
them, the largest snake I had seen since I had been in the country.  The
feeling was something awful, and I stood there for a few moments leaning
upon the rough handle of the hoe I had caught up, not able to move, for
my eyes were fixed upon the head of that hideous beast, and I expected
every moment that the baby would wake and make some movement sufficient
to irritate the snake, and then, whether poisonous or not, I felt that
the little thing must die.

"What should I do?  I asked myself, as the horrible feeling of
helplessness wore off.  If I crept in and reached the cradle-side
unheard, I dared not chop at the beast for fear of injuring the child,
for I could see that some of the folds lay right across it.  I dared not
make a noise, lest the next moment the child should awake as well as the
reptile, for I knew the rapidity with which the horrible creatures could
wreathe fold after fold round the object they attacked; while, if of a
poisonous nature, they struck in an instant.  Thoughts came swiftly
enough, but they were unavailing, for to wait till the baby woke, or to
go in and attack the snake, seemed equally dangerous.  Even if I made a
slight noise the danger seemed as great, since, though the snake might
wake first and glide off, the probabilities were just as great that the
child might wake at the same time.

"And so I turned over the chances again and again, my eyes all the while
fixed upon the two sleeping occupants of the cradle, whose pleasant
warmth had evidently attracted the reptile.

"`I went in and saw it there,' whispered my wife, and then, without
taking my eyes for an instant from the snake, I whispered the one word
`Gun,' and she glided from my side.

"I did not know then, but she told me afterwards, how she had carried
the little boy to a distance and given him some flowers to play with,
while she crept back to the hut, and, reaching in at the kitchen window,
brought me my gun, for I had not stirred.  And now, as I grasped the
piece in my hand, knowing though I did that it was loaded, it seemed of
no use, for I dared not fire; but, with trembling hands, I felt in my
pockets to see if there was a bullet in them, and then, softly pulling
out the ramrod, I unscrewed the cover of the worm and drew the wadding,
reversed the piece, and let the shot fall pattering out, when I softly
forced down the bullet upon the powder, examined the cap, and stood
ready waiting for a chance; for I thought that the shot might have
scattered, and, if ever so little, I might have injured the child in
place of its enemy.

"And there we stood for quite half an hour, watching intently that
horrible beast comfortably nestled in the blanket, expecting momentarily
that the baby would wake, while my hand trembled so that I could not
hold the gun steady.  One minute I was thinking that I had done wrong in
changing the charge, the next minute that I was right; then I fancied
that the gun might miss fire, or that I might slay my own child.  A
hundred horrible thoughts entered my mind before little Joe began to cry
out to his mother, and she glided away, while I muttered to myself
`Thank Heaven!' for she was spared from seeing what followed.

"As if at one and the same moment, the child and the snake woke up.  I
saw the baby's hand move, and its little arms thrown out, while from the
motion beneath the blanket I knew that it must have kicked a little.
Then there was a rapid movement in the cradle, and as I glanced along
the gun-barrel taking aim, there was the whole of the horrible reptile
exposed to view, coil gliding over coil as it seemed to fill the foot of
the cradle; and now, had my gun been charged with shot, I should have
fired, so as to have disabled some part of the creature's body; but with
only a single bullet I felt that the head must be the part attacked when
opportunity served.

"Glide, glide, glide, one coil over the other quickly and easily, as if
it were untying its knotted body, while now the head slowly rose from
where it had lain, and crept nearer and nearer to the child's face, the
forked tongue darting in and out, and playing rapidly about the hideous
mouth.  I could see the glance of the snake's eyes, and expected every
moment to hear the child shriek out with terror, as the lowered head now
rested over its breast.  But no, the child lay perfectly still for a few
moments, and then I stood trembling in every limb as I saw the snake's
head drawn back, and then begin to sway to and fro, and from side to
side, the glistening neck of the beast gently undulating, whilst the
tongue still darted in and out of the tight, dreadful-looking mouth.

"Now was the time when I should have fired, but I was too unnerved; and
laying down my gun, I seized the hoe, meaning to attack the beast with
the stout handle; but my hand fell paralysed to my side as I saw the
little innocent in the cradle smile and then laugh at the gently
undulating head of the snake; while, as the agony grew to be greater
than I could bear, in seeing the little white hands try to catch at it
as it swayed to and fro, my power seemed to come back.  I snatched up
the gun, and as the snake's head was drawn back preparatory to striking,
I pulled the trigger, when the sharp crack of the percussion cap alone
followed--perhaps providentially, for in my trembling state I might have
injured the child.  Then I saw a rapid writhing of the coils in the
cradle, and as the tail of the snake glided over the side, everything
around me seemed to swim, and I tried to catch at the wall of the hut to
save myself from falling.

"But that soon went off; and then, gazing in at the window, I tried to
make out the whereabouts of my enemy, as I re-capped and tapped the gun,
so that the powder might run up the nipple.  The snake was nowhere to be
seen, and darting in I seized the child, and carried it out to its
mother, when, now feeling relieved of one horrible anxiety, I obtained
my shot-pouch from the kitchen, rammed down a charge upon the bullet,
and cautiously went in search of the reptile.

"I knew that he must still be in the part of the hut we used for a
sleeping-place, and, after cautiously peering about, I came upon the
hole where it had taken refuge--an opening between the roughly-sawn
planks laid loosely down to form a floor.  Unless there was an outlet
beneath the woodwork, I felt that the beast must be there; and, to make
it more probable, there was our cat, that we had bought a kitten in
Sydney, gazing with staring eyes down at the hole.

"Just then I heard a soft rustling beneath my feet, and as I looked
down, I could see between two boards the scaly body gliding along.  The
next moment there came the load report of the gun, the place was fall of
smoke, there was a tremendous scuffling noise, and as I looked down
between the boards where the charge had forced a passage through, there
was no sign of the snake.

"`Harry!  Harry!' shrieked my wife just then; and on rushing out, there
was the beast writhing about in the path, evidently badly wounded, while
some crushed-down flowers by the hut wall showed plainly the hole of
communication.  I never saw snake writhe and twist as that creature did,
but I was too excited then to feel afraid, and a few blows from the
butt-end of the gun laid it so that there was only a little movement
left in its body, which did not stop for an hour or two after I had cut
off his head with the axe.

"I should have liked to skin the beast, but I could not master my
horror.  I measured it, though: fourteen feet three inches long it was,
and as thick as my arm; while, as to its weight, I saw the cradle rock
to and fro heavily as it glided over the side.

"Snakes are scarce now in that part; for there isn't a man in Queensland
who does not wage war against them, and where there was one settler
then, there are now scores.  But all the same, if I had my time to come
over again, knowing what I do, I should not hesitate for a moment if I
were not doing well here.  Snakes are bad, doctor, and the blacks are
worse; but it was a free and healthy life out there, and one always felt
as if one was getting on."

"And not only felt," said Harris smiling, "one was getting on.  Yes, I
agree with Harry Maine, I'd go out again to-morrow without a murmur;
though, in my time, there weren't any of your sort, doctor, within a
hundred miles."

"How did you manage, then, if you were ill?"

"We never were ill, doctor; and few as the medical men were, they seemed
to be enough."



CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

MY PATIENT THE PRISON WARDER.

"To tell you the truth, doctor," said a grey old patient of mine, "I
don't think I was ever fit to be a prison warder: I'm too soft.  All the
same, though, I've been at it for twenty-five years; and I'm head warder
now, and could retire when I like upon a pension.  I don't know how I
drifted into it, but I did.  A dozen times over I've wanted to get into
something else, but it has always seemed as if I was forced to stay on
for the rest of my days.  It's been worse for me because I've always
lived in the prison.  It's a dull life, perhaps; not that I feel it,
for, according to my way of thinking, it is not the occupation, but the
man's heart which makes him dull.  Depend upon it, hands and a
thoughtful mind were not given us for nothing, and the more I think, the
nearer I come to the conclusion that the busy life is the happy one
after all.  Now here I am, with plenty to take up my time in my duties,
and plenty of studies of character within reach shut up all ready for me
in the different cells.

"Gloomy place this, you'll say, barred and bolted to keep any friends
from getting in unasked; but I'm contented enough, and too busy
generally to find fault.

"Yes, you may depend upon it your busy man is the happiest, for I've
seen it again and again.  The greatest punishment you can inflict upon a
man is to shut him up with nothing to do, nothing to employ his time
with, nothing to hinder the constant drag, drag of his thoughts, pulling
him towards the past.

"Not always borrow and contrition, but recollections of drinking-bouts
and successful robberies and their profits, debaucheries, and then
longings for liberty once more.  Of course, now and then we do get a
really repentant fellow--not one of your cringing, fawning rascals, who
turn up their eyes and feel so much better for the chaplain's words, and
so carefully learn all his texts; but honest rogues--men who have been
sent here for their term of imprisonment, and who feel the bitterness
and shame of their position--men who shudder as the barber's scissors
crop their hair, and who soon show in their appearance how their
punishment is telling upon them.  They don't get fat and sleek, and jump
up to make bows when you enter their cell, but hide all their troubles
in their hearts, and go about their duties silently and doggedly.

"We had such a man here not long back now--Amos Ridding, in for
poaching--and how that poor fellow beat against his cage bars!  Poor
fellow!  I believe he was not a bad one at heart, but he had got himself
mixed up with a poaching gang, and a keeper having been half killed,
Amos was taken, and rightly or wrongly sent here for two years.

"We can soon pick out what I call the canters, and act accordingly;
while where we see a poor fellow taking his confinement to heart, why,
knowing how it tells on his mind, I do all I can for him to brighten him
up--setting him at odd jobs about the place, gardening, and so on; while
if he knows a trade, one that can be worked at in here, speaking to the
governor, we set him to do something in that way, never letting him
stand still for tools or material.

"But this poor fellow was unmanageable; he would work as hard as I
liked, and as long as I liked, but the moment he was by himself he was
pining again, fretting for his wife and children, and wearing himself
away to skin and bone.  I did not know what to do with him, and grew
quite troubled at last, for I began to be afraid of having a summons
from one of the under-warders, telling me that in a fit of that weary,
despairing madness which comes upon men, poor Ridding had made away with
himself.

"The summons came at last, but in a different form; for one morning I
was roused at five o'clock to be told that the bird had beaten down the
wires, and had escaped, and I had to go and tell the governor.

"`Why, how did he manage it?'  I exclaimed angrily.

"`Come and see,' said the warder, and I went to the cell where the
prisoner had been locked in the night before at eight o'clock, and then
apparently he must have gone to work at once with an old nail at the
setting of one of the iron bars in the window till he picked it slowly
out, and then wrenched out first one and then another, leaving a passage
big enough to allow his body to pass.  The blankets and rug were gone,
while a piece of the former yet hung to one of the bars, evidently
having been used to let the prisoner down into the yard below.

"We were not long in reaching the lesser yard, which was about twenty
feet beneath his window, and surrounded on all sides by high buildings.
Here it was evident that he had made his way into the long passage
between the workshops, a place covered in for the whole length with iron
bars.  But about half-way down we found where he had leaped up and
caught the bars, and evidently, by placing his feet against them and
forcing while he held on with his hands, strained till the iron gave way
sufficiently for him to force his body through, when he would be able to
lower himself into the large yard, where the high wall is, whose top is
covered with loose heavy bricks, which are sure to fall if an attempt at
escape is made.

"Not a brick was out of place, though, as far as I could see, till one
of the men pointed out where three had fallen, and then, feeling
satisfied in my own mind that the prisoner had escaped, I returned with
the governor to his office, and sent out notices to the police.

"All at once one of the men ran in.  `Found him, sir,' he said.

"`How? where?'  I said.  `Is he in a cell?'

"`No, sir,' said the warder, `he's a-top of the prison.'

"I jumped up, and hurried into the yard, to find men at watch, for some
people had caught sight of the poor fellow's head from a neighbouring
house, and given notice to the gatekeeper.

"It was now plain enough that the prisoner had reached the top of the
high wall, and then, probably from its being daylight, been afraid to
descend, so he had climbed from thence, by means of a water-pipe, right
on to the top of the prison, and was now lying concealed in one of the
gutters.

"I sent up three men to the top of the prison, and then went up one of
the buildings to see the capture made.  I did not have to wait long
before first one head and then another appeared above the trap-door,
till the three men were upon the roof, which is rather extensive,
consisting of high slated ridges, separated by wide lead gutters.

"The noise they made must have aroused the prisoner, for I saw him start
up all at once, as if from sleep, and stand facing his pursuers.

"`Of course he'll give up, poor fellow,' I muttered to myself; but I was
mistaken, for the next moment I saw him scramble up one side of a ridge
and slide down the other, in a way which showed that submission was far
from his intention.

"Not to be outdone, the three men separated, and as one followed in the
prisoner's steps, the others tried to cut him off right and left.

"But for duty, I felt so much sympathy for the poor fellow, that I
should have said, `Let him go.'  But all I could do was to gaze
horror-stricken at the scene going on about thirty feet from where I
stood.  Once a warder was near enough to touch the prisoner, but he
eluded the grasp, and led his pursuers right to the end of the building,
each man, in the excitement of the chase, running fearlessly along the
coping of the parapet, or dashing up and down the ridges in a way that
chilled me with horror, as I thought of a fall full fifty feet into the
stone-yard below.

"`Thank God!'  I ejaculated at last, for at the second race round the
building I saw one of the men drop behind a projection in hiding, and
then, as the prisoner came round, the warder leaped up, caught him by
the throat, and I thought all was over.  But directly after I shuddered
as I saw a deadly struggle going on within a foot of the parapet, and
felt that the next moment must see the pair falling headlong to the
ground.  It was almost a relief to see them go down heavily into the
gutter, and the prisoner leap up and continue his flight, pursued by the
other two men, who had lagged behind to cut off their quarry.

"But a new plan was now being adopted by the pursuers, who crawled on
hands and knees between the ridges, one going one way, the other another
way, while to my astonishment I saw the prisoner stop at the corner
where the brick-burdened wall touched the building, and let down a rope
of knotted blanket, hitherto hidden in the lead gutter, to which it was
somehow secured.  The next instant the poor fellow was over the side,
swinging backwards and forwards, and turning round and round as he
lowered himself quickly, staring upwards at the men, who now came up and
looked over at him.

"In that moment of peril I could do nothing but look on, for I felt, I
may say, that something was going to happen.  My hands were wet, the big
drops stood upon my brow, while, when Ridding swung round, and I saw his
dilated eyes, I shuddered again, just as the weak-knotted rope parted,
and he fell with his back striking the wall, and dislodging some of the
loose bricks, when I turned away from the window to run down; but not
quickly enough to avoid hearing the sickening crash of the poor fellow's
fall upon the hard flags in the yard.

"The doctor was standing over Ridding when I went into his cell, and
then, answering my inquiring look with a slight raising of the eyelids
and a shake of the head, he went out and left me with the poor fellow,
who smiled as I leant over his bed.

"`Are you in much pain?'  I said.

"`Only in one place,' he whispered, touching his breast; and then no
more was said for a minute or two, when I spoke a few encouraging words.

"`No use, sir, no use,' he murmured.  `Don't be cross with me.  I
couldn't bear it any longer.  I wanted to be with the wife and little
ones once more.  Tell 'em how it was.'

"The next morning the poor fellow was free--free from prison bonds--
earthly bonds--all; and I was so upset with that affair that I sent in
my resignation.  It was returned to me with a note begging that I would
reconsider my determination: and I did.  But we have some most
heart-rending cases at times."



CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

MY PATIENT THE SAILOR.

"Why, how can you expect to be free from a few pains, old fellow?"  I
said to a regular ancient sea-dog, whom I used to attend.  "Here you've
been knocking about all over the world for best part of a hundred years,
I suppose, and you can't expect to be fresh and well now."

"Well, you see, doctor," said the old fellow, "that's what troubles me.
I'm--let's see--eighty-four, or five, or six--I'm blest if I know
exactly; and I've hardly known ache or pain, and it does seem hard,
after having a clean bill of health so long, to be having my crew on the
sick list now."

"Why, you ungrateful old rascal!"  I said, as I saw the mirthful twinkle
in the old fellow's eyes.  "There, I'll see what I can do for you;" and
I did manage to allay the old fellow's rheumatic pains, which in spite
of his grumbling he had borne like a martyr.

"I shall begin to think that a sailor's life is the healthiest career in
the world," I said one day as I looked at the fine vigorous old fellow,
who had all his faculties as perfect as a man of five-and-forty.
"You've had your share of adventures, though, I suppose?"

"Ay, ay, sir, I have indeed," he said, combing his thin hair with the
waxy end of his pipe.

"Never in the Royal Navy, were you?"

"Oh, yes, doctor, I was not always in the merchant service.  They tried
to get me more than once."

"What--made you good offers?"

"Good offers, doctor?  No, they tried to press me, as they used in those
days."

"To be sure; yes," I said.  "You lived in the days of the press-gangs?"

"That I did, doctor, bad luck to 'em!  Why, let me see, it's as near as
can be sixty year ago since we came slowly up the Thames with the tide,
and after a deal of hauling, yoho-ing, and dodging, we got the old ship
into London Docks, after being at sea two year, and a-going a'most round
the world.  Sick of it I was, and longing to get ashore, for there was
more than one as I was wishing to see and get a word with--folks, too,
as were as anxious to get a sight of me; and though a quietish,
steadyish sort of a fellow, I felt as if I should have gone wild with
the bit of work I had to do, while my mate, Harry Willis, was most as
bad.  Poor chap! he's been dead and gone now this many a long year: had
his number called and gone aloft.  A good fellow was Harry, and the rest
of that day him and I was knocking about in the ship, coiling down and
doing all sorts of little jobs, such as are wanted after a long voyage,
when there's a great cargo aboard.

"One day passed, then another, and another, and mighty savage we were at
being kept so long before we could get off; but the time came at last,
and only just taking a few things each in a handkerchief, we slipped
over the ship's side, dropped on to the wharf, and were off.

"Well, being reg'lar old shipmates, you see, it was only natural that we
should drop into a little public-house that was down Wapping way, to
take a glass or two by way of a treat, and see about a night's lodging
where we could be together, as it was quite evening, and we'd some way
to go into the country both of us, and meant to leave it till morning.
A nice little place it was, close aside a wharf, where the tide came up,
and ship after ship--colliers I think they were--lay in tiers, moored
head and stern; in short, just such a place as a sailor would choose for
a quiet glass and a night's lodging, being snug and cosy-looking.  But
there, for the matter of that, after a poor fellow's had years at sea,
knocking about in the close forks'll of a ship, everything looks snug
and cosy ashore.

"It didn't take us long bargaining about our beds, and then, leaving our
kits with the landlady, we strolled out and had a walk here, and a walk
there, till close upon eleven, when I says to Harry, `I'm for hammocks,
lad.  What do you say?'  `Same as you do,' he says; and we turned back
meaning to have one more glass o' grog apiece, and then to turn in.  It
wasn't far to the house, and soon as we got in sight we began to dawdle
slowly along, looking at the ships here and there, just seen as they
were by moonlight, while plenty of 'em showed a lantern out in the
stream.

"`What's those fellows hanging about our place for?' says Harry; for
just then we come in sight of a good score of chaps waiting about the
outside of the public, while another peep at 'em showed as they were
king's men, and most of 'em had got cutlasses.

"`Thought ours was a quiet house,' I says; `I hope they ain't going to
stop about long.'

"`Not they,' says Harry; `come on.'

"So we went up to the house, and, being first, I was going in, when a
tall chap lays a hand on my shoulder, with a `Come along, my lad, we've
been waiting for you.'

"`What?'  I says, starting; for just then, for the first time, something
shot through me, as it were, and in that short moment I saw all that it
meant, and that was, that after years of service in a merchantman we
were to be seized by force and dragged aboard a tender to serve the
king, whether we would or no; for this party we had come across was a
press-gang.  But I had no more time to think.  Half a dozen fellows had
tight hold of me directly, and if I had wanted to struggle, it would
have been no use.  Harry wasn't so quiet, though.  Like me, he had seen
it all in a moment, and as one of the gang laid a hand upon him, he
dashed it off, cried to me to help him, and the next moment there was a
sharp struggle going on--one which roused me to fight; for it was such a
struggle as any man would engage in for his liberty in those good old
times, when a sailor was not safe if he walked the streets of a
seafaring town.

"Harry was a strong fellow, and fought hard; one man went heavily down,
then three went down together.  Poor Harry was one of them, while a head
struck the stones a most awful blow, such as seemed enough to kill any
fellow; but it was not Harry's, for the next moment he was up, and
before a soul could stop him, he gave a shout, and leaped clean off the
wharf where we were, right into the water.  Then there was a splash, and
you could see the stream all dancing like broken lights where the lamps
and moon shone, and then all was still for a few moments, till the
officer of the gang called to his men to run down the steps and bring
round the boat.  `Hold tight by that one,' he shouted, and the next
minute, with some of his gang, he was paddling about on the look-out for
Harry, who had never, as far as we could see, come up again to the
surface.

"I did not want to run then, but stood still, with the men as held me,
looking anxiously out for my poor mate; for it seemed to me then that
after all the dangers we two had been through from storms out in the
wide ocean, the poor fellow was to lose his life in such a way as this--
fighting for his liberty when he was about to be treated like a slave.
It's fine language that writers use about Britannia ruling the waves,
and our gallant tars and noble seamen, and the deeds they have done, but
they never stop to think of the cruelty with which those brave fellows
were treated, dragged off to serve the king in a quarrel that they knew
nothing about, while after being forced into the service it was death
for mutiny if a poor fellow refused to obey.

"Things of the past, these, and times are altered for the better now in
the navy; but in them good old times there were black doings, and no
wonder there were plenty of mutinies.  Here were we, two hardworking
sailors fresh home from sea, seized for all the world like blacks, and
to be made slaves of for years to come, whilst people were always
boasting of the land of the free.  Thank goodness, some of those things
are better now, and it was time that they should be, for I saw enough of
a ship of war in days to come.

"But it was not to be then; for when, after a minute or so, there was no
sign of poor Harry, the blood seemed to rise up in my eyes, and in a
savage fit of passion I wrested myself from the two men who held me
tightly; for I had been standing quiet, and they were taken up with the
doings of their mates, and did not expect that I should make a struggle
for it now.  So I twisted myself free, hit out right and left, and
tumbled one fellow off the wharf into the water, and then, before
anybody could stay me, I dashed off.

"But I was not free yet, I had to pass the steps, from which two of the
gang ran to stop me; but I had good way on then, and as one of them made
a blow at me with a cudgel, I came down upon him like a ram, tumbled him
over too, and then was racing along the street with half a dozen of the
gang shouting and running after me like mad.

"It was a hard run that, up one lane and down another, hard as I could
tear, with the hot breath panting out of my chest, and a burning feeling
strong on me, as if I'd swallowed live coals.  But it was for liberty,
and the thought of what would follow if I was caught made me dash on
faster every time I felt ready to sink and give in.  Whenever I looked
over my shoulder I could see one or two of the gang after me, but at
last there was only one, and him it seemed as if I couldn't tire out,
for there he always was just about the same distance behind, taking step
for step with me.  We were neither of us going fast now for want of
breath, and the perspiration ran down my face; but every time I tried to
shake him off it seemed of no use, and every time I turned round to
look, there he was still hunting me down like a dog.  I tried doubling
down a court, but he was close after me; turned down one street and up
another, but there he was still; and the more I tried the closer he
seemed to get to me.

"Well, this seemed to make me savage, and my teeth got gritting
together, and as I knew that he was only one now, having outrun all his
mates, and must be as tired out as I was, I said to myself, `If he takes
me, he'll have to fight for it.'  Then I ran down another court which
turned off to the right again directly after, and then came a horrible
disappointed feeling, for I saw that I was in a trap, and when I
remembered the cudgel the press-gang man had, it seemed as if my chance
was gone, for there was no way out at the bottom of the court.

"People think quickly at a time like this, and in a moment I was hid
behind a corner, and listening to the patter of the sailor's feet as he
came down the court.  Next moment I put all the strength I had left in
the blow I fetched him aside his head; down he went with his head upon
the stones, and, jumping over him, I ran out into the street and felt
that I was free.

"I was sorry for the press-gang chap as soon as I had hit him; but, duty
or no duty, the men then were a deal too fond of getting other poor
fellows into the same scrape as themselves, and as I felt I was free, my
breath seemed to come easier, and I went along the streets at a gentle
trot, till I knew that I must be safe.

"I wasn't going to stop in London any more, so I made my way, late as it
was, to the Great North Road, and daybreak found me trudging wearily
along between the pleasant hedgerows, thinking very sadly about poor
Harry, who came from the next village to mine in Hertfordshire, and
turning it over in my mind how I should tell his poor old folks about
their lad being drowned at home here when trying to get clear of the
press-gang.  It seemed so hard, and I'm afraid I said more than one
queer thing against the king and all his sarvice as I trudged along
homewards; but, in spite of all, the morning was so bright and cheery,
the country looked so green and sweet, and the birds sang so, that I
couldn't feel down-hearted long; while, having no kit to carry, I got
fast over the ground, only stopping once to have a good hearty breakfast
at a roadside public-house, and early that afternoon I was at home.

"I'm not going to keep you long now, while as to the fuss made over a
sailor at home after a long voyage, that's a matter of course.  Next day
I started off to walk six miles to Harry's friends, to tell them the sad
news; and a hard job that seemed, for they were nice old people, and of
a better class--the old man doing a bit of farming in his way--and, as
he afterwards told me, there was plenty for Harry to do at home, only he
would go to sea.  `Poor old chap,' I thought, `it does seem hard,' and
twenty times over I was ready to turn back, for I felt that I couldn't
tell the old folks the bitter news.

"Last of all I stood resting on a stile, thinking it over, and going
through the whole scene--even seeming to hear the poor fellow's cry as
he leaped right into the water.  It was only after a hard fight I could
wind myself up to the right pitch, when, for fear that my heart should
fail again, I ran hard right up to the little place, and walked into the
kitchen where the old folks were sitting at dinner.

"`News of Harry?' they both cried, jumping up; and then they read it all
in my blank face, and the poor old woman was down on her knees sobbing,
with her apron over her head, and the old man trying to comfort her.
They didn't ask no questions, and the words all seemed to stick in my
throat as I tried to speak, and say that, after all, it might not be so
bad as I felt sure it was.  Last of all, with a regular wail, the old
lady burst out--

"`Dead--dead--dead!  Oh, my poor--poor boy!'

"`Not this time, mother,' shouted a cheery voice, and I got such a slap
on the back as nearly sent me on to my nose, and I says, says I--

"`Well, if that's Harry's ghost he's a reg'lar down-right hard hitter.'

"`How did I manage it?' says Harry just half an hour after, as we were
all sitting at dinner, except the old lady, who would wait on us, so as
she could get behind Hal now and then, and have a stroke at his curly
hair--`how did I manage it? why, I jumped right slap off the wharf.'

"`Well, I saw that,' I says.

"`And then I dived till I felt about choked, when I thought I'd rise,
and I came up against what I'm sure was the keel of a brig, but I kicked
out again and came up t'other side.'

"`What, dived right under the brig?'  I says.  `I ain't a marine,
Harry.'

"`True as you sit there,' he says; and then, as I could hear the gang
shouting, I let myself float with the tide down through the shipping;
and I got nearly jammed between two schooners.  But after a bit I worked
myself through, and now swimming, and now easing myself along by the
anchor chains, I got to where there was a landing-place between two
great warehouses, and crept up the slippery stone steps dripping like a
rat; and then, to tell the truth, I forgot all about you till I'd
tramped half-way where I stopped and went to bed while my things were
dried for me; when I went fast asleep and slept for hours till too late
to go on home.  And this morning, so as not to be a bad shipmate, I came
through Southton village, and told you know who that you was took, for I
couldn't face your old people.

"`You told Lucy as I was taken?'  I says, jumping up.

"`Yes,' he says, `I did.'

"But I didn't wait to hear no more, for I ran out of the house like mad
to go and prove that I was not taken, for somehow or another I'd felt
too bashful to go to Southton, though I meant to have gone that day;
while when I got there Lucy had gone three miles to comfort, as she
thought, my old folks.  But I needn't tell you any more about that.

"It was a narrow escape, though, for I met several fellows after who
were pressed that very night, and it was five years before they got
their liberty again."



CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

MY PATIENT WHO NEVER PAYS--MYSELF.

I finish the transcription of my notes with something of regret, for the
task has taken me back through many pleasant chapters of my own life,
and to days when I too had my adventures and fights with the dark shadow
casting his own shadow--the shadow of a shade across those whom he was
marking for his own.  It has brought up those stern struggles where it
has been an uphill fight for days and days, striving hard, and rejoicing
over every inch that has been gained--inches perhaps lost the next hour,
when one has seen, in spite of every effort and the aid of all that
could be brought to bear from the well-earned knowledge of others, a
patient gradually slipping from one's grasp, and stood gazing helplessly
and wondering what to do.

This has often been my fate, and with a feeling of being humbled, I have
thought how little we know even now of the secrets of nature, and how
powerless a doctor is at times.  But even then, when a case has seemed
hopeless, a sudden flash or flicker of the expiring flame has renewed
hope, and cautiously, and with endless care lest the effort to relieve
should result in extinguishing the faint dying light, one has tried
again to feed the lamp with oil, the tiniest portion at a time, perhaps
feeling a kind of awe as the result has been watched for, and the faint
spark has seemed to have been driven forth.  Then the flickering has
begun once more, grown stronger, sunk, risen, sunk lower--lower,
darkness has fallen in the room, and one's heart has sunk in unison with
the dying flame--dying?  No: that next flash has been more lasting.  It
was brighter, too.  There can be no doubt now.  Pour in more oil with
tender hand; feed the flickering flame; watch it night and day; no care
can be too great; for the enemy is ever on the watch, and a moment's
want of attention may result in the undoing of all that has been done.
And when at last the lamp of life burns more strongly and the dark shade
has fled--vanquished, driven away, there is a triumph, a joy
indescribable, which rewards surgeons, or the learned in medicine, alone
more than pecuniary recompense or notoriety can compass.

Nothing can be more sad than the feelings engendered when, in spite of
all, one's efforts have been in vain; but nothing, on the other hand,
can be more purely delightful than the looks of satisfaction and relief
in the eyes of wives, parents, children--all by whom the invalid is held
dear.  If ever gratitude is shown it is then; and the doctor goes away
feeling that he has not lived quite in vain.

A hundred pleasant recollections--ay, and a hundred sad ones--have been
evoked during the writing out of those notes; while, in turn, my old
patients have stood before me, and I have felt the strong, earnest grip
of their hands with that heart-felt earnest "Thank you, doctor!" which
has meant so much.  As I said at the commencement of these pages, I
believe in, and esteem the sturdy working man, and for a patient I would
wish for none better, on account of his genuine trust and faith in him
who is working for his cure.  I said, too, that I had once felt a strong
desire to become an army surgeon, for the sake of the experience it
would give me; but I think I have shown that amongst the privates of the
vast army of work-a-day toilers, there is practice sufficient to satisfy
the most exacting; and though the surgeon may not have to deal with
sword-cut, bayonet, and bullet wound, there is enough work for busy hand
and brain at home in his noble profession, whose mission it is to
relieve the sick and wounded in the great battle of life.

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

The End.





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