No one paid any heed to the imperious "Here!" so the lad shouted again:
"Hi! Here! You, sir!"
Josh looked up very deliberately, saw that the eyes of the stranger were fixed upon Will, and looked down again.
"He's hailing o' you, my lad," he said in a gruff voice, just as the stranger shouted again:
"Hi! Do you hear?"
Will looked up, took in the new-comer's appearance at a glance, and said:
"Well, what is it?"
The new-comer frowned at this cool reply from a lad in canvas trousers and blue jersey, which glittered with scales. The fisher-boy ought to have said "Yes, sir," and touched his straw hat. Consequently his voice was a little more imperious of tone as he said sharply:
"What are you doing?"
Will looked amused, and there was a slight depression at each corner of his mouth as he said quietly:
"Baiting the line."
No "sir" this time, but the new-comer's curiosity was aroused, and he said eagerly:
"Where's your rod?"
"Rod!" said Will, looking up once more, half puzzled. "Rod! Oh, you mean fishing-rod, do you?"
"Of course—" stupid the stranger was about to say, but he refrained. "You don't suppose I mean birch rod, do you?"
"No," said Will, and he went on baiting his hooks. "We don't use fishing-rods."
"Why don't you?"
"Why don't we!" said Will, with the dimples getting a little deeper on either side of his mouth. "Why, because this line's about quarter of a mile long, and it would want a rod as long, and we couldn't use it."
"Hor—hor—hor!" laughed Josh, letting his head go down between his knees, and so disgusting the stranger that he turned sharply upon his heel and strutted off, swinging a black cane with a silver top and silk tassels to and fro, and then stopping in a very nonchalant manner to take out a silver hunting watch and look at the time, at the same moment taking care that Will should have a good view of the watch, and feel envious if enviously inclined.
He walked along the pier to the very end, and Josh went on slowly turning the staff, while Will kept baiting his hooks.
The next minute the boy was back, looking on in an extremely supercilious way, but all the while his eyes were bright with interest; and at last he spoke again in a consequential manner:
"What's that nasty stuff?"
"What nasty stuff?" replied Will, looking up again.
"That!" cried the stranger, pointing with his cane at the small box containing Will's bait.
Before the latter could answer there was a shout at the end of the pier.
"Ahoy! Ar—thur! Taff!" and a boy of the age and height of the first stranger came tearing along the stones panting loudly, and pulling up short to give Will's questioner a hearty slap on the back.
"Here, I've had a job to find you, Taff. I've been looking everywhere."
"I wish you would not be so rough, Richard," said the one addressed, divine his shoulders a hitch, and frowning angrily as he saw that Will was watching them intently. "There's no need to be so boisterous."
"No, my lord. Beg pardon, my lord," said the other boy with mock humility; and then, with his eyes twinkling mirthfully, he thrust his stiff straw hat on to the back of his head, and plumped himself down in a sitting position on the edge of the pier, with his legs dangling down towards the bulwark of the lugger, and his heels softly drubbing the stone wall.
For though to a certainty twin brother of the first stranger, he was very differently dressed, having on a suit of white boating flannels and a loose blue handkerchief knotted about his neck.
"Why, Taff," he cried, "this chap's going fishing."
"I wish you wouldn't call me out of my name before this sort of people," said his brother, flushing and speaking in a low voice.
"All right, old chap, I won't, if you'll go back to the inn and take off those old brush-me-ups. You look as if you'd come out of a glass case."
The other was about to retort angrily and walk away, but his curiosity got the better of him, for just then the boy in the flannels exclaimed in a brisk way:
"I say: going fishing?"
"Yes," said Will, looking up, with the smile at the corner of his lips deepening; and as the eyes of the two lads met they seemed to approve of each other at once.
"May I come aboard?"
"Yes, if you like," said Will; and the boy leaped down in an instant, greatly to his brother's disgust, for he wanted to go on board as well, but held aloof, and whisked his cane about viciously, listening to all that was going on.
"How are you?" said the second lad, nodding in a friendly way to Josh.
"Hearty, thanky," said the latter in his sing-song way; "and how may you be?"
"Hearty," said the boy, laughing. "I'm always all right. He isn't," he added, with a backward nod of his head, which nearly made him lose his straw hat; but he caught it as it fell, clapped it on the back of his head again, and laughingly gave his trousers a hitch up in front and another behind, about the waist, kicking out one leg as he did so. "That's salt-water sort, isn't it? I say," he added quickly, "are you the skipper?"
"Me!" cried Josh, showing two rows of beautifully white teeth. "Nay, my lad, I'm the crew. Who may you be?"
"What? my name? Dick—Richard Temple. This is my brother Arthur. We've come down to stay."
"Have you, though?" said Josh, looking from one to the other as if it was an announcement full of interest, while the lad on the pier frowned a little at his brother's free-and-easy way.
"Yes, we've come down," said Dick dreamily, for he was watching Will's busy fingers as he baited hook after hook. "I say," he cried, "what's that stuff—those bits?"
"These?" said Will. "Squid."
"Squid? What's squid?"
Josh ceased winding the wire round his staff.
"Here's a lad as don't know what squid is," he said in a tone of wondering pity.
"Well, how should I know? Just you be always shut-up in London and school and see if you would."
"What? Don't they teach you at school what squid is?" said Josh sharply.
"No," cried the boy.
"A mussy me!" said Josh in tones of disgust. "Then they ought to be ashamed of themselves."
"But they don't know," said the boy impatiently. "I say, what is it?"
"Cuttle-fish," said Will.
"Cut-tle-fish!" cried Dick. "Oh! I know what that is—all long legs and suckers, and got an ink-bag and a pen in its body."
"Yes, that's it," said Will, laughing. "We call it squid. It makes a good tough bait, that don't come off, and the fish like it."
"Well, it is rum stuff," cried Dick, picking up a piece and turning it over in his fingers. "Here, Taff, look!"
His brother screwed up his face with an aspect of disgust, and declined to touch the fishes' bonne-bouche; but he looked at it eagerly all the same.
"I say, what do you catch?" said Dick, seating himself tailor-fashion on the deck opposite Will.
"What? on this line? Nothing sometimes."
"Oh! of course. I often go fishing up the river when we're at home, and catch nothing. But what do you catch when you have any luck?"
"Lots o' things," said Josh; "skates, rays, plaice, brill, soles, john-dories, gurnets—lots of 'em—small conger, and when we're very lucky p'r'aps a turbot."
"Oh! I say," cried the boy, with his eyes sparkling, "shouldn't I like to see conger too! They're whopping great chaps, arn't they, like cod-fish pulled out long?"
"Well, no," said Will, "they're more like long ling; but we can't catch big ones on a line like this—only small."
"But there are big ones here, arn't there?"
"Oh, yes!" said Will; "off there among the rocks sometimes, six and seven foot long."
"But why don't you catch big ones on a line like that?"
"Line like that!" broke in Josh; "why, a conger would put his teeth through it in a moment. You're obliged to have a single line for a conger, with a wire-snooded hook and swivels, big hooks bound with wire, something like this here."
As he spoke he held out the hook, just finished as to its binding on.
"And what's that for?" cried the boy, taking the hook.
"Gaffing of 'em," said Josh; but he pronounced it "gahfin' of 'em."
"Oh, I do want to go fishing!" cried the boy eagerly. "What are you going to do with that long-line?"
"Lay it out in the bay," said Will, "with a creeper at each end."
"What's a creeper?"
"I say, young gentleman, where do you go to school?" said Josh in indignant tones.
"London University," said the boy quickly. "Why?"
"And you don't know what a creeper is?"
"No," said the boy, laughing. "What is it?"
"Oh! we call a small kind of grapnel, or four-armed anchor, a creeper," said Will.
"Then when we've let down the line with one creeper we pay out the rest."
"Pay out the rest?"
"A mussy me!" said Josh to himself.
"Well, run it out over the side of the boat we're in, and row away till we've got all the line with the baited hooks in."
"Yes," said the boy eagerly; "and then you put down the other anchor. I see."
"That's her," said Josh approvingly.
"Well," said the boy excitedly, "and how do you know when you've got a bite?"
"Oh! we don't know."
"Then how do you catch your fish?"
"They catch themselves," said Will. "We row then to the other end of the line and draw it up."
"How do you know where it is?"
"Why, by the buoy, of course," said Josh. "We always have a buoy, and you think that's a boy like you, I know."
"Oh no! I don't," said Dick, shaking his head and laughing. "Come, I'm not such a Cockney as not to know what a b-u-o-y is. But, I say, what do you do then?"
"Why, we get up the end of the line, and put fresh baits on when they're taken off, and take the fish into the boat when there are any."
"Oh, I say, what fun! Here, when are you going to put in that line?"
"Sundown," said Josh.
"Here, I want to go," said our friend on the pier. "I'll give you a shilling if you'll take me."
"No; we can't take you," said Josh grimly. "We should make you in such a mess you'd have to be washed."
"There, Taff, I told you so," cried Dick. "Why don't you put on your flannels. I hate being dressed up at the sea-side!" he added to himself as his brother stalked impatiently away.
"There, now, he's chuffy," said Dick, half to himself. "Oh! I do wish he wasn't so soon upset! Hi, Taff, old man, don't go, I'm coming soon. He had a bad illness once, you know," he said confidentially to Will; but his brother did not stop, walking slowly away along the pier, to be met by a tall, dark, keen-looking man of about forty who was coming from the inn.
"I say," said Dick, who did not see the encounter at the shore end of the pier, "I should like to come with you to-night."
"Why, you'd be sea-sick," said Josh, laughing.
"Oh, no! I shouldn't. I've been across the Channel eight times and not ill. I say, you'll let me come?"
Will looked at Josh, who was turning the new wire binding of the gaff-hook into a file for the gentle rubbing of his nose.
"Shall we take him, Josh?" said Will.
"I don't mind," replied that worthy, "only he'll get in a gashly mess."
"I don't mind," said Dick. "Flannels will wash. I'll put on my old ones, and—"
"Why, Dick, what are you doing there?" cried the keen-looking man, who had come down the pier.
"Talking to the fishermen, father," cried the boy, starting up. "I say, they're going out to lay this line. May I go with them?"
His father hesitated a moment and glanced quickly to seaward before turning to Josh.
"Weather going to be fine?" he said in a quick way that indicated business more than command, though there was enough of the latter in his speech to make Josh answer readily:
"Going to be fine for a week;" and then confidentially, "We'll take care on him."
The stranger smiled.
"Yes, you can go, Dick; but take care of yourself. It does not take you long to make friends, young man. Come, Arthur, I'm going for a walk along the beach."
"Can't I go with Dick, papa?" said the boy addressed, in an ill-used tone.
"No; I should think three will be enough in a small boat; and besides—"
He said no more, but glanced in a half-amused way at his son's costume, being himself in a loose suit of tweeds.
Arthur coloured and tightened his lips, walking off with his father, too much hurt to say more to his brother, whom he left talking to Will.
"There," said the latter, impaling the last bit of squid on a hook and then laying it in its place, "that's ready. Now you'd better do as I do: go home and get some tea and then come back."
"But it's too soon," replied Dick, "I can't get tea yet—"
"Come home and have some with me then," said Will.
"All right!" said Dick. "I say, does he live with you? Is he your brother?"
"Hor—hor—hor—hor!" laughed Josh. "That is a good one. Me his brother! Hor—hor—hor!"
"Well, I didn't know," said Dick colouring. "I only thought he might be, you know."
"Oh, no, youngster! I ain't no brother o' him," said Josh, shaking his head. "There, don't you mind," he continued, clapping his strong hand on the boy's shoulder, and then catching hold of him with his short deformed limb, an act that looked so startling and strange that the boy leaped back and stared at him.
Josh's deformity was his weakest as well as his strongest point, and he looked reproachfully, half angrily, at the boy and then turned away.
With the quick instinct of a frank, generous nature, Dick saw the wound he had inflicted upon the rough fisherman, and glanced first at Will, who was also touched on his companion's account. Then stepping quickly up to Josh he touched him on the arm and held out his hand.
"I—I beg your pardon," he said. "I didn't know. I was surprised. I'm very sorry—"
Josh's weather-tanned face lit up directly with a pleasant smile, and grasping the boy's hand he wrung it so hard that Dick had hard work to keep from wincing.
"It's all right, my lad," he said. "Of course you didn't know! It be gashly ugly, bean't it? Fell off the cliff when I was quite a babby, you know, and soft. Fifty foot. Yonder, you know;" and he pointed to the steep cliff and its thin iron railing at the end of the village.
"How shocking!" said Dick.
"Oh! I dunno," said Josh cheerily. "I was such a little un, soft as one of our bladder buoys, you see, and I never knowed anything about it. Bent it like, and stopped it from growing; but thank the Lord, it grew strong, and I never mind. There, you be off along o' Will there and get your tea, and we'll have such a night's fishing, see if we don't!"
UNCLE ABRAM ALWAYS HAS A BIT OF SALT PROVISION IN CUT.
The two lads went off towards the village, Dick in the highest of glee, and chattering and questioning about everything he saw, Will getting more and more quiet and lower of spirit as he thought of the ordeal that he had to face.
For he had asked this young stranger, whom he had never seen before, to come home and share his meal, and all in the frankness of his young hospitable feelings. In fact, he would have given him his own meal with the greatest of pleasure; but it had all been done without a thought of Aunt Ruth and Uncle Abram.
"Where do you live?" said Dick suddenly.
"Up at the end there; the white cottage."
"What! with the pretty garden and the flowers?" cried the boy. "I know Nor'-nor'-west Cottage. Father said he wished we could have it when we looked round."
"Yes, that's my home," said Will. "Uncle is very fond of his garden, and takes great pains with it."
"Uncle?" said Dick. "Do you live with your uncle?"
"And aunt," replied Will quietly; and there was so much meaning in his tone that his companion did not ask the question upon his lips about father and mother.
"I like gardens," said Dick; "but we can't grow anything in our back garden in town. I did try some vegetable-marrows, but the cats scratched up some, and the smoke and blacks killed the others. Anything will grow down here, I suppose?"
"Oh, yes, if you don't plant it just where the west wind cuts. It is so fierce sometimes. Let's go round by the back, and I can take you through our garden."
"All right!" cried Dick eagerly, and he did not notice the deepening of the colour in his new friend's face, for Will felt guilty of a subterfuge. He was really alarmed as to the result of his invitation, and its effect upon his aunt, so he hoped by going round by the back to find his old uncle in the garden, according to his custom, planting, weeding, and fumigating his plants, whether they needed it or no.
Fortune favoured Will, for after a climb round by the narrow alley he let his companion in by the little top gate into the rough terrace garden on the steep slope of the cliff—a quaint little place full of rocks and patches of rich earth, and narrowed stony paths, but one blaze of bright colour, and full of promise of fruit.
"Why, how comical!" said Dick. "We're higher than the roof of your house!"
"Yes; it's all so steep here," replied Will. "Oh! here's uncle."
He turned down a narrow path, where, pipe in mouth, and emitting puffs of smoke, the old gentleman was busy with some strips of matting tying up the heavy blossoms of carnations to some neatly cut sticks. So intent was he upon his occupation that the two lads stood gazing at him for a few minutes before he rose up, emitting a long puff of smoke, and turned round to nod shortly at Will, and stare severely at the new-comer in a stolid manner peculiarly his own.
"What cheer?" he said slowly.
"Uncle, this is a young gentleman just come down from town."
"To Peter Churchtown, eh?" said the old gentleman, pulling down his buff waistcoat with the brass crown-and-anchor buttons, and passing one hand over his chin to make sure whether his grey beard did not look stubbly.
"Yes, sir; my father has come down on mining business," said the lad eagerly, "and we're going to stay."
"Glad to see you, sir, glad to see you," said the old gentleman, holding out an enormous gnarled hand, whose back was covered with great veins, and faintly showed through its ruddy-brown a blue tattooed figure of a mermaid.
"He's going fishing with Josh and me this evening; we're going to lay the bolter from the boat."
"Quite right!" said the old gentleman, nodding. "Nice evening for fishing. You'll get some flat-fish, I daresay."
"And," said Will, making an effort, and speaking hoarsely in his eagerness to make a clean breast, "I asked him if he'd come home and have tea with me before we go."
The old gentleman winced for a moment, as he might have winced in the old days when, as purser, he inspected his stores on a long voyage, and feared that they were running short. It was but for a moment, and then he recovered himself.
"Asked him to tea? that's well, that's right, my lad. I'm glad to see you, sir. Do you like flowers?"
"I love them," cried the boy, who was gazing half wonderingly at the old man's florid face, and its frame of stiff grey hairs.
"Then you shall have one of my best clove-pinks," he went on, taking his great pruning-knife from his pocket. "Let me see," he continued, opening the blade slowly, "which is the best? Ah! that's a good one— that's a beauty—there!"
He stooped down, and after a good deal of selection cut a splendid aromatic clove-pink, and handed it smiling to the boy, who smelt it and placed it in the button-hole of his loose flannel jacket.
"It's a beauty," he cried.
"Yes, isn't it?" said the old man proudly. "Don't get such flowers as that in London, eh?"
"Only in Covent Garden," replied the visitor.
"What garden?—oh! ah! yes, I recollect, Covent Garden Market. Marrows growing well, sir, arn't they?" he continued, pointing to the great succulent plants trailing over the rocks. "My bees;" he pointed to five straw hives. "You shall taste our honey. Wild thyme honey off the cliff and moor. Very glad you've come, sir. But, I say," he added, stopping short in the middle of the path, taking his pipe from his lips, and sending a puff down first one nostril and then the other, "never mind him, I'm master. You shall be my visitor to-day, eh?"
He chuckled and clapped Dick on the shoulder, pushing him half before him down the stony, steppy path, and as he did so he turned his great grey head and gave a most prodigious wink, accompanied by a screw up of the face at Will, a look full of secrecy and scheming, all of which, however, Will fully understood and felt relieved.
"It's very kind of you to a stranger," said the visitor.
"Not at all, my lad, not at all. You've come to live among us, and we're very glad to see you. Here we are, here's my good lady—Mrs Marion. I've got a visitor, my dear: Mr—Mr—what's your name?" he whispered hastily.
"Richard Temple," said the lad, in the same tone.
"Ah, to be sure! my memory's getting bad. Mr Richard Temple, my dear. Young gentleman from London. Come to have a cup of tea with us to-night."
Aunt Ruth's first feeling was that it was a liberty to ask anyone to tea without first obtaining her consent; her second, one of annoyance that she had not put on her black silk that afternoon; her next, one of pleasure, for the lad went up to her in a pleasant, frank, gentlemanly way, and held out his hand, behaving towards the old lady with that natural chivalry and courtesy that you always see in a boy who has been much with a good mother and grown-up sisters.
"It's very kind of you to welcome me like this," he said; and, to Will's great relief, Aunt Ruth smiled and felt ready to purr, and as if she really had been welcoming the visitor very warmly. "Don't think me rude," continued the lad, whose eager eyes kept wandering about, "but I've just come from London, where everything seems so dark and grim; and your cottage does look so beautiful, and clean, and snug."
"Well said, youngster!" cried Uncle Abram; "so it does. Our skipper won't have a spot on anything or a bit of dust anywhere; eh, Will?"
"Oh no! aunt likes the place to look nice," echoed Will.
"Don't you listen to them, my dear," said Aunt Ruth; "but I'm very glad to see you, and you must excuse me now."
She slipped out of the room, and Uncle Abram gave his nephew another look full of intelligence before proceeding to show his young guest his collection in the best room while the tea was being prepared.
For the best room was quite a museum of trophies brought by Uncle Abram's own hands from what he called "furren lands;" and Dick was excitement itself over the inspection.
"This here's the grains," said the old gentleman, pointing to a five-pronged spear, on a long slight pole, with a cord attached to the shaft. "We uses this to take bonito and dolphin out in the hot seas. Strikes 'em as they play under the bobstay, you know."
"And what's this?" said Dick eagerly.
"Backbone of a shark, twelve foot long, as we hooked and drew aboard o' the Princess off Barbadoes, Jennywury sixteen, eighteen hundred forty-nine."
"You caught it with a hook?" cried Dick.
"Baited with a bit o' very bad salt pork," said the old man. Then, pointing with the stem of his pipe: "His jaws."
Then from the lancet-toothed jaws to a sea-snake in a large bottle of spirits—an unpleasant looking little serpent, said to be poisonous. In a glass case was the complete shell of a lobster, out of which the crustacean had crawled; and beside this were some South Sea bows and arrows, pieces of coral from all parts of the world, a New Zealand paddle on the wall, opposite to a couple of Australian spears. Hanks of sea-weed hung from nails. There was a caulking hammer that had been fished up from the bottom of some dock, all covered with acorn barnacles, and an old bottle incrusted with oyster-shells, the glass having begun to imitate the iridescent lining of the oyster. Under the side-table was a giant oyster from off the coast of Java. Over the chimney-glass the snout of a sword-fish. A cannon-ball—a thirty-two pounder—rested in a wooden cup, a ball that had no history; and close by it, in a glass case, was a very ill-shaped cannon-ball, about one-fourth its size, which had a history, having been picked out of the wall of Saint Anthony's Church on the cliff, into which it had been fired by the Spaniards in the days of "good Queen Bess."
There were curiosities enough to have taken the young visitor hours more to see, only while they were in the midst of them Aunt Ruth came in smiling, and in a state of compromise—that is to say, there had been no time to change her dress, but she had mounted her best cap and put on her black watered-silk apron, two pieces of confectionery that it would take half a chapter to properly describe, so they may go with the simple announcement that they were wonders.
"Tea is ready," said the old lady; and she smiled more graciously still when Dick stepped forward and offered his arm to walk the four steps across to the second best room, where meals were always spread.
Everything was very homely and simple, but to the boy fresh from London the table was a delight. Right in the centre there was a blue jug full of the old purser's choicest flowers scenting the room. The best tea-tray covered one end, with its paraphernalia of best china, the battered old silver pot and very much worn silver tea-spoons; while at the other end was a ham in cut, a piece of ornamental preservation, all pinky fat and crimson lean, marbled throughout. A noble-looking home-baked loaf, a pat of yellow butter—real cow's butter—ornamented with a bas-relief of the swing-tailed horned lady who presumably was its author, and on either side a dish of raspberry jam, and another containing a piece of virgin honey-comb, from which trickled forth the pale golden sweetness.
"Allus make it a rule here, sir," said the old purser, "o' having a good bit o' salt provision in cut. Let me give you a bit o' 'am."
Dick raised no objection, and then, as soon as he was helped, and saw the cup of tea with a veined pattern of rich lumpy cream running over it, he sighed involuntarily.
"There, I am sorry," cried Aunt Ruth, "it isn't to your liking. I knew that ham would be too salt."
Dick Temple flushed like a girl.
"Oh no!" he cried; "it wasn't that."
"Then it's the butter!" cried the old lady, in mortified tones.
"Butter!" cried Dick, who had already eaten two semicircles out of a slice; "why, it's glorious! We never get such butter in London."
"But you sighed," said the old lady, bridling, while Uncle Abram wrinkled his forehead and shook his head at Will.
"Did I?" said Dick, colouring a little more deeply. "Well, it was because I wished Taff was here."
"What, is that your dog?" said the old lady, smiling again.
"No!" cried Dick, laughing; "it's my brother Arthur. I always call him Taff, because—because—I don't know why, but I generally call him Taff."
"I'm sure we should be very pleased to see the young gentleman," said Aunt Ruth in the most stately manner; and then poor Taff was forgotten, from the fact that, after well assisting the guest, Uncle Abram and Will set such an example in the way of eating that it proved contagious, and Dick was soon proving himself no mean trencherman, while he fully realised the wisdom of the old sailor in always having "a good bit o' salt provision in cut."
When they rose from the table Aunt Ruth was quite sure that her visitor had not had half a tea, which words were comforting to Dick, whose conscience, now that he had eaten, was beginning to smite him for behaving so voraciously at these strangers' table—unnecessary qualms, for his performance had been very mild compared to that of the purser, who shook hands warmly when his guest took leave, Mrs Marion supplementing her good-bye with a warm invitation to come again.
DICK TEMPLE TAKES A LESSON IN FINDING HIS BEARINGS BEFORE THE BOLTER IS LAID.
"So your father has to do with mines, has he?" said Will rather eagerly, as the two lads walked down towards the little harbour.
"Yes, and I'm going to be a mining engineer," said Dick. "I say, I wish I was a fisherman—boy, I mean!"
"And I wish I was going to be a mining engineer," said Will, smiling sadly.
"Why, it isn't half such fun!" cried Dick. "You have to learn all sorts of stuff about rocks and strata, and chemistry, and mechanics, and hydro-all-sorts-of-things. I say, do you ever see sharks down here?"
"Not very often," said Will. "I never did see one. Josh hooked one once with his gaff, after it had taken a conger bait."
"Oh, did he? Tell me all about it."
"There isn't much all to tell," replied Will. "Josh was out in the boat, fishing off the rocks with a mate—out yonder, where you can see the cliff with the white patch on the top—Poldee."
"Yes, I see."
"Well, they couldn't catch a single conger, and they were going to give it up, when Josh's mate had a bite; and when he began to pull up, he thought it was a conger, but only a very small one; and then, when they got it to the top of the water they stared, for it was—how much do you think?"
"Forty feet!" cried Will eagerly.
"No, no!" said Will smiling; "they thought it was about six."
"Oh, that isn't big!" said Dick in disappointed tones.
"Not big! What, a fish the size of a tall man, and ten times as strong in the water! Not big! We think it very big down here."
"Well, go on," said Dick.
"Oh, there's no more to tell; only that Josh took up the gaff and got hold of the shark, which gave one flash with his tail and went down again, taking with it Josh's gaff-hook and the conger-line, and that was all."
"Oh!" said Dick in a disappointed tone. "They ought to have caught it."
"Yes," said Will dryly; "they ought to have caught it, but they did not. There's Josh already in the boat. I wonder whether he thought of a line to whiff."
"To whiff? what's that—to make cigars?"
"No, no!" said Will as they went along the pier. "I'll show you when we get on board.—Think of a line to whiff, Josh?"
"Ay, lad; I thought young master there might like to try as we went out."
"This way," said Will, pausing in front of the lugger, which was now very little below the edge of the pier, as the tide was flowing fast. "Shall I help you?"
"Oh no!" cried Dick, leaping aboard; and then actively lowering himself into the lugger's boat, a short, broad, heavy affair, wherein sat Josh, with the long-line and box of bait.
"You sit down there—aft," said Josh, "and we'll soon row you out."
"Is it far?" cried Dick.
"'Bout three mile," replied Josh, taking up an oar and pushing the boat away from the side of the lugger, Will following his example, and getting an oar over the side.
"Stop! Look, look, look!" cried Dick, pointing out in front of them, where, through the water, there about eighteen inches deep, he could see what seemed to be a long white worm or serpent dashing here and there in a curious way. "There's another and another!"
"That's only the cleanings of the fish," said Will; "intestines, don't you call 'em? That's a shoal of small fish come into the harbour, only they're so clear you can't make 'em out; and first one lays hold of one end and runs off with it, and then another. Looks just like little snakes darting about, don't it?"
"Why, so it is," said Dick. "I can see the little rascals swimming about, and drawing the long white strings after them. Oh, I say, I wish Taff were here!"
"Look there!" said Will, eager to show the stranger all the peculiarities of the place; "do you see that?"
He was pointing to a shallow part, close inshore, just after they had left the harbour, where a drain ran down, and the smooth black water-polished rock was veined with white spar.
"I can see something shadowy-like in the water. Why, there was a fish went over that white place—two—three—there's a whole shoal of them!"
"Grey mullet, nearly as long as your arm!" said Will.
"Got a line? Oh, I wish I had my fishing-rod! Let's try for them."
"No use," said Will; "they very seldom take a bait. I don't like them; they're nasty fish. They come up to feed off the mouth of that dirty drain."
"We'll ketch something better than them as soon as we get outside," said Josh, bending to his oar, Will following suit, and the water began to rattle under the blunt bow of the heavy boat as they sent it speedily along.
"What are all those little tubs for?" said Dick as they threaded their way amongst a number lying a short distance outside the harbour. "Buoys?"
"Yes," said Will; "anchor buoys, to make fast the luggers to when they have been out fishing, and are coming into the harbour in fine weather."
They were now leaving the village behind, and it looked like a panoramic picture lit up by the sinking sun, with the tall cliff to left and right, and the hills rising in a steep slope behind. Eight away over the bay the rippling water was stained with the reflection of the western sky, and the sides of the waves glistened with orange, and blue, and gold.
"Oh, you are lucky to live down here!" cried Dick, who was in ecstasies with the beauty of the scene. "I say, though, I wish we'd brought poor old Taff!"
"We'll bring him another time," said Will smiling.
"Will you?" cried Dick joyfully. "Oh, then, I don't mind."
"I thought London was a very beautiful place!" said Will as he tugged at his oar.
"Beautiful!" cried Dick; "why, it's horrid. You can't play a game of cricket without going out by rail; and as for seeing a bird, why, there isn't anything but the old chiswicks—the sparrows, you know. Why, this is worth a hundred Londons. I say, what a big buoy!"
"Yes; that's a dangerous rock there."
"Can you see?"
"Oh, yes!" said Josh; "she's only about five foot under water now," and, giving an extra tug at his oar, he turned the boat's head to a huge tub that was anchored close by the rock, and which looked like the cork-float likely to be used by the giant who bobbed for whales.
"Give's your oar, Will, lad, and I'll take her over the rock while you get ready a whiffing-line."
He rowed close up to the great buoy, and then bade the visitor look down through the clear water.
"See her?" he said.
"Yes, quite plain," cried Dick; "why, it's all covered with long waving sea-weed, and—oh! quick! give me a fishing-line! I can see lots of fish!"
"Oh, they're only wraaghs," said Josh contemptuously. "Here, you wait till he's got the whiff ready, and you shall ketch something better than that."
"Shall I?" said Dick, and he turned to Will, who was unwinding a stout cord from a square wood frame. "Why, you're not going to fish with that piece of rope, are you?" he added, laughing.
"Yes; but I shall put on a fine snood. We're obliged to have strong tackle out here."
"Why, we fish with fine silk lines, and hooks tied on single horse-hairs in the Thames."
"Do you?" said Will quietly.
"Yes, and little tiny hooks. Why, you'll never catch anything with that great coarse thing; it would be too big for a jack."
"We do catch fish with them, though, sometimes," said Will coolly, as he deftly tied the hook on to a fine piece of cord by making a couple of peculiar hitches round the shank, the end of which was flattened out. This thinner cord, or snooding, he tied to the stout line, and on this latter he fastened a good-sized piece of lead formed like a sugar-loaf cut down the middle so as to leave one half.
"Why, you'll frighten all the fish away with that!" cried Dick. "See how clear the water is!"
"Wait a bit," said Will good-humouredly. "This is salt-water fishing, not fresh. We don't fish like the gentlemen who go up on the moor for trout. But you'll see."
"Well, but," cried Dick, in tones of remonstrance, "if you're going to use that great hook you must hide it in the bait. Don't put your bait on like that."
"I showed him how, and that's the right way," said Josh with authority; and then to himself, speaking right into his blue jersey as he bent his head, "Mussy me, how gashly ignorant the boy be!"
"Yes, this is the best way to fish out here," said Will. "We try all sorts of ways, and this is one of the best, only I'm obliged to use this bait till I get a better. It's the end of a squid's arm, and the fish will take it for a worm."
"But do bury the hook in it!" said Dick earnestly.
"No; let's try my way first," said Will, "but let's see yours."
He handed the hook and piece of grey gristly squid to Dick, who, after a fashion, buried the hook in it right over the shank, making a clumsy knob, which he held up with a triumphant—"There!"
"Won't do," said Will smiling, as he let it fall over into the water. "That don't look like anything that lives in the water, does it?"
"I d'know," said Dick, who was disappointed.
"I do!" growled Josh to himself.
"Look here, sir," said Will, tearing the hook out of the piece of squid and throwing it away before picking a similar piece about five inches long from his basket. "I shall just hook it through like that on the end. Now, look here! watch it as we go through the water."
He threw a yard or two of line in the water, the bait going in with a little splash; and as it was drawn along close to the surface by the progress of the boat it had a curious wavy motion, while, when Will snatched the line a little now and then, the bait seemed to be making darts.
"Why, it looks like a little eel!" cried Dick.
"Yes, like a sand-eel! See that!"
"Oh!" said Dick excitedly, as there was a splash astern, and something flashed like silver through the water.
"Little tiny mackerel," said Will calmly. "There you are. Let it go; pitch the lead over, and that will keep the bait down, and you can let out twenty or thirty yards of line, and then hold on."
"But won't that lead sink it to the bottom?" said Dick, as he obeyed his companion.
"It would if we kept still; but rowing like this, it will only keep it down a few feet. If you had no weight, you'd only have the long noses after it, for the bait would be skipping along the top of the water."
"Long noses!" cried Dick eagerly; "what are they?"
"A-mussy me!" sighed Josh to himself, as he looked pityingly at the young visitor.
"We call the gar-fish long noses," said Will. "They are long silvery fish with bodies like eels."
"I've seen them at the fishmongers'," cried Dick. "They've regular beaks something like a bird's."
"But full of sharp teeth," said Will. "Those are the fellows, and they're very hard to catch."
"Because there is so little for the hook to hold on by."
"Oh! I say! look here!"
During the above conversation the line had been allowed to run out forty or fifty yards, the lad holding it in his left hand, with his arm hanging over the stern. Then all at once there was a sharp snatch, and Dick turned over on to his knees, holding the line with both hands.
"I've got him!" he cried. "Such a big one! Oh, don't he pull!"
"Well, why don't you pull?" cried Will laughing at his new friend's excitement.
"I'm going to play him first."
"Pull him in sharp, hand over hand, or you'll lose him!" cried Josh.
The boy obeyed, and drew away at the cord till he could see what looked like a great silver shuttle darting about in the quivering water, and then, panting still, he drew out a fine mackerel, with its rippled sides, glorious with pearly tints, and its body bending and springing like so much animated steel.
"Oh, you beauty!" cried Dick in a state of excitement. "But I thought it must have been four times as big; it pulled so."
Will had been rowing, but he now handed the oar to Josh, unhooked the mackerel, killed it by a blow or two on the head, and then, to Dick's astonishment and horror, took out his sharp jack-knife and sliced off a long narrow piece of the silvery-skinned fish close to the tail.
"Oh, what a pity!" cried Dick. "I say!"
"You must have a good bait," said Will quietly, "and a lask from a mackerel's tail—"
"A long thin piece like this—we call it a lask—is one of the best baits you can have."
"But it seemed such a pity to cut that beautiful fish."
"Catch another," said Will laughing; and he threw the newly-baited hook over the side, where, as the lead dragged it down into the clear water, Dick could see it dart out of sight, looking like a small silvery fish.
"Why, how quick a mackerel must be to catch that as it goes through the water!" he said.
"Quick as lightning," said Josh. "There, you've got him again."
"So I have," cried Dick, hauling in rapidly now, as the result of his teaching, and bringing in another mackerel larger than the first.
"I'll take it off for you," said Will.
"No, no, I will. Get me another bait."
"All right!" cried Will.
"Ugh! you nasty cannibal, eating bits of your own brother!" cried Dick, apostrophising the lovely fish as it lay beating the bottom of the boat with its tail.
"Hor! hor! hor! hor!" laughed Josh heartily, the idea of the fish being a cannibal tickling him immensely. "They'll eat their own fathers and mothers and children too, when they get a chance."
"Mind, or he'll tangle the line," said Will; and he pounced upon the fish just as it was going to play shuttle in the boat, and weave the line into a task that it would take long to undo.
Then another bait was hooked on, the line thrown over, and Will resumed his oar.
"Put her along, Josh," he said.
"Ay, ay, lad," cried the sturdy fellow; and the water began to patter beneath the bows of the boat, when all at once there was a sharp crack, and Josh went backwards with his heels in the air.
"Look at that," he said sourly. "That comes o' having bad thole-pins;" and he began to knock out the remains of the pin that formed the rowlock and which had broken short off.
This brought the boat nearly to a standstill, and consequently down went the lead to the bottom; but only to be dragged up again, Dick hauling away excitedly as he felt a good tug, tug at his bait.
"I've got him again!" he cried.
"Then you can catch fish with such tackle as ours!" said Will, who looked on highly amused at his friend's excitement.
"Oh, yes!" said Dick. "You see I didn't know. Why, what's this? Look at him how he's going. Here, I've seen these chaps in the fishmongers' in London too. I know: it's a gurnard."
"Gunnet," said Josh correctively.
"Why, you might catch these with a great meat hook," cried Dick. "Oho! what a mouth!"
"Look sharp and put in again, and you may get a red one: this is a grey," said Will. "Some of the red ones are beauties, and you'll hear them grunt when you take them out of the water."
"Go along," cried Dick laughing. "None of your nonsense!"
"A mussy me!" muttered Josh to himself as he knocked in a fresh thole-pin; "what a gashly little these Londoners do know!"
"They do make a grunting noise really," said Will; "just when you pull them out of the water. You'll see."
The hook was already speeding towards the bottom, but no grunting red gurnard took the bait, the boat being once more going easily along; and for the next quarter of an hour Dick did not get a bite; but at last, as they were rowing along by a rugged part of the coast where the waves foamed and roared among the rocks, tossing the olive-brown sea-weed up and dragging it back, Will bade him look out.
"You'll get a pollack along here perhaps."
For another five minutes, though, there was no sign, and Dick suggested that the bait must be gone.
"Pull it in and see," said Josh.
The lad began to haul, but at the second pull there was a tremendous snatch, the line was dragged from his fingers, and began to run rapidly over the stern.
"Look out!" cried Will.
"I've got him!" cried Dick, snatching at the line again, and holding on though it threatened to cut into his soft white hands. "My! don't he pull! Oh! this is a monster."
"Pull! haul at him! get his nose this way!" roared Josh; and Dick pulled, with the fish darting to right and left, sixty yards away from the boat's stern; but the stress soon began to tell, and it came easier after a time, nearer and nearer, till it was drawn close up, and then Dick, who was boiling over with excitement as he gazed at the great prize he had hooked, became aware that the boat was motionless and that Will was leaning over him ready to deftly insert the new gaff-hook in the fish's gills, and lift it over the side.
"What a beauty!" cried Dick. "Is it the setting sun makes it look like that?"
"No, it's the natural colours," replied Will, taking out the hook and then laying the magnificent fish down upon its side to be admired.
"What is it?" cried Dick.
"A rock pollack," replied Will.
"And she weighs ten pound if she weighs an ounce," cried Josh.
"No, not more than nine, Josh," said Will.
"Ah! well, you've handled her, my lad. Glad you've got such a good un, squire. You see we want strong lines and snooding out here."
"I didn't know you got such beauties as this close to the shore. Oh! I wish father and Taff were here to see it!"
"You must take it home and show them," said Will.
"Why not? You caught it."
"Oh!" cried Dick, who could say no more, and he even failed to think of having a fresh bait put on, as he knelt in the bottom of the boat gazing at his prize, whose sides were gorgeous with golden orange and bronze, darkening off on the back to a deep olive-brown, like sea-weed, while the lower parts of the fish seemed to have been rubbed with burnished brass.
"Is it good to eat?" he cried at last.
"Almost as good as any fish that swims," said Will.
"But it's as beautiful as a gold-fish almost," cried Dick; "quite as beautiful as a carp—more, I think—like those golden tench I once saw. Why, where are you going now?"
"Right out," said Will; "you don't mind, do you? It won't be rough."
"No, I don't mind," said Dick stoutly. "I should not mind if it was rough. At least I wouldn't say I did."
"Hor! hor! hor!" laughed Josh again. "That's right. But it won't be rough. We're going out about two miles straight away now. We ought to have been there by now on the ground."
"But how can you tell where the ground is?" said Dick innocently. "Does it come above water?"
"Do what come above water?" said Josh.
"Didn't you say you ought to be on the ground?" said Dick. "Of course you mean the bottom of the boat."
"Get out!" said Josh. "The fishing-ground's five fathom under water."
"Then how can you tell when you get there?"
"Bearin's," growled Josh.
Dick looked helplessly at Will, while Josh muttered to himself about "gashly ignorance."
"What are bearings?" said Dick at last.
"I'll show you," said Will, "when we get out there by and by. We have to guide ourselves, you know, out at sea by—"
"Compass. I know," cried Dick.
"Ah! that's out of sight of land," said Will quietly. "Along shore we sail by bearings that we take—hills and points and trees, so as to lay the boat where we like."
"But I don't see how you can," cried Dick.
"Don't you?" said Will good-humouredly, while Josh went on growling to himself and looking disgusted down between his knees. "Well, I'll try and show you. Now, you look right behind you and you can see that we're opening out that old chimney on the top of Toll Pen."
"Opening out!" said Dick. "I don't know what you mean."
"Well, beginning to see it come into sight."
"Oh! now I know," cried Dick. "I say, is there anything the matter with him?" he added, for Josh was rumbling with indignation at their visitor's "gashly ignorance."
"No, there arn't," growled Josh roughly. "Only they did ought to teach you something at school."
"They do," said Dick, laughing merrily; "but they don't know anything about bearings and openings out, and such things. It's all Latin, and Greek, and algebra, and Euclid."
"And none o' them won't teach you how to lay a boat to her bearin's on a bit o' good fishing-ground," said Josh; "and it's a good job for you, my lad, as you've run acrost us. We will teach you something afore we've done."
"Why, you have already," cried Dick. "I say, are you tired? Shall I help you now?"
"Tired? No, lad, not us. No. There, you keep your eye on that old chimney. Tell him, Will, how to find the ground."
"All right!" said Will. "Well, you see that pile of stones on the top of the hill behind the chimney to the right?"
"What, a rough bit like a lump of sugar on a loaf of bread?"
"That's it!" said Will. "Now, you see those, as we row out, seem to grow closer together?"
"Yes, I see, because you're getting them more in a straight line."
"To be sure!" said Will. "Well, then, when we get them exactly one in front of the other, they give us our bearings one way."
"Oh!" said Dick.
"Now, look yonder at that church tower at Gullick," said Will.
"Yes, I see it."
"There's a big tree on the hill to the left of it."
"Six," said Dick.
"No, no, not that clump; but that one standing by itself."
"Yes, I see."
"Well, when the church is right before that tree it gives us the bearings the other way."
"I think I see," said Dick dubiously; "but I'm not sure."
"It's easy enough," said Will. "You'll soon see. Now look out—the mine chimney over the cairn, and Gullick church in front of the big tree, and there we are right on our fishing-ground."
They rowed on for another quarter of an hour, watching the chimney and church, which seemed to glide more and more over the distant points till, full of excitement as he began to comprehend more fully the little simple problem learned by fishermen without instruments or books, he waited till he thought that the various points must be exactly coinciding, and called out to those who were rowing behind him as he looked over the stern:
"It's now, isn't it—now?"
"Now it is," said Josh, as there was a splash in the water and the rattling of a rope over the gunwale.
Dick had well learned his first lesson in taking bearings, and called out at the exact moment, just as Josh was in the act of throwing over the little anchor and buoy, to which the long-line, or "bolter," was to be made fast.
Here is the problem in mathematical lines:
Which being explained is that A represents the old mine chimney, B the cairn, C Gullick Church, and D the tree. The boat was rowed till A and B were in a straight line, and C and D were also in a straight line. This would place the boat at E, the fishing-ground, which they could always find by these simple means.
THE CATCHING OF MANY FISH, AND THE GETTING CAUGHT THEMSELVES.
It was a glorious evening, the aspect of the bay being grand, lit up as it was by the golden light of the setting sun. Distant windows glowed like fire; the rugged Cornish hills were like amber; and sea and sky were gorgeous with brilliant hues.
"Oh! I do like this!" cried Dick. "I wish poor old—but you will bring him next time. Now, then, what shall I do?"
"Sit still," said Josh gruffly, "and see him pay out the line."
Dick felt snubbed; but on glancing at Will he was met by a friendly nod as the lad busied himself in making fast one end of the line, coiled up in the basket, to the buoy-rope, and then, as Josh took both oars, fixed his eyes upon a point on land, and began to row slowly due south, Will let the line run over the side.
It was no easy task, and it required co-operation on the part of him at the oars, for every now and then, in spite of the care with which the line had been coiled, and the hooks regularly baited and laid in place, there would be a disposition to kink, and for hooks to catch and go down tangled with each other. But Josh always had an eye for this, and was ready to ease the boat's progress, or in a bad case to back water, while Will's quick clever fingers pounced upon every hitch, shook out the line, and sent it down fathom after fathom with its hooks and baits clear to lie upon the bottom.
"Shall I—shall I hinder you if I talk?" said Dick at last, when about half the line was out.
"Hinder! No," cried Will; "talk away."
"Why didn't you put the line down there where we caught that beautiful— what was it—pollack?"
"Because the bottom was all rocks, and we should have lost the line. Besides, it isn't a good place for long-line fish."
"Oh!" said Dick; and he was silent, watching the line go over, and the baits seem to dart down through the dark clear water and disappear, while Josh rowed on and on, with his eyes now on the line-basket, now on the land, his forehead wrinkled, and his countenance as solemn as if this were the most serious venture of his life.
And what a wonderful sight it was! The waters of that great bay turning to topaz, and then to ruby, as if the oars were plashing up wine, which bubbled and foamed as the boat went slowly on, while close down in the shadow, where Will lowered the line, all was of a dark transparent slate.
Down went bait after bait, coil after coil of the line, till the uneven rings in the basket grew fewer—fewer still—then there were only three or four—two—one.
"Avast!" shouted Josh, throwing in his oars and dropping another little grapnel anchor overboard, which ran out so much rope. Then a little tub buoy was passed after it, and Josh held on by the ring, while Will fastened the line to the rope, dropped it, and as the last bait rested on the bottom, turned with satisfied face to the visitor.
"There!" he said; "that's done."
"But you did not tell me why you came here to lay the line," said Dick.
"'Cause it's a good place," growled Josh.
"Yes; it's a long even bank of sand, all about the same depth, five or six fathoms; and the flat-fish lie here a good deal."
"And the trawler can't touch 'em, 'cause there's a rock here and there as would stop their net."
"I see," said Dick dubiously. Then, determined to know all—"No, I don't quite see," he said. "I don't know what you mean by the crawler."
"Trawler, lad—trawler. I didn't say crawler," cried Josh. "A mussy me!" he added softly.
"Well, trawler, then. What's a trawler?"
"Fore-an'-aft rig boat."
"Oh, I say!" cried Dick merrily, "it's all like Dutch to me. How am I to know what a fore-an'-aft rig boat is?"
"A mussy me!" groaned Josh, to Will's great delight; "how your eddication have been neglected! Don't you know what rig means?"
"Yes; the rigging of a ship."
"Or a boat," said Josh. "Well, don't you know what fore-and-aft means?"
"Not unless it's before and after, or behind."
"It ain't no before and no after; it's fore-and-aft," growled Josh.
"He's quite right, Josh," said Will, taking his new friend's side; "fore means before, or forward, and aft means after, or behind."
"Oh! very well; have it your own way," said Josh, putting a pellet of tobacco in his mouth. "I call it fore-and-aft."
"That's right too, Josh. Look here, sir, we call the rig of a boat or ship fore-and-aft when the sails are flat, like they are in a cutter or sloop or schooner. When I say flat I mean stretching from the front of the vessel to the stern; and we call it square-rigged when the sails are put across."
"Then there's lug-sails like them," said Josh, pointing to some fishing-boats, whose brown sails stood out against the amber sky; "and there's lots of other rigs as well."
"Yes; but what's a trawler?" cried Dick.
"It's a fore-and-aft rigged boat that trawls," said Will. "She has a great net like a big night-cap stretched over on a spar, which we call a trawl-beam, and this is lowered down, and as the boat sails it is dragged along the bottom, and catches soles, and turbot, and plaice and sometimes john-dory, and gurnet, and brill. They like sandy banks, such as this is; and if there were no rocks the trawler would soon sweep this clean."
"On'y, they can't run their trawl along here a-cause o' the rocks," said Josh.
"Which would catch the net, and they'd p'r'aps lose it."
"But they might fish it up again."
"Oh, yes! I daresay they would," replied Will with a smile.
"I say," cried Dick, "I wish you wouldn't call things by such names. What's a creeper?"
"These are creepers that we've just put down; grapnels."
"Ah, we call them drags in London," said Dick. "I say, I should like to go in a trawler."
"Well, you easily can," replied Will, "if you are going to stay here."
"Think you've got a bite yet?"
"What, at the baits? Let's try."
Josh was already putting the boat about, and was beginning to row back over the same ground towards the first buoy.
"Oh, you're going to try there first!" said Dick.
"Of course, where the line has been down longest," said Will. "See how the tide flows."
"Does it?" responded Dick, staring.
"Yes; can you see that Josh has to pull harder with one oar than with the other, or else we should be carried right away from the buoy? The line's set right across the tide."
"Is it? Why?"
"So as to be ready for the fish that come up with the tide to feed. Look at that."
"Why, it rains," cried Dick. "No, it don't. Why, the water's all of a patter. It's fish rising."
"Little school o' mack'rel," said Josh. "They'll be seeing o' them from up the cliff bime-by."
"And does a school of mackerel always play about on the top like that?" said Dick, watching the dappled water where the fish were swimming close to the surface.
"Not it, lad. They're oftener down below. Look at the mews coming after 'em."
He nodded in the direction of half a dozen grey gulls which came flapping towards them, and as the school passed off to the left and the boat bore to the right Dick could see the flap-winged birds keep dipping down with a querulous cry, splash the water, and ascend again.
"They're after the brill," said Will.
"Yes; the small fish that the mackerel are feeding on. They keep snatching them up from the top of the water. Little fish about half as big as sprats. Look at them, you can almost see the little fish they catch. There, that fellow has got a good one."
And so they watched the evolutions of the gulls for a few minutes, till Josh called out "Avast!" and Dick turned, to find that they were back at the first buoy.
"Now, then, are you ready?" said Will.
"Yes," cried Dick.
"Take Josh's gaff then, and you shall hook in the first big one."
Will's sleeves were rolled up above the elbow, and the line was drawn up over the boat, which was so placed that the line was across it, Josh helping with one oar, while Will hauled at the line, drawing it up one side and letting it go down again on the other.
First bait untouched, and passed on to descend on the other side. Second bait gone, and replaced by a fresh piece of squid from the basket. Third bait gone, and replaced, to descend on the other side. Then four baits untouched, six more gone, taken off.
"Why, if you'd been ready to strike, you might have had all these fish when they began to bite," cried Dick.
"P'r'aps so," said Will. "Maybe it was only the crabs that bit the baits off."
And all the time he kept on hauling in the line and examining the hook till they were a long way on towards the farther buoy.
"Oh, I say," cried Dick at last, "this isn't half such good sport as— what do you call it?—whiffing."
"Think not?" said Will.
"Yes, that I do. I should have thought you would have caught lots of fish with a line like this."
"So we do," cried Josh, "sometimes."
"I wish you'd catch something now," said Dick in a disappointed tone.
"Here you are then," cried Will, laughing as he hauled on at the line; "a big one."
"Where, where?" cried Dick, ready with the hook.
"Down below here; I can feel him."
"Let me haul him in."
"No, no," said Will. "You'd better let me. You'll get too wet. Be ready with the hook."
"Yes, yes, I am," cried Dick, more excitedly than ever.
But he began to look disappointed as he saw three bare hooks drawn out, all of which Will baited and passed on, to fall into the sea on the other side.
"Why, there can't be," began Dick. "Yes, there he is; I can see him."
"Yes, here he comes," said Will, hauling strongly now as a great quivering grey object changing to white could be seen below. "Ready with the hook! slip it into him anywhere, and haul him aboard. Never mind a bit of splashing."
But Dick did flinch for a few moments as something came to the surface, beating, flapping, and sending the water flying; while before the lad had recovered from his surprise, Josh had bent forward, taken the hook, and lifted the great fish on board just as it freed itself from the hook, and lay floundering at the bottom of the boat.
"Skate," cried Dick. "What a monster!"
"No," cried Will, coolly rebaiting the hook; "it's his first cousin. That's a thornback. Mind his prickles."
The great ugly sharky fish was hooked forward by Josh and placed in a great basket, where it lay writhing its eely tail, and flapping its wing-like fins as the boat slowly progressed, and bait after bait was replaced, many being untouched, the thornback, skate, or ray being the only fish taken.
"But he's a very big one," said Dick, seeking to make up for the disappointment.
"Yes, she's big enough," said Josh; "but they don't pay for taking."
"Better luck next run down," said Will, as they rowed back to the first buoy, he helping this time with an oar. "The fish feed better when it begins to be dusk; they can't see the line."
"But they would not be able to see the bait."
"Then they would smell it," said Will. "Fish generally feed best in the dark."
The buoy was reached, and the line once more hauled aboard, this time with a grey gurnard on the first hook. The second was bare. The third and fourth both had gurnards upon them. Then there was an untouched bait, and then a very large plaice, dotted with orange spots, whose appearance made Josh grunt with satisfaction. Next came a large sole, then a small one, and again a large sole, after which there was a long array of empty hooks, and Dick began to feel dissatisfied, for there was no work for the gaff-hook.
"Here's a conger, I think," said Will suddenly.
"A conger!" cried Dick excitedly, as he began to think of gigantic creatures like sea-serpents.
"Yes, a small one. Get your knife, Josh."
The latter opened his big knife, and as a great eel about three feet long was drawn over the side they did not trouble to extract the hook which was swallowed right down; but Josh cut the string of the snooding close to the living creature's jaws, and let it drop in the boat, about which it began to travel serpent-fashion to Dick's great discomfort.
"She won't hurt you," said Josh, "unless you put your finger in her mouth. She can bite, but not like the big ones."
"But is this a conger?" said Dick, watching the slimy creature as it sought for a hiding-place, and strove to get under the grating in the bottom of the boat.
"Conger! To be sure it is," said Will.
"But I thought congers were very big."
"They grow big, of course," said Will smiling.
"But this may be only a large eel. They do go in the sea, you know."
"Oh, yes! I know they do; but river eels don't have eyes like this. Look at them," he said, pointing to the creature's huge eyes. "Sea fish nearly all have very large eyes, so as to see deep down at the bottom. Here's something better. Now try and gaff this."
"Why, it's another skate," cried Dick, determined this time not to give up the hook; and as the large round white fish came up fighting hard against capture he made a dash at it and hooked it firmly, drawing it over the side, to lie flapping in the bottom of the boat.
"That's better," cried Will.
"Cheerily ho, my lad; well done," cried Josh. "That's the way to gawf 'em."
"But it's a turbot," said Dick excitedly. "Why, you don't catch turbots here, and like this?"
"Seems as if we did," said Will laughing, "when we can. We don't often have a bit of luck like this. He's worth seven or eight shillings."
"My father will buy it," cried Dick. "I say, let him have it."
"Oh, he shall have it if he likes," cried Will, as the turbot was thrown into the basket to set the skate flapping, and the gurnards curling their heads round towards their tails like cleaned whiting, and a regular scuffle took place.
Meanwhile the boat was forced on beneath the line and a whiting and a couple of small plaice were taken off. Then more bait had disappeared, and then the last hook was being hauled up when Will snatched at the hook, made a sharp stroke with it, twisted it round, and held it under water for a minute before dragging out a nasty grey-looking bag, all tentacles, and with a couple of ugly eyes, which dropped from the hook as Will gave it a twist.
"Cuttle-fish," he said. "Did you see him squirt out his ink?"
"And make that cloud in the water?" said Dick. "Yes, I saw."
This curious object with its suckers took his attention as they rowed back once more to the first buoy, where once more the line was overrun, the first fish caught being a dog-fish—a long, thin, sharky-looking creature, with its mouth right underneath and back from its snout, and its tail not like that of an ordinary fish, but unequal in the fork, that is to say, with a little lobe and a very large one.
"Game's over," said Josh. "Let's go back and get in the buoy and creeper."
"Yes," assented Will; "it's of no more use to-night."
"Why?" asked Dick.
"Drove of dogs on the bank, my lad," said Josh. "They'll eat every bait we put down. No use to fish any more to-night."
Dick did not believe it, but he said nothing as the first buoy was taken on board, and the little creeper anchor hauled in. Then the oars were laid in, and Josh set to work hauling in the line, leaving the boat to drift, the line being strong enough for them to work it up towards the second buoy, while both took off the baits and the fish—twelve of them, and all dog-fish, to be killed and thrown overboard.
At last the boat was drawn right up to the last buoy, the hooks being all cleaned and laid in place, and the line coiled in its basket, the evening growing dark the while, and the lights twinkling on the shore, when, all at once, as Josh was hauling in the little anchor, Will happened to look up.
"Quick, Josh! oars! pull!"
Dick started and looked up, and as he did so it seemed as if a great black cloud were coming to crush them down.
HOW TO BALE OUT A BOAT WHEN SHE'S MUCH TOO FULL.
Accidents generally happen instantaneously; people are in safety one moment, the next there is a sudden awakening to the fact that something dreadful has happened. It was so here in the coming darkness of night. Almost before the two lads had realised more than the fact that something black was approaching there was a loud rushing noise, a crash, and shock, as the boat was struck a tremendous blow on the side, whirled round, sucked under water, and then all was blackness, choking, strangling sensations, and a horrible sense of dread.
Dick, fresh from London, did not understand what was the matter. For one moment he had an idea that the boat had been attacked by a monstrous whale; the next moment that and every other idea was washed out of him by the dark waters, which ran up his nose and thundered in his ears, as they made him gasp for breath.
How long this lasted he could not tell, before he found himself on the surface, confused and helpless, amidst a sheet of foaming, swirling waters.
"Can you swim?" some one shouted in his ear.
"Ye-es—a—lit-tle," panted Dick.
"Steady then, steady, lad. Slow—slow—take in a reef. You'll drown yourself like a pup if you beat the water that how."
Influenced by the stronger will and the stern order, Dick, who had been striking out with all his might, calmed down and began to swim steadily, but with a great dread seeming to paralyse his limbs, while Josh, who was by him, shouted, "Ahoy!"
"Ahoy!" came faintly from a distance, in the direction where the black cloud had resolved itself into the form of a great screw steamer with star-like lights visible here and there.
"Here away, lad," shouted back Josh. "They haven't seen us," he added to Dick.
"What—what was it?" panted Dick, who was swimming more steadily now.
"Big steamer—run us down—ain't seen us—no good to shout," cried Josh. "Steady, lad, steady. We've got to swim ashore."
"Josh, ahoy! Where's young master?" came out of the darkness. And now as Dick grew a little calmer, he fancied he saw pale lambent flashes of light on the water a little distance away.
"Here he be," shouted back Josh. "Steady, boy, steady! Don't tire yourself like that," he added again to Dick.
The latter tried hard to obey, as he now became aware that at every stroke he made the water flashed into pale golden light; tiny dots of cold fire ran hither and thither beneath the surface, and ripples of lambent phosphorescent glow fell off to right and left.
At the same moment almost, he saw, beyond the star-like lanthorns of the steamer, the twinkling lights of the village, apparently at a tremendous distance away, while one strong bright star shed a long ray of light across the water, being the big lamp in the wooden cage at the end of the harbour pier.
"Avast there, Will!" shouted Josh again; "let's overhaul you, and keep together. Seen either o' the buoys?"
"Why don't they swim ashore?" thought Dick. "Never mind the buoys. Oh! I shall never do it."
A cold chilly feeling of despair came over him, and he began to beat the water more rapidly as his eyes fixed themselves wildly on the far-off lights, and he thought of his father and brother, perhaps waiting for him on the pier.
"Swim slowly," cried another voice close by; and Dick's heart gave a leap. "It's a long way, but we can do it."
"Can you?" panted poor Dick, who was nearly exhausted. "How far is it?"
"About two miles, but the tide's with us."
"I can't do it," panted Dick, "not a hundred yards."
"Yes, you can," said Will firmly. "Only just move your arms steady, and let the tide carry you along. Josh," he said more loudly, "keep close here."
"Ay, lad, I will," replied the fisherman; and the calm, confident tones of his companions, who spoke as if it were a matter of course to swim a couple of miles, encouraged the lad a little; but his powers and his confidence were fast ebbing away, and it was not a matter of many minutes before he would have been helpless.
For even if the sea had been perfectly smooth, he was no experienced swimmer, his efforts in this direction having been confined to a dip in the river when out on fishing excursions, or a bit of a practice in some swimming-bath at home. But the sea was not perfectly smooth, for the swift tide was steadily raising the water into long, gently heaving waves, which carried the swimmers, as it were, up one minute to the top of a little ridge, and then sank them the next down, down, out of sight, into what seemed to be profound darkness whenever the pier light was blotted out.
"I—I—can't keep on," panted Dick at last, with a piteous cry. "Tell father—"
He could say no more, for, striking out feebly, he had allowed his mouth to sink beneath the surface, and breathing in a quantity of strangling water he began to beat the surface, and then felt himself seized.
Involuntarily, and with that natural instinct that prompts the drowning to cling to anything they touch, Dick's hands clutched despairing at the stout arm that came to his help, but only to feel himself shaken off and snatched back, so that his face was turned towards the stars.
"Float! Hold still! Hands under water!" a voice yelled in his ear; and half stunned, half insensible, he obeyed, getting his breath better at times, at others feeling the strangling water sweep over his face.
It was a time of great peril, but there was aid such as neither Josh nor Will had counted upon close at hand.
"I'll keep him afloat till I'm tired," Josh had said hoarsely, "and then you must have a turn. You can manage to make the shore, can't you?"
"Yes," said Will; "but we—we mustn't leave him, Josh."
"Who's going to?" growled Josh fiercely. "You keep aside me."
They swam on, every stroke making the water flash, and the phosphorescence, like pale golden oil, sweep aside and ripple and flow upon the surface. The sky was now almost black but quite ablaze with stars, and the big lamp at the pierhead sent its cheery rays out, as if to show them the way to go, but in the transparent darkness it seemed to be miles upon miles away, while the sturdy swimmers felt as if they got no nearer, toil as they might.
"I'm going to give him over to you, lad," said Josh in his sing-song voice, for he had calmed down now. "I'll soon take him again, lad, but—"
"Hooray, Josh!" cried back Will; and he struck off to the left.
"What is it, lad?"
"Boat! the boat!"
Josh wrenched himself up in the water, and looked over Dick, to see, dimly illumined by the golden ripples of the water, the outline of the boat, flush with the surface, its shape just seen by the phosphorescence, and he bore towards it.
"T'other side, Will, lad," cried Josh as he swam vigorously over the few intervening yards, half drowning Dick by forcing his head under water again and again; but as he reached the boat's side, which was now an inch or two above, now the same distance below, he drew the lad flat on the surface, passed his hands beneath him, got hold of the gunwale, and half rolled Dick in, half drew the boat beneath him.
"Mind he don't come out that side, lad," shouted Josh.
"Ay, ay!" And then Will held on by one side of the sunken boat, while Josh held on the other.
So slight was the buoyancy of the filled boat that the slightest touch in the way of pressure sent it down, and Dick could have drowned as easily there as in the open sea, but that, feeling something hard beneath him, a spark of hope shot to his brain, and he began to struggle once more.
"Keep still," shouted Will. "Lie back with your head on the gunwale;" and Dick obeyed, content to keep his face just above water so that he might breathe.
"It arn't much help, but it are a bit of help, eh, lad?" panted Josh. "Way oh! Steady!"
"Yes, it is a rest, Josh," panted back Will, whose spirits rose from somewhere about despair-point to three degrees above hope; but in his effort to get a little too much support from that which was not prepared to give any, he pressed on the gunwale at his side, and sent it far below the surface, drawing from Josh the warning shout, "Way oh! Steady!"
The slightest thing sent the gunwale under—in fact, the pressure of a baby's hand would have been sufficient to keep it below the surface; but the experienced swimmers on either side knew what they were about, and after seeing that Dick's face was above water, and without any consultation, both being moved by the same impulse, they threw themselves on their backs beside the sunken boat, one with, his head towards her stem, the other head to stern, and after a moment's pause each took hold of the gunwale lightly with his left hand, his right being free, and then they waited till they began to float upward.
"Ready, lad?" said Josh.
"Ready," cried Will.
"Both together, then."
Then there was a tremendous splashing as each turned his right-hand into a scoop and began to throw out the water with a skilful rapid motion somewhat similar to the waving of the fin of a fish; and this they kept up for quite five minutes, when Josh shouted again:
There was not much result. They had dashed out a tremendous quantity of water, but nearly as much had flowed in again over the sides, as in their efforts they had sometimes dragged down the gunwale a little. Besides which a little wave had now and then broken against one or the other and sent gallons of water into the boat.
Still they had done something, and after a rest Josh cried again:
"Ready? Go ahead."
Once more the splashing began, the water flying out of the boat like showers of liquid gold; and just when the hand-paddles were in full play the boat began to move slightly, then a little more. Neither Josh nor Will knew why, for they could not see that it sank a little lower for a few minutes and then began to rise.
"Hooray!" cried Josh hoarsely. "Well done, young un; out with it. Hooray! Oh, look at that!"
He had just awakened to the fact that Dick had come to himself sufficiently to alter his position, and was lending his aid by scooping out the water with both hands till a wave came with a slight wash and half demolished all their work.
"Keep on," shouted Will; and once more the splashing went forward at a tremendous rate.
A handful of water, or as much as it will throw, out of a full boat is not much; but when three hands are busy ladling with all their might a tremendous amount of water can be baled out, and so it was, that when the balers rested again there were three inches of freeboard, as sailors call it, and the next wave did not lessen it a quarter of an inch.
"Ready again?" cried Josh. "Go ahead, youngster."
The splashing went on once more; and now both Will and Josh could support themselves easily by holding on to the gunwale, the boat increasing in buoyancy every moment, while three hands scooped out the water with long and vigorous well-laden throws.
It became easier for Dick too now, for he found that he could sit astride one of the thwarts, holding on in position by twisting his legs beneath; and this gave him power to use both hands, which he joined together and scooped out the water in pints that became quarts, gallons, and bucketsfull.
"Hooray!" cried Josh with a cheer, and there was a few minutes' rest. "A mussy me! it's child's play now. Look here; s'pose you roll out now and take my place. No: go out on Will's side and hold on by him while I get in."
Dick shivered at the idea. It seemed so horrible to give up his safe position and trust to the sea once more. But he did not hesitate long.
Taking tight hold of the bulwark, he literally rolled over the side and let himself down into the sea, with the phosphorescence making his body, limbs, and feet even, visible like those of his companion. But there was no time to study the wonders of Nature then, or even look at the way in which the keel of the boat was illumined by myriads of golden points.
"Hold on! Steady! Keep her down!" cried Josh; and then, as the two lads clung to the gunwale they were raised right up, as there was a wallow and a splash; the opposite side went down so low that it began to ship water, but only for a moment; Josh had given a spring, and rolled in over the side.
"Now, then, leave him there, Will, lad, and work round, by her starn. I'll soon have some of the water out now."
He began feeling about as he spoke with his hands beneath the thwarts forward, and directly after he uttered a cry of joy.
"Here she be," he said, tearing out the half of a tin bucket that had held the bait. "Now we'll do some work."
As he spoke he began dipping and emptying, pouring nearly a gallon of water over the side at every turn; and in ten minutes, during which he had laboured incessantly, he had made such a change that he bade Will come in.
"Now you can bale a bit," he said. "My arms are about dead."
Will climbed in and took the bucket, scooping out the water with all his might, while Josh bent over Dick.
"You're 'bout perished, my lad. Come along."
He placed his hands under Dick's arm-pits, and though he said that his own arms were about dead he hoisted the boy in almost without an effort, and then left him to help himself, while he resumed baling with his hands, scooping out the water pretty fast, and each moment lightening the little craft.
"Good job we'd no stone killicks aboard, Will," he said, "or down she'd have gone."
"There's the buoys too wedged forward," said Will; "they have helped to keep her up."
"'Bout balanced the creepers," said Josh. "It's a question of a pound weight at a time like this. There, take it steadily, my lads. We're safe now, and can see that the tide's carrying of us in. Lights look bigger, eh?"
"Yes," said Will, who was working hard with his baler. "Where shall we drive ashore?"
"Oh! pretty close to the point," cried Josh. "I say, youngster, this is coming fishing, eh?"
"Oh! it is horrible," said Dick, piteously.
"Not it, lad," cried Josh. "It's grand. Why, we might ha' been drownded, and, what's wuss, never washed ashore."
Dick shivered as much from cold as misery, and gazed in the direction of the lights.
"Wonder what steamer that was as run us down!" said Josh, as the vessel he used to bale began now to scrape the wood at the bottom of the boat.
"French screw," replied Will. "An English boat would have kept a better look-out. Why, you are cold!" he added, as he laid his hand on Dick.
"Ye-es," said the latter with a shudder. "It is horribly cold. Shall we ever get ashore?"
"Ashore! yes," cried Josh. "Why, they'd be able, 'most to hear us now. Let's try."
Taking a long breath, he placed both hands to his cheeks, and then gave vent to a dismal hail—a hail in a minor key—the cry of the sailor in dire peril, when he appeals to those on shore to come to his help, and save him from the devouring storm-beaten sea.
"Ahoy—ah!" the last syllable in a sinking inflexion of the voice a few seconds after the first.
He went on baling till no more water could be thrown out, and the boat drifted slowly on with the tide.
Away to their left there rose the lamp-lit windows and the pier light. Lower down, too, were a couple of dim red lamps, one above the other, telling of the little dock; but no answer came from the shore.
"There's sure to be some one on the cliff, Josh; hail again," said Will.
"Ay, if we had a flare now, we should bring out the life-boat to fetch us in," cried Josh. "Why, Will lad, we shall be taken a mile away from the town, and perhaps out to sea again. I wish I had an oar."
Then again and again; and still there was no response, while they drifted slowly on over the sea, which looked to Dick, as he gazed down into its depths, alive with tiny stars, and these not the reflections of those above.
"Ahoy—ah!" shouted Josh again, with all the power of his stentorian lungs.
"They're all asleep," he growled; "we shall have to drift ashore and walk home. If I only had one oar I'd scull her back in no time. Ahoy— ah!"
Still no response, and the boat floated on beneath the wondrous starry sky, while every time those in the boat made the slightest movement a golden rippling film seemed to run from her sides, and die away upon the surface of the sea.
"She brimes a deal," said Josh, in allusion to the golden water; and then, leaping up, he began to beat his breast with his arms; "I'm a-cold!" he exclaimed. "Now, then; let's have a try;" and, placing his hands to his face once more, he uttered a tremendous hail.
Long drawn out and dismal; and then Dick's heart gave a quick hopeful leap, for, from far away, and sounding faint and strange, came an answering hail, but not like Josh's dismal appeal. It was a sharp, short, cheery "Ahoy!" full of promise of action.
"They've heard us at last!" cried Will eagerly. "That's the coastguard, and they'll come off in their gig, as it's so smooth."
"I say," said Josh, in his low sing-song way; "haven't I put it too strong? They'll think somethin' 'orrid's wrong—that it's a wreck, or somethin' worse."
"Let them!" cried Will. "It's horrible enough to be afloat in an open boat in the dark without oar or sail. Hail again, Josh."
"Ahoy—ah!" cried the fisherman once more, and an answer came back at once. Then another and another.
"They'll soon get a boat," cried Will. "You listen."
"But they'll never find us in the dark!" cried Dick dismally.
"Oh, won't they!" cried Josh; "they'd find us if we was only out in a pork tub. Lor' a mussy me, youngster, you don't know our Cornish lads!"
"We shall keep on hailing now and then," said Will, whose teeth were chattering in spite of his cheery tones.
Very distinct but very distant the shouting of a numerous crowd of people; and now, like the tiniest and faintest of specks, lights could be seen dancing about on the shore, while all at once, one star, a vivid blue star, burst out, burning clear and bright for a few minutes, making Dick gaze wonderingly ashore.
"Blue light," said Will.
"To hearten us up a bit, and say the boat's coming!" cried Josh. "Ahoy—ah! Let 'em know which way to row."
Josh shouted from time to time, and then Will gave a shout or two; and there were answering shouts that seemed to come nearer, and at last plain enough there was the light of a lanthorn rising and falling slowly, telling of its being in a boat that was being propelled by stout rowers.
"Why, my father's sure to be in that boat!" cried Dick suddenly. "He'll have been frightened about me, and have come off to see."
"Shouldn't wonder," said Josh. "I should if I had a boy."
"You shall hail when they get nearer," said Will. "They couldn't hear you yet."
"I wish he could!" cried Dick. "He'll have been in such trouble. Oh, I know!"
He had suddenly remembered a little silver whistle that was attached to his chain, and placing it to his lips he blew upon it a shrill ear-piercing scream.
"There, I knew he would be!" cried Dick joyously; and he gave Will a hearty clap upon the shoulder in the eagerness of his delight. For from far away, where the dim light rose and fell upon the waters, there came an answering shrill chirruping whistle.
Then Dick gave two short whistles.
Two exactly similar came in response.
"I knew he would be," cried Dick; "but he'll be very angry, I suppose."
"Uncle Abram will be there too, I should say," said Will quietly.
"Why, your father won't be angry, my lad," said Josh after a few minutes' thought. "If he be it'll be with Josh, which is me, for not keeping a bright lookout. He can't row you for being run down, for you wasn't neither captain nor the crew. Hillo! ahoy—ah!" he answered in return to a hail.
"I say!" said Dick suddenly; "the lights are going the other way."
"Right, my lad; and so they have been this quarter hour past."
"Why's that?" said Dick.
"Because the tide's ebbing fast."
"And what does that mean?" cried Dick.
"As if they didn't overhaul us we should be carried out to sea."
"But will they find us, Will?"
"No fear of that. See how plain the light's getting. Ahoy—ah! ahoy— ah! They're not above a quarter of a mile away."
Soon after the dipping of the oars could be seen as they threw up the lambent light in flashes, while an ever-widening track of sparkling water was plain to the eyes. Then the voices came asking questions.
"Ahoy! Who's aboard there?"
"Young gent Dick!" yelled Josh back.
"Who else? Is that Josh?"
"Hurrah!" came from the boat three times, and the oars made the water flash again as they were more vigorously plied.
"That's your sort, Master Dick!" cried Josh. "That's Cornish, that is! They chaps is as glad at finding us as—as—as—"
"We should be at finding them," said Will.
"Ay; that's it!"
And so it seemed, for a few minutes more and the boat was alongside, and the wet and shivering fishers were seated in the stern-sheets, wrapped in oilskins and great-coats, their boat made fast behind, and Dick's hand tight in that of his father, who said no word of reproach; while, after a long pull against tide, with the boat towing behind, they were landed at the head of the little harbour, where a crowd of the simple-hearted folk, many having lanthorns, saluted them with a hearty cheer, and any amount of hospitality bright have been theirs.
For these dwellers by the sea, who follow their daily toil upon the treacherous waters, are always ready with their help, to give or take in the brotherly way that has long been known in the fishing villages upon the Cornish shores.
DICK TEMPLE FINDS IT UNPLEASANT FOR ANOTHER TO LEARN TO SMOKE.
There was too much to do in seeing that Dick was not likely to suffer from his long exposure for his father to say much to him that night. But there was a little conversation between Dick and Arthur, who slept in the same room.
It was after the candle was out, Arthur having received strict injunctions to go quietly to bed and not disturb his brother, who was said to be in a nice sleep and perspiring well.
This is what the doctor said, for he had been fetched and had felt Dick's pulse. He had looked very grave and shaken his head, saying that fever might supervene, and ended by prescribing a stimulus under another name, and a hot bath.
"Just as if I hadn't sucked up water enough to last me for a month!" Dick had said.
The people at the little hotel thought it unnecessary to send for a doctor, and when he came the doctor thought so too; but he omitted to make any remarks to that effect, contenting himself with looking very grave, and treating Dick as if his was a very serious case indeed.
And now the patient was lying snugly tucked up in bed, with only his nose and one eye visible, with the exception of a tuft of his hair, and Arthur was undressing in the dark, and very carefully folding up his clothes.
He had been deliberately undressing himself, brushing his hair, and going generally through a very niggling performance for nearly half an hour before Dick spoke, for the latter was enjoying the fun, as he called it, "of listening to old Taff muddling about in the dark, instead of jumping into bed at once."
At last, however, he spoke:
"I'm not asleep, Taff."
"Not asleep!" cried his brother. "What! haven't you been asleep?"
"What! not all the time I've been undressing?"
"Then it was very deceitful of you to lie there shamming."
"Didn't sham," said Dick.
"Yes, you did, and pretended that you were very ill."
"No, I didn't. I didn't want the doctor fetched."
"But why did you pretend to be asleep?"
"I didn't, I tell you. I only lay still and watched you fumbling about and taking so long to undress."
"Oh, did you?" said Arthur haughtily. "Well, now lie still, sir, and go to sleep. You are ill."
"No, I'm not," cried Dick cheerily; "only precious hot."
"Then if you are not ill you ought to be ashamed of yourself," said Arthur pettishly; "causing papa so much anxiety."
"Why, I think I behaved well," said Dick, chuckling to himself. "If I had taken you with me I should have given father twice as much trouble and worry."
"Taken me! Why, I should not have gone," said Arthur haughtily; "and if you had not been so fond of getting into low company all this would not have happened."
"Get out with your low company! There was nothing low about those two fishermen."
"I only call one of them a boy," said Arthur, yawning.
"Oh, very well: boy then. But I say, Taff, I wish you had been there."
"Thank you. I was much better at home."
"I mean while we were fishing. I caught such lovely mackerel, and a magnificent Polly something—I forget its name—all orange and gold and bronze, nine or ten pound weight."
"Stuff!" said Arthur contemptuously.
"But I did, I tell you."
"Then where is it?"
"Where is it? Oh, I don't know. When the steamer ran us down the fish and the tackle and all went overboard, I suppose. I never saw it again."
"Then you lost all the sprats," said Arthur sneeringly.
"Sprats! Get out, you sneering old Taff! You are disappointed because you didn't go with us. Why, there was a big turbot, and a sole or two, and a great skate with a prickly back, and gurnards and dog-fish."