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"I founl, ty striking a match, that I was still 
gliding onward, pretty S"wlftly." 




Author of " Tales for the Twilight", " Troubles and 
Trials of Little Tim", &c. 


BLACKTE & SON, Limited, 50 OLD BAILEY, E.G. 


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Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2010 witii funding from 

Ontario Council of University Libraries 


^T was the custom of us boys (some of us 
jjj^l^ thought ourselves quite young men) to 
gather of an evening among the boats 
which lay drawn up on the beach. Some of 
the boats were old friends, having been turned 
keel-up long ago for repairs, which their owners 
seemed never to have found time to execute. 
In an open space between two of these appa- 
rently forgotten boats were some rough seats 
on which we could lounge, and while keeping 
a look-out on the water, and casting an eye 
now and again on the busy one-sided main 


street of Scarhay, which ran for some distance 
parallel with the shore, chat and laugh to our 
hearts' content. 

One source of amusement to us on such 
occasions was the stories we used to hear from 
little Captain Mervelle, He had settled down 
in the village some years back, but where he 
then came from I never heard. Whether he 
had any right to the title of captain was 
doul)tfuI, l)ut he appeared amongst us in a sort 
of half-nautical rig, such as retired shipmasters 
affect, and somehow it came to be understood 
that he liked to be called Captain Mervelle, 
and captain he was always called. 

By his own account he had been at sea, had 
travelled much, and had met with many mar- 
vellous adventures. His travels and adventures 
appeared to have been mostly in Africa. Always 
when he had anything to tell more wonderful 


than another, it was sure to have happened in 
Africa. He was, as I have said, a little man, 
but he seemed to have been a brave one, and 
to have performed some remarkable feats of 
personal prowess in his day. 

It began to be whispered among us that the 
captain's stories were just a little too wonder- 
ful, and would have to be taken with " a 
grain of salt"; but they were really so enter- 
taining, and the captain was so pleasant and 
good-natured, that we had hitherto avoided 
any such expressions of doubt as might have 
deprived us of his company. One of our 
number, Ned Burton, who was always up to 
some bit of fun, was not easy to restrain from 
chaffing the captain. He had got the length 
of winking and coughing at certain parts of 
the stories, but had been admonished to keep 
within due bounds. 


And besides being entertaining, tlie captain's , 
stories were sometimes instructive, for \vbatever 
exaggeration there might be in some of his per- 
sonal adventures, we had reason to believe that 
his descriptions of foreign places, and of curi- 
ous natural phenomena, were not much over- 
stretched, but agreed in the main with fact. 
He seemed to like the company of us young- 
sters better than that of older people, either 
from his simplicity of character, or perhaps 
because he found us more ready to listen to 
his tales. At all events, when two or three of 
us were collected on the beach of an afternoon 
he was almost sure to turn up, and, after 
loitering about for a few minutes scanning sea 
and sky, he would take his seat on a comfort- 
able bit of cross planking which was consecrated 
to his use. There he would sit for some time 
listenino; to our talk and saying; little, till some 

° -^ ^ (M301) 


one perhaps told of an incident rather out of 
the common, or of a feat which the narrator 
thought clever, which, seeming to act like 
priming to a gun, or a bucket of water to a 
dry pump, was sure to suggest to the captain 
something " which he remembered" still more 
striking and extraordinary. 

One summer evening, when the sun was 
nearing the tops of the hills far away behind the 
town, some of us were as usual at the " meet ", 
as we called it. The captain had just taken 
his seat, and was filling the wide -mouthed 
briar-root pipe, which he would suck feebly 
for hours at a stretch, when one of the boat- 
men belonging to the village came slouching 
along and stopped near us to look seaward. 
He, like the captain, was an incomer. He had 
come, a year or two back, from the mining dis- 
tricts on a visit for his health to some friends of 

(M301) A 2 


his in Scarbay, and had never gone away again. 
His uncle was a fisherman, and he had gradu- 
ally fallen into the habit of going out with the 
boats and making himself useful that way, in 
return for his keep. He was just a little soft 
in the head, and on that account we boys 
ventured to use some freedom with him. 

" Are you going out to-night, Mudge?" asked 
one — his name was Matthew Mudge. 

Mudge turned round slowly, and in a deep 
voice said : " No." 

"Are you glad, Mudge?" 

" No," in the same tone. 

" I should think you wouldn't like to be afloat 
all night, Mudge?" 

Mudge came slowly forward, and then slowly 
and distinctly said: 

" If you had been afloat a night and a day in 
pitch darkness, with only a few inches between 


your head and the roof of a coal-pit, you wouldn't 
think much of being out on the broad sea, with 
plenty of air, and the sky miles and miles above 

"Afloat in a coal-pit, Mudge!" said Ned. 
" That must have been in a dream." 

"No dream," said Mudge, shaking his head. 

I scented a story, so nudging Ned to hold 
his tongue, I said: 

"Will you tell us about it, Mudge, if you 
please?" and I made room for him on the log 
which served me as seat. 

" There's not much to tell," said Mudge, 
dropping slowly on to the seat and resting his 
arms on his knees. " It was my shift down," 
he went on somewhat abruptly, " and I was 
just opening the bag in which I carried what 
we called our dinner to take a snack, when I 
heard a cry ring through the workings wdiich 


went to my heart, for I knew it meant danger. 
I was alone, my mate having gone along on 
some errand, and the working I was in was 
wider and higher than the gallery which led 
into it. We had just driven in a bit when the 
roof gave way, and we had been told to bring 
it down for some feet to prevent accidents, 
which we did till we got a solid roof of stone. 
From floor to roof of the cell was perhaps ten 
feet. When I heard the cry I jumped to my 
feet, but before I could turn myself there was 
a rush and a scream, and I was up to the knees 
in water. There had been a burst somewhere, 
and the mine was flooded. I knew my only 
hope of escape was to run for a higher level. 
My way lay through a low passage which had 
to be gone along stooping, and by the time I 
floundered through the water to it, it was choke- 
ful. I dared not venture in. I floundered back 


to my own working, and found that the water 
was now deeper there and rapidly rising. How 
far it would rise, or how long it would remain, 
I could not guess ; that would depend on where 
it came from, and whether it would find a vent. 
" It continued to rise till it reached my waist. 
I stood trembling, not from cold, but with fear. 
The air was close and warm, and the cold of 
the water I did not feel. But I felt it swelter- 
ing and creeping round me like a beast, and 
catching me always higher and higher, as if it 
was anxious to get at my throat and choke me. 
I gave myself up for lost, and was inclined to 
let myself drop and get it past; when, by the 
light of my lamp, which was still burning, I 
saw a dark object move slowly round into my 
working, and bring up with a bump against 
the cross-wall. I was frightened at first, but 
soon saw it was only an empty wagon floating 


on the water upside down. I dragged it towards 
me, and found it could support my weight with- 
out sinking; so with a great effort, for I was 
stiff, I flung myself upon it, and found myself 
sitting safe, with my legs dangling in the water. 
Boys, I felt like a man respited from the gal- 
lows ; but in the struggle to get up, the lamp I 
had stuck in my cap dropped into the water, 
and I was left in total darkness. 

" Well, how long I sat on that wagon, won- 
dering if the water was still rising, I do not 
know; but it was so long that I nearly got 
mad with waiting and wondering. The rush of 
water, wherever it came from, I knew must 
have been great, ])ut if the supply were to stop 
I thought it likely that it would gradually 
subside by spreading into lower holes and 
levels. The pumps, I knew, would be also at 
work, and other means might be adopted by 


the managers to clear the workings. At last 
I had too good proof that the water was still 
rising, for, reaching up my hand, I found that 
it touched the roof The air was getting 
closer, too, and I felt that relief, if it came, 
would likely come too late for me. 

" After a while my head touched the roof, 
and soon I had to turn and lie flat on my 
belly. I remember refreshing myself with 
dipping up handfuls of water, drinking some 
and dashing some on my face. Putting up 
my hand I felt the roof within a few inches of 
my back. I think I fairly went crazy then. 
I was stifling; strange objects seemed to be 
dancing round me; I shrieked in agony, and 
I suppose fainted clean away, for I knew no- 
thing more till I heard voices, and opening 
my eyes saw lights and the faces of men 

" They found me, I was told, after the water 


had drained off, lying senseless on the wagon, 
which was resting top downwards on the ground. 
The water must have begun to subside when I 
fainted, or I never could have been got out 
alive. They thought at first I was dead, and 
it was, only by chance that the doctor who 
was with them detected some signs of life, 
and brought me round. I had been closed up 
twenty-four hours, they told me afterwards. 
My head," Mudge said, putting his hand to 
his brow, " has been queer ever since, and I 
never could go down a pit again;" and he 

" Were there any drowned?" asked one of us. 

" Fifty- two. No one got out but me." He 
slowly rose, and with his hands in his pockets 
slouched heavily along shore. 

" What do you think of that, Captain?" said 
I. "Wasn't it a fearful fix?" 


" Well, yes," said Captain Mervelle, as if he 
grudged the admission; "but I've been afloat 
underground longer than that, and in pitch 
darkness, too." 


" In Africa." 

Ned, who was now sitting next me, here be- 
came uneasy, but I squeezed his foot with my 
heel, and said : 

" Tell us about it. Captain," 

The captain, nothing loth, took his pipe from 
his mouth and began: 

" It was when I was in the emj^loy of the 
North African Trading Company. I was ex- 
ploring, in search of new trade outlets, some of 
the interior, north of Upper Guinea — " 

"That is where Ashantee is; isn't it, Captain?" 
said one of our number, who plumed himself on 
his geographical knowledge. 

{ M 303.) A 3 


" Yes, but I went much further inland. I 
made my way through what is called Hoosa, 
where there are a great number of cities, such 
as Kano and Sackatoo, some of them with 
many thousand inhabitants, which the people 
here know nothingc about. I then crossed a 
bit of the Sahara — you know what that is?" 

" The sandy desert," said our geographer. 

" Of course; and some bits of it are desert 
enough, but a great deal of it, mind you, is not 
half so bad as is generally supposed. There 
are a great many beautiful and pleasant bits 
of country, let me tell you, scattered about the 
great desert." 

" Are these the mirages. Captain?" asked our 
geographer, anxious to distinguish himself still 
further; but in this case he had rather over- 
shot himself. 

"Mirages!" continued the captain; "not a 


bit of mirage about them, but real bits of 
fertile land, with real streams of fine water, 
and groves of trees, and hills and valleys. 
The district I reached after, as I say, crossing 
a bit of sand, was itself a fine example of this. 
It is called Air or Asben, and occupies an oasis 
in which there are actually mountains higher a 
good deal than those over there in Cumber- 
land, higher even than the Scottish Bens. I 
stayed for a few weeks at Agades, the capital 
of this kingdom, for it has, or at least had 
when I was there, a king or sultan. It is a 
place with seven or eight thousand inhabitants; 
but, according to accounts, was in former times 
much larger, and very rich and prosperous. 
There was not much trade to be done in it 
now, I saw, and soon became anxious to get 
out of it. Not wishing to retrace my steps, I 
took advantage of a caravan which was starting 


for Timbuctoo. You have heard of Tim- 

Oh, yes ! some of us had heard of Timbuctoo, 
and the geograjDher volunteered the informa- 
tion that it was near the river Nile. 

" Well, you are not far off the mark," said 
the captain; " only two letters of the alpha) )et 
you may say, and some two thousand miles; 
that is to say, it is the Niger and not the Nile 
near which Timbuctoo stands. But the names 
are a little like, and the one is to the north- 
west of Africa what the other is to the north- 
east, so there is little Wonder that this young 
gentleman mistook the one for the other," 

Our geographer murmured that he meant 
the Niger, but retired for that evening into 
private life. 

" I will tell you all about Timbuctoo some 
other time," continued the captain, " and also 


about my journey over the great desert, for I 
made up my mind to continue with the caravan, 
go with it right across the Sahara to Morocco, 
keeping my eyes open by the way, and come 
home by the Mediterranean. We had reached 
the district called Tuat, within 300 miles of 
the southern boundary of Morocco, when the 
adventure happened I referred to when I 

" We were moving across a plain composed 
for the most part of sand, but with patches 
here and there of rough vegetation, when an 
ostrich was seen to run across the horizon to 
our right. I had often chased these swiftly- 
running birds, but had never succeeded in 
capturing one. It is a curious habit of these 
birds that they always run in a sort of semi- 
circle, and I thought I could almost catch up 
this one by riding across its path to the point 


it would reach if it kept on its present course. 
Noting the direction of the caravan's route, and 
knowing I could easily overtake it, I jumped 
on a small horse I kept for occasional use in 
this way, and galloped oflf, gun in hand. 

" After riding some distance I saw that what, 
a bit away, had seemed only a dark blue hillock 
resolved itself into an extensive grove of trees, 
marking the situation, doubtless, of one of the 
fertile spots, or oases, which, as I have told 
you, are often found in the Sahara, and I 
could plainly see the ostrich skirting it. I 
spurred on, but did not succeed in heading the 
bird. I was so near it, however, that I thought 
I might ride it down. The ostrich runs very 
swiftly at first — as fast as an express train, I 
believe, — but it soon slackens in its speed, and 
I thought I observed that this one, even after 
it sighted me, ran like one half-tired out. I 


followed it round the shoulder of the wood, 
quite out of sight of the caravan, and the 
sportsman fever getting up, I rode on without 
thinking of danger. I was making on it, and 
had just raised my weapon to take a flying 
shot when my horse stumbled and fell. We 
were both up in a moment or two, none the 
worse, but when I looked for the bird it was 
nowhere to be seen. There was a spur of the 
forest, for it was quite a forest, a quarter of a 
mile off, round which it must have gone. I 
remounted and galloped to the spot. There 
the bird was, a good way off, steering towards 
what seemed a fertile slope of hill nicely wooded 
up one side. I had little hope of overtaking it 
now, so I sent my ball after it on the chance 
of a hit. 

" I never knew the result; for the report of 
my gun was immediately followed by a yell. 


a shower of arrows, and a rush of dark forms 
from amid the trees. None of the arrows struck 
me, hut the horse was dropped. I cleared him 
with a spring as he fell, and stood face to face 
with about twenty black fellows, every one of 
whom was of a stature I had not seen equalled 
before in any of the savage tribes I had come 
across. I had no time to reload, so, grasping 
my gun by the muzzle, I laid about me as they 
made a rush. I knocked down some of the 
huge fellows, but was, of course, soon over- 
powered and bound hand and foot. 

" I was left lying on the sward while they 
held a council of war some paces distant. I 
now observed that the chief, as I took him 
to be from his giving apparently the word of 
command and having some feathers stuck in 
his matted locks, was brown, which was the 
prevailing tint of the natives thereabout, while 


the others were quite black. I found from a 
few words I caught that the chief was talking 
to them in a lingo I understood a little, but 
could not make out distinctly what he or any 
of them said. I expected nothing but instant 
death when two of them approached me; but 
instead they cut my legs free and made signs 
that I must go with them. I was set in the 
middle of the band; the chief, who had 
shouldered my gun, took the lead, and we 
marched off right across the plain towards the 
wooded slope I had seen in the distance. 
Entering the forest, we proceeded along a well- 
marked path for a considerable distance. We 
had marched so, I am sure, for a couple of hours, 
and I was just like to drop with fatigue when 
we came upon what looked liker a negro en- 
campment than the more regular settlements 
commonly met with there. The huts were 


scattered along the brow of a bank which 
overlooked a stream of some size. 

" There was a great uproar in the camp 
when we arrived, a rushing out from the huts 
of men, women, and children, and a clatter of 
tongues. I was set in the midst of the crowd 
while the story of my capture w^as told; and 
then there was silence as the chief and the 
biggest of the fellows I had knocked down, 
and who seemed to be little the w^orse — they 
have desperate hard heads these negroes — 
came towards me, the latter with a short spear 
in his hand. 

" ' Great chief,' I cried, to let him hear I 
could talk his lingo, which I thought might 
propitiate him, ' do not let me be harmed and 
I will give reward — teach you many things — 
shoot gun — make clothes' — they were all nearly 
naked, — 'like mine — and — and — many things. 


" The chief's eye gleamed — he was a fine 
tall fellow, with quite a European shape of face 
— and he spoke a few words to the other fellow, 
then turning to me, said: 

" 'Bubbalee says must kill white devil who 
knocked him down.' 

"'Let me fight him,' I said, as a last resource. 
'If he knock me down, let him kill me; if I 
knock him down again, let me kill him.' 

" The chief's eye gleamed again and he 
turned to Bubbalee. 

" ' Bubbalee not afraid,' he said. 

" Bubbalee looked at me and grinned. I 
was not above half his weight, and he probably 
thought there would not be the smallest diffi- 
culty in knocking me down. He seized a club 
and poised it in his massive right hand, and 
the chief, cutting the thong which bound my 
arms, offered me a similar weapon. I did not 


like the weapons at all, though, having some 
skill in fence, I believed I might have managed 
to get the first rap at Bubbalee's skull. • I would 
have much preferred, however, to try it regular 
English fashion. 

"'Great chief!' I said, 'in my country we 
make knock-down fight with fists — no club, no 
spear, no knife;' and I doubled up my fist and 
shook it at Bubbalee. 

" ' Good!' said the chief; ' Bubbalee, good!' 
" Bul:)ljalee closed his own fist, seemed to 
compare its size with that of mine, laughed, 
threw down his club, and made a step towards 
me with uplifted arm. I stood on the defensive, 
and he let fly. The stroke was easily parried, 
and the savage, who had of course no skill, 
seemed absolutely astounded at tlie way I 
managed to put aside blow after blow, and 
elude others with a quick twist of my body. 


The chief was, I dare say, no less astonished, 
for he cried ' Yah ! ' — their favourite exclamation 
— repeatedly, and the crowd yelled 'Yah ! Yah !' 
Bubbalee stood still and looked at me. I had 
not given him a single stroke, except one or 
two on the right arm, which had made it a 
little shaky. I saw he was in a great rage, 
and made ready for the rush he w^as sure to 
make. The rush was what I wanted, and he 
made it. Stepping lightly aside, so that instead 
of hitting me he plunged past me, I gave him 
one from the shoulder just behind the right 
cheek. He was already half off his balance, 
and the heavy blow laid him on the ground 
like a felled ox. 

" The chief handed me a spear to despatch 
him, but I bowed, and said: 

'"Let Bubbalee live.' 

" The chief, whose name I learned was Kah- 


tamali, signified consent by taking back the 

" I was led like a conqueror to a hut and 
regaled with a feast, rude, but sweet, for I 
was very hungry. When I came out I saw 
Bubbalee standing amongst the others looking 
rather crestfallen. I went over and shook 
him by the hand. He seemed pleased, and 
accepted my proffered friendship by lifting 
my hand and placing it on his brow, which is 
their token of cordial greeting. I do not 
think, however, he ever fully forgave the two 
knock-downs I had given him. 

" I was now fairly installed as a sort of 
chief amongst them, and in a day or two I 
was shown a little girl, one of Kahtamah's 
daughters, whom I was to get for a wife when 
she was a little older. There was no one old 
enough and at the same time good enough for 


me, the chief said. I was very glad to put off 
my wedding as long as they liked. I hoped, 
before Ta-Mel, or the White Bird (she really 
was a shade lighter than the rest of the women), 
was old enough, to be far away. Meanwhile 
I was called on to redeem my promise to the 
chief and teach him to shoot. My supply of 
powder and ball was soon exhausted, but by 
some means Kahtamah managed to procure a 
new supply, and I had to teach not only him 
but the others in turn. I hinted to him one 
day that he might let me go to get the reward 
I had promised him, but he put me off, re- 
minding me that I had promised to make him 
some clothes like my own. This was a rash 
promise, for of course I knew nothing of tailor- 
ing, and I grasped at the excuse that there 
was no cloth. One day he brought me a large 
gray blanket and said, ' There.' I was fairly 


caught, and had no other shift than sit down, 
cut out a pair of drawers as well as I could 
with my pocket-knife, and stitch them together 
with the needle and thread I always carried 
with me on my travels. No traveller should 
neglect to carry needles and thread with him. 
There is always a button coming off, or some- 
thing happening to one's clothes which a few 
stitches can put right. I put together a fairly 
good pair of drawers, which tied at the waist 
with a string, and Kahtamah pulled them on 
and paraded very proudly backwards and for- 
w^ards through the village, and seemed to be 
very much admired in his new costume by 
the ladies of the tribe. 

" This, how^ever, grew tiresome after a few 
wrecks, and I became anxious to get off. Why 
did I not run for it? you may ask. Well, I 
soon found that I was strictly "watched. There 


were always two big fellows near me, who also 
slept in my but at nigbt; and no one, I ob- 
served, watcbed my movements more closely 
tban Bubbalee." 

" But wbat about your being afloat longer 
than Mudge in a dark pit?" interrupted Ned, 
who was getting impatient. For my part I 
was so interested in what I was hearing that I 
had forgotten all about the incident the captain 
had undertaken to cap. 

" I did not say I was in a pit," replied the 
captain a little crossly; "but I am coming to 

" As for escaping," he continued, " I had no 
idea what direction to take. At last, however, 
I made up my mind to try it this w^ay: A 
little above the kraal — a kraal is a negro vil- 
lage, you know — the river I have mentioned 
broadened into a small lake where the water 


lay smootli and quiet. Here the tribe had 
two or three rudely constructed little boats in 
which they went out to fish. At the lower 
end of the lake the water rushed out deep and 
rapid, and I thought if I could get afloat in 
one of the canoes I might glide down the 
stream till I came on some open country where 
I might either guess my way back to Kaliba 
or fall in with some caravan. If I did get off 
I knew it must be in the night, and the diffi- 
culty was to get out from amongst the huts 
unobserved, and provide myself with a small 
stock of provisions for the expedition, which 
might occupy several days. After some weeks 
I was not quite so narrowly watched, and I 
contrived when going to the lake with the 
chief a-fishing, as I frequently did, to conceal 
some provisions in my pockets and store them 
in a cavity near the water, over which I placed 


a large stone to protect my store against the 
ravages of beast or bird. My hiding-place was 
near some trees, which I made an excuse to 
linger behind, and which concealed me for a 
few minutes from my companions. 

" I fixed on the night I would make the 
attempt, and about midnight, thinking my 
jailers were sound asleep, I got up quietly and 
stepped over the two black forms which were 
stretched on a piece of matting near the door; 
but just as I got outside I heard a noise, and 
turning round, there were the two fellows con- 
fronting me, and crying, ' Yah!' One of them 
was Bubbalee. I had not a moment to hesitate, 
so let fly at them with left and right, straight 
in the forehead, and sent them sprawling 
inside the tent." 

" That was the third time," remarked Ned, 
"you floored Bubbalee." 


"Yes," said the captain quietly, and Ned's 
eye, tlie one nearest me, closed. 

" I then ran for it," continued the captain. 
" Fortunately I met no one, and trusted that, 
if the two recovered in time to give the alarm, 
search would at first be made in some other 
direction. I was not long in transferring my 
stock of provisions to one of the canoes, and 
paddling to the centre of the stream, down 
which I was soon gliding swiftly. As I passed 
the kraal I could hear the sound of a commo- 
tion, and saw lights moving about, but it was 
too dark for them to see me, so I passed 
unnoticed. That was the last I saw or heard 
of Kahtamah, Bubbalee, Ta-Mel, or any of 
their tribe. 

" I glided on steadily till morning broke, 
w^hen I found I was still between two densely- 
wooded banks. Immediately, however, the sides 


became steeper and barer. I took my break- 
fast comfortably, and then smoked a cigar." 
" A cigar!" cried Ned; " had they cigars?" 
" I had some in my case when captured, 
and had been smoking the native stuff, which 
was pleasant though rather weak. The boat 
was now proceeding more slowly, and I made 
up my mind to remain in it all that day at 
least before I ventured to land. By noon I 
got drowsy, having slept none the night before, 
and the sun was very hot. The sides of the 
river, which still continued deep and smooth, 
had become more rocky and precipitous, and I 
did not see that anything could go wrong 
though I took a short nap; so I stretched 
myself comfortably out with my cap over my 
face and dropped over. 

" When I awoke I was astonished to find 
that deep night had already fallen. I had the 


feeling tliat my nap had been rather short, 
but it must have lasted from noon till night. 
And such a night! so intensely dark, and not 
even a star visible in the black vault above 
me. I felt that I was still gliding onwards, but 
there was a strange echoing sound round me 
which I could not account for, I sat up, 
rubbed my eyes, struck a match — " 

"Match!" cried Ned. 

" Yes, I had a box in my pocket." 

"When did you say this happened. Captain?" 

" I did not name a year." 

" Lucifer-matches came into general use — " 
said Ned in a low voice, as if he were quoting 
from some school-book. 

" Never mind, it was before this at all 
events," said the captain. " I struck a match 
and looked my watch." 

" I wonder they let you keep your watch," 


said one youngster who wished to get his 
word in, and who had read of the curiosity of 
savages about watches. The captain just gave 
him a look and went on. 

" I looked my watch and found to my 
astonishment that it was only three in the 

" It might have been three next morning," 
put in Ned, rather glibly I thought. 

" Well, it might, but you see it wasn't. 
The light of the match showed me why I was 
in pitch darkness at that time of day, for the 
flash was reflected from damp, glistening sides 
as of a railway tunnel, and from a damp, 
glistening roof as well. I was actually in a 
tunnel, not a railway tunnel, but a river tunnel. 
I had heard of a river thereabouts which dis- 
appeared underground, and I knew at once 
that I must unwittingly have set myself afloat 


upon it or one of its tributaries. I had glided 
into the tunnel while asleep without being 
aware of it. The sweat broke out all over me 
as I realized my aw^ful situation, and I made 
a desperate attempt to paddle up-stream and 
get out where I had come in. But I had only 
one paddle, and I found I could make no way 
against the strong current ; so after thoroughly 
exhausting myself with rejDeated efforts, I gave 
it up in despair. Striking iwo matches at 
once I found that the roof was higher than I had 
first supposed. It might be twenty feet up, I 
thought, and the width of the tunnel seemed 
to be about double that. Where the river 
went I had no idea, nor, so far as I knew, had 
anybody. Some thought it went down into 
the bowels of the earth and discharged itself 
into a great central boiling lake which supplied 
with steam some far-distant volcano; others 


that it was absorbed in sandy strata; and 
others that it discharged itself into the ocean 
somewhere by some unknown outlet. But 
these, I believed, were mere speculations. 
Wherever it went I counted myself a dead 
man, and when once the mind of a brave man 
is made up to the worst, it is astonishing with 
what composure he can wait on the end. If 
he be comfortable, and has something to eat 
and drink, it certainly helps him to take 
things calmly; and I was pretty comfortable, 
had three days' provisions in the boat, and 
plenty of water within easy reach. So after 
the first hour, in which I must confess I 
endured some agony of mind, I settled down, 
took a light dinner, for I thought it as well to 
economize and prolong life as long as I could 
in case anything might 'turn up', and smoked 
another cigar. 


" The only discomfort I felt was from chilli- 
ness. The air felt cold after the warm African 
sunshine; but I was hardy, and after drawing 
a blanket round me — which 1 had fortunately 
placed in the boat along with the other things, 
— I was quite snug. On I glided for hours and 
hours, striking a match now and again, and 
seeing that the roof was sometimes lower, 
sometimes higher, and that the distance be- 
tween the sides of the tunnel varied from time 
to time. There was always, however, plenty of 
room, and at one point the river widened into 
quite a subterranean lake; but the current took 
me straight through into a passage narrow at 
first, but gradually expanding again. I felt 
that there was nothing for me but patience. 

" About twelve midnight I got sleepy again, 
laid myself out, and you may believe it or 
not, but I had as sweet a sleep as ever I have 


had above ground in more promising circum- 
stances, I had taken care to wind up my 
watch, and on waking found it was nine o'clock; 
just time for breakfast. I took a frugal meal, 
still gliding on pretty swiftly as I found by 
strikino- a match and notino- how fast some 
object in the nearest wall appeared to shoot 
past me. While smoking my cigar I was 
startled by a glimmer of daylight. My heart 
gave a l)ound of expectation, but it soon sank 
again, for I saw at once that the lisfht came 
downward through a long, narrow shaft. Look- 
ing up as I shot past I could have imagined 
myself at the bottom of a deep coal-pit. On 
again into complete darkness, with only this 
little bit of comfort, that I had not yet got so 
far down into the liowels of the earth as to 
make the getting up again utterly impos- 


"Another day went nitlier wearily past, and 
I liad another short sleep. My notion of the 
hours then got rather confused, and I did not 
know whether it was day or night. Once, 
putting my hand over the side of the boat 
into the water in an absent manner, my fingers 
closed on something which had glided between 
them. I knew by the wriggling that I had 
caught a fish of some kind. Lifting it out 
and managing to strike a match, I saw that 
it was a clean-looking thing about the size of 
a herring, but without eyes. The fishes in such 
a place, you see, don't need eyes, and so don't 
have them. This one looked as if it might 
be good to eat. Here was a way, I thought, 
in which I might prolong life, if no disaster 
terminated it before my provisions ran out. 
In the meantime I returned the struggling 
creature to the water, no doubt to its own 


immense satisfaction. I did not need, how- 
ever, to take to fishing for a living. 

" As I calculated, I had been two days and 
a half in the tunnel when I laid myself down 
for my third underground sleep, I was wak- 
ened by the sunlight streaming on my un- 
covered face. I had glided into the tunnel 
while asleep, and while asleep I had glided 
quietly out of it. The cave whence I had 
issued was already out of sight behind me; 
I was moving between high precipitous banks, 
but, thank Heaven, open to the blessed light 
of the sky. 

" Slowly the banks lowered and receded, 
and at length I glided into what seemed a 
lake of considerable extent. I paddled to 
where the beach offered convenience for land- 
ing, and as soon as the canoe touched land, 
scrambled out, stiff and sore in every joint. 


" Suddenly there was a rattle of arms, a 
gleam of steel through the trees, and a cry of: 

" ' Qui vivef 

"'Ami!' I roared, and the next moment 
found myself in the midst of a detachment of 
French soldiers. I was on the outskirts of 
Algeria, and had fallen in with a party from 
one of the military outposts. 

" I received the kindest treatment from the 
Frenchmen, who were both amused and aston- 
ished by the story I had to tell them, and by 
their aid I soon got again within the bounds 
of civilization. You see now what 1 meant 
when I said that I had been longer afloat under- 
ground than the collier fellow," 

" It is a capital story. Captain," said Ned; 
" but it is singular that all the strange things 
you have met with happened in Africa " — I 
gave Ned another dash with my foot, but he 


was not to be repressed — " and all the clever 
things you did. Have you not met with any- 
thing strange in this country? Or, for the 
matter of that, why not imagine this to be 
Rhodes " — (the rascal had been reading iEsop), 
" I mean Africa — and Big Bill coming along- 
there to be Bubbalee, and let us see you tumble 
him; I am sure he will be willing to let you 

The captain rose, put his pipe slowly in his 
pocket, and fixing a look on Ned more of sorrow 
than of anger, said : 

" Yes, I've met with something strange in 
this country — a youngster who, when he hears 
a good story, cares where it happened, and a 
gentleman's son who is not respectful to a man 
who might be — his elder brother;" and walked 
away homeward through the dusk. 

When the captain was out of sight we took 


Ned and "bumped" liim; that is, we swung 
him by arms and legs, and brought a certain 
part of his person several times into smart 
contact with a boat's side. He deserved it, 
for after that night the captain was not quite 
so free with his stories. 

'Are you coining to the examination, Willie?" asked Mary Grey. 




Author of "Down and Up A-gain", "A Little 
Adventurer", &c. 


BLACKIE & SON, Limited, 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C. 



Jupiter, it is said, issued a proclamation that he ivould give 
an entertainment on a certain day to the most beautiful of 
the bird tribe. The jackdaio being aware of his want of 
beauty, but anxious to obtain admission, picked up the 
feathers which had fallen from the tmngs of his companions 
and stuck them over his body. As he strutted about at the 
gathering, each bird recognizing its own feathers plucked 
them out. The jiickdaw was revealed to be only a jackdaw, 
and Jupiter drove him out. — ^5Csop. 


F^JHE Rev. Matthew Humelby, vicar 
'j^K[ of Dormithorpe, and Mr. Troun- 
cem, the village schoolmaster, 
stood talking together one afternoon 
at the school gate, after the children 
had been dismissed. It was a delicious 
afternoon in early autumn. The sun, 
shorn of his mid-day strength, bright- 
ened the landscape without scorching 
it, and filled the air with a mellow 
radiance without rendering it heavy 

6 THE vicar's little TREAT, 

with heat. The school was situated at 
the end of the village, and while the 
two talked, their eyes could take in the 
beauty of a rural scene, and their ears 
the pleasant trill of a couple of larks 
singing above a held yellow and ripe 
for the sickle. 

The Rev. Mr. Humelby, if not very 
eminent as a theologian, was the best of 
country parsons, and thoroughly liked 
by his numerous flock. He knew the 
ways and wants of his people, the hard- 
ships they had to bear, and the simple 
pleasures they relished; he could talk 
with them on the subjects nearest 
their hearts, and knew when and how 
to put in a word for the cause he was 


appointed to plead. He was a good 
clergyman and a good man. Benevo- 
lence and simplicity beamed from his 
mild gray eyes, and though far from 
being rich, he was continually engaged 
in little schemes for promoting the 
temporal, as well as the spiritual good 
of his parishioners, old and young, or 
for providing them with some innocent, 
inexpensive bit of enjoyment. A little 
scheme of this latter kind was the sub- 
ject of the present talk with the school- 

"That's it, you see," he was saying; 
" I want to give a little treat, but I 
could not well take the whole school, 
though I shoidd like to." 


'' No, you couldn't well do that/' said 
Mr. Trouncem, "and I don't see why 
you should think of it at all." 

The schoolmaster was made of much 
harder material than the vicar, that 
is mentally — and bodily too for that 
matter; for while the clergyman was 
round and plump, the schoolmaster was 
thin and bony. He made perhaps a 
better schoolmaster than the vicar 
would have done, being, though by no 
means cruel, much abler to keep in 
proper aAve a band of noisy and some- 
times unruly boys and girls. He would 
hardly, however, have made so good a 
pastor. As it was, though not much 
loved, he was generally respected. 



His reply to the vicar's remark 
showed the difference of their char- 
acters. The question was about a 
little treat which the vicar was pro- 
posing to give to some of the scholars, 
and which he was regretting that he 
could not make general. Mr. Troun- 
cem did not see why the vicar should 
trouble himself about it; but it was 
the vicar's nature to think of such 
things, he could not help thinking of 
them, he was never quite happy except 
when he was thinking of something to 
do good or give pleasure to some- 

" I'll tell you what we'll do," said Mr. 
Humelby; " we'll make it a sort of 

(M290) A 2 


prize. I'll invite those who acquit 
themselves best in an 'exam'; eh? 
What do you think?" 

'* H'm ! Well, if you really wish to 
do something of the kind, that might 
not be a bad idea." 

" You see," said the vicar, touching 
Mr. Trouncem on the breast with his 
forefinger, '' that would be killing two 
dogs with one stone. It would be en- 
couraging them to push on, and giving 
them a little pleasuring at the same 

"H'm!" — Mr. Trouncem was not 
much in favour of this " sugar-plum " 
method — " how would you propose to 
do it? — the examination, I mean." 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 11 

'' Well, I think I should like to try 
the regular paper, college style, you 
know — just for an experiment. We 
have not tried it yet, you know." 

" H'm!" said the schoolmaster again. 

"■ You have three classes, you know," 
pursued the vicar, " so you and I can 
draw out three sets of papers, with 
questions suitable for each." 

" On what subjects?" 

"Oh! just the subjects they have 
been at for the last month or two. 
Let all come forward that please — I 
can easily get a lot of copies made out — 
Julia, Ned, Mrs. Humelby, and myself 
— come out when you have shut up and 
get a cup of tea and well set at it. 

12 THE vicar's little TREAT. 

And — and — I shall invite to the garden- 
party the four best out of each class — 
yes — I am afraid Mrs. Humelby would 
not care for more than twelve — or shall 
we say eighteen?" 

" You might let Mrs. Humelby decide 

"Ah! — yes! — right!" said the vicar, 
considerably relieved. " You'll be out 
then? — very well, ta, ta!" and the good 
man hurried away in a pleasant state 
of excitement because he had got some- 
thing to do, the end and aim of which 
was to render a little hajDpier a few 
boys and girls. 

The examination was to take place 
on a Thursday, the result declared on 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 13 

Friday, and the next day to be a holi- 
day. At that time schools had in 
general only a half-holiday on Saturday, 
but on this occasion the whole day 
would be sacred to liberty and play. 
Those who passed the ''exam'' were to 
go to the vicarage in the forenoon, and 
there be entertained with dinner in the 
house, tea in the garden, and between 
the two with freedom to run about in 
the orchard, and eat some of the apples 
and pears which were just dropping 
with ripeness from overladen boughs. 
Mrs. Humelby had decided that she 
could do with eighteen, so from each 
of the three departments of the school 
the six who gave in the best replies to 

14 THE vicar's little TREAT. 

the questions set them were to enjoy 
this honour and pleasure. 

The highest class, which was very 
numerous, was composed of boys and 
girls between the ages of twelve and 
fifteen, who studied together, as was 
the custom in most country schools. 
In this class there were two or three 
who either were, or were considered 
to be, the cleverest, and who Avere 
expected to secure a ticket for the 
vicar's treat. There was Emily Wear, 
a girl of fifteen, daughter of Captain 
Wear of the militia stafi"; Alfred or 
Afiie Thomson, the village baker's boy, 
who was to go to college by and by; 
Mary Grey, a soft-voiced, blue-eyed 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 15 

girl, a year younger than Emily, whose 
mother kept the millinery shop in the 
High Street. These three were usually 
engaged in a struggle which should 
stand at the top of the class. There 
was George Allwood, son of the Dormi- 
thorpe draper, who thought he was 
something better than most of the 
scholars, and who made more noise in 
class than any other. He was sup- 
posed to be clever, and, though not 
studious nor attentive, he managed, 
through a certain quickness of memory, 
to repeat his lessons in such a way as 
to satisfy Mr. Trouncem, and leave the 
impression that he was a good, smart 
scholar. His lesson, however, was usu- 


ally well forgotten an hour after it was 
said. The only thing he really excelled 
in was writing. He had the quickest 
as well as the best hand with a pen in 
the school. 

"You will be at the examination 
to-morrow, won't you?" asked Emily 
Wear of George Allwood as they stood 
in the playground between forenoon 
and afternoon school. George was a 
great favourite with Emily, as indeed 
he was with most of the girls. 

" I don't know," said George, " it's 
hardly worth while." 

" O yes, you must! everybody is com- 
ing; and we want you with us at the 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 17 

"O yes, do, George!" put in Mary 
Grey, ''yon will be snre to pass the 
"exam"; yon will take nnmber one." 

" I am not afraid bnt I shonld suc- 
ceed if I tried." 

" Well, if yon don't come I shall 
think yon are afraid," said Emily with 
a toss of her pretty head. 

"And so will I," said Mary, who 
always seconded Emily, turning her 
blue eyes full on George. " We shall 
have such fun at the vicar's!" she added. 

" Well, I suppose I'll come," said 
George, who was really anxious to form 
one of the party to which Emily and 
Mary seemed to think it certain they 
would belong. 

(M290) A3 


*' Are you coming, Willie?" said Mary 
to another boy who was standing a 
little apart. This was Willie Blake, a 
boy somewhat younger than George, 
not so well dressed, nor so handsome, 
nor so clever-looking. His father was 
only a stone mason, and could not 
afford to dress him finely; but his 
clothes, thanks to a careful mother, 
were always whole and clean. He was 
really not so clever, in a sense, as 
George. He was slower, and people 
did not think he had much ability. 
But if he was slower, he was surer; he 
was attentive to what he learned, and 
so his memory kept a better hold of it. 
He was modest, not good at talking 


about himself, and though he knew more 
than most of the advanced scholars he 
did not obtain credit for it, even from 
Mr. Trouncem. The only one who 
knew how really clever he was was his 
father, who, though only a working 
mason, had read much, and was very 
intelligent and shrewd. Mary did not 
care for Willie nearly so much as she 
did for the dashing George, but she 
had a kind little heart, and seeing him 
standing alone she put the question to 

" Yes," said Willie, " I'm coming." 
"You expect to be a prizeman, I 
suppose," said George in a mocking 

20 THE vicar's little treat. 

" I'll try," said Willie. 

" Willie knows a good deal/' said 
Emily, who was observant. 

" I wonder how you found it out," 
said George, turning away; but he 
knew in his heart that what Emily 
said was true. 

The day of examination came, and 
the room where the first class sat was 
well filled. The boys and girls had to 
be placed rather closer together than 
they should have been for such a pur- 
pose ; and though Mr. Trouncem passed 
out and in now and again to see that 
all was going on properly, nods, looks, 
and words were exchanged more freely 
than they ought. The five scholars 

THE vicar's little TREAT, 21 

who have been named happened to be 
placed together in this order: — Mary 
Grey, with Emily Wear to her right 
hand, and Willie Blake to her left; to 
Willie's left George Allwood, and next 
to him, Affie Thomson. Mary, after 
looking at the questions (there were 
only a few and not very difficult, 
making more a call upon the memory 
than anything else), and knowing that 
she could do something with them, 
looked to right and left a little. She 
saw that Willie had taken a sheet of 
blank paper from his pocket and had 
begun to write a first copy of his 
answers on it. He had not confidence, 
it seemed, to begin at once on the sheet 

22 THE vicar's little treat. 

which had to be returned to Mr. 
Trouncem. Glancing at George, she 
saw him sitting with a red face, look- 
ing puzzled, and playing with his pen. 

Mary then set to, and did a little of 
her own task, for they had only an 
hour given them in which to answ^er 
the questions. 

Looking round again (as girls will) 
after a while, she saw that Willie had 
just finished his writing on the sheet 
of paper, while George was still sit- 
ting idle, but now with his head lean- 
ing on his hand. She leaned past 
Willie's back and whispered: 

" If you don't begin, George, you will 
be too late." She was really anxious 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 23 

that George should be one of the win- 
ners; the party would be dull without 
him, she thought. 

" It 's all right/' whispered back 
George, adding, '' It 's a confounded 

But if Mary wished to be a winner 
herself she must go at it in earnest too, 
she felt; so after seeino; that Willie had 
placed his sheet of writing on his left, 
and had begun to copy it carefully, 
she was absorbed in her own work till 
the hour struck, and Mr. Trouncem 
came in to take away the papers. 

Mr. Humelby and the schoolmaster 
had hard work at the vicarage that 
night to get the papers looked over 

24 THE vicar's little TREAT. 

and the six best from each department 
fixed on, and the hour was late before 
they had quite finished. A strange 
fact came out in connection with the 
papers of the first class. Two of them 
were found to be alike, word for 
word. The same questions had been 
selected for answer, and the same re- 
plies given in the same language. 
Not quite word for word either; there 
were one or two small difi'erences. 
In the one, for example, the dis- 
tance of the moon from the earth was 
written only partly in figures, thus, 
''240 thousand", while in the other it 
was written ''240,000" all in figures. 
That was nothing, however; it was 

THE vicar's LI'lTLE TREAT. 25 

clear that the one paper had been 
copied from the otlier. The two papers 
were those of George Allwood and 
Willie Blake. 

"Who — who is the boy who has 
copied his neighbours replies?" said 
the vicar, who was shocked, but could 
not think to use a harsher term. 

" The thief," said Mr. Trouncem, who 
had no such scruples, " is undoubtedly 
the boy Blake." 

Mr. Humelby had jumped to the 
same conclusion, but still he said: 

'' How are you so sure?" 

" From what I saw myself." 

" What did you see?" 

'' Well, I went through the rooms 

26 THE vicar's little treat. 

now and then, as you kno\Y, to see 
that all was going on orderly. About 
twenty minutes before the time was 
up I found Allwood standing looking 
out of a window. I asked him why he 
had left his seat. He said his paper 
was done, so I left him alone, as he was 
disturbing nobody. Willie Blake at 
that time was still writing. On going 
back within a minute of the hour I 
found Allwood still at the window and 
Blake just finishing his paper. I then 
observed, what had escaped me on the 
previous visit, that Allwood had left 
his paper lying open, instead of folding 
it up as he ought to have done. I 
checked him for his neglect, folded the 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 27 

paper myself, and marked it. Now 
as Allwood's was written first it could 
not be copied from Blake's; it follows, 
therefore, that Blake must have copied 
Allwood's when it was lying open be- 
side him." 

This seemed to explain the theft, 
though, as the reader will have guessed, 
it was all wrong. The truth of the 
matter was that George All wood had 
copied Willie Blake's draft, at the 
same time as Willie was copying it 
himself. He found that he could really 
answer none of the questions with any- 
thing like accuracy; and, burning with 
the shame of utter failure, and the 
thought of how the girls would look 

28 THE vicar's little treat. 

at him, he had taken down Willie's 
answers, without thinking how strange 
it would look for two papers to go in 
alike. Being a much quicker writer 
than Willie he was done long before 
him, and not being able to rest had 
got up to look outside, forgetting, as 
we have heard, to fold up his paper. 
This last bit of forgetfulness was, 
though accidental, a lucky occurrence 
for him, and served him as well as if 
it had been most cunningly designed. 

The schoolmaster's explanation 
seemed conclusive to the vicar. 

" This grieves me much," he said, " I 
did not think Willie Blake would have 
done such a thing." 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 29 

" H m ! these quiet ones are some- 
times very sly." 

" I suppose we must put his paper 
aside. They are really the two best. 
You must speak to him, Mr. Trouncem ; 
but no — no thrashing." 

*'H'ni! — well, if you wish it; but I 
shall certainly speak to him." 

The successful papers in order of 
excellence were those of George All- 
wood, Emily Wear, Alfred Thomson, 
Mary Grey, and two other boys. 

On Friday afternoon the names of 
the successful competitors were read 
out by Mr. Trouncem from his desk, 
and they were invited to be at the 
vicarage by noon on the morrow. 

30 THE vicar's little tkeat. 

Those who were named could not help 
feeling and looking a little proud, but 
the others neither felt nor looked very 
downcast. Were they not all to have 
a full day's play? and was not that 
enough of itself in that pleasant au- 
tumn weather to make the day a real 
holiday? Willie Blake felt a little 
vexed, for it was not the vicar's party 
or the holiday he had cared so much 
about, as the credit of being a good 
scholar. He would certainly have liked 
to be able to tell them at home that 
his paper was one of the best; but still 
he had hardly expected it, and was not 
greatly disappointed. 

He was startled by Mr. Trouncem 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 31 

calling him up to the desk as the others 
were trooping out. 

Mr. Trouncem kept him standing till 
the room was empty, and then said with 
a frown which the boys knew — and the 
girls as well — and were afraid of: 

" William Blake, your paper was 
rejected because it was copied." 

Willie stared at him at first without 
knowing what he meant. He then 
remembered that he had copied from 
his first sheet of writing. Had that 
been a fault? His face became red, he 
hung down his head and had nothing 
to say. He really had done it. 

"' I see," said Mr. Trouncem, '' you 
feel the shame of it, and I just hope 

82 THE vicar's little treat. 

you did it without thinking. To co]3y 
George Allwood's paper, word for word 
ahuost, and send it in as your own was 
shocking conduct. I won't say any 
more to you now, but — " 

Willie had lifted his head in astonish- 
ment. Copied George Allwood's paper ! 
Why, he had never so much as looked 
at it! He began to stammer out a 
denial, but the schoolmaster stopped 
him short. 

"Do not say another word; you will 
oidy add to your fault by denying it. 
Go home and tell your father I intend 
to call and speak to him to-morrow 

Poor Willie! He stood in con- 
siderable awe of Mr. Trouncem, and 

THE vicar's little TREAT, 33 

could not muster courage to say more. 
He went home sorely distressed and 
puzzled ; he could not understand it. 

All afternoon Willie sat in the house 
and moped, neither going out to play 
nor reading a book. His mother saw 
there was something wrong, and when 
his father came home he observed it 
too. Willie had said nothing about 
the examination except that he was 
not one of the six, and it was only after 
some questioning that he told his father 
all about it. 

Adam Blake understood the matter 
at once; Willie was blamed for copy- 
ing another boy's paper and sending 
it in as his own, and that paper was 
George Allwood's, which was number 


one of the best six. It never occurred 
to him for a moment to suppose that 
Willie had done it; he was hldmed for 
it, but he knew Willie too well to be- 
lieve for an instant that he had doiie it. 
Well, if the two papers were alike, he 
argued, if the one was evidently a copy 
of the other, as the examiners seemed 
to have decided, and if Willie's had not 
been a copy, then the other must have 
been. If Willie had not stolen George 
Allwood's answers, George Allwood 
must have stolen Willie's. 

Adam Blake, as I have said, though 
only a stone mason, was very intelligent 
and clever. He set himself to find out 
all about the examination, and he soon 
knew all that Willie could tell him ; 

THE vicar's little tkeat. 35 

how they were sitting, who was next 
Willie, and who next George; about 
the first copy Willie had written, and 
what Willie had heard Mary Grey say 
to George. He found that Willie had 
still the first sheet, which he had taken 
out of his pocket and placed within one 
of his school-books after he came home. 

"Was your second paper very dif- 
ferent from this, Willie?" asked his 

" No, I only changed a word or two. 
I might have saved myself the trouble 
of writing it twice, but I was afraid.'' 

Mr. Blake took the paper and went 
out. He first called at Mary Grey's, 
and finding her not yet gone to bed, 
he put a few questions to her. He 

36 THE vicar's little treat, 

found she remembered quite well see- 
ing Willie write out his draft and 
begin to copy it before George Allwood 
had commenced his paper. He next 
went to Affie Thomson. All that Affie 
could say was that he had observed that 
George sat for about half an hour doing 
nothing before he put pen to paper. 
They did not know the drift of Adam's 
inquiries, for the fact that two of the 
papers were alike had not been told to 
the school. On coming home he asked 
Willie not to vex himself, but to go to 
bed and he would see what could be 
done to-morrow. Willie went upstairs 
much comforted to find that his father 
at least did not believe him to be 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 37 

The vicar's little treat was going on 
merrily. The dinner, which had been 
presided over by the vicar, and kept 
in order by the presence of Mrs. 
Humelby and Mr. Trouncem, was past, 
and the youngsters were now having 
the run of the garden and orchard, 
with no one to hamper their move- 
ments but the two young Humelbys, 
who were as fond of the fun as any 
of them. Just then a message was 
brought to the vicar that Adam Blake, 
the mason, Willie Blake's father, de- 
sired to speak with him. 

" Take him into the library," said 
Mr. Humelby, ''111 see him in a min- 

"And please, sir," said the servant. 

88 THE vicar's little treat. 

'' he have his boy with him, and he 
says if Mr. Trouncem be here he'll be 
glad to see him too." 

" This will be something about Willie's 
misconduct/' said the vicar to Mr. 

"H'm!— very likely; I told Blake 1 
would call on his father to-night. I 
don't know what he can be in such a 
hurry to say." 

The two found Adam Blake and 
Willie both much engrossed looking at 
the books which were ranged on shelves 
round three sides of the room. 

After the first greetings Adam (who 
when speaking to educated j3eople 
could make a shift to talk nearly as 
well as they did) said : 

THE vicar's little T1!EAT. 39 

" Mr. Humelby, if I envy you any- 
thing, it is your fine collection of 

" You need not do that, then, Adam," 
said the vicar flushing; " come out and 
get the loan of one when you want it." 

" Thank you kindly, sir; but it is not 
that I have called about to-day. Willie 
tells me, gentlemen, that he has got into 

"H'm! — yes," said the schoolmaster. 

" So it seems, so it seems," said the 
vicar uneasily. 

'' And quite without cause," said 
Adam, " as I think I shall be able to 
show you." And he went over the 
whole story as he had gathered it from 
Willie, Mary, and Affie, showing how 

40 THE vicar's little treat. 

the copying must have been done, and 
fixing the theft as clearly on George, 
as the schoolmaster had fixed it on 
Willie. At the same time he produced 
the fii'st writing, which Mr. Trounce m 
admitted to be in Willie's hand, and 
finished by requesting that Mary and 
Aflfie should be brought in and ques- 
tioned. This was done, and the two, 
still unaware of what had happened, 
told what they knew freely, only cast- 
ing sidelong, hesitating looks at Willie, 
who sat in a corner. They were afraid 
he had been doing something wrong in 
connection with the examination, and 
did not wish to injure him more than 
they could help. 

"Now/' said Adam Blake, "I am 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 41 

curious on one point. Have you the 
examination papers at hand, gentle- 
men? If so, I should like to see 
Willie's and George's.'' 

" Certainly/' said the vicar, " they 
are here ; " and he selected them from a 
bundle he drew from the drawer of his 

" I have a suspicion," said Adam, 
" that George's paper will be found to 
agree more precisely with this first 
writing than Willie's own." 

On comparing them this was found 
to be the case. Adam loas shrewd. 
George had been in too great haste, 
and too flurried to think of altering 
any of the words; while Willie, as 
we heard, had in one or two instances 

42 THE vicar's little treat. 

made what he considered a correction 
or improvement. It was in George's 
paper, for example, that the distance 
of the moon from the earth was given 
as ''240 thousand", and it was so in 
Willie's first writing. But Willie had 
changed it to " 240,000 " as being more 

" There is only one other test which 
I would invite," said Adam, " and that 
is to put a few questions to the two 
boys and bring out which of them 
knows most about the subjects ex- 
amined on." 

This Mr. Trouncem agreed to do ; and 
W^illie, on being tried, came out so well 
as to show that if lie did not write his 
own paper he at least could have done 


SO. George was then sent for. He had 
been getting along very merrily and 
happily in the garden. It had occurred 
to him as strange that since his paper 
had been number one, Willie's had not 
even been one of the best six. " He 
must have blundered in the copying/' 
said George to himself, and troubled 
his mind no more about it. 

He came in flushed with the exercise 
and enjoyment, and looking very bright 
and clever; but when he saw Willie 
and his father his countenance fell a 
little, for he feared that something had 
come out. 

A very few questions were sufficient 
to convince the vicar and the school- 
master that whoever wrote the original 

44 THE vicar's little treat. 

paper it could not have been George 
Allwood. He did not even remember 
the answers he had written. 

The schoolmaster looked at the vicar. 
The vicar cleared his throat. Finding 
excuses for evildoers was more con- 
genial to his nature than blaming 
them; but duty must be done. 

"George/' he said, ''two papers 
came in exactly alike, yours and Willie 
Blake's. One of them must have been 
a copy from ihe other. We thought it 
was Willie's, but it turns out to have 
been yours. George — you — I mean — 
I am very sorry — " 

George hung his head and did not 
attempt to deny the charge. He felt 
that it would be useless. He only 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 45 

muttered something about not think- 
ing there was much wrong in it. 

"Wrong! Yes, George, it was very 
wrong. It brought Willie into disgrace ; 
and you — you have been strutting 
about in borrowed feathers — '' 

" Stolen," put in Mr. Trouncem. 

"Eh? oh— ^borrow^ed, we shall say bor- 
rowed, Trouncem, — borrowed feathers, 
like the bird in the fable, you know, 
George, — the jackdaw — and — and the 
least thing we can do is to — to — '' 

"Pluck him," suggested Mr. Trouncem. 

" Yes," continued the vicar, to whom 
the word recommended, itself as a col- 
lege term, " pluck you — " 

" And send him home at once," said 
the schoolmaster." 

40 THE vicar's little treat. 

''' And allow you to go home now/' 
the vicar put it, more mildly. 

George was of course overcome with 
shame, and glad to take his hat and dis- 
appear at the hall door. He went home 
a sadder, and let us hope a wiser boy. 

" And the least amends we can make 
to Willie," said the vicar, when George 
had gone, "is to take him in to join the 
children in the garden, which is his 
proper place." 

" Certainly," said Mr. Trouncem, try- 
ing to look gracious; "and I have to 
ask Willie's pardon for my mistake." 

" Which," put in the vicar, " was, 
under the circumstances, excusable, — 
eh, Adam, excusable? or shall we say 

THE vicar's little TREAT. 47 

Adam smiled assent; and Willie, 
whose face had been getting red, 
whispered something to his father. 

" Willie says/' said Adam, " that not 
having his Sunday clothes on he would 
rather not go in; and I tliink, with 
your leave, gentlemen, and with thanks 
for your kindness, I'll just take him 
back with me. He is fully rewarded 
by having the feathers returned which 
had been — borrowed from him." 

"Well, well," said the vicar laughing, 
" if you will have it so. Come out and 
see me, then, Willie, to-morrow evening- 
after church." 

When Willie went out to the vicar- 
age on Sunday evening he was kindly 
received by Mrs. Humelby, Julia, and 

48 THE vicar's LI'lTLE TREAT. 

Ned, who made him drink a cup of tea 
with them. And when he left, the vicar 
presented him with a beautifully bound 
copy of u^sojjs Fables, with an inscrip- 
tion on the ±iy-leaf, telling that it was 
presented to William Blake for having 
written the best paper at a public 
examination of Dormithorpe School. 

"Th.e king fell in -with, a d-warf, -wrho began mocking at luna. 





Author of "Dulcie King", " Nicola", "Long Time Ago", <fec. 

BLACKIE & SON, Limited, 50 OLD BAILEY, E.C. 



must go back a thousand 
r^^^ years in telling this tale. 
At that time there lived in 
a street of Christiania an honest cobbler 
and his wife. They had one only child 
— a son, — and like many other parents 
they fancied that he was far more 
clever than all the other boys of 
the place, and that in the future he 
would be something more than a mere 
mender of boots and shoes for the 


working-folk of Christiania. It was 
on this account tliat they sent him 
so soon away from home, far beyond 
the Skager-Rack; as far, indeed, as 
Schleswig-Holstein, which, to their 
notions, seemed like the end of the 

After some years the fond parents 
were made happy by the return of 
their son, and his head seemed so 
brimful of new ideas for benefiting his 
fatherland that it was quite certain 
he could never carry out the half of 
them. He lost no time in taking over 
his old father's business, and he proved 
such a clever cobbler that even the 
King of Norway heard his courtiers 


talking about the young fellow. And 
one of this cobbler's new ideas struck 
the monarch as an excellent thing — 
it was to make the rich pay three 
times the actual price of the work 
done for them, so that equally good 
work should be at the disposal of the 
poor for no other payment than thanks. 

The king sent for this bright young 
man one day. 

" Cobbler/' said he, ''my feet are con- 
sidered the handsomest in Christiania, 
make me a pair of fine shoes worthy of 

" Certainly, your majesty/' and the 
cobbler knelt down and began to take 
the measures. 


"Stop! stop!'' cried the king, "I 
forgot to say that I suffer from corns, 
and you must not touch them. Neither 
must the shoes pinch me, while they 
must on no account be too loose. Now, 
take the measure." 

" Under such conditions," said the 
cobbler quietly, '' I fear I shall be 
unable to make your majesty quite so 
handsome a pair of shoes as I should 

"You will either make what I order 
or I will have you beaten and driven 
out of my kingdom," shouted the mon- 
arch angrily. " Here is my royal foot 
-^take its measure, I command you." 

There was nothing possible but to 



obey, for every one in Norway knew 
that what the king threatened he 
would assuredly carry out. He was 
almost too good at keeping his word ! 

Nevertheless, even a clever cobbler 
brimful of new ideas could scarcely fit 
a pair of shoes to the king's handsome 
feet without touching his corns; so, 
for the very first time in his life, the 
young man was at his wit's end to 
know what to do. 

When his mother heard what a pre- 
dicament he was in she was deeply dis- 
tressed, but she resolved to ask the help 
of the Kobolds or household spirits, 
supposed to attach themselves to every 
family throughout Scandinavia. 

(M289) A2 


In the house of a baker, for instance, 
it was the Kobolds who were supposed 
to make his bread light and sweet. 
In the house of a cobbler — remember 
this is only a very old legendary story 
— when midnight came and all the 
house was quiet, the clever, kindly, 
little spirits gathered at his work- 
table and cut and stitched and ham- 
mered so dexterously, that in the 
morning there were always ready a 
few pairs of shoes most beautifully 
made. Of course the Kobolds only 
worked wonders for people who felt 
kindly and respectfully towards them! 

So the young cobbler's mother asked 
the help of the good spirits of the 


household, and a most perfect pair of 
shoes were ready by day-dawn, such 
as were fit even for a monarch whose 
feet were considered the handsomest 
in Christiania. 

When the young man went to the 
palace to try them on, he found the 
king in one of his worst humours; he 
was, in fact, just boxing the ears of 
one of his chamberlains because there 
had not been cream enough on the 
morning's milk. 

''Oh! it's you, is it, Cobbler?" he 
said, in a surly tone. 

However, when he put his feet into 
the new shoes and found that they 
neither pinched him, nor bulged out 


loosely, and yet fitted him as closely 
as a skin, his delight was so great that 
he took a flying leap from the throne 
(to the surprise of all his courtiers), and 
declared that the cobbler should be 
henceforth known as "Artist in leather- 
work to His Majesty the King". He 
was also to have a handsome apart- 
ment in the palace, so as to be at 
hand when wanted. 

About an hour later, however, when 
the novelty and pleasure of the new 
shoes had worn off a little, his majesty 
was again in one of his worst humours. 
First of all he found that his treasurer 
had made a mistake of several hun- 
dred pounds in his accounts; and next 


he heard that the keeper of the seals 
had locked them up carefully enough, 
but the key was lost, and was supposed 
to have been swept up and carried to 
the dust-bin. 

" I begin to believe that you are all 
fools, except the cobbler!'' cried the 
king. ''Tell him I want to consult 
him about a private matter. 

''Do you know how to keep a still 
tongue in your head?'' was his majesty's 
first question when the cobbler was 
brought to him. 

"That depends on circumstances, 
your majesty." 

"A clever answer/' said the king 
with a smile, "such as I never hear 


more than once or twice in an entire 

" Whatever your majesty may choose 
to confide to me, I should, of course, 
guard in perfect silence," continued the 

"I am convinced that I may trust 
you, Cobbler. Do you know what con- 
science is?" 

"Well, I fancy I have some idea of it." 

"■ Good ! Then I will make that idea 
plainer," and the monarch sighed. 
" Try and picture the feelings of a 
man who, in order to succeed to a 
large estate, contrived to get his own 
brother's son murdered. Then he is 
tormented night and day with the 


fear that, after all, the boy was not 
killed but only hidden. Therefore he 
may appear any day and cover his 
enemy with shame." 

" Would it not be well for such a 
miserable man to ease his conscience 
by resigning the ill-gotten property 
willingly?" asked the cobbler. 

At those words the king sprang from 
his seat and embraced his new friend. 

" You are a good and sensible man," 
he cried, " and from this day you shall 
be a prince." 

The cobbler laughed. 

" Princes do not make boots and 
shoes," he replied, " and that is what 
I am here to do." 


But the king insisted, and so the 
cobbler was raised to the dignity of a 
prince, somewhat to the vexation of 
the court, although it must be con- 
fessed that his majesty became far 
more amiable under the cobbler's in- 

His conscience, however, was not at 
rest; he wished to have absolute cer- 
tainty as to whether the nephew, whose 
place he had usurped, was alive or dead; 
he was for ever discussing all this with 
the cobbler-prince. 

" I think I have hit on a plan, your 
majesty,'' said the prince one day. "My 
mother is on the best of terms with 
the useful little Kobolds. I think she 


might get them to speak to the elf- 
king, and he would know what you 
should do in this mattero" 

A day or two later, the old woman 
brought the elf-king's answer to the 
palace. It was written on a sheet of 
paper, and read thus: 

The king must go forth as a wandering 
beggar for the space of four entire days. 
During this time the newly-made prince 
is to reign in his place. 

His majesty looked doubtfully at the 
words; he might perhaps have refused 
to believe that they came from the 
elf-king, but while he hesitated a ter- 
rific thunder-storm arose and, amidst 

(M289) A3 


thunder and lightning, there came a 
wind which shook the palace to its 
very foundations, and he was so fright- 
ened that he swooned away. 

When the king came to himself he 
was in a forest, and quite alone. It was 
night too, and very dark and cold, and 
he felt hungry and thirsty. However, 
as the moon began to shine through 
the trees, the dethroned king took 
courage and set about making his way 
forward, for he remembered that he 
was to wander during four days. 

Presently something hard fell from 
a tree, striking him on the head before 
it rolled to his feet. Picking it up, he 
saw that it was an apple — -just a com- 


mon apple which, in his palace, he 
would have scorned to touch, but 
which he now thought delicious! 

By and by the sun began to rise 
and tinge the horizon with mingled 
red and gold. In his days of grandeur 
the king had lain late in his soft warm 
bed ; the birth of a new morning, there- 
fore, was a novel sight, the beauty of 
which moved him to tears. How many 
of the simple pleasures of the poor he 
had ignored! 

On he walked, until the forest gave 
place to a great stretch of moorland. 
Here, under the heat of a burning sun, 
the wanderer became so thirsty that 
his tongue clave to the roof of his 


mouth; but, stumbling over a briar, 
lie fell to the ground and so discovered 
a delicious little bubbling stream, 
whereat he refreshed himself It was 
the first time since his early childhood 
that he had tasted simple water; he 
began to feel as though the happy 
days of youth were coming back again. 

Making his way towards the moun- 
tains, the king fell in with a dwarf 
who began mocking at him. 

"Ah! cousin king," he cried, from 
the rock upon which he had perched 
himself, '' so your wicked deeds have 
driven you from your throne!" 

In other circumstances the king 
would have answered him angrily, but 


he now bore the taunt meekly, feeling 
that he deserved it. Answering not a 
word, he wandered on until, as night 
approached, he grew so tired that he 
lay down on the grass and there fell 
into a heavy slumber. 

When the moon shone out she began 
to whisper in his ear, like a talkative 
old woman. 

" What are you seeking the heir to 
your throne for?" she asked. ''Why, 
he is in your palace, and filling your 
place during your rambles! Look at 
his left ear, and you will recognize a 
mark which you knew well on the ear 
of your nephew. Don't you remember, 
too, that the gardener was told to 


drown him, and went down to the 
wharf to do the deed, but never came 
back? The boy was saved, I tell you, 
and he has returned to you in the guise 
of a cobbler." 

But at this point the sun rose up 
and chased the chattering moon away 
behind the clouds, so the king could 
ask her no questions. What she had 
told, however, made him resolve to get 
back to the palace and see if her 
words had any truth in them. Should 
the cobbler-prince be indeed his own 
nephew, the evil done him should be 
immediately repaired. 

After losing his way more times than 
I can tell you, the king reached the 


palace about midnight, after an absence 
of five days. Even at that hour he 
found the prince at the door of the 
throne-room, with the sceptre in his 
hand ready to return it. 

By a hasty movement the king caught 
hold of the young man's head, exam- 
ined his left ear, and folding him in his 
arms, declared him to be his own 
nephew, and begged for his pardon. 

Uncle and nephew determined not to 
tell all the circumstances to the gossips 
of the court and the city. It was 
enough for them to know that by a 
four days' trial the young man had 
proved his ability to rule over a people, 
and from henceforth he was to be called 


the Crown Prince and in due time in- 
herit the throne. 

There is nothing more to tell, except 
that the old mother declared that the 
gardener had brought her the child 
and made her promise to consider him 
her very own. She did not know that 
he was really a prince, and she blamed 
herself for being so stupid as not to 
guess it. 

With conscience at ease, and a great 
wrong set right, the king became happy 
himself and a model of goodness to his 
people. So runs the story, and it is a 
fact that the old parchments, on which 
are written the history of Norway long 
and long ago, speak of the prosperous 


reign of a great and good monarch who 
— for some unexplained reason — was 
called The Cobbler- King. 


THE corner of Holland which touches 
Belgium, and is called Zeeland, is 
a part very little known to visitors, 
and so — even in the present day — it 
keeps to many of its primitive habits 
and customs. 

It is there you must go if you want 
to find the quiet little town of Sluis — 
the native town of the lad whom I 
have called ''Dutch Jantje"; but he 
lived as long ago as the year 1606, 
when the place had just shaken off the 
much-hated rule of the Spaniards. 


Master Willems was by trade a 
clockmaker, and it was also his busi- 
ness to ring the bells of the town-hall. 
His father and his grandfather had 
done it before him; he hoped that his 
son would succeed to the duty after his 
father was dead, or too old to clamber 
up into the belfry. 

This son had been baptized Jean, 
but to his family and friends he was 
always "Jantje". He was a gentle, 
kindly boy, slight and small and with 
blue eyes and light, curling hair which 
gave him the appearance of being less 
than his age. His favourite companion 
was his sister Gretchen, and one of 
her most intimate friends — by name 


Betkine — often shared their amuse- 

One thing which he did particularly 
well was to beat the big drum in the 
band of the tow^n volunteers. 

One love filled his heart — the love of 
his country. But this did not prevent 
Jantje being fondly attached to his 
father, to Gretchen, and to the memory 
of the mother who died in his very early 
childhood. And by and by, when they 
w^ere both old enough, he hoped to 
marry Betkine. 

One evening in June, after a very warm 
and somewhat stormy day, Jantje was 
lingering near the eastern gate of the 
town, from which there was a view over 


miles of the flat country. In the distance 
he could just hear the murmurof the sea. 

Presently Betkine joined him; Bet- 
kine, who was always so gay, so joyous, 
and who now hung her head as though 
something troubled and distressed her. 

"Oh, Jantje, I feel so miserable!" 
she exclaimed. ''But I don't know if I 
dare reveal to you the secret.'' 

" You may safely trust me, and per- 
haps I can help you, Betkine." 

" Well, this is what I am troubled 
about," said the young girl. " Yester- 
day, just at dusk, I went to see my 
aunt who is ill, and I stayed to watch 
by her through the night. In the 
silence I was roused by hearing voices 


just under the window, and I knew 
that the two Spaniards — whom many 
people dislike and mistrust — were 
there. I thought it well to listen, for 
I could not help fearing that they were 
plotting evil against our town. 

" ' Pedro,' said one, 'what news have 
you? When is the blow to be struck?' 

" ' Very soon/ was the reply, ' I have 
sent word of the bad condition of the 
east gate. It will be easy to force an 
entrance there. To-morrow I expect to 
receive final orders, and also half the 
sum promised to us for acting as spies.' 

*' I heard no more, Jantje, for at that 
moment some step sounded in the 
street and the traitors separated. But 


was not that enough to make me 
wretched ? I could not sleep for think- 
ing of the danger which threatens us." 

She burst into tears, and Jantje did 
not seem to find any words with which 
to comfort her. 

" See, the moon is rising/' continued 
Betkine, as she wiped her eyes. " Who 
can say what may happen before the 

" But the men are not to receive 
their last orders till to-night, you say," 
exclaimed Jantje. " Nothing could be 
attempted before to-morrow, and I am 
trying to think what we can do." 

''Oh, do think of something!" cried 
Betkine. "Save our town from its 


enemies. We ought always to have 
mistrusted these Spaniards who pro- 
fessed to stay here as friends." 

While the two young people talked 
together, two men were examining the 
moat which surrounded the town and 
also the shaky condition of the east 

At daybreak on the following morn- 
ing, Jantje went up into the granary 
where he kept some pigeons, and lifting 
a white bird from the nest where it 
guarded its young, he concealed it 
in his jacket and went through the 
town and out beyond its gates. 

Towards evening the pigeon flew 
back to its nest as Jantje knew it 


would, and under its wing it brought 
the answer to a few words he had sent 
away in the same fashion. 

The attack will he made in the night 
between the 12th aiid 13th June. As two 
o'clock chimes in the belfry a pretended 
attack will be Tnade 07i the south gate, 
just to draw off the attention of the towns- 
people while our soldiers enter by the 
east gate. 

Jantje kept his secret to himself; he 
had his plans, which could best be 
carried out alone. 

About supper-time that evening he 
turned to his father. 

'' You are getting on in years, 


Father/' he said, ''and 1 think you 
ought to let me do the bell-ringing. 
The stones are cold to your feet, and 
I fancy you get your rheumatism from 
the wind in the tower. Let me begin 
now, while it is summer, so that when 
winter comes I may be quite expert, 
and you can sit by your chimney 
corner, and listen while I ring." 

" All that sounds well enough, 
Jantje," laughed old Willems. ''But 
when you are amusing yourself at the 
fair, you will forget how the hours are 
passing, and then all Sluis will be 
grumbling at their bell-ringer. Why, 
the owls in the turret, if they could 
speak, would tell you that during the 


fifty years I have held the post, I have 
never once been late." 

" I promise to be as punctual as you 
have been. Not even Betkine shall 
keep me from my duty. I will ring the 
curfew-bell as faithfully as you have 

" Well, well, if you have made up 
your mind, you may try it for a night 
or two." 

For three evenings — the evenings 
which intervened between that day and 
the 12th of June, concerning which 
Jantje had received such alarming 
news, — he rang the curfew or "retreat" 
at nine o'clock. 

That 12th of June was the Sunday of 


the annual fair at Sluis; a general 
festivity according to the custom of the 
country. Towards nine o'clock Jantje 
begged his father to let him go to the 
belfry, as he had acquitted himself so 
well the three previous evenings. 

The old man being tired was not at 
all unwilling to give up the keys. Jantje 
exchanged a glance with his sister and 
Betkine, who had now learned his 
secret plans. Then, covering himself 
with the old man's hooded mantle, and 
taking a dark lantern in his hand, he 
ran to the place where he kept his 
drum, and having set it down beside 
the half-opened door of the cottage, was 
off as fast as his feet would carry him 


to the town-hall. He soon mounted 
the long flight of stone steps, which 
led to the belfry. 

Old Willems, leaning on hisdaughter's 
arm, and with Betkine on his other 
side, was soon nodding complacently to 
the familiar air which the bells rang 
out, to say that the hour of rest for the 
town of Sluis had come again. 

Near to the east gate of the town 
you may still see the ruins of what 
was once a double drawbridge. This 
bridge led from the town to the marsh 
land called the. Polders. The guard- 
house which once stood there had been 
accidentally destroyed by fire, and the 
town authorities had never rebuilt it. 


That part of Sluis was not looked 
upon as dangerous, if attacked, for the 
stretch of marsh hxnd seemed protection 
enough from all enemies. Even the 
rampart at that side was a pleasant 
slope for a walk, rather than a means 
of defence. 

All this, then, had been made 
known to the commander of the Span- 
ish troops Avhich held Flanders. The 
two men who remained in Sluis after 
it was free (pretending to be friendly 
with the Dutch) were only spies, whose 
business it was to help their own people 
to reconquer the town. 

An army of 3700 men, therefore, 
were sent through the marsh land, and 


arrived unnoticed at a little village 
near to Sluis. After a brief halt, a 
small number went to make a pre- 
tended attack on the south gate, while 
the rest directed their steps towards 
the east gate, which — as we have seen 
— was quite unprotected. 

The commander knew the habits of 
the people, and felt perfectly sure that 
they would all have been to the fair, 
and consequently w^ould be weary and 

The plan was a clever one; the 
chosen hour was one that promised 
success; the night was calm, and the 
little town seemed silent as the grave ; 
but the strangest thing of all was that 


the bells which chimed the hours were 
silent, and no one noticed it. No one 
of the townspeople I should say, for of 
course the enemy waited for the chim- 
ing of two o'clock, which was to be the 
signal for commencing the attack. 

At last the commander of the troops 
began to suspect treason; he sent for 
the two spies and questioned them 
closely. They declared that all was 
well ; that the people of Sluis suspected 
nothing; was not the deep silence of 
the town a proof of it? 

Again an hour or so of anxious 
waiting, still no sound from the bel- 
fry. Then the light in the east told 
that day would soon be breaking. 


There was not a moment to lose, un- 
less, indeed, the attack was put off to 
some future time. Three soldiers waded 
through the swamp to the moat, and 
blew down the drawbridge with gun- 
powder. The two bridges fell with a 
tremendous ci-ash, and the army entered 
the town without difficulty. A mere 
handful of brave men rushed towards 
the east gate to defend their town ; when 
at that moment a drum beat out the 
national airs of France, of England, and 
of Holland. This was Jantje's doing, 
for he wanted to make the Spaniards 
believe that the allied armies were 
already within the town, ready to resist 
them. And they did think so; and, 


seized with a panic, began to beat a 
confused retreat, pursued by the men 
of Skiis, who pelted them with sticks, 
stones, and everything that could be 
laid hands on. 

By that time the governor of the 
town arrived, with the troops which 
were stationed there; the bloodshed 
was terrible, and among the first to fall 
were the two Spanish spies. Victory 
was with the Dutchmen ; the town was 
their own still. 

And to whom was the glory of saving 
his native place due, do you think ? To 
brave Jantje, a boy eighteen years old. 

When he went up into the tower that 
Sunday night, to ring the curfew, he 


took the opportunity of stopping the 
town clock. That accounted for no one 
knowing the hour, and for the utter 
.silence of the town. 

Then, he availed himself of his skill 
as a drummer, to execute the national 
airs of the three countries, so that the 
enemy might believe the town to be 
well protected by the allies. Who 
would have supposed that a quiet, 
simple boy could have thought of so 
clever a plan for the saving of Sluis ! 

A public thanksgiving service was 
held in the church, by command of the 
governor, and not a man, woman, or 
child in the town was absent. 

After the church meeting, there 


was a general gathering in the town- 
hall, of which Jantje — blushing and 
smiling — was the hero. 

"My lad/' said the mayor, "you have 
saved Sluis, and your name will be re- 
membered with gratitude, so long as the 
town exists, as that of a patriot devoted 
to his country. But we wish to give 
you some present proof of our love and 
esteem. What would please you best? 
Ask anything you like ; there is no fear 
that it will be considered too much." 

" I do not deserve anything,'' said 
Jantje. " I was fortunate in finding 
out a secret, but after that I only did a 

However, the mayor insisted that 


the lad should specify something which 
his native town might do, by way of 
thanking him for his devotion. 

" If you really think I deserve so 
great a favour/' said Jantje, after a 
moment of hesitation, ''I should like to 
be allowed to ring the hours in the bel- 
fry, as long as the tower stands/' 

The mayor laughed. "My dear fellow," 
he said, "how can I manage that? 
It is true that you are young, and that 
you may live to be very old, but I 
imagine our belfry tower will stand for 
some hundreds of years, and I possess 
no power to make you live so long." 

''Oh, I did not think that I — in 
actual flesh and blood — could strike 


the hours for ever!" and Jantje laughed 
too. ''But I want a figure made like 
me to do it. I have heard that there 
are skilled workmen who make clocks 
which are worked by the figures of 
men. So it would be easy to construct 
a clock with a figure like me to strike 
each hour." 

" Certainly it shall be done, and 
speedily," said the mayor; " in that way 
our brave Jantje will live for centuries." 

One year afterwards, the new clock 
adorned the belfry tower, and a figure 
— to which the maker had managed to 
give the features of Jantje — struck out 
each hour. 

The young hero took over the duties 


of bell-ringer from his father, and in 
due time became the husband of 
Betkine, and the father of many chil- 
dren. He left off keeping- pigeons, with 
the exception of the white one, which 
had carried the written secret under 
her wing. He taught her and her young 
ones to perch near his statue, by 
scattering grain there each day. So a 
new colony of birds took possession of 
the tower, and their descendants still 
flutter round the image of Jantje. 

Long centuries have passed since the 
boy saved his town, but if you went 
to-day to visit quiet little Sluis, you 
would see his figure on the high tower 
of the town-hall. 


The hours of day, the hours of night; 
the hours of joy and of sorrow; of birth 
and of death; all these are still struck 
by Jantje, according to his desire. 

And so his memory lives for ever.