Part 1 out of 2
CHRISTIE, THE KING'S SERVANT
A Sequel to 'Christie's Old Organ'
By MRS. O.F. WALTON
AUTHOR OF 'CHRISTIE'S OLD ORGAN'
'A PEEP BEHIND THE SCENES'
'THE KING'S CUPBEARER'
'SHADOWS' ETC ETC
I RUNSWICK BAY
II LITTLE JOHN
III STRANGE MUSIC
IV WHAT ARE YOU?
V THE RUNSWICK SPORTS
VI THE TUG OF WAR
VII OVER THE LINE
VIII A NIGHT OF STORM
IX ASK WHAT YE WILL
X WE KNOW
XI LITTLE JACK AND BIG JACK
XII WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
It was the yellow ragwort that did it! I have discovered the clue at
last. All night long I have been dreaming of Runswick Bay. I have been
climbing the rocks, talking to the fishermen, picking my way over the
masses of slippery seaweed, and breathing the fresh briny air. And all
the morning I have been saying to myself, 'What can have made me dream
of Runswick Bay? What can have brought the events of my short stay in
that quaint little place so vividly before me?' Yes, I am convinced of
it; it was that bunch of yellow ragwort on the mantelpiece in my
bedroom. My little Ella gathered it in the lane behind the house
yesterday morning, and brought it in triumphantly, and seized the best
china vase in the drawing-room, and filled it with water at the tap, and
thrust the great yellow bunch into it.
'Oh, Ella,' said Florence, her elder sister, 'what ugly common flowers!
How could you put them in mother's best vase, that Aunt Alice gave her
on her birthday! What a silly child you are!'
'I'm not a silly child,' aid Ella stoutly, 'and mother is sure to like
them; I know she will. _She_ won't call them common flowers. She
loves all yellow flowers. She said so when I brought her the daffodils;
and these are yellower, ever so much yellower.'
Her mother came in at this moment, and, taking our little girl on her
knee, she told her that she was quite right; they were very beautiful in
her eyes, and she would put them at once in her own room, where she
could have them all to herself.
And that is how it came about, that, as I lay in bed, the last thing my
eyes fell upon was Ella's bunch of yellow ragwort; and what could be
more natural than that I should go to sleep and dream of Runswick Bay?
It seems only yesterday that I was there, so clearly can I recall it,
and yet it must be twenty years ago. I think I must write an account of
my visit to Runswick Bay and give it to Ella, as it was her yellow
flowers which took me back to the picturesque little place. If she
cannot understand all I tell her now, she will learn to do so as she
I was a young man then, just beginning to make my way as an artist. It
is slow work at first; until you have made a name, every one looks
critically at your work; when once you have been pronounced a rising
artist, every daub from your brush has a good market value. I had had
much uphill work, but I loved my profession for its own sake, and I
worked on patiently, and, at the time my story begins, several of my
pictures had sold for fair prices, and I was not without hope that I
might soon find a place in the Academy.
It was an unusually hot summer, and London was emptying fast. Every one
who could afford it was going either to the moors or to the sea, and I
felt very much inclined to follow their example. My father and mother
had died when I was quite a child, and the maiden aunt who had brought
me up had just passed away, and I had mourned her death very deeply, for
she had been both father and mother to me. I felt that I needed change
of scene, for I had been up for many nights with her during her last
illness, and I had had my rest broken for so long, that I found it very
difficult to sleep, and in many ways I was far from well. My aunt had
left all her little property to me, so that the means to leave London
and to take a suitable holiday were not wanting. The question was, where
should I go? I was anxious to combine, if possible, pleasure and
business--that is to say, I wished to choose some quiet place where I
could get bracing air and thorough change of scene, and where I could
also find studies for my new picture, which was (at least, so I fondly
dreamed) to find a place in the Academy the following spring.
It was whilst I was looking for a suitable spot that Tom Bernard, my
great friend and confidant, found one for me.
'Jack, old fellow,' he said, thrusting a torn newspaper into my hand,
'read that, old man.'
The newspaper was doubled down tightly, and a great red cross of Tom's
making showed me the part he wished me to read.
This charming seaside resort is not half so well known
as it deserves to be. For the lover of the beautiful,
for the man with an artistic eye, it possesses a charm
which words would fail to describe. The little bay is a
favourite resort for artists; they, at least, know how
to appreciate its beauties. It would be well for any who
may desire to visit this wonderfully picturesque and
enchanting spot to secure hotel or lodging-house
accommodation as early as possible, for the demand for
rooms is, in August and September, far greater than the
'Well, what do you think of it?' said Tom.
'It sounds just the thing,' I said; 'fresh air and plenty to paint.'
'Shall you go?'
'Yes, to-morrow,' I replied; 'the sooner the better.'
My bag was soon packed, my easel and painting materials were collected,
and the very next morning I was on my way into Yorkshire.
It was evening when I reached the end of my long, tiring railway
journey; and when, hot and dusty, I alighted at a village which lay
about two miles from my destination. I saw no sign of beauty as I walked
from the station; the country was slightly undulating in parts, but as a
rule nothing met my gaze but a long flat stretch of field after field,
covered, as the case might be, with grass or corn. Harebells and pink
campion grew on the banks, and the meadows were full of ox-eye daisies;
but I saw nothing besides that was in the least attractive, and
certainly nothing of which I could make a picture.
A family from York had come by the same train, and I had learnt from
their conversation that they had engaged lodgings for a month at
Runswick Bay. The children, two boys of ten and twelve, and a little
fair-haired girl a year or two younger, were full of excitement on their
'Father, where is the sea?' they cried. 'Oh, we do want to see the sea!'
'Run on,' said their father, 'and you will soon see it.'
So we ran together, for I felt myself a child again as I watched them,
and if ever I lagged behind, one or other of them would turn round and
cry, 'Come on, come on; we shall soon see it.'
Then, suddenly, we came to the edge of the high cliff, and the sea in
all its beauty and loveliness burst upon us. The small bay was shut in
by rocks on either side, and on the descent of the steep cliff was built
the little fishing village. I think I have never seen a prettier place.
The children were already running down the steep, rocky path--I cannot
call it a road--which led down to the sea, and I followed more slowly
behind them. It was the most curiously built place. The fishermen's
cottages were perched on the rock, wherever a ledge or standing place
could be found. Steep, narrow paths, or small flights of rock-hewn
steps, led from one to another. There was no street in the whole place;
there could be none, for there were hardly two houses which stood on the
same level. To take a walk through this quaint village was to go up and
down stairs the whole time.
At last, after a long, downward scramble, I found myself on the shore,
and then I looked back at the cliff and at the irregular little town. I
did not wonder that artists were to be found there. I had counted four
as I came down the hill, perched on different platforms on the rock, and
all hard at work at their easels.
Yes, it was certainly a picturesque place, and I was glad that I had
come. The colouring was charming: there was red rock in the background,
here and there covered with grass, and ablaze with flowers. Wild roses
and poppies, pink-thrift and white daisies, all contributed to make the
old rock gay. But the yellow ragwort was all over; great patches of it
grew even on the margin of the sand, and its bright flowers gave the
whole place a golden colouring. There seemed to be yellow everywhere,
and the red-tiled cottages, and the fishermen in their blue jerseys, and
the countless flights of steps, all appeared to be framed in the
Yes, I felt sure I should find something to paint in Runswick Bay. I was
not disappointed in Tom's choice for me.
After admiring the beauties of my new surroundings for some little time,
I felt that I must begin to look for quarters. I was anxious, if
possible, to find a lodging in one of the cottages, and then, after a
good night's rest, I would carefully select a good subject for my
picture. I called at several houses, where I noticed a card in the
window announcing _Apartments to Let_, but I met the same answer
everywhere, 'Full, sir, quite full.' In one place I was offered a bed in
the kitchen, but the whole place smelt so strongly of fried herrings and
of fish oil, that I felt it would be far more pleasant to sleep on the
beach than to attempt to do so in that close and unwholesome atmosphere.
After wandering up and down for some time, I passed a house close to the
village green, and saw the children with whom I had travelled sitting at
tea close to the open window. They, too, were eating herrings, and the
smell made me hungry. I began to feel that it was time I had something
to eat, and I thought my best plan would be to retrace my steps to the
hotel which I had passed on my way, and which stood at the very top of
the high cliff. I turned a little lazy when I thought of the climb, for
I was tired with my journey, and, as I said before, I was not very
strong, and to drag my bag and easel up the rugged ascent would require
a mighty effort at the best of times. I noticed that wooden benches had
been placed here and there on the different platforms of the rock, for
the convenience of the fishermen, and I determined to rest for a quarter
of an hour on one of them before retracing my steps up the steep hill to
the hotel. The fishermen were filling most of the seats, sitting side by
side, row after row of them, talking together, and looking down at the
beach below. As I gazed up at them, they looked to me like so many blue
birds perched on the steep rock.
There was one seat in a quiet corner which I noticed was empty. I went
to it, and laying my knapsack and other belongings beside me, I sat down
But I was not long to remain alone. A minute afterwards a young
fisherman, dressed like his mates in blue jersey and oilskin cap,
planted himself on the other end of the seat which I had selected.
'Good-day, sir,' he said. 'What do you think of our bay?'
'It's a pretty place, very pretty,' I said. 'I like it well enough now,
but I daresay I shall like it better still to-morrow.'
'Better still to-morrow,' he repeated; 'well, it _is_ the better
for knowing, in my opinion, sir, and I _ought_ to know, if any one
should, for I've lived my lifetime here.'
I turned to look at him as he spoke, and I felt at once that I had come
across one of Nature's gentlemen. He was a fine specimen of an honest
English fisherman, with dark eyes and hair, and with a sunny smile on
his weather-beaten, sunburnt face. You had only to look at the man to
feel sure that you could trust him, and that, like Nathanael, there was
no guile in him.
'I wonder if you could help me,' I said; 'I want to find a room here if
I can, but every place seems so full.'
'Yes, it is full, sir, in August; that's the main time here. Let me see,
there's Brown's, they're full, and Robinson's, and Wilson's, and
Thomson's, all full up. There's Giles', they have a room, I believe, but
they're not over clean; maybe you're particular, sir.'
'Well,' I said, 'I do like things clean; I don't mind how rough they are
if they're only clean.'
'Ah,' he said, with a twinkle in his eye; 'you wouldn't care for one pan
to do all the work of the house--to boil the dirty clothes, and the
fish, and your bit of pudding for dinner, and not overmuch cleaning of
it in between.'
'No,' I said, laughing; 'I should not like that, certainly.'
'Might give the pudding a flavour of stockings, and a sauce of fish
oil,' he answered. 'Well, you're right, sir; I shouldn't like it myself.
Cleanliness is next to godliness, that's my idea. Well, then, that being
as it is, I wouldn't go to Giles', not if them is your sentiments with
regard to pans, sir.'
'Then I suppose there's nothing for it but to trudge up to the hotel at
the top of the hill,' I said, with something of a groan.
'Well, sir,' he said, hesitating a little; 'me and my missus, we have a
room as we lets sometimes, but it's a poor place, sir, homely like, as
ye may say. Maybe you wouldn't put up with it.'
'Would you let me see it?' I asked.
'With pleasure, sir; it's rough, but it's clean. We could promise you a
clean pan, sir. My missus she's a good one for cleaning; she's not one
of them slatternly, good-for-nothing lasses. There's heaps of them here,
sir, idling away their time. She's a good girl is my Polly. Why, if that
isn't little John a-clambering up the steps to his daddy!'
He jumped up as he said this, and ran quickly down the steep flight of
steps which led down from the height on which the seat was placed, and
soon returned with a little lad about two years old in his arms.
The child was as fair as his father was dark. He was a pretty boy with
light hair and blue eyes, and was tidily dressed in a bright red cap and
'Tea's ready, daddy,' said the boy; 'come home with little John.'
'Maybe you wouldn't object to a cup o' tea, sir,' said the father,
turning to me; 'it'll hearten you up a bit after your journey, and
there's sure to be herrings. We almost lives on herrings here, sir, and
then, if you're so minded, you can look at the room after. Ye'll excuse
me if I make too bold, sir,' he added, as he gently patted little John's
tiny hand, which rested on his arm.
'I shall be only too glad to come,' I said; 'for I am very hungry, and
if Polly's room is as nice as I think it will be, it will be just the
place for me.'
He walked in front of me, up and down several flights of steps, until,
at some little distance lower down the hill, he stopped before a small
cottage. Sure enough there were herrings, frying and spluttering on the
fire, and there too was Polly herself, arrayed in a clean white apron,
and turning the herrings with a fork. The kitchen was very low, and the
rafters seemed resting on my head as I entered; but the window and door
were both wide open, and the whole place struck me as being wonderfully
sweet and clean. A low wooden settle stood by the fire, one or two plain
deal chairs by the wall, and little John's three-legged stool was placed
close to his father's arm-chair. A small shelf above the fireplace held
the family library. I noticed a Bible, a hymn-book, a _Pilgrim's
Progress_, and several other books, all of which had seen their best
days and were doubtless in constant use. On the walls were prints in
wooden frames and much discoloured by the turf smoke of the fire. Upon a
carved old oak cupboard, which held the clothes of the family, were
arranged various rare shells and stones, curious sea-urchins and other
treasures of the sea, and in the centre, the chief ornament of the house
and the pride of Polly's heart, a ship, carved and rigged by Duncan
himself, and preserved carefully under a glass shade.
Polly gave me a hearty Yorkshire welcome, and we soon gathered about the
small round table. Duncan, with little John on his knee, asked a
blessing, and Polly poured out the tea, and we all did justice to the
The more I saw of these honest people, the more I liked them and felt
inclined to trust them. When tea was over, Polly took me to see the
guest-chamber in which her husband had offered me a bed. It was a low
room in the roof, containing a plain wooden bedstead, one chair, a small
wash-hand stand, and a square of looking-glass hanging on the wall.
There was no other furniture, and, indeed, there was room for no other,
and the room was unadorned except by three or four funeral cards in
dismal black frames, which were hanging at different heights on the wall
opposite the bed. But the square casement window was thrown wide open,
and the pure sea air filled the little room, and the coarse white
coverings of the bed were spotless, and, indeed, the whole place looked
and felt both fresh and clean.
'You'll pardon me, sir,' said Duncan, 'for asking you to look at such a
'But I like it, Duncan,' I answered, 'and I like you, and I like your
wife, and if you will have me as a lodger, I am willing and glad to
The terms were soon agreed upon to the satisfaction of both parties, and
then all things being settled, Polly went to put little John to bed
whilst I went with Duncan to see his boat.
It was an old boat, and it had been his father's before him, and it had
weathered many a storm; but it was the dream of Duncan's life to buy a
new one, and he and Polly had nearly saved up money enough for it.
'That's why me and the missus is glad to get a lodger now and again,' he
said; 'it all goes to the boat, every penny of it. We mean to call her
The Little John. He's going in her the very first voyage she takes; he
is indeed, sir, for he'll be her captain one day, please God, little
It was a calm, beautiful evening; the sea was like a sheet of glass.
Hardly a ripple was breaking on the shore. The sun was setting behind
the cliff, and the fishing village would soon be in darkness. The
fishermen were leaving their cottages and were making for the shore.
Already some of the boats were launched, and the men were throwing in
their nets and fishing-tackle, and were pulling out to sea. I enjoyed
watching my new friend making his preparations. His three mates brought
out the nets, and he gave his orders with a tone of command. He was the
owner and the captain of the Mary Ann, and the rest were accustomed to
do his bidding.
When all were on board, Duncan himself jumped in and gave the word to
push from shore. He nodded to me and bid me good-night, and when he was
a little way from shore, I saw him stand up in the boat and wave his
oil-skin cap to some one above me on the cliff.
I looked up, and saw Polly standing on the rock overhanging the shore
with little John in his white nightgown in her arms. He was waving his
red cap to his father, and continued to do so till the boat was out of
I slept well in my strange little bedroom, although I was awakened early
by the sunlight streaming in at the window. I jumped up and looked out.
The sun was rising over the sea, and a flood of golden light was
streaming across it.
I dressed quickly and went out. Very few people were about, for the
fishermen had not yet returned from their night's fishing. The cliff
looked even more beautiful than the night before, for every bit of
colouring stood out clear and distinct in the sunshine. 'I shall get my
best effects in the morning,' I said to myself, 'and I had better choose
my subject at once, so that after breakfast I may be able to begin
How many steps I went up, and how many I went down, before I came to a
decision, it would be impossible to tell; but at last I found a place
which seemed to me to be the very gem of the whole village. An old
disused boat stood in the foreground, and over this a large fishing net,
covered with floats, was spread to dry. Behind rose the rocks, covered
with tufts of grass, patches of gorse, tall yellow mustard plants and
golden ragwort, and at the top of a steep flight of rock-hewn steps
stood a white cottage with red-tiled roof, the little garden in front of
it gay with hollyhocks and dahlias. A group of barefooted children were
standing by the gate feeding some chickens and ducks, a large dog was
lying asleep at the top of the steps, and a black cat was basking in the
morning sunshine on the low garden wall. It was, to my mind, an
extremely pretty scene, and it made me long to be busy with my brush.
I hurried back to my lodging, and found Polly preparing my breakfast,
whilst little John looked on. He was sitting in his nightgown, curled up
in his father's armchair. 'I'm daddy,' he called out to me as I came in.
There was a little round table laid ready for me, and covered with a
spotlessly clean cloth, and on it was a small black teapot, and a white
and gold cup and saucer, upon which I saw the golden announcement, 'A
present from Whitby,' whilst my plate was adorned with a remarkable
picture of Whitby Abbey in a thunderstorm.
There were herrings, of course, and Polly had made some hot cakes, the
like of which are never seen outside Yorkshire. These were ready
buttered, and were lying wrapped in a clean cloth in front of the fire.
Polly made the tea as soon as I entered, and then retired with little
John in her arms into the bedroom, whilst I sat down with a good
appetite to my breakfast.
I had not quite finished my meal when I heard a great shout from the
shore. Women and children, lads and lasses, ran past the open door,
crying, 'The boats! the boats!' Polly came flying into the kitchen,
caught up little John's red cap, thrust it on his head, and ran down the
steps. I left my breakfast unfinished, and followed them.
It was a pretty sight. The fishing-boats were just nearing shore, and
almost every one in the place had turned out to meet them.
Wives, children, and visitors were gathered on the small landing place;
most had dishes or plates in their hands, for the herrings could be
bought straight from the boats. The family from York were there, and
they greeted me as an old friend.
When the little village had been abundantly supplied with fish, the rest
of the herrings were packed up and sent off by train to be sold
elsewhere. It was a pretty animated scene, and I wished I had brought my
sketchbook with me. I thought the arrival of the fishing boats would
make a splendid subject for a picture.
Duncan was too busy even to see me till the fish were all landed,
counted, and disposed of, but he had time for a word with little John,
and as I was finishing my breakfast he came in with the child perched on
'Good morning, sir,' he said; 'and how do you like our bay this
My answer fully satisfied him, and whilst he sat down to his morning
meal I went out to begin my work. It was a lovely day, and I thoroughly
enjoyed the prospect before me. I found a shady place just under the
wall of a house, where my picture would be in sunlight and I and my
easel in shadow. I liked the spot I had chosen even better than I had
done before breakfast, and I was soon hard at work.
I had sketched in my picture, and was beginning to paint, when I became
conscious of the sound of voices just over my head, and I soon became
equally conscious that they were talking about me.
'It's just like it,' said one voice. 'Look--do look. There's Betty
Green's cottage, and Minnie the cat, and the seat, and the old boat.'
'Let me see, Marjorie,' said another voice; 'is it the old one with
white hair and a long, long beard?'
'No, it's quite a young one; his hair's black, and he hasn't got a beard
'Let me look. Yes, I can see him. I like him much better than the old
one; hasn't he got nice red cheeks?'
'Hush! he'll hear,' said the other voice. 'You naughty boy! I believe he
did hear; I saw him laugh.'
I jumped up at this, and looked up, but I could see nothing but a garden
wall and a thick bushy tree, which was growing just inside it.
'Hullo, who's there?' I shouted.
But there was dead silence; and as no one appeared, and nothing more
happened, I sat down and went on with my picture.
Many people passed by as I was painting, and tried to look at what I was
doing. Some glanced out of the corners of their eyes as they walked on;
others paused behind me and silently watched me; a few made remarks to
one another about my picture; one or two offered suggestions, thought I
should have had a better view lower down the hill, or hoped that I would
make the colouring vivid enough. The children with whom I had travelled
seemed to feel a kind of partnership in my picture.
'Let's go and look at _our_ artist,' Bob would say to Harry; 'his
picture is going to be the best of the lot.'
They were so fond of watching me, and so much excited over what I was
doing, that, as time went on, I was often obliged to ask them to move
further away, so eager were they to watch every movement of my brush.
I thoroughly enjoyed my morning's work, and went back very hungry, and
quite ready for the comfortable little dinner which Polly had prepared
for me. In the afternoon the light would be all wrong for my picture;
but I determined to sketch in the foreground, and prepare for my next
I was very busy upon this, when suddenly I became conscious of music, if
music it could be called. It was the most peculiar sound, and at first I
could not find out from whence it came. It was evidently not caused by a
wind instrument; I felt sure it was not a concertina or an accordion.
This sound would go on for a minute or two, and then stop suddenly, only
to begin again more loudly a few seconds later. At times I distinguished
a few bars of a tune, then only disjointed notes followed. Could it be a
child strumming idly on a harmonium? but no, it was not at all like an
instrument of that kind. It was an annoying, worrying sound, and it went
on for so long that I began to be vexed with it, and stamped my foot
impatiently when, after a short interval, I heard it begin again. The
sound seemed to come from behind the wall of the house near which I was
sitting, and it was repeated from time to time during the whole of the
At length, as the afternoon went on, I began to distinguish what tunes
were being attempted. I made out a bar or two of the old French
Republican air, 'The Marseillaise,' and then I was almost startled by
what came next, for it was a tune I had known well since I was a very
little child. It was 'Home, Sweet Home,' and that was my mother's
favourite tune; in fact, I never heard it without thinking of her. Many
and many a time had she sung me to sleep with that tune. I had scarlet
fever when I was five years old, and my mother had nursed me through it,
and when I was weary and fretful she would sing to me--my pretty
fair-haired mother. Even as I sat before my easel I could see her, as
she sat at the foot of my bed, with the sunshine streaming upon her
through the half-darkened window, and making her look, to my boyish
imagination, like a beautiful angel. And I could hear her voice still;
and the sweet tones in which she sang that very song to me, 'Home, sweet
home, there's no place like home.'
I remembered one night especially, in which she knelt by my bed and
prayed that she might meet her boy in the bright city, the sweet home
above the sky which was the best and brightest home of all. I wonder
what she would think of me now, I said to myself, and whether she ever
will see me there. I very much doubt it; it seems to me that I am a long
way off from Home, Sweet Home now.
My mother had died soon after that illness of mine, and I knew that she
had gone to live in that beautiful home of which she had so often spoken
to me. And I had been left behind, and my aunt, who had brought me up,
had cared for none of these things, and I had learnt to look at the
world and at life from her worldly standpoint, and had forgotten to seek
first the Kingdom of God. Oh! if my mother only knew, my pretty,
beautiful mother, I said to myself that day. And then there came the
thought, perhaps she _does_ know, and the thought made me very
uncomfortable. I wished, more than ever, that that cracked old
instrument, whatever it was, would stop.
But, in spite of all my wishes, the strange sound went on, and again and
again I had to listen to 'Home, Sweet Home,' and each time that it came
it set my memory going, and brought back to me the words and the looks
which I thought I had forgotten. And it set something else going
too--the still, small voice within, accusing me of forgetfulness, not so
much of my mother as of my mother's God.
I began to wish most heartily that I had chosen some other spot for my
picture. But it was working out so well that I felt it would be a great
mistake to change, and I hoped that the individual, man, woman, or
child, who had been making that horrible noise might find some other
employment to-morrow, and might leave me in peace.
The next day my wishes were fulfilled, for I was not disturbed, and very
little happened except that my picture made progress. Then came two wet
days, on which I had to paint in my little chamber, and did not get back
to my seat under the wall.
I saw a good deal of Duncan during those wet days. He would come and sit
beside me as I painted, and would tell me stories of storms and
shipwrecks, and of the different times when the lifeboat had been sent
out, and of the many lives she had saved.
'Have ye seen her, sir? You must go and have a look at our boat; she
lies in a house down by the shore, as trim and tight a little boat as
you could wish to see anywhere!'
'I suppose you've been in many a storm yourself,
Duncan,' I said.
'Storms, sir! I've very near lived in them ever since I was born. Many
and many's the time I've never expected to see land again. I didn't care
so much when I was a young chap. You see, my father and mother were
dead, and if I went to the bottom there was nobody, as you might say, to
feel it; but it's different now, sir, you see.'
'Yes,' I said, 'there's Polly and little John.'
'That's just where it is, sir, Polly and little John, bless 'em; and all
the time the wind's raging, and the waves is coming right over the boat,
I'm thinking of my poor lass at home, and how every gust of wind will be
sweeping right over her heart, and how she'll be kneeling by little
John's bed, praying God to bring his daddy safe home again. And I know,
sir, as well as I know anything, that when God Almighty hears and
answers her prayer, and brings me safe to land, Polly and little John
will be standing on yon rocks a-straining their eyes for the first sight
of the boats, and then a-running down almost into the water to welcome
me home again. Yes, it makes a sight o' difference to a married man,
sir; doesn't it, now? It isn't the dying, ye understand, it's the
leaving behind as I think of. I'm not afraid to die,' he added humbly
and reverently, as he took off his oilskin cap. 'I know whom I have
'You're a plucky fellow, Duncan,' I said, 'to talk of not being afraid
to die. I've just been at a death-bed, and--'
'And you felt you wouldn't like to be there yourself,' Duncan went on,
as I stopped. 'Well, maybe not, it comes nat'ral to us, sir; we're born
with that feeling, I often think, and we can no more help it than we can
help any other thing we're born with. But what I mean to say is, I'm not
afraid of what comes _after_ death. It may be a dark tunnel, sir,
but there's light at the far end!'
WHAT ARE YOU?
On Saturday of that week the sun shone brightly, and I was up betimes,
had an early breakfast, and set to work at my picture as soon as
possible. I had not been painting long before I again heard voices above
me, the same childish voices that I had heard before.
'_You_ give it to him,' said one voice.
'No, Marjorie, I daren't; you take it.'
'You ought not to be afraid, because you're a boy,' said the first
speaker; 'father says boys ought always to be brave.'
'But you're big, Marjorie, and big people ought to be braver than little
There was a long, whispered conversation after this, and I could not
distinguish the words which were spoken. But presently a small piece of
pink paper was thrown over the wall, and fluttered down upon my palette.
I caught it up quickly, to prevent it from sticking to the paints, and I
saw there was something printed on it. It ran thus:--
_There will be a short service on the shore on Sunday Morning at
11 o'clock, when you are earnestly requested to be present_.
_Subject_: WHAT ARE YOU?
'Thank you,' I said aloud. 'Who sent me this?'
There was no answer at first, then a little voice just above me said,
'Both of us, sir.'
'Come down and talk to me,' I said; 'I can't talk to children whom I
can't see. Come out here and look at my picture.'
They came out presently hand in hand, a little girl of five in a blue
tam-o'-shanter cap, a pale pink frock, and a white pinafore, and a boy
of three, the merriest, most sturdy little fellow I thought I had ever
seen. His face was as round and rosy as an apple, his eyes were dark
blue, and had the happiest and most roguish expression that it would be
possible for eyes to have. When the child laughed (and whenever was he
not laughing?), every part of his face laughed together. His eyes began
it, his lips followed suit, even his nose was pressed into the service.
If a sunbeam could be caught and dressed up like a little boy, I think
it would look something like that child.
'Now,' I said, 'that's right; I like to see children's faces when I talk
to them; tell me your names to begin with.'
'I'm Marjorie, sir,' said the little girl, 'and he's Jack.'
'Jack!' I said; 'that's _my_ name, and a nice name too, isn't it,
little Jack? Come and look at my picture, little Jack, and see if you
think big Jack knows how to paint.'
By degrees they grew more at their ease, and chatted freely with me.
Marjorie told me that her father had sent the paper. Father was going to
preach on Sunday; he preached every Sunday, and numbers of people came,
and Jack was in the choir.
What a dear little chorister, to be sure, a chubby little cherub if ever
there was one!
'Shall you come, big Jack?' he said, patting my hand with his strong,
sturdy little fist.
'I don't know,' I said; 'if it's a fine day, perhaps I shall want to get
on with my picture.'
'On Sunday?' said the child in a shocked voice; 'it's on Sunday father
preaches, and you couldn't paint on Sunday, could you?'
'Well, I'll see,' I said; 'perhaps I'll come and hear you sing, little
'Thank you, big Jack,' he said, with a merry twinkle in his pretty blue
'What is this preaching on the shore, Duncan?' I asked.
'Oh, it's our lay preacher,' he said; 'he's a good man, and has done a
sight of good in this place. You see, it's too far for folks here to go
to church, and so he lives amongst us, and has meetings in the hall
yonder in winter, and in summer, why, we have 'em on the shore, and the
visitors comes mostly. There's a few won't come, but we get the best of
them, and we have some fine singing--real nice it is! I'm in the choir
myself, sir,' he said; 'you wouldn't think it, but I am. I've got a good
strong voice, too!'
It must be a choir worth seeing, I thought, if it contained two such
strange contrasts, the big burly fisherman and the tiny child who had
invited me to be present.
I had not quite made up my mind to go. I had not been to a service for
many months, I might almost say years. I had slipped out of it lately,
and I thought I should feel myself a fish out of water. However, when
the next day came, every one seemed to take it as a matter of course
that I should be going. Polly was up early, and had dressed little John
in his best.
'You'll see him at church, sir,' she said, as she laid my breakfast; 'he
always likes to go to church, and he's as good as gold, bless him!'
Duncan was out before I was up, and I had seen him, as I was dressing,
going round to the fishermen sitting as usual on the seats on the cliff,
with a bundle of pink papers in his hand, similar to the one which had
been given me, and distributing them to every group of his mates which
he came across. Yes, I felt that I was expected to go, and it would be
hard work to keep away. But if I had still had any doubt about the
matter, it would have surely disappeared when at half-past ten exactly a
tiny couple came toiling hand in hand up the steps leading to Duncan's
door, and announced to Polly that they had come to call for big Mr. Jack
to go to church.
It was Marjorie and her little brother, and the small Jack put his
little fat hand into that of big Jack, and led him triumphantly away.
It was a pretty sight to see that congregation gathering on the village
green. From the fishermen's cottages there came a stream of people down
to the shore,--mothers with babies in their arms and leading young
children by the hand, groups of boys and girls wearing shoes and
stockings who had been barefooted all the week, many a weather-beaten
sailor, many a sunburnt fisher lad, many elderly people too, old men,
and white-haired women in closely-plaited white caps. There were
visitors, too, coming down from the rocks, and these mostly kept in the
background, and had at first an air of watching the movement rather than
joining in it. My York friends were, however, well to the front, and the
children nodded to me, and smiled at one another as they saw me led like
a lamb to the service by my two small guardians.
It was a lovely day, and the sandy ground was dry, and the congregation
sat on the rough coarse grass or perched on the sand hillocks round. As
for the old boat, it was occupied by the choir, and little Jack, having
seen me safely to the spot, climbed into it and stood proudly in the
stern. He had a hymn-book in his hand, which I knew he could not read,
for he was holding it upside down, but he looked at it as long and as
earnestly as if he could understand every word. Marjorie planted herself
beside me, I suppose to watch me, in case I showed signs of running away
before the service was over.
Then just before eleven, and when quite a large company of people had
gathered on the green, her father arrived. He was a man of about forty,
and his face gave me the impression that he had known trouble, and yet I
fancied as I looked further at him that the trouble, whatever it was,
had ended. He seemed to me like one who has come out of a sharp storm,
and has anchored in a quiet haven. For whilst I noticed in his face the
traces of heavy sorrow, still at the same time he looked happier and
more peaceful than any of those who stood round him; in fact, it was the
most restful face I had ever seen. He was not an educated man, nor was
he what men call a gentleman, and yet there was a refinement about him
which made one feel at once that he was no common man, and had no common
history. His face was so interesting to me, that I am afraid I was
gazing at him instead of finding the hymn he had given out, but I was
recalled to my duty by his little daughter, who seized the hymn-book she
had given me at the beginning of the service, found the page for me, and
pointed with her small finger to the place.
It was a mission hymn, sung to a wild, irregular tune. I daresay I
should have smiled if I had heard it anywhere else, but it was no
laughing matter that morning. As I looked at the brown fishermen who had
taken off their oilskin caps, as I glanced at the earnest face of the
preacher, as I noticed how even children, like little Marjorie beside
me, were singing with all their heart and soul the simple plaintive
words, I felt strangely solemnized.
Then came the prayer, and I felt as he prayed that One whom we could not
see was standing amongst us. It was a very simple prayer, but it was the
outpouring of his heart to God, and many a low Amen broke from the lips
of the fishermen as their hearts went with his.
The sermon followed. Shall I call it a sermon? It was more an appeal
than a sermon, or even an address. There was no attempt at style, there
were no long words or stilted sentences; it was exactly what his prayer
had been, words spoken out of the abundance of his earnest heart. The
prayer had contained the outpouring of his soul to his God in heaven;
the words, to which we listened afterwards contained the outpouring of
his soul to us, his brothers and sisters on earth.
There was a great hush over the congregation whilst he spoke. The
mothers quieted their babes, the children sat with their eyes fixed on
the speaker; even those visitors who had been on the outskirts of the
crowd drew near to listen.
'What are you, dear friends?' he began; 'that is our subject to-day.
What are you? How many different answers I hear you make, as you answer
my question in your hearts!'
'What am I?' you say. 'I am a fisherman, a strong active man, accustomed
to toil and danger.' 'I am a mother, with a large family of little ones,
working hard from morning till night.' 'I am a schoolboy, learning the
lessons which are to fit me to make my way in the world.' 'I am a busy
merchant, toiling hard to make money, and obliged to come to this quiet
place to recruit my wearied energies.' 'I am an artist, with great
ambition of future success.' 'I am an old man, who has weathered many a
storm, but my work is done now; I am too old to fish, too tired to
toil.' 'I am a gentleman of no occupation, idling comfortably through a
busy world.' 'I'--and here he glanced at his own little Jack in the
stern of the old boat--'I am a tiny child, with an unknown life all
'Dear friends, such are some of your answers to my question. Can I find,
do you think, one answer, one description, which will suit you
all--fishermen, mothers, boys and girls, artists, merchants, gentlemen,
the old man and the little child? Yes, I can. If I could hand you each a
piece of paper and a pencil this day, there is one description of
yourself which each of you might write, one occupation which would
include you all, the old, the young, the rich and the poor. Each of you,
without exception, might write this--_I am a servant_.
'I, the speaker, am a servant; you who listen, all of you, are
'Well, I don't know how he is going to make that out,' I said to myself.
'I thought he was going to say we were all sinners, and _that_, I
suppose, we are, but _servants_! I do not believe I am anybody's
'All servants,' he went on, 'but not all in the same service. As God and
the angels look down upon this green to-day they see gathering together
a great company of servants, but they also see that we are not all
servants of the same master. They see what we do not see, a dividing
line between us. On one side of the line God sees, and the angels see,
one company of servants--and in God's book He gives us the name of their
master--_Servants of sin_.
'On the other side of the line, God sees, and the angels see, another
company of servants--_Servants of Christ_.
'Which company do you belong to, dear friend? You fishermen on the bank
there, what are you? Little child, what are you?--a servant of sin, or a
servant of Jesus Christ?
So I tried to turn it off from myself, and to forget the words which had
been spoken. And whenever the question came back to me, the question
which the speaker had repeated so often, 'What are you?' I answered it
by saying to myself, 'I am a poor artist, having a holiday in Runswick
Bay, and I am not going to trouble my head with gloomy thoughts.'
Polly had prepared an excellent dinner in honour of the day, and I did
full justice to it. Then I determined to walk to Staithes, and to spend
the rest of the day in seeing the country. I had always been accustomed,
to paint on Sunday, but only one of the artists seemed to be at work,
and Duncan and Polly had been so much shocked by seeing him, that I did
not venture to do the same. I enjoyed the walk along the cliffs, and
came back in good spirits, having completely shaken off, as I imagined,
the remembrance of the speaker's words.
THE RUNSWICK SPORTS
'I've got a big favour to ask of you, sir,' said Duncan the next day.
'You'll not think I'm taking a liberty, will you?'
'Certainly not, Duncan,' I said. 'What do you want?'
'Well, it's just here, sir--me and my mates, we get up some sports every
year on the green. We have 'em in August, sir, just when the visitors
are here. They all turn out to see them, and there's lots of them is
very good in subscribing to the prizes. You see, sir, there is a many
young fellows here, young chaps who must have something to keep them out
of mischief; when they're not fishing, they're bound to be after the
beer, if they haven't something to turn their minds and keep them going
a bit. And these sports, why, they like 'em, sir; and a man must keep
sober if he's to win a prize--you understand, sir?'
'Yes, Duncan, I understand,' I said; 'it's first-rate for these young
lads, and for the old lads too, for the matter of that. I suppose you
want a subscription for your prizes?' I added, as I handed him half a
'Thank ye kindly, sir, I won't refuse it, and it's very good of you to
help us so largely; but that isn't what I came to ask of you. I hardly
like to bother you, sir,' he said doubtfully.
'Never mind the bother, Duncan; let's hear what you want.'
'Well, it's just here, sir. Could you, do you think, make for us some
sort of a programme to hang up by the post office there, for visitors to
see? You draw them pictures so quick, sir, and--'
'I see, Duncan; you want the programme to be illustrated. I'm your man;
I'll do it at once.' I was really only too glad to oblige the dear,
He was wonderfully pleased at my ready consent, and went off at once to
procure a board upon which my programme might be fastened. We soon made
out together a list of attractions, and I had great pleasure in
beautifying and illustrating the catalogue of sports.
I headed it thus:--
RUNSWICK ATHLETIC SPORTS.
Then, from the R of Runswick I hung a long fishing net, covered with
floats, and falling down over a fish basket, and some lobster-pots,
whilst on the ground were lying a number of fish which had been emptied
out of the basket.
Next followed a list of patrons, such as: The Honourable O'Mackerell,
Lord Crabby Lobster, Sir C. Shrimp, etc., etc.
Then came a list of the various sports, each profusely illustrated--The
tug of war, the jockey race, the women's egg and spoon race, the sack
race, the greasy pole, the long jump, etc.; and lastly, an announcement
of a grand concert to be held in the evening, as a conclusion of the
festivities of the day.
Duncan was more than satisfied--he was delighted, and his gratitude knew
no bounds. His excitement, as he carried the board away to hang it in a
conspicuous place, was like the excitement of a child.
The whole village seemed to be stirred as the eventful day drew near.
'Are you going to see the great tug, big Mr. Jack?' my little friend
called to me over the wall as I was painting. As for the York boys,
Harry and Bob, they spent a great part of every day in admiring the
programme, and in bringing other visitors to see and admire the work of
How anxiously Duncan watched the sky the day before the sports, and how
triumphantly Polly announced, when I came down to breakfast, 'A fine
day, sir; couldn't be finer, could it now?'
Those village sports were really a pretty sight. I see it all in my
mind's eye now. I often wonder I have not made a picture of it. The high
cliff stretching overhead, and covered with bushes and bracken, amongst
which nestled the red-tiled cottages. Then below the cliff the level
green, covered with strong, hardy fishermen and their sunburnt wives,
and surrounding the green, on the sand-hills, the visitors old and
young, dressed in bright colours and holiday attire. Is it too late to
paint it from memory, I wonder? I see it all still so distinctly.
The sports lasted a long time, and went off well. Polly distinguished
herself by winning the egg and spoon race, much to the joy of little
John, who watched all the proceedings from his father's arms.
Then came the greatest event of all, the tug of war. A long cable was
brought out and stretched across the green, and a pocket-handkerchief
was tied in the centre of it. Two stakes were then driven into the
ground, and between these a line was chalked on the grass. The
handkerchief was then placed exactly over the line. After this all the
fishermen who entered the lists were divided into two parties. Then each
side laid hold of one end of the rope, and at a given signal they began
to pull. It was a trial of strength; whichever side could draw the
handkerchief past the two stakes and over the line, that side would win.
How tremendously those men pulled! What force they put into it! Yet for
a long time the rope did not move a single inch. All the strength of
those powerful fishermen was put out; they were lying on the ground,
that their pull might be all the stronger. Every sinew, every nerve,
every muscle seemed to be on the strain, but so evenly were the two
sides matched, that the rope was motionless, and it seemed impossible to
tell which party would win.
Little John was eagerly watching his father.
'Pull, daddy, pull!' I heard him cry; and I think I was nearly as
pleased as he and Polly were when Duncan and the mates on his side
suddenly made one mighty effort, and the handkerchief was drawn across
the line. There was tremendous cheering after this. Polly clapped her
hands with delight, and little Jack and big Jack nearly shouted
It was an interesting sight, and I had reason to remember it afterwards,
as you will see. The evening concert went off as well as the sports had
done, and Duncan came in at night rather tired, but well satisfied with
the day's proceedings.
I enjoyed all the sights at Runswick Bay, but I think I was particularly
charmed with what happened on the day after the sports. All the village
was early astir, and as I was dressing, it seemed to me that every
fisherman in the place was hurrying down to the beach. It was not long
before I followed them to see what they were doing. I found that they
were about to draw the crab-boats up from the shore, to a place where
they would be safe from the winter storms. It was hard work, but every
one was there to give a hand. A long string of men and lads laid hold of
the strong cable fastened to the boat. Even the wives and elder children
caught hold of it. I myself went to their help, and several of the
visitors followed my example. Then, when we were all in position, there
came a pause, for Duncan, who was directing the proceedings, charged us
not to pull till the signal was given. Then there rose a peculiar cry or
yodel, all the fishermen uttering it together, and as soon as it ceased
we gave our united, mighty pull. Then we paused to take breath, until
once more there came a yodel followed by another pull, and as this was
repeated again and again, it was grand to see the heavy boat making
steady and regular progress. Across the heavy sand she came, up the low
bank, over the rough grass, slowly, steadily, surely, she moved onward,
until at length she was placed in safety, far out of reach of the
highest tide and the strongest sea. Thus, one after another, the boats
were drawn up, and we were fairly tired before our work was done.
I think it must have been that very day, that, as I was sitting
painting, I once more heard the broken notes of the instrument which had
troubled me so much before. It was that tune again, my mother's tune,
and somehow, I do not know how it was, with the sound of my mother's
tune there came back to my mind the remembrance of the Sunday service.
Ah! my mother was on the right side of the line, I said to myself; she
was a servant of Christ. But her son! what is he?
I did not want to follow out this subject, so I jumped up from my
camp-stool, and standing under the wall, I called, 'Little Jack, little
The music stopped at once, and the child came out. Dear, little merry
fellow, how fond I was of him already!
'Yes, Mr. big Jack,' he said, as he ran out of the gate.
'Come and talk to me, old chappie,' I said, 'whilst I paint. Who plays
music in your house?'
'I do,' said little Jack.
'_You_ do, Jack? Why, you are a funny little fellow to play music!
What do you play on, and who taught you?'
'Nobody teached me, Mr. Jack,' he said; 'I teached my own self.'
'Teached your own self? Why, how did you manage that?' I asked.
'I turned him round and round and round, Mr. Jack, and the music came,
and I teached my own self,' he repeated.
'What is it, Jack?' I asked. 'Is it an old musical box?'
'No, it's an organ, a barrow-organ, Mr. Jack.'
'Oh, a barrel-organ you mean, little chappie; why, however in the world
did you get hold of a barrel-organ? Is it a little toy one?'
'No, it's big, ever so big,' he said, stretching out his hands to show
me its size.
'Why, whoever gave you it?' I asked.
'It isn't Jack's own organ,' said the child.
'Whose is it, then?'
'It's father's, father's own organ.'
It seemed to me a most extraordinary thing for the mission preacher of
Runswick Bay to have in his possession, but I did not like to ask any
more questions at that time.
However, in the afternoon my little friend called to me over, the wall,
'Big Mr. Jack, come here.'
'Come where, my little man?'
'Come inside and look at father's organ; I'll play it to you, Mr. Jack.'
'What will father say if I come in?'
'What will mother say?'
'Mother's out too.'
I did not much relish the idea of entering a man's house in his absence,
but such plaintive entreaties came from the other side of the wall. Over
and over again he pleaded, 'Do come, Mr. Jack; do come quick, Mr. Jack!'
that at last, to please the child, I left my work for a few minutes and
went up the steps which led to the gate of their garden.
It was only a small place, but very prettily laid out. There was a tiny
lawn, well kept, and covered with short, soft grass, and in the centre
of this a round bed filled with geraniums, calceolarias, and lobelias.
Round the lawn, at the edge of the garden, was a border, in which grew
all manner of gay and sweet-smelling flowers. There were asters and
mignonette, sweet-peas and convolvolus, heliotrope and fuchsias. Then in
front of me was the pretty cottage, with two gables and a red-tiled
roof, the walls of which were covered from top to bottom with creeping
plants. Ivy and jessamine, climbing roses, virginia-creeper, and
canariensis, all helped to make the little place beautiful.
'What a pretty home you have, little Jack!' I said.
He kept tight hold of my hand, lest I should escape from him, and led me
on--into a tiny entrance hall, past one or two doors, down a dark
passage, and into a room at the back.
This room had a small bow-window overlooking the sea, the walls were
covered with bookshelves, a writing-table stood in the window, and in
the corner by the fireplace was the extraordinary object I had been
brought to see--an extremely ancient and antiquated barrel-organ.
What a peculiar thing to come across in a preacher's study! What
possible use could he have for it? It was a most dilapidated old
instrument, almost falling to pieces with old age. The shape was so
old-fashioned that I do not remember ever having seen one like it; the
silk, which had doubtless once been its adornment, was torn into shreds,
and it was impossible to tell what its original colour had been; the
wood was worm-eaten and decayed, and the leg upon which it had rested
could no longer support its weight.
'Let me hear you play it, Jack,' I said.
He sat down with great pride to turn the handle, but I noticed that half
the notes were broken off the barrel, which accounted for only fragments
of each tune being heard, whilst many bars of some were wanting
altogether. However, Jack seemed very proud of his performance, and
insisted on my staying till he had gone through the whole of the four
tunes which the poor old thing was supposed to play. He announced their
names, one by one, as each began.
'This is "My Poor Mary Anne," Mr. Jack, _very_ sad.' Then when that
was finished, 'This is the Old Hundred, _very_ old.'
After this there was a long turning of the handle without any sound
being heard, for the first part of the next tune was gone entirely. 'I
can't say the name of this one, Mr. Jack,' he explained; 'Marjorie calls
its something like "Ma says."'
'Oh! the "Marseillaise,"' I said, laughing; 'all right, little man, I
'Then comes father's tune, father _does_ like it so. Listen, "Home,
sweet home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home." Do
_you_ like it, Mr. Jack?'
'Yes, I do like it, Jack,' I said; 'I knew it when I was a little chap
As he played, once more it brought before me my mother's voice and my
mother's words. I had not thought of my mother for years so much as I
had done at Runswick Bay. Even the old organ brought her back to me, for
she was always kind to organ-grinders. There was an Italian who used to
come round with a barrel-organ when I was a little boy. I can see him
now. I used to watch for him from my nursery window, and as soon as he
came in sight I flew down to my mother for a penny, and then went into
the garden and stood beside him whilst he played. My mother gave me a
musical-box on my birthday; it was in the shape of a barrel-organ, and
had a strap which I could hang round my neck. I used to take this box
with me, and standing beside the Italian, I imitated his every movement,
holding my little organ just as he held his big one, and playing beside
him as long as he remained. So delightful did this man's occupation seem
to me, that I can remember quite well when my father asked me one day
what I would like to be when I was a man, I answered without a moment's
hesitation, 'An organ-grinder, of course, father.'
Those old boyish days, how long ago they seemed! What was the use of
recalling them? It would not bring back the mother I had lost, or the
father who had cared for me, and it only made me depressed to think of
them. What good, I asked myself, would my holiday do me if I spent it in
brooding over bygone sorrow? I must forget all this kind of thing, and
cheer up, and get back my spirits again.
'Now, little Jack,' I said, 'big Jack must go back to his picture; come
and climb into the old boat, and I'll see how you would do in the
foreground of it.' He looked such a merry little rogue, perched amongst
the nets and fishing tackle, that I felt I should improve my picture by
introducing him into it, and therefore from that day he came for a
certain time every morning to be painted. He was such a good little
fellow, he never moved a limb after I told him I was ready, and never
spoke unless I spoke to him. A more lovable child I never saw, nor a
more obedient one. With all his fun, and in spite of his flow of
spirits, he was checked in a moment by a single word. No one could be
dull in his company, and as the week passed on I began to regain my
usual cheerfulness, and to lose the uncomfortable impression left on my
mind by the sermon on the shore and the questions the preacher had asked
THE TUG OF WAR
I had quite made up my mind not to attend the service on the following
Sunday, and when a pink paper floated down on my easel on the Saturday
morning, I caught it and thrust it into my pocket, without even looking
to see what the subject was to be.
'Have you got it, Mr. Jack?' said the child's voice above me.
'All right, little man,' I answered; 'it's all safe and sound.'
I made my plans for Sunday with great care. I asked for an early
breakfast, so that I might walk over to Kettleness, a place about two
miles off along the coast, and which could only be reached at low tide;
and when I was once there, on the other side of the bay, I determined to
be in no hurry to return, but to arrive at Runswick too late for the
service on the sands. If Duncan and Polly missed me, they would simply
conclude that I had found the walk longer than I had expected.
But, as I was just ready to set out for Kettleness, a tremendous shower
'You'll never set off in this weather, sir?' said Duncan anxiously.
'Oh no, of course not,' I answered lightly.
I fancied that he looked more concerned than the occasion warranted, and
I feared that he suspected the real reason for my early walk.
There was now nothing to be done but to wait till the shower was over,
and by that time I found it would be impossible for me to go to
Kettleness without seeming deliberately to avoid the service.
The sun came out, and the sky was quite blue before eleven o'clock, and
the fishermen spread tarpaulins on the sand for the congregation to sit
on, and I found myself--I must say very much against my will--being led
to the place by little Jack.
'Well, there is no need for me to listen,' I said to myself; 'I will
plan out a new picture, and no one will know where my thoughts are.'
But, in spite of my resolution to the contrary, from the moment that
Jack's father began to speak, my attention was riveted, and I could not
choose but listen.
'The Tug of War is our subject to-day, dear friends,' he began, 'and a
very suitable subject, I think, after what we have witnessed on this
green during the past week. We have seen, have we not, a long pull, a
strong pull, and a pull all together, as yon heavy crab boat was dragged
up from the beach? How well she came, what progress she made! with each
yoddel we brought her farther from the sea. We all of us gave a helping
hand; fishermen, wives, visitors, friends, all laid hold, and all
pulled, and the work, hard as it seemed, was soon accomplished. Why?
Because we were all united. It was a long pull, a strong pull, and a
pull all together.
'And now let me bring back to your memory another event during this past
week. The place is the same, our village green, the same rope is used,
and those who pull are the very same men, strong, brawny, powerful
fishermen. Yes, you pulled your very hardest; if possible you put forth
more strength than when the crab boat was drawn up, and yet, strange to
say, there was no result, the rope did not move an inch. What were you
pulling? What was the mighty weight that you had to move? What was it
that, for such a long time, baffled the strength of the strongest among
you? The weight you could not move was not a heavy boat, but a light
'Why was there this difference? Why was the handkerchief harder to move
than the boat? The answer to that question was to be found at the other
end of the green. There were other pullers at the rope that day, pulling
with all their might in an exactly opposite direction. It was not a
united pull, and therefore for a long time there was no result, and we
watched on, until at length one side was proved the strongest, and the
handkerchief was drawn by them triumphantly across the line.
'To-day, dear friends, I speak to you of yet another tug of war. The
place is the same, Runswick Bay and our village green, but the weight to
be drawn is not a boat, not a handkerchief; the weight is _a human
soul._ It is your soul, my friend, your immortal soul; _you_ are
the one who is being drawn.
'And who are the pullers? Oh, how many they are! I myself have my hands
on the rope. God only knows how hard I am pulling, striving with all my
might, if possible to draw you, my friend, to Christ. But there are
other hands on the rope besides mine. Your conscience pulls, your good
old mother pulls, your little child pulls, your Christian mate pulls;
each sermon you hear, each Bible class you attend, each hymn you sing,
each prayer uttered in your presence, each striving of the Spirit, each
God-given yearning after better things, each storm you come through,
each danger you escape, each sickness in your family, each death in your
home, each deliverance granted you, gives you a pull God-ward,
'Yet, oh, my dear friend, you know, as clearly as you know that you are
sitting there, that, so far, Christ's pullers are drawing in vain. You
have never yet, you know it, crossed the line which divides the saved
from the unsaved. Why is this? Why, oh, why are you so hard to move?
'Oh, my friend, do you ask why? Surely you know the reason! Is it not
because there are other hands on the rope, other pullers drawing in an
exactly opposite direction? For Satan has many an agent, many a servant,
and he sends forth a great army of soul-pullers. Each worldly friend,
each desire of your evil nature, each temptation to sin, each longing
after wealth, each sinful suggestion, gives you a pull, and a pull the
wrong way, away from safety, away from Christ, away from God, away from
heaven, away from Home. And towards what? Oh, dear friend, towards what?
What are the depths, the fearful depths towards which you are being
He said a good deal more, but I did not hear it. That question seemed
burnt in with a red-hot iron into my soul. What are the depths, the
fearful depths into which you are being drawn? I could not shake it off.
I wished I could get away from the green, but Jack had brought me close
to the boat where the choir stood, and there was no escape. I should
have to sit it out; it would soon be over, I said to myself.
The service ended with a hymn. Another of their queer, wild, irregular
tunes, I thought; I was not going to sing it. But when Jack saw that I
did not open my book, he leant over the side of the boat, and poked my
head with his hymn-book. 'Sing, big Mr. Jack, sing,' he said aloud, and
then, for very shame, I had to find my place and begin. I can still
remember the first verse of that hymn, and I think I can recall the tune
to which they sang it:--
'Oh, tender and sweet was the Master's voice,
As he lovingly called to me:
"Come over the line! it is only a step--
I am waiting, My child, for thee!"
"Over the line!" Hear the sweet refrain!
Angels are chanting the heavenly strain!
"Over the line!" Why should I remain
With a step between me and Jesus?'
I was heartily glad when the service was over, and I went on the shore
at once, to try to walk the sermon away. But I was not so successful as
I had been the Sunday before. That question followed me; the very waves
seemed to be repeating it. What are the depths, the fearful depths, to
which you are being drawn? I had not looked at it in that light before.
I had been quite willing to own that I was not religious, that I was
leading a gay, easy-going kind of life, that my Sundays were spent in
bed, or in novel reading, or in rowing, or in some other amusement. I
was well aware that I looked at these things very differently from what
my mother had done, and I had even wondered sometimes, whether, if she
had been spared to me, I should have been a better fellow than I knew
myself to be. But as for feeling any real alarm or anxiety with regard
to my condition, such a thought had never for one moment crossed my
Yet if this man was right, there was real danger in my position. I was
not remaining stationary, as I had thought, but I was being drawn by
unseen forces towards something worse, towards the depths, the fearful
depths, of which he had spoken.
At times I wished I had never come to Runswick Bay to be made so
uncomfortable; at other times I wondered if I had been brought there on
purpose to hear those words.
I went back to dinner, but I could not enjoy it, much to Polly's
distress. The rain fell fast all the afternoon, and as I lay on my bed
upstairs I heard Polly washing up, and singing as she did so the hymn we
had had at the service--
'Come over the line to Me.'
There seemed no chance of forgetting the words which had made me so
That night I had a strange dream. I thought I was once more on the
village green. It was a wild, stormy night, the wind was blowing hard,
and the rain was falling fast; yet through the darkness I could
distinguish crowds of figures gathered on the green. On the side farther
from the sea there was a bright light streaming through the darkness.
I wondered in my dream what was going on, and I found that it was a tug
of war, taking place in the darkness of the night. I saw the huge cable,
and gradually as I watched I caught sight of those who were pulling.
I walked to the side from which the light streamed, and there I saw a
number of holy and beautiful angels with their hands on the rope, and
amongst them I distinctly caught sight of my mother. She seemed to be
dragging with all her might, and there was such an earnest, pleading,
beseeching expression on her dear face that it went to my very heart to
look at her. I noticed that close beside her was the preacher, little
Jack's father, and behind him was Duncan. They were all intent on their
work, and took no notice of me, so I walked to the other end of the
green, the one nearest the sea, that I might see who were there. It was
very dark at that end of the rope, but I could dimly see evil faces, and
dark, strange forms, such as I could not describe. Those on this side
seemed to be having it much their own way, I thought, for the weight,
whatever it was, was gradually drawing near to the sea; and, lo and
behold, I saw that they were close upon a terrible place, for mighty
cliffs stood above the shore, and they were within a very short distance
of a sheer and terrible precipice.
'What are you dragging?' I cried to them.
And a thousand voices seemed to answer, 'A soul! a soul!'
Then, as I watched on, I saw that the precipice was nearly reached, and
that both those who pulled and the weight they were dragging were on the
point of being hurled over, and suddenly it flashed upon me in my dream
that it was _my_ soul for which they were struggling, and I heard
the cry of the pullers from the other side of the green, and it seemed
to me that, with one voice, they were calling out that terrible
question, 'What are the depths, the fearful depths, to which you are
being drawn?' And through the streaming light I saw my mother's face,
and a look of anguish crossed it, as suddenly the rope broke, and those
who were drawing it on the opposite side went over with a crash,
dragging my soul over with them.
I woke in a terror, and cried out so loudly that Duncan came running
into my room to see what was the matter.
'Nothing, Duncan,' I said, 'I was only dreaming; I thought I had gone
over a precipice.'
'No, thank God, you're all safe, sir,' he said. 'Shall I open your
window a bit? Maybe the room's close; is it?'
'Thank you, Duncan,' I answered; 'I shall be all right now. I'm so sorry
I have waked you.'
'You haven't done that, sir; me and Polly have been up all night with
the little lad. He's sort of funny, too, sir, burning hot, and yet he
shivers like, and he clings to his daddy; so I've been walking a mile or
two with him up and down our chamber floor, and I heard you skriking
out, and says Polly, "Run and see what ails him." So you haven't
disturbed me, sir, not one little bit, you haven't.'
He left me then, and I tried to sleep, but sleep seemed far from me. I
could hear Duncan's footsteps pacing up and down in the next room; I
could hear little John's fretful cry; I could hear the rain beating
against the casement; I could hear the soughing and whistling of the
wind; I could hear Polly's old eight-day clock striking the hours and
the half-hours of that long, dismal night; but through it all, and above
it all, I could hear the preacher's question, 'What are the depths, the
fearful depths, to which you are being drawn?'
I found it impossible to close my eyes again, so I drew up the blind,
and, as morning began to dawn, I watched the pitiless rain and longed
for day. The footsteps in the next room ceased as the light came on, and
I concluded that the weary child was at last asleep. I wished that I was
asleep too. I thought how often my mother, when I was a child, must have
walked up and down through long weary nights with me. I wondered
whether, as she did so, she spent the slow, tedious hours in praying for
her boy, and then I wondered how she would have felt, and how she would
have borne it, had she known that the child in her arms would grow up to
manhood, living for this world and not for the Christ she loved. I
wondered if she _did_ know this now, in the far-off land where she
dwelt with God.
I think I must have dozed a little after this, for I was suddenly roused
by Polly's cheery voice, cheery in spite of her bad night,--
'Have a cup of tea, sir, it'll do you good. You've not slept over well,
Duncan says. I'll put it down by your door.'
I jumped out of bed and brought it in, feeling very grateful to Polly,
and I drank it before I dressed. That's just like a Yorkshire woman, I
thought. My mother came from Yorkshire.
'I think it must have been nightmare I had last night, Polly,' I said as
I finished my breakfast, and began to put all in order for my morning's
OVER THE LINE
I was at my painting early the next morning, for the sun was shining
brightly, and the air was wonderfully clear. My portrait of little Jack
sitting in the boat promised to be a great success. As I was hard at
work upon it that day, I heard a voice behind me.
'I never thought my little lad would figure in the Royal Academy,' said
It was the voice of Jack's father--the voice which had moved me so
deeply, the voice which had made me tremble, only the day before. Even
as he spoke I felt inclined to run away, lest he should ask me again
that terrible question which had been ringing in my ears ever since.
Even as I talked to him about my picture, and even as he answered in
pleasant and friendly tones, through them all and above them all came
the words which were burnt in upon my memory: 'What are the depths, the
fearful depths, to which you are being drawn?'
'I hope my children are not troublesome to you,' he said.
'Oh no,' I answered; 'I love to have them here, and Jack and I are great
friends. Do you know,' I went on, 'he took me into your study the other
day? I am afraid I was taking a great liberty; but the little man would
hear of no refusal--he wanted me to see the old barrel-organ.'
'What, my dear old organ!' he answered. 'Yes, Jack is nearly as fond of
it as his father is.'
'His father?' I replied, for it seemed strange to me that a man of his
years should care for what appeared to me scarcely better than a broken
'That organ has a history,' he said, as he noticed my surprise; 'if you
knew the history, you would not wonder that I love it. I owe all I am in
this world, all I hope to be in the world to come, to that poor old
organ. Some day, when you have time to listen, perhaps you may like to
hear the story of the organ.'
'Thank you,' I said; 'the sooner the better.'
'Then come and have supper with us to-night. Nellie will be very pleased
to see you, and the bairns will be in bed, and we shall have plenty of
time and quiet for story-telling.'
I accepted his invitation gratefully, for September had come, and the
evenings were growing dark, and my time hung somewhat heavily on my
hands. Polly, I think, was not sorry when she heard I was going out, for
Duncan was away in the boat fishing, and little John was so feverish and
restless that she could not put him down even for a moment.
The cottage looked very bright and pretty when I arrived, and they gave
me a most kind welcome. A small fire was burning in the grate, for the
evenings were becoming chilly. The bow window was hung with India-muslin
curtains, tied up with amber ribbon, the walls were adorned with
photographs framed in oak, the supper table was covered with a snowy
cloth, and a dainty little meal was laid out with the greatest taste and
care, whilst in the centre was a china bowl, containing the leaves of
the creeper which covered the house, interspersed with yellow bracken
and other beautiful leaves, in every varied shade of their autumn glory.
Jack's mother was evidently a woman of taste. She had a quiet, gentle
face, almost sad at times when it was at rest; but she had Jack's eyes
and Jack's bright smile, which lighted up her face, as a burst of
brilliant sunshine will stream suddenly down a dark valley, and make it
a perfect avenue of light.
I enjoyed the company of both husband and wife exceedingly, and as we
sat round the table and chatted over our supper all feeling of
constraint passed away, and I no longer heard the words of that question
which had so troubled me all day long. He did not mention the object for
which I had come whilst the meal was going on. We talked of Runswick Bay
and its surroundings, of the fishermen and their life of danger; we
spoke of the children, and of my picture, of my hopes with regard to the
Royal Academy, and of many other interesting topics.
Then the cloth was removed, and we drew near the fire. I had just said
to him, 'Now for your story,' and he was just beginning to tell it,
when, as I sat down in an arm-chair which Nellie had placed for me by
the fire, my eye fell upon a photograph which was hanging in a frame
close to the fireplace. I started from my seat and looked at it. Surely
I could not be mistaken! Surely I knew every feature of it, every fold
of the dress, every tiny detail in the face and figure. It was the
counterpart of a picture which hung opposite my bed in my London home.
'However on earth did you get that?' I cried. 'Why, it's my mother's
I think I have never felt more startled than I did at that moment. After
all the thoughts of yesterday, after my dream of last night, after all
my recollection of my mother's words to me, and her prayers for
me--after all this, to see her dear eyes looking at me from the wall of
the house of this unknown man, in this remote, out-of-the-world spot,
almost frightened me.
I did not realize at first that my host was almost as much startled as I
'Your mother!' he repeated; 'your mother! Surely not! Do you mean to
tell me,' he said, laying his hand on my arm, 'that your name is
'Of course it is,' I said; 'Jack Villiers.'
'Nellie, Nellie,' he cried, for she had gone upstairs to the children,
'come down at once; who do you think this is, Nellie? You will never
guess. It is Jack Villiers, the little Jack you and I used to know so
well. Why, do you know,' he said, 'our own little Jack was named after
you; he was indeed, and we haven't heard of you for years--never since
your dear mother died.'
I was too much astonished at first to ask him any questions, and he was
too much delighted to explain where and how he had known me; but after a
time, when we had recovered ourselves a little, we drew our chairs round
the fire, and he began his story.
'I was a poor little street Arab once,' he said; 'a forlorn boy with no
one to love him or to care for him. But I made friends with an old man
in the attic of the lodging-house who had a barrel-organ.'
'_That_ barrel-organ?' I asked.
'The very same,' he said, 'and he loved it as if it was a child. When he
was too ill to take it out himself, I took it for him, and that was how
I first saw your mother.'
'Was she married then?' I asked.
'No,' he said with a smile; 'she was quite a little girl, about the age
of our Marjorie. She used to run to her nursery window as soon as she
heard me begin to play. I let her turn the organ one day, and she said
she liked all the tunes, but she liked "Home, Sweet Home" the best of
'Did she?' I said. 'Yes, I have often heard her sing it; she sang me to
sleep with it many a time.'
'As I played it,' he went on, 'she would speak to me of the Home, Sweet
Home above; child as she was, she knew the way to that home, and she
soon found out that I knew nothing about it. "You can't go to heaven if
you don't love Jesus, organ boy," she said, and the tears ran down from
her dear little eyes as she said it.
'I could not forget those words, and I was determined to find out the
way to the home of which she spoke.
'My old master was dying; he had only another month to live, and for his
sake I must learn quickly the way to be saved. I attended a mission
service, and I learnt first that no sin can enter the gates of the
Heavenly City. But I learnt more. I learnt that the blood of Jesus
Christ, God's Son, cleanseth from all sin.
'Your mother taught me a prayer one day when I went to see her. I have
said that prayer, morning and evening, ever since. She gave me a bunch
of snowdrops, tied up with dark green leaves, and she told me to say as
I looked at them, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
He stopped for a minute or two after this, and gazed into the fire; the
memory of those old days had stirred him deeply.
'Please go on,' I said, for I longed to hear more.
'She came to our attic after that with her mother; they came to see my
old master, and she was pleased to see the snowdrops. She told me that
day, that if I would only say her prayer I should be sure to go to Home,
'Very soon after this my old master died, and on the very day that I was
following him to the grave I saw my poor little friend, your mother,
Jack, in a funeral coach, following her mother to the same place. Then
after that she went abroad, but she did not forget the poor organ boy.
She told her father about me, and he sent money for my education, and
had me trained to be a city missionary in the east of London, to work
amongst the very people amongst whom I had lived. All I am now I owe to
'I did not meet your mother after this for many years, not until she was
married to the clergyman in whose parish I worked.
'Strange to say, we met one day in my old attic, the very attic where my
poor old master had died. She had gone there to visit a sick woman, and
as I went in she was reading to her from the very Testament out of which
her mother had read to my old master, when she had come to see him in
that place, fifteen years before.
'Soon after this we were married, Nellie and I, and it was your dear
mother who made our little home bright and pretty for us, and who was
there to welcome us to it. How we loved her then, how we love her still!
'When you were quite a tiny child, she would bring you to see us, and
Nellie used often to say you were the dearest, prettiest child she had
'I don't remember it,' I said.
'No, you would be too young to remember it; you were only three years
old when your father left London for a parish in the country, and soon
after came the news of his death, and only a year or so later we heard
your mother was gone too. It was a sorrowful day, Jack, when that news
'We often wondered about you; we heard that you had gone to live with an
aunt, but we did not even know her name. We tried to find out more, but
we knew no one in the place where you lived, and we never heard what had
become of you.'
'How strange that I should have been brought here to meet you!' I said.
'No, not strange,' he said reverently; 'it is the hand of God.'
And then--I could not help it--I laid my head on my arm as I stood
against the mantel-piece, and I sobbed like a child.
He did not speak for some minutes, and then he put his arm round me as
tenderly as my mother could have done, and said, 'What is it, Jack? Is
it talking of your mother that has upset you so?'
'No,' I said, 'it isn't that--I love to talk of her; I love to hear of
her; everything she said is precious to me; it isn't that.'
'What then?' he said; 'what troubles you, Jack?'
'It's the thought that I shall never see her again,' I said; 'I know I
shall not. _She_ went one way and _I_ am going another.'
'Why not turn round and go her way, Jack?' he said cheerily.
'Oh, I can't,' I said; 'it's no use--I can't turn. There are too many
hands on the wrong end of the rope. I've been miserable ever since I
heard you talk of it. I could not sleep last night for thinking of it.
"What are the depths, the fearful depths, to which you are being drawn?"
those words have never left me, night or day, since you uttered them. I
have tried to shake them off, but I can't.'
'Don't attempt to shake them off,' he said. 'Oh, Jack, don't try to do
it, for they are the voice of the Spirit of God. But listen to-night to
the One who is calling you. "Come over the line--it is only a step. Come
over the line to _Me_."'
'I wish I could,' I said.
'You can do it, and you _must_ do it, Jack,' he said firmly,
'before you leave this room.'
'Before I leave this room?'
'Yes, this very instant,' he said.
'But how can I do it? I don't know how to cross,' I said.
'You are no dead, lifeless weight on the rope, like a boat or a
handkerchief; you have a will of your own, and it remains with you to
decide which way you want to be drawn, God-ward, Christ-ward,
heaven-ward, or to the fearful depths of which I spoke. God is drawing
you very strongly now, but He never forces a man against his will. He
puts in your hands the power to decide on which side of the line you
will be. Which is it to be, Jack?'
'Well,' I said, 'I will think it over.'
'So many have said, and their desire to cross the line has cooled down,
and they have been lost.'
'I'll come and have a talk with you another day, later on in the week,
if we can make it convenient.'
'So Felix said, "When I have a more convenient season I will send for
thee," but Felix never did send; he never crossed the line, but he was
drawn over to the fearful depths.'
'Well, suppose we say to-morrow. It's late now, and you're tired, I
'God says _to-day_ he said. '"To-day, if ye will hear His voice,
harden not your hearts. Behold, now is the accepted time, now is the day
'Tell me _how_ I can come,' I said.
'"Come over the line to _Me_." There you have it,' he answered.
'The Lord calls you, and you have not far to go. It is only a step. He
stands in this room close to you. He holds out His arms to you. He does
not compel you. He does not force you forward. He calls, and He waits to
receive you. Jack, will you come?'
'Yes, I will,' I said earnestly; 'I will come.'
We knelt down together, and I cannot remember the words he said, but I
know that whenever I read in the Gospels those words in the first
chapter of St. John, 'He brought him to Jesus,' I think of that night. I
do not think that Peter and Andrew felt the Lord Jesus more near them in
the booth by the side of the Jordan than we felt Him in that little room
in Runswick Bay.
I know He was there, and I know something more--I know that I came to
Him. And I know that that night, before we rose from our knees, I
crossed the line, and I was able henceforth to take my place amongst the
glad, thankful people who can say, humbly and yet confidently, 'We know
that we have passed from death unto life.'
A NIGHT OF STORM
It was late when I got back to my lodging, and I walked like one in a
dream. Polly opened the door, and she seemed troubled about the child.
Little John was evidently in pain, for I heard him moaning as I went
'I should get a doctor, Polly,' I said.
'So Duncan says, sir; we shall have to send for him in the morning if
he's no better.'
I slept calmly and peacefully, and I woke up to feel that I was
beginning an entirely new life. Henceforth I was not my own. I was
standing on the heavenward side of the line, and I had taken my place
amongst the servants of Christ. I had never felt so happy before.
Duncan had set off for the doctor before I was down that morning. Little
John was better, Polly said, but was still very feverish, and would eat
nothing. She brought him down before I went off to my work, wrapped in a
shawl, and I thought he looked very ill, but I did not like to say so.
Duncan came in just at that moment, and the child put out his arms to
his father, and he took him on his knee by the fire, and when I came
home to dinner he was still lying there.
'Has the doctor been?' I asked.
'No, sir; he was out when I called this morning. He had gone to a bad
case, they said, ten miles off, but I left a message. I hope he'll come
before I go this evening. I should be more comfortable like if he did.'
However, the evening came, and Duncan's mates were whistling for him
from the shore, and the doctor had not appeared. The boy was still in
his father's arms, and he was walking up and down the kitchen to soothe
'It's hard to leave him, sir,' he said, when he heard the whistle, 'but
he seems a bit better, I think, this afternoon; he hasn't cried so much,
has he, Polly?'
But I saw there were tears in his eyes as he gave the boy to his mother.
'I'll walk with you to the shore, Duncan,' I said, for I saw that the
poor fellow was very downcast.
'Thank you kindly, sir,' he answered.
I stood on the shore whilst the nets and fishing tackle were put on
board, then he said in a low voice,--
'It's a comfort to feel you will be near my poor lass to-night, sir. It
cuts me to the heart to leave her; if anything happens to little John,
whatever would me and my missus do! But the Lord knows, sir--He knows,'
he repeated, and he wiped away a tear which fell on my hand as he
I went back to Duncan's house, to find the doctor there. It was
influenza and pneumonia, he said, and the boy must be kept in one room.
He was a very silent man, and whether he thought it was a serious case
or not I could not discover.
I determined not to go to bed that night, but to sit up in my room, in
case I should be of any use. I was really glad of the quiet time for
thought and prayer.
I am ashamed to confess that I had brought no Bible with me to Runswick
Bay; I had not opened a Bible for years. But when all was quiet in the
house I stole quietly downstairs, and brought up Duncan's Bible, which
was lying on the top of the oak cupboard below. What a well-worn,
well-read Bible it was! I wondered if my mother's Bible had been read
like that. There was his name on the title-page, 'John Duncan, from his
affectionate father.' It had evidently been given to him when a boy, and
underneath the name was written this verse: 'Open Thou mine eyes, that I
may behold wondrous things out of Thy law.' I said that little prayer
before I began to read, and I have said it ever since each time that I
have opened my Bible.
About twelve o'clock that night the weather became very stormy. A sudden
gale set in, and in a very short time the sea became lashed into a fury.
I have never heard wind like the wind that night. It literally shrieked
and moaned as it blew, and every window and door in the house rattled,
and sometimes I felt as if the cottage itself would be swept away.
'What a time they must be having out at sea!' I said to myself.
I went to the window, and putting out my candle, I tried to see out into
the darkness; but I could distinguish nothing whatever, so black was the
sky and so tremendous was the rain.
It must have been about one o'clock that I heard a step on the stairs. I
opened my door and went out. It was Polly.
'How is he, Polly?' I asked.
'Very bad, sir; very bad,' she said. 'He doesn't know me now, and he
won't take anything; and oh, sir, do you hear the wind?'
Who could help hearing it? It was raging more furiously every moment,
and the house seemed to rock with the violence of the storm.
'Let me help you, Polly,' I said; 'let me come and sit with you beside
'Well, sir, if you would just stay a few minutes whilst I fetch Betty
Green,' she said; 'I feel as if I dursn't be alone any longer, I'm
getting that nervous, what with little John talking so queer, sir, and
the wind blowing so awful, and his father on the sea!' and Polly burst
'Polly,' I said, 'God is on the sea as well as on the land. Go and fetch
Betty, and I will sit by the child.'
She went down and opened the door, and the wind rushed into the house
and up the stairs, and I had to shut the bedroom door hastily to keep it
out. Then I heard Polly pulling and pulling at it, and vainly trying to
shut it, and I had to go down to help her. She was some minutes away,
for she had difficulty in rousing her neighbour, and I sat beside the
unconscious child. He was talking the whole time, but I could
distinguish very little of what he said. It seemed to be chiefly about
going with his daddy in his boat, and every now and then he would call
out quite loudly, 'Come, daddy, come, daddy, to little John.'
When Polly returned with old Betty, I had again to go down to help them
to close the door.
'What do you think of him, sir?' said Polly.
I did not like to say what I thought, so I answered, 'Well, perhaps it
would be as well to get the doctor to have another look at him. I'll go
for him if you like.'
'I don't believe you could manage it, sir,' said Betty. 'You can't stand
outside; me and Polly has been clinging on to the palings all the way,
and it will be terrible up on the top.'
'Shall I try, Polly?'
She gave me a grateful look, but did not answer by words. But the two
women gave me so long a description of the way to the doctor's house,
and interrupted each other so often, and at length both talked together
in their eagerness to make it clear to me, that at the end I was more
bewildered and hopelessly puzzled than at the beginning, and I
determined to go to Mr. Christie before I started, in order to obtain
from him full and clear directions.