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reminiscences of the wharves and dock-yards; coils of old rope, broken mast-heads, staves of worn-out casks, and dilapidated figures, that had once piloted the way over the great deeps, lay scattered about; and on a clumsy sign, swinging heavily in a frame, was inscribed “The Jolly Sailors." Before reaching this place of his destination, Laithwaye's progress was delayed by many a cordial greeting on the Surrey side of the water. Veteran tars, in greasy jackets and glazed hats, brought up suddenly before, or hailed him from a distance. Younger men, boys, and sometimes women, recognized him alternately, with a heartiness of welcome that proclaimed him to be a general favourite. For each and all he had a kind word, or a quaint piece of wit, the point of which was not perceptible to two or three, until he had passed to some distance, when they sent after him loud shouts of laughter, intermixed with the assertion that they would be even with him. Laithwaye's very comely face was radiant with his habitual good humour; for notwithstanding the multiplicity of his engagements, and the pre-occupation of his thoughts, he did not look upon all this as an interruption, having a method of his own which prevented his ever being in a hurry. “ Fair and softly,” he would say.to himself, under an extraordinary press of circumstances; "fair and softly; all in good time.” And in good time, Laithwaye coutrived to do most things, never allowing one matter to retard the progress of another, by neg. lecting it at the proper moment-a plan which materially tended to preserve, if it did not spring out of, his great equanimity of temper. Entering at length the low door of the inn, Laithwaye called out at the top of his voice, “Hol jolly sailors, aboy!'
“What mischief brings you bere?” asked the landlord, a taciturn, but good-natured personage, as broad as long, who appeared at the door of the common room, with a pipe in his mouth.
“None in particular," answered Laithwaye, following the host into the room, where he found half-a-dozen sailors and others; “ where's the old admiral ?”
“Don't know," said the landlord, with a short, apoplectic hiccup.
“ Has he been here to-day ?” "No."
“I'll tell you what,” exclaimed one of the sailors; “it's just this here, about that old admiral of ourn: he hasn't been hisself never since he was laid up with the fever at Deptford. He's just been far enough on his road to the other world to addle his head, and he'll do no more good in this here, it's my belief."
"All hurubug,” said the landlord, with an impatient twist of
“It's easy to talk,” retorted the sailor, “but these here are facts. There wasn't a jollier old fellow in the skipper service afore this happened; and now look at hiro; he spends most of his time ashore, like a landlubber, or cruises about where he's no business ; and he cares no more for his grog than I do for new milk. That's what I call a change."
“You may stop there," said the host ; "yonder he comes."
“True to his word, yet, you see,” remarked Laithwaye; “he promised to meet me, and here he is."
The sailor only shook his head, in signification that all was not right.
Lancelot Errington, the Newcastle skipper, or the old admiral, as he was familiarly called amongst the craft, was a square-built, weather-beaten man of about sixty. Evidences of recent illness lingered about him, his tanned face wore an unwholesome, mottled appearance, the skin hung loosely about his neck, and his clothes were unquestionably much too large for him.
“Well, shipmates, what cheer?” he asked, glancing around, and seating himself on a settle.
“All right,” answered the host, puffing more vehemently, as he gazed on the new comer.
"Why, that's well. Laithwaye, my boy,” slapping the latter on his back, as he spoke, "you're a Briton. Here, Susan, bring me a can of grog.”
The landlord winked at the company.
“Here's wishing us all luck," said the skipper, tossing off a portion of his grog. When this sentiment had been responded to, and a little more conversation had passed, Lancelot Errington arose from his seat.
“Pleasure is pleasure, and business is business," he remarked. "I came on purpose to talk over affairs with this here young friend of mine,” pointing to Laithwaye, “and present time won't serve for all purposes at once. Jack, you'll stop where you are till further orders.” The concluding portion of this speech was addressed to the sailor who had spoken previous to the entrance of the skipper.
“ He'll do yet for the world at "The Jolly Sailors,'” said the landlord, as Errington and Laithwaye left the room.
Calling for pipes and another can of grog, the skipper led the way to an upper room, opening upon the gallery before mentioned. Having seen to the fastening of the door, he seated himself opposite Laithwaye, whom he requested to proceed to business.
“In the first place," said the latter, “will you be ready for the eighth?"
“ Because the caged birds yonder take to flight on that day, and the marriage is settled for the tenth.”
“And this is the second,” said the skipper, deliberately laying down his pipe, and passing his fingers through his grizzled, curly hair. “Laithwaye, my boy, I've conducted many a hazardous enterprise myself, and never failed, except through the rascally backwardness of others; and I do most religiously believe that your skill and courage, backed by my experience, may accomplish anything.”
“Anything," said Laithwaye.
“And I feel as sure of these birds of yours as if they were already in my hand, instead of being, as they are, still in the bush."
“ That's right.”
“This here being the case, we'll just leave that matter, and turn to another. I don't feel quite so certain about this Mister—what's his name?
“Well, I don't feel so certain about him, because success mainly depends upon his own movements.”
“No fear on his account,” answered Laithwaye; “only you be ready, and leave him to me—all will be right.
" Very well, my boy, and once in my clutches, he shall bide his time to get out of them, I promise you. I'll keep him safe to the other side of eternity, if need be, or my name's not Lancelot Errington."
“I would not trust him to less safe custody for half the globe," replied Laithwaye.
“Aye, here's the comfort of knowing one another," said the skipper. “It saves time, and prevents the ship getting becalmed, when we can always command a breeze from some certain quarter. I never knew you to fail me yet, my boy, and don't think I ever shall.”
“You are a good soul, admiral, and have stuck by me through thick and thin, and I am ashamed to hear you talk as if all the obligation hadn't been on my side."
“No more it arn’t," said the skipper, sturdily. “It's been a great thing for a lone man like me to have something to look up to, and depend upon, and care about; and talking of this here reminds me of the time when I was laid up with the sickness at Deptford.” Pausing at this point, the honest skipper fidgetted in his chair, and the practised eye of his young friend saw that he was unusually moved by something to which he could not well give expression.
"I could hardly forgive you for not sending me word,” said Laithwaye; “ for though I was in France at the time, I should have come over to you at once.”
“Don't doubt it, my boy. But you see it's this here: I had put up at the house of Christie Fraser, the shipwright, and for a whole week after I was taken ill, I was quite lost. I noticed nothing about me except a face I saw now and then, so like an angel's, that I thought I was in heaven. When I began to get well, I knew I must have given a sight of trouble, especially to the owner of the beautiful face, that I found to be a young woman-a gentle, tender-hearted creature and I said as much ; but she stopped my parlaver, and brought the tears into my eyes, by telling me how glad she was to see me well again. Sickness softens a man's heart mightily, and I often thought, as she waited on me like a daughter, what a pleasure it would have been to have had one of my own. And amongst other matters, I began to consider that it was likely enough you would be taking to yourself a wife some of these days, and that although you had never opened your mind to me, you might have one in your eye already.”
“My eye is free from any such encumbrance, I assure you,” said Laithwaye, laughing heartily.
“Well, that's right; you've plenty of time afore you. What I was going to say is this : that there young woman, with her beauty, and her sweet temper, and her handiness about a house, would be a treasure to any man; and if—if"
“ If there's no objection on my part, I suppose, you would recommend her to me," observed Laithwaye, again laughing. “That's just it, my boy, and I'm glad I've got it out."
Why, you see," continued Laithwaye, “marriage is a very serious affair, that I haven't yet had time to think about. I've always had my hands pretty full of business for some one or another, if not for myself.”
“ That's just it,” said the skipper; "you forget yourself, in your care for other people, and it's only right that some one should think of you. Now, without your being troubled at all in this matter, I could pretty near manage it for you myself.”
“Well, but stop, admiral," cried Laithwaye, getting somewhat alarmed : “a wife for me, just now, is quite out of the question. In the first place, I have something to do to keep myself.”
“ Don't let that there be a hinderance: I've been saving for the last twenty years, in spite of myself—for I never tried to do it-and don't you know that, what I have is at your service, or do you think I'm going to turn out a humbug after all ?”
“ You're a generous soul, admiral,” said Laithwaye, much
moved, “but I must not allow you to spoil me at this rate : I am young and strong, and ought to work out my fortunes myself."
“Do you mean to cut yourself clean away from me?" asked the skipper, flourishing his pipe.
“No; I should be the greatest loser by that. But this young woman, may she not be already disposed of in another
« Not at all; I made sure of that. I learned a bit of her story from Christie and his wife. They said she came to them in an odd manner one cold, dark night, last winter, when they ived somewhere in the Borough, and just before they went to Deptford. She was ill at the time, but Christie's wife knew her when she was a child, and they took her in; and ever since then, they say she's been the thankfullest, and humblest, and most industrious creature the sun ever shone on. She's no burden on them, not she; she earns her own living, and more than that, at some sort of needlework, that they say pays well. She's no sweetheart, I know; for I joked her about it; and Christie's wife beckoned me aside, and told me not to do that again, for the girl was not one to think of such matters, and she'd been well brought up, and would not like it.”
“Stop a bit !”,cried Laithwaye; "what is the woman's christian name-I mean Christie's wife ?"
“ Sarah is her name.”
“ Then as sure as you're alive, I know both of them! Ah,” continued Laithwaye, with a deep respiration, “how oddly things come about! Hasn't this girl bright, sunny, curling hair; eyes of a deeper blue than any sky that ever shone above us; lips as red as a cherry; and—and, in short, is not she quite an angel to look at, as you said just now ?”
“That's it, my boy,” said the skipper, striking the table heavily with his hand.
“Then I do know her,”? continued Laithwaye, “that is, I did know her some years ago ; and I'm better pleased at discovering her just now, than I can tell you."
“That's your sort !” exclaimed the skipper ; “the deuce is in it, if I can't strike the right nail on the head sometimes. Why I said from the first—from the first I saw of her—that's the very wife for Laithwaye Oates! And so you've known one another all along? Just sing out for another can of grog, will you.” Having obeyed this order, Laithwaye resumed. “When I first saw her, admiral, she was a child ; and I've only seen her two or three times since then, and that not of late years. You are returning to Deptford, and of course will see her to-day ?"