He did not recognise Teddy amongst them; but, fancying the urchins might be able to tell him something of his movements, he made towards them, climbing through a gap in the fence and walking down the sloping side of the hill to the meadow below.
The boys, catching sight of him, immediately began to huddle together like a flock of sheep startled by the appearance of some strange dog; and he could hear them calling out some words of warning, in which his familiar title "t'parson" could be plainly distinguished.
"The young imps must be doing something wrong, and are afraid of being found out," thought the vicar. "Never mind, though, I sha'n't be hard on them, remembering my own young truant!"
As he got nearer, he heard the yelp of a dog as if in pain or alarm.
"They're surely not drowning some poor animal," said the vicar aloud, uttering the new thought that flashed across his mind. "If so, I shall most certainly be severe with them; for cruelty is detestable in man or boy!"
Hurrying on, he soon obtained a clear view of the pond, and he could now see that not only were a lot of boys clustered together round the edge of the water, but towards the centre something was floating like a raft with apparently another boy on it, who was holding a struggling white object in his arms, from which evidently the yelps proceeded—his ears soon confirming the supposition.
"Hullo! what are you doing there?" shouted the vicar, quickening his pace. "Don't hurt the poor dog!"
To his intense astonishment the boy on the floating substance turned his face towards him, answering his hail promptly with an explanation.
"It's Puck, padie, and I ain't hurting him."
Both the face and the voice were Teddy's!
The vicar was completely astounded.
"Teddy!" he exclaimed, "can I believe my eyes?—is it really you?"
"Yes, it's me, padie," replied the young scapegrace, trying to balance himself upright on the unsteady platform as he faced his father, but not succeeding in doing so very gracefully.
"Why, how on earth—or rather water, that would be the most correct expression," said the vicar correcting himself, being a student of Paley and a keen logician as to phraseology; "how did you get there?"
"I made a raft," explained Teddy in short broken sentences, which were interrupted at intervals through the necessary exertion he had to make every now and then to keep from tumbling into the water and hold Puck. "I made a raft like—like Robinson Crusoe, and—and—I've brought Puck— uck with me, 'cause I didn't have a parrot or a cat. I—I—I wanted to get to the island; b-b-but I can't go any further as the raft is stuck, and—and I've lost my stick to push it with. Oh—I was nearly over there!"
"It would be a wholesome lesson to you if you got a good ducking!" said the vicar sternly, albeit the reminiscences of Robinson Crusoe and the fact of Teddy endeavouring to imitate that ideal hero of boyhood struck him in a comical light and he turned away to hide a smile. "Come to the bank at once, sir!"
Easy enough as it was for the vicar to give this order, it was a very different thing for Teddy, in spite of every desire on his part, to obey it; for, the moment he put down Puck on the leafy flooring of the raft, the dog began to howl, making him take it up again in his arms. To add to his troubles, also, he had dropped his sculling pole during a lurch of his floating platform, so he had nothing now wherewith to propel it either towards the island or back to the shore, the raft wickedly oscillating midway in the water between the two, like Mahomet's coffin 'twixt heaven and earth!
Urged on, however, by his father's command, Teddy tried as gallantly as any shipwrecked mariner to reach land again; but, what with Puck hampering his efforts, and his brisk movements on the frail structure, this all at once separated into its original elements through the clothes-line becoming untied, leaving Teddy struggling amidst the debris of broken rails and branches—Puck ungratefully abandoning his master in his extremity and making instinctively for the shore.
The vicar plunged in frantically to the rescue, wading out in the mud until he was nearly out of his depth, and then swimming up to Teddy, who, clutching a portion of his dismembered raft, had managed to keep afloat; although, he was glad enough when his father's arm was round him and he found himself presently deposited on the bank in safety, where they were now alone, all the village boys having rushed off en masse, yelling out the alarm at the pitch of their voices the moment Teddy fell in and the vicar went after him.
Both were in a terrible pickle though, with their garments soaking wet, of course; while the vicar especially was bedraggled with mud from head to foot, looking the most unclerical object that could be well imagined. However, he took the whole matter good-humouredly enough, not scolding Teddy in the least.
"The best thing we can do, my son," he said when he had somewhat recovered his breath, not having gone through such violent exercise for many a long day.—"The best thing we can do is to hurry off home as fast we can, so as to arrive there before they hear anything of the accident from other sources, or the girls will be terribly alarmed about us."
Teddy, without speaking, tacitly assented to this plan by jumping up immediately and clutching hold of the shivering Puck, whose asthma, by the way, was not improved by this second involuntary ducking; and the two were hastening towards the vicarage when they heard a horse trotting behind them, Doctor Jolly riding up alongside before they had proceeded very far along the lane, after clambering out of the field where the pond was situated.
"Bless me!" cried the doctor; "why, here are you both safe and sound, when those village urchins said you and Master Teddy were drownded!"
"Ah! I thought these boys were up to something of the sort when they all scampered off in a batch without lending us a helping hand!" replied the vicar laughing. "I was just telling Teddy this, thinking the report would reach home before us."
"Aye, all happen, Vernon? 'Pon my word, you're in a fine mess!"
The vicar thereupon narrated all that had occurred, much to the doctor's amusement.
"Well," he exclaimed at the end of the story, "that boy of yours is cut out for something, you may depend. He won't be drowned at any rate!"
"No," said the vicar reflectively; "this is the second merciful escape he has had from the water."
"Yes, and once from fire, too," put in the other, alluding to the gunpowder episode. "He's a regular young desperado!"
"I hope not, Jolly," hastily interposed the vicar. "I don't like your joking about his escapades in that way. I hope he will be good—eh, my boy?" and he stroked Teddy's head as he walked along by his side, father and son being alike hatless, their headgear remaining floating on the pond, along with the remains of the raft, to frighten the frogs and fishes.
Teddy uttered no reply; but his little heart was full, and he made many inward resolves, which, alas! his eight-year-old nature was not strong enough to keep.
He really did not mean any harm; but mischief is mischief whether intentional or not, and somehow or other he seemed continually to be getting into it. Circumstances, over which, of course, he had no control, continually overruled his anxious desire to be good.
As Doctor Jolly said, with his usual strident hearty laugh that could be heard half a mile off, and which was so contagious that it made people smile whose thoughts were the reverse of gay, Teddy was always in hot water, "except, by Jove, when he plunged into the cold, ho, ho!"
With reference to this latter point, however, it may be mentioned here, that albeit he had twice been mercifully preserved from drowning, the vicar, while trustful enough in the divine workings of Providence, did not think it altogether right to allow Teddy's insurance against a watery grave to be entirely dependent on chance; and so, that very evening, when Jupp came up to the house after he had done his work at the station, he broached the subject to him as soon as the worthy porter had been made cognisant of all the facts connected with the raft adventure.
"No," said the vicar, so carried away by his feelings that he almost added "my brethren," fancying himself in the pulpit delivering a homily to his congregation generally, instead of only addressing one hearer, "we ought not to neglect any wise precaution in guarding against those dangers that beset our everyday lives. Lightly spoken as the adage is, that 'God helps those who help themselves,' it is true enough."
"Aye, aye, sir, and so say I," assented Jupp, rather mystified as to "what the parson was a-driving at," as he mentally expressed it, by this grand beginning, and thinking it had some reference to his not being present at the pond to rescue Teddy in his peril, which he keenly regretted.
"This being my impression," continued the vicar, completing his period, as if rounding a sentence in one of his sermons, wherein he was frequently prone to digress, "and I'm glad to learn from your acquiescent reply that you agree with me on the main issue, eh?"
Jupp nodded his head again, although now altogether in a fog regarding the other's meaning.
"Well, then," said the vicar, satisfied with having at last cleared the ground for stating his proposition, "I want you to devote any leisure time you may have in the course of the next few weeks to teaching my son to swim; so that, in the event of his unhappily falling into the water again, when neither you nor I may be near, he may be able to save himself—under providence, that is."
"I was just about a-thinking on the same thing, sir, when you began a- speaking," observed Jupp thoughtfully, scratching his head in his reflective way as he stood before the vicar cap in hand at the door of the study, where the conference was being held. "I fancied you didn't like me taking him down to the river, or I'd have taught him to swim long ago, I would, sir!"
"Then I may depend on your doing so now, eh?"
"Sartenly, sir! I'll be proud, that I will, to show him," answered Jupp eagerly, mightily pleased with the task intrusted to him, having long wished to undertake it; and so, he being willing, and his pupil nothing loth, Teddy was in a comparatively short space so well instructed how to support himself in the water that he was quite capable of swimming across the river without fear of being sucked down into the mill-race— although he made both his father and Jupp a promise, which he honourably kept, of never bathing there unless accompanied by either of the two.
Not only this, but he could also essay the muddy depths of the pond in the meadow whenever the fancy seized him, exploring the little island in its centre at his own sweet will; and this accomplishment, as will be seen further on, stood him in good stead at one of the most critical periods of his life, although this is anticipating.
But, learning swimming, and so lessening the risk attending peril by water, did not prevent him from getting into scrapes on land; for, he was a brave, fearless boy, and these very qualities, added to a natural impulsiveness of disposition, were continually leading him into rash enterprises which almost invariably ended in mishap and disaster, if not to himself, to those who unwittingly were involved in his ventures, alas!
In his ninth year, Jupp got a rise on the line, being promoted to be assistant station-master at a neighbouring town, which necessarily involved his leaving Endleigh; and, being now also able to keep a wife in comfort, the long courtship which had been going on between him and Mary was brought to a happy conclusion by matrimony, a contingency that involved the loss to the vicar's household of Mary's controlling influence, leaving Master Teddy more and more to himself, with no one in authority to look after him.
Under these circumstances, the vicar, acting on Doctor Jolly's advice, sent him to a small private school in the village where the farmers' sons of the vicinity were taught the rudiments of their education, Teddy going thither every morning and afternoon in company with his sisters Liz and Cissy, who received lessons from a retired governess dwelling hard by—the three children returning home in the middle of the day for their dinner, and again on the termination of their tasks in the evening.
Miss Conny, who had passed through the same curriculum, had grown too old for her teacher, and now remained at the vicarage, installed as her father's housekeeper and head of the family in his absence.
This arrangement worked very well for a time, although Teddy did not make any very rapid progress at his studies, his mind being more turned to outdoor sports than book lore; but the association with others made him, if more manly, less tractable, developing his madcap propensities to a very considerable extent, if merely from his desire to emulate his companions.
One day, when going homewards with Liz and Cissy across the fields from Endleigh, the trio came upon a group of the idle boys of the village who were assembled in front of an inclosed paddock containing Farmer Giles's brindled bull, a savage animal, whose implacable viciousness was the talk of the place; not even the ploughman, with whom he was more familiar than anyone else, daring to approach him without the protection of a long-handled pitchfork.
Neither Farmer Giles nor any of his men were about, and the boys, taking advantage of the opportunity, were baiting the bull by shying clods at him and otherwise rousing his temper, when Teddy and his sisters came along.
Teddy fired up at once at the sight.
"You cowards!" he cried; "you stand there behind the fence pelting the poor animal, but none of you have the pluck to go inside and do it!"
"No more have you, Meaister," retorted one of the biggest of the boys, a rustic lout of sixteen. "You ain't got the plook t' go inside yoursen!"
"Haven't I?" said Teddy in answer to this taunt; and before his sisters could prevent him he had darted over to where the boys were standing, and climbing over the stout five-barred gate that gave admittance to the inclosure, let himself down into the paddock—confronting the bull without even a stick in his hand.
The savage animal appeared so much surprised at the temerity of such a little fellow as Teddy invading his domain, that he allowed him to advance several steps without making a movement; when, putting down his head, as if trying the points of his horns, and pawing the ground, he uttered a wild bellow that brought forth a responsive shriek from Cissy.
"Come back, Teddy, come back!" she screamed, turning quite pale with fright. "He's coming after you, and will toss you on his cruel horns. Oh, do come back!"
Teddy, however, still continued advancing towards the infuriated brute, waving his arms and shouting in the endeavour to intimidate it. He was sorry he had gone into the paddock; but he had some idea that if he retreated the bull would make a rush at him, and thought that by showing he was not afraid, he might presently retire with all the honours of war, so he preserved a courageous front, although his heart went pit-a- pat all the while.
Again, the bull lowered his horns and tossed up his head.
He was quite close to him now; and Teddy stopped, the bull eyeing him and he looking at it steadfastly.
The situation was alarming, so he stepped back gingerly, whereupon the bull advanced at the same moment, with another loud bellow, the smoke coming out of his red nostrils, and his little eyes flaming with fire.
This caused all Teddy's courage to evaporate, and the next moment, forgetting all his previous caution, he turned and ran as hard as he could for the gate; but, the bull, in two strides, catching him up on his horns like a bundle of hay, tossed him high in the air, amidst the screams and shouts of Cissy and Liz and all the village boys commingled, the triumphant roar of the animal overtopping them all as it bellowed forth a paean of victory.
Fortunately for Teddy, a pollard elm stood just within the paddock, breaking his fall as he tumbled towards the ground, where the bull was looking up awaiting him, with the intention of catching him again on his horns; and the branches receiving his body in their friendly shelter, he was saved from tumbling down, when he would have been at the mercy of his enemy.
Still, there he hung, like Absalom, another naughty boy before him, suspended by his clothes if not by his hair, the bull bellowing and keeping guard round the tree to prevent his further escape; and it was not until the ploughman had been called by one of the village boys and driven away the animal that Teddy was able to climb down from his insecure perch and regain the others.
He was glad enough to get out of the paddock, it may be safely asserted; and then, when he was examined, it was discovered, much to the wonder of everybody, including himself, that, beyond a scratch or two from the branches of the elm, he was quite unhurt, in spite of the toss the bull gave him and his unexpected flight through the air!
But his daring, if unproductive of any evil consequences towards himself personally, caused harm to others, the ploughman being badly gored while driving off the violent animal through his missing his footing when aiming a blow at it with his pitchfork; while poor Cissy was in such a fright at the mishap, that after screaming herself hoarse she went off in hysterics, the attack ending in a fit of convulsions on her getting home, making her so ill that the doctor had to be summoned to bring her back to consciousness.
Teddy in consequence had a serious lecture from the vicar, who pointed out to him the difference between real courage and foolhardiness; but the lesson did not strike very deep, and soon he was his wayward self again, his sister Conny being too near his own age to have any authority over him, while his father was too much of a student and dreamer to exercise any judicious control in restraining his exuberant nature.
By the time he was twelve years of age he was like a wild unbroken colt, although he had still the same honest outspoken look in his bright blue eyes, and was a fine manly little fellow who would not have, told a lie to save himself from punishment, or wilfully hurt chick or child; but, scapegrace he was still, as he had been almost from his earliest infancy.
He really could not help it.
When Jupp and Mary paid their periodical visit at the vicarage to see how the family were getting on, bringing anon another little Jupp with them, they were certain to hear of something terrible that Master Teddy had done; for all the village talked of him now and took heed of his misdeeds, the recital of which, as is usual in such cases, lost nothing by the telling.
They were only ordinary boyish freaks; but they seemed awful to the quiet, sleepy countryfolk who inhabited Endleigh.
Once, his grandmother rather unwisely brought down a pistol for him from London; and Teddy thereupon having his imagination excited by what he had read of pirates and highwaymen in the works of romance which he devoured whenever he could get hold of them, went about fancying himself a bold buccaneer and freebooter, firing at everything moving within as well as out of range, along the solitary country lanes and hedgerows— thereby frightening passers-by frequently with untimely shots close to their ears, and making them believe their last hour had come.
It was in this way that he peppered old Stokes's sow, which was taking a quiet walk abroad seeking a convenient wallowing place, when the squeals of the unlucky beast were a nine days' wonder, albeit "it was all cry and little wool," as the Irishman said when he shaved his pig, the animal being not much hurt.
Still, old Stokes did not like it, and complained to the squire, who remonstrated with the vicar, and the latter in his turn lectured Teddy— the matter ending there as far as he was concerned, although the squeals of the afflicted sow were treasured up and remembered against him in the chronicles of Endleigh.
The place was so dull, that having nothing particular to keep him occupied—for he had long since learned all the village schoolmaster could teach him, and it was a mere farce his remaining any longer under his tutelage—the wonder was, not that Teddy got into any mischief at all, but that he did not fall into more; and Doctor Jolly was continually speaking to his father about neglecting him in that way, urging that he should be sent to some good boarding-school at a distance to prepare him for the university, Mr Vernon intending that the boy should follow in his own footsteps and go into the church, having the same living after him that he had inherited from his father.
But the vicar would not hear of this.
"No," said he, "he shall stop here and be educated by me in the same way as I was educated by my poor father before going to Oxford. He's a bright intelligent boy—you don't think him an ignoramus, Jolly, eh?"
"Not by any means, by Jove," laughed the doctor. "He knows too much already. What I think he wants is a little proper restraint and control. Master Teddy has too much his own way."
"Ah! I can't be hard with him, Jolly," sighed the vicar. "Whenever I try to speak to him with severity he looks me in the face with those blue eyes of his, and I think of my poor wife, his mother. He's the very image of her, Jolly!"
"Well, well," said the doctor, putting the subject away, considering it useless to press the point; "I'm afraid you'll regret it some day, though I hope not."
"I hope not, indeed," replied the vicar warmly. "Teddy isn't a bad boy. He has never told me a falsehood in his life, and always confesses to any fault he has committed."
"That doesn't keep him out of mischief though," said the doctor grimly as he went off, atoning to himself for having found fault with Teddy by giving him a drive out to the squire's, and allowing him to take his horse and gig back by himself, an indulgence that lifted Teddy into the seventh heaven of delight.
However, as events turned out, the very means by which the doctor thought to clear the reproach from his own soul of having advised the vicar about Teddy, indirectly led to his advice being followed.
On alighting at the squire's and handing him the reins, he told Teddy to be very particular in driving slowly, the horse being a high-spirited one, and apt to take the bit in his teeth if given his head or touched with the whip; so, as long as he was in sight Teddy obeyed these injunctions, coaxing the bay along as quietly as if he were assisting at a funeral procession.
Directly he got beyond range of observation from the house, though, he made amends for his preliminary caution, shaking the reins free, and giving the horse a smart cut under the loins that made it spring forward like a goat, almost jumping out of the traces; and then, away it tore along the road towards the village at the rate of twenty miles an hour, the gig bounding from rut to rut as if it were a kangaroo, and shaking Teddy's bones together like castanets.
Once the animal had got its head, the boy found it useless to try and stop him; while, as for guidance, the horse no more cared about his pulling at the bit than if he were a fly, plunging onward in its wild career, and whisking the gig from side to side, so that Teddy was fully employed in holding on without attempting to pull the reins at all.
For a mile or two the roadway was pretty clear, but on nearing Endleigh it became narrower; and here, just in front, Teddy could see a loaded farm wagon coming along.
To have passed it safely either he or the wagoner would have had to pull up on one side; but with him now it was impossible to do this, while the driver of the other vehicle was half asleep, and nodding from amidst the pile of straw with which the wagon was loaded, letting the team jingle along at a slow walk.
A collision, therefore, was inevitable, and hardly had Teddy come to this conclusion than smash, bang, it followed!
There was a terrible jolt, and he suddenly felt himself doing a somersault, waking up the wagoner by tumbling on top of him above the straw, whither he had hurled as from a catapult by the sudden stoppage of the gig in its mad career; and when he came to himself he saw that the fragments of the vehicle lay scattered about under the front of the wagon, against which it had been violently impelled, the bay cantering down to its own stable with its broken traces dangling behind it.
Teddy was thunderstruck at the mishap.
He had not thought there was any danger in disobeying the doctor's instructions, and yet here was the gig smashed up and the wagoner's horses injured irreparably, one poor brute having to be shot afterwards; besides which he did not know what had become of the runaway animal.
All the mishap had arisen through disobedience!
He went home at once and told his father everything; but the vicar, though comforting him by saying that he would get the doctor a new gig, and recompense the farmer to whom the wagon belonged for the loss of his team, seemed to have his eyes awakened at last to the evil to which Doctor Jolly had so vainly tried to direct his attention.
He determined that Teddy should go to school.
But, before this intention could be carried out, there was a most unexpected arrival at the vicarage.
This was no less a personage than Uncle Jack, whom neither Teddy nor his sisters had ever seen before, he having gone to sea the same year the vicar had married, and never been heard of again, the vessel in which he had sailed having gone down, and all hands reported lost.
Uncle Jack hadn't foundered, though, if his ship had, for here he was as large as life, and that was very large, he weighing some fourteen or fifteen stone at the least!
What was more, he had passed through the most wonderful adventures and been amongst savages. These experiences enabled him to recount the most delightful and hairbreadth yarns—yarns that knocked all poor Jupp's stories of the cut-and-dried cruises he had had in the navy into a cocked hat, Teddy thought, as he hung on every utterance of this newly- found uncle, longing the while to be a sailor and go through similar experiences.
Uncle Jack took to him amazingly, too, and when he had become domesticated at the vicarage, asked one day what he was going to be.
"What, make a parson of him, brother-in-law!" exclaimed the sailor in horrified accents. "You'd never spoil such a boy as that, who's cut out for a sailor, every inch of him—not, of course, that I wish to say a word against your profession. Still, he can't go into the church yet; what are you going to do with him in the meantime, eh?"
"Send him to school," replied the other.
"Why, hasn't he been yet?"
"Oh, yes, he's not altogether ignorant," said the vicar. "I think he's a very fair scholar for his years."
"Then why dose him any more with book learning, eh? When you fill a water-cask too full it's apt to run over!"
"I quite agree with you about cramming, Jack," said the vicar, smiling at the nautical simile; "but, I'm sending Teddy to a leading school more for the sake of the discipline than for anything more that I want him to learn at present."
"Discipline, eh! is that your reason, brother-in-law? Then allow me to tell you he'll get more of that at sea than he ever will at school."
"Oh, father!" interrupted Teddy, who had been present all the time during the confab, listening as gravely as any judge to the discussion about his future, "do let me be a sailor! I'd rather go to sea than anything."
"But you might be drowned, my boy," said the vicar gravely, his thoughts wandering to every possible danger of the deep.
"No fear of that," answered Teddy smiling. "Why, I can swim like a fish; and there's Uncle Jack now, whom you all thought lost, safe and sound after all his voyages!"
"Aye and so I am!" chorused the individual alluded to.
"Well, well, we'll think of it," said the vicar. "I'll hear what my old friend Jolly has to say to the plan first."
But he could not have consulted a more favourable authority as far as Teddy was concerned.
"The very thing for him!" said the doctor approvingly. "I don't think you could ever turn him into a parson, Vernon. He has too much animal spirits for that; think of my gig, ho! ho!"
Overcome by the many arguments brought forward, and the general consensus of judgment in favour of the project, the vicar at last consented that Teddy might be allowed to go to sea under the aegis of Uncle Jack, who started off at once to London to see about the shipping arrangements; when the rest of the household set to work preparing the young sailor's outfit in the meantime, so that no time might be lost— little Cissy making him a wonderful anti-macassar, which, in spite of all ridicule to the contrary, she asserted would do for the sofa in his cabin!
Of course, Jupp and Mary came over to wish Teddy good-bye; but, albeit there was much grief among the home circle at the vicarage when they escorted him to the little railway-station, on the day he left there were not many tears shed generally at his going, for, to paraphrase not irreverently the words of the Psalmist, "Endleigh, at heart, was glad at his departing, and the people of the village let him go free!"
"Well, here we are, my hearty!" said Uncle Jack, who was on the watch for him at London Bridge station, and greeted him the moment the train arrived; "but, come, look sharp, we've a lot to do before us, and precious little time to do it in!"
Teddy, however, was not inclined at first to "look sharp."
On the contrary, he looked extremely sad, being very melancholy at leaving home, and altogether "down in the mouth," so to speak.
This arose, not so much from the fact of his parting with his father and sisters, dearly as he loved them all in his way; but, on account of poor Puck, who, whether through grief at his going away, which the intelligent little animal seemed quite as conscious of through the instinct of his species as if he were a human being, or from his chronic asthma coming to a crisis, breathed his last in Teddy's arms the very morning of his departure from home!
The doggy, faithful to the end, was buried in the garden, Conny, Cissy, and Liz attending his obsequies, and the two latter weeping with Teddy over his grave, for all were fond of Puck; but none lamented him so deeply as he, and all the journey up to town, as the train sped its weary way along, his mind was busy recalling all the incidents that attended their companionship from the time when his grandmother first gave him as a present. He was a brisk young dog then, he remembered, the terror of all strange cats and hunter of rabbits, but his affection had not swerved down to the last year of their association, when, toothless and wheezy, he could hunt no more, and cats came fearlessly beneath his very nose when he went through the feeble pretence of trying to gnaw a bone on the lawn.
Poor Puck—requiescat in pace!
Still, doggy or no doggy, Uncle Jack was not the sort of fellow to let Teddy remain long in the dumps, especially as he had said there was a good deal to be done; and, soon, Teddy was in such a whirl of excitement, with everything new and strange around him, that he had no time left to be melancholy in.
First, Uncle Jack hailed a hansom, all Teddy's belongings in the shape of luggage being left in the cloak-room at the terminus, and the two jumping in were driven off as rapidly as the crowded state of the streets would allow, to Tower Hill, where the offices of the shipping agents owning the Greenock were situated.
Here Uncle Jack deposited a cheque which the vicar had given him, and Master Teddy was bound over in certain indentures of a very imposing character as a first-class apprentice to the said firm, the lad then signing articles as one of the crew of the Greenock, of which vessel, it may be mentioned, Uncle Jack had already been appointed chief officer, so that he would be able to keep a watchful eye over his nephew in his future nautical career.
"Now that job's done," said Uncle Jack when all the bothersome writing and signing were accomplished and the vicar's cheque paid over, "we'll have a run down to look at the ship; what say you to that, eh?"
"All right!" responded Teddy, much delighted at the idea; and the pair then were driven from Tower Hill to the Fenchurch Street railway- station, where they dismissed their cab and took train for the docks, the state of locomotion in the neighbourhood of which does not readily permit of the passage of wheeled vehicles, a hansom running the risk of being squashed into the semblance of a pancake against the heavy drays blocking the narrow streets and ways, should it adventure within the thoroughfares thereof.
On their arrival at Poplar, Uncle Jack threaded his way with amazing ease and familiarity through a narrow lane with high walls on either hand, and then into a wide gateway branching off at right angles. Entering within this Teddy found himself in a vast forest of masts, with ships loading and unloading at the various quays and jetties alongside the wharves, opposite to lines of warehouses that seemed to extend from one end of the docks to the other.
Uncle Jack was not long in tumbling across the Greenock, which had nearly completed taking in her cargo and was to "warp out next morning," as he told Teddy, who didn't know what on earth he meant by the phrase, by the way.
There appeared to be a great deal of confusion going on in front of the jetty to which she was moored; but Uncle Jack took him on board and introduced him to Mr Capstan, the second officer, as a future messmate, who showed him the cabins and everything, telling him to "make himself at home!"
The Greenock was a fine barque-rigged vessel of some two thousand tons, with auxiliary steam-power; and she gained her living or earned her freight, whichever way of putting it may please best, by sailing to and fro in the passenger trade between the ports of London and Melbourne, but doing more in the goods line on the return journey, because colonials bent on visiting the mother country generally prefer the mail steamers as a speedier route. Emigrants, however, are not so squeamish, contenting themselves in getting out to Australia, that land of promise to so many hard-up and despairing people at home, by whatever means they can—so long only as they may hope to arrive there at some time or other!
Teddy was surprised at the gorgeousness of the Greenock's saloons and cabins, and the height of her masts, and the multitude of ropes about running in every conceivable direction, crossing and recrossing each other with the bewildering ingenuity of a spider's web; but Uncle Jack took all these wonders as a matter of course, and rather pooh-poohed them.
"Wait till you see her at Gravesend," he said. "She's all dismantled now with these shore lumpers and lubbers aboard, and won't be herself till she's down the river and feels herself in sailors' hands again. Why, you won't know her! But come along, laddie, we've got to buy a sea-chest and a lot of things to complete your kit; and then, we'll go to granny's and try to see something of the sights of London."
So, back they trudged again to the Poplar station and were wafted once more to Fenchurch Street, where Uncle Jack dived within the shop of a friendly outfitter, who had a mackintosh and sextant swinging in front of his establishment to show his marine leanings and dealings.
Here, a white sea-chest, whose top was made like a washing-stand, and several other useful articles, were purchased by Uncle Jack without wasting any time, as he had made up his mind what he wanted before going in and knew what he was about; and these things being ordered to be forwarded to the cloak-room at the London Bridge station, to be placed with Teddy's other luggage, Uncle Jack rubbed his hands gleefully.
"Now that business is all settled," he said, "we can enjoy ourselves a bit, as the ship won't be ready for us till next Monday. Come along, my hearty! Let us bear up for granny's—you haven't been to her place before, have you, eh?"
No, Teddy explained. Granny had often been down to Endleigh to see him, but he had never been up to town to see her; that first attempt of his, which had been frustrated by Mary's pursuit and the machinations of Jupp, having deterred him, somehow or other, from essaying the journey a second time. Indeed, he had never been to London at all.
"My!" exclaimed Uncle Jack. "What a lot there'll be for you to see, my hearty, eh?"
What is more, he showed him, too, all that was to be seen, taking Teddy to monuments and exhibitions, to galleries and even to the theatre.
The time passed by rapidly enough—too rapidly, granny thought, when the day came for her to say good-bye to Teddy; but he was nothing loth to go, longing to be on board the Greenock as one belonging to her of right, and feel himself really at sea.
Granny wanted him to have another little dog in place of Puck; however, he couldn't make up his mind to a substitute to supersede the former animal's hold on his affections. Besides this, Uncle Jack said the captain did not allow anybody to have dogs on board, and that was a clincher to the argument at once.
Monday morning came, and with it another railway journey. It really seemed to Teddy as if he were "on the line," like Jupp!
The Greenock, having taken in all her cargo, had been warped out of dock and then towed down the river to Gravesend, where she was now lying moored in the stream off the Lobster.
"There she is!" cried Uncle Jack when they got down to the beach.
"Where?" asked Teddy, not recognising the dirty untidy hulk he had seen in the docks, as she first appeared to him before he was taken on board and noticed the elegance of her cabins, in the thing of beauty he saw now before him; with every spar in its place and snow-white canvas extended in peaceful folds from the yards, as the vessel lay at anchor with her topsails dropped and her courses half clewed up, ready to spread her wings like an ocean bird.
What a change there was in her!
"Look, right in front there, laddie," said Uncle Jack. "Can't you see? She's just about making-sail, so we'd better get on board as soon as possible. Hi, boatman, seen any one belonging to the Greenock ashore?"
"Aye, aye, sir," answered the man addressed, "her boat's just over there by the p'int, just agoin' to shove off."
"Thank you, my hearty," said Uncle Jack, giving him a trifle for the information; and in another minute or so Teddy found himself in the Greenock's jolly-boat in company with a lot of the new hands, like himself, going off to join the ship. Here on his arrival on board, he was introduced to Captain Lennard, the monarch of all he surveyed as far as the deck of the Greenock was concerned, and his future commander.
Teddy liked the look of him; while he, on his part, seemed to like the look of Teddy, smiling kindly when he saw him come over the gangway after Uncle Jack. He had the general appearance of a brown Jupp, being of the same height and with just such a smiling good-humoured face, with the exception that his hair and beard, instead of being black, was of a lighter and ruddier hue.
Oh, yes, Teddy thought, Captain Lennard was the man for him. He looked easy and kind-hearted and would not bully people, as he had read of some brutal captains doing.
"This your nephew?" he asked Uncle Jack politely.
"Yes, sir," replied the other, touching his cap, being in regular nautical rig now, as also was Teddy, who, clad in spick-and-span reefer costume, felt as proud as Punch.
"Ah! then, if he's like you I think we'll get along very well together, Mr Althorp," said the captain with a bow and smile. "He looks like a chip of the old block too!"
"You're very good to say that, sir," stammered Uncle Jack, blushing at the compliment. "The youngster's very like my poor sister, and I suppose resembles me, as she and I were twins. I've no doubt, though, you'll find him teachable when he's licked into shape; for, he isn't a bad lad from what I have seen of him as yet, and is plucky enough, if all I've heard of him down at Endleigh be true."
"Well, Master Vernon, I hope you'll justify the character your uncle gives of you. If you only obey orders there'll be no fear of our falling out. But, mind, I'm captain of this ship; so look out for squalls if you shirk duty or try on any tricks!"
The captain said this pleasantly, but there was a stern look combined in the twinkle of his hazel eyes beneath their thick brown eyebrows, like penthouses overshadowing them; and Teddy felt that, with all his gentleness and joking way, he was a man who intended to command and likewise to be obeyed.
A moment later Captain Lennard changed the conversation by asking Uncle Jack if all the hands were on board.
"Aye, aye, sir," said the other. "The whole batch, I think, came out with us. Isn't that so, Mr Capstan?" he asked, turning to the second- mate, who was standing close by.
"Yes, all hands aboard," replied the second-mate laconically.
"Then make sail at once," said Captain Lennard, going aft on the poop; while Mr Capstan bustled forwards, shouting out as he scrambled up on the windlass bitts and thence to the fo'c's'le, "All hands make sa-i- il!" drawling out the last word as if it were a chorus to some mariner's ditty he were singing.
The crew were all picked men, the majority having been in the ship on one or two previous voyages; so they were quite at home, and sprang into the rigging long before the second-mate had got to the end of his refrain.
In a second, the topsails were dropped and sheeted home, and the rattling of the clewgarnet blocks told of the courses following their example; after which the hands aloft then loosed the topgallant, there being a fine breeze fair for the Downs.
Teddy was puzzled for a moment by all the seeming confusion that reigned in the ship, with ropes flying about and cordage cracking, while the hoarse orders issued by Mr Capstan and Uncle Jack were answered by the cheery cry of the men, singing out lustily as they hoisted and pulled at the halliards with a will. But, the confusion was only momentary and in appearance only; for, hardly had he begun to realise what all the bustle was about, than the ship was clothed in canvas from truck to deck, like a lady attired for a ball all in white!
The headyards were then backed, and Captain Lennard's voice rang through the vessel fore and aft as clear as a bell—
"Hands up anchor!"
Then, the windlass was wound; and, slip, slap, click, clack, it went round the pawl belaying every inch of cable got in.
"Cheerily, men! heave with a will!" urged the second-mate; and the brawny fellows bent all their strength to the handspikes, heaving them down with sheer brute force.
"Hove short!" presently sang out Mr Capstan.
"Up with it!" responded Captain Lennard from the poop, where the pilot now appeared by his side awaiting all these preparations to be completed before taking charge of the ship.
Half-a-dozen more heaves and the anchor-stock showed above the water.
"Hook cat!" cried the second-mate.
"I wonder what that means!" thought Teddy. "I hope they won't hurt the poor thing!"
But, the next moment, he was undeceived.
Nothing in the shape of cruelty to animals was about to be perpetrated.
Mr Capstan only ordered the men to hook on the tackle by which the head of the anchor was to be braced up; and, before he could say "Jack Robinson," if he had been that way inclined, the falls were manned and the anchor run up to the cathead with a rousing chorus as the men scampered aft with the tail-end of the rope.
The headyards were then filled, and the ship bowed her head as if in salute to Father Neptune, the next instant gathering way as the sails began to draw.
"Port!" sang out the pilot from the bridge.
"Port it is," responded the man at the wheel, shifting the spokes with both hands like a squirrel in a cage, it seemed to Teddy, who was looking at him from the break of the poop, where he had taken up his station by Captain Lennard's orders so that he might the more easily see all that was going on.
"Steady it is," repeated the helmsman in parrot fashion.
And so, conning and steering along, the Greenock was soon bounding on her way down channel, passing Deal and rounding the South Foreland before noon.
Teddy at last was really at sea!
TAKING FRENCH LEAVE.
The weather was beautifully fine for October, with a bright warm sun shining down and lighting up the water, which curled and crested before the spanking nor'-east breeze, that brought with it that bracing tone which makes the month, in spite of its autumnal voice warning us of the approach of winter, one of the most enjoyable in our changeable climate—especially to those dwelling along the south coast, which the good ship Greenock now trended by on her passage out of the Channel.
Teddy as yet, although this was his first experience of "a life on the ocean wave," was not sea-sick; for, although the vessel heeled well over to the wind on the starboard tack she did not roll, but ploughed through the little wavelets as calmly as if on a mill-pond, only rising now and again to make a graceful courtesy to some cross current that brought a swell over from the opposite shore of France, for after passing Beachy Head she kept well off the land on the English side.
A west-nor'-west course brought the Greenock off Saint Catharine's Point; but the evening had drawn in too much for Teddy to see anything of the Isle of Wight, and when he woke up next morning the ship was abreast of the Start Point.
From thence, he had a fair view of the Devon and Cornish coasts in the distance all the way to the Lizard, the scene being like an ever- changing panorama, with plenty of life and movement about in the vessels the Greenock was continually passing either outwards or homewards bound; while the little trawlers and fishing-boats clustered in groups here and there, and there was the occasional smoke from some steamer steaming along the horizon, like a dark finger-post above the level of the sea in the distance.
He enjoyed it all, as, although he had found his bunk in the cabin rather close and stuffy after his nice airy bed-room at the vicarage, he was still not sea-sick; and, as he leant over the taffrail, watching the creamy wake the ship left behind her, spreading out broader and broader until it was lost in the surrounding waste of waters, what with the sniff of the saline atmosphere and the bracing breeze, he began to feel hungry, longing for breakfast-time to come and wondering when he would hear the welcome bell sound to tell that the meal was ready.
No one was on deck, at least on the poop, when he came up, save the helmsman, and Mr Capstan, the latter walking up and down briskly on the windward side and exchanging a word now and again with the pilot on the bridge; so Teddy felt a little forlorn.
Presently, the second-mate, taking a longer turn in his quarterdeck walk, came up and spoke to him.
"Well, young shaver," he said, "how are you getting on?"
"Very well, thank you, sir," replied Teddy, touching his cap, as Uncle Jack had told him he must always do to his superior officer.
"Ah! you're like a young bear, and have all your troubles before you," the other next remarked consolingly, adding immediately afterwards the query: "Seen any of your messmates yet?"
"No, sir," replied Teddy, looking a bit puzzled—"that is, excepting yourself and the captain, and Uncle Jack, of course. Are there any other midshipmen like myself?"
"Aye, if you call the apprentices so, young shaver," said Mr Capstan with an ironical grin which did not improve his rather ugly face. "There are two more of you; and the lazy young hounds must be snoozing below, for they haven't shown a leg yet. However, I'll soon rouse 'em up!"
So saying, he shouted out to one of the hands in the waist forwards: "Here, Bill Summers!"
"Aye, aye, sir," replied the man, looking up towards the break of the poop, whence the second-mate had hailed him, leaning over the rail.
"Just go and call Jones and Maitland. Tell 'em to turn out sharp or I'll stop their grog," cried Mr Capstan.
"Aye, aye, sir," said the man, proceeding towards the deck-house, which occupied a middle position in the ship between the poop and fo'c's'le; and presently, although hidden from the gaze of those aft, he could be heard rapping at one of the doors, repeating in whispered tones the order the second-mate had given him.
Ere long, a couple of striplings appeared, dressed in dirty uniforms which presented a marked difference to that of Teddy; and he noticed besides that one was considerably taller than he was while the second was shorter and a little slimmer.
"Here, you, Jones and Maitland, I won't have you caulking away this bright morning when the sun ought to be scorching the sleep out of your eyes. What do you mean by it, eh?" began Mr Capstan as if lashing himself into a passion, but had not quite got enough steam up yet.
"I thought, sir, as this is our first day out and the ship still in charge of the pilot, we needn't turn out so early," said Jones, the biggest of the two, acting as spokesman.
"You thought!" snarled the second-mate, catching up a rope's-end with the apparent intention of laying it across the shoulders of Jones, only he kept a wary distance away. "I've half a mind to give you something for answering me like that! No one has any business to think on board ship."
"Aye, where you're boss!" said the offender speaking aside.
"What is that you're jabbering?" quickly interposed Mr Capstan—"some impudence, I reckon. Now, just you pull off those patent-leather pumps of yours and set to work washing decks. It's gone six bells, and it ought to have been done half an hour ago."
Teddy thought this was a very unkind cut of the mate at poor Jones's boots, which were a dilapidated pair of bluchers that needed mending badly; still, he couldn't help smiling, which didn't seem to please Mr Capstan, who, turning round, now addressed him:
"And you, my fine young shaver, with your dandy rig, you'd better be doing something to earn your salt, and not be a useless lubber, looking on like a fine lady! You just put off and go and help Jones."
Teddy, though he didn't relish the job, obeyed willingly; and soon he was paddling about in bare feet with his trousers rolled up to the knee, while the crew under Jones's direction rigged the head pump and sluiced the decks down from end to end of the ship, beginning with the poop and ending with the midship section in the waist, where all the water was collected in a sort of small lake and had to be swabbed out of the scuttles.
Young Maitland meanwhile had been sent up the main royal mast to clear the dog vane, which had somehow or other got fouled; so Mr Capstan, satisfied at seeing everybody busily employed but himself, paced contentedly up and down the poop, sniffing about and snorting occasionally like an old grampus, as if in satisfaction at "taking it out of the youngsters."
The man was naturally a bully, and loved to display the little authority he had by "hazing" those under him, to use the technical sea phrase.
By dint of continually nagging at the men below from his commanding position above, the second-mate hurried them up so with their work that in a very short space of time the decks were scrubbed and washed, the sun drying them almost without the use of the swab.
Mr Capstan then set them to work coiling down the loose ropes lying about, there being nothing else to do, as the ship had not altered her course but remained on the starboard tack with the wind well on her quarter; and, although everything had been made snug before leaving the Downs, he was just going to tell the hands to unship the motley contents of the long-boat and stow it again afresh in default of some other task, when eight bells struck, and Uncle Jack came up from below to relieve him from his watch—a relief, it may be added, to all hands in more than one sense!
Presently, Captain Lennard came on deck too; although he must not be thought lazy for being so late, for he had remained up with the pilot on the bridge all night conning the ship, only turning in for a short nap at daylight.
Then, the passengers, of whom there were some sixty in the first-class saloon, began to creep up the companion, one by one as if not yet accustomed to the somewhat unsteady footing of a ship's deck at sea; as for the steerage emigrants they remained below, and even after they had been weeks afloat it required almost force to drive them up into the fresh air.
Teddy was looking at the queer figures some of the gentlemen and ladies presented on the poop, when all at once the breakfast gong sounded, and they all scuttled down much faster than they had come up, the sea air having given those able to get out of their bunks fresh appetites after they had paid homage to Neptune.
He was not invited to go down with these, however, having to mess along with Jones and Maitland in the deck-house close to the galley, where the three mids consoled themselves with the reflection that if they were excluded from the saloon, at all events they were nearer the place where their meals were cooked, and so had the advantage of getting them hotter!
After breakfast the pilot left the ship, a boat putting out for him from the land when they were near Saint Michael's; and then Captain Lennard, hauling round a bit, shaped a west-south-west course, steering out into the broad Atlantic until he had reached longitude 12 degrees West, when the vessel's head was turned to the south for Madeira and the Canaries.
Strange to say, Teddy up to now had not been once sick.
It is true they had not as yet had any rough weather; but the sea was brisk enough to try the stomachs of all the landsmen on board, so it was curious he was not affected in any way by the ship's motion.
As Uncle Jack said at the first, he was a born sailor!
Soon he began, too, to understand his duties; and being naturally quick of intellect and active, he after a time became handier on the yards and up aloft than little Maitland, who had been two voyages out and home before; while Jones had to exert himself to hold his own with him—with Uncle Jack, besides, coaching him up in seamanship, Teddy ere the vessel had reached Madeira was a greenhand no longer.
At Teneriffe Captain Lennard put in to coal, the ship being, as formerly mentioned, an auxiliary screw, and able to enlist the aid of steam when she came to the calm latitudes, which they were now approaching.
The passengers being allowed to go on shore for a few hours, Teddy received permission to accompany those taking advantage of the opportunity of landing.
There was no time to try and climb up the celebrated peak, which can be seen so far out at sea that it looks like an island in the clouds; but there was much amusement gained in donkey riding and studying the manners and customs of the natives.
The garments, Teddy noticed, of the ladies were rather limited in dimensions; but what they lacked in quantity they made up for in style, all the dresses being provided with those "improvers" of late fashion in England. These made the skirts of the Portuguese damsels stick out all round, giving them a very funny appearance with their brown skins and bare feet!
It was well they coaled here, for while they were yet in sight of the huge cloud-cap't mountain above Santa Cruz, the wind that had favoured them so well up to now dropped to a dead calm; so, Captain Lennard, ordering the sails to be furled and the screw-propeller lowered, the vessel was able to proceed under steam across the equator, making almost as good time as when sailing before a good breeze—almost, but not quite, as she was a clipper under canvas.
They touched once more at the Cape of Good Hope, to fill up the coal they had expended in case of another emergency necessitating their steaming again; but, the wind being favourable when the Greenock got below the forties, she bowled along steadily before it under canvas, reaching Melbourne within sixty days.
Altogether, the voyage was uneventful except for one thing, and that was the persistent bullying of Mr Capstan the second-mate, who, whether from his relationship to Uncle Jack, his superior officer, or from some other cause, had apparently conceived such a dislike to Teddy that he tyrannised over him more than he seemed to think necessary either with little Maitland or Jones—although they suffered, too, at his hands!
Teddy would not complain, though, to the captain; and as for his Uncle Jack, he would have thought it dishonourable to breathe a word to him. He would rather have suffered the crudest torture the bully could inflict than that!
However, he and little Maitland matured their plans together, and coming to the conclusion that they could not very well have any satisfaction from Mr Capstan without telling tales, they determined to steal away from the ship when she got into harbour, and run away ashore up into the bush, Val Maitland retailing for Teddy's benefit the most wonderful stories anent gold-digging and bush-ranging—stories that cordially agreed with his own fancy.
Not long, therefore, after the Greenock had entered within Port Philip Heads and got up to Sandridge Pier, the two boys, mixing amongst the crowd of passengers landing, touters touting for various boarding- houses, and all the different sorts of people that throng round the newly-arrived at the colonial metropolis, especially at its harbour mouth, managed easily to get into the town unobserved, giving the slip most successfully to their ship and all its belongings.
"And what shall we do now?" asked Teddy, his companion, although smaller than himself, taking the lead, from being an older sailor and having been previously in Australia.
"Do! why, go into the bush, of course!" promptly answered the other.
"And how shall we get there?" next inquired Teddy cheerfully, wishing to start off that very moment for the golden land he had dreamt of.
"Why, by train," said Val.
"By train!" echoed Teddy in a voice of consternation, the idea was such a terrible come down to what he had imagined.
"Yes, by train; come along with me," repeated little Maitland, catching hold of his arm; and turning into Collins Street he soon made his way to the railway depot and took a couple of tickets for Ballarat.
"I say," began Val presently when the train was in motion.
"Well?" said Teddy rather grumpily.
He could not stomach the fact that here they were journeying along by the aid of an ordinary railway, just as they would have done in England.
When Val had suggested their going to the diggings he had imagined they would tramp thither through the bush, with their blankets and swag on their shoulders, as he had often read of men doing; and that they would end by picking up a big nugget of gold that would make all their fortunes!
The train disposed of all these dreams in a moment; for, how could they pick up nuggets along a line of "permanent way," as Jupp would have called it—a beaten track that thousands traversed every day by the aid of the potent iron-horse and a bucket of hot water?
It was scandalous that Val hadn't told him of the railroad!
It dispelled all the romance of the expedition at once, he thought grumblingly. Despite all Mr Capstan's bullying, he had not run away from the ship for that; so he was not at all in a mood to have any conversation with such an unprincipled fellow as Val, who ought to have enlightened him before.
"Well?" he said again, seeing that young Maitland hesitated about proceeding, his grumpy tone acting as a sort of damper to his contemplated eloquence.
"I say, old fellow," then began Val again, making a fresh start and blurting out his question, "have you got any money?"
Teddy was all sympathy now.
A comrade in distress should never appeal to him in vain!
So he commenced searching his pockets.
"I ought to have some," he said. "Father gave me a five-pound note before I left home, and Uncle Jack when I was in London with him tipped me a sovereign, and I haven't spent or changed either for that matter; but, now I come to think of it, they're both in my chest in the cabin. I never thought of taking them out before we left the Greenock."
"That's precious unlucky," observed Val, searching his pockets too, and trying each vainly in turn. "I've only a couple of shillings left now after paying for the railway tickets. Whatever shall we do?"
"Oh, bother that!" replied Teddy sanguinely; "we sha'n't want any. The fellows I've read about who went to the diggings never had a halfpenny, but they always met with a friendly squatter or tumbled into luck in some way or other."
"That was in the old days," said Val in a forlorn way. "The squatters have all been cleared out, and there are only hotels and boarding-houses left, where they expect people to pay for what they have to eat."
"They're a stingy lot then, and quite unlike what I've read in books about the customs in Australia; but what can you expect when they have a railway!"
Teddy spoke in such a scornful manner of this sign of civilisation that he made Val laugh, raising his spirits again.
"All right, old chap!" said the little fellow. "I daresay we'll get along very well although we haven't any money to speak of with us. Two shillings, you know, is something; and no doubt it will keep us from starving till we come across luck."
Teddy cheerfully acquiesced in this hopeful view of things; and then the two, being alone in the carriage, chatted away merrily on all sorts of subjects until they arrived at their station, which a porter sang out the name of exactly in the same fashion as if they were at home.
This quite exasperated Teddy, who, when he got down and looked about him, opened his eyes with even greater wonder.
Surely this large town couldn't be Ballarat!
Why, that place ought to be only a collection of hastily-run-up wooden shanties, he thought, with perhaps one big store where they sold everything, provisions, and picks and shovels, with cradles for rocking the gold-dust out of the quartz and mud.
Where were the canvas tents of the diggers, and the claims, and all?
But, yes, Ballarat it was; although the only diggings were quarries worked by public mining companies with an immense mass of machinery that crushed the rock and sent streams of water through the refuse, using quicksilver to make an amalgam with—companies that were satisfied to get a grain of gold for every ton of quartz they excavated and pounded into powder, and realised a handsome dividend at that, where ordinary diggers wouldn't have had a chance of keeping themselves from starving.
He and little Maitland wandered about; and then, feeling hungry, exhausted all their capital in one meal, "burning their boats," like the old Athenians.
They would now have either to find something to do to get lodging or food, or else tramp it back to the ship.
They slept that night in the open air, under some scaffolding round a new building that was being run up on the outskirts of the town; and the next morning were wandering about again, feeling very miserable and wishing they were safely back on board the Greenock, it being just breakfast-time, when they were accosted by a stout, hairy sort of man, dressed in a species of undress uniform.
"Hullo, my young friends!" the man said, his voice being much pleasanter than his looks, "where do you hail from? I don't think I've ever seen you in Ballarat before."
"You wouldn't again if we could help it," replied Teddy so heartily that the hairy man laughed as jollily as might have been expected from his musical voice.
"Ah! I think I know who you are," he observed, eyeing them both critically.
"Well, you must be a conjuror if you do," answered little Maitland, who had a good deal of native impudence about him, "considering we haven't been twenty-four hours in Australia!"
"What say you to Maitland being your name and Vernon that of your companion, eh, my young cocksparrow?" said the man with a quizzical look. "Am I conjuror or not?"
The boys stared at each other in amazement.
"Well," exclaimed Teddy at length, "this is certainly the funniest country I have ever been in. The diggings that I've read about in print over and over again have all vanished into nothing, and here there are railways running through the bush, with people knowing who you are twenty thousand miles away from home. It is wonderful!"
"Not so very wonderful after all, Master Teddy Vernon," suggested the hairy man at this juncture. "I'm an inspector of police here, and we received a telegram last night which had been circulated in all directions from the chief office at Melbourne, saying that you two young gentlemen were missing from the ship Greenock, just arrived from England, and that any information about you would be gladly received and rewarded by Captain Lennard, the commander of the vessel."
"I'm very glad," said Teddy, interrupting any further remark the inspector might have made. "We came away suddenly because of something that occurred on board; and now I sha'n't be at all sorry to go back again, for we have no money or anything to eat. Besides, the place isn't a bit like what I expected—there!"
"Ah! you're hungry, my young friends, and that soon takes the pluck out of a body," observed the inspector kindly. "Come along with me and have some breakfast, after which I'll see you into the train for Melbourne."
"But we haven't got any money," said Teddy, looking at him frankly in the face.
"Never mind that," he replied jokingly. "I daresay I can put my hand on an odd sixpence or so, and this I've no doubt your captain will pay me back."
"That he will," cried Teddy and Val together in one breath; "besides, we've got money of our own on board the ship, only we forgot to bring it with us."
"And a very good job too," said the inspector laughing, "otherwise, you might not perhaps have been so glad to meet me this morning; but come on now, lads. Let us go into the town to some restaurant, and then I will see you to the depot, if I can depend on your going back."
"That you can, sir," replied Val drily, "if you buy the tickets for us."
"Oh, I'll see about that," said the inspector; and so, under his escort, they went into the nearest restaurant and had a good meal, after which the inspector took tickets for them, seeing them into the railway- carriage. The worthy policeman must also have said something to the guard, for after he had given Teddy his name, at the lad's especial request, and wished them good-bye, some official or other came up and locked the door of the compartment, so that they could not have got out again if they had wished save by climbing through the window.
"He needn't have been alarmed at our giving him the slip," observed little Maitland. "I am only too glad to be sent back in any fashion, ignominious though it may be to be under charge of the police."
"So am I," said Teddy; "but the inspector is a nice fellow after all, and has behaved very well to us."
He had been even more thoughtful, however, than the boys imagined; for, on the train arriving once more at the Melbourne terminus, who should be there to meet them but Uncle Jack!
"Well, you're a nice pair of young scamps," was his exclamation when the door of the carriage was opened by another policeman, and they got out right in front of where he was standing. "What have you got to say for yourselves, eh, for taking leave in French fashion like that? Why, you ought to be keel-hauled both of you!"
But he saved them a long explanation by telling them that Jones, the other midshipman, having been knocked down with a marlinespike by the second-mate, Captain Lennard had both him and Mr Capstan brought before him, when, sifting the matter to the bottom, Jones had made a clean breast of the way in which he and the other youngsters had been bullied.
"And the upshot of the whole affair is," continued Uncle Jack, "Captain Lennard has dismissed Capstan from his ship, giving him such a discharge certificate that I don't think he'll get another second-mate's place in a hurry! As for you, my young scamps, I don't think the skipper will be very hard on you; but, Teddy, you ought to have told me of the treatment you three poor beggars were receiving at that ruffian's hands all the voyage. Old Bill Summers, the boatswain, confirmed every word that Jones said, and was quite indignant about it."
"I didn't like to tell, you being my uncle and over Mr Capstan," said Teddy; "I thought it would be mean."
"It is never mean to complain of injustice," replied Uncle Jack gravely; "still, the matter now rests with the skipper."
Captain Lennard gave the boys a good talking to for running away, saying that it wasn't manly for young sailors to shirk their work in that way for any reason. However, considering all the circumstances of the case and the lesson they had learnt, that boys couldn't be absolutely independent of those in authority over them, he said that he had made up his mind to forgive them, telling them they might return to their duty.
The passengers having all landed and the ship cleared of her home cargo, she began immediately taking in wool for her return voyage, and in a few weeks' time set sail from the Heads for England—though via Cape Horn this time, as is generally the routine with vessels sailing to Australia when coming back to the Channel.
There were only two passengers on board, the captain and mate of a vessel that had been sold at Melbourne, she having only been navigated out by these officers for the purpose, and the vessel being unencumbered by emigrants the sailors had more room to move about. Teddy found it much pleasanter than on the passage out, as Captain Lennard was able to spare more time in teaching him his duty, a task which he was ably backed up in by Uncle Jack and Robins, the new second-mate, a smart young seaman whom the captain had promoted from the fo'c's'le to take Capstan's vacant place, and a wonderful improvement in every way to that bully.
After leaving Port Philip, they had a fair enough passage till they got about midway between New Zealand and the American continent, Captain Lennard taking a more northerly route than usual on account of its being the summer season in those latitudes, and the drift-ice coming up from the south in such quantities as to be dangerous if they had run down below the forties.
When the Greenock was in longitude somewhere about 150 West and latitude 39 South a fierce gale sprung up from the north-east, right in their teeth, causing the lighter sails of the ship to be handed and the topgallants to be taken in.
At midnight on the same day, the wind having increased in force, the upper topsails were handed and the foresail reefed, the ship running under this reduced canvas, and steering east-south-east, the direction of the wind having shifted round more to the northward. The next evening, the wind veered to the westward, and was accompanied with such terrific squalls and high confused sea that Captain Lennard, who had thought at first he could weather out the storm under sail, determined to get up steam, and lowered the propeller so that the ship might lay-to more easily.
Later on in the afternoon, however, another shift of wind took place, the gale veering to sou'-sou'-west in a squall heavier than any of its predecessors; while a heavy sea, flooding the decks, broke through the hatchway and put out the engine fires.
Being a smart seaman, the captain had sail set again as soon as possible, hoisting reefed topsails and foresail to lift the vessel out of the trough of the following seas, in which she rolled from side to side like a whale in its death flurry.
All seemed going on well for a short time after this; and he and Uncle Jack thought they had weathered the worst of it, when the foresheet parted and the clew of the foresail, going through the lower foretopsail, split it in ribbons.
The barque was then brought to the wind on the port tack under the lower maintopsail, and she lay-to pretty well; but the wind kept on veering and beating with frequent squalls from sou'-sou'-west to west, so that at noon a strong gale prevailed again fiercer than before.
Teddy had not seen anything like this; but he wasn't a bit frightened, and he was as active as the oldest sailor in lending help to carry out the captain's orders, jumping here, there, and everywhere like a monkey.
The skipper was so pleased with his behaviour that he complimented him by telling Uncle Jack he was as good as his right hand!
Later on, the weather seemed calming down and all were very busy repairing damages; but, in the evening, a tremendous sea broke on board carrying away the bulwarks and chain-plates fore and aft on the port side, the accompanying violent gust of wind jerking the maintopsail as if it had been tissue paper out of the ship.
Immediately after this, with the first lee roll, the foremast broke off almost flush with the deck and fell with a crash over the side, taking with it everything that stood but the lower main and mizzen masts, leaving the Greenock rolling a hopeless wreck on the waste of raging waters.
The gale suddenly ceased during the night, but all hands remained on deck; for, the sea was still rolling mountains high and coming in occasionally over the broken bulwarks, causing Captain Lennard much anxiety about the boats, which, fortunately, the broken top hamper kept from being washed overboard.
In the morning it was quite calm again; but the poor old ship presented a piteous scene of desolation, with her broken sides, and her gay array of towering masts and spreading yards and spread of canvas all swept away.
Teddy could nearly have cried at the sorry sight; not reflecting that through the merciful care of a divine providence watching over all not a life had been lost.
With the daylight, Captain Lennard took a rapid review of their position.
He had caused a stout tarpaulin to be lashed over the engine-room hatch, thus preventing any more water from passing down into the hold there in any perceptible quantity; still, the carrying away of the bulwarks and chain-plates had strained the ship very much on the port side, and when the carpenter sounded the well at eight bells the ship was found to be leaking fast, having already a depth of two feet in her.
"Man the pumps!" cried the captain; when Uncle Jack lending a willing hand, the crew under his encouragement were soon working away steadily with a clink-clank, clink-clank, the water pouring out through the scuppers in a continuous stream.
However, on the well being sounded again presently, it was found to be flowing in equally steadily, having risen already six inches more in spite of all their pumping!
What was to be done?
The captain and Uncle Jack deliberated together, summoning the new third mate to assist their counsels; but, they could only arrive at one opinion.
The ship was sinking fast, and all hands knew it as well as they themselves; for, in addition to the damage done to the sides and bulwarks, the heavy propeller had aided the waves in wrenching away the rudder, which carried with it the greater portion of the stern-post.
"We must take to the boats," said Captain Lennard. "Thank God, they are all right, and haven't been washed away in the storm!"
Leaving the useless pumps, therefore, for it was of no avail fatiguing the men with the unnecessary exertion any longer, all the pumping in the world being idle to save the vessel, the hands were at once set to work clearing the boats and getting them over the side.
It was a ticklish job, the long-boat especially being very heavy, and there being no means, now they had lost their masts, of rigging a tackle aloft to hoist it off the chocks amidships.
Still, necessity teaches men alternatives in moments of great peril; so, now, knocking away the under fastenings of the boat by main force, the crew managed at last to get it free. Then, improvising rollers out of pieces of the broken topmast, they contrived by pulling and hauling and shoving, all working with a will together, to launch it over the side through the hole in the bulwarks.
The jolly-boat followed suit, an easier task; and then, the two being deemed sufficient to accommodate all on board, just sixty-one in number including the two passengers, Captain Lennard gave the order to provision them, telling the steward to bring out all the cabin stores for this purpose, there being now no further use for them on board the ship, and officers and men being entitled to share alike without distinction.
The captain himself, while this was being done, saw to the ship's log and other papers, taking also out of the cabin his best chronometer and a chart or two, as well as a sextant and some mathematical instruments.
These preparations for departure, though, were abruptly cut short by a warning cry from Bill Summers, the boatswain.
"We'd better look sharp, sir," he called out to Uncle Jack, who was busily engaged superintending the stowage of the provisions in the two boats. "The water is arising rapidly, and is now nearly up to the 'tween-decks!"
Uncle Jack passed on the word to the captain, who instantly came up the companion.
Seeing the truth of the boatswain's statement from the deeper immersion of the ship since he had gone below, he at once ordered the men down into the boats, the passengers going first; then the foremast hands; and, lastly, the officers.
"Mr Althorp," said the captain, "you will take charge of the jolly-boat and shove off as soon as she's got her complement. I will command the long-boat myself."
"Aye, aye, sir," responded Uncle Jack, descending into the boat when she had as many in her as she could safely hold; when, shoving off from the ship's side and rowing a few strokes, the men lay on their oars, remaining some twenty yards off so as to be out of the whirlpool or eddy that would be formed when the vessel presently foundered.
The long-boat now received its quota of passengers, all descending into it and seating themselves on the thwarts and in the bottom so as not to be in the way of those rowing, Captain Lennard waiting till the last to get into her.
Just as he got in, however, he suddenly remembered that he had forgotten a compass, and hastily climbed back on board to get it.
"Look sharp, Cap'en!" shouted Bill Summers from the bow as the ship gave a quiver all over. "She's just about to founder."
The captain was quick enough, racing back to the companion and down the stairs in two bounds, where, although the cabin was half full of water, he contrived to wrench away the "tell-tale" compass that swung over the saloon-table; and he was on the poop again with it in an instant.
The instrument, however, was heavy, but he had hard work to carry it with both hands; and he managed to get to the side with it, when bending down handed it to Bill Summers, who stood up in the bow of the boat to receive it.
At that instant, the ship gave a violent lurch, and some one sang out to shove off; when, the oars being dropped in the water, the boat was impelled some yards from the side, leaving Captain Lennard still on board.
"What, men, abandon your captain!" Teddy cried, his voice quivering with emotion. "You cowards, row back at once!"
"We can't," sang out the same voice that had before ordered the men to shove off.
Who it was no one noticed in the general flurry, nor knew afterwards; but, while the men were hesitating which course to adopt, Teddy, without saying another word, plunged overboard and swam back to the sinking Greenock, having no difficulty in getting up the side now for it was almost flush with the water.
"Come on board, sir!" said he jokingly, touching his forehead with his finger, his cap having been washed off as he dived.
"My poor boy!" cried Captain Lennard, overcome with emotion at the gallant lad's devotion; "you have only sacrificed two lives instead of one! Why did you not stay in the boat?"
"Because," began Teddy; but ere he could complete the sentence there was a violent rush of air upwards from the hold, and a loud explosion, the decks having burst.
At the same time, the ship made a deep bend forwards.
Then, her bows rose high in the air above the waves as the stern sank with a gurgling moan; and, the next moment, Teddy and Captain Lennard were drawn below the surface with the vessel as she foundered!
Teddy was nearly suffocated; but, holding his breath bravely, as Jupp had taught him, and striking downwards with all his force, he presently got his head above water, inhaling the delicious air of heaven, which he thought would never more have entered his nostrils.
When he came to himself, he saw the captain's body floating face downwards amongst a lot of broken planks and other debris of the wreck, by some fragment of which he must have been struck as the Greenock foundered.
To swim forwards and seize poor Captain Lennard, turning him face upwards again and supporting his head above the water, was the work of a moment only with Teddy; and then, holding on to a piece of broken spar, he awaited the coming up of the launch, which, now that all danger was over from the eddy rowed up to the scene, when he and the captain were lifted on board—all hands enthusiastic about the courageous action of the little hero, and none more so than Captain Lennard when he recovered his consciousness.
"You have saved my life!" he said. "Had you not been close by to turn me over when I rose to the surface I should have been drowned before the boat could have come up. I will never forget it!"
Nor did he, as Teddy's subsequent advancement showed; but, there was no time now for congratulation or passing compliments.
The peril of those preserved from the wreck was not yet over, for, they were thousands of miles away from land floating on the wide ocean!
Hailing the jolly-boat, Captain Lennard announced what he thought the proper course should be.
"The best place for us to make for now is Valparaiso," he said; "and if we steer to the east-nor'-east we ought to fetch it in three weeks or so under sail; that is, if our provisions hold out so long."
Uncle Jack approving, this course was adopted; and, day after day, the boats, setting their sails, which Bill Summers had not forgotten to place on board, made slow but steady progress towards the wished-for goal.
One morning, all were wakened up by the welcome cry of "Land ho!" from the look-out forwards in the bow of the long-boat, which kept a little ahead of the jolly-boat, although always reducing sail if she forged too much forward so as not to lose her.
A signal was made, therefore, telling the glad news to Uncle Jack and those with him; while the boat pressed onwards towards the spot where the hazy outline of a mountain could be dimly seen in the distance.
"That is not the American continent," said Captain Lennard to the men, in order to allay any future disappointment that might be afterwards felt. "We are nearly a thousand miles off that yet. It must be Easter Island. That is the only land I know of hereabouts in the Pacific; and, although I have never visited the place myself, I have heard that the natives are friendly to strangers. At all events we'll pay them a call; it will be a break in our long journey!"
Bye and bye the boats approached the shore and all landed, when a lot of copper-coloured savages came down to the beach waving branches of trees in sign of welcome.
The islanders had not much to eat; but Captain Lennard, seeing that their provisions were well-nigh expended, determined to stop here, while sending on Uncle Jack with a small party to Valparaiso to charter some vessel to come and fetch them all, the boats being so crowded that misfortune might await them all if they continued the voyage in such small craft.
For months and months all awaited in constant expectation Uncle Jack's return; but, he came not, and they at length believed that he and those with him must have been lost in some hurricane that had sprung up off the Chilian coast, and so had never reached Valparaiso at all!
They had no fear of starvation, however, the islands abounding in poultry in a semi-wild state, which they had to hunt down for themselves; for the natives lent them no assistance. Indeed they were rather hostile after a time; although the Englishmen were too numerous for them to attack, especially as they were always on their guard against surprise.
In wandering over the island, which is only some thirty miles round, Teddy was surprised, like the others, by the numbers of stone obelisks, rudely carved into the semblance of human faces and statues, which could not possibly have been executed by the present inhabitants.
It is believed by geographers that Easter Island must have formed a portion of a vast Polynesian continent peopled by some kindred race to those that designed the colossal monuments of an extinct civilisation, now almost overgrown with vegetation, that are yet to be found as evidences of a past age amidst the forests of Central America.