Part 3 out of 7
The enclosure was of small extent, bounded on one side by the garden
wall of the house they had just passed, and at the bottom by a broken
fence, dividing it from a piece of waste land that probably belonged
to the house. As he roamed about, Tommy spied a great heap of old iron
piled up against the wall, and made for it, in the hope of enlarging
his horizon. He scrambled to the top, and looked over. His gaze fell
right into a big but, full of dark water. Twice that evening he met
the same horror! There was a legendary report, though he had not heard
it, I fancy, that his mother drowned herself instead of him: she fell
in, and he was fished out. Whether this was the origin of his fear or
not, so far from getting down by means of the water-but, Tommy dared
not cross at that point. With much trembling he got on the top of the
wall, turned his back on the but, and ran along like a cat, in search
of a place where he could descend into the garden. He went right to
the end, round the corner, and half-way along the bottom before he
found one. There he came to a doorway that had been solidly walled up
on the outside, while the door was left in position on the
inside--ready for use when the court of chancery should have decided
to whom the house belonged. Its frame was flush with the wall, so that
its bolts and lock afforded Tommy foothold enough to descend, and
confidence of being able to get up again.
He landed in a moonlit wilderness--such a wilderness as a deserted
garden speedily becomes, the wealth in the soil converting it the
sooner to a savage chaos. Full of the impulse of discovery, and the
hope of presenting himself with importance to Clare as the bringer of
good tidings, Tommy forced his way through or crept under the
overgrown bushes, until he reached a mossy rather than gravelly walk,
where it was more easy to advance. It led him to the house.
Had he been a boy of any imagination, he would have shuddered at the
thought of attempting an entrance. All the windows had outside
shutters. Those of the ground floor were closed--except one that swung
to and fro, and must have swung in many a wind since the house was
abandoned. The moon shone with a dull whitish gleam on the dusty
windows of the first and second stories, and on the great dormers that
shot out from the slope of the roof, and cast strange shadows upon
it. The door to the garden had had a porch of trellis-work, over which
jasmine and other creeping plants were trained; but whether anything
of the porch was left, no one could have told in that thicket of
creepers, interlaced and matted by antagonist forces of wind and
growth so that not a hint of door was visible. Clearly there was
Tommy sought the window with the open shutter. Through the dirty
glass, and the reflection of the moon, he could see nothing. He tried
the sash, but could not stir it. He went round the corner to one end
of the house, and saw another door. But an enemy stepped between: the
moon shone suddenly up from the ground. In a hollow of the pavement
had gathered a pool from the drip of the neglected gutters, and out of
its hidden depth the staring round looked at him. It was the third
time Tommy's nerves had been shaken that night, and he could stand no
more. At the awful vision he turned and fled, fell, and rose and fled
again. It was not imagination in Tommy; it was an undefined,
inexplicable horror, that must have had a cause, but could have no
reason. Young as he was he had already more than once looked on the
face of death, and had felt no awe; he had listened to the gruesomest
of tales, told not altogether without art, and had never moved a hair
Only one material and two spiritual things had power with him; the one
material thing was hunger, the two spiritual things were a feeble love
for Clare, and a strong horror of water of any seeming depth. Now a
new element was added to this terror by the meddling of the moon in
the fiendish mystery--the secret of which must, I think, have been the
bottomless depth she gave the water.
He rushed down the garden. With frightful hindrance from the
overgrowth, he found the prisoned door by strange perversion become a
ladder, gained by it the top of the wall, and sped along as if pursued
by an incarnate dread. Horror of horrors! all at once the moon again
looked up at him from below: he was within a yard or two of the big
water-but! Right up to it he must go, for, close to it, on the other
side of the wall, was the heap of iron by which alone he could get
down. He tightened every nerve for the effort. He assured himself that
the thing would be over in a moment; that the water was quiet, and
could not follow him; that presently he would find himself in the
smithy by the warm forge-fire. The scaring necessity was, that he must
stoop and kneel right over the water-but, in order to send his legs in
advance down the wall to the top of the mound. It was a moment of
agony. That very moment, with an appalling unearthly cry, something
dark, something hideous, something of inconceivable ghastliness, as it
seemed to Tommy, sprang right out of the water into the air. He
tumbled from the wall among the iron, and there lay.
The stolen eggs were avenged. The hen, feverish and unhappy from the
loss of her hope of progeny, had gone to the but to sip a little
water. Tommy, appearing on the wall above her, startled her. She,
flying up with a screech, startled Tommy, and became her own unwitting
Tommy is found and found out.
When Clare woke from his first sleep, which he did within an hour--for
he was too hungry to sleep straight on, and the door, imperfectly
closed by Tommy, had come open, and let in a cold wind with the
moonlight--he raised himself on his elbow, and peered from his stone
shelf into the dreary hut. He could not at once tell where he was, but
when he remembered, his first thought was Tommy. He looked about for
him. Tommy was nowhere. Then he saw the open door, and remembered he
had gone out. Surely it was time he had come back! Stiff and sore, he
turned on his longitudinal axis, crept down from the forge, and went
out shivering to look for his imp. The moon shone radiant on the rusty
iron, and the glamour of her light rendered not a few of its shapes
and fragments suggestive of cruel torture. Picking his way among
spikes and corners and edges, he walked about the hideous wilderness
searching for Tommy, afraid to call for fear of attracting attention.
The hen too was walking about, disconsolate, but she took no notice of
him, neither did the sight of her give him any hint or rouse in him
the least suspicion: how could he suspect one so innocent and troubled
for the avenging genius through whom Tommy's white face lay upturned
to the white moon! Her egg-shells lay scattered, each a ghastly point
in the moonshine, each a silent witness to the deed that had been
done. Tommy scattered and forgot them; the moon gathered and noted
them. But they told Clare nothing, either of Tommy's behaviour or of
He came at last to the heap of metal, and there lay Tommy, caught in
its skeleton protrusions. A shiver went through him when he saw the
pallid face, and the dark streak of blood across it. He concluded that
in trying to get over the wall he had failed and fallen back. He
climbed and took him in his arms. Tommy was no weight for Clare, weak
with hunger as he was, to carry to the smithy. He laid him on the
hearth, near the fire, and began to blow it up. The roaring of the
wind in the fire did not wake him. Clare went on blowing. The heat
rose and rose, and brought the boy to himself at last, in no
comfortable condition. He opened his eyes, scrambled to his feet, and
stared wildly around him.
"Where is it?" he cried.
"Where's what?" rejoined Clare, leaving the bellows, and taking a hold
of him lest he should fall off.
"The head that flew out of the water-but," answered Tommy with a
"Have you lost your senses, Tommy?" remonstrated Clare. "I found you
lying on a heap of old iron against the wall, with the moon shining on
"Yes, yes!--the moon! She jumped out of the water-but, and got a hold
of me as I was getting down. I knew she would!"
"I didn't think you were such a fool, Tommy!" said Clare.
"Well, you hadn't the pluck to go yourself! You stopt in!" cried
Tommy, putting his hand to his head, but more sorely hurt that an
idiot should call him a fool.
"Come and let me see, Tommy," said Clare.
He wanted to find out if he was much hurt; but Tommy thought he wanted
to go to the water-but, and screamed.
"Hold your tongue, you little idiot!" cried Clare. "You'll have all
the world coming after us! They'll think I'm murdering you!"
Tommy restrained himself, and gradually recovering, told Clare what he
had discovered, but not what he had found.
"There's something yellow on your jacket! What is it?" said Clare. "I
do believe--yes, it is!--you've been eating an egg! Now I remember! I
saw egg-shells, more than two or three, lying in the yard, and the
poor hen walking about looking for her eggs! You little rascal! You
pig of a boy! I won't thrash you this time, because you've fetched
your own thrashing. But--!"
He finished the sentence by shaking his fist in Tommy's face, and
looking as black at him as he was able.
"I do believe it was the hen herself that frighted you!" he added.
"She served you right, you thief!"
"I didn't know there was any harm," said Tommy, pretending to sob.
"Why didn't you bring me my share, then?"
"'Cos I knowed you'd ha' made me give 'em back to the hen!"
"And you didn't know there was any harm, you lying little brute!"
"No, I didn't."
"Now, look here, Tommy! If you don't mind what I tell you, you and I
part company. One of us two must be master, and I will, or you must
tramp. Do you hear me?"
"I can't do without wictuals!" whimpered Tommy. "I didn't come wi'
_you_ a purpose to be starved to death!"
"I dare say you didn't; but when I starve, you must starve too; and
when I eat, you shall have the first mouthful. What did you come with
"'Acos you was the strongest," answered Tommy, "an' I reckoned you
would get things from coves we met!"
"Well, I'm not going to get things from coves we meet, except they
give them to me. But have patience, Tommy, and I'll get you all you
can eat. You must give me time, you know! I 'ain't got work yet!--Come
here. Lie down close to me, and we'll go to sleep."
The urchin obeyed, pillowed his head on Clare's chest, and went fast
Clare slept too after a while, but the necessities of his relation to
Tommy were fast making a man of him.
The smith in a rage.
They had not slept long, when they were roused by a hideous clamour
and rattling at the door, and thunderous blows on the wooden sides of
the shed. Clare woke first, and rubbed his eyelids, whose hinges were
rusted with sleep. He was utterly perplexed with the uproar and
romage. The cabin seemed enveloped in a hurricane of kicks, and the
air was in a tumult of howling and brawling, of threats and curses,
whose inarticulateness made them sound bestial. There never came pause
long enough for Clare to answer that they were locked in, and that the
smith must have the key in his pocket. But when Tommy came to himself,
which he generally did the instant he woke, but not so quickly this
time because of his fall, he understood at once.
"It's the blacksmith! He's roaring drunk!" he said.
"Let's be off, Clare! The devil 'ill be to pay when he gets in! He'll
murder us in our beds!"
"We ought to let him into his own house if we can," replied Clare,
rising and going to the door. It was well for him that he found no way
of opening it, for every instant there came a kick against it that
threatened to throw it from lock and hinges at once. He protested his
inability, but the madman thought he was refusing to admit him, and
went into a tenfold fury, calling the boys hideous names, and swearing
he would set the shed on fire if they did not open at once. The boys
shouted, but the man had no sense to listen with, and began such a
furious battery on the door, with his whole person for a ram, that
Tommy made for the rear, and Clare followed--prudent enough, however,
in all his haste, to close the back-door behind them.
Tommy was in front, and led the way to the bottom of the yard, and
over the fence into the waste ground, hoping to find some point in
that quarter where he could mount the wall. He could not face the
water-but--with the moon in it, staring out of the immensity of the
lower world. He ran and doubled and spied, but could find no
foothold. Least of all was ascent possible at the spot where the door
stood on the other side; the bricks were smoother than elsewhere. He
turned the corner and ran along a narrow lane, Clare still following,
for he thought Tommy knew what he was about; but Tommy could find no
encouragement to attempt scaling the wall. They might have fled into
the fields that lay around; but the burrowing instinct was strong, and
the deserted house drew them. Then Clare, finding Tommy at fault,
bethought him that the little rascal had got up by the heap on which
he discovered him, and must be afraid to go that way again. He faced
about and ran, in his turn become leader. Tommy wheeled also, and
followed, but with misgiving. When they reached the farther corner of
the bottom wall, they stopped and peeped round before they would turn
it: they might run against the blacksmith in chase of them! But the
sound of his continued hammering at the door came to them, and they
went on. They crossed the fence and ran again, ran faster, for now
every step brought them nearer to their danger: the heap of iron lay
between them and the smithy, and any moment the smith might burst into
the shed, rush through, and be out upon them.
They reached the heap. Clare sprang up; and Tommy, urged on the one
side by the fear of the drunken smith, and drawn on the other by the
dread of being abandoned by Clare, climbed shuddering after him.
"Mind the water-but, Clare!" he gasped; "an' gi' me a hand up."
Clare had already turned on the top of the wall to help him.
"Now let me go first!" said Tommy, the moment he had his foot on
it. "I know how to get down."
He scudded along the wall, glad to have Clare between him and the
but. Clare followed swiftly. He was not so quick on the cat-promenade
as Tommy, but he had a good head, and was spurred by the apprehension
of being seen up there in the moonlight.
In a few moments they were safe in the thicket at the foot of what had
been their enemy and was now their friend--the garden-wall. How many
things and persons there are whose other sides are altogether
friendly! These are their true selves, and we must be true to get at
Tommy again took the lead, though with a fresh sinking of the heart
because of that other place with the moon in it. Through the tangled
thicket they made or found their way--and there stood the house, with
the moon looking down on its roof, and the drunkard's thunder
troubling her still pale light--her _moon-thinking_. But for the noise
and the haste, Clare would have been frightened at them. There seemed
some secret between the house and the moon which they were determined
no one else should share. They were of one mind to terrify man or boy
who should attempt to cross the threshold! There was no time, however,
to heed such fancies. "If we could only get in without spoiling
anything!" thought Clare. Once in, they would hurt nothing, take but
the shelter and rest lying there of no good to anybody, and leave them
there all the same when they had done with them!
While they stood looking at the house, the thundering at the door of
the smithy ceased. Presently they heard voices in altercation. One
voice was that of the smith, quieter than when last they heard it, but
ill-tempered and growling as at first. The other seemed that of a
woman. She had been able so far to quiet him, probably, that he
remembered he had the key in his pocket; for they thought they heard
the door of the smithy open. Then all was silent, and the outcasts
pursued their quest of an entrance to the house.
Clare went ferreting as Tommy had done. He also tried to get a peep
through the window with the swinging shutter, but had no better
success than Tommy. Then he started to go round the corner next the
"Look out!" cried Tommy in a loud whisper, when he saw where he was
"Why?" asked Clare.
"Because there's a horrible hole there, full of water," answered
"I'll keep a look out," returned Clare, and went.
When he was about half-way along the end of the house, he heard a
noise he did not understand, and stopped to listen. Some one seemed
Then came a kind of scrambling sound, and presently the noise of a
great watery splash. Clare shivered from head to foot.
"Something has fallen into the hole Tommy mentioned!" he said to
himself, and ran on to see. A few steps brought him to what Tommy had
taken for a great hole. It was nothing but a pool of rain-water: the
splash could not have come from that!
Then it occurred to him that the water-but could not be far off. He
forced his way through shrubs of various kinds, and reaching the wall,
went back along it until he came to the but. A ray of moonlight showed
him that the side of it was wet, as if the water had lately come over
the edge. He looked about for some means of getting a peep into the
huge thing. It stood on a brick stand, of which it left a narrow edge
clear, but on this edge the bulge of the but would not permit him to
mount. With the help of a small tree, however, he got on the wall,
which was better.
Spying into the but, he could see nothing at first, for a chimney was
now between it and the moon. A moment more, however, and he descried
something white in the dull iron gleam of the water. It was under the
water, but floating near the surface. He lay down on the wall, plunged
his arm into the but, laid hold of it, and drew it out. It was a
little heavy for the size, for what should it be but a tiny baby, in a
flannel night-gown, which, as he drew it out, sent back little noisy
streams into the but! It lay perfectly still in his arms, he did not
know whether dead or alive, but he thought it could hardly be drowned
so soon after the splash. It had been drugged, and the antagonism of
the two means employed to kill it was probably the saving of its life.
Clare stood in stony bewilderment. What was he to do? Certainly not to
go after the mother! The first thing was to get it down from the
wall. That he could easily have done on the other side, by the heap;
but that was the side whence it must have been thrown, and they would
be but in worse difficulty there! He must get the baby down inside the
wall! With at least one arm occupied, the tree-way was impracticable.
There was only one other way, and that full of danger! But where there
is only one way, that way must be taken, and Clare did not hesitate.
He started along the top of the wall, with the poor unconscious germ
of humanity in his arms. He had lifted it from its watery coffin, out
of the cold arms of death, up into the clear air of life! True, that
air was cold, and filled only with moonshine; but there was the house
whose seal might be broken! and the moon saw the sun making warm the
under world! Along the narrow way, through the still, keen glimmer,
unseen, probably, by any eye in the sleeping town, he bore his burden,
speeding as fast as he dared, for he must not set a foot down amiss!
Had any one caught sight of him, what a commotion would not the tale
have roused--of the spectre of a boy with a baby in his arms, gliding
noiseless in the moon and the middle night, along the top of the high
brick wall of a deserted house, where no one had lived within the
memory of man!
When he reached the door-ladder, he found descent difficult but
possible. It was more difficult to make his way through the tangled
bushes without scratching the baby, which, after all, might, alas, be
beyond hurt! He held it close to his bosom, life coaxing life to "stay
Thus laden, he appeared before Tommy, who had heard the splash, and
thought Clare had fallen into the deep hole, but had not had courage
to go and see, partly from the fear of verifying his fear, but more
from his horror of the watery abyss. He stood trembling where Clare
had left him.
To save the baby was now Clare's only thought. The baby was now the
one thing in the universe! If only the light that shone on it were
that of the hot sun instead of the cold moon, which looked far more
like killing than bringing to life! "And," thought Clare with himself,
"there ain't much more heat in my body than in that shivery moon!" But
the sun would wake and mount the sky, and send the moon down, and all
would be different! Only, if nothing could be done in the meantime,
where would baby be by then!
"Here, Tommy," he cried, "come and see what I found in the water-but."
At the word, Tommy turned to flee; but confidence in Clare, and
curiosity to see what, in Clare's arms, could hardly hurt him,
prevailed, and he drew near cautiously.
"Lord, it's a kid!" he cried.
"It's not a kid," said Clare, who had no slang; "it's a baby!"
"Well! ain't a baby a kid, just?"
Tommy did not know that the word stood for anything else than a child,
which was indeed its meaning long before it was specially applied to
the young of the goat. A _kidnapper_ or _kidnabber_ is a stealer of
children. Mr. Skeat tells us that _kid_ meant at first just a young
"You can't tell me what to do with it, I'm afraid, Tommy!" said Clare.
Already it was as if from all eternity he had loved this helpless
little waif of Time, with its small, thin, blue-gray, gin-drugged
face; this tiny life, so hopeless, so miserable, yet so uncomplaining:
the thing that was, was the thing for it to bear; it had come into the
world to bear it! Ready to die, even Death would not have it; it must
live where it was not wanted, where it was not welcome!
"Yes, I can!" answered Tommy with evil promptitude. "Put it in again."
"But that would drown it, you know, Tommy!" answered Clare, treating
him like the child he was not. "We want it to live, Tommy!"
His tenderness for the baby made him speak with foolish gentleness.
"No, we don't!" returned Tommy. "What business has _it_ to live, when
we can't get nothing to eat?"
Clare held faster to the baby with one arm, and with the fist of the
other struck straight out at Tommy, hit him between the eyes, and
knocked him flat. It was a miserable thing to have to do, and it made
Clare miserable, for Tommy was not half his size, and was still
suffering from his fall on the iron. But then the dying baby was not
half Tommy's size, and any milder argument would have been lost on
him: he was thus sent on the way to understand that the baby had
rights; and that if the baby could not enforce them, there was one in
the world that could and would. Never in his life did Clare show more
instinctive wisdom than in that knock-down blow to the hardly blamable
Tommy got up at once. He was not much hurt, for he had a hard head
though he was easily knocked over. From that moment he began to
respect Clare. He had loved him before in a way; he had patronized
him, and feared to offend him because he was stronger than he; but
until now he had had no respect for him, believing little Tommy a much
finer fellow than big Clare. There are thousands for whom a blow is a
better thing than expostulation, persuasion, or any sort of
kindness. They are such that nothing but a blow will set their door
ajar for love to get in. That is why hardships, troubles,
disappointments, and all kinds of pain and suffering, are sent to so
many of us. We are so full of ourselves, and feel so grand, that we
should never come to know what poor creatures we are, never begin to
do better, but for the knock-down blows that the loving God gives us.
We do not like them, but he does not spare us for that.
Tommy rose rubbing his forehead, and crying quietly. He did not dare
say a word. It was well for him he did not. Clare, perplexed and
anxious about the baby, was in no mood to accept annoyance from
Tommy. But the urchin remaining silent, the elder boy's indignation
began immediately to settle down.
The infant lay motionless, its little heart beating doubtfully, like
the ticking of a clock off the level, as if the last beat might be
indeed the last.
"We _must_ get into the house, Tommy!" said Clare.
"Yes, Clare," answered Tommy, very meekly, and went off like a shot to
renew investigation at the other end of the house. He was back in a
moment, his face as radiant with success as such a face could be, with
such a craving little body under it.
"Come, come," he cried. "We can get in quite easy. I ha' _been_ in!"
The keen-eyed monkey had found a cellar-window, sunk a little below
the level of the ground--a long, narrow, horizontal slip, with a
grating over its small area not fastened down. He had lifted it, and
pushed open the window, which went inward on rusty hinges--so rusty
that they would not quite close again. That he had been in was a
lie. _He_ knew better than go first! He belonged to the school of
_No. 1!_--all mean beggars.
Clare hastened after him.
"Gi' me the kid, an' you get in; you can reach up for it better,
'cause ye're taller," said Tommy.
"Is it much of a drop?" asked Clare.
"Nothing much," answered Tommy.
Clare handed him the baby, instructing him how to hold it, and
threatening him if he hurt it; then laid himself on his front, shoved
his legs across the area through the window, and followed with his
body. Holding on to the edge of the window-sill, he let his feet as
far down as he could, then dropped, and fell on a heap of coals,
whence he tumbled to the floor of the cellar.
"You should have told me of the coals!" he said, rising, and calling
up through the darkness.
"I forgot," answered Tommy.
"Give me the baby," said Clare.
When Tommy took the baby, he renewed that moment, and began to cherish
the sense of an injury done him by the poor helpless thing. He did not
pinch it, only because he dared not, lest it should cry. When he heard
Clare fall on the coals, and then heard him call up from the depth of
the cellar, he was greatly tempted to turn with it to the other end of
the house, and throw it in the pool, then make for the wall and the
fields, leaving Clare to shift for himself. But he durst not go near
the pool, and Clare would be sure to get out again and be after him!
so he stood with the hated creature in his unprotective arms. When
Clare called for it, he got into the shallow area, and pushed the baby
through the window, grasping the extreme of its garment, and letting
it hang into the darkness of the cellar, head downward. I believe then
the baby was sick, for, a moment after, and before Clare could get a
hold of it, it began to cry. The sound thrilled him with delight.
"Oh, the darling!--Can't you let her down a bit farther, Tommy?" he
said, with suppressed eagerness.
He had climbed on the heap of coals, and was stretching up his arms to
receive her. In the faint glimmer from the diffused light of the moon,
he could just distinguish the window, blocked up by Tommy; the baby he
could not see.
"No, I can't," answered Tommy. "Catch! There!"
So saying he yielded to his spite, and waiting no sign of preparedness
on the part of Clare, let go his hold, and dropped the little one. It
fell on Clare and knocked him over; but he clasped it to him as he
fell, and they hurtled to the bottom of the coals without much damage.
"I have her!" he cried as he got up. "Now you come yourself, Tommy."
He had known no baby but his lost sister, and thought of all babies as
"You'll catch me, won't you, Clare?" said Tommy.
"The thing you've done once you can do again! I can't set down the
baby to catch you!" replied the unsuspicious Clare, and turned to seek
an exit from the cellar. He had not had time yet to wonder how Tommy
had got out.
Tommy came tumbling on the top of the coals: he dared not be left with
the water-but and the pool and the moon.
"Where are you, Clare?" he called.
Clare answered him from the top of the stone stair that led to the
cellar, and Tommy was soon at his heels. Going along a dark passage,
where they had to feel their way, they arrived at the kitchen. The
loose outside shutter belonged to it, and as it was open, a little of
the moonlight came in. The place looked dreary enough and cold enough
with its damp brick-floor and its rusty range; but at least they were
out of the air, and out of sight of the moon! If only they had some of
that coal alight!
"I don't see as we're much better off!" said Tommy. "I'm as cold as
"Then what must baby be like!" said Clare, whose heart was brimful of
anxiety for his charge. It seemed to him he had never known misery
till now. Life or death for the baby--and he could do nothing! He was
cold enough himself, what with hunger, and the night, and the wet and
deadly cold little body in his arms; but whatever discomfort he felt,
it seemed not himself but the baby that was feeling it; he imputed it
all to the baby, and pitied the baby for the cold he felt himself.
"We needn't stay here, though," he said. "There must be better places
in the house! Let's try and find a bedroom!"
"Come along!" responded Tommy.
They left the kitchen, and went into the next room. It seemed warmer,
because it had a wooden floor. There was hardly any light in it, but
it felt empty. They went up the stair. When they turned on the landing
half-way, they saw the moon shining in. They went into the first room
they came to. Such a bedroom!--larger and grander than any at the
"Oh baby! baby!" cried Clare, "now you'll live--won't you?"
He seemed to have his own Maly an infant again in his arms. The
thought that the place was not his, and that he might get into trouble
by being there, never came to him. Use was not theft! The room and its
contents were to him as the water and the fire which even pagans
counted every man bound to hand to his neighbour. There was the bed!
Through all the cold time it had been waiting for them! The
counterpane was very dusty; and oh, such moth-eaten blankets! But
there were sheets under them, and they were quite clean, though dingy
with age! The moths--that is, their legs and wings and dried-up
bodies--flew out in clouds when they moved the blankets. Not the less
had they discovered Paradise! For the moths, they must have found it
an island of plum-cake!
I do not know the history of the house--how it came to be shut up with
so much in it. I only know it was itself shut up in chancery, and
chancery is full of moths and dust and worms. I believe nobody in the
town knew much about it--not even the thieves. It was of course said
to be haunted, which had doubtless done something for its
protection. No one knew how long it had stood thus deserted. Nobody
thought of entering it, or was aware that there was furniture in
it. It was supposed to be somebody's property, and that it was
somebody's business to look after it: whether it was looked after or
not, nobody inquired. Happily for Clare and the baby and Tommy, that
was nobody's business.
With deft hands--for how often had he not seen his baby-sister
undressed!--Clare hurried off the infant's one garment, gently rubbed
her little body till it was quite dry, if not very clean, and laid her
tenderly in the heart of the blankets, among the remains and eggs and
grubs of the mothy creatures--they were not wild beasts, or even
stinging things--and covered her up, leaving a little opening for her
to breathe through. She had not cried since Clare took her; she was
too feeble to cry; but, alas, there was no question about feeding her,
for he had no food to give her, were she crying ever so much! He threw
off his clothes, and got into the mothy blankets beside her. In a few
minutes he began to glow, for there was a thick pile of woolly
salvation atop of him. He took the naked baby in his arms and held her
close to his body, and they grew warmer together.
"Now, Tommy," he said, "you may take off your clothes, and get in on
the other side of me."
Tommy did not need a second invitation, and in a moment they were all
fast asleep. A few months, even a few days before, it would have been
a right painful thing to Clare to lie so near a boy like Tommy, but
suffering had taken the edge off nicety and put it on humanity. The
temple of the Lord may need cleansing, but the temple of the Lord it
is. Clare had in him that same spirit which made _the_ son of man go
beyond the healingly needful, and lay his hand--the Sinaitic
manuscript says his _hands_--upon the leper, where a word alone would
have served for the leprosy: the hands were for the man's
heart. Repulsive danger lay in the contact, but the flesh and bones
were human, and very cold.
A new quest.
Though as comfortable as one could be who so sorely lacked food, Clare
slept lightly. His baby was heavy on his mind, and he woke very
early--woke at once to the anxious thought of a boy without food,
money, or friends, and with a hungry baby. He woke, however, with a
new train of reasoning in his mind. Babies could not work; babies
always had their food given them; therefore babies who hadn't food had
a right to ask for it; babies couldn't ask for it; therefore those who
had the charge of them, and hadn't food to give them, had a right to
do the asking for them. He could not beg for himself as long as he was
able to ask for work; but for baby it was his duty to beg, because she
could not wait: she would not live till he found work. If he got work
that very day, he would have to work the whole day before he got the
money for it, and baby would be dead by that time! He crept out, so as
not to awake the sleepers, and put on his clothes. They were not dry,
but they would dry when the sun rose. He did not at all like leaving
his baby with Tommy, but what was he to do? She might as well die of
Tommy as of hunger! Perhaps it might be easier!
He thought over the nature of the boy, and what it would be best to
say to him. He saw what many genial persons are slow to see, that
kindness, in its natural shape, is to certain dispositions a great
barrier in the way of learning either love or duty. With multitudes,
nothing but undiluted fear or pain or shame can open the door for love
He searched the house for a medicine-bottle, such as he had seen
plenty of at the parsonage, and found two. He chose the smaller, lest
size should provoke disinclination. Then he woke Tommy, and said to
"Tommy, I'm going out to get baby's breakfast."
"Ain't you going to give _me_ any? Is the kid to have _everything_?"
"Tommy!" said Clare, with a steady look in his eyes that frightened
him, "your turn will come next. You won't die of want for a day or two
yet. I'll see to you as soon as I can. Only, remember, baby comes
first! I'm going to leave her with you. You needn't take her up.
You're not able to carry her. You would let her fall. But if, when I
come home, I find anything has happened to her, _I'll put you in the
water-but_--I WILL. And I'll do it when the moon is in it."
Tommy pulled a hideous face, and began to yell. Clare seized him by
"Make that noise again, you rascal, and I'll choke you. If you're good
to baby while I'm away, I won't eat a mouthful till you've had some;
if you're not good to her, you know what will happen! You've got the
thing in your own hands!"
"She'll go an' do something I can't help, an' then you'll go for to
Again he began to howl, but Clare checked him as before. "If you wake
her up, I'll--" He had no words, and shook him for lack of any. "I
see," he resumed, "I shall have to lock you up in the coal-cellar till
I come back! Here! come along!"
Tommy was quiet instantly, and fell to pleading. Clare lent a gracious
ear, and yielding to Tommy's protestations, left him with his
treasure, and set out on his quest.
He got out through the kitchen, the rustiness of the fastenings of its
door delaying him a little, and over the wall by the imprisoned door,
taking care to lift as little as possible of his person above the
coping as he crossed. He dared not go along the wall in the daylight,
or get down in the smith's yard; he dropped straight to the ground.
The country was level, and casting his eyes about, he saw, at no great
distance, what looked like a farmstead. He knew cows were milked
early, but did not know what time it was. Hoping anyhow to reach the
place before the milk was put away in the pans, he set out to run
straight across the fields. But he soon found he could not run, and
had to drop into a walk.
When he got into the yard, he saw a young woman carrying a foaming
pail of milk across to the dairy. He ran to her, and addressed her
with his usual "Please, ma'am;" but the pail was heavy, and she kept
on without answering him. Clare followed her, and looking into the
dairy, saw an elderly woman.
"Please, ma'am, could you afford me as much fresh milk as would fill
that bottle?" he said, showing it.
"Well, my man," she answered pleasantly, "I think we might venture as
far without fear of the workhouse! But what on earth made you bring
such a thimble of a bottle as that?"
"I have no money to pay for it, you see, ma'am; and I thought a little
bottle would be better to beg with; it wouldn't be so hard on the
"Bless the boy! Much good a drop of milk like that will do him!" said
the woman, turning to the girl "Is it for your mother's tea?"
"No, ma'am; it's for a baby--a very little baby, ma'am!--I think it
will hold enough," he added, giving an anxious glance at the bottle in
his hand, "to keep her alive till I get work."
The woman looked, and her heart was drawn to the boy who stood gazing
at her with his whole solemn, pathetic yet strong face--with his wide,
clear eyes, his decided nose, large and straight, his rather long,
fine mouth, trembling with eager anxiety, and his confident chin. She
saw hunger in his grimy cheeks; she saw that his manners were those of
a gentleman, and his clothes poor enough for any tramp, though
evidently not made for a tramp. She would have concluded him escaped
from cruel guardians, for she was a reader of _The Family Herald_; but
that would not account for the baby! The baby did not tally!
"How old's the baby?" she asked.
"I don't know, ma'am; she only came to us last night."
"Who brought her?"
She imagined the boy a simpleton, and expected one of such answers as
inconvenient questions in natural history receive from nurses.
"I don't know, ma'am. I took her out of the water-but."
The thing grew bewildering.
"Who put her there?"
"I don't know, ma'am."
"Whose baby is she, then?"
"Mine, I think, ma'am."
"God bless the boy!" said the woman impatiently, and stared at him
Her daughter in the meantime had filled the phial with new milk. She
handed it to him. He grasped it eagerly. Tears of joy came in his big
"Oh, _thank_ you, ma'am!" he said. "But, please, would you tell me,"
he continued, looking from the one to the other, "how much water I
must put in the milk to make it good for baby? I know it wants water,
but I don't know how much!"
"Oh, about half and half," answered the elder woman. "'Ain't she got
no mother?" she resumed.
"I think she must have a mother, but I daresay she's a tramp,"
"I don't want to give my good milk to a tramp!" she rejoined.
"_I_'m not a tramp, please, ma'am!--at least I wasn't till the day
The woman looked at him out of motherly eyes, and her heart swelled
into her bosom.
"Wouldn't you like some milk yourself?" she said.
"Oh, yes, ma'am!" answered Clare, with a deep sigh.
She filled a big cup from the warm milk in the pail, and held it out
to him. He took it as a man on the scaffold might a reprieve from
death, half lifted it to his lips, then let his hand sink. It trembled
so, as he set the cup down on a shelf beside him, that he spilled a
little. He looked ruefully at the drops on the brick floor.
"Please, ma'am, there's Tommy!" he faltered.
His promise to Tommy had sprung upon him like a fiery flying serpent.
"Tommy! I thought you said the baby was a girl?"
"Yes, the baby's a girl; but there's Tommy as well! He's another of
"Your brother, of course!"
"No, ma'am; I'm afraid he's a tramp. But there he is, you see, and I
must share with him!"
It grew more and more inexplicable!
A gruff, loud voice came from the yard. It was the farmer's. He was a
bitter-tempered man, and his dislike of tramps was almost hatred. His
wife and daughter knew that if he saw the boy he would be worse than
rude to him.
"There's the master!" cried the mother. "Drink, and make haste out of
"If it's stealing,--" said Clare.
"Stealing! It's no stealing! The dairy's mine! I can give my milk
where I please!"
"Well, ma'am, if the milk's mine because you gave it me, it's not
begging to ask you to give me a piece of bread for it! I could take a
share of that to Tommy!"
"Run, Chris," cried the mother, hurriedly; "take the innocent with
you--round outside the yard. Give him a hunch of bread, and let him
go. For God's sake don't let your father see him! Run, my boy, run!
There's no time to drink the milk now!"
She poured it back into the pail, and set the cup out of the way.
There was a little passage and another door, by which they left as the
farmer entered. The kick he would have given Clare with his heavy boot
would, in its consequences, have reached the baby too. The girl ran
with him to the back of the house.
"Wait a moment at that window," she said.
Now whether it was loving-kindness all, or that she dared not take the
time to divide it, I cannot tell, but she handed Clare a whole loaf,
and that a good big one, of home-made bread, and disappeared before he
could thank her, telling him to run for his life.
He was able now. With the farmer behind, and the hungry ones before
him, he _must_ run; and with the phial in his pocket and the loaf in
his hands, he _could_ run. Happily the farmer did not catch sight of
him. His wife took care he should not. I believe, indeed, she got up a
brand-new quarrel with him on the spur of the moment, that he might
not have a chance.
A new entrance.
Clare sped jubilant. But soon came a check to his jubilation: it was
one thing to drop from the wall, and quite another to climb to the top
of it without the help of the door! The same moment he heard the clink
of the smith's hammer on his anvil, and to go by his yard in daylight
would be to risk too much! For what would become of them if their
retreat was discovered! He stood at the foot of the brick precipice,
and stared up with helpless eyes and failing strength. Baby was
inside, hungry, and with no better nurse than ill conditioned Tommy;
her milk was in his pocket, Tommy's bread in his hand, the
insurmountable wall between him and them! He had the daylight now,
however, and there was hardly any one about: perhaps he could find
another entrance! Round the outside of the wall, therefore, like the
Midianite in the rather comical hymn, did Clare prowl and prowl. But
the wall rose straight and much too smooth wherever he looked.
Searching its face he went all along the bottom of the garden, and
then up the narrow lane between it and the garden of the next house,
with increasing fear that there was no way but by the smith's yard,
and no choice but risk it.
A dozen yards or so, however, from the end of the lane, where it took
a sharp turn before entering the street, he spied an opening in the
wall--the same from which, the night before, Tommy had returned with
such a frightened face. Clare went through, and found a narrow passage
running to the left for a short distance between two walls. At the
end, half on one side, half on the other of the second wall, lay the
well that had terrified Tommy. The wall crossed it with a low arch. On
the further side of the well was a third wall, with a space of about
two feet and a half between it and the side of the round well. Through
that wall there might be a door!--or, if not, there might be some way
of getting over it! To cross the well would be awkward, but he must do
it! He tied the loaf in his pocket-handkerchief--he was far past
fastidiousness, and Tommy knew neither the word nor the thing--and
knotted the ends of it round his neck. But his chief anxiety was not
to break the bottle in his jacket-pocket. He got on his knees on the
parapet. How deep and dark the water looked! For a moment he felt a
fear of it something like Tommy's. How was he to cross the awful gulf?
It was not like a free jump; he was hemmed in before and behind, and
overhead also. But the baby drew him over the well, as the name of
Beatrice drew Dante through the fire. The baby was waiting for him,
and it had to be done! He made a cat-leap through beneath the arch,
reaching out with his hands and catching at the parapet beyond. He did
catch it, just enough of it to hold on by, so that his body did not
follow his legs into the water. Oh, how cold they found it after his
run! He held on, strained and heaved up, made a great reach across the
width of the parapet with one hand, laid hold of its outer edge, made
good his grasp on it, and drew himself out of the water, and out of
He was in a narrow space, closed in with walls much higher than his
head, out of which he saw no way but that by which he had come
in--across the fearful well, that seemed, so dark was its water, to go
down and down for ever.
He felt in his pocket. If then he had found baby's bottle broken, I
doubt if Clare would ever have got out of the place, except by the
door into the next world. What little strength he had was nearly gone,
and I think it would then have gone quite. But the bottle was safe and
his courage came back.
He examined his position, and presently saw that the narrowness of his
threatened prison would make it no prison at all. He found that, by
leaning his back against one wall, pushing his feet against the
opposite wall, and making of the third wall a rack for his shoulder,
he could worm himself slowly up. It was a task for a strong man, and
Clare, though strong for his years, was not at that moment strong. But
there was the baby waiting, and here was her milk! He fell to, and,
with an agony of exertion, wriggled himself at last to the top--so
exhausted that he all but fell over on the other side. He pulled
himself together, and dropped at once into, the garden. Happier boy
than Clare was not in all England then. Hunger, wet, incipient
nakedness, for he had torn his clothes badly, were nowhere. Baby was
within his reach, and the milk within baby's!
He ran, dripping like a spaniel, to find her, and shot up the stair to
the room that held his treasure. To his joy he found both Tommy and
the baby fast asleep, Tommy tired out with the weary tramping of the
day before, and the baby still under the influence of the opiate her
mother had given her to make her drown quietly.
The baby has her breakfast.
He waked Tommy, and showed him the loaf. Tommy sprang from his lair
and snatched at it.
"No, Tommy," said Clare, drawing back, "I can't trust you! You would
eat it all; and if I died of hunger, what would become of baby, left
alone with you? I don't feel at all sure you wouldn't eat _her_!"
Baby started a feeble whimper.
"You must wait now till I've attended to her," continued Clare. "If
you had got up quietly without waking her, I would have given you your
share at once."
As he spoke, he pulled a blanket off the bed to wrap her in, and made
haste to take her up. A series of difficulties followed, which I will
leave to the imagination of mothers and aunts, and nurses in
general--the worst being that there was no warm water to wash her in,
and cold water would be worse than dangerous after what she had gone
through with it the night before. Clare comforted himself that washing
was a thing non-essential to existence, however desirable for
Then came a more serious difficulty: the milk must be mixed with
water, and water as cold as Clare's legs would kill the drug-dazed
shred of humanity! What was to be done? It would be equally dangerous
to give her the strong milk of a cow undiluted. There was but one way:
he must feed her as do the pigeons. First, however, he must have
water! The well was almost inaccessible: to get to it and return would
fearfully waste life-precious time! The rain-water in the little pool
must serve the necessity! It was preferable to that in the but!
Until many years after, it did not occur to Clare as strange that
there should be even a drop of water in that water-but. Whence was it
fed? There was no roof near, from which the rain might run into it. If
there had ever been a pipe to supply it, surely, in a house so long
forsaken, its continuity must have given way One always sees such
barrels empty, dry, and cracked: this one was apparently known to be
full of water, for what woman in her senses, however inferior those
senses, would throw her child into an empty but! How did it happen to
be full? Clare was almost driven to the conclusion that it had been
filled for the evil purpose to which it was that night put. Against
this was the fact that it would not have been easy to fill such a huge
vessel by hand. I suggested that the blacksmith and his predecessors
might have used it for the purposes of the forge, and kept it and its
feeder in repair. Mr. Skymer endeavoured repeatedly to find out what
had become of the blacksmith, but never with any approach to success;
the probability being that he had left the world long before his
natural time, by disease engendered or quarrel occasioned through his
Clare laid the baby down, and fetched water from the pool. Then he
mixed the milk with what seemed the right quantity, again took the
baby up, who had been whimpering a little now and then all the time,
laid a blanket, several times folded, on his wet knees, and laid her
in her blanket upon it. These preparations made, he took a small
mouthful of the milk and water, and held it until it grew warm. It was
the only way, I condescend to remind any such reader as may think it
proper to be disgusted. When then he put his mouth to the baby's,
careful not to let too much go at once, they managed so between them
that she successfully appropriated the mouthful. It was followed by a
second, a third, and more, until, to Clare's delight, the child seemed
satisfied, leaving some of the precious fluid for another meal. He put
her in the bed again, and covered her up warm. All the time, Tommy had
been watching the loaf with the eyes of a wild beast.
"Now, Tommy," said Clare, "how much of this loaf do you think you
ought to have?"
"Half, of course!" answered Tommy boldly, with perfect conviction of
his fairness, and pride in the same.
"Are you as big as I am?"
Tommy held his peace.
"You ain't half as big!" said Clare.
"I'm a bloomin' lot hungrier!" growled Tommy.
"You had eggs last night, and I had none!"
"That wurn't my fault!"
"What did you do to get this bread?"
"I staid at home with baby."
"That's true," answered Clare. "But," he went on, "suppose a horse and
a pony had got to divide their food between them, would the pony have
a right to half? Wouldn't the horse, being bigger, want more to keep
him alive than the pony?"
"Don't know," said Tommy.
"But you shall have the half," continued Clare; "only I hope, after
this, when you get anything given to you, you'll divide it with me. I
try to be fair, and I want you to be fair."
Tommy made no reply. He did not trouble himself about fair play; he
wanted all he could get--like most people; though, thank God, I know a
few far more anxious to give than to receive fair play. Such men, be
they noblemen or tradesmen, I worship.
Clare carefully divided the loaf, and after due deliberation, handed
Tommy that which seemed the bigger half. Without a word of
acknowledgment, Tommy fell upon it like a terrier. He would love Clare
in a little while when he had something more to give--but stomach
before heart with Tommy! His sort is well represented in every
rank. There are not many who can at the same time both love and be
"Now, Tommy," said Clare, having eaten his half loaf, "I'm going out
to look for work, and you must take care of baby. You're not to feed
her--you would only choke her, and waste the good milk."
"I want to go out too," said Tommy.
"To see what you can pick up, I suppose?"
"That's my business."
"I fancy it mine while you are with me. If you don't take care of baby
and be good to her, I'll put you in the water-but I took her out
of--as sure as you ain't in it now!"
"That you shan't!" cried Tommy; "I'll bite first!"
"I'll tie your hands and feet, and put a stick in your mouth," said
Clare. "So you'd better mind."
"I want to go with you!" whimpered Tommy.
"You can't. You're to stop and look after baby. I won't be away longer
than I can help; you may be sure of that."
With repeated injunctions to him not to leave the room, Clare went.
Before going quite, however, he must arrange for returning. To swarm
up between the two walls as he had done before, would be to bid
good-bye to his jacket at least, and he knew how appearances were
already against him. Spying about for whatever might serve his
purpose, he caught sight of an old garden-roller, and was making for
it, when Tommy, never doubting he was gone, came whistling round the
corner of the house with his hands in his pocket-holes, and an
impudent air of independence. Clare away, he was a lord in his own
eyes! He could kill the baby when he pleased! Plainly his mood was,
"He thinks I'm going to do as he tells me! Not if I knows it!" Clare
saw him before he saw Clare, and rushed at him with a roar.
"You thought I was gone!" he cried. "I told you not to leave the room!
Come along to the water-but!"
Tommy shivered when he heard him, and gave a shriek when he saw him
coming. He shook till his teeth chattered. But terror not always
paralyzes instinct in the wild animal. As Clare came running, he took
one step toward him, and dropped on the ground at his feet. Clare shot
away over his head, struck his own against a tree, and lay for a
minute stunned. Tommy's success was greater than he had hoped. He
scudded into the house, and closed and bolted the door to the kitchen.
When Clare came to himself, he found he had a cut on his head. It
would never do to go asking for work with a bloody face! The little
pool served at once for basin and mirror, and while he washed he
He had no inclination to punish Tommy for the trick he had played him;
he had but done after his kind! It would serve a good end too: Tommy
would imagine him lurking about to have his revenge, and would not
venture his nose out. He discovered afterward that the little wretch
had made fast the cellar-door, so that, if he had entered that way, he
would have been caught in a trap, and unable to go or return.
He got the iron roller to the foot of the wall, where he had come over
the night before, and where now first he perceived there had once been
a door; managed, with its broken handle for a lever, to set it up on
end, filled it with earth, and heaped a mound of earth about it to
steady it, placed a few broken tiles and sherds of chimney-pots upon
it, and from this rickety perch found he could reach the top easily.
The next thing was to arrange for getting up from the other side. For
this he threw over earth and stones and whatever rubbish came to his
hand, the sole quality required in his material being, that it should
serve to lift him any fraction of an inch higher. The space was so
narrow that his mound did not require to be sustained by the width of
its base except in one direction; everywhere else the walls kept in
the heap, and he made good speed. At length he descended by it, sure
of being able to get up again.
He had been gone an hour before Tommy dared again leave the room where
the baby was. He had planned what to do if Clare got into it: he would
threaten, if he came a step nearer, to kill the baby! But if he had
him in the coal-cellar, he would make his own conditions! A tramp
would not keep a promise, but Clare would! and until he promised not
to touch him, he should not come out--not if he died of hunger!
At length he could bear imprisonment no longer. He opened the
room-door with the caution of one who thought a tiger might be lying
against it. He saw no one, and crept out with half steps. By slow
degrees, interrupted by many an inroad of terror and many a swift
retreat, he got down the stair and out into the garden; whence, after
closest search, he was at length satisfied his enemy had departed. For
a time he was his own master! To one like Tommy--and such are not
rare--it is a fine thing to be his own master. But the same person who
is the master is the servant--and what a master to serve! Tommy,
however, was quite satisfied with both master and servant, for both
were himself. What was he to do? Go after something to eat, of course!
He would be back long before Clare! He had gone to look for work--and
who would give _him_ work? If Tommy were as big as Clare, lots of
people would give him work! But catch him working! Not if he knew
Never till she was grown up, never, indeed, until she was a
middle-aged woman and Mr. Skymer's housekeeper, did the baby know in
what danger she was that morning, alone with surnameless Tommy.
His first sense of relation to any creature too weak to protect
itself, was the consciousness of power to torment that creature. But
in this case the exercise of the power brought him into another
relation, one with the water-but! He went back to the room where the
child lay in her blankets like a human chrysalis, and stood for a
moment regarding her with a hatred far from mild: was he actually
expected to give time and personal notice to that contemptible thing
lying there unable to move? _He_ wasn't a girl or an old woman! He
must go and get something to eat! that was what a man was for! Better
twist her neck at once and go!
But he could not forget the water-but--proximate mother of the
child. Its idea came sliding into Tommy's range, grew and grew upon
Tommy, came nearer and nearer, until the baby was nowhere, and nothing
in the world but the water-but. His consciousness was possessed with
it. It was preparing to swallow him in its loathsome deep! All at once
it jumped back from him, and stood motionless by the side of the
wall. Now was his chance! Now he must mizzle! Not a moment longer
would he stop in the same place with the horrible thing!
But the baby! Clare would bring him back and put him in the but! No,
he wouldn't! What harm would come to the brat? She was not able to
roll herself off the bed! She could do nothing but go to sleep again!
Out he must and would go! He wanted something to eat! He would be in
again long before Clare could get back!
He left the room and the house, ran down the garden, scrambled up the
door, got on the top of the wall, and dropped into the waste land
behind it--nor once thought that the only way back was by the very
jaws of the water-but.
Clare went over the wall and the well without a notion of what he was
going to do, except look for work. He had eaten half a loaf, and now
drew in his cap some water from the well and drank. He felt better
than any moment since leaving the farm. He was full of hope.
All his life he had never been other than hopeful. To the human being
hope is as natural as hunger; yet how few there are that hope as they
hunger! Men are so proud of being small, that one wonders to what
pitch their conceit will have arrived by the time they are nothing at
all. They are proud that they love but a little, believe less, and
hope for nothing. Every fool prides himself on not being such a fool
as believe what would make a man of him. For dread of being taken in,
he takes himself in ridiculously. The man who keeps on trying to do
his duty, finds a brighter and brighter gleam issue, as he walks, from
the lantern of his hope.
Clare was just breaking into a song he had heard his mother sing to
his sister, when he was checked by the sight of a long skinny mongrel
like a hairy worm, that lay cowering and shivering beside a heap of
ashes put down for the dust-cart--such a dry hopeless heap that the
famished little dog did not care to search it: some little warmth in
it, I presume, had kept him near it. Clare's own indigence made him
the more sorry for the indigent, and he felt very sorry for this
member of the family; but he had neither work nor alms to give him,
therefore strode on. The dog looked wistfully after him, as if
recognizing one of his own sort, one that would help him if he could,
but did not follow him.
A hundred yards further, Clare came to a baker's shop. It was the
first he felt inclined to enter, and he went in. He did not know it
was the shop from whose cart Tommy had pilfered. A thin-faced,
bilious-looking, elderly man stood behind the counter.
"Well, boy, what do you want?" he said in a low, sad, severe, but not
"Please, sir," answered Clare, "I want something to do, and I thought
perhaps you could help me."
"What can you do?"
"Not much, but I can _try_ to do anything."
"Have you ever learned to do anything?"
"I've been working on a farm for the last six months. Before that I
went to school."
"Why didn't you go on going to school?"
"Because my father and mother died."
"What was your father?"
"Why did you leave the farm?"
"Because they didn't want me. The mistress didn't like me."
"I dare say she had her reasons!"
"I don't know, sir; she didn't seem to like anything I did. My mother
used to say, 'Well done, Clare!' my mistress never said 'Well done!"'
"So the farmer sent you away?"
"No, sir; but he boxed my ears for something--I don't now remember
"I dare say you deserved it!"
"Perhaps I did; I don't know; he never did it before."
"If you deserved it, you had no right to run away for that."
The baker taught in a Sunday-school, and was a good teacher, able to
make a class mind him.
"I didn't run away for that, sir; I ran away because he was tired of
me. I couldn't stay to make him uncomfortable! He had been very kind
to me; I fancy it was mistress made him change. I've been thinking a
good deal about it, and that's how it looks to me. I'm very sorry not
to have him or the creatures any more."
"The bull, and the horses, and the cows, and the pigs--all the
creatures about the farm. They were my friends. I shall see them all
He gave a great sigh.
"What do you mean by that?" asked the baker.
"I hardly know what I mean," answered Clare.
"When I'm loving anybody I always feel I shall see that person again
some time, I don't know when--somewhere, I don't know where."
"That don't apply to the lower animals; it's nothing but a foolish
imagination," said the baker.
"But if I love them!" suggested Clare.
"Love a bull, or a horse, or a pig! You can't!" asserted the baker.
"But I _do_," rejoined Clare. "I love my father and mother much more
than when they were alive!"
"What has that to do with it?" returned the baker.
"That I know I love my father and mother, and I know I love that
fierce bull that would always do what I told him, and that dear old
horse that was almost past work, and was always ready to do his
best.--I'm afraid they've killed him by now!" he added, with another
"But beasts 'ain't got souls, and you can't love them. And if you
could, that's no reason why you should see them again."
"I _do_ love them, and perhaps they have souls!" rejoined Clare.
"You mustn't believe that! It's quite shocking. It's nowhere in the
"Is everything that is not in the Bible shocking, sir?"
"Well, I won't say that; but you're not to believe it."
"I suppose you don't like animals, sir! Are you afraid of their going
to the same place as you when they die?"
"I wouldn't have a boy about me that held such an unscriptural notion!
The Bible says--the spirit of a man that goeth upward, and the spirit
of a beast that goeth downward!"
"Is that in the Bible, sir?"
"It is," answered the baker with satisfaction, thinking he had proved
"I'm so glad!" returned Clare. "I didn't know there was anything about
it in the Bible! Then when I die I shall only have to go down
somewhere, and look for them till I find them!"
The baker was silenced for a moment.
"It's flat atheism!" he cried. "Get out of my shop! What is the world
Clare turned and went out.
But though a bilious, the baker was not an unreasonable or unjust man
except when what he had been used to believe all his life was
contradicted. Clare had not yet shut the door when he repented. He was
a good man, though not quite in the secret of the universe. He vaulted
over the counter, and opened the door with such a ringing of its
appended bell as made heavy-hearted Clare turn before he heard his
voice. The long spare white figure appeared on the threshold, framed
in the doorway.
"Hi!" it shouted.
Clare went meekly back.
"I've just remembered hearing--but mind I _know_ nothing, and pledge
myself to nothing----"
"I didn't say I was _sure_ about it," returned Clare, thinking he
referred to the fate of the animals, "but I fear I'm to blame for not
"Come, come!" said the baker, with a twist of his mouth that expressed
disgust, "hold your tongue, and listen to me.--I did hear, as I was
saying, that Mr. Maidstone, down the town, had one of his errand-boys
laid up with scarlet fever. I'll take you to him, if you like. Perhaps
he'll have you,--though I can't say you look respectable!"
"I 'ain't had much chance since I left home, sir. I had a bit of soap,
He bethought him that he had better say nothing about his
family. Tommy had picked his pocket of the soap the night before, and
tried to eat it, and Clare had hidden it away: he wanted it to wash
the baby with as soon as he could get some warm water; but when he
went to find it to wash his own face, it was gone. He suspected Tommy,
but before long he had terrible ground for a different surmise.
"You see, sir," he resumed, "I had other things to think of. When your
tummy's empty, you don't think about the rest of you--do you, sir?"
The baker could not remember having ever been more than decently,
healthily hungry in his life; and here he had been rough on a
well-bred boy too hungry to wash his face! Perhaps the word _one of
these little ones_ came to him. He had some regard for him who spoke
it, though he did talk more about him on Sundays than obey him in the
"I don't know, my boy," he answered. "Would you like a piece of
"I'm not much in want of it at this moment," replied Clare, "but I
should be greatly obliged if you would let me call for it by and
by. You see, sir, when a man has no work, he can't help having no
"A man!" thought the baker. "God pity you, poor monkey!"
He called to some one to mind the shop, removed his apron and put on a
coat, shut the door, and went down the street with Clare.
At the shop of a draper and haberdasher, where one might buy almost
anything sold, Clare's new friend stopped and walked in. He asked to
see Mr. Maidstone, and a shopman went to fetch him from behind. He
came out into the public floor.
"I heard you were in want of a boy, sir," said the baker, who carried
himself as in the presence of a superior; and certainly fine clothes
and a gold chain and ring did what they could to make the draper
superior to the baker.
"Hm!" said Mr. Maidstone, looking with contempt at Clare.
"I rather liked the look of this poor boy, and ventured to bring him
on approval," continued the baker timidly. "He ain't much to look at,
"Hm!" said the draper again. "He don't look promising!"
"He don't. But I think he means performing," said the baker, with a
"Donnow, I'm sure! If he 'appened to wash his face, I could tell
Clare thought he had washed it pretty well that morning because of his
cut, though he had, to be sure, done it without soap, and had been at
rather dirty work since!
"He says he's been too hungry to wash his face," answered the baker.
"Didn't 'ave his 'ot water in time, I suppose!--Will you answer for
him, Mr. Ball?"
"I can't, Mr. Maidstone--not one way or another. I simply was taken
with him. I know nothing about him."
Here one of the shopmen came up to his master, and said,
"I heard Mr. Ball's own man yesterday accuse this very boy of taking a
loaf from his cart."
"Yesterday!" thought Clare; "it seems a week ago!"
"Oh! this is the boy, is it?" said the baker. "You see I didn't know
him! All the same, I don't believe he took the loaf."
"Indeed I didn't, sir! Another boy took it who didn't know better, and
I took it from him, and was putting it back on the cart when the man
turned round and saw me, and wouldn't listen to a word I said. But a
working-man believed me, and bought the loaf, and gave it between us."
"A likely story!" said the draper.
"I've heard that much," said the baker, "and I believe it. At least I
have no reason to believe my man against him, Mr. Maidstone. That same
night I discovered he had been cheating me to a merry tune. I
discharged him this morning."
"Well, he certainly don't look a respectable boy," said the draper,
who naturally, being all surface himself, could read no deeper than
clothes; "but I'm greatly in want of one to carry out parcels, and I
don't mind if I try him. If he do steal anything, he'll be caught
within the hour!"
"Oh, thank you, sir!" said Clare.
"You shall have sixpence a day," Mr. Maidstone continued, "--not a
penny more till I'm sure you're an honest boy."
"Thank you, sir," iterated Clare. "Please may I run home first? I
won't be long. I 'ain't got any other clothes, but----"
"Hold your long tongue. Don't let me hear it wagging in my
establishment. Go and wash your face and hands." Clare turned to the
"Please, sir," he said softly, "may I go back with you and get the
piece of bread?"
"What! begging already!" cried Mr. Maidstone.
"No, no, sir," interposed the baker. "I promised him a piece of
bread. He did not ask for it."
The good man was pleased at his success, and began to regard Clare
with the favour that springs in the heart of him who has done a good
turn to another through a third. Had he helped him out of his own
pocket, he might not have been so much pleased. But there had been no
loss, and there was no risk! He had beside shown his influence with a
"I am so much obliged to you, sir!" said Clare as they went away
together. "I cannot tell you how much!"
He was tempted to open his heart and reveal the fact that three people
would live on the sixpence a day which the baker's kindness had
procured him, but prudence was fast coming frontward, and he saw that
no one must know that they were in that house! If it were known, they
would probably be turned out at once, which would go far to be fatal
to them as a family. For, if he had to pay for lodgings, were it no
more than the tramps paid Tommy's grandmother, sixpence a day would
not suffice for bare shelter. So he held his tongue.
"Thank me by minding Mr. Maidstone's interests," returned his
benefactor. "If you don't do well by him, the blame will come upon
"I will be very careful, sir," answered Clare, who was too full of
honesty to think of being honest; he thought only of minding orders.
They reached the shop; the baker gave him a small loaf, and he hurried
home with it The joy in his heart, spread over the days since he left
the farm, would have given each a fair amount of gladness.
Taking heed that no one saw him, he darted through the passage to the
well, got across it better this time, rushed over the wall like a cat,
fell on the other side from the unsteadiness of his potsherds, rose
and hurried into the house, with the feeble wail of his baby in his
An addition to the family.
The door to the kitchen was open: Tommy must be in the garden again!
When he reached the nursery, as he called it to himself, he found the
baby as he had left her, but moaning and wailing piteously. She looked
as if she had cried till she was worn out. He threw down the clothes
to take her. A great rat sprang from the bed. On one of the tiny feet
the long thin toes were bleeding and raw. The same instant arose a
loud scampering and scuffling and squealing in the room. Clare's heart
quivered. He thought it was a whole army of rats. He was not a bit
afraid of them himself, but assuredly they were not company for baby!
Already they had smelt food in the house, and come in a swarm! What
was to be done with the little one? If he stayed at home with her, she
must die of hunger; if he left her alone, the rats would eat her! They
had begun already! Oh, that wretch, Tommy! Into the water--but he
I hope their friends will not take it ill that, all his life after,
Clare felt less kindly disposed toward rats than toward the rest of
the creatures of God.
But things were not nearly so bad as Clare thought: the scuffling came
from quite another cause. It suddenly ceased, and a sharp scream
followed. Clare turned with the baby in his arms. Almost at his feet,
gazing up at him, the rat hanging limp from his jaws, stood the little
castaway mongrel he had seen in the morning, his eyes flaming, and his
tail wagging with wild homage and the delight of presenting the rat to
one he would fain make his master.
"You darling!" cried Clare, and meant the dog this time, not the
baby. The animal dropped the dead rat at his feet, and glared, and
wagged, and looked hunger incarnate, but would not touch the rat until
Clare told him to take it. Then he retired with it to a corner, and
made a rapid meal of it.
He had seen Clare pass the second time, had doubtless noted that now
he carried a loaf, and had followed him in humble hope. Clare was too
much occupied with his own joy to perceive him, else he would
certainly have given him a little peeling or two from the outside of
the bread. But it was decreed that the dog should have the honour of
rendering the first service. Clare was not to do _all_ the
What a happy day it had been for him! It was a day to be remembered
for ever! He had work! he had sixpence a day! he had had a present of
milk for the baby, and two presents of bread--one a small, and one a
large loaf! And now here was a dog! A dog was more than many meals!
The family was four now! A baby, and a dog to take care of the
baby!--It was heavenly!
He made haste and gave his baby what milk and water was left. Then he
washed her poor torn foot, wrapped it in a pillow-case, for he would
not tear anything, and laid her in the bed. Next he cut a good big
crust from the loaf and gave it to the dog, who ate it as if the rat
were nowhere. The rest he put in a drawer. Then he washed his face and
hands--as well as he could without soap. After that, he took the dog,
talked to him a little, laid him on the bed beside the baby and talked
to him again, telling him plainly, and impressing upon him, that his
business was the care of the baby; that he must give himself up to
her; that he must watch and tend, and, if needful, fight for the
little one. When at length he left him, it was evident to Clare, by
the solemnity of the dog's face, that he understood his duty
Shop and baby.
Once clear of the well and the wall, Clare set off running like a
gaze-hound. Such was the change produced in him by joy and the
satisfaction of hope, that when he entered the shop, no one at first
knew him. His face was as the face of an angel, and none the less
beautiful that it shone above ragged garments. But Mr. Maidstone, the
moment he saw him, and before he had time to recognize him, turned
from the boy with dislike.
"What a fool the beggar looks!" he said to himself;--then aloud to one
of the young men, "Hand over that parcel of sheets.--Here,
you!--what's your name?"
"I declare against it!" he rejoined, with a coarse laugh of pleasure
at his own fancied wit. "I shall call you Jack!"
"Very well, sir!"
"Don't you talk.--Here, Jack, take this parcel to Mrs.
Trueman's. You'll see the address on it.--And look sharp.--You can
read, can't you?"
The people in the shop stood looking on, some pitifully, all
curiously, for the parcel was of considerable size, and linen is
heavy, while the boy looked pale and thin. But Clare was strong for
his age, and present joy made up for past want. He scarcely looked at
the parcel which the draper proceeded to lay on his shoulder, stooped
a little as he felt its weight, heaved it a little to adjust its
balance, and holding it in its place with one hand, started for the
door, which the master himself held open for him.
"Please, sir, which way do I turn?" he asked.
"To the left," answered Mr. Maidstone. "Ask your way as you go."
Clare forgot that he had heard only the lady's name. Her address was
on the parcel, no doubt, but if he dropped it to look, he could not
get it up again by himself. A little way on, therefore, meeting a boy
about his own age returning from school, he asked him to be kind
enough to read the address on his back and direct him. The boy read it
aloud, but gave him false instructions for finding the place. Clare
walked and walked until the weight became almost unendurable, and at
last, though loath, concluded that the boy must have deceived him. He
asked again, but this time of a lady. She took pains not only to tell
him right, but to make him understand right: she was pleased with the
tired gentle face that looked up from beneath the heavy
burden. Perhaps she thought of the proud souls growing pure of their
pride, in Dante's _Purgatorio_. Following her directions, he needed no
further questioning to find the house. But it was hours after the
burden was gone from his shoulder before it was rid of the phantom of
His master rated him for having been so long, and would not permit him
to explain his delay, ordering him to hold his tongue and not answer
back; but the rest of his day's work was lighter; there was no other
heavy parcel to send out. There were so many smaller ones, however,
that, by the time they were all delivered, he had gained something
more than a general idea of how the streets lay, and was a weary wight
when, with the four-pence his master hesitated to give him on the
ground that he was doubtful of his character, he set out at last,
walking soberly enough now, to spend it at Mr. Ball's and the
milk-shop. Of the former he bought a stale three-penny loaf, and the
baker added a piece to make up the weight. Clare took this for
liberality, and returned hearty thanks, which Mr. Ball, I am sorry to
say, was not man enough to repudiate. The other penny he laid out on
milk--but oh, how inferior it was to that the farmer's wife had given
him! The milk-woman, however, not ungraciously granted him the two
matches he begged for.
On his way to baby, he almost hoped Tommy would not return: he would
gladly be saved putting him in the water-but!
He forgot him again as he drew near the nursery, and for a long while
after he reached it. He found the infant and the dog lying as he had
left them. The only sign that either had moved was the strange
cleanness of the tiny gray face which Clare had not ventured to
wash. It gave indubitable evidence that the dog had been licking it
more than a little--probably every few minutes since he was left
curate in charge.
And now Clare did with deliberation a thing for which his sensitive
conscience not unfrequently reproached him afterward. His defence was,
that he had hurt nobody, and had kept baby alive by it. Having in his
mind revolved the matter many a time that day, he got some sticks
together from the garden, and with one of the precious matches lighted
a small fire of coals that were not his own, and for which he could
merely hope one day to restore amends. But baby! Baby was more than
coals! He filled a rusty kettle with water, and while it was growing
hot on the fire, such was his fear lest the smoke should betray them,
that he ran out every other minute to see how much was coming from the
While the fire was busy heating the water, he was busier preparing a
bottle for baby--making a hole through the cork of a phial, putting the
broken stem of a clean tobacco pipe he had found in the street through
the hole, tying a small lump of cotton wool over the end of the pipe-
stem, and covering that with a piece of his pocket-handkerchief,
carefully washed with the brown Windsor soap, his mother's last present.
For the day held yet another gladness: in looking for a kettle he had
found the soap--which probably the rat had carried away and hidden
before finding baby. Through the pipe-stem and the wool and the
handkerchief he could without difficulty draw water, and hoped therefore
baby would succeed in drawing her supper. As soon as the water was warm
he mixed some with the milk, but not so much this time, and put the
mixture in the bottle. To his delight, the baby sucked it up splendidly.
The bottle, thought out between the heavy linen and the hard street, was
a success! Labour is not unfriendly to thought, as the annals of weaving
and shoe-making witness.
And now at last was Clare equipped for a great attempt: he was going
to wash the baby! He was glad that disrespectful Tommy was not in the
house. With a basin of warm water and his precious piece of soap he
set about it, and taking much pains washed his treasure perfectly
clean. It was a state of bliss in which, up to that moment, I presume,
she had never been since her birth. In the process he handled her, if
not with all the skill of a nurse, yet with the tenderness of a
mother. His chief anxiety was not to hurt, more than could not be
helped, the poor little rat-eaten toes. He felt he must wash them, but
when in the process she whimpered, it went all through the calves of
his legs. When the happy but solicitous task was over, during which
the infant had shown the submission of great weakness, he wrapped her
in another blanket, and laid her down again. Soothed and comfortable,
as probably never soothed or comfortable before, she went to sleep.
As soon as she was out of his arms, he took a piece of bread, and with
some of the hot water made a little sop for the dog, which the small
hero, whose four legs carried such a long barrel of starvation, ate
with undisguised pleasure and thankfulness. For his own supper Clare
preferred his bread dry, following it with a fine draught of water
from the well.
Then, and not till then, returned the thought--what had Tommy done
with himself? Left to himself he was sure to go stealing! He might
have been taken in the act! Clare could hardly believe he had actually
run away from him. On the other hand, he had left the baby, and knew
that if he returned he would be put in the water-but! He might have
come to the conclusion that he could do better without Clare, who
would not let him steal! It was clear he did not like taking his share
in the work of the family, and looking after the baby! Had he been
anything of a true boy, Clare would have taken his bread in his hand
and gone to look for him; being such as he was, he did not think it
necessary. He felt bound to do his best for him if he came back, but
he did not feel bound to leave the baby and roam the country to find a
boy with whom baby's life would be in constant danger.
A bad penny.
Before Clare had done his thinking, darkness had fallen, and, weary to
the very bones, he threw himself on the bed beside the baby. The dog
jumped up and laid himself at his feet, as if the place had been his
from time immemorial--as it had perhaps been, according to time in
dog-land. The many pleasures of that blessed day would have kept Clare
awake had they not brought with them so much weariness. He fell fast
asleep. Tommy had not had a happy day: he had been found out in
evil-doing, had done more evil, and had all the day been in dread of
punishment. He did not foresee how ill things would go for him--did
not see that a rat had taken his place beside the baby, and that he
would not get back before Clare; but the vision of the water-but had
often flashed upon his inner eye, and it had not been the bliss of his
solitude. He deserted his post in the hope of finding something to
eat, and had not had a mouthful of anything but spongy turnip, and
dried-up mangel-wurzel, or want-root. If he had been minding his work,
he would have had a piece of good bread--so good that he would have
wanted more of it, whereas, when he had eaten the turnip and the
beetroot, he had cause to wish he had not eaten so much! He had been
set upon by boys bigger than himself, and nearly as bad, who, not
being hungry, were in want of amusement, and had proceeded to get it
out of Tommy, just as Tommy would have got it out of the baby had he
dared. They bullied him in a way that would have been to his heart's
content, had he been the bully instead of the bullied. They made him
actually wish he had stayed with the baby--and therewith came the
thought that it was time to go home if he would get back before
Clare. As to what had taken place in the morning, he knew Clare's
forgivingness, and despised him for it. If he found the baby dead, or
anything happened to her that he could not cover with lying, it would
be time to cut and run in earnest! So the moment he could escape from
his tormenters, off went Tommy for home. But as he ran he remembered
that there was but one way into the house, and that was by the very
lip of the water-but.
Clare woke up suddenly--at a sound which all his life would wake him
from the deepest slumber: he thought he heard the whimpering of a
child. The baby was fast asleep. Instantly he thought of Tommy. He
seemed to see him shut out in the night, and knew at once how it was
with him: he had gone out without thinking how he was to get back, and
dared not go near the water-but! He jumped out of bed, put on his
shoes, and in a minute or two was over the wall and walking along the
lane outside of it, to find the deserter.
The moon was not up, and the night was dark, yet he had not looked
long before he came upon him, as near the house as he could get,
crouching against the wall.
"Tommy!" said Clare softly.
Tommy did not reply. The fear of the water-but was upon him--a fear
darker than the night, an evil worse than hunger or cold--and Clare
and the water-but were one.
"You needn't think to hide, Tommy; I see you, you bad boy!" whispered
Clare. "After all I said, you ran away and left the baby to the rats!
They've been biting her horribly--one at least has. You can stay away
as long as you like now; I've got a better nurse. Good-night!" Tommy
gave a great howl.
"Hold your tongue, you rascal!" cried Clare, still in a
whisper. "You'll let the police know where we are!"
"Do let me in, Clare! I'm so 'ungry and so cold!"
"Then I shall have to put you in the water-but! I said I would!"
"If you don't promise not to, I'll go straight to the police. They'll
take the brat from you, and put her in the workhouse!"
Clare thought for a moment whether it would not be right to kill such
a traitor. His mind was full of history-tales, and, like Dante, he put
treachery in its own place, namely the deepest hell. But with the
thought came the words he had said so many times without thinking what
they meant--"Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that
trespass against us," and he saw that he was expected to forgive
"Tommy, I forgive you," he said solemnly, "and will be friends with
you again; but I have said it, and I was right to say it, and into the
water-but you must go! I can't trust your word now, and I think I
shall be able to trust it after that."
Ere he had finished the words, Tommy lifted up his voice in a most
Instantly Clare had him by the throat, so that he could not utter a
"Tommy," he said, "I'm going to let you breathe again, but the moment
you make a noise, I'll choke you as I'm doing now."
With that he relaxed his hold. But Tommy had paid no heed to what he
said, and began a second screech the moment he found passage for
it. Immediately he was choked, and after two or three attempts,
"I won't!" he said.
"You shall, Tommy. You're going head over in the but. We're going to
Tommy threw himself upon the ground and kicked, but dared not
scream. It was awful! He would drop right through into the great place
where the moon was!
Clare threw him over his shoulder, and found him not half the weight
of the parcel of linen. Tommy would have bitten like a weasel, but he
feared Clare's terrible hands. He was on the back of Giant Despair, in
the form of one of the best boys in the world. Clare took him round
the wall, and over the fence into the blacksmith's yard. The smithy
was quite dark.
"Please, I didn't mean to do it!" sobbed Tommy from behind him, as
Clare bore him steadily up the yard. It was all he could do to say the
words, for the thought of what they were approaching sent a scream
into his throat every time he parted his lips to speak.
"What didn't you mean to do?" he asked.
"I didn't mean to leave the baby."
"How did you do it then?"
"I mean I didn't mean to stay away so long. I didn't know how to get
"I told you not to leave her! And you could have got back perfectly,
you little coward!"
Tommy shuddered, and said no more. Though hanging over Clare's back he
knew presently, by his stopping, that they had come to the heap. There
was only that heap and the wall between him and the water-but! Up and
up he felt himself slowly, shakingly carried, and was gathering his
breath for a final utterance of agony that should rouse the whole
neighbourhood, when Clare, having reached the top, seated himself upon
the wall, and Tommy restrained himself in the hope of what a parley
might bring. But he sat down only to wheel on the pivot of his spine,
as he had seen them do on the counter in the shop, and sit with his
legs alongside of the water-but. Then he drew Tommy from his shoulder,
in spite of his clinging, and laid him across his knees; and Tommy,
divining there were words yet to be said, and hoping to get off with a
beating, which he did not mind, remained silent.
"Your hour is come, Tommy!" said Clare. "If you scream, I will drop
you in, and hold you only by one leg. If you don't scream, I will hold
you by both legs. If you scream when I take you out, in you go again!
I do what I say, Tommy!"
The wretched boy was nearly mad with terror. But now, much as he
feared the water, he feared yet more for the moment him in whom lay
the power of the water. Clare took him by the heels.
"I'm sorry there's no moon, as I promised you," he said; "she won't
come up for my calling. I should have liked you to see where you were
going. But if you ain't an honest boy after this, you shall have
another chance; and next time we will wait for the moon!"
With that he lifted Tommy's legs, holding him by the ankles, and would
have shoved his body over the edge of the but into the water. But
Tommy clung fast to his knees.
"Leave go, Tommy," he said, "or I'll tumble you right in."
Tommy yielded, his will overcome by a greater fear. Clare let him hang
for a moment over the black water, and slowly lowered him. Tommy clung
to the side of the but. Clare let go one leg, and taking hold of his
hands pulled them away. Tommy's terror would have burst in a frenzied
yell, but the same instant he was down to the neck in the water, and
lifted out again. He spluttered and gurgled and tried to scream.