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   Chapter 4 HIS OWN WAY.

Little Miss Joy By Emma Marshall Characters: 13598

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


Jack Harrison had no fixed purpose when he rushed out of his aunt's house, except to get away from the sound of her angry words, and from the sight of his mother's grieved face-that face, which bore the marks of so many storms, and which he loved better than any other in the world.

"I had better go," he reasoned with himself. "I may make a fortune. Suppose I go aboard a whaling ship, as my father did. I won't go aboard a smack or trawler; I should not care for that life-handling fish, and out all weathers, north of the Dogger trawling-no, that would not pay, but a good ship would; and I'll take a look round the quay as soon as it's light."

Jack had found the convenient shelter of an old boat on the beach, and there he curled himself up and fell asleep.

He was awoke by feeling something touching his face, and starting up, just distinguished in the dim light the shape of a dog, which began to whine piteously, and licked his hands.

"What, are you lost, or run away like me?" he asked. "Have you been treated ill, eh?"

Jack was now thoroughly awake, and crept out of his shelter on to the soft sand, which almost gave way under his feet.

The dog continued whining and jumping on him, and seemed to want to show him the way to some place.

"What do ye want, eh? I can't make you out," Jack said; but in the light of the strengthening dawn which was breaking over the sea he saw a dark mass of something at some distance on the sand, and towards this the dog was evidently trying to guide him.

There was not a creature to be seen on the level strand, and no sound but the gentle murmur of the tide just turning. Presently, however, another sound made Jack pause and listen.

The dog heard it also, and grew more and more frantic in his efforts to lead Jack on.

When he got near the dark mass, Jack found it was the figure of a man, and that the sounds came from him, for he was groaning and crying as if in great pain. The dog ran to him, and leaping on his prostrate figure, and then back again to Jack, showed that the place to which he had to bring him was reached. As plainly as a dog could speak, he was saying, "Help my master."

Jack bent down over the man, and said-

"What's the matter? Are you hurt?"

"Yes, I've sprained my leg; and if I don't get to the quay by four o'clock I am ruined. I'm mate of the Galatea. Look alive and help me to the ship; it's all right when I'm there, for the captain is a jolly fellow-but oh, this leg!-all along of my catching my foot in a net. Toby here and I were coming along the beach from my old step-mother's, over t'other side of the Monument, and I fell, and must have twisted my foot as I fell on that big stone. Now, I say, will you help me to limp to the quay? Doubt if I can do it, but I'll try all the same."

The light was momentarily increasing now, and as Jack bent over the man to take his arm and pull him into a sitting posture, he saw a sad, pensive face turned up to him. Evidently the impression that was mentally made was a good one, for the man said-

"Where are you off to, young un?"

"To see if I can get aboard any ship, and work my passage."

"Whew!-oh!-here, wait a bit, my boy; I must ask the Lord to help me. I have been crying and groaning like a baby; that won't do. No, Dick Colley, you mustn't be a coward. Pain! well, what's pain! Toby there would bear it better!"

After a moment's silence the man said-

"Now, heave-to, my boy, and I'll put down the right leg, and make you answer for the left. Ahoy! ahoy!"

The "ahoy" was nearly a groan again, and then there was a muttered oath.

"Did ye hear that, boy? That's the hardest job a man has to do-to cure himself of cursing. It's worse than drinking. I've been hard at it for a twelvemonth now, and I'm blessed if I ain't beaten over and over again. This pain will-- Don't you think, boy, I consider it a fine thing to swear, and take the Lord's name in vain. I think it is a shame to do it-and I beg Him to forgive me the next minute. It's just this-that habits, bad or good, stick like a leech. Now then, ahoy!"

This time Dick Colley was fairly on his feet, and by the support of Jack's strong shoulder progress towards the quay was made.

It was slow and difficult, and Toby followed close to his master's side with a dejected air, his stubby tail between his legs, giving every now and then a little whine of sympathy.

"I am hard put to it, lad, to get along. I am feeling faintish and bad; but I can't afford to lose this voyage; it's a long one, and good pay, and I've an old mother and a pack of children to keep."

"Rest a bit," said Jack. "Here's a post will do."

"Ay; I dare say I'm pretty near breaking your shoulder-blade. I shan't forget you, youngster. I say, what's up? mischief, eh?"

"I want to be off to sea just for a bit. Will you take me?"

"Well, I must go aboard first, before I can promise. Now then, on we go."

The quay was reached at last, and it was now broad daylight.

The stately ships were all getting under weigh, and there was no bustle or noise. The cargoes had been shipped overnight, and there was only a silent waiting for the tide.

"Here she is; here's my berth. You help me aboard, and we'll see what can be done."

"Dick Colley, the mate, as sure as I'm alive!" said one of the crew, who was turning a loose cable round and round into a coil of many circles. "Why, old chappie, what's amiss with 'ee?"

"Give us a hand aboard. I've been and sprained my ankle. This youngster helped me along, or I'd never have got here."

"You are just in time, mate; for we are off to the river's mouth in a twinkling. Here, why, look alive! he's awful bad."

With Jack's help they got Dick Colley on board and down below, where the ship's surgeon bandaged the swollen ankle, and Jack stood by with Toby.

In the general hurry of departure, when the captain gave the word, no one noticed Jack, or if they noticed him, concluded that he was aboard the Galatea as a passenger, of which there were a few.

It was not till they were well out to sea that the captain, coming down into the mate's berth, said-

"Hallo, Colley! who's the youngster aboard with the curly hair? What's he about?"

"He wants to work his way out, captain; set him to it. I promised I'd say a word for him. He just helped me across the sand, when I was pretty near dying of the pain. You'll let him stay?"

The captain turned on his heel, somewhat sulkily.

"Do you suppose he's to do the work of your lame foot, eh? Well, he hasn't come here to eat the bread of idleness. I'll soon show him that."

And the captain kept his word.

Long before the sun-which had risen in a cloudless sky that morning-had set behind a bank of clouds, Jack was put to work.

Washing t

he decks and performing other like offices fell to his share on that first bright day, when to sail over the blue calm sea, with the crisp air blowing from the great German Ocean, was a pleasant sensation in itself.

But night came on, and the stars looked down from their immeasurable depths; and Jack, lying on a bench, with his arms folded, and his face resting on them, had time to think.

He had done it now. Often, when in a storm of passion he had said he would leave his aunt's roof for ever, he had relented, and even at his mother's instigation and entreaty had expressed sorrow for his burst of anger, and asked to be forgiven.

He had done this only a fortnight before, and his aunt had received his apology with a short-

"It's all very well to think by saying you are sorry you make it all right. It's deeds not words, for me."

This ungracious manner of receiving an expression of contrition had often hardened the boy's heart against his aunt. Still more so when, from the other side of the parlour, Mr. Skinner would say, in a nasal, squeaky voice-

"It's a wonder to me how your kind, generous aunt puts up with you for a single hour. Only a good woman like her would give you house room at all."

"What business is it of yours, I should like to know?" had been Jack's retort; and all the real sorrow he had felt, awakened by his mother's gentle words, had vanished.

That Skinner! How he hated him; how instinctively he turned from him with positive dislike and loathing.

Now, as he lay alone and unnoticed beneath the star-strewn sky of the summer night, it was not of Skinner that he thought, not of his aunt, not of anything he had suffered-but of his mother.

And he had left her without a word-without a kiss! Many and many a time had he felt her kiss upon his forehead as he was sinking off into the sound sleep of childhood. Many a time he had heard her whispered prayer as she knelt by his side; and now he had left her desolate!

"Joy will be there," Jack thought-"little Miss Joy, and she will comfort her-dear little Joy!"

And somehow, as all these memories of those he had left behind him came before him, tears rose all unbidden, and chased each other down his cheeks.

Presently a rough kick from a man's boot made him start.

"The mate is singing out for you, youngster," he said; "get along with you and go where you are wanted, for you ain't wanted here."

"Where's the mate?"

"Where, stupid? In his berth, a groaning and sighing. There ain't much the matter with him, that's my belief; only some folks can afford to make a fuss."

Jack drew himself together and walked towards the companion ladder. As he was putting his foot on it with the cautious air of the uninitiated, a rude push from behind, followed by a derisive laugh, sent him down to the bottom with a heavy thud.

"Shame!" cried a voice, "to treat the boy like that."

"Oh, he will be one of Colley's lambs, canting no end, you'll see! For my own part, I'd soon chuck him overboard."

"I know you are spiteful enough for anything," was the reply; "and I pity that boy if he's in your clutches."

Another laugh, and Jack, now on his feet, turned round with a defiant air, and, half-stunned and bewildered, was climbing up the stairs again, to give his adversary a blow with his fist, when a voice called-

"Stop, lad! don't go and give evil for evil."

Colley from his berth had seen Jack fall, and had heard the mocking laugh.

"Come here, lad. I'm a bit easier now, and I want to talk to you. There, sit down on my locker, and we'll spin a yarn. You've run away, haven't you? I was so mad with pain, or I should have talked to you before. Come, you've run away now?"

"Yes," the boy said.

"Then you've been and acted very foolish, let me tell you. I did the same, boy, and I've repented it all my life. I grieved the best of old fathers by my wild career, and then I ran off; and when we put into port after the first voyage, I went to the old place to find him dead. Now, how do you think I felt? Why, ready to kill myself with remorse. What if you find your mother dead, when we put into port again? Now look here, boy. You've done me a good turn, and I'll do you one. I'll get the captain to put you ashore, if you choose, and I'll put a few shillings in your pocket to get back home. Do you hear?"

"Yes," Jack said, "I hear; but I am in for it now, and I had better stick to it. I should only make more trouble by going back. That old aunt, who made my life miserable, would only be worse than ever. No, sir, thank you; I'll go on, and I must put up with it."

"Lie on the bed you've made for yourself, lad? Ah, that's a precious uneasy one! I'd like to tell you how I made mine, and I will some day; but now you'd better turn in, there's the watch on deck, telling midnight."

"Where am I to turn in?" Jack asked.

"There's an empty hammock close by. Climb up there, and sleep till I call you. There isn't much sleep for me. Good-night."

Jack found it no easy matter to climb into the hammock. Like everything else, it requires practice; he took off his boots and made attempts to clamber up, but failed each time.

"You young cur, what are you about?" called a gruff voice. "Can't you turn in without waking a fellow from his sleep? Get along with you;" and a leg was thrust out, which gave Jack a very emphatic kick.

At last he gave up the attempt, and taking off his jacket he made a pillow of it, and curled himself up on the deck.

The motion of the ship began to be more decided, for just at dawn a fresh breeze sprung up, and the Galatea curtesied on the crest of the waves, and the water made a splash against her sides. Jack was rolled against a locker, and found sleep impossible.

The sailor who had grumbled at his disturbing him by his unsuccessful attempt to get into his berth, turned out at three o'clock, to relieve the watch on deck, and stumbling over Jack exclaimed-

"You baby bunting! So you can't get to your berth! I'll teach you!" And taking Jack roughly by one arm and leg, he tossed him as if he had been a feather into the hammock, and said-

"Lie there till you are wanted, and be thankful you've got there!"

There is a certain rule which I think has seldom an exception, though I know we say that all rules have an exception to prove their truth. But it is seldom indeed that we see the rule departed from, that "as a man soweth so shall he reap."

We all of us prove its truth at one time or other of our lives. "He that soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption"; and many a bitter tear of self-reproach is caused by the crop our own hands have sown, when we took our own way, and turned from His way, "who gave us an example that we should follow in His steps."

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