Two Years Ago, by Charles Kingsley

Chapter iii.

Anything but Still Life.

Penalva Court, about half a mile from the quay, is “like a house in a story;"— a house of seven gables, and those very shaky ones; a house of useless long passages, useless turrets, vast lumber attics where maids see ghosts, lofty garden and yard walls of grey stone, round which the wind and rain are lashing through the dreary darkness; low oak-ribbed ceilings; windows which once were mullioned with stone, but now with wood painted white; walls which were once oak-wainscot, but have been painted like the mullions, to the disgust of Elsley Vavasour, poet, its occupant in March 1854, who forgot that, while the oak was left dark, no man could have seen to read in the rooms a yard from the window.

He has, however, little reason to complain of the one drawing-room, where he and his wife are sitting, so pleasant has she made it look, in spite of the plainness of the furniture. A bright log-fire is burning on the hearth. There are a few good books too, and a few handsome prints; while some really valuable nick-nacks are set out, with pardonable ostentation, on a little table covered with crimson velvet. It is only cotton velvet, if you look close at it; but the things are pretty enough to catch the eye of all visitors; and Mrs. Heale, the Doctor’s wife (who always calls Mrs. Vavasour “my lady,” though she does not love her), and Mrs. Trebooze, of Trebooze, always finger them over when they have any opportunity, and whisper to each other half contemptuously — “Ah, poor thing! there’s a sign that she has seen better days.”

And better days, in one sense, Mrs. Vavasour has seen. I am afraid, indeed, that she has more than once regretted the morning when she ran away in a hack-cab from her brother Lord Scoutbush’s house in Eaton Square, to be married to Elsley Vavasour, the gifted author of “A Soul’s Agonies and other Poems.” He was a lion then, with foolish women running after him, and turning his head once and for all; and Lucia St. Just was a wild Irish girl, new to London society, all feeling and romance, and literally all; for there was little real intellect underlying her passionate sensibility. So when the sensibility burnt itself out, as it generally does; and when children, and the weak health which comes with them, and the cares of a household, and money difficulties were absorbing her little powers, Elsley Vavasour began to fancy that his wife was a very commonplace person, who was fast losing even her good looks and her good temper. So, on the whole, they were not happy. Elsley was an affectionate man, and honourable to a fantastic nicety; but he was vain, capricious, over-sensitive, craving for admiration and distinction; and it was not enough for him that his wife loved him, and bore him children, kept his accounts, mended and moiled all day long for him and his; he wanted her to act the public for him exactly when he was hungry for praise; and that not the actual, but an altogether ideal, public; to worship him as a deity, “live for him and him alone,” “realise” his poetic dreams of marriage bliss, and talk sentiment with him, or listen to him talking sentiment to her, when she would much sooner be safe in bed burying all the petty cares of the day, and the pain in her back too, poor thing! in sound sleep; and so it befell that they often quarrelled and wrangled, and that they were quarrelling and wrangling this very night.

Who cares to know how it began? Who cares to hear how it went on — the stupid, aimless skirmish of bitter words, between two people who had forgotten themselves? I believe it began with Elsley’s being vexed at her springing up two or three times, fancying that she heard the children cry, while he wanted to be quiet, and sentimentalise over the roaring of the wind outside. Then — she thought of nothing but those children. Why did she not take a book and occupy her mind? To which she had her pert, though just answer, about her mind having quite enough to do to keep clothes on the children’s backs, and so forth — let who list imagine the miserable little squabble; — till she says — “I know what has put you out so to-night; nothing but the news of my sister’s coming.” He answers — “That her sister is as little to him as to any man; as welcome to come now as she has been to stay away these three years.”

“Ah, it’s very well to say that; but you have been a different person ever since that letter came.” And so she torments him into an angry self-justification (which she takes triumphantly as a confession) that “it is very disagreeable to have his thoughts broken in on by one who has no sympathy with him and his pursuits — and who” and at that point he wisely stops short, for he was going to throw down a very ugly gage of battle.

Thrown down or not, Lucia snatches at it.

“Ah, I understand; poor Valentia! You always hated her.”

“I did not: but she is so brusque, and excited, and —”

“Be so kind as not to abuse my family. You may say what you will of me; but —”

“And what have your family done for me, pray?”

“Why, considering that we are now living rent-free in my brother’s house, and —” She stops in her turn; for her pride and her prudence also will not let her tell him that Valentia has been clothing her and the children for the last three years. He is just the man to forbid her on the spot to receive any more presents, and to sacrifice her comfort to his own pride. But what she has said is quite enough to bring out a very angry answer, which she expecting, nips in the bud by —

“For goodness’ sake, don’t speak so loud; I don’t want the servants to hear.”

“I am not speaking loud”—(he has not yet opened his lips). “That is your old trick to prevent my defending myself, while you are driving one mad. How dare you taunt me with being a pensioner on your brother’s bounty? I’ll go up to town again and take lodgings there. I need not be beholden to any aristocrat of them all. I have my own station in the real world — the world of intellect; I have my own friends; I have made myself a name without his help; and I can live without his help, he shall find!”

“Which name were you speaking of?” rejoins she looking up at him, with all her native Irish humour flashing up for a moment in her naughty eyes. The next minute she would have given her hand not to have said it; for, with a very terrible word, Elsley springs to his feet and dashes out of the room.

She hears him catch up his hat and cloak, and hurry out into the rain, slamming the door behind him. She springs up to call him back, but he is gone; — and she dashes herself on the floor, and bursts into an agony of weeping over “young bliss never to return”? Not in the least. Her principal fear is, lest he should catch cold in the rain. She takes up her work again, and stitches away in the comfortable certainty that in half an hour she will have recovered her temper, and he also; that they will pass a sulky night; and to-morrow, by about mid-day, without explanation or formal reconciliation, have become as good friends as ever. “Perhaps,” says she to herself, with a woman’s sense of power, “if he be very much ashamed and very wet, I’ll pity him and make friends to-night.”

Miserable enough are these little squabbles. Why will two people, who have sworn to love and cherish each other utterly, and who, on the whole, do what they have sworn, behave to each other as they dare for very shame behave to no one else? Is it that, as every beautiful thing has its hideous antitype, this mutual shamelessness is the devil’s ape of mutual confidence? Perhaps it cannot be otherwise with beings compact of good and evil. When the veil of reserve is withdrawn from between two souls, it must be withdrawn for evil, as for good, till the two natures, which ought to seek rest, each in the other’s inmost depths, may at last spring apart, confronting each other recklessly with — “There, you see me as I am; you know the worst of me, and I of you; take me as you find me — what care I?”

Elsley and Lucia have not yet arrived at that terrible crisis: though they are on the path toward it — the path of little carelessnesses, rudenesses, ungoverned words and tempers, and, worst of all, of that half-confidence, which is certain to avenge itself by irritation and quarrelling; for if two married people will not tell each other in love what they ought, they will be sure to tell each other in anger what they ought not. It is plain enough already that Elsley has his weak point, which must not be touched; something about “a name,” which Lucia is to be expected to ignore — as if anything which really exists could be ignored while two people live together night and day, for better for worse. Till the thorn is out, the wound will not heal; and till the matter (whatever it may be) is set right, by confession and absolution, there will be no peace for them, for they are living in a lie; and, unless it be a very little one indeed, better, perhaps, that they should go on to that terrible crisis of open defiance. It may end in disgust, hatred, madness; but it may, too, end in each falling again upon the other’s bosom, and sobbing out through holy tears — “Yes, you do know the worst of me, and yet you love me still. This is happiness, to find oneself most loved when one most hates oneself! God, help us to confess our sins to Thee, as we have done to each other, and to begin life again like little children, struggling hand in hand out of this lowest pit, up the steep path which leads to life, and strength, and peace.”

Heaven grant that it may so end! But now Elsley has gone raging out into the raging darkness; trying to prove himself to himself the most injured of men, and to hate his wife as much as possible: though the fool knows the whole time that he loves her better than anything on earth, even than that “fame,” on which he tries to fatten his lean soul, snapping greedily at every scrap which falls in his way, and, in default, snapping at everybody and everything else. And little comfort it gives him. Why should it? What comfort, save in being wise and strong? And is he the wiser or stronger for being told by a reviewer that he has written fine words, or has failed in writing them; or to have silly women writing to ask for his autograph, or for leave to set his songs to music? Nay — shocking as the question may seem — is he the wiser and stronger man for being a poet at all, and a genius? — provided, of course, that the word genius is used in its modern meaning, of a person who can say prettier things than his neighbours. I think not. Be it as it may, away goes the poor genius; his long cloak, picturesque enough in calm weather, fluttering about uncomfortably enough, while the rain washes his long curls into swabs; out through the old garden, between storm-swept laurels, beneath dark groaning pines, and through a door in the wall which opens into the lane.

The lane leads downward, on the right, into the village. He is in no temper to meet his fellow-creatures — even to see the comfortable gleam through their windows, as the sailors close round the fire with wife and child; so he turns to the left, up the deep stone-banked lane, which leads towards the cliff, dark now as pitch, for it is overhung, right and left, with deep oak-wood.

It is no easy matter to proceed, though, for the wind pours down the lane as through a funnel, and the road is of slippery bare slate, worn here and there into puddles of greasy clay, and Elsley slips back half of every step, while his wrath, as he tires, oozes out of his heels. Moreover, those dark trees above him, tossing their heads impatiently against the scarcely less dark sky, strike an awe into him — a sense of loneliness, almost of fear. An uncanny, bad night it is; and he is out on a bad errand; and he knows it, and wishes that he were home again. He does not believe, of course, in those “spirits of the storm,” about whom he has so often written, any more than he does in a great deal of his fine imagery; but still in such characters as his, the sympathy between the moods of nature and those of the mind is most real and important; and Dame Nature’s equinoctial night wrath is weird, gruesome, crushing, and can be faced (if it must be faced) in real comfort only when one is going on an errand of mercy, with a clear conscience, a light heart, a good cigar, and plenty of Mackintosh.

So, ere Elsley had gone a quarter of a mile, he turned back, and resolved to go in, and take up his book once more. Perhaps Lucia might beg his pardon; and if not, why, perhaps he might beg hers. The rain was washing the spirit out of him, as it does out of a thin-coated horse.

Stay! What was that sound above the roar of the gale? a cannon?

He listened, turning his head right and left to escape the howling of the wind in his ears. A minute, and another boom rose and rang aloft. It was near, too. He almost fancied that he felt the concussion of the air.

Another, and another; and then, in the village below, he could see lights hurrying to and fro. A wreck at sea? He turned again up the lane. He had never seen a wreck. What an opportunity for a poet; and on such a night too: it would be magnificent if the moon would but come out! Just the scene, too, for his excited temper! He will work on upward, let it blow and rain as it may. He is not disappointed. Ere he has gone a hundred yards, a mass of dripping oil-skins runs full butt against him, knocking him against the bank; and, by the clank of weapons, he recognises the coast-guard watchman.

“Hillo! — who’s that? Beg your pardon, sir,” as the man recognises Elsley’s voice.

“What is it? — what are the guns?”

“God knows, sir! Overright the Chough and Crow; on ’em, I’m afeard. There they go again! — hard up, poor souls! God help them!” and the man runs shouting down the lane.

Another gun, and another; but long ere Elsley reaches the cliff, they are silent; and nothing is to be heard but the noise of the storm, which, loud as it was below among the wood, is almost intolerable now that he is on the open down.

He struggles up the lane toward the cliff, and there pauses, gasping, under the shelter of a wall, trying to analyse that enormous mass of sound which fills his ears and brain, and flows through his heart like maddening wine. He can bear the sight of the dead grass on the cliff-edge, weary, feeble, expostulating with its old tormentor the gale; then the fierce screams of the blasts as they rush up across the layers of rock below, like hounds leaping up at their prey; and far beneath, the horrible confused battle-roar of that great leaguer of waves. He cannot see them, as he strains his eyes over the wall into the blank depth — nothing but a confused welter and quiver of mingled air, and rain, and spray, as if the very atmosphere were writhing in the clutches of the gale: but he can hear — what can he not hear? It would have needed a less vivid brain than Elsley’s to fancy another Badajos beneath. There it all is:— the rush of columns to the breach, officers cheering them on — pauses, breaks, wild retreats, upbraiding calls, whispering consultations — fresh rush on rush, now here, now there — fierce shouts above, below, behind — shrieks of agony, choked groans and gasps of dying men — scaling-ladders hurled down with all their rattling freight — dull mine-explosions, ringing cannon-thunder, as the old fortress blasts back its besiegers pell-mell into the deep. It is all there: truly enough there, at least, to madden yet more Elsley’s wild angry brain, till he tries to add his shouts to the great battle-cries of land and sea, and finds them as little audible as an infant’s wail.

Suddenly, far below him, a bright glimmer; — and, in a moment, a blue-light reveals the whole scene, in ghastly hues — blue leaping breakers, blue weltering sheets of foam, blue rocks, crowded with blue figures, like ghosts, flitting to and fro upon the brink of that blue seething Phlegethon, and rushing up towards him through the air, a thousand flying blue foam-sponges, which dive over the brow of the hill and vanish, like delicate fairies fleeing before the wrath of the gale:— but where is the wreck? The blue-light cannot pierce the grey veil of mingled mist and spray which hangs to seaward; and her guns have been silent for half an hour and more.

Elsley hurries down, and finds half the village collected on the long sloping point of down below. Sailors wrapped in pilot-cloth, oil-skinned coast-guardsmen, women with their gowns turned over their heads, staggering restlessly up and down, and in and out, while every moment some fresh comer stumbles down the slope, thrusting himself into his clothes as he goes, and asks, “Where’s the wreck!” and gets no answer, but a surly advice to “hold his noise,” as if they had hope of hearing the wreck which they cannot see; and kind women, with their hearts full of mothers’ instincts, declare that they can hear little children crying, and are pooh-poohed down by kind men, who, man’s fashion, don’t like to believe anything too painful, or, if they believe it, to talk of it.

“What were the guns from, then, Brown?” asks the Lieutenant of the head-boatman.

“Off the Chough and Crow, I thought, sir. God grant not!”

“You thought, sir!” says the great man, willing to vent his vexation on some one. “Why didn’t you make sure?”

“Why, just look, Lieutenant,” says Brown, pointing into the “blank height of the dark;” “and I was on the pier too, and couldn’t see; but the look-out man here says —” A shift of wind, a drift of cloud, and the moon flashes out a moment. —“There she is, sir!”

Some three hundred yards out at sea lies a long curved black line, beautiful, severe, and still, amid those white wild leaping hills. A murmur from the crowd, which swells into a roar, as they surge aimlessly up and down.

Another moment, and it is cut in two by a white line — covered — lost — all hold their breaths. No; the sea passes on, and still the black curve is there; enduring.

“A terrible big ship!”

“A Liverpool clipper, by the lines of her.”

“God help the poor passengers, then!” sobs a woman. “They’re past our help: she’s on her beam ends.”

“And her deck upright toward us.”

“Silence! Out of the way you loafing long-shores!” shouts the Lieutenant. “Brown — the rockets!”

What though the Lieutenant be somewhat given to strong liquors, and stronger language? He wears the Queen’s uniform; and what is more, he knows his work, and can do it; all make a silent ring while the fork is planted; the Lieutenant, throwing away the end of his cigar, kneels and adjusts the stick; Brown and his mates examine and shake out the coils of line.

Another minute, and the magnificent creature rushes forth with a triumphant roar, and soars aloft over the waves in a long stream of fire, defiant of the gale.

Is it over her? No! A fierce gust, which all but hurls the spectators to the ground; the fiery stream sweeps away to the left, in a grand curve of sparks, and drops into the sea.

“Try it again!” shouts the Lieutenant, his blood now up. “We’ll see which will beat, wind or powder.”

Again a rocket is fixed, with more allowance for the wind; but the black curve has disappeared, and he must wait awhile.

“There it is again! Fly swift and sure,” cries Elsley, “thou fiery angel of mercy, bearing the saviour-line! It may not be too late yet.”

Full and true the rocket went across her; and “three cheers for the Lieutenant!” rose above the storm.

“Silence, lads! Not so bad, though;” says he, rubbing his wet hands. “Hold on by the line, and watch for a bite, Brown.”

Five minutes pass. Brown has the line in his hand, waiting for any signal touch from the ship: but the line sways limp in the surge.

Ten minutes. The Lieutenant lights a fresh cigar, and paces up and down, smoking fiercely.

A quarter of an hour; and yet no response. The moon is shining clearly now. They can see her hatchways, the stumps of her masts, great tangles of rigging swaying and lashing down across her deck; but that delicate upper curve is becoming more ragged after every wave; and the tide is rising fast.

“There’s a pull!” shouts Brown. . . . “No, there ain’t . . . God have mercy, sir! She’s going!”

The black curve boils up, as if a mine had been sprung on board, leaps into arches, jagged peaks, black bars crossed and tangled; and then all melts away into the white seething waste; while the line floats home helplessly, as if disappointed; and the billows plunge more sullenly and sadly towards the shore, as if in remorse for their dark and reckless deed.

All is over. What shall we do now? Go home, and pray that God may have mercy on all drowning souls? Or think what a picturesque and tragical scene it was, and what a beautiful poem it will make, when we have thrown it into an artistic form, and bedizened it with conceits and analogies stolen from all heaven and earth by our own self-willed fancy?

Elsley Vavasour — through whose spectacles, rather than with my own eyes, I have been looking at the wreck, and to whose account, not to mine, the metaphors and similes of the last two pages must be laid — took the latter course; not that he was not awed, calmed, and even humbled, as he felt how poor and petty his own troubles were, compared with that great tragedy: but in his fatal habit of considering all matters in heaven and earth as bricks and mortar for the poet to build with, he considered that he had “seen enough;” as if men were sent into the world to see and not to act; and going home too excited to sleep, much more to go and kiss forgiveness to his sleeping wife, sat up all night, writing “The Wreck,” which may be (as the reviewer in “The Parthenon” asserts) an exquisite poem; but I cannot say that it is of much importance.

So the delicate genius sate that night, scribbling verses by a warm fire, and the rough Lieutenant settled himself down in his Mackintoshes, to sit out those weary hours on the bare rock, having done all that he could do, and yet knowing that his duty was, not to leave the place as long as there was a chance of saving — not a life, for that was past all hope — but a chest of clothes, or a stick of timber. There he settled himself, grumbling, yet faithful; and filled up the time with sleepy maledictions against some old admiral, who had — or had not — taken a spite to him in the West Indies thirty years before, else he would have been a post captain by now, comfortably in bed on board a crack frigate, instead of sitting all night out on a rock, like an old cormorant, etc. etc. Who knows not the woes of ancient coast-guard lieutenants?

But as it befell, Elsley Vavasour was justly punished for going home, by losing the most “poetical” incident of the whole night.

For with the coast-guardsmen many sailors stayed. There was nothing to be earned by staying: but still, who knew but they might be wanted? And they hung on with the same feeling which tempts one to linger round a grave ere the earth is filled in, loth to give up the last sight, and with it the last hope. The ship herself, over and above her lost crew, was in their eyes a person to be loved and regretted. And Gentleman Jan spoke, like a true sailor —

“Ah, poor dear! And she such a beauty, Mr. Brown; as any one might see by her lines, even that way off. Ah, poor dear!”

“And so many brave souls on board; and, perhaps, some of them not ready, Mr. Beer,” says the serious elderly chief boatman. “Eh, Captain Willis?”

“The Lord has had mercy on them, I don’t doubt.” answers the old man, in his quiet sweet voice. “One can’t but hope that he would give them time for one prayer before all was over; and having been drowned myself, Mr. Brown, three times, and taken up for dead — that is, once in Gibraltar Bay, and once when I was a total wreck in the old Seahorse, that was in the hurricane in the Indies; after that when I fell over quay-head here, fishing for bass — why, I know well how quick the prayer will run through a man’s heart, when he’s a-drowning, and the light of conscience, too, all one’s life in one minute, like —”

“It arn’t the men I care for,” says Gentleman Jan; “they’re gone to heaven, like all brave sailors do as dies by wreck and battle: but the poor dear ship, d’ye see, Captain Willis, she ha’n’t no heaven to go to, and that’s why I feel for her so.”

Both the old men shake their heads at Jan’s doctrine, and turn the subject off.

“You’d better go home, Captain, ‘fear of the rheumatics. It’s a rough night for your years; and you’ve no call, like me.”

“I would, but my maid there; and I can’t get her home; and I can’t leave her.” And Willis points to the schoolmistress, who sits upon the flat slope of rock, a little apart from the rest, with her face resting on her hands, gazing intently out into the wild waste.

“Make her go; it’s her duty — we all have our duties. Why does her mother let her out at this time of night? I keep my maids tighter than that, I warrant.” And disciplinarian Mr. Brown makes a step towards her.

“Ah, Mr. Brown, don’t now! She’s not one of us. There’s no saying what’s going on there in her. Maybe she’s praying; maybe she sees more than we do, over the sea there.”

“What do you mean? There’s no living body in those breakers, be sure!”

“There’s more living things about on such a night than have bodies to them, or than any but such as she can see. If any one ever talked with angels, that maid does; and I’ve heard her, too; I can say I have — certain of it. Those that like may call her an innocent: but I wish I were such an innocent, Mr. Brown. I’d be nearer heaven then, here on earth, than I fear sometimes I ever shall be, even after I’m dead and gone.”

“Well, she’s a good girl, mazed or not; but look at her now! What’s she after?”

The girl had raised her head, and was pointing, with one arm stretched stiffly out toward the sea.

Old Willis went down to her, and touched her gently on the shoulder.

“Come home, my maid, then, you’ll take cold, indeed;” but she did not move or lower her arm.

The old man, accustomed to her fits of fixed melancholy, looked down under her bonnet, to see whether she was “past,” as he called it. By the moonlight he could see her great eyes steady and wide open. She motioned him away, half impatiently, and then sprang to her feet with a scream.

“A man! A man! Save him!”

As she spoke, a huge wave rolled in, and shot up the sloping end of the point in a broad sheet of foam.

And out of it struggled, on hands and knees, a human figure. He looked wildly up, and round, and then his head dropped again on his breast; and he lay clinging with outspread arms, like Homer’s polypus in the Odyssey, as the wave drained back, in a thousand roaring cataracts, over the edge of the rock.

“Save him!” shrieked she again, as twenty men rushed forward — and stopped short. The man was fully thirty yards from them: but close to him, between them and him, stretched a long ghastly crack, some ten feet wide, cutting the point across. All knew it: its slippery edge, its polished upright sides, the seething cauldrons within it; and knew, too, that the next wave would boil up from it in a hundred jets, and suck in the strongest to his doom, to fall, with brains dashed out, into a chasm from which was no return.

Ere they could nerve themselves for action, the wave had come. Up the slope it went, one half of it burying the wretched mariner, and fell over into the chasm. The other half rushed up the chasm itself, and spouted forth again to the moonlight in columns of snow, in time to meet the wave from which it had just parted, as it fell from above; and then the two boiled up, and round, and over, and swirled along the smooth rock to their very feet.

The schoolmistress took one long look; and as the wave retired, rushed after it to the very brink of the chasm, and flung herself on her knees.

“She’s mazed!”

“No, she’s not!” almost screamed old Willis, in mingled pride and terror, as he rushed after her. “The wave has carried him across the crack and she’s got him!” And he sprang upon her, and caught her round the waist.

“Now, if you be men!” shouted he, as the rest hurried down.

“Now, if you be men; before the next wave comes!” shouted Big Jan. “Hands together, and make a line!” And he took a grip with one hand of the old man’s waistband, and held out the other for who would to seize.

Who took it? Frank Headley, the curate, who had been watching all sadly apart, longing to do something which no one could mistake.

“Be you man enough?” asked big Jan doubtfully.

“Try,” said Frank.

“Really, you ben’t, sir,” said Jan, civilly enough. “Means no offence, sir; your heart’s stout enough, I see; but you don’t know what’ll be.” And he caught the hand of a huge fellow next him, while Frank shrank sadly back into the darkness.

Strong hand after hand was clasped, and strong knee after knee dropped almost to the rock, to meet the coming rush of water; and all who knew their business took a long breath — they might have need of one.

It came, and surged over the man, and the girl, and up to old Willis’s throat, and round the knees of Jan and his neighbour; and then followed the returning out-draught, and every limb quivered with the strain: but when the cataract had disappeared, the chain was still unbroken.

“Saved!” and a cheer broke from all lips, save those of the girl herself; she was as senseless as he whom she had saved. They hurried her and him up the rock ere another wave could come; but they had much ado to open her hands, so firmly clenched together were they round his waist.

Gently they lifted each, and laid them on the rock; while old Willis, having recovered his breath, set to work crying like a child, to restore breath to “his maiden.”

“Run for Dr. Heale, some good Christian!” But Frank, longing to escape from a company who did not love him, and to be of some use ere the night was out, was already half-way to the village on that very errand.

However, ere the Doctor could be stirred out of his boozy slumbers, and thrust into his clothes by his wife, the schoolmistress was safe in bed at her mother’s house; and the man, weak, but alive, carried triumphantly up to Heale’s door; which having been kicked open, the sailors insisted in carrying him right upstairs, and depositing him on the best spare bed.

“If you won’t come to your patients, Doctor, your patients shall come to you. Why were you asleep in your liquors, instead of looking out for poor wratches, like a Christian? You see whether his bones be broke, and gi’un his medicines proper; and then go and see after the schoolmistress; she’m worth a dozen of any man, and a thousand of you! We’ll pay for ’un like men; and if you don’t, we’ll break every bottle in your shop.”

To which, what between bodily fear and real good-nature, old Heale assented; and so ended that eventful night.

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Last updated Monday, March 17, 2014 at 16:48