Part 1 out of 6
E-text prepared by Lionel G. Sear--A Lifetime Enthusiast of the British
Inland Waterway System
Transcriber's note: This was one of the most enjoyable e-texts that I
have prepared but also one of the most difficult.
Many of the characters use the working class slang
and dialect of 100 years ago and the author sticks
to this consistently throughout the book. At times
there seems to be as many apostrophes as characters!
The printers have spaced these out and I hope that
I have joined them up acceptably for our purpose.
Chapter X of the original book contained a diagram
of a tattoo, and another diagram appeared in Chapter
XX. Text has been added to substitute for these
By "Q" (A.T. QUILLER-COUCH)
I AT THE SIGN OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN.
II HOW TRUE TILDA CAME TO DOLOROUS GARD
III A KIDNAPPING
IV IN WHICH CHILDE ARTHUR LOSES ONE MOTHER AND GAINS ANOTHER
V TEMPORARY EMBARRASSMENTS OF A THESPIAN
VI MR. MORTIMER'S ADVENTURE
VII IN WHICH MR. HUCKS TAKES A HAND
X THE FOUR DIAMONDS.
XI THE "STRATFORD-ON-AVON"
XIII ADVENTURE OF THE FURRED COLLAR
XIV ADVENTURE OF THE PRIMROSE FETE
XV ADVENTURE OF THE FAT LADY
XVI ADVENTURES OF THE "FOUR ALLS" AND OF THE CELESTIAL CHEMIST
XVII BY WESTON WEIR
XVIII DOWN AVON
XIX THE S.S. _EVAN EVANS_
XX INISTOW FARM
XXI THE HUNTED STAG
XXII THE VOYAGE
XXIII THE ISLAND
XXIV GLASSON IN CHASE
XXV MISS SALLY BREAKS THE DOORS
XXVI THE RESCUE
AT THE SIGN OF THE GOOD SAMARITAN
"_That it may please Thee to preserve all that travel by land or by
water . . . all sick persons, and young children._"--THE LITANY.
"I love my love with a H'aitch, because he's 'andsome--"
Tilda turned over on her right side--she could do so now without pain--
and lifting herself a little, eyed the occupant of the next bed.
The other six beds in the ward were empty.
"I 'ate 'im, because--look 'ere, I don't believe you're listenin'?"
The figure in the next bed stirred feebly; the figure of a woman,
straight and gaunt under the hospital bedclothes. A tress of her hair
had come uncoiled and looped itself across the pillow--reddish auburn
hair, streaked with grey. She had been brought in, three nights ago,
drenched, bedraggled, chattering in a high fever; a case of acute
pneumonia. Her delirium had kept Tilda--who was preternaturally sharp
for her nine years--awake and curious during the better part of two
night-watches. Thereafter, for a day and a night and half a day, the
patient had lain somnolent, breathing hard, at intervals feebly
conscious. In one of these intervals her eyes had wandered and found
the child; and since then had painfully sought her a dozen times, and
found her again and rested on her.
Tilda, meeting that look, had done her best. The code of the show-folk,
to whom she belonged, ruled that persons in trouble were to be helped.
Moreover, the long whitewashed ward, with its seven oblong windows set
high in the wall--the smell of it, the solitude, the silence--bored her
inexpressibly. She had lain here three weeks with a hurt thigh-bone
bruised, but luckily not splintered, by the kick of a performing pony.
The ward reeked of yellow soap and iodoform. She would have exchanged
these odours at the price of her soul--but souls are not vendible, and
besides she did not know she possessed one--for the familiar redolences
of naphtha and horse-dung and trodden turf. These were far away: they
had quite forsaken her, or at best floated idly across her dreams.
What held her to fortitude had been the drone and intermittent hoot of a
steam-organ many streets away. It belonged to a roundabout, and
regularly tuned up towards evening; so distant that Tilda could not
distinguish one tune from another; only the thud of its bass mingled
with the buzz of a fly on the window and with the hard breathing of the
Sick persons must be amused: and Tilda, after trying the patient
unsuccessfully with a few jokes from the _repertoire_ of her own
favourite clown, had fallen back upon "I love my love"--about the only
game known to her that dispensed with physical exertion.
"Sleepin', are you? . . . Well, I'll chance it and go on. I 'ate 'im
because he's 'aughty--or 'igh-born, if you like--"
The figure beneath the bedclothes did not stir. Tilda lifted herself an
inch higher on the elbow; lifted her voice too as she went on:
"And I'll take 'im to--'OLMNESS--"
She had been watching, expecting some effect. But it scared her when,
after a moment, the woman raised herself slowly, steadily, until
half-erect from the waist. A ray of the afternoon sun fell slantwise
from one of the high windows, and, crossed by it, her eyes blazed like
lamps in their sockets.
"--And feed 'im on 'am!" concluded Tilda hurriedly, slipping down within
her bedclothes and drawing them tight about her. For the apparition was
stretching out a hand. The hand drew nearer.
"It's--it's a name came into my 'ead," quavered the child.
"Who . . . told . . . you?" The fingers of the hand had hooked
themselves like a bird's claw.
"Told me yerself. I 'eard you, night before last, when you was talkin'
wild. . . . If you try to do me any 'arm, I'll call the Sister."
"_You_ said it. Strike me dead if you didn'!" Tilda fetched a grip on
herself; but the hand, its fingers closing on air, drew back and
dropped, as though cut off from the galvanising current. She had even
presence of mind to note that the other hand--the hand on which the body
propped itself, still half-erect, wore a plain ring of gold.
"You talked a lot about 'Olmness--and Arthur. 'Oo's Arthur?"
But the patient had fallen back, and lay breathing hard. When she spoke
again all the vibration had gone out of her voice.
"Tell them . . . Arthur . . . fetch Arthur . . . ." The words
tailed off into a whisper. Still the lips moved as though speech
fluttered upon them; but no speech came.
"You just tell me where he is, and maybe we'll fetch 'im," said Tilda
The eyes, which had been fixed on the child's, and with just that look
you may note in a dog's eyes when he waits for his master's word,
wandered to the table by the bedside, and grew troubled, distressful.
"Which of 'em?" asked Tilda, touching the medicine bottles and glasses
there one by one.
But the patient seemed to shake her head, though with a motion scarcely
She could talk no more.
Tilda lay back thinking.
"Sister!" she said, twenty minutes later, when the Second Nurse entered
the ward. The Second Nurse had charge just now, the matron being away
on her August holiday.
"She wants something." Tilda nodded towards the next bed.
"To be sure she does, and I'm going to give it to her." The Second
Nurse, composed in all her movements, bent over the medicine table.
"Garn!" retorted Tilda. "It's easy seen you wasn' brought up along with
animals. Look at the eyes of her."
"Well?" The Second Nurse, after a long look at the patient, turned to
"You mind my tellin' you about Black Sultan?"
"Of course I do. He was the one with the bearing rein and the white
martingale. Miss Montagu rode him."
"Right-O!" Tilda nodded. "Well, they used to come on next turn to mine,
which was the Zambra Fambly, as before the Crowned 'eads--only there
wasn' no fambly about it, nor yet no 'eads. Me bein' 'andy an' dressed
up, with frizzy 'air, they stood me on a tub with a 'oop, makin' believe
'twas for Miss Montagu to jump through; but of course she didn', reely.
When she came round to me she'd only smile and touch me playful under
the chin; and that made the sixpenny seats say, ''Ow womanly!' or, 'Only
think! able to ride like that and so fond of children!' Matter of fact,
she 'ad none; and her 'usband, Mike O'Halloran, used to beat her for it
sometimes, when he'd had a drop of What-killed-Aunty. He was an
"You didn't start to tell me about Mr. O'Halloran."
"No. He wasn' your sort at all; and besides, he's dead. But about
Black Sultan--Miss Montagu used to rest 'im, 'alf-way in his turn, while
the clown they called Bimbo--but his real name was Ernest Stanley--as't
a riddle about a policeman and a red 'errin' in a newspaper. She always
rested alongside o' me; and I always stood in the same place, right
over a ring-bolt where they made fast one of the stays for the trapeze;
and regular as Black Sultan rested, he'd up with his off hind foot and
rub the pastern-bone, very soft, on the ring-bolt. So one day I
unscrewed an' sneaked it, jus' to see what he'd do. When he felt for it
an' missed it, he gave me a look. That's all. An' that's what's the
matter with '_er_."
"But what can she be missing?" asked the Second Nurse. "She had nothing
about her but an old purse, and nothing in the purse but a
"It don't sound much, but we might try it."
"Nonsense!" said the Second Nurse; but later in the evening she brought
the purse, and set it on the table where the patient's eyes might rest
on it. For aught she could detect, they expressed no thanks, gave no
flicker of recognition. But the child had been watching them too, and
was quicker--by one-fifth of a second, perhaps.
It was half-past eight, and the sister turned low the single gas-jet.
She would retire now to her own room, change her dress for the
night-watching, and return in about twenty minutes. The door had no
sooner closed upon her than Tilda stretched out a hand. The sick woman
watched, panting feebly, making no sign. The purse--a cheap thing,
stamped with forget-me-nots, and much worn at the edges where the
papier-mache showed through its sham leather--contained a penny and a
halfpenny; these, and in an inner stamp-pocket a scrap of paper, folded
small, and greasy with handling.
Still peering across in the dim light, Tilda undid the broken folds and
scrambled up to her knees on the bed. It cost her a twinge of pain, but
only by standing upright on the bed's edge could she reach the
gas-bracket to turn the flame higher. This meant pain sharper and more
prolonged, yet she managed it, and, with that, clenched her teeth hard
to keep down a cry. The child could swear, on occasion, like a trooper;
but this was a fancy accomplishment. Just now, when an oath would have
come naturally to a man, she felt only a choking in the throat, and
swallowed it down with a sob.
On the paper were four lines, written in pencil in a cramped hand; and,
alas! though Tilda could read print, she had next to no acquaintance
The words were a blur to her. She stared at them; but what she saw was
the gaze of the sick woman, upturned to her from the bed. The scrap of
paper hid it, and yet she saw. She must act quickly.
She gave a reassuring nod, turned the gas-jet low, and slid down into
bed with the paper clenched in her hand. But as her head touched the
pillow she heard a rustling noise, and craned up her neck again.
The patient had rolled over on her left side, facing her, fighting for
"Yes, yes," Tilda lied hardily. "To-morrow--Arthur--they shall send for
"Four," said the sick woman. The word was quite distinct. Another word
followed which Tilda could not catch.
"Four o'clock, or may be earlier," she promised.
"L--l--lozenges," the tongue babbled.
Tilda glanced towards the medicine table.
"Diamonds," said the voice with momentary firmness; "four
diamonds . . . on his coat . . . his father's . . . his . . . ."
"Four diamonds, yes?" the child repeated.
"Ned did them . . . he told me . . . told me . . . ." But here the voice
wavered and trailed off into babble, meaningless as a year-old infant's.
Tilda listened hard for a minute, two minutes, then dropped her head
back on her pillow as the door-handle rattled. It was the Second Nurse
returning for night duty.
Early next morning the doctor came--a thin young man with a stoop, and a
crop of sandy hair that stood upright from his forehead. Tilda detested
He and the Second Nurse talked apart for quite a long while, and paid no
attention to the child, who lay shamming a doze, but with her ears open.
She heard the doctor say--
"She? Oh, move her to the far end of the ward."
The Second Nurse muttered something, and he went on--
"She is well, practically. All she wants now is someone to keep an eye
on her, make her lie up for a couple of hours every day, and box her
ears if she won't."
"That's me," thought Tilda. "I'm to be moved out of the way because
t'other's going to die; and if she's going to die, there's no time to be
She stirred, lifted her head, and piped--
"Hullo, imp! I thought you were sleeping."
"So I was. I sleep 'eaps better now." She drew her hurt leg up and
down in the bed. "Doctor, I 'd be all right, certain sure, if you let
me out for arf-an-hour. Sister let me sit out for ever so long
yestiday, an' while she was dustin' out the men's ward I practised
walkin'--all the lenth of the room an' back."
"When I told you never, on any account!" the Sister scolded.
"If I'd only the loan of a crutch!" pleaded Tilda; "an' it couldn' do me
no 'arm in this weather."
"Pining for liberty, hey?" said the doctor. (She saw what was passing
through his mind, and despised him for it.) "Well, suppose, now, we let
you out for just half an hour?"
Tilda clapped her palms together, and her eyes shone. To herself she
said: "Kiddin' of me, that's what they are. Want to get me out of the
way while they shift the beddin'. Lemme get back my clothes, that's
all, an' I'll teach him about pinin' for liberty."
"But," said the doctor severely, lifting a finger, "you're to keep to
the pavement mind--just outside, where it's nice and shady. Only so far
as the next turning and back; no crossing anywhere or getting in the way
of traffic, and only for half an hour. The chimes from St. Barnabas
will tell you, if you can't read the clock."
She had learnt to read the time before she was five years old, and had a
mind to tell him, but checked herself and merely nodded her head.
"Half an hour, and the pavement only. Is that understood?"
It annoyed her--when, an hour later, she began to dress for the
adventure--to find herself weaker than she had at all supposed.
Although she forbore to mention it to the Second Nurse, there was an
irresponsible funny feeling in her legs. They seemed to belong to her
but by fits and starts. But the clothes were hers: the merino skirt a
deal too short for her--she had grown almost an inch in her bed-lying--
the chip hat, more badly crushed than ever, a scandal of a hat, but
still hers. The dear, dear clothes! She held them in both hands and
nuzzled into them, inhaling her lost self in the new-old scent of
When at length her hat was donned, the notion took her to stand by the
sick woman's bed to show herself.
Consciousness had drained away deep into the sick woman's eyes.
It wavered there darkly, submerged, half-suspended, as you may see the
weed waver in a dim seapool. Did a bubble, a gleam, float up from the
depths? At any rate, the child nodded bravely.
"Goin' to fetch 'im, don't you fret!"
HOW TRUE TILDA CAME TO DOLOROUS GARD
"_Dauntless the slug-horn to my lips I set. And blew 'Childe Roland to
the Dark Tower came.'_" BROWNING.
Fifty years before, the Hospital of the Good Samaritan had been the pet
"charity" of a residential suburb. Factories and slums had since
crowded in upon it, ousting the residents and creeping like a tide over
the sites of their gardens and villas. The street kept its ancient
width, and a few smoke-blackened trees--lilacs, laburnums, limes, and
one copper-beech--still dignified the purlieus. Time, ruthless upon
these amenities, had spared, and even enlarged, the hospital.
It stood on the shaded side of the street. Nevertheless, the sunshine,
reflected from the facade of mean houses across the way, dazzled Tilda
as she crossed the threshold of the great doorway and hopped down the
steps. There were five steps, and on the lowest she paused, leaning a
moment on her crutch before taking the final plunge into liberty.
Then, while she stood blinking, of a sudden a yellowish brown body
bounded at her out of the sun-dazzle, pushed her tottering, danced back,
and leapt at her again, springing to lick her face, and uttering sharp,
inarticulate noises from a throat bursting with bliss.
"'Dolph! O 'Dolph!"
Tilda sank on the lowest step and stretched out both arms. The dog,
rushing between them, fairly bowled her backwards; lit in her lap and
twisted his body round ecstatically, thrusting, nuzzling at her bosom,
her neck, her face--devouring her with love. In her weakness she caught
him around the chest, close behind the forelegs, and hugged him to her.
So for a quarter of a minute the two rocked together and struggled.
"'Dolph! O good dog! . . . Did Bill send yer?"
'Dolph, recoiling, shook his neck-ruff and prepared for another spring;
but Tilda pushed him back and stood up. "Take me along to him," she
commanded, and lifted her face impudently to the clock-face of St.
Barnabas above the mean roofs. "Barnabas, are yer? Then give my
compliments to the doctor, you Barnabas, an' tell 'im to cheese it."
'Dolph--short for Godolphus--pricked both ears and studied the sky-line.
Perceiving nothing there--not even a swallow to be chased--he barked
twice (the humbug!) for sign that he understood thoroughly, and at once
fell to new capers by way of changing the subject. Tilda became severe.
"Look here, Godolphus," she explained, "this is biz-strict biz. You
may wag your silly Irish tail, but that don't take _me_ in.
Understand? . . . Well, the first thing you 'ave to do is take me to Bill."
Godolphus was dashed; hurt, it may be, in his feelings. Being dumb, he
could not plead that for three weeks daily he had kept watch on the
hospital door; that, hungry, he had missed his meals for faith, which is
the substance of things unseen; that, a few hours ago, having to choose
between half-gods assured and whole gods upon trust--an almost desperate
trust--he had staked against the odds. Or, it may be, he forgot all
this, and only considered what lay ahead for the child. At any rate,
his tail, as he led the way, wagged at a sensibly lower angle.
"Bill can read any kind of 'andwriting," said Tilda, half to herself and
half to the dog. "What's more, and whatever's the matter, Bill 'elps."
So she promised herself. It did not strike her that 'Dolph--who in an
ordinary way should have been bounding ahead and anon bounding back to
gyrate on his hind legs and encourage her--preferred to trot ahead some
thirty or forty yards and wait for her to overtake him; nor that, when
she came up, he avoided her eyes, pretending that here a doorstep, there
a grating or water-main absorbed his curiosity. Once or twice, indeed,
before trotting off again, he left these objects of interest to run
around Tilda's heels and rub against her crutch. But she was busy with
her own plans.
So through a zig-zag of four or five dingy streets they came to one she
recognised as that leading into the Plain, or open space where the
show-people encamped. At its far end 'Dolph halted. His tail still
wagged, but his look was sidelong, furtive, uneasy.
Tilda, coming up with him, stood still for a moment, stared, and caught
her breath with a little gasp of dismay.
The Plain was empty.
Circus and menagerie, swing-boats, roundabouts, shooting-galleries--all
were gone. The whole area lay trampled and bare, with puddles where the
steam-engines had stood, and in the puddles bedabbled relics of paper
brushes, confetti bags, scraps torn from feminine flounces, twisted
leaden tubes of "ladies' tormentors" cast away and half-trodden into the
mire; the whole an unscavenged desolation. Her folk--the show-folk--had
deserted her and vanished, and she had not a penny in her pocket.
It cost Tilda all her pluck to keep what she called a tight upper lip.
She uttered no cry, but seated herself on the nearest doorstep--
apparently with deliberation, actually not heeding, still less caring,
to whom the doorstep belonged.
"Oh, 'Dolph!" she murmured.
To her credit, in the act of appealing to him, she understood the dog's
heroism, and again stretched forth her arms. He had been waiting for
this--sprang at her, and again was caught and hugged. Again the two
forlorn ones rocked in an embrace.
Brief ecstasy! The door behind them was constructed in two portions, of
which the upper stood wide, the lower deceptively on the latch. Against
this, as she struggled with Godolphus's ardour, Tilda gave a backward
lurch. It yielded, flew open, and child and dog together rolled in
across the threshold, while a shop-bell jangled madly above them.
"Get out of this--you and your nasty cur!"
Tilda picked up herself and her crutch, and stood eyeing the shopwoman,
who, summoned by the bell, had come rushing from an inner room, and in
no sweet temper. From the woman she glanced around the shop--
a dairy-shop with a marble-topped counter, and upon the counter a pair
of scales and a large yellow block of margarine.
"It was a naccident," said Tilda firmly and with composure. "And my dog
isn' a nasty cur; it only shows your ignorance. Be quiet, 'Dolph!"
She had to turn and shake her crutch at Godolphus, who, perceiving his
mistress's line of action, at once, in his impulsive Irish way, barked
defiance at the shopwoman.
But the shopwoman's eyes rested on the crutch, and the sight of it
appeared to mollify her.
"My gracious! I do believe you 're the child was hurt at Maggs's Circus
and taken to hospital."
"Did you see me?"
"Carried by on a stretcher--and your face the colour of _that_."
The woman pointed to the marble counter-top.
"I was a serious case," said Tilda impressively. "The people at the
Good Samaritan couldn' remember admittin' the likes of it. There were
"You don't say!"
"But what's become of Maggs's?"
"Maggs's left a week ago come Tuesday. I know, because they used to buy
their milk of me. They were the first a'most, and the last was the
Menagerie and Gavel's Roundabouts. _They_ packed up last night.
It must be a wearin' life," commented the shopwoman. "But for my part I
like the shows, and so I tell Damper--that's my 'usband. They put a bit
of colour into the place while they last, besides bein' free-'anded with
their money. Light come light go, I reckon; but anyway, it's different
from cows. So you suffered from complications, did you?"
"Internal," Tilda assured her in a voice as hollow as she could make it.
"I must have spit up a quart of blood, first an' last. An' the medicine
I 'ad to take! You wouldn' think it, but the colour was pale
"I wonder," said Mrs. Damper sympathetically--"I wonder it stayed in
"Wouldn' you fancy a glass o' milk, now?"
"It's very kind of you." Tilda put on her best manners. "And 'ere's
'ealth!" she added before sipping, when the milk was handed to her.
"And the dog--wouldn' '_e_ like something?"
"Well, since you mention it--but it's givin' you a 'eap of trouble. If
you 'ave such a thing as a bun, it don't matter 'ow stale."
"I can do better 'n that." Mrs. Damper dived into the inner room, and
re-emerged with a plateful of scraps. "There's always waste with
children," she explained, "and I got five. You can't think the load off
one's shoulders when they're packed to school at nine o'clock.
And that, I dessay," she wound up lucidly, "is what softened me t'ards
you. Do you go to school, now?"
"Never did," answered Tilda, taking the plate and laying it before
Godolphus, who fell-to voraciously.
"I 'd like to tell that to the attendance officer," said Mrs. Damper in
a wistful tone. "But p'r'aps it might get you into trouble?"
"You 're welcome."
"He do give me a lot of worry; and it don't make things easier Damper's
threatenin' to knock his 'ead off if ever he catches the man darkenin'
our door. Never been to school, aven't you? I 'd like to tell 'im, and
that, if there's a law, it ought to be the same for all. But all my
children are 'ealthy, and that's one consolation."
"'Ealth's the first thing in life," agreed Tilda. "So they've all
cleared out?--the shows, I mean."
"Every one--exceptin' the Theayter."
"Mortimer's?" Tilda limped to the open door. "But I don't see him,
"Mortimer's is up the spout. First of all, there was trouble with the
lodgings; and on top of that, last Monday, Mr. Hucks put the bailiffs
in. This mornin' he sent half a dozen men, and they took the show to
pieces and carried it off to Hucks's yard, where I hear he means to sell
it by public auction."
"Who's Mr. Hucks?"
"He's the man that farms the Plain here--farms it _out_, I mean," Mrs.
Damper explained. "He leases the ground from the Corporation and lets
it out for what he can make, and that's a pretty penny. Terrible
close-fisted man is Mr. Hucks."
"Oh!" said Tilda, enlightened. "When you talked of farmin', you made me
wonder . . .So they're all gone? And Wolverhampton-way, I reckon.
That was to be the next move."
"I've often seen myself travellin' in a caravan," said Mrs. Damper
dreamily. "Here to-day an' gone to-morrow, and only to stretch out your
hand whether 'tis hairpins or a fryin'-pan; though I should never get
over travellin' on Sundays." Here, while her eyes rested on the child,
of a sudden she came out of her reverie with a sharp exclamation.
"Lord's sake! You ain't goin' to tell me they've left you in 'ospital,
"That's about it," said Tilda bravely, albeit with a wry little twist of
"But what'll you do?"
"Oh, I dunno . . . We'll get along some'ow--eh, 'Dolph? Fact is, I got
a job to do, an' no time to lose worryin'. You just read _that_."
Tilda produced and handed her scrap of paper to Mrs. Damper, who took
it, unfolded it, and perused the writing slowly.
"Goin' there?" she inquired at length.
"That depends." Tilda was not to be taken off her guard. "I want you to
read what it says."
"Yes, to be sure--I forgot what you said about havin' no schoolin'.
Well, it says: 'Arthur Miles, surname Chandon, b. Kingsand, May 1st,
1888. Rev. Dr. Purdie J. Glasson, Holy Innocents' Orphanage, Bursfield,
near Birmingham '--leastways, I can't read the last line clear, the
paper bein' frayed; but it's bound to be what I've said."
"Why, because that's the address. Holy Innocents, down by the canal--
I know it, o' course, _and_ Dr. Glasson. Damper supplied 'em with milk
for over six months, an' trouble enough we had to get our money."
"How far is it?"
"Matter of half a mile, I should say--close by the canal. You cross it
there by the iron bridge. The tram'll take you down for a penny, only
you must mind and get out this side of the bridge, because once you're
on the other side it's tuppence. Haven't got a penny? Well,"--Mrs.
Damper dived a hand into her till--"I'll give you one. Bein' a mother,
I can't bear to see children in trouble."
"Thank you," said Tilda. "It'll come in 'andy; but I ain't in no
trouble just yet."
"I 'spose," Mrs. Damper ventured after a pause, "you don't feel like
tellin' me what your business might be down at the orphanage? Not that
"I can't." This was perfectly true, for she herself did not know.
"You see," she added with a fine air of mystery, "there's others mixed
up in this."
Mrs. Damper sighed.
"Well, I mustn' detain you . . . This Arthur Miles Chandon--he's not a
friend of yours by any chance?"
"He's a--sort of connection," said Tilda. "You know 'im, p'r'aps?"
"Dear me, no!"
"Oh,"--the child, without intending it, achieved a fine irony--
"I thought you seemed interested. Well, so long! and thank you again--
there's a tram stoppin' at the corner! Come along, 'Dolph!"
She was not--she had said it truthfully--by any means in trouble just
yet. On the contrary, after long deprivation she was tasting life
again, and finding it good. The streets of this Bursfield suburb were
far from suggestive of the New Jerusalem--a City of which, by the way,
Tilda had neither read nor heard. They were, in fact, mean and squalid,
begrimed with smoke and imperfectly scavenged. But they were, at least,
populous, and to Tilda the faces in the tram and on the pavements wore,
each and all, a friendly--almost an angelic--glow. The tram-car rolled
along like a celestial chariot trailing clouds of glory, and 'Dolph,
running beside it and threading his way in and out between the legs of
the passers-by, was a hound of heaven in a coat effluent of gold.
Weariness would come, but as yet her body felt no weariness, buoyed upon
a spirit a-tiptoe for all adventure.
The tram reached the iron bridge and drew up. She descended, asked the
conductor to direct her to Holy Innocents, and was answered with a jerk
of the thumb.
It stood, in fact, just beyond the bridge, with a high brick wall that
turned off the street at right angles and overhung the towpath of the
canal. Although in architecture wholly dissimilar, the building put her
in mind of the Hospital of the Good Samaritan, and her spirits sank for
a moment. Its facade looked upon the street over a strip of garden
crowded with dingy laurels. It contained a depressingly large number of
windows, and it seemed to her that they were at once bare and dirty.
Also, and simultaneously, it occurred to her that she had no notion what
step to take next, nor how, if she rang the bell, to explain herself.
She temporised therefore; whistled to 'Dolph, and turned aside down the
steps leading to the towpath. She would con the lie of the land before
laying siege--the strength of the castle before summoning the defence.
The castle was patently strong--strong enough to excuse any
disheartenment. Scarcely a window pierced its narrow butt-end, four
stories high, under which the steps wound. It ended just where they met
the towpath, and from its angle sprang a brick wall dead-blank, at least
twelve feet high, which ran for eighty or ninety yards along the
straight line of the path. Across the canal a row of unkempt cottage
gardens sloped to the water, the most of them fenced from the brink of
it with decayed palings, a few with elder bushes and barbed wire to fill
up the gaps, while at least two ended in moraines of old meat tins and
shards of crockery. And between these containing banks wound the canal,
shallow and waveless, with noisome weeds trailing on its surface afloat
amid soot and iridescent patches or pools of tar. In the cottage
gardens not a soul was at work, nor, by their appearance, had a soul
worked in them for years past. The canal, too, was deserted, save for
one long monkey-boat, black as Charon's barge, that lay moored to a
post on the towpath, some seventy-odd yards up stream, near where the
wall of the Orphanage ended. Beyond this, and over a line of ragged
thorns, the bulk of a red-brick Brewery--its roof crowned with a
sky-sign--closed the view.
The monkey-boat lay with her stem down-stream, and her after-part--her
habitable quarters--covered by a black tarpaulin. A solitary man was at
work shovelling coal out of her middle hold into a large metal bucket.
As Tilda hobbled towards him he hoisted the full bucket on his
shoulders, staggered across the towpath with it, and shot its contents
into a manhole under the brick wall. Tilda drew near and came to a
halt, watching him.
"Afternoon," said the man, beginning to shovel again.
"Afternoon," responded Tilda.
He was a young man--she could detect this beneath his mask of coal dust.
He wore a sack over his shoulders, and a black sou'wester hat with a
hind-flap that fell low over his neck. But she liked the look in his
eyes, though the rims of them were red and the brows caked with grit.
She liked his voice, too. It sounded friendly.
"Is this the Orph'nige? What they call 'Oly Innercents?" she asked.
"That's so," the young coalheaver answered. "Want to get in?"
"I do an' I don't," said Tilda.
"Then take my advice an' don't."
He resumed his shovelling, and Tilda watched him for a while.
"Nice dorg," said he, breaking off and throwing an affable nod towards
Godolphus who, having attracted no attention by flinging himself on the
grass with a lolling tongue and every appearance of fatigue, was now
filling up the time in quest of a flea. "No breed, but he has points.
Where did you pick him up?"
"He belongs to a show."
"And," pursued Tilda, "I was wonderin' if you'd look after him while I
She threw back her head, and the man whistled.
"You're a trustin' one, I must say!"
"You'd never be mean enough to make off with 'im, an' I won't believe it
of you," spoke up Tilda boldly.
"Eh? I wasn' talkin of the dorg," he explained. "I was meanin' the
Orph'nage. By all accounts 'tisn' so easy to get in--an' 'tis a sight
harder to get out."
"I've _got_ to get in," urged Tilda desperately.
"I've a message for someone inside. His name's Arthur Miles Chandon."
The young coalheaver shook his head.
"I don't know 'im," he said. "I'm new to this job, an' they don't talk
to me through the coal-'ole. But you seem a well-plucked one, and what
with your crutch--How did you come by it?"
"Kick of a pony."
"Seems to me you've been a good deal mixed up with animals, for your
age. What about your pa and ma?"
"Never 'ad none, I thank Gord."
"Eh?" The young man laid down his shovel, lifted the flap of his
sou'wester, and scratched the back of his head slowly. "Let me get the
hang o' _that_, now."
"I've seen fathers and mothers," said the sage child, nodding at him;
"and them as likes 'em is welcome to 'em."
"Gor-a-mussy!" half-groaned the young man. "If you talk like that,
they'll take you in, right enough; but as to your gettin' out--"
"I'll get out, one way or 'nother--you see!" Tilda promised. "All you
'ave to do is to take charge o' this crutch an' look after the dog."
"Oh, I'll look after 'im!"
The child shook a forefinger at 'Dolph, forbidding him to follow her.
The dog sank on his haunches, wagging a tail that swept the grasses in
perplexed protest, and watched her as she retraced her way along the
Tilda did not once look back. She was horribly frightened; but she had
pledged her word now, and it was irredeemable. From the hurrying
traffic of the street she took a final breath of courage, and tugged at
the iron bell-pull depending beside the Orphanage gate. A bell clanged
close within the house, and the sound of it almost made her jump out of
"_And with that sound the castle all to-brast; so she took him, and they
two fared forth hand in hand." "QUEST OF THE GRAIL."
The front door opened, and a slatternly woman in a soiled print dress
came shuffling down the flagged pathway to the gate. She wore cloth
boots, and Tilda took note that one of them was burst.
"Go away," said the woman, opening the gate just wide enough to thrust
out her head. "We don't give nothing to beggars."
"I could 'a told _you_ that," retorted Tilda. "But as it 'appens, I
ain't one." She pointed to a brass letter-plate beside the wicket--it
was pierced with a slit, and bore the legend, _For Voluntary Donations_.
"Seems you collect a bit, though. Like it better, I dessay."
"Look here, if you've come with a message, let's 'ave it, an' take
yourself off. It's washing-day in the 'ouse, an' I'm busy."
"Ah!" said Tilda politely, "I'm glad I came before you begun.
I want"--here she unfolded her scrap of paper and made pretence to
read--"I want to see the Reverend Doctor Purdie J. Glasson."
"Then you can't," snapped the woman, and was about to shut the door in
her face, but desisted and drew back with a cry as a formidable yellow
dog slipped through the opening, past her skirts, and into the garden.
It was 'Dolph, of course. Anxiety for his mistress had been too much
for him, and had snapped the bonds of obedience; and knowing full well
that he was misbehaving, he had come up furtively, unperceived.
But now, having crossed the Rubicon, the rogue must brazen things out--
which he did by starting a cat out of one of the dingy laurels,
chivvying her some way into the house, and returning to shake himself on
the front doorstep and bark in absurd triumph.
"'Dolph! 'Dolph!" called Tilda.
"Belongs to you, does he? Then fetch him out at once! You, and your
"I'm fetchin' him fast as I can."
Tilda pushed past her, and advanced sternly to the front doorstep.
"'Dolph, come here!" she commanded. 'Dolph barked once again defiantly,
then laid himself down on the step in abject contrition, rolling over on
his back and lifting all four legs skyward.
Tilda rolled him sideways with a slap, caught him by the scruff of the
neck, and began to rate him soundly. But a moment later her grasp
relaxed as a door opened within the passage, and at the sound of a
footstep she looked up, to see a tall man in black standing over her and
towering in the doorway.
"What is the meaning of this noise?" demanded the man in black. He was
elderly and bald, with small pig-eyes, grey side-whiskers, and for mouth
a hard square slit much like that of the collecting-box by the gate.
A long pendulous nose came down over it and almost met an upthrust lower
jaw. He wore a clerical suit, with a dingy white neck-tie; the skin
about his throat hung in deep folds, and the folds were filled with an
unpleasing grey stubble.
"If--if you please, sir, I was comin' with a message, an' he started
after a cat. I can't break 'im of it."
"Turn him out," said the man in black. He walked to the gate and held
it open while Tilda ejected Godolphus into the street. "I never allow
dogs on my premises."
"Now tell me your message."
"It's about a--a boy, sir," stammered Tilda, and felt a horrible fear
creeping over her now that she approached the crisis. "That is, if
you're the Reverend Doctor Glasson."
"I am Doctor Glasson. Well?"
"It's about a boy," harked back poor Tilda. "He's called Arthur Miles
Surname Chandon--an' he was born at a place called Kingsand, if that's
any 'elp--an' there's somebody wants to see 'im most particular."
Doctor Glasson said it sharply, at the same time turning right about and
leading the way towards the house. Tilda followed, while behind her the
excluded 'Dolph yapped and flung himself against the gate. But the gate
was lined on the inside with wire-netting, and the garden wall was
neither to be leapt nor scaled.
In the porch Dr. Glasson stood aside to let the servant precede them
into the house, looked after her until she vanished down the length of a
dark passage that smelt potently of soapsuds and cabbage-water, and
motioned the child to step within. She obeyed, while her terror and the
odours of the house together caught her by the throat. But worse was
her dismay when, having closed the front door, the Doctor bolted it and
slipped a chain on the bolt.
"The first door to the left, if you please." He stepped past her and
pushed it open, and she entered, albeit with quaking knees. The room--a
large and high one--was furnished barely and like an office--with a red
flock wall-paper, a brown linoleum on the floor, and in the centre of
the linoleum a bulky roll-top desk and a Windsor chair. Other Windsor
chairs stood in array against the walls, and a couple of rosewood
bookcases with glass fronts. There was also by the fireplace an
armchair covered with American leather, a rag-work hearth-rug, and a
large waste-paper basket stuffed with envelopes and circulars. Over the
mantelshelf hung a print in an Oxford frame, with the title _Suffer
Little Children to Come unto Me_, and a large stain of damp in the lower
left-hand corner. The mantelshelf itself supported a clock, a pair of
bronze candlesticks, a movable calendar, a bottle of paste, and a wooden
box with _For the Little Ones_ painted on it in black letters.
All this the child took in almost at a glance, and notwithstanding that
the room was dark. Yet it had two large windows, and they were
curtainless. Its gloom came of the thick coating of dirt on their upper
panes, and a couple of wire blinds that cut off all light below.
Doctor Glasson had walked straight to his desk, and stood for a few
moments with his back to the child, fingering his papers and apparently
engaged in thought. By-and-by he picked up a pair of spectacles,
turned, and adjusted them slowly whilst he stared down on her.
"Where did you get this information?"
Tilda's first impulse was to show him her scrap of paper, but she
thought better of it. She would keep it back while she could, as a
possible trump card. Besides, she feared and distrusted this man with
the little eyes. Seen through glasses they were worse than ever.
"He's wanted by someone very particular," she repeated.
"By whom? Speak up, child! Who sent you?"
Heaven knows to what invisible spirits the child appealed. They were
certainly disreputable ones, as will be seen; but they heard her prayer,
and came to her now in her extremity. Hardly knowing what she did, she
opened on this man a pair of eyes seraphically innocent, and asked--
"W'y, haven't you seen my aunt?"
"She _promised_ to call here at twelve-thirty, an' I was to meet her.
But"--here Tilda had to keep a tight hold on her voice--"per'aps I'm
"It's close upon one o'clock," said Doctor Glasson, with a glance
towards the mantelshelf. "What is your aunt's name, and her business?"
"She's called Brown--Martha Brown--_Mrs._ Martha Brown, and she keeps a
milliner's shop in the Edgeware Road, London," panted Tilda.
"I should have asked, What is her business with me?" Doctor Glasson
corrected his question severely.
"I think--I dunno--but I _think_, sir, she might be wantin' to enter me
for a orphlan. My pa, sir, was knocked down an' killed by a motor-car.
It was in the early days," pursued Tilda, desperate now and aghast at
her own invention. The lies seemed to spring to her lips full grown.
"Pa was a stableman, sir, at Buckin'am Palace, and often and often I've
'eard 'im tell mother what'd be the end of 'im. He 'd seen it in a
dream. And mother, _she_ was a stewardess in a Sou'-Western boat that
got cut in two last year. Maybe you read of it in the papers?"
Tears by this time filled the child's eyes. She was casting about to
invent a last dying speech for her mother, when Doctor Glasson
"If your aunt wishes to place you here, it might perhaps be managed, for
a consideration. Just now we have no room for-er--non-paying children.
But you began by asking for Arthur Miles."
"Yes--quite so--Chandon." He picked up a pencil and a half-sheet of
paper from the desk, and wrote the name. "Born at Kingsand--I think you
said Kingsand? Do you happen to know where Kingsand is? In what
county, for instance?"
But Tilda had begun to scent danger again, she hardly knew why, and
contented herself with shaking her head.
"Someone wants to see him. Who?"
"She's--an invalid," Tilda admitted.
"Not your aunt?"
"She's a--a _friend_ of my aunt's."
Doctor Glasson pulled out a watch and compared it with the clock on the
mantelshelf. While he did so Tilda stole a look up at his face, and
more than ever it seemed to her to resemble a double trap--its slit of a
mouth constructed to swallow anything that escaped between nose and
"Your aunt is far from punctual. You are sure she means to call?"
"Sure," answered Tilda still hardily. "'Twelve-thirty' was her last
words when she left me at the doctor's--my 'ip bein' 'urt, sir, through
tumblin' out of a nomnibus, three weeks ago. But you never can depend
on 'er to a few minutes up 'an down. She gets into the streets,
watchin' the fashions, an' that carries 'er away. P'r'aps, sir, I 'd
better go back into the street and 'ave a look for her."
"I think you had better wait here for her," said Doctor Glasson,
shutting his lips with a snap. "There are some picture-books in the
He led the way. The drawing-room lay at the back of the house--an
apartment even more profoundly depressing than the one she had left.
Its one important piece of furniture was a circular table of rosewood
standing in the centre of the carpet under a brass gaselier, of which
the burnish had perished in patches; and in the centre of the table
stood a round-topped glass case containing a stuffed kestrel, with a
stuffed lark prostrate under its talons and bleeding vermilion wax.
Around this ornament were disposed, as the Doctor had promised, a number
of albums and illustrated books, one of which he chose and placed it in
her hands, at the same time bringing forward one of a suite of rosewood
chairs ranged with their backs to the walls. He motioned her to be
"You shall be told as soon as ever your aunt arrives."
"Yes, sir," said Tilda feebly. For the moment all the fight had gone
out of her.
He stood eyeing her, pulling at his bony finger-joints, and seemed on
the point of putting some further question, but turned abruptly and left
As the door closed--thank Heaven, at least, he did not bolt this one
also!--a dry sob escaped the child. Why had she told that string of
falsehoods? She was trapped now--imprisoned in this horrible house, not
to be released until this fictitious aunt arrived, which, of course,
would be never. The book on her lap lay open at a coloured lithograph
of Mazeppa bound upon his steed and in full flight across the Tartar
steppes. She knew the story--was it not Mr. Maggs's most thrilling
"equestrian _finale_," and first favourite with the public? At another
time she would have examined the picture eagerly. But now it swam
before her, unmeaning. She closed the book, threw a glance around the
four corners of the room, another at the stuffed kestrel--whose pitiless
small eye strangely resembled Doctor Glasson's--and dragged herself to
The lower panes of the window were filled with coloured transparencies
representing in series the history of the Prodigal Son. They excluded a
great deal of daylight and the whole of the view. Even by standing on
tip-toe she could not look over them, and she dared not try to raise the
By-and-by a thought struck her. She went back to her chair, lifted it,
carried it to the window and climbed upon it; and this was no small feat
or succession of feats, for as yet her thigh pained her, and fear held
What she looked upon was an oblong space enclosed by brick walls ten or
twelve feet high, and divided by a lower wall--also of brick--into two
parallelograms of unequal width. Of these the wider was a gravelled
yard, absolutely bare, in extent perhaps an acre; and here, in various
knots and groups, were gathered some two dozen children. Alongside of
the yard and upon its left--that is to say, as Tilda guessed, between it
and the canal--ran a narrower strip of kitchen garden, planted with
leeks, cabbages, potatoes, and ending in a kind of shed--part
glass-house, part out-house--built in lean-to fashion against the
terminal wall, which overtopped it by several feet. The children in the
yard could not look into this garden, for the dividing wall reached far
above their heads.
Tilda, too, had no eyes for the garden, after a first glance had assured
her it was empty. The children engaged all her attention. She had
never seen anything like them; and yet they were obviously boys and
girls, and in numbers pretty equally divided, What beat her was that
they neither ran about nor played at any game, but walked to and fro--to
and fro--as though pacing through some form of drill; and yet again they
could not be drilling, for their motions were almost inert and quite
aimless. Next, to her surprise, she perceived that, on no apparent
compulsion, the boys kept with the boys in these separate wandering
groups, and the girls with the girls; and further that, when two groups
met and passed, no greeting, no nod of recognition, was ever exchanged.
At any rate she could detect none. She had heard tell--indeed, it was
an article of faith among the show-children with whom she had been
brought up--that the sons and daughters of the well-to-do followed weird
ways and practised discomfortable habits--attended public worship on
Sundays, for instance, walking two and two in stiff raiment. But these
children were patently very far from well-to-do. The garments of some
hung about them in rags that fell short even of Tilda's easy standard.
The spectacle fascinated her. For the moment it chased fear out of her
mind. She was only conscious of pity--of pity afflicting and
indefinable, far beyond her small understanding, and yet perhaps not
wholly unlike that by which the great poet was oppressed as he followed
his guide down through the infernal circles and spoke with their
inhabitants. The sight did her this good--it drove out for a while,
along with fear, all thought of her present situation. She noted that
the majority were in twos or threes, but that here and there a child
walked solitary, and that the faces of these solitary ones were hard to
discern, being bent towards the ground . . .
The door-handle rattled and called her back to terror. She had no time
to clamber down from her chair. She was caught.
But it was a woman who entered, the same that had opened the front gate;
and she carried a tray with a glass of water on it and a plate of
"The Doctor told me as 'ow you might be 'ungry," she explained.
"Thank you," said Tilda. "I--I was lookin' at the view."
For an instant she thought of appealing to this stranger's mercy.
The woman's eyes were hard, but not unkind. They scrutinised her
"You take my advice, an' get out o' this quick as you can."
The woman thumped down the tray, and made as if to leave the room with a
step decisive as her speech. At the door, however, she hesitated.
"Related to 'im?" she inquired.
"Eh?" Tilda was taken aback. "'Oo's 'im?"
"I 'eard you tell the Doctor you wanted to see 'im."
"An' so I do. But I'm no relation of 'is--on'y a friend."
"I was thinkin' so. Lawful born or come-by-chance, the child's a
little gentleman, an' different from the others. Blood al'ays comes
out, don't it?"
"I s'pose so."
Tilda, still perched on her chair, glanced out at the children in the
"You won't see 'im out there. He's in the shed at the end o' the
kitchen garden, cleanin' the boots. If you've got anything good to tell
'im, an' 'll promise not to be five minutes, I might give you a run
there while the Doctor's finishin' his dinner in his study. Fact is,"
added this strange woman, "the child likes to be alone, an' sometimes I
lets 'im slip away there--when he's good, or the Doctor's been extra
'ard with 'im."
"Beats 'im?" asked Tilda, and suddenly, still erect on her chair and
looking down on the woman, felt her courage flowing back full and
strong. "He's a beast, then."
"You musn' talk like that," said the woman hurriedly, with a glance back
at the half-open door. "Hut he's 'ard if you cross 'im--an' the child's
pay bein' be'ind--'and--"
"What's your name?" demanded Tilda.
"Miss or Missis?"
"What's that to you?"
The blood surged into the woman's face, and she eyed the child
suspiciously under lowered brows. Tilda slipped down from her chair.
She had a sense of standing dangerously on the edge of something evil,
forbidden. If only she could scream aloud and rush out--anywhere--into
the open air!
"I--I was only wantin' to speak polite," she stammered. "I been
impident to yer. But O, Sarah 'Uggins--O, ma'am--'elp me see 'im an'
get away, an' I'll bless yer name fur ever and ever! Amen."
"Nip in front o' me," said the woman, "and be quick, then! First
turnin' to the right down the stairs, an' don't clatter yer boots."
Tilda obeyed breathlessly, and found herself in a dark stone stairway.
It led down steeply to the basement, and here her guide overtook and
stepped ahead of her. They passed through two dirty kitchens, through a
wash-house littered with damp linen and filled with steam from a copper
in the corner, and emerged upon a well-court foetid with sink-water and
decaying scraps of vegetables. They had met no one on their way, and it
crossed Tilda's mind--but the thought was incredible--that Sarah Huggins
served this vast barracks single-handed. A flight of stone steps led up
from this area to the railed coping twenty feet aloft, where the sky
shone pure and fresh.
"Up there, an' you 're in the garden." Tilda ran, so fast that at the
head of the steps she had to clutch at the railing and draw breath.
The garden, too, was deserted. A gravelled path, scarcely four feet
wide, ran straight to the end of it, and along this she hurried, not
daring to look back, but aware that all the back windows were following
her--watching and following her--with horrible curtainless eyes.
The garden, planted for utility, was passably well kept. It contained,
in all its parcelled length, not a single flower. At the very end a few
currant bushes partially hid the front of the shed and glass-house.
They were the one scrap of cover, and when she reached them she had a
mind to crouch and hide, if only for a moment, from the staring windows.
Her own eyes, as she passed these bushes, were fastened on the shed.
But it seemed that someone else had discovered shelter here; for with a
quick, half-guttural cry, like that of a startled animal, a small figure
started up, close by her feet, and stood and edged away from her with an
arm lifted as if to ward off a blow.
It was a small boy--a boy abominably ragged and with smears of blacking
thick on his face, but for all that a good-looking child. Tilda gazed
at him, and he gazed back, still without lowering his arm. He was
"Doctor Livingstone, I presume?" said Tilda, lifting the brim of her
chip hat and quoting from one of Mr. Maggs's most effective dramatic
sketches. But as the boy stared, not taking the allusion, she went on,
almost in the same breath, "Is your name Arthur--Arthur Miles?"
It seemed that he did not hear. At any rate he still backed and edged
away from her, with eyes distended--she had seen their like in the ring,
in beautiful terrified horses, but never in human creatures.
--"Because, if you 're Arthur Miles, I got a message for you."
A tattered book lay on the turf at her feet. She picked it up and held
it out to him. For a while he looked at her eyes, and from them to the
book, unable to believe. Then, with a noise like a sob, he sprang and
snatched it, and hid it with a hug in the breast of his coat.
"I got a message for you," repeated Tilda. "There's someone wants to
see you, very bad."
"You go away!" said the boy sullenly. "You don't know. If _he_ catches
you, there's no chance."
Tilda had time in her distress to be astonished by his voice. It was
pure, distinct, with the tone of a sphere not hers. Yet she recognised
it. She had heard celestial beings--ladies and gentlemen in Maggs's
three-shilling seats--talk in voices like this boy's.
"I've took a 'eap o' trouble to find yer," she said. "An' now I've done
it, _all_ depends on our gettin' out o' this. Ain't there no way? _Do_
try to think a bit!"
The boy shook his head.
"There isn't any way. You let me alone, and clear."
"He can't do worse'n kill us," said Tilda desperately, with a look back
at the house. "S'help me, let's try!"
But her spirit quailed.
"He won't kill you. He'll catch you, and keep you here for ever and
"We'll try, all the same."
Tilda shut her teeth and held out a hand--or rather, was beginning to
extend it--when a sound arrested her. It came from the door of the
glass-house, and as she glanced towards it her heart leapt and stood
Yes, it was 'Dolph, dirty, begrimed with coal; 'Dolph fawning towards
her, cringing almost on his belly, but wagging his stump of a tail
ecstatically. Tilda dashed upon him.
The dog strangled down a bark, and ran back to the glass-house, but
paused in the doorway a moment to make sure that she was following.
It was all right. Tilda had caught the boy's hand, and was dragging him
along. 'Dolph led them through the glass-house and down a flight of
four steps to the broken door of a furnace-room. They pushed after him.
Behind the furnace a second doorway opened upon a small coal-cellar,
through the ceiling of which, in the right-hand corner, poured a
circular ray of light. The ray travelled down a moraine of broken coal,
so broad at the base that it covered the whole cellar floor, but
narrowing upwards and towards the manhole through which the daylight
Down through the manhole, too--O bliss!--came the sound of a man's
"_Ph'ut! Phee-ee--uht!_ Darn that fool of a dog! _Ph'w_--"
"For the Lord's sake!" called Tilda, pushing the boy up the coal-shute
ahead of her and panting painfully as her feet sank and slid in the
"Eh? . . . Hullo!" A man's face peered down, shutting off the daylight.
"Well, in all my born days--"
He reached down a hand.
"The boy first," gasped Tilda, "--and quick!"
IN WHICH CHILDE ARTHUR LOSES ONE MOTHER AND GAINS ANOTHER.
"_But and when they came to Easter Gate,
Easter Gate stood wide;
'y' are late, y' are late,' the Porter said;
'This morn my Lady died.'_"--OLD BALLAD.
"Well, in all my born days!" said the young coalheaver again, as he
landed the pair on the canal bank.
He reached down a hand and drew up 'Dolph by the scruff of his neck.
The dog shook himself, and stood with his tail still wagging.
"Shut down the hole," Tilda panted, and catching sight of the iron
cover, while the young man hesitated she began to drag at it with her
"Steady on there!" he interposed. "I got five hundred more to deliver."
"You don't deliver another shovelful till we're out o' this," said Tilda
positively, stamping the cover in place and standing upon it for safety.
"What's more, if anyone comes an' arsks a question, you ha'n't seen us."
"Neither fur nor feather of ye," said the young man, and grinned.
She cast a look at the boy; another up and down the towing-path.
"Got such a thing as a cake o' soap hereabouts? You wouldn', I
suppose--" and here she sighed impatiently.
"I 'ave, though. Always keeps a bit in my trouser pocket." He produced
it with pride.
Said Tilda, "I don't know yername, but you're more like a Garden Angel
than any I've met yet in your walk o' life. Hand it over, an' keep a
look-out while I wash this child's face. I _can't_ take 'im through the
streets in this state." She turned upon the boy. "Here, you just kneel
down--so--with your face over the water, an' as near as you can manage."
He obeyed in silence. He was still trembling. "That's right, on'y take
care you don't overbalance." She knelt beside him, dipped both hands in
the water, and began to work the soap into a lather. "What's the
'andiest way to the Good Samaritan?" she asked, speaking over her
"Meanin' the 'orspital?"
"Yes." She took the boy's passive face between her hands and soaped it
briskly. "The 'andiest way, _an'_ the quietest, for choice."
"The 'andiest way," said the young coalheaver, after considering for
half a minute, "an' the quietest, is for me to cast off the bow-straps
here an' let her drop across stream. You can nip up through the garden
yonder--it don't belong to nobody just now. That'll bring you out into
a place called Pollard's Row, an' you turn straight off on your right.
First turnin' opposite on the right by the 'Royal Oak,' which is a
public-'ouse, second turnin' to the left after that, an' you're in Upper
Town Street, an' from there to the Good Samaritan it's no more 'n a
Tilda was silent for a few moments whilst she fixed these directions in
"It do seem," she said graciously while she dried the boy's face with
the skirt of her frock, "like as if you 'd dropped 'ere from 'eaven.
What we should a-done without you, I can't think."
"You'd best thank that dog o' your'n." The young man bent to cast off
his rope. "He broke away from me once, an' I made sure I'd lost 'im.
But by-an'-by back he came like a mad thing, an' no need to tell me you
was inside there. He was neither to hold nor to bind, an' I do believe
if he hadn't thought o' the manhole he'd 'a-broke the wall down, or elst
"When I tell you 'e got me in as well as out--But, good sake, I musn'
stand 'ere talkin'! Gimme my crutch, an' shove us across, that's a dear
She pushed the boy before her on to the barge. 'Dolph sprang on board
at their heels, and the young coalheaver thrust the bows across with his
pole. The canal measured but seventeen or eighteen feet from brink to
brink, and consequently the boat, which was seventy feet long at least,
fell across at a long angle. The garden on the opposite shore was
unfenced, or rather, its rotten palings had collapsed with time and the
pressure of a rank growth of elder bushes.
"So long, an' th' Lord bless yer!"
Tilda took the boy's hand and jumped ashore.
"Same to you, an' wishin' you luck!" responded the young coalheaver
cheerfully. "Look 'ere," he added, "if you get in trouble along o'
this, I'm willin' to stand in for my share. Sam Bossom's my name--
employ of Hucks, Canal End Basin. If they lag you for this, you just
refer 'em to Sam Bossom, employ of Hucks--everyone knows Hucks; an' I'll
tell 'em--well, darned if I know what I'll tell 'em, unless that we was
all under the influence o' drink."
"You're a white man," responded Tilda, "though you don't look it; but
there ain't goin' to be no trouble, not if I can 'elp. If anyone arsks
questions, you han't seen us, mind."
"Fur nor feather of ye," he repeated. He watched the pair as they dived
through the elder bushes; saw them, still hand in hand, take the path on
the left side of the garden, where its party hedge could best screen
them from the back windows of the Orphanage; and poled back
"Got an 'ead on her shoulders, that child!" On their way up the garden
Tilda kept silence. She was busy, in fact, with Sam Bossom's
complicated itinerary, repeating it over and over to fix it in her mind.
She was fearful, too, lest some inquisitive neighbour, catching sight of
them, might stop them and challenge to know their business. The streets
once gained, she felt easier--easier indeed with every yard she put
between her and that house of horrors. But the streets, too, held their
dangers. The bells had rung in the elementary schools; all respectable
boys and girls were indoors, deep in the afternoon session, and she had
heard of attendance officers, those prowling foes.
At the end of Pollard's Row--a squalid street of tenement houses--she
suffered indeed a terrible scare. A benevolent-looking middle-aged
lady--a district visitor, in fact--emerging from one of these houses and
arrested perhaps at sight of the crutch or of the boy's strange rags,
stopped her and asked where she was going.
Tilda fell back on the truth. It was economical.
"To the 'orspital," she answered, "the Good Samaritan."
Then she blundered.
"It's 'ereabouts, ain't it, ma'am?"
"Not very far," replied the lady; "two or three streets only. Shall I
show you the way? I have plenty of time."
"Thank you," said Tilda (she was suffering a reaction, and for a moment
it dulled the edge of her wits), "but I know the Good Samaritan, an'
they know all about me."
"What's the matter?"
"'Ip trouble, ma'am. I been treated for it there these three weeks."
"That is strange," said the lady. "You have been going there for three
weeks, and yet you don't know your way?"
"I been a in-patient. I was took there"--she was about to say "on a
stretcher," but checked herself in time--"I was took there in the
evenin' after dark. Father couldn' take me by day, in his work-time.
An' this is my first turn as day-patient, an' that's why my brother 'ere
is let off school to see me along," she wound up with a desperate rush
"You don't live in my district? What's your father's name?"
"No, ma'am. He's called Porter--Sam Porter, an' he works on the
coal-barges. But I wouldn' advise you, I reely wouldn', because
father's got opinions, an' can't abide visitors. I've 'eard 'im threaten
'em quite vi'lent."
"But I won't 'ave you say anything 'gainst father," said Tilda, taking
her up quickly, "for 'e's the best father in the world, if 'twasn' fur
The effect of this masterstroke was that the lady gave her a copper and
let her go, wishing her a speedy recovery. The gift, although she took
it, did not appear to placate Tilda. She hobbled up the next street
with quickened pace, now and then muttering angrily.
"Serves me right!" she broke out at length. "Bill--you don't know Bill,
but 'e's the wisest man in the 'ole world, _an'_ the kindest, _an'_ the
bestest. Bill would 'a-slapped my ear if 'e 'd 'eard me jus' now.
Near upon gave the show away, I did, an' all through wantin' to 'ear
somebody else tell what I knew a'ready. Never let nobody else make sure
for you--that's one o' Bill's sayin's. Take warnin' by me, an' don't
you ever forget it, Arthur Miles."
The boy had not spoken all the way. He glanced at her timidly, and she
saw that he did not understand. Also it was plain that the streets,
with their traffic, puzzled him; at the approach of every passer-by he
would halt uncertainly, like a puppy not yet way-wise. By-and-by he
"But if that's so, you must be my sister."
"I'm not," said Tilda sharply. "What put it into your 'ead?"
"You told the lady--" he began.
"Eh? So I did. But that was all flam." He could make nothing of this.
"I was kiddin' of 'er--tellin' what wasn' true," she explained.
He walked forward a few steps with a frown--not disapproving, but
painfully thinking this out.
"And about the Hospital--wasn't that true either?"
"Yes," Tilda nodded. "We're goin' to the 'orspital all right.
That's why I came to fetch yer. There's someone wants to see yer, ever
"I know about the Good Samaritan," announced the boy.
"I bet yer don't," she contradicted.
"He found a man, a traveller, that some thieves had hurt and left by the
road. Going down to Jericho, it was; and he poured oil and wine into
"Oh, cheese it!" said Tilda. "Oo's a-kiddin' now? An' see 'ere, Arthur
Miles--it don't matter with me, a lie up or down; I'm on'y Tilda.
But don't you pick up the 'abit, or else you'll annoy me. I can't tell
why ezactly, but it don't _sit_ on you."
"Tilda?" The boy caught up her name like an echo. "Tilda what?"
"The Lord knows. Tilda _nothin'_--Tilda o' Maggs's, if you like, an'
nobody's child, anyway."
"But that isn't _possible_," he said, after thinking a moment.
"They called me that sometimes, back--back--"
"At the Orph'nige, eh? 'Oo called you that? The Doctor? No," said
Tilda hurriedly, as he halted with a shiver, "don't look be'ind; 'e's
not anywhere near. An' as for the Good Samaritan, you're wrong about
that, too; for _'ere's_ the Good Samaritan!"
She pointed at the building, and he stared. He could not comprehend at
all, but she had switched him off the current of his deadly fear.
"Now you just wait 'ere by the steps," she commanded, "an' 'Dolph'll
wait by you an' see you come to no 'arm. Understand, 'Dolph? I'm goin'
inside for a minute--only a minute, mind; but if anybody touches Arthur
Miles, you _pin_ 'im!"
'Dolph looked up at his mistress, then at the boy. He wagged his tail,
not enthusiastically. He would fain have followed her, but he
understood, and would obey.
Tilda went up the steps, and up the stairs. On the landing, as chance
would have it, she met the Second Nurse coming out from the ward, with a
sheet in one hand and a tray of medicines in the other.
"You extremely naughty child!" began the Second Nurse, but not in the
shrill tone nor with quite the stern disapproval the child had expected.
"When the doctor told you half an hour exactly, and you have been
_hours!_ What _have_ you been doing?"
"Lookin' up the old folks," she answered, and took note first that the
medicine bottles were those that had stood on the sick woman's table,
and next that the Second Nurse, as she came out, transferred the sheet
to her arm and closed the door behind her.
"You must wait here for a moment, now you have come so late. I have had
to give you another bed; and now I've to fetch some hot water, but I'll
be back in a minute."
"Folks don't make beds up with hot water," thought Tilda.
She watched the nurse down the passage, stepped to the door, and turned
the handle softly.
There was no change in the ward except that a tall screen stood by the
sick woman's bed. Tilda crept to the screen on tip-toe, and peered
Ten seconds--twenty seconds--passed, and then she drew back and stole
out to the landing, closing the door as softly as she had opened it.
In the light of the great staircase window her face was pale and
She went down the stairs slowly.
"Seems I made a mistake," she said, speaking as carelessly as she could,
but avoiding the boy's eyes. "You wasn' wanted up there, after all."
But he gazed at her, and flung out both arms with a strangling sob.
"You won't take me back! You'll hide me--you won't take me back!"
"Oh, 'ush!" said Tilda. "No, I won't take yer back, an' I'll do my
best, but--oh, 'Dolph!"--she brushed the back of her hand across her
eyes and turned to the dog with the bravest smile she could contrive--
"to think of me bein' a mother, at _my_ time o' life!"
TEMPORARY EMBARRASSMENTS OF A THESPIAN.
"_Sinner that I am," said the Showman, "see how you are destroying and
ruining my whole livelihood!_"--DON QUIXOTE.
Mr. Sam Bossom, having poled back to the towpath, stepped ashore, made
fast his bow moorings, stood and watched the two childish figures as
they passed up the last slope of the garden out of sight, and proceeded
to deliver his remaining hundredweights of coal--first, however, peering
down the manhole and listening, to assure himself that all was quiet
"If," said he thoughtfully, "a man was to come an' tell me a story like
that, I'd call 'im a liar."
Twice or thrice before finishing his job he paused to listen again, but
heard nothing. Still in musing mood, he scraped up the loose coal that
lay around the manhole, shovelled it in, re-fixed the cover, and tossed
his shovel on board. His next business was to fetch a horse from the
stables at the Canal End and tow the boat back to her quarters; and
having taken another glance around, he set off and up the towpath at a
pretty brisk pace. It would be five o'clock before he finished his
work: at six he had an engagement, and it would take him some time to
wash and titivate.
Canal End Basin lay hard upon three-quarters of a mile up stream, and
about half that distance beyond the bend of the Great Brewery--a
malodorous pool packed with narrow barges or monkey-boats--a few loading
leisurably, the rest moored in tiers awaiting their cargoes.
They belonged to many owners, but their type was well nigh uniform.
Each measured seventy feet in length, or a trifle over, with a beam of
about seven; each was built with rounded bilges, and would carry from
twenty-five to thirty tons of cargo; each provided, aft of its hold or
cargo-well, a small cabin for the accommodation of its crew by day; and
for five-sixths of its length each was black as a gondola of Venice.
Only, where the business part of the boat ended and its cabin began, a
painted ribbon of curious pattern ornamented the gunwale, and terminated
in two pictured stern-panels.
Wharves and storehouses surrounded the basin, or rather enclosed three
sides of it, and looked upon the water across a dead avenue (so to
speak) of cranes and bollards; buildings of exceedingly various height
and construction, some tiled, others roofed with galvanised iron.
Almost every one proclaimed on its front, for the information of the
stranger, its owner's name and what he traded in; and the stranger,
while making his choice between these announcements, had ample time to
contrast their diversity of size and style with the sober uniformity
that prevailed afloat.
The store and yard of Mr. Christopher Hucks stood at the head of the
basin, within a stone's-throw of the Weigh Dock, and but two doors away
from the Canal Company's office. It was approached through
folding-doors, in one of which a smaller opening had been cut for
pedestrians, and through this, on his way to the stables in the rear,
Mr. Sam Bossom entered. He entered and halted, rubbing his eyes with
the back of his hand, which, grimed as it was with coal grit, but
further inflamed their red rims. In the centre of the yard, which had
been empty when he went to work, stood a large yellow caravan; and on
the steps of the caravan sat a man--a stranger--peeling potatoes over a
"Hullo!" said Sam.
The stranger--a long-faced man with a dead complexion, an abundance of
dark hair, and a blue chin--nodded gloomily.
"The surprise," he answered, "is mutual. If it comes to _that_, young
man, you are not looking your best either; though doubtless, if washed
off, it would reveal a countenance not sicklied o'er with the pale cast
of thought--thought such as, alas! must be mine--thought which, if
acquainted with the poets, you will recognise as lying too deep for
"Governor settin' up in a new line?" asked Sam, slowly contemplating the
caravan and a large tarpaulin-covered wagon that stood beside it with
shafts resting on the ground.
"If, my friend, you allude to Mr. Christopher Hucks, he is not setting
up in any new line, but pursuing a fell career on principles which (I am
credibly informed) are habitual to him, and for which I can only hope he
will be sorry when he is dead. The food, sir, of Mr. Christopher Hucks
is still the bread of destitution; his drink, the tears of widows; and
the groans of the temporarily embarrassed supply the music of his
"There is a bit o' that about the old man, until you get to know him,"
assented Sam cheerfully.
"Mr. Christopher Hucks--" began the stranger with slow emphasis,
dropping a peeled potato into the bucket and lifting a hand with an open
clasp-knife towards heaven.
But here a voice from within the caravan interrupted him.
"I can't find the saucepan."
A lady appeared at the hatch of the doorway above. Her hair hung in
disarray over her well-developed shoulders, and recent tears had left
their furrows on a painted but not uncomely face.
"I--I--well, to confess the truth, I pawned it, my bud. Dear, every
cloud has its silver lining, and meanwhile what shall we say to a simple
fry? You have an incomparable knack of frying."
"But where's the dripping?"
Her husband groaned.
"The dripping! The continual dripping! Am I--forgive the bitterness of
the question--but am I a stone, love?"
He asked it with a hollow laugh, and at the same time with a glance
challenged Sam's approval for his desperate pleasantry.
Sam jerked his thumb to indicate a wooden out-house on the far side of
"I got a shanty of my own across there, _and_ a few fixin's. If the van's
anchored here, an' I can set you up with odds-an'-ends such as a
saucepan, you're welcome."
"A friend in need, sir, is a friend indeed," said the stranger
impressively; and Sam's face brightened, for he had heard the proverb
before, and it promised to bring the conversation, which he had found
some difficulty in following, down to safe, familiar ground. "Allow me
to introduce you--but excuse me, I have not the pleasure of knowing your
"Delighted! 'Bossom' did you say? B--O--double S--it should have been
'Blossom,' sir, with a slight addition; or, with an equally slight
omission--er--'Bosom,' if my Arabella will excuse me. On two hands, Mr.
Bossom, you narrowly escape poetry." (Sam looked about him uneasily.)
"But, as Browning says, 'The little more and how much it is, the little
less and what miles away.' Mine is Mortimer, sir--Stanislas Horatio
Mortimer. You have doubtless heard of it?"
"Can't say as I 'ave," Sam confessed.
"Is it possible?" Mr. Mortimer was plainly surprised, not to say hurt.
He knit his brows, and for a moment seemed to be pondering darkly.
"You hear it, Arabella? But no matter. As I was saying, sir, I desire
the pleasure of introducing you to my wife, Mrs. Mortimer, better known
to fame, perhaps, as Miss Arabella St. Maur. You see her, Mr. Bossom,
as my helpmeet under circumstances which (though temporarily
unfavourable) call forth the true woman--naked, in a figurative sense,
and unadorned. But her Ophelia, sir, has been favourably, nay
enthusiastically, approved by some of the best critics of our day."
This again left Sam gravelled. He had a vague notion that the lady's
Ophelia must be some admired part of her anatomy, but contented himself
with touching his brow politely and muttering that he was Mrs.
Mortimer's to command. The lady, who appeared to be what Sam called to
himself a good sort, smiled down on him graciously, and hoped that she
and her husband might be favoured with his company at supper.
"It's very kind of _you_, ma'am," responded Sam; "but 'fact is I han't
knocked off work yet. 'Must go now and fetch out th' old hoss for a
trifle of haulage; an' when I get back I must clean meself an' shift for
night-school--me bein' due early there to fetch up leeway. You see," he
explained, "bein' on the move wi' the boats most o' my time, I don't get
the same chances as the other fellows. So when I hauls ashore, as we
call it, I 'ave to make up lost time."
"A student, I declare!" Mr. Mortimer saluted him. Rising from the steps
of the caravan, he rubbed a hand down his trouser-leg and extended it.
"Permit me to grasp, sir, the horny palm of self-improvement. A scholar
in humble life! and--as your delicacy in this small matter of the
saucepan sufficiently attests--one of Nature's gentlemen to boot!
I prophesy that you will go far, Mr. Bossom. May I inquire what books
"Thumb?" Sam, his hard hand released, stared at it a moment perplexed.
"That ain't the _method_, sir; not at our school. But I'm gettin'
along, and the book is called Lord Macaulay."
"What? Macaulay's _Essays?_"
"It's called _Lays_, sir--Lord Macaulay's _Lays_. The rest of the class
chose it, an' I didn' like to cry off, though I 'd not a-flown so high
as a lord myself--not to start with."
"The _Lays of Ancient Rome?_ My dear Bossom--my dear Smiles--you'll
allow me to dub you Smiles? _On Self Help_, you know. I like to call
my friends by these playful sobriquets, and friends we are going to be,
you and I. My dear fellow, I used to know 'em by heart--"
'Lars Porsena of Clusium
By the nine gods he swore--'
"--Is that the ticket, hey?"
Mr. Mortimer clapped him on the shoulder. "Dang it!" breathed Sam,
"how small the world is!"
"Smiles, we must be friends. Even if, for a paltry trifle of seven
pounds fifteen and six, I am condemned by your master (whom you will
excuse my terming a miscreant) to eke out the dregs of my worthless
existence in this infernal yard--no, my loved Arabella, you will pardon
me, but as a practical man I insist on facing the worst--even so I have
found a congenial spirit, a co-mate and brother in exile, a Friend in my
retreat Whom I can whisper: 'Solitude is sweet.' Pursue, my dear
Smiles! You are young: hope sits on your helm and irradiates it.
For me, my bark is stranded, my fortunes shipwrecked, my career trickles
out in the sands. Nevertheless, take the advice of an Elder Brother,
and pursue. By the way"--Mr. Mortimer drew from his breast-pocket the
stump of a half-consumed cigar--"I regret that I have not its fellow to
offer you; but could you oblige me with a match?"
Sam produced a couple of sulphur matches.
"I thank you." Mr. Mortimer lit and inhaled. "A--ah!" he sighed between
two luxurious puffs. "Connoisseurs--epicures--tell me a cigar should
never be lit twice. But with tobacco of this quality--the last of the
box, alas! All its blooming companions--and, between you and me,
smuggled." He winked knowingly.
Just then a hooter from the Great Brewery announced five o'clock.
Sam groaned. He had engaged himself to the schoolmaster for an hour's
private tuition before the Evening Class opened, and Mr. Mortimer's
fascinating talk had destroyed his last chance of keeping that
engagement. Even if he dropped work straight away, it would take him a
good three-quarters of an hour to clean himself and don his best suit.
He was explaining this to Mr. and Mrs. Mortimer when, his eyes resting
on the empty shafts of the wagon, a happy thought occurred to him.
"O' course," he began, "--but there, I don't like to suggest it, sir."
"Say on, my friend."
"Well--I was thinkin' that you, may be, bein' accustomed to hosses--"
"My father," put in Mr. Mortimer, "rode to hounds habitually. A _beau
ideal_, if I may say so, of the Old English squire. It is in the
"I _know_ it's a come-down," Sam owned. "And a shilling at most for
overtime--meanin' no offence--"
Mr. Mortimer waved a hand.
"If," said he, "it be a question of my rendering you any small service,
I beg, my friend--I command--that all question of pecuniary recompense
be left out of the discussion."
Sam, feeling that he had to deal with a noble character, explained that
the job was an easy one; merely to lead or ride one of the horses down
the hauling-path to where the boat lay, to hitch on the tackle, cast off
straps, pull up and ship the two crowbars to which they were made fast,
and so take the tiller and steer home. The horse knew his business, and
would do the rest.
"And you can't mistake the boat. _Duchess of Teck_ is her name, an' she
lies about three ropes' lengths this side of the iron bridge, just as
you come abreast o' the brick wall that belongs to the Orph'nage."
"Bring forth the steed," commanded Mr. Mortimer. "Nay, I will accompany
you to the stables and fetch him."
"_And_ the saucepan! Don't forget the saucepan!" Mrs. Mortimer called
after them in a sprightly voice as they crossed the yard together.
"Ha, the saucepan!" Within the stable doorway Mr. Mortimer stood still
and pressed a hand to his brow. "You cannot think, my dear Smiles, how
that obligation weighs on me. The expense of a saucepan--what is it?
And yet--" He seemed to ponder. Of a sudden his brow cleared.
"--Unless, to be sure--that is to say, if you should happen to have a
shilling about you?"
"I got no change but 'arf-a-crown, if that's any use," answered the
"Nothing smaller? Still," suggested Mr. Mortimer quickly, "I could
bring back the change."
"It will please Arabella, too. In point of fact, during the whole of
our married life I have made it a rule never to absent myself from her
side without bringing back some trifling gift. Women--as you will
understand one of these days--set a value on these _petits soins_; and
somewhere in the neighbourhood of the iron bridge a tinsmith's should
not be hard to find . . . Ah, thanks, my dear fellow--thanks
inexpressibly! Absurd of me, of course; but you cannot think what a
load you have taken off my mind."
Sam unhitched one of a number of hauling tackles hanging against the
wall, and led forth his horse--a sturdy old grey, by name Jubilee.
Casting the tackle carelessly on the animal's back, he handed Mr.
Mortimer the headstall rope, and left him, to return two minutes later
with the saucepan he had promised.
"She must use this one for the time," he explained. "And afterwards
yours will come as a surprise."
"It must be so, I suppose," assented Mr. Mortimer, but after a pause,
and reluctantly, averting his eyes from the accursed thing.
To spare him, Sam hurried across to deliver it to the lady, who awaited
them in the doorway: and thus approaching he became aware that she was
making mysterious signals. He glanced behind him. Plainly the signals
were not directed at her husband, who had halted to stoop and pass a
hand over old Jubilee's near hind pastern, and in a manner almost more
than professional. Sam advanced, in some wonder. Mrs. Mortimer reached
down a shapely hand for the pan-handle, leaned as she did so, and
"You will not lend money to Stanislas? He is apt, when the world goes
ill with him, to seek distraction, to behave unconventionally. It is
not a question of drowning his cares, for the least little drop acting
upon his artistic temperament--"
But at this moment her husband, having concluded his inspection of the
grey, called out to be given a leg-up, and Sam hurried back to oblige.
"Thank you. Time was, Smiles, when with hand laid lightly on the
crupper, I could have vaulted."
Overcome by these reminiscences, Mr. Mortimer let his chin sink, his
legs dangle, and rode forward a pace or two in the classical attitude of
the Last Survivor from Cabul; but anon looked up with set jaw and
resolution in his eye, took a grip with his knees, and challenged--
"Give a man a horse he can ride,
Give a man a boat he can sail,
And his something or other--I forget
the exact expression--
On sea nor shore shall fail!"
--"Fling wide the gate, Smiles!" He was now the Dashing Cavalier,
life-sized. "Take care of yourself, poppet!"
He gave his bridle-rein a shake (so to speak), turned, blew a kiss to
his spouse, dug heel and jogged forth chanting--
"_Tirra tirra_ by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot!"