Part 1 out of 4
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THE DUKE'S MESSENGER
by John Masefield
I. I LEAVE HOME
II. I LEAVE HOME AGAIN
III. I LEAVE HOME A THIRD TIME
IV. I LEAVE HOME FOR THE LAST TIME
V. I GO TO SEA
VI. THE SEA! THE SEA!
VII. LAND RATS AND WATER RATS
VIII. I MEET MY FRIEND
IX. I SEE MORE OF MY FRIEND
X. SOUNDS IN THE NIGHT
XII. BRAVE CAPTAIN BARLOW
XIII. IT BREEZES UP
XIV. A DRINK OF SHERBET
XV. THE ROAD TO LYME
XVI. THE LANDING
XVII. A VOICE AT DAWN
XVIII.I SPEAK WITH AURELIA
XIX. I MEET THE CLUB MEN
XX. THE SQUIRE'S HOUSE
XXI. MY FRIEND AURELIA AND HER UNCLE
XXII. THE PRIEST'S HOLE
XXIV THE END
THE DUKE'S MESSENGER
CHAPTER I. I LEAVE HOME
I was born at Oulton, in Suffolk, in the year 1672. I know not
the day of my birth, but it was in March, a day or two after the
Dutch war began. I know this, because my father, who was the
clergyman at Oulton, once told me that in the night of my birth a
horseman called upon him, at the rectory, to ask the way to
Lowestoft. He was riding from London with letters for the
Admiral, he said; but had missed his way somewhere beyond
Beccles. He was mud from head to foot (it had been a wet March)
but he would not stay to dry himself. He reined in at the door,
just as I was born, as though he were some ghost, bringing my
life in his saddle bags. Then he shook up his horse, through the
mud, towards Lowestoft, so that the splashing of the horse's
hoofs must have been the first sound heard by me. The Admiral was
gone when he reached Lowestoft, poor man, so all his trouble was
wasted. War wastes more energy, I suppose, than any other form of
folly. I know that on the East Coast, during all the years of my
childhood, this Dutch war wasted the energies of thousands. The
villages had to drill men, each village according to its size, to
make an army in case the Dutch should land. Long after the war
was over, they drilled thus. I remember them on the field outside
the church, drilling after Sunday service, firing at a stump of a
tree. Once some wag rang the alarm-bell at night, to fetch them
out of their beds. Then there were the smugglers; they, too, were
caused by the war. After the fighting there was a bitter feeling
against the Dutch. Dutch goods were taxed heavily (spice, I
remember, was made very dear thus) to pay for the war. The
smugglers began then to land their goods secretly, all along the
coast, so that they might avoid the payment of the duty. The
farmers were their friends; for they liked to have their gin
cheap. Indeed, they used to say that in an agueish place like the
fens, gin was a necessity, if one would avoid fever. Often, at
night, in the winter, when I was walking home from Lowestoft
school, I would see the farmers riding to the rendezvous in the
dark, with their horses' hoofs all wrapped up in sacks, to make
I lived for twelve years at Oulton. I learned how to handle a
boat there, how to swim, how to skate, how to find the eggs of
the many wild fowl in the reeds. In those days the Broad country
was a very wild land, half of it swamp. My father gave me a
coracle on my tenth birthday. In this little boat I used to
explore the country for many miles, pushing up creeks among the
reeds, then watching, in the pools (far out of the world it
seemed) for ruffs or wild duck. I was a hardy boy, much older
than my years, like so many only children. I used to go away,
sometimes, for two or three days together, with my friend John
Halmer, Captain Halmer's son, taking some bread, with a blanket
or two, as my ship's stores. We used to paddle far up the Waveney
to an island hidden in reeds. We were the only persons who knew
of that island. We were like little kings there. We built a rough
sort of tent-hut there every summer. Then we would pass the time
there deliciously, now bathing, now fishing, but always living on
what we caught. John, who was a wild lad, much older than I, used
to go among the gipsies in their great winter camp at Oulton. He
learned many strange tricks from them. He was a good
camp-companion. I think that the last two years of my life at
Oulton were the happiest years of my life. I have never cared for
dry or hilly countries since. Wherever I have been in the world,
I have always longed for the Broads, where the rivers wander
among reeds for miles, losing themselves in thickets of reeds. I
have always thought tenderly of the flat land, where windmills or
churches are the only landmarks, standing up above the mist, in
the loneliness of the fens. But when I was nearly thirteen years
old (just after the death of Charles the Second) my father died,
leaving me an orphan. My uncle, Gabriel Hyde, a man about town,
was my only relative. The vicar of Lowestoft wrote to him, on my
behalf. A fortnight later (the ways were always very foul in the
winter) my uncle's man came to fetch me to London. There was a
sale of my father's furniture. His books were sent off to his
college at Cambridge by the Lowestoft carrier. Then the valet
took me by wherry to Norwich, where we caught a weekly coach to
town. That was the last time I ever sailed on the Waveney as a
boy, that journey to Norwich. When I next saw the Broads, I was a
man of thirty-five. I remember how strangely small the country
seemed to me when I saw it after my wanderings. But this is away
from my tale. All that I remember of the coach-ride was my
arrival late at night at the London inn, a dark house full of
smells, from which the valet led me to my uncle's house.
I lay awake, that first night, much puzzled by the noise, fearing
that London would be all streets, a dismal place. When I fell
asleep, I was waked continually by chiming bells. In the morning,
early, I was roused by the musical calling made by milkmen on
their rounds, with that morning's milk for sale. At breakfast my
uncle told me not to go into the street without Ephraim, his man;
for without a guide, he said, I should get lost. He warned me
that there were people in London who made a living by seizing
children ("kidnapping" or "trepanning" them, as it was called) to
sell to merchant-captains bound for the plantations. "So be very
careful, Martin," he said. "Do not talk to strangers." He went
for his morning walk after this, telling me that I might run out
to play in the garden.
I went out of doors feeling that London must be a very terrible
place, if the folk there went about counting all who met them as
possible enemies. I was homesick for the Broads, where everybody,
even bad men, like the worst of the smugglers, was friendly to
me. I hated all this noisy city, so full of dirty jumbled houses.
I longed to be in my coracle on the Waveney, paddling along among
the reeds, chucking pebbles at the water-rats. But when I went
out into the garden I found that even London held something for
me, not so good as the Broads, perhaps, but pleasant in its way.
Now before I go further, I must tell you that my uncle's house
was one of the old houses in Billingsgate. It stood in a narrow,
crowded lane, at the western end of Thames Street, close to the
river. Few of the houses thereabouts were old; for the fire of
London had nearly destroyed that part of the city, but my uncle's
house, with a few more in the same lane, being built of brick,
had escaped. The bricks of some of the houses were scorched
black. I remember, also, at the corner house, three doors from my
uncle's house, the melted end of a water pipe, hanging from the
roof like a long leaden icicle, just as it had run from the heat
eighteen years before. I used to long for that icicle: it would
have made such fine bullets for my sling. I have said that Fish
Lane, where my uncle lived, was narrow. It was very narrow. The
upper stories of the houses opposite could be touched from my
bed-room window with an eight-foot fishing rod. If one leaned
well out, one could see right into their upper rooms. You could
even hear the people talking in them.
At the back of the house there was a garden of potherbs. It
sloped down to the river-bank, where there were stairs to the
water. The stairs were covered in, so as to form a boat-house, in
which (as I learned afterwards) my uncle's skiffs were kept. You
may be sure that I lost no time in getting down to the water,
after I had breakfasted with my uncle, on the morning after my
A low stone parapet, topped by iron rails, shut off the garden
from the beach. Just beyond the parapet, within slingshot, as I
soon proved, was the famous Pool of London, full of ships of all
sorts, some with flags flying. The mild spring sun (it was early
in April) made the sight glorious. There must have been a hundred
ships there, all marshalled in ranks, at double-moorings, head to
flood. Boats full of merchandise were pulling to the wharves by
the Custom House. Men were working aloft on the yards, bending or
unbending sails. In some ships the sails hung loose, drying in
the sun. In others, the men were singing out as they walked round
the capstan, hoisting goods from the hold. One of the ships close
to me was a beautiful little Spanish schooner, with her name La
Reina in big gold letters on her transom. She was evidently one
of those very fast fruit boats, from the Canary Islands, of which
I had heard the seamen at Oulton speak. She was discharging
oranges into a lighter, when I first saw her. The sweet, heavy
smell of the bruised peels scented the river for many yards.
I was looking at this schooner, wishing that I could pass an hour
in her hold, among those delicious boxes, when a bearded man came
on deck from her cabin. He looked at the shore, straight at
myself as I thought, raising his hand swiftly as though to beckon
me to him. A boat pushed out instantly, in answer to the hand,
from the garden next to the one in which I stood. The waterman,
pulling to the schooner, talked with the man for a moment,
evidently settling the amount of his fare. After the haggling, my
gentleman climbed into the boat by a little rope-ladder at the
stern. Then the boatman pulled away upstream, going on the last
of the flood, within twenty yards of where I stood.
I had watched them idly, attracted, in the beginning, by that
sudden raising of the hand. But as they passed me, there came a
sudden puff of wind, strong enough to flurry the water into
wrinkles. It lifted the gentleman's hat, so that he saved it only
by a violent snatch which made the boat rock. As he jammed the
hat down he broke or displaced some string or clip near his ears.
At any rate his beard came adrift on the side nearest to me. The
man was wearing a false beard. He remedied the matter at once,
very cleverly, so that I may have been the only witness; but I
saw that the boatman was in the man's secret, whatever it was. He
pulled hard on his starboard oar, bringing the boat partly across
the current, thus screening him from everybody except the workers
in the ships. It must have seemed to all who saw him that he was
merely pulling to another arch of London Bridge.
I was not sure of the man's face. It seemed handsome; that was
all that I could say of it. But I was fascinated by the mystery.
I wondered why he was wearing a false beard. I wondered what he
was doing in the schooner. I imagined all sorts of romantic plots
in which he was taking part. I watched his boat go through the
Bridge with the feeling that I was sharing in all sorts of
adventures already. There was a fall of water at the Bridge which
made the river dangerous there even on a flood tide. I could see
that the waves there would be quite enough for such a boat
without the most tender handling. I watched to see how they would
pass through. Both men stood up, facing forwards, each taking an
oar. They worked her through, out of sight, in a very clever
fashion; which set me wondering again what this handsome
gentleman might be, who worked a boat so well.
I hung about at the end of the garden until dinner time, hoping
that they would return. I watched every boat which came
downstream, finding a great pleasure in the watermen's skill, for
indeed the water at the Bridge was frightful; only a strong nerve
could venture on it. But the boat did not come back, though one
or two other boats brought people, or goods, to the stairs of the
garden beside me. I could not see into the garden; that party
wall was too high.
I did not go indoors again till Ephraim came to fetch me, saying
that it was time I washed my hands for dinner. I went to my room;
but instead of washing my hands, I leaned out of the window to
watch a dancing bear which was sidling about in the lane, just
below, while his keeper made a noise on the panpipes. A little
crowd of idlers was gathered round the bear. Some of them were
laughing at the bear, some at his keeper. I saw two boys sneaking
about among the company; they were evil-looking little ruffians,
with that hard look in the eyes which always marks the thoroughly
wicked. As I watched, one of them slipped his hand into a man's
pocket, then withdrew it, passing something swiftly to his
companion, who walked unconcernedly away. I ran out of doors at
once, to the man who had been robbed.
"Sir," I said, when he had drawn away from the little crowd.
"Have you not been robbed of something?"
He turned to look down on me, searching his pockets with both
hands. It gave me a start to see him, for he was the bearded man
who had passed me in the boat that morning. You may be sure that
I took a good note of him. He was a handsome, melancholy-looking
man, with a beard designed to make him look fairer than he really
"Robbed of something?" he repeated in a quiet voice. "Yes, I have
been robbed of something." It seemed to me that he turned pale,
when he found that he had been robbed. "Did you see it?" he
asked. "Don't point. Just describe him to me. No. Don't look
round, boy. Tell me without looking round."
"Sir," I said, "do you see two little boys moving about among the
"Yes," he said.
"It's the boy with the bit of broken pipe in his hat who has the,
whatever it was, sir, I'm sure. I saw it all."
"I see," he said. "That's the coveter. Let this be a warning to
you, boy, never to stop in a crowd to watch these
street-performers. Where were you, when you saw it?"
"Up above there, sir. In that house."
"In Mr.Hyde's house. Do you live there?"
"Since when? Not for long, surely?"
"No, sir. Only since yesterday. I'm Mr. Hyde's nephew."
"Ah! Indeed. And that is your room up there?"
"Where do you come from then? You've not been in town before.
What is your father?"
"My father's dead, sir. I come from Oulton. My father was rector
"Ah," he said quietly. "Now give this penny to the bear-ward."
While I was giving the penny to the keeper, the strange man edged
among the lookers-on, apparently watching the bear's antics, till
he was just behind the pickpocket's accomplice. Watching his
time, he seized the boy from behind by both wrists.
"This boy's a pickpocket," he cried aloud. "Stop that other boy.
He's an accomplice." The other boy, who had just taken a purse,
started to run, letting the booty drop. A boatman who was going
towards the river, tripped him up with an oar so that he fell
heavily. He lay still where he had fallen (all the wind was
knocked out of him) so that he was easily secured. The boy who
had been seized by the bearded man made no attempt to get away.
He was too firmly held. Both boys were then marched off to the
nearest constable where (after a strict search), they were locked
into a cellar till the morrow. The crowd deserted the bear-ward
when the cry of pickpockets was raised. They followed my
mysterious friend to the constable's house, hoping, no doubt,
that they would be able to crowd in to hear the constable bully
the boys as he searched them. One or two, who pretended to have
missed things, managed to get in. The bearded man told me to come
in, as he said that I should be needed as a witness. The others
were driven out into the street, where, I suppose, their
monkey-minds soon found other game, a horse fallen down, or a
drunken woman in the gutter, to divert their idleness. Such
sights seem to attract a London crowd at once.
The boys were strictly searched by the constable. The booty from
their pockets was turned out upon the table.
"Now, sir," said the constable to the bearded man, after he had
made a note of my story. "What is it they 'ad of you, sir?"
"A shagreen leather pocket-book," said the man. "There it is."
"This one?" said the constable.
"Oh," said the constable, opening the clasps, so that he could
examine the writing on the leaves. "What's inside?"
"A lot of figures," said the man. "Sums. Problems in arithmetic."
"Right," said the constable, handing over the book.
"Here you are, sir. What name, sir?"
"Edward German," the constable repeated.
"Where d' you live, sir?"
"At Mr. Scott's in Fish Lane."
"Right, sir," said the constable, writing down the address, "You
must appear tomorrow at ten before Mr. Garry, the magistrate.
You, too, young master, to give your evidence."
At this the boys burst out crying, begging us not to appear,
using all those deceptive arts which the London thieves practise
from childhood. I, who was new to the world's deceits, was
touched to the marrow by their seeming misery. The constable
roughly silenced them. "I know you, he said. "I had my eye on you
two ever since Christmas. Now you'll go abroad to do a bit of
honest work, instead of nickin' pockets. Stow your blubbering
now, or I'll give you Mogador Jack." He produced "Mogador Jack,"
a supple shark's backbone, from behind the door. The tears
stopped on the instant.
After this, the bearded man showed me the way back to Fish Lane,
where Ephraim, who was at the door, looking out for me) gave me a
shrewd scolding, for venturing out without a guide.
Mr. Jermyn silenced him by giving him a shilling. The next day,
Mr. Jermyn took me to the magistrate's house, where the two
thieves were formally committed for trial. Mr. Jermyn told me
that they would probably be transported for seven years, on
conviction at the Assizes; but that, as they were young, the
honest work abroad, in the plantations, might be the saving of
them. "So do not be so sad, Mr. Martin," he said. "You do not
know how good a thing you did when you looked out of the window
yesterday. Do you know, by the way, how much my book is worth?"
"No, sir," I said.
"Well. It's worth more than the King's crown," he said.
"But I thought it was only sums, sir."
"Yes," he said, with a strange smile. "But some sums have to do
with a great deal of money. Now I want you to think tonight of
something to the value of twenty pounds or so. I want to give you
something as a reward for your smartness. Don't decide at once.
Think it over. Here we are at our homes, you see. We live just
opposite to each other."
We were standing at this moment in the narrow lane at my uncle's
door. As he spoke, he raised his hand in a farewell salute with
that dignity of gesture which was in all his movements. On the
instant, to my surprise, the door of the house opposite opened
slowly, till it was about half open. No one opened it, as I could
see; it swung back of itself. After my friend had stepped across
the threshold it swung to with a click in the same mysterious
way. It was as though it had a knowledge of Mr. Jermyn's mind, as
though the raised hand had had a magical power over it. When I
went indoors to my uncle's house I was excited. I felt that I was
in the presence of something romantic, something mysterious. I
liked Mr. Jermyn. He had been very kind. But I kept wondering why
he wore a false beard, why his door opened so mysteriously, why
he valued a book of sums above the worth of a King's crown. As
for his offer of a present, I did not like it, though he had not
given me time to say as much. I remembered how indignant the
Oulton wherrymen had been when a gentleman offered them money for
saving his daughter's life. I had seen the man robbed, what else
could I have done? I could have done no less than tell him. I
resolved that I would refuse the gift when next I saw him.
At dinner that day, I was full of Mr. Jermyn, much to my uncle's
"Who is this Mr. Jermyn, Martin?" he asked. "I don't know him. Is
he a gentleman?"
"Do you know him, Ephraim?"
"No, sir. I know him by sight, sir. Gentleman who lives over the
way, Mr. Hyde."
"That's Mr. Scott's, though."
"No, sir. Mr. Jermyn's been there ever since February."
"But the house is empty."
"The lower floor is furnished, sir."
"Do you know anything of him? Do you know his man?"
"They say he's in the fruit way, sir. In the Spanish trade. His
men are Spaniards. They do say he's not quite to be trusted."
"Who says this?" my uncle asked.
"I don't like to mention names, sir," Ephraim said.
"Quite right. Quite right. But what do they say?"
"Very queer things goes on in that 'ouse," said Ephraim. "I don't
'ardly like to say. But they think 'e raises the devil, sir.
Awful noises goes on there. I seen some things myself there, as I
don't like to talk of. Well. I saw a black bird as big as a man
stand flapping in the window. Then I seen eyes glaring out at the
door. They give the 'ouse a bad name, sir; everyone."
"H'm," said my uncle. "What's he like, Martin, this Mr. Jermyn?"
"A tall man, with a beard," I answered. I thought it wrong to
mention that I knew the beard to be false. "He's always stroking
the bridge of his nose with his hand."
"Ha," my uncle said, as though recognizing the trait. "But with a
beard, you tell me?"
"Yes, sir. With a beard."
"H'm," he answered, musing, "I must have a look at this Mr.
Jermyn. Remember, Martin, you're to have nothing more to do with
him, till I know a little more of what he is. You understand?"
"One cannot be too careful in this town. I won't allow you in the
streets, Martin. No matter who has his pockets picked. I told you
"Please, uncle, may I go on the river, then, if I'm not to go
into the street? I'm used to boats."
"Yes. You may do that. But you're not to go on board the ships,
"Beg pardon, sir," Ephraim put in. "The fall at the Bridge is
very risky, sir."
"It is?" said my uncle, testily. "Then of course you can't go in
a boat, Martin. You must play in the garden, or read."
CHAPTER II. I LEAVE HOME AGAIN
I thought Ephraim a pig for putting in that word about the fall.
Though I had only known Ephraim for a few days I disliked him
perhaps as much as he disliked me. He was angry (I could feel it)
at having a boy in the house, after many years of quiet alone
with my uncle. I know that when he had occasion to speak to me,
he always went away muttering about my being a charity brat who
ought to be in the poor-house. Still, like most servants, he
vented most of his malice indirectly, as in this hint of his
about the river. I rose up from the dinner-table full of
rebellion. I would go on the river, I said to myself, fall or no
fall. I would see more of Mr. Jermyn, too. I would find out what
went on in that house. I would find out everything. In all this,
of course, I was very wrong, but having made sure that I was
being treated unjustly I felt that I was only doing right in
rebelling. So after waiting till Ephraim was in the pantry,
washing up the dinner-things with the housemaid, I slipped down
the garden to the boat-house. The door was padlocked, as I had
feared; but with an old hammer-head I managed to pry off the
staple. I felt like a burglar when the lock came off in my hand.
I felt that I was acting deceitfully. Then the thought of Ephraim
came over me, making me rebellious to my finger-tips. I would go
on the river, I said to myself, I would go aboard all the ships
in the Pool. I would show them all that I could handle a boat
anywhere. So in a moment my good angel was beaten. I was in the
boat-house, prying at the staple of the outer door, like the
young rogue that I was. Well, I paid a heavy price for that day
of disobedience. It was the most dearly bought day's row I ever
It took me a few moments to open the outer door. Then, with a
thrill of pleasure, such as only those who love the water can
fed, I thrust out into the river, on to the last of the ebb, then
fast ebbing. The fall under the bridge at that state of the tide
was truly terrifying. It roared so loudly that I could hear
nothing else. It boiled about the bridge piers so fiercely that I
was scared to see it. I had seen the sea in storm; but then one
does not put to sea in a storm. This waterfall tumbled daily,
even in a calm. I shuddered to think of small boats, caught in
the current above it, being drawn down, slowly at first, then
with a whirl, till all was whelmed in the tumble below the
arches. I saw how hatefully the back wash seemed to saunter back
to the fall along the banks. I thought that if I was not careful
I might be caught in the back wash, drawn slowly along it by the
undertow, till the cataract sank me. As I watched the fall,
fascinated, yet scared by it, there came a shooting rush, with
shouts of triumph. A four-oared wherry with two passengers shot
through the arch over the worst of the water into the quiet of
the midstream. They waved to me, evidently very pleased with
their exploit. That set me wondering whether the water were
really as bad as it looked. My first feat was to back up
cautiously almost to the fall, till my boat was dancing so
vigorously that I was spattered all over. Standing up in the boat
there, I could see the oily water, like a great arched snake's
back, swirl past the arch towards me, bubbleless, almost without
a ripple, till it showed all its teeth at once in breaking down.
The piers of the arches jutted far out below the fall, like
pointed islands. I was about to try to climb on the top of one
from the boat, a piece of madness which would probably have ended
in my death, but some boys in one of the houses on the bridge
began to pelt me with pebbles, so that I had to sheer off. I
pulled down among the shipping, examining every vessel in the
Pool. Then I pulled down the stream, with the ebb, as far as
Wapping, where I was much shocked by the sight of the pirates'
gallows, with seven dead men hung in chains together there, for
taking the ship Delight, so a waterman told me, on the Guinea
Coast, the year before. I left my boat at Wapping Stairs, while I
went into a pastry-cook's shop to buy cake; for I was now hungry.
The pastry-cook was also a vintner. His tables were pretty well
crowded with men, mostly seafaring men, who were drinking wine
together, talking of politics. I knew nothing whatever about
politics, but hearing the Duke of Monmouth named I pricked up my
ears to listen. My father had told me, in his last illness, when
the news of the death of Charles the Second reached us, that
trouble would come to England through this Duke, because, he
said, "he will never agree with King James." Many people (the
Duke himself being one of them) believed that this James Scott,
Duke of Monmouth, was the son of a very beautiful woman by
Charles the Second, who (so the tale went) had married her in his
wanderings abroad, while Cromwell ruled in England here. I myself
shall ever believe this story. I am quite sure, now, in my own
mind, that Monmouth was our rightful King. I have heard accounts
of this marriage of Charles the Second from people who were with
him in his wanderings. When Charles the Second died (being
poisoned, some said, by his brother James, who wished to seize
the throne while Monmouth was abroad, unable to claim his rights)
James succeeded to the crown. At the time of which I write he had
been King for about two months. I did not know anything about his
merits as a King; but hearing the name of Monmouth I felt sure,
from the first, that I should hear more of what my father had
One of the seamen, a sour-looking, pale-faced man, was saying
that Holland was full of talk that the Duke was coming over, to
try for the Kingdom. Another said that it wasn't the Duke of
Monmouth but the Duke of Argyle that was coming, to try, not for
England, but for Scotland. A third said that all this was talk,
for how could a single man, without twenty friends in the world,
get through a cruising fleet? "How could he do anything, even if
he did land?"
"Ah," said another man. "They say that the West is ready to rally
around him. That's what they say."
"Well," said the first, raising his cup. "Here's to King James, I
say. England's had enough of civil troubles." The other men drank
the toast with applause. It is curious to remember how cautious
people were in those troublous days. One could never be sure of
your friend's true opinion. It was a time when there were so many
spies abroad that everybody was suspicious of his neighbour. I am
sure that a good half of that company was disloyal; yet they
drank that toast, stamping their feet, as though they would have
shed their blood for King James with all the pleasure in life.
"Are you for King James, young waterman?" said one of the men to
me. "Yes," I said, "I am for the rightful King." At this they all
laughed. One of the men said that if there were many like me the
Duke of Monmouth might spare himself the trouble of coming over.
I finished my cake quietly, after that. Then, as the tide was not
yet making, to help me back up the river, I wandered into Wapping
fields, where a gang of beggars camped. They were a dirtier, more
troublesome company than the worst of the Oulton gipsies. They
crowded round me, whining about their miseries, with the fawning
smiles of professional beggars. There were children among them
who lied about their wants as glibly as their parents lied. The
Oulton beggars had taught me to refuse such people, as being,
nearly always, knaves; so I said that I had nothing for them. I
felt the hands of these thieves lightly feeling the outsides of
my pockets for something worth taking. One of them with a sudden
thrust upon me snatched my handkerchief. He tossed it to a
friend. As he started to run from me, a young man with an evil,
weak face pushed me backwards with a violent shove. I staggered
back, from the push, to fall over a boy who had crouched behind
me there, ready to upset me. When I got up, rather shaken from my
fall, the dirty gang was scattering to its burrow; for they
lived, like beasts, in holes scratched in the ground, thatched
over with sacks or old clothes. I hurried back toward Wapping in
the hope of finding a constable to recover my handkerchief for
me. The constable (when I found him) refused to stir until I made
it worth his while. Sixpence was his fee, he said, but he was
sure that a handsome young gentleman like myself would not grudge
a sixpence to recover a handkerchief. On searching for my purse
(in which I had about two shillings) I found that that had gone,
too, "nicked" by these thieves. I told the Constable that my
purse had been stolen.
"Oh," he said. "How much was in it?" I told him.
"Could you describe the man who took it?"
"No." I said. "I did not see the man take it."
"Then how do you know that anybody took it?"
Of course I did not know that anybody had taken it but thought it
highly probable. "That won't do here," he said, settling down in
his chair to his tobacco. "I'll look into it. If I hear of it,
why, next time you come here, you shall have it."
"But my handkerchief," I said.
"Sixpence is my fee," the brute answered. "Do you want to rob a
poor man of his earnings? Why, what a rogue you must be, young
master." I tried to move him to recover my handkerchief, but
without success. At last, growing weary of the sound of my pipe,
as he said, he rounded on me.
"If you don't run away 'ome," he said, "I'll commit you for a
nuisance. Think I'm goin' to be bothered by yer. Be off, now."
At that, I set off down to the river. There I found two dirty
little boys in my uncle's boat, busy with the dipper, trying to
fill her with water. I boxed the ears of one of them, when the
other, coming behind me, hit me over the head with the stretcher.
I turned sharply, giving him a punch which made his nose bleed.
The other, seeing his chance (my back being turned) promptly
soused me with the dipper. I saw that I would have to settle one
of them at a time, so, paying no attention to the dipper, I
followed up my blow on the nose with one or two more, which drove
the stretcher-boy out of the boat. The other was a harder lad;
who would, perhaps, have beaten me, had not a waterman on the
stairs taken my part. He took my enemy by the ear. "Get out of
that," he said, giving him a kick. "If I catch you messing boats
again, I'll give you Mogador Jack." I pushed off from the stairs
then, glad to get away with both oars. My enemies, running along
the banks, flung stones at me as long as I was in range. If I had
had my sling with me, would have warmed their legs for them. When
was out of range of their shot, I laid in my oars, so that I
could bail. The boys had poured about six inches of water into
the boat. If the plug had been less tightly hammered in, they
would no doubt have sunk her at her painter by pulling it out.
Then should have been indeed in difficulty. It took me about
twenty minutes to bail the boat clear. As I bailed her, I thought
that Londoners must be the most unpleasant people in the world,
since, already, in two days, I had met so many knaves. It did not
occur to me at the time that I was a young knave, too, to be out
in a stolen boat, against orders. I never once thought how well I
had been served for my disobedience.
I had an uncomfortable journey upstream, for I was very wet from
my sousing. I loitered at the Tower to watch the garrison
drilling with the big guns. Then I loitered about among the
ships, reading their names, or even climbing their gangways to
look at their decks. I lingered a long time at the schooner La
Reina, partly because she was much the prettiest ship in the
Pool, but partly because I was beginning to dread Ephraim. I
wondered whether Mr. Jermyn was on board of her. I was half
tempted to climb aboard to find out. I clambered partly up her
gangway, so that I could peer over the rail. To my surprise, I
found that her hatches were battened down as in ships ready for
the sea. Her cargo of oranges, that had smelt so sweetly, must
have been a blind, for no ship, discharging cargo the day before,
could be loaded, ready for sea, within twenty-four hours. Indeed,
she was in excellent trim. She was not too light to put to sea.
No doubt, I said to myself, she has taken in ballast to equal the
weight of oranges sent ashore. But I knew just enough of ships to
know that there was some mystery in the business. The schooner
could not be the plain fruit-trader for which men took her. As I
looked over her rail, noting this, I said to myself that "here is
another mystery with which Mr. Jermyn has to do." I felt a thrill
of excitement go through me. I was touching mysterious adventure
at half a dozen different points. I felt inclined to creep to the
hatchway of the little cabin, to listen there if any plots were
being hatched. It was getting duskish by this time, it must have
been nearly seven o'clock. Two men came up the cabin hatch
together. One of them was Mr. Jermyn, the other a shorter fellow,
to whom Mr. Jermyn seemed extremely respectful. I wished not to
be seen, so I ducked down nimbly into my boat, drawing her
forward by a guess-warp, till I could row without being heard by
them. I heard Mr. Jermyn calling to a waterman; so very swiftly I
paddled behind other ships in the tier, without being observed.
Then I paddled back to my uncle's boat-house, the door of which,
to my horror, was firmly fastened against me.
CHAPTER III. I LEAVE HOME A THIRD TIME
I must have made some little noise at the door, trying to get in.
At any rate, Ephraim, who was waiting for such a signal, came
forward with a churlish glee to rate me.
"So you're come back, Mr. Martin," he said. "These are nice
carryings-on for a young gentleman." I thought that I might as
well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. Ephraim's tone jarred
me, so I told him to shut up, as I didn't want any of his jaw.
This rather staggered him, so I told him further to open the
boat-house, instead of standing like a stock, as ,I wanted to
moor the boat. He opened the door for me, glowering at me
moodily. "Mr. Hyde shall know of this," he said when all was
secured. He caught me by the arm to drag me out of the
boat-house; so I, expecting this, rapped him shrewdly with the
stretcher on the elbow. I thought for a moment that he would beat
me. I could see his face very fierce in the dusk. I heard his
teeth gritting. Then fear of my uncle restrained him. All that he
said was, "If I 'ad my way I'd 'ave it out of you for this. A
good sound whippin's what you want."
"Is it?" I asked contemptuously. "Lock the door."
Ephraim left me in the sitting-room while he made his report to
my uncle. It was not a long report. He returned in a few minutes
to say that I was to be locked into my room without supper. "Mr.
'Ide is in a fine taking," he said. "Per'aps 'e'll knock some of
your pride out of you." I made no answer, but let him march me to
my room, to the execution of the sentence. "There," he said,
through the door, as he turned the key on me. "Per'aps that'll
bring you to your senses."
"Ephraim the stiff-neck!" I answered loudly.; "Old Ephraim
"Ah," he answered, clumping down the corridor. He was thinking
how small I should sing when, in the morning, he gave me the
option of apologizing to him, or going without breakfast.
It was pretty dark by this time. Fish Lane was as quiet as a
country road. No one was stirring there. I thought that, as my
uncle would shortly go to supper, I might soon venture out by the
window, high up as it was, to buy myself some food in the town. I
liked the notion; but when I came to look down from the window it
seemed a giddy height from the pavement. Going down would be
easy; but getting back would be quite another matter. Thinking it
over, I remembered that I had seen a short gardener's ladder
hooked to the garden wall. If I could make a rope, by which to
let myself down, I could, I thought, make use of this ladder to
get back by, for it would cover nearly half the height to my
window sill, a full thirty feet from the ground. If, by standing
on the upper rungs, could reach within five yards of the window,
I knew that I should be able to scramble up so far by a rope.
There was no difficulty about a rope. I had a good eighteen yards
of choice stout rope there in the room with me, the lashings of
my two trunks. I was about to pay this out into the lane, when I
thought that would be far more effective if I fashioned a ladder
for myself, using the two trunk lashings as the uprights. This
was a glorious thought. I tied the lashings together behind the
wooden bed-post which was to be my support in midair. Then I
rummaged out a hank of sailor's spunyarn, a kind of very strong
tarred string, with which to make my steps, or rungs. did not do
this very well, for I was working in the dark, but you may be
sure that I made those steps with all my strength, since my bones
were to depend upon them. I ran short of spunyarn before I had
finished, so my last three steps were made of the fire-irons.
They made a good finish to the whole; for, being heavy, they kept
the ladder steady. At least thought that they would keep the
ladder steady, in the innocence of my heart.
I was so excited, when I finished the tying of the tongs, that I
almost forgot to take some money from the little store which I
kept locked up in my trunk. A shilling would be ample, I thought;
but I took rather more than that, so as to he on the safe side. I
took the precaution, before leaving, of bolting my door from the
inside, lest Ephraim should visit me in my absence.
Then, having tested all my knots, I paid out my ladder from the
window. No one was within sight along the lane. Downstairs they
were at supper, for I heard the dining-room bell ring. Very
cautiously I swung myself over the window ledge on my adventure.
Now a rope ladder is an unsteady thing at the best of times; but
when I swung myself on to this one it jumped about like a wild
colt, banging the fire-irons against the wall, making noise
enough to raise the town. I had to climb down it on the inner
side, or I should have had Ephraim out to see what the matter
was. Even so, my heart was in my mouth, with fright, as I stepped
on to the pavement. After making sure that no one saw, I hooked
up the lower ends of my ladder as far as I could reach, so that a
passer-by might run less chance of seeing them. Then I scuttled
off to the delights of Eastcheap, thinking what glorious sport I
could have with this ladder in time to come. I thought of the
moonlight adventures on the river, skulking along in my boat,
like a pirate on a night attack. I thought how, perhaps, I should
overhear gangs of highwaymen making their plans, or robbers in
their dens, carousing after a victory. It seemed to me that
London might be a wonderful place, to one with such a means of
getting out at night.
I ate a good supper at a cook-shop, sauntered about the streets
for awhile, then sauntered slowly home, after buying a tinder
box, with which to light my candies. I found my ladder dangling
unnoticed, so I nimbly climbed to my room, pulling it up after
me, like the savages in Polynesia. I lit my candles, intending to
read; but I found that I was far too well inclined to mischief to
pay much heed to my book. Casting about for something to do, I
thought that I would open a little locked door which led to some
(apparently disused) room beyond my own. I had some difficulty in
breaking the lock of this door; but a naughty boy is generally
very patient. I opened it at last, with some misgivings as to
what my uncle might say on the morrow, though with the feeling
that I was a sort of conspirator, or, shall we say, a man
haunting a house, playing ghost, coming at night to his secret
chamber. I was disappointed with the room. Like my own room, it
was nothing more than a long, bare attic. It had a false floor,
like many houses of the time, but there was no thought of
concealment here. Half a dozen of the long flooring planks were
stored in a stack against the wall, so that anyone could see what
lay in the hollow below. There was nothing romantic there. A long
array of docketed, ticketed bundles of receipts filled more than
half the space. I suppose that nearly every bill which my uncle
had ever paid lay there, gathering dust. The rest of the space
was filled with Ephraim's dirty old account books, jumbled
higgledy-piggledy with collections of printed, unbound sermons,
such as used to be sold forty years before, in the great Puritan
time. I examined a few of the sermons, hoping to find some
lighter fare among them. I examined also a few of the old account
books, in the same hope. Other rubbish lay scattered in the
corners of the room; old mouse-eaten saddle-bags mostly. There
were one or two empty baskets, which had once been lined with
silk. In one of them, I can't think why, there was an old empty,
dusty powder-horn, the only thing in that room at all to my
taste. I stuck it into my belt with a scrap of spunyarn, feeling
that it made me a wonderful piratical figure. If I had had a
lantern I should have been a very king there.
As I sat among the rubbish there, with my pistol (a sailmaker's
fid) in my belt, it occurred to me that I would sit up till
everyone had gone to bed. Then, at eleven or twelve o'clock, I
would, I thought, creep downstairs, to explore all over the
house, down even to the cellars. It shocked me when I remembered
that I was locked in. I dared not pick the lock of that door. My
scheme (after all) would have to wait for another night, when the
difficulties would be less. That scheme of mine has waited until
the present time. Though I never thought it, that was the last
hour I was to spend in my uncle's house. I walked past it, only
the other day, thinking how strange my life has been, feeling
sad, too, that I should never know to what room a door at the end
of the upper passage led. Well, I never shall know, now. I was a
wild, disobedient young rogue. Read on.
When I decided not to pick the lock of my door I thought of the
mysterious Mr. Jermyn as an alternative excitement. I crept to my
window to look out at the house, watching it with a sort of
terrified pleasure, half expecting to see a ghost flapping his
wings, outside the window.
I was surprised to see that the window of the upper floor (which
I knew to be uninhabited) was open. I watched it, (it was just
opposite) hoping that something would happen. Presently two men
came quickly up the lane from the river. As they neared the house
they seemed to me to shuffle in their walk rather more than vas
necessary. It must have been a signal, for, as they came opposite
the door, I saw it swing back upon its hinges, as it had swung
that morning, with Mr. Jermyn. Both men entered the house
swiftly, just as the city churches, one after the other, chimed
half-past nine o'clock. Almost directly afterwards I got the
start of my life. I was looking into the dark upper room across
the lane, expecting nothing, when suddenly, out of the darkness,
so terribly that I was scared beyond screaming, two large red
eyes glowed, over a mouth that trembled in fire. I started back
in my seat, sick with fright, but I could not take my eyes away.
I watched that horrid thing, with my hair stiffening on my head.
Then in the room below it, the luminous figure of an owl gleamed
out. That was not the worst, either. I heard that savage,
"chacking" noise which brown owls make when they are perched.
This great gleaming owl, five times greater than any earthly owl,
was making that chacking noise, as though it would soon spread
its wings, to swoop on some such wretched mouse as myself. I
could see its eyes roll. I thought I saw the feathers stiffen on
its breast. Then, as the sweat rolled down my face, both the
horrible things vanished as suddenly as they had appeared. They
were gone for more than a minute, then they appeared again, only
to disappear a second time. They were exactly alike at each
appearance. Soon my horror left me, for I saw that the things
disappeared at regular intervals. I found that I could time each
reappearance by counting ninety slowly from the instant the
things vanished. That calmed me. "I believe they're only
clock-work," I said to myself. A moment later I saw Mr. Jermyn's
head in sharp outline against the brightness of the owl. He
seemed to be fixing something with his hand. It made me burst
into a cackle of laughter, to find how easily I had been scared.
"Why, it's only clock-work," I said aloud. "They're carved
turnips with candles inside them, fixed to a revolving pole, like
those we used to play with at Oulton, on the 5th of November." My
fear was gone in an instant. I thought to myself how fine it
would be if I could get into that house, to stop the works, in
revenge for the scare they had given me. I wondered how I could
CHAPTER IV. I LEAVE HOME FOR THE LAST TIME
I was thoroughly ripe for mischief of any kind; my scare had
driven away all desire for sleep. I looked at the window,
wondering if it would be best to go down my ladder again, to get
the ladder in the garden. I was about to do thus, when I
remembered the planks in the box-room. How splendid it would be,
I thought, if I could get a couple of those long planks across
the lane as a sort of bridge. They were strong, thick planks not
likely to sag in the middle if I could only get them across.
Getting them across was the difficulty; for though I was strong
for my age, I found the first plank very contrary. After blowing
out my candles I fixed one end of the board under my heavy
four-post bed, pointing the other end out through the window,
slanting upwards. Straddling across it, I very gingerly edged it
out, a hand's breadth at a time, till I had some ten feet wagging
about in the air over the lane. It was as much as I could do
unaided, to aim the thing. It seemed to have a wild, contrary
kind of life in it. Once or twice I came near to dropping it into
the lane, which would have been the end of everything. When I got
it across, the end caught on the window ledge for about ten
I was quite tired out before I got it properly across with two
feet of the end in the other house. I did not at all look forward
to the job of getting it back again after my trip. One plank was
hardly safe, I thought; so I slid a second over it, without much
trouble. It seemed firm enough then for anybody, no matter how
heavy. So carefully I straddled across it, hopping forward a
little at a time, as though I were playing leap-frog. When once I
had started, I was much too nervous to go back. My head was
strong enough. I was well used to being high up in trees. But the
danger of this adventure made me dizzy. At every hop the two
planks clacked together. I could feel the upper plank shaking out
behind me a little to one side of the other. Then a tired
waterman shambled slowly up from the river, carrying his oars. He
passed underneath me, while I was in mid-air. It was lucky for
me, I thought, that few people when walking look above their own
heads. He passed on without seeing me. I waited up aloft till he
had gone, feeling my head grow dizzier at each second. I was, I
trust, truly thankful when I was able to dive down over the
window-sill into the strange house. When I had rested for a
moment, I felt that it was not so difficult after all. "Going
back," I said to myself, "will be much less ticklish." Turning my
head, I saw the eyes of the devil-face glaring at me. They smelt
very strongly of kitchen tallow.
I was not in the least frightened. I crept cautiously along the
floor, on tip-toe, to examine the contrivance. A hollow shaft of
light wood, a sort of big wooden pipe, led down through the
floor, probably to the ground-floor or basement, much as a mast
goes down through a ship's decks into the hold. It was slowly
revolving, being worked by some simple, not very strong
mill-contrivance downstairs. A shelf had been fixed up inside the
pipe. On the shelf (as I could see by looking in) was a tallow
candle in a sconce. Two oval bits of red glass, let into the
wood, made the eyes of this lantern-devil. The mouth was a smear
of some gleaming stuff, evidently some chemical. This was all the
monster which had frightened me. The clacking noise was made by
the machine which moved it round. As for the owl, that was
probably painted with the same chemical. People were more
superstitious then than now. I have no doubt that an ignorant
person like Ephraim, who had lived all his life in London, had
been scared out of his wits by this machine. Like most ignorant
people, he probably reckoned the thing as devilish, merely
because he did not understand it. One or two neighbours, a
housemaid or so, perhaps, had seen it, too. On the strength of
their reports the house had gotten a bad name. The two unoccupied
floors had failed to get tenants, while Mr. Jermyn, the contriver
of the whole, had been ]eft alone, as no doubt he had planned. I
thought that Londoners must be a very foolish people to be so
easily misled. Now that I am older, I see that Londoners often
live in very narrow grooves. They are apt to be frightened at
anything to which they have not been accustomed; unless, of
course, it is a war, when they can scream about themselves so
loudly that they forget that they are screaming.
I examined the machine critically, by its own candle, which I
removed for the purpose. I meant to fix up one very like it in
Ephraim's bed-room as soon as I found an opportunity. Then I
looked about the room for some other toy, feeling in a fine state
of excitement with the success of my adventure. The room was
quite bare. But for this ghost-machine, there was nothing which
could interest me, except a curious drawing, done with a burnt
stick on the plaster of the wall, of a man-of-war under sail.
After examining this drawing, I listened carefully at the door
lest my faint footsteps should have roused someone below. I could
hear no one stirring; the house was silent. "I must be careful,"
I said to myself. "They all may have gone to bed." Understand, I
did not know then what I was doing. I was merely a wrong-headed
boy, up to a prank, begun in a moment of rebellion. When I paused
in the landing, outside the ghost-room, shading the candle with
my hand, I was not aware that I was doing wrong. I was only
thinking how fine it would be to find out about Mr. Jermyn,
before crawling back, over the plank, to my bed. I wanted to
steal about these deserted floors, like a conspirator; then,
having, perhaps, found out about the mystery, to go back home. It
did not enter my head that I might be shot as a burglar. My
original intention, you must remember, had only been to stop the
works of the ghost. It was later on that my intention became
criminal, instead of merely boyish, or, in other words,
crack-brained. As to stopping the ghost, I could not stop the
revolving pipe. I could do no more than take away the light from
the ghost-face. As for the owl on the lower floor, when I came to
it, could not do so much, for it was a great big picture on
board, done in some shining paint. I had nothing with which I
could smear it over, nor could I reach the head. As for stopping
the machine, that I dared not attempt to do, lest I should bring
someone up to me, from the works, wherever they were. Standing by
the ghost of the owl, hearing the chack-chack of the machine at
intervals below me, I became aware of voices in the room
downstairs. When the chack-chack stopped, I could hear men
talking. I could hear what they said, for they were talking in
the ordinary tone of conversation. There was an open space as it
happened, all around the great pipe, where it passed through the
floor. I could peep through this into the room below, getting a
good sight of what was going on. It was very wicked of me, for
there is nothing quite so contemptible as an eavesdropper, but I
could not resist the temptation to look down. When once I had
looked down I am ashamed to say that I listened to what the men
were saying. But first of all, I put out my candle, lest anyone
looking up should se the light through the open space.
At the head of the table, there was a very handsome man, dressed
all in black, as though in mourning. His beauty was so great that
afterwards it passed into a proverb. Later in the year, when I
saw this gentleman nearly every day, I noticed that people (even
those who did not know who he was) would look after him when he
passed them. I will say only this about his handsomeness. It was
a bodily kind of beauty, of colour rather than of form; there was
not much character in it. Had he lived, I daresay he would have
become ugly like the rest of his family, none of whom, except his
great-great-grandmother, was accounted much for looks.
Next to this handsome man, on the right, sat Mr. Jermyn, looking
fifteen years younger without his false beard. Then came a very
black-looking man, with a face all eyebrows. Then a soldier in
uniform. Then a little, wiry man, who jumped about as though
excited--I could only see him when he jumped: he had an
unpleasant, saturnine face, which frightened me. That, as far as
I could see, was the whole company. When I first began to listen,
the man in uniform was speaking to the handsome man at the head
of the table. I knew at once, when he said Your Majesty, that he
was talking to James, the Duke of Monmouth, of whom I had heard
"No, your Majesty," he said. "No, your Majesty," he repeated, "I
can't answer for the army. If things had been different in
February" (he meant, "if you had been in England when Charles II
died") "there would have been another King in England. As it is,
I'm against a rising."
"Don't you think his Majesty could succeed by raising an army in
the West?" said Mr. Jermyn. "The present usurper (he meant James
II) is a great coward. The West is ripe to rebel. Any strong
demonstration there would paralyse him. Besides, the army
wouldn't fire on their own countrymen. We'd enough of that in the
Civil War. What do you think of a Western rising?"
The soldier smiled. "Ah no," he said. "No, your Majesty. Whatever
you do, Sire, don't do it with untrained men. A rising in the
West would only put you at the head of a mob. A regiment of
steady trained men in good discipline can destroy any mob in
twenty minutes. No, your Majesty. No. Don't try. it, Sire."
"Then what do you advise, Lane?" said the Duke.
"I would say wait, your Majesty. Wait till the usurper, the
poisoner, commits himself with the Papists. When he's made
himself thoroughly unpopular throughout the country, then sound a
few regiments. It's only a matter of a year or two. If you'll
wait for a year or two you'll see yourself invited over. Besides,
a sudden rising in the West must fail, sir. Your Majesty would be
in between two great garrisons, Bristol and Portsmouth. We can't
be sure that either would be true to us."
"Yes," the Duke answered. "Yes, Lane. But as I plan it, the army
will be tempted north. Argyle will make a strong feint in
Scotland, with the great clans, just when the Western gentry
declare for us."
"I take it," Lane answered, "that Argyle has sounded the clans.
He knows, I suppose, what force of drilled men will rally to him.
You know nothing, sir, about the West. You know that many men are
for you; but you know not how many nor how good. You will need
mounted men, sir, if you are to dash down upon London with any
speed. You cannot raise cavalry in a week. All that you will get
in the West will be squireens, or dashing young farmers, both
kinds unaccustomed to being ordered; both kinds totally unfitted
"Yes," said the saturnine little man. "But a rising in the West
would have this natural effect. Argyle will draw troops to the
north, as his Majesty has explained. Very well, then. Let Devon
declare for the King, the business will be done. The usurper will
not dare to send the few troops left to him out of the capital,
lest the town should rise on him."
"Very true. True. A good point," said the man with the eyebrows.
"I think that disposes of your argument, Lane," said the Duke,
with a smile.
"It's a supposition, sir, against a certainty. I've told you of a
military danger. Falk, there, only tells you of a bare, military
"But it's as certain as anything can be," said the man with the
eyebrows. "You can see. That's just what must happen."
"It is what may happen if you wait for a year or two, your
Majesty," Lane replied. "But a newly crowned King is always
popular. I doubt if you will find public opinion so much on your
side, your Majesty. No for a year or two, till he's made himself
disliked. They've settled down now to this usurper. They'll
resent an interruption. The trades-men will resent an
"I think you over-rate the difficulties, Lane," said Mr. Jermyn.
"Yes," said the Duke, "I'm a great believer in putting a matter
to the test. Much must necessarily be left to chance. If we wait,
we may not find public opinion turning against our enemies. We
may even lose the good opinion of the West by waiting. Besides,
by waiting, Lane, we should lose the extraordinary: help of
Argyle's diversion in the north."
"Yes," the others said in chorus. "We mustn't lose that. A rising
this early summer, when the roads are good. A rising as soon as
Argyle is ready."
"Well, your Majesty," said Lane, shaking his head. "I see you're
resolved. You shall not find me backward when the time comes, for
all my doubts at this meeting. To your Majesty's happy success."
They all drank the toast; but I noticed that Mr. Lane looked
melancholy, as though he foresaw something of what actually
happened in that terrible June.
"Very good," said the Duke, "I thank you, gentlemen. Now, Jermyn.
We two shall have to be off to the Low Countries in another half
hour. How about messengers to the West? You, Lane, are tied here
to your regiment. Falk, how about you, Falk?"
"No, your Majesty," said Falk. "There's danger in sending me. I'm
suspected. I'm known to be in your interests."
"You, then, Candlish," said the Duke to the man with the
"Not me, Sire," said Candlish. "I can't disguise myself. I'm
stamped by nature for the paths of virtue."
"It would be a good thing," said Falk, "if we could get some
"The Western carriers are all watched," Lane replied. "They are
followed, wherever they go, as on as they arrive at their inns
"Haven't you found some more gipsies, Falk?" Candlish asked. "The
last gipsy we had was very good."
"He was caught by a press-gang," said Falk, "Gipsies aren't to be
trusted, though. They would sell us at once if they had the
chance. Ramon was an exception."
Mr. Jermyn had risen at the Duke's last speech as though to put
on his coat, ready to leave the house.. The Duke was listening to
the conversation, making 'idle sketches, as he listened, on the
paper before him, I think I hardly realised, as I craned over the
open space, that I had been listening to a conversation which
would have condemned all present to death for treason. I repeated
to myself, in a dazed sort of way, that the West was ready to
rise. "King James is an usurper," I said softly. "These men are
going to rebel against him. There's going to be a civil war in
England about it." I had hardly repeated this to myself, when it
came over me with a shock that I was in terrible personal danger.
The men were just leaving the house. They would probably look up,
on leaving, to see what sort of a night it was. They would see my
wonderful bridge. It would be all over with me then. I was so I
could hardly stand up. I took a few cautious steps towards the
door, saying to myself that I would never again be disobedient if
I might escape this once. I was at the door, just about to open
it, when I heard a step upon the landing just outside, coming
towards me. I gave up hope then; but I had just sense enough to
step to my left, so that, when the door should open (if the
stranger entered) it might, possibly, screen me from him. Then I
heard the Duke's voice from down below calling to Mr. Jermyn.
"Jermyn," he called. "Bring down my books, will you. They're on
my bed. What are you doing up there?"
"Just seeing to the ghosts, your Majesty. I won't keep you
"I'll come, too," he answered. "I'd like to see your ghosts
again." Then I heard Mr. Jermyn loitering at the stair-head while
the Duke left the council-room. My hair was rising on my scalp;
there was cold sweat on my forehead; it was as much as I could do
to keep my teeth from chattering. I heard the Duke's feet upon
the stairs; there were eleven stairs, I counted them. Presently I
heard him say, "Now, Jermyn." Then came Jermyn's answer of "This
way, your Majesty." He flung the door wide open, so that the Duke
might enter. The two men passed into the room to examine the
horrible owl. The Duke chuckled as the machine moved round to
him. "How bright he keeps," he said. "Yes," Jermyn answered. "He
won't need painting for a long while yet." "No," the Duke
answered, "I hear, Jermyn, he's given you a most uncanny
reputation." "Yes," said Jermyn, "the house has a bad name. What
in the world is this?" In walking round the owl his foot had
struck upon the unlucky tin candle-sconce which I had brought
from the room above. "Sounds like a tin candle-stick," said the
Duke. "Yes," said Mr. Jermyn, groping. "That's what it is. Now
how in the world did it get here? It's the candle-stick from the
dragon's head in the room above." "Are you sure, Jermyn?" the
Duke asked, in a voice which showed that he was agitated. "Yes,
sir. Quite sure. But no one's been up there." "There must be a
spy," said the Duke. The two voices spoke together for a moment
in whispers. I could not hear what they said; but a moment later
I heard the rasping, clinking noise of two swords being drawn.
"Come out of that," said Mr. Jermyn's voice. I felt that I was
discovered; but I dared not stir from my covert. I heard the two
men walking swiftly to the door. A hand plucked it from in front
of me. I shrank back into the wall, covering my eyes with my
hands, so that I should not see the two long sword-blades
pointing at my throat. "Make no sound. Make no sound, now," said
the Duke, pressing his sword-point on my chest, so that I could
feel it thrust hard upon me, as though it needed very little
force to send it through. I made no sound.
"Who are you?" said Mr. Jermyn, backing to the opening in the
floor. "Kill him if he moves, sir. Candlish, Candlish. Bring a
light. Bring a light. We've caught a moth."
I tried to swallow, but my throat seemed choked with dust. I
heard the people downstairs bustling out of the room with
candles. I tried to speak; but I could not. I was too much
scared. I stood pressed hard against the wall, with the Duke's
sword-point still in place.
"Bring it in here, Candlish," said Mr. Jermyn. There came a
clattering noise from the window. Mr. Jermyn had released some
heavy rolled up curtain-blinds, which covered the whole window.
There was no chance, now, of being seen from the street, or from
my uncle's house. Candlish entered carrying a candle.
The others followed at his heels.
"A boy. Eh?" he said.
"What do you do here?" the Duke asked, staring hard at me.
"He's frightened out of his wits, sir," said Lane. "We aren't
going to hurt you, boy, if you'll only tell the truth."
"Why," said Mr. Jermyn. "It's Martin Hyde, nephew to old Hyde
across the way."
"But he's overheard us," put in Falk. "He's overheard us."
"Come on downstairs. Bring him with you," said the Duke. Lane
took me by one arm. Mr. Jermyn took me by the other. They marched
me downstairs to the council-room.
"Here, boy," said Candlish, not unkindly. "Drink this wine." He
made me swallow a glass of Burgundy, which certainly did me a
great deal of good. I was able to speak after drinking it.
"Now, Mr. Hyde," said Mr. Jermyn. "How do you come to be in this
"Take your time, boy," said Lane.
"He's not a London boy?" said the Duke to Mr. Jermyn.
"No, sir," he answered in a whisper. "Just come here from the
"Please, your Majesty," I began.
"So you're a young rebel," said the Duke. "That shows he
overheard us," said Falk.
"Let him alone, Falk," the Duke said.
"He'll tell the truth. No use in frightening him."
"Please, your Majesty," I said again, "I was locked up in my room
for taking my uncle's boat this afternoon." One of two of them
smiled when I said this: it gave me confidence.
"But how did you get into this house?" Mr. Jermyn asked.
"Please, sir," I answered, "1 saw your upper window open. So I
laid a couple of planks across the lane from my window. Then I
just straddled across, sir."
"Are you used to burglary, may I ask?" said the Duke.
"No, your Majesty. But I saw the ghosts. I wanted to see how they
"Well. That's one for you, Jermyn," said Lane. "Your ghosts
haven't frightened this one."
"Sir," I answered. "They frightened me horribly. I wanted to be
revenged for that. But after a bit I was sure they were only
clockwork. I wanted to stop them. I did stop the devil upstairs,
"So you stopped the devil upstairs," the Duke said. "What did you
"I came down to this room, sir. I looked at the owl. But I
couldn't see how to stop the owl, sir. I saw you all sitting
round the room. I'm afraid I listened, sir."
"That was not a gentlemanly thing to do," said Lane. "Was it
"You understood all that was said. Eh, boy?" said Candlish.
"Yes, sir. I understood it all."
"Well, young man," said Falk. "You'll be sorry you did."
"Be quiet, Falk," said the Duke. "No one shall bully the boy.
What's your name, boy?"
"Martin Hyde, sir."
"A very smart lad too, sir," said Jermyn. "He saved my book of
cipher correspondence yesterday. We should have been in trouble
if that had got into the wrong hands."
"You understand," said the Duke, "that what you have heard might
get us all, perhaps many more besides ourselves, into very
terrible danger if repeated?"
"Yes, your Majesty, I understand," I answered. "Lock him into the
pantry, Jermyn," said the Duke, "while we decide what to do with
him. Go with Mr. Jermyn, boy. We sha'n't hurt you. Don't be
frightened. Give him some oranges, Jermyn."
CHAPTER V. I GO TO SEA
Mr. Jermyn led me to the pantry (a little room on the ground
floor), where he placed a plate of oranges before me.
"See how many you can eat," he said. "But don't try to burgle
yourself free. This is a strong room." He locked the heavy door,
leaving me alone with a well-filled pantry, which seemed to be
without a window. A little iron grating near the ceiling served
as a ventilator. There was no chance of getting out through that.
The door was plated with iron. The floor was of concrete. I was a
prisoner now in good earnest. I was no longer frightened; but I
had had such scares that night that I had little stomach for the
fruit. I was only anxious to be allowed to go back to my bed. I
heard a dull noise in the upper part of the house, followed by
the falling of a plank. "There goes my bridge," I thought. "Are
they going to be so mean as to call my uncle out of bed, to show
him what I've been doing?" I thought that perhaps they would do
this, as my uncle (for all that I knew) might be in their plot.
"Well," I said to myself, "I shall get a good thrashing. Perhaps
that brute Ephraim will be told to thrash me. But thrashing or
no, I've had enough of going out at night. I'll ask my uncle not
to thrash me, but to put me into the Navy. I should love that. I
know that I shall never get on in London." This sudden plan of
the Navy, about which I had never before thought, seemed to me to
be a good way of getting out of my deserts. I felt sure that my
uncle would be charmed to be rid of me; while I knew very well
that boys of that generation often entered the Navy, in the care
of the captains, as naval cadets (or, as they were then called,
"captain's servants") at the ages of eight or nine. I wondered
why the debate lasted so long. Naturally, in that gloomy little
prison, lit by a single tallow candle, with all my anxieties
heavy on my mind, the time passed slowly. But they were so long
in making up their minds that it seemed as though they had
forgotten me. I began to remember horrible tales of people shut
up in secret rooms until they starved to death, or till the rats
ate them. I remembered the tale of the nun being walled up in a
vault of her convent, brick by brick, till the last brick shut
off the last glimmer of the bricklayer's lantern, till the last
layer of mortar made for her the last sound she would hear, the
patting clink of the trowel on the brick, before it was all
horrible dark silence for ever. I wondered how many people had
been silenced in that way. I wondered how long I should live, if
that was what these men decided.
My fears were ended by the opening of the door. "Come on," said
Mr. Lane. "This way," He led me back to the council-room, where
all the conspirators sat at their places by the table. I noticed
that Mr. Jermyn (cloaked now, as for travel) was wearing his
false beard again.
"Mr. Hyde," the Duke said. "I understand that you are well
disposed to my cause."
"Yes, your Majesty," I answered; though indeed I only followed
what my father had told me. I had no real knowledge about it, one
way or the other. I knew only what others had told me. Still, in
this instance, as far as I have been able to judge by what I
learned long afterwards, I was right. The Duke had truly a claim
to the throne; he was also a better man than that disgraceful
king who took his place.
"Very well, Mr. Hyde," the Duke answered. "Have you any
objections to entering my service?"
I was not very sure of what he meant; it came rather suddenly
upon me, so I stammered, without replying.
"His Majesty means, would you like to join our party?" said Mr.
Lane. "To be one of us. To serve him abroad."
I was flushed with pleasure at the thought of going abroad, among
a company of conspirators. I had no knowledge of what the
consequences might be, except that I should escape a sound
whipping from my uncle or from Ephraim. I did not like the
thought of living on in London, with the prospect of entering a
merchant's office at the end of my boyhood. I thought that in the
Duke's service I should soon become a general, so that I might
return to my uncle, very splendidly dressed, to show him how well
I had managed my own life for myself. I thought that life was
always like that to the adventurous man. Besides I hoped that I
should escape school, the very thought of which I hated. Looking
at the matter in that secret council-room, it seemed so very
attractive. It seemed to give me a pathway of escape, whichever
way I looked at it, from all that I most disliked.
"Yes, your Majesty," I said, "I should very much like to enter
"You understand, Hyde," said Mr. Jermyn, "that we are engaged in
a very dangerous work. It is so dangerous that we should not be
justified in allowing you to go free after what you have heard
tonight. But its very danger makes it necessary that we should
tell you something of what your work under his Majesty will be,
before you decide finally to throw in your lot with us. It is one
thing to be a prisoner among us, Hyde; but quite another to be
what is called a rebel, engaged in treasonable practices against
a ruling King."
"Still," said Lane, "don't think that your imprisonment with us
would be unpleasant. If you would rather not join us, you have
only to say so. We shall then send you over to Holland, where you
will, no doubt, find plenty of boats with which to amuse
yourself. You will be kept in Holland till a certain much-wished
event takes place, about the middle of June. After that you will
be brought back here to your uncle who, by that time, will have
"That's a very pretty ladder you made," said the Duke. "You've
evidently lived among sailors."
"Among fishermen mostly, your Majesty," I said "My father was
rector in the Broads country." I knew from his remark that
someone had been across to my uncle's house to remove all traces
of my bridge. My ladder, I knew, would now be dangling from my
window, to show by which way I had escaped.
"We want you, Hyde," Mr. Jermyn said. "That is--we shall want you
in the event of your joining us, to be our messenger to the West.
You will travel continually from Holland to the West of England,
generally to the country near Taunton, but sometimes to Exeter,
sometimes still further to the West. You will carry letters sewn
into the flap of your leather travelling satchel. You will travel
alone by your own name, giving out, in case any one should ask
you, that you are going to one of certain people, whose names
will be given to you. There will be no danger to yourself; for
the persons to whom you will be sent are not suspected; indeed
one of them is a clergyman. We think that a boy will have less
difficulty in getting about the country in its present state than
any man, provided, of course, that you travel by different routes
on each journey. If, however, by some extraordinary .chance, you
should be caught with these letters in your wallet, we shall take
steps to bring you off; for we have a good deal of power, in one
way or another, by which we get things done. Still, it may well
fall out, Hyde, in spite of all our care, that you will come into
the hands of men with whom we have no influence. If you should,
(remember, it is quite possible) you will be transported to serve
in one of the Virginian or West Indian plantations. That will be
the end of you as far as we are concerned. We shan't be able to
help you then. If you think the cause is right, join us, provided
that you do not think the risks too great."
"If all goes well," said the Duke, "if the summer should prove
prosperous, I may be able to reward a faithful servant, even if
he is only a boy."
"I will serve your Majesty gladly," I answered. "I should like to
join your service."
"Very well then, Jermyn," he said, rising swiftly on his way to
the door; "bring him on board at once."
"We're off to Holland tonight, in the schooner there," said Mr.
Jermyn. "So put these biscuits in your pocket. Give him another
glass of wine, Falk. Now, then. Good-bye, Lane. Good-bye
"Good-bye," they said. "Good-bye, boy." In another minute we were
in the narrow road, within earshot of the tumbling water, going
down to the stairs at the lane end, to take boat. The last that I
saw of my uncle's house was the white of my ladder ropes,
swinging about against the darkness of the bricks.
"Remember, Hyde," said Mr. Jermyn in a low voice, "that his
Majesty is always plain Mr. Scott. Remember that. Remember, too,
that you are never to speak to him unless he speaks to you. But
you won't have much to do with him. Were you ever at sea,
"No, sir. Only about the Broads in a coracle."
"You'll find it very interesting, then. If you're not seasick.
Here we are at the boat. Now, jump in. Get into the bows."
"Mr. Scott" was already snug under a boat-cloak in the
sternsheets. As soon as we had stepped in, the boatman shoved
off. The boat rippled the water into a gleaming track as she
gathered way. We were off. I was on my way to Holland. I was a
conspirator, travelling with a King. There ahead of me was the
fine hull of the schooner La Reina, waiting to carry us to all
sorts of adventure, none of them (as I planned them then) so
strange, or so terrible, as those which happened to me. As we
drew up alongside her, I heard the clack-clack of the sailors
heaving at the windlass. They were getting up the anchor, so that
we might sail from this horrible city to all the wonderful
romance which awaited me, as I thought, beyond, in the great
world. Five minutes after I had stepped upon her deck we were
gliding down on the ebb, bound for Holland.
"Hyde," said Mr. Jermyn, as we drew past the battery on the Tower
platform, "do you see the high ground, beyond the towers there?"
"Yes, sir," I said.
"Do you know what that is?"
"That's Tower Hill," he answered, "where traitors, I mean
conspirators like you or me, are beheaded. Do you know what that
"Yes, sir," I replied. "To have your head cut off."
"Yes," he said. "With all that hill black with people. The
scaffold hung with black making a sort of platform in the middle.
Then soldiers, with drums, all round. You put your head over a
block, so that your neck rests on the wood. Then the executioner
comes at you with an axe. Then your head is shown to the people.
'This is the head of a traitor.' We may all end in that way, on
that little hill there. You must be very careful how you carry
the letters, Hyde."
After this hint, he showed me a hammock in the schooner's
'tweendecks, telling me that I should soon be accustomed to that
kind of bed. "It is a little awkward at first," he said,
"especially the getting in part; but, when once snugly in, it is
the most comfortable kind of bed in the world." After undressing
by the light of a huge ship's lantern, which Mr. Jermyn called a
battle-lantern, I turned into my hammock, rather glad to be
alone. Now that I was pledged to this conspiracy business, with
some knowledge of what it might lead to, I half wished myself
well out of it. The 'tweendecks was much less comfortable than
the bedroom which I had left so gaily such a very little time
before. I had exchanged a good prison for a bad one. The smell of
oranges, so near to the hold in which they were stored, was
overpowering, mixed, as it was, with the horrible ship-smell of
decaying water (known as bilge-water) which flopped about at each
roll a few feet below me. My hammock was slung in a draught from
the main hatchway. People came down the hatchway during the night
to fetch coils of rope or tackles. Tired as I was, I slept very
badly that first night on board ship. The schooner seemed to be
full of queer, unrelated movements. The noise (f the water
slipping past was like somebody talking. The striking of the
bells kept me from sleeping. I did not get to sleep till well
into the middle watch (about two in the morning) after which I
slept brokenly until a rough voice bawled in my ear to get up out
of that, as it was time to wash down.
I put my clothes on hurriedly, wondering where I should find a
basin in which to wash myself. I could see none in the
'tweendecks; but I supposed that there would be some in the
cabins, which opened off the 'tweendecks on each side. Now a
'tweendecks (I may as well tell you here) is nothing more than a
deck of a ship below the upper deck. If some of my readers have
never been in a ship, let them try to imagine themselves
descending from the upper deck--where all the masts stand--by a
ladder fixed in a square opening known as a hatchway. About six
feet down this ladder is the 'tweendecks, a long narrow room,
with a ceiling so low that unless you bend, you bump your head
against the beams.
If you will imagine a long narrow room, only six feet high, you
will know what a 'tweendecks is like. Only in a real 'tween-decks
it is always rather dark, for the windows (if you care to call
them so) are thick glass bull's-eyes which let in very little
light. A glare of light comes down the hatchways. Away from the
hatchways a few battle-lanterns are hung, to keep up some
pretence of light in the darkest corners. At one end of this long
narrow room in La Reina a wooden partition, running right across
from side to side, made a biggish chamber called "the cabin,"
where the officers took their meals. A little further along the
room, one on each side of it, were two tiny partitioned cabins,
about seven feet square, in which the officers slept, two in each
cabin one above the other, in shelf-beds, or bunks. My hammock
had been slung between these cabins, a little forward of them.
When I turned out, I saw that the rest of the 'tweendecks was
piled with stores of all kinds, lashed down firmly to ringbolts.
Right forward, in the darkness of the ship's bows, I saw other
hammocks where the sailors slept.
I was wondering what I was to do about washing, when the rough
man who had called me a few minutes before came down to ask me
why I was not up on deck. I said that I was wondering where I
could wash myself.
"Wash yourself," he said. "You haven't made yourself dirty yet.
You don't wash at sea till your work's done for the day. Why,
haven't you lashed your hammock yet?"
"Please, sir," I said, "I don't know how."
"Well, for once," he said, "I'll show you how. Tomorrow you'll do
it for yourself."
"There," he said, when he had lashed up the hammock, by what
seemed to me to be art-magic, "don't you say you don't know how
to lash a 'ammick. I've showed you once. Now shove it in the rack
there. Up on deck with you."
I ran up the ladder to the deck, thinking that this was not at
all the kind of service which I had expected. When I got to the
deck I felt happier; for it was a lovely bright morning. The
schooner was under all sail, tearing along at what seemed to me
to be great speed. We were out at sea now. England lay behind us,
some miles away. I could see the windows gleaming in a little
town on the shore. Ships were in sight, with rollers of foam
whitening under them. Gulls dipped after fish. The clouds drove
past. A fishing boat piled with fish was labouring up to London,
her sails dark with spray. On the deck of the schooner some
barefooted sailors were filling the wash-deck tubs at a
hand-pump. One man was at work high aloft on the topsail yard,
sitting across the yard with his legs dangling down, keeping his
seat (as I thought) by balance. I found the scene so delightful
that I gazed at it like a boy in a trance. was still staring,
when the surly boor who had called me (he was the schooner's mate
it seemed) came up behind me.
"Well," he said, in the rough, bullying speech of a sailor, "do
ye see it?"
"See what, sir?"
"What you're looking at."
"Yes, sir," I answered.
"Then you got no butter in your eyes, then. Why ain't you at
"What am I to do, sir?"
"Do," he said. "Ain't you Mr. Scott's servant?"
"Then get a bucket of fresh water out of the cask there. Take
this scrubber. You'll find some soap in the locker there. Now
scrub out the cabin as quick as you know how."
He showed me down to the cabin. It was a dingy, dirty little room
about twelve feet square over all, but made, in reality, much
smaller by the lockers which ran along each side.
It was lighted by two large wooden ports, known as "chase ports,"
through which the chase guns or "stern-chasers pointed. Only one
gun (a long three pounder on a swivel) was mounted; for guns take
up a lot of room. With two guns in that little cabin there would
not have been room enough to swing a cat. You need six feet for
the proper swinging of a cat, so a man-of-war boatswain told me.
The cat meant is the cat of nine tails with which they used to
flog seamen. To flog properly one needs a good swing, so my
"There you are," said the mate of the schooner. "Now down on your
knees. Scrub the floor here. See you get it mucho blanco."
He left me feeling much ashamed at having to work like a common
ship's boy, instead of like a prince's page, which is what I had
thought myself. Like many middle-class English boys I had been
brought up to look on manual work as degrading. I was filled with
shame at having to scrub this dirty deck. I, who, only yesterday,
had lorded it over Ephraim, as though I were a superior being.
You boys who go to good schools try to learn a little humbleness.
You may think your parents very fine gentlefolk; but in the
world, outside a narrow class, the having gentle parents will not
help one much. It may be that you, for all your birth, have
neither the instincts nor the intellect to preserve the gentility
your parents made for you. You are no gentleman till you have
proved it. Your right level may be the level of the betting
publican, or of the sneak-thief, or of things even lower than
these. It is nothing to be proud of that your parents are rich
enough to keep your hands clean of joyless, killing toil, at an
age when many better men are old in slavery. Try to be thankful
for it; not proud. Leisure is the most sacred thing life has. A
wise man would give his left hand for leisure. You that have it
given to you by the mercy of gentle birth, regard it as a trust;
make noble use of it. Many great men waste half their energies in
the struggle for that which you regard, poor fools, as your
right, as something to brag of.
I had never scrubbed a floor in my life; but I had seen it done,
without taking much account of the art in it. I set to work,
feeling more degraded each moment, as the hardness of the deck
began to make my knees sore. When I had done about half of the
cabin (in a lazy, neglectful way, leaving patches unscrubbed,
only just wetted over, so as to seem clean to a chance observer)
I thought that I would do no more; but wait till Mr. Jermyn came
to me. I would tell him that I wished to go home, that I was not
going to be a common sailor, but a trusted messenger, with a lot
more to the same tune, meaning, really, that I hated this job of
washing decks like poison. I dare say, if the truth were known,
the sudden change in my fortunes had made me a little homesick.
But even so, I was skulking work which had been given to me. What
was worse, I was being dishonest. For I was pretending to do the
work, even when I took least trouble with it. At last I took it
into my head to wet the whole floor with water, meaning to do no
more to it. While I was doing this the mate came into the cabin.
"Look here," he said. "I've been watching you. You ain't working.
You're skulking. You ain't trying to wash that deck. You're
making believe, thinking I won't know any different. Don't answer
me. I know what you're doing. Now then. You go over every bit of
that deck which you've just slopped at. Do it over. I'm going to
stand here till it's done."
It was in my mind to be rebellious; but this man did not look
like a good man to rebel from. He was a big grim sailor with a
length of rope in his hand. lie called it his "manrope." "You see
my manrope," he said. "His name's Mogador Jack. He likes little
skulks like you." Afterwards I learned that a manrope is the rope
rail at a ship's gangway, or (sometimes) a length of rope in the
gangway-side for boatmen to catch as they came alongside the
ship. I did not like the look of Mogador Jack, so I went at my
scrubbing with all my strength, keeping my thoughts to myself. My
knees felt very sore. My back ached with the continual bending
down. I had had no food that morning, either, that was another
thing. "Spell, oh," said the man at last. "Straighten your back a
bit. Empty your bucket over the side. No. Not through the
sternport. Carry in on deck. Empty it there. Then fill it again.
Lively, too. It'll be breakfast time before you've done. You've
got to have this cabin ready by eight bells."
I will not tell you how I finished the deck. I will say only
this, that at the end I began to take a sort of pride or pleasure
in making the planks white. Afterwards, I always found that there
is this pleasure in manual work. There is always pleasure of a
sort in doing anything that is not very easy. "There," the mate
said. "Now lay the table for breakfast. You'll find the things in
them lockers. Lay for three places. Don't break the ship's
crockery while you're doing it."
CHAPTER VI. THE SEA! THE SEA!
He left me, then, as he had to watch the men on deck. I felt,
when he went on deck, that the morning had been a nightmare; but
now I was to be flunkey well as slave, a new humiliation. I did
not think how many times I had humiliated others by letting them
do such things for me. I had done so all my life without a
thought. Now, forsooth, I was at the point of tears at having to
do it for others, even though one of the others was my rightful
King. Grubbing about among the lockers, I found a canvas
table-cloth, which had once been part of a sail. I spread this
cloth with the breakfast gear, imitating the arrangements made at
home at Oulton. The mate came down some minutes after I had
finished. He caught me sitting down on the top of the lockers,
looking out at the ships through the open port.
"Here," he said roughly. "You've got to learn manners, or I'll
have to teach you. Remember this once for all, my son. No one
sits in the cabin except a captain or a passenger. You'll take
your cap off to the cabin door before I've done with you. Nor you
don't sit down till your work's done. That's another thing. Why
ain't you at work?"
"Please, sir," I said, "I've laid the table. What else am I to
"Do," he said. "Give the windows a rub. Then clean your hands,
ready to wait at table. No. Hold on. Have you called Mr. Scott
"No, sir. I didn't know I had to."
"My," he answered. "Have you any sense at all? Go call them. No.
Get their hot water first at the galley."
I suppose I stared at him; for I did not know that this would be
a duty of mine. "Here. Don't look at me like that," he said. "You
make me forget myself." He went to the locker, in which he
rummaged till he produced a big copper kettle. "Here's the hot
water can," he said. "Nip with it to the galley, before the cook
puts his fire out. On deck, boy. Don't you know where the galley
I did not know where the galley was in this particular ship. I
thought that it would probably be below decks, round a space of
brick floor to prevent fire. But as the mate said "on deck" I ran
on deck at once. I ran on deck, up the hatch, so vigorously, that
I charged into a seaman who was carrying a can of slush, or
melted salt fat used in the greasing of ropes. I butted into him,
spattering the slush all over him, besides making a filthy mess
of grease on the deck, then newly cleansed. The seaman, who was
the boatswain or second mate, boxed my ears with a couple of
cuffs which made my head sing. "You young hound," he said,
"Cubbadar when your chief passes." I went forward to the galley,
crying as if my heart would break, not only at the pain of the
blows, which stung me horribly, but at the misery of my life in
this new service, that had seemed so grand only seven or eight
hours before. At the galley door was the cook, a morose little
Londoner with earrings in his ears. "Miaow, Miaow," he said,
pretending to mimic my sobs. "Why haven't you come for this 'ot
water before? 'Ere 'ave I been keepin' my fire lit while you been
enjoyin' a stuffin' loaf down in that there cabin." I was too
miserable to answer him. I just held out my kettle, thinking that
he would fill it for me. "Wot are you 'oldin' out the kettle
for?" he asked. "Think I'm goin' to do yer dirty work? Fill it at
the 'ob yourself." I filled it as he bade me, choking down my
tears. When I had filled it, I hurried back to the 'tweendecks,
hoping to hide my misery down in the semi-darkness there. I did
not pass the second mate on my way back; but I passed some of the
seamen, to whom a boy in tears was fair game. One asked me what I
meant by coming aft all salt, like a head sea, making the deck
wet after he'd squeegeed it down. Another told me to wait till
the second mate caught me. "I'd be sorry then," he said, "that
ever I spilt the slush;" with other sea-jests, all of them pretty
brutal. It is said that if a strange rook comes to a rookery the
other rooks peck it to death, or at any rate drive it away. I
know not if this be true of rooks (I know that sparrows will
attack owls or canaries, whenever they have a chance), but it is
true enough of human beings. We all hate the new-comer, we are
all suspicious of him, as of a possible enemy. The seamen did to
me what school-boys do to the new boy. I did not know then that
there is no mercy for one sensitive enough to take such "jests"
to heart. At sea, the rough, ready tom-fool boy is the boy to
thrive. Such an one might have spilt all the slush in the ship,
without getting so much as a cuff. I was a merry boy enough, but
I was sad when I made my first appearance. The sailors saw me
crying. If I had only had the wit to dodge the bosun's blows, the
matter of the slush would have been turned off with a laugh,
since he only struck me in the irritation of the moment. He would
have enjoyed chasing me round the deck. If I had only come up
merrily that is what would have happened. As it was I came up
sad, with the result that I got my ears boxed, which, of course,
made me too wretched to put the cook in a good temper; a cause of
much woe to me later. The seamen who saw me crying at once put me
down as a cry-baby, which I really was not; so that, for the rest
of my time in the ship I was cruelly misjudged. I hope that my
readers will remember how little a thing may make a great
difference in a person's life. I hope that they will also
remember how easy it is to misjudge a person. It will be well for
them if, as I trust, they may never experience how terrible it
feels to be misjudged.
After I had called the two gentlemen, I gave the glass
bull's-eyes in the swing ports a rub with a cloth. I was at work
in this way when the two gentlemen entered. Mr. Jermyn smiled to
see me with my coat off, rubbing at the glass. He also wished me
good morning, which Mr. Scott failed to do. Mr. Scott took no
notice of me one way or the other; but sat down at the locker,
asking when breakfast would be ready. "Get breakfast, boy," Mr.
Jermyn said. At that I put my glass-rag into the locker. I
hurried off to the galley to bring the breakfast, not knowing
rightly whether it would be there or in another place. The cook,
surly brute, made a lot of offensive remarks to me, to which I
made no answer. He was glad to have someone to bully, for he had
the common man's love of power, with all his hatred of anything
more polished than himself. I took the breakfast aft to the
cabin, where, by this time, the ship's captain was seated. I
placed the dish before Mr. Jermyn.
"Why haven't you washed your hands, boy?" he asked, looking at my
"Please, sir, I haven't had time."
"Wash them now, then. Don't come to wait at table with hands like
that again. I didn't think you were a dirty boy."
I was not a dirty boy; but, having been at work since before six
that morning, I had had no chance of washing myself. I could not
answer; but the injustice of Mr. Jermyn's words gave me some of
the most bitter misery which I have known. For brutal,
thoughtless injustice, it is difficult to beat the merchant ship.
I stole away to wash myself, very glad of the chance to get away
from the cabin. When I was ready, it was time to clear the
breakfast things to the galley, to wash them with the cook.
Luckily, I had overheard Mr. Jermyn say "how well this cook can
devil kidneys." I repeated this to the cook, who was pleased to
hear it. It made him rather more kind in his manner to me. He did
not know who Mr. Scott really was. He asked me a lot of questions
about what I knew of Mr. Scott. I replied that I'd heard that he
was a Spanish merchant, a friend of Mr. Jermyn's. As for Mr.
Jermyn, he knew' an uncle of mine. I had helped him to recover
his pocket-book; that was all that I knew of him; that was why he
had given me my present post as servant. More I dared not say;
for I remembered the Duke's sharp sword on my chest. We talked
thus, as we washed the dishes; the cook in a sweeter mood (having
had his morning dram of brandy); I, myself, trying hard to win
him to a good opinion of me. I asked him if I might clean his
copper for him; it was in a sad state of dirt. "You'll have work
enough 'ere, boy," he said, tartly, "without you running round
for more. You mind your own business." After this little snap at
my head (no thought of thanks occurred to him) he prepared
breakfast for us, out of the remains of the cabin breakfast. I
was much cheered by the prospect of food, for nearly three hours
of hard work had given me an appetite. At a word from the cook, I
brought out two little stools from under the bunk. Then I placed
the "bread-barge," or wooden bowl of ship's biscuits, ready for
our meal, beside our two plates.
Breakfast was just about to begin, when my enemy, the boatswain,
appeared at the galley door. "Here, cook," he said, "where's that
limb of a boy? Oh, you're there, are you? Feeding your face. Get
a three-cornered scraper right now. You'll scrape up that slush
you spilled, before you eat so much as a reefer's nut." I had to
go on deck again for another hour, while I scraped up the slush,
which was, surely, spilled as much by himself as by me, since he
was not looking where he was going any more than I was. I got no
breakfast. For after the grease was cleaned I was sent to black
the gentlemen's boots; then to make up their beds; then to scrub
their cabin clean. After all this, being faint with hunger, I
took a ship's biscuit from the locker in the cabin to eat as I
worked. I did not know it; but this biscuit was what is known as
"captain's bread," a whiter (but less pleasant) kind of ship's
biscuit, baked for officers. As I was eating it (I was polishing
the cabin door-knobs at the time) the captain came down for a
dram of brandy. He saw what I was eating. At once he read me a