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   Chapter 3 TINY'S HOPE.

A Sailor's Lass By Emma Leslie Characters: 14438

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


The slant rays of the setting sun lay on the wide stretch of level sand surrounding Bermuda Point, for the tide was out, and had left it smooth, or slightly rippled as with tiny wavelets. Standing at the very edge of the sands, with her eyes shaded, and her clothes blowing round her bare legs, was a little fair-haired girl. She was slender and delicate-looking still, in spite of the sun-browned arms and face. Months had passed, but Tiny was still at the Point.

She stood gazing seawards for some minutes, and then turned and walked slowly across the rippled sand.

"I can't see him, Dick," she said, in a disappointed tone.

"Oh, well, never mind," said the boy, who sat scooping the loose sand up in a heap, beyond the reach of the present ordinary tides.

"Have you filled both the baskets?" asked the little girl, as she waded through the loose dry sand to where the boy was sitting.

"No, that I ain't," answered Dick, "mother said you could pick the samphire to-day."

"Yes, but you said you'd help me," said the girl, walking steadily across the sand to the salt-marsh beyond. Here the samphire grew in abundance, and the little girl set to work to fill the two large baskets that stood near.

"You might come and help, Dick," she called, hardly repressing a sob as she spoke.

"Look here, I'll help if you'll just come and make some more of them letters. You said you would, you know," added the boy, still piling up the sand.

"Oh, Dick, you know I can't; you know I've forgot a'most everything since I've been here;" and this time the little girl fairly burst into tears, and sat down beside the half-filled baskets, and sobbed as though her heart would break.

The boy's heart was touched at the sight of her distress, and he ran across to comfort her.

"Don't cry, Tiny; I'll help yer, and then we'll try agin at the letters. I know three-A B C: you'll soon find out about the others, and make 'em in the sand for me."

But Tiny shook her head. "I'd know 'em if I had a book," she said, sadly; "ain't it a pity daddy ain't got one?"

"What 'ud be the good of books to dad?" said Dick. "Harry Hayes has got some, I know; but then he goes to school, and knows all about 'em. There, let's forget we see him with that book yesterday, for it ain't no good for us to think about it," concluded Dick; for he did not like to see Tiny's tears, and the easiest way of banishing them was to forget the original cause, he thought. But the little girl was not of the same opinion. She shook her head sadly as she said-

"I've forgot a'most everything my mother told me."

"Oh, that you ain't," contradicted the boy, "You never forget to say your prayers before you go to bed. I wonder you ain't forgot that; I should, I know."

"How could you, Dick, if you knew God was waiting to hear you?" said Tiny, lifting her serious blue eyes to his face.

"Then why ain't He waiting to hear me?" asked Dick.

The question seemed to puzzle the little girl for a minute or two; but at length she said-

"He is, Dick, I think; I'm a'most sure He's waiting for yer to begin."

"Then He's waited a good while," said Dick, bluntly; and he got up and began to pull away at the samphire, by way of working off or digesting the wonderful thought. After working away in silence for some minutes, Dick said-

"D'ye think God cares for us down here at Bermuda Point?"

Tiny paused, with her hands full of samphire.

"Why shouldn't He?" she said. "I know He cares for me. He loves me," she added, in a tone of triumph; "my mother told me so. She said He loved me just as well as she did."

"I'd like to know whether He cares about me," said Dick. "D'ye think yer could find out for us, Tiny? Yer see everybody likes you-mother, and father, and Bob; and Harry Hayes showed you his book yesterday. You see you're a gal, and I think you're pretty," added Dick, critically; "so it 'ud be a wonder if He didn't like you."

"And why shouldn't He love you, Dick?" said Tiny.

Dick looked down at the patched, ragged, nondescript garments that served him as jacket and trousers, and then at his bare, sunburnt arms and legs. "Well, I'm just Dick of the Point. I ain't a gal, and I ain't pretty." Nobody could dispute the latter fact, which Dick himself seemed to consider conclusive against any interest being taken in him, for he heaved a sigh as he returned to his work of picking the samphire.

The sigh was not lost on Tiny. "Look here, Dick," she said, "you ain't a gal, and p'r'aps you ain't pretty, but I love you;" and she threw her arms round his neck as he stooped over the basket. "I love yer, Dick, and I'll find out all about it for yer. I'm a'most sure God loves yer too."

"Oh, He can't yet, yer know," said Dick, drawing his arms across his eyes to conceal the tears that had suddenly come into them. "I don't never say no prayers nor nothing. I ain't never heerd about Him, only when dad swears, till you come and said your prayers to Him."

"Still, He might, yer know," said Tiny; "but if you'll help, I'll find out all about it."

"What can yer do?" asked Dick.

"Well, I'll tell yer why I want dad to come home soon to-night," said Tiny, resting her hands on the basket, and looking anxiously across the sea. "Mother said he'd take the samphire by boat to Fellness, and I thought perhaps he'd take me too."

"Well, s'pose he did?" said Dick, who could see no connection between a visit to the village and the attainment of the knowledge they both desired.

"Why, then I might get a book," said Tiny. "I'd go with dad to sell the samphire; and then we'd see the shops; and if he had a good take, and we got a lot of samphire, he'd have enough money to buy me a book, as well as the bread and flour and tea."

Dick burst into a loud laugh. "So this is your secret; this is what you've been thinking of like a little goose all day."

Tiny was half offended. "You needn't laugh," she said; "I shall do it, Dick."

"Will yer?" he said, in a teasing tone. "If there wasn't no whisky, and there was bookshops at Fellness, you might. Why, what do you think the village is like?" he asked.

"Like? Oh, I dunno! Everything comes from Fellness," added the little girl, vaguely.

To the dwellers at the Point, the little fishing-village was the centre of the universe; and Tiny, with faint recollections of a large town, with broad streets, and rows of shops all brilliantly lighted at night, had formed magnificently vague notions of Fellness as being something like this; and she had only got to go there, and it would be easy to coax the old fisherman to buy her a book, as she coaxed him to build her a castle in the sand, or take her on his knee and tell her tales of ships that had been wrecked on the bar sands.

"But do you know what Fellness is like?" persisted Dick. "There ain't no shops at all-only one, where they sells flour, and bread, and 'bacca, and tea, and sugar, and soap. They has meat there sometimes; but I never sees no books, and I don't believe they ever has 'em there," concluded the boy.

"Perhaps they keeps 'em in a box where you can't see 'em," suggested Tiny, who was very unwilling to relinquish her hope.

"Pigs might fly,

and they will when they sells books at Fellness," remarked Dick.

"Where does Harry Hayes get his from?" suddenly asked the girl; and at the same moment she espied a speck on the horizon, which she decided was a fisherman's boat. "He's coming, Dick, dad's coming," she exclaimed. "Make haste-make haste and fill up the baskets;" and she tore away at the seaweed, piling it into the baskets as fast as her small hands would permit. "Now we'll carry one down," she said, taking hold of the handle. "Catch hold, Dick;" for she wanted to be at the edge of the sands by the time the boat touched the shore.

But Dick was in no such hurry to meet his father. "There's plenty of time," he said, leisurely untying a knot in a piece of string.

"No there isn't, Dick; don't you know I'm going to Fellness in the boat."

"But you're afraid," said the boy; "ain't father tried to coax you lots o' times to go out with him, and yer never would? You'll just get to the edge, and when yer sees it rock a bit yer'll run away."

"No, I won't, Dick, this time," said the little girl. But as she spoke a shiver of fear and dread ran through her frame at the thought of the swaying boat.

Dick saw it, and laughed. "Didn't I tell yer you was afraid," he said, in a mocking tone; "what's the good of going down there, when you're frightened?"

"But I want a book, Dick; I must learn to read, and find out what we want to know. Oh, do make haste!" she added, as she saw the boat approaching the shore.

Dick was still laughing, but he helped her carry the basket, though he teased her as they went along about being frightened. They got across the sands with their samphire, just as Coomber and Bob were springing ashore.

"Oh, daddy, take me with yer to Fellness," called Tiny, shutting her eyes as she spoke that she might not see the treacherous waves and the swaying boat.

"Halloo, halloo! What now, deary?" exclaimed Coomber. And it was wonderful to see the change in his hard face as he lifted the little girl in his arms and kissed her.

"She says she'll go," said Dick, "but I don't believe she means it."

"Yes I do. You'll take me, daddy, won't yer-'cos I've picked a lot of samphire-all that, and another basketful up there? Go and fetch it, Bob, and daddy can put it in the boat. And I'm going, too."

"So you shall, deary, so you shall," said the old fisherman, in a pleased tone, for he had often tried to coax her out with him on the sea; but the memory of that awful night on the bar sands still clung to her, and the sight of the boat, swayed about at the mercy of the waves, filled her with a nameless terror.

"There won't be a storm, will there?" asked Tiny, with a shiver of fear, as the fisherman carefully lifted her in and placed her beside the basket of samphire.

"My deary, if I thought the wind 'ud be even a bit fresh to-night, I wouldn't take yer," said the fisherman, in an earnest tone.

He had never been so tender with one of his own children-unless it was to the little girl lying in the churchyard-as he was to this little waif of the sea; and now, as he pushed off from the shore, he was careful to keep the old boat as steady as possible, and sat watching her little frightened face as he plied his oars. He kept as close to the beach, too, as he well could, just skirting the sand-banks, so that she should have the comfort of seeing the land all the way along.

After a few minutes Tiny grew less frightened, and ventured to ask a question about where they were going.

"Oh, I'll take yer to see Dame Peters while Bob unloads the boat," said Coomber, nodding at her in an approving manner.

"And shall I see the shops?" asked Tiny; for she did not believe what Dick had told her.

"Shops, shops!" repeated the fisherman, resting on his oars for a minute to stare at the little girl. "Well, there's a shop," he said, slowly; "but I don't see what you can want there."

"Do they sell books?" asked Tiny, eagerly.

For answer the fisherman burst into a loud laugh. "What does a little 'un like you know about books?" he said. "But I know of something they do sell, as 'll suit you a deal better; they sell sweets, and almond rock, as well as 'bacca and bread, and you shall have some, my deary."

The fisherman expected a joyous outburst in anticipation of these unwonted dainties, but the little girl said slowly-

"Don't they sell books, too, daddy? I'd rather have a book than almond rock," she added.

"Why, what do you want with a book, a little 'un like you?" said Coomber, impatiently.

"We both wants it, Dick and me; we wants to find out whether God loves boys as well as gals."

The fisherman looked at her serious little face for a minute, and then burst into a laugh again. "Well, you are a rum 'un as ever I came across. Did you hear that, Bob?" he asked, appealing to his elder son, who was steering. Bob turned his sulky face round.

"What's she saying now?" he asked.

"What was, it little 'un-whether God loved boys and gals, wasn't it?" asked the fisherman, who was highly amused at the question.

"He don't love none of us, I can tell her that," said Bob, sharply. "He forgot us long ago, if ever He knowed anything about us."

"There, what d'ye think o' that, little 'un?" said the fisherman, pulling away at the oars.

Tiny looked perplexed for a minute or two, but at length she said: "I think God knows all about the Point, 'cos He loves me, and He listens when I say my prayers. But s'pose I tell him," she suddenly added, as though the thought had just occurred to her; "I can ask Him to bless you and mammy, and Dick and Bob. But I should like to get a book," she said, in conclusion.

"Oh, the sweets 'll do as well," said the fisherman, who saw little use in books. He might have humoured Tiny in what he looked upon as a most extraordinary whim, but he never remembered seeing such a thing as a book in Fellness all the years he had known the place. People might have books, some of them, at least, but they were not of much use to fisher-folks, and he rather despised them.

The sun had gone down before they landed; but the moon was rising; and so, between daylight and moonlight, they would be able to get back without any difficulty, when the fish and samphire were disposed of.

"Now, Bob, get her unloaded, while I take the little 'un up to see Dame Peters," said Coomber, as he lifted Tiny out of the boat.

She was looking round eagerly in search of the houses and shops, for in spite of what she had been told, she could not divest herself of the idea that Fellness was a grand, glorious place, where everything could be bought if people only had fish and seaweed enough; and surely two big baskets of samphire were sufficient to buy a book.

But to her disappointment she saw only a few lounging fishermen and children-like herself and Dick-instead of the crowds of people she had expected; and as for shops-well, she could see a row of stone cottages at a distance. There might be a dozen, perhaps, and a few sheds and outbuildings, but the rest of the landscape was flat and unoccupied as their own Point; and at the sight Tiny hid her face in the fisherman's neck and burst into tears.

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