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all day, and am very tired. If you would let me sit down awhile -and-perhaps it wouldn't be given you too much trouble to ask for a cup of tea, for my head aches rather.”
“Come in, sir,” she said, in a tone of the truest hospitality. " That I will with pleasure, I'm sure.”
Thomas followed her into a dingy back room, where she made him lie down on a sosa from which he would have recoiled three days ago, but for which he was very grateful now. She then bustled about to get some tea, and various little delicacies besides, in the shape of ham and shrimps, &c., &c. It was pretty clear from her look and the way she pressed her offering of gratitude, that she had a true regard for inward comforts, if not for those outward luxuries of neatness and cleanliness.
The moment Thomas was out of the shop, Jim Salter began to be more communicative with Mr. Potts.
“None the worse! said he?” demanded he, reflectively. “Oh, no. That's the way your true blue takes the loss of a few banknotes. Nothing but a hundred pounds the worse. Oh ! no.”
“You don't mean it?" said Mr. Potts, making his eyes as round as two sixpences.
“Well, to be sure,” said Salter, "I can't take my davy on it, 'cause as how I've only his word for it. But he don't look like a cony-catcher, do he ? He's a deal too green for that, I can tell you. Well, he is green!” repeated Jim, bursting into a quiet chuckle. "I don't mean he's a fool neither. There's a vasty heap o difference between a leek in yer eye, and a turnip in yer brain-box. Ain't there now, gov'nor ? ”
“ You don't mean it ?" said Mr. Potts, staring more than ever. “What don't I mean, Mr. Potts ?”
“ You don't mean that that 'ere chap-? What do you mean about them hundred pounds ?"
“Now, I'll tell 'ee, gov'nor. It's a great pleasure to me to find I can tell a story so well.”
“There you are-off again, no mortal man can tell to where You 'ain't told me no story yet.”
“'Ain't I? How come it then, gov'nor, that I ha' made you forget your usual ’ospitable manners? If I hadn't ha' been telling you a story, you'd have I know you'd ha' asked me to put a name upon something long ago."
Mr. Potts laughed, and saying, “I beg yer pardon, Mr. Salter, though I'm sure don't remember ever meetin of you afore, only that's no consequence : the best o’ friends must meet sometime for the first time,' turned his face to the shelf as he had done before, and after a lit le hesitation, seemed to conclude that it would be politic to take down the same bottle. Jim tossed off the half of his glassful, and setting the rest on the counter, began his story, Whether he wished to represent himself as Thomas's confidant, or,
having come to his conclusions to the best of his ability, believed himself justified in representing them as the facts of the case, it is not necessary to inquire : the account he gave of Thomas's position was this : That when Thomas went overboard after little Bessie, he had in the breast of his coat a pocket-book, with a hundred pounds of his master's in it; that he dared not go home without it ; that the police were after him; and, in short, that he was in a terrible fix. Mr. Potts listened with a general stare, and made no reply.
* You'll give him a bed to-night, won't you, gov'nor? I'll come back in the morning and see what can be done for him."
Jim finished his glass of brandy as if it had been only the last drops, and set it on the counter with a world of suggestion in the motion, to which Mr. Potts mechanically replied by tilling it again, saying as he did so, in a voice a little huskier than usual,- All right. Jim tossed off the brandy, smacked his lips, said " Thank you, and good night,” and went out of the beershop. Mr. Potts stood for five minutes motionless, then went slowly to the door of the back-parlour, and called his wife. Leaving Thomas to finish his meal by himself, Mrs. Potts joined her husband, and they had a talk together. He told her what Jim had just communicated to him, and they held a consultation, the first result of which was that Mrs. Potts proceeded to get a room, the best she could offer, ready for Thomas. He accepted her hospitality with gratitude, and was glad to go to bed.
Meantime, leaving his wife to attend to the thirst of the public, Mr. Potts set out to find his brother-in-law, the captain of a collier trading between Newcastle and London, who was at the moment in the neighbourhood, but whose vessel was taking in ballast somewhere down the river. He came upon him where he had expected to find him, and told him the whole story.
The next morning, when Thomas, more miserable than ever, after rather a sleepless night, came down-stairs early, he found his breakfast waiting for him, but not his breakfast only : a huge sea. faring man, with short neck and square shoulders, dressed in a blue pilot-coat, was seated in the room. He rose when Thomas entered, and greeted him with a bow made up of kindness and patronage. Mrs. Potts came in the same moment.
“ This is my brother, Captain Smith, of the Raven,'” she said, come to thank you, sir, for what you did for his little pet, Bessie." “Well, I donnow," said the captain, with a gruff breeziness of
“I came to ask the gentleman if, bein' on the loose, he wouldn't like a trip to Newcastle, and share my little cabin with me."
It was the first glimmer of gladness that had lightened Thomas's horizon for what seemed to him an age.
" Thank you, thank you !" he said : “it is the very thing for me."
And as he spoke, the awful London wilderness vanished, and open sea and sky filled the world of his imaginings,
"When do you sail ?” he asked.
"To-night, I hope, with the ebb," said the captain ; " but you'd better come with me as soon as you've had your breakfast, and we'll go on board at once. You needn't mind about your chest. You can rough it a little, I daresay. I can lend you a jersey, that'll do better than your 'long-shore togs."
Thomas applied himself to his breakfast with vigour. Hope even made him hungry. How true it is that we live by hope ! Before he had swallowed his last mouthful, he started from his seat.
“ You needn't be in such a hurry," said the captain. “There's plenty of time. Stow your prog."
"l'have quite done. But I must see Mr. Potts for a minute."
He went to the bar, and finding that Jim had not yet made his appearance, asked the landlord to change him a sovereign, and give half to Jim. “It's too much,said Mr. Potts. “I promised him a day's wages."
“Five shillings is over enough, besides the brandy I give him last night. He don't make five shillings every day.”
Thomas, however, to the list of whose faults stinginess could not be added, insisted on Jim's having the half sovereign, for he felt that he owed him far more than that.
In pulling out the small remains of his money, wondering if he could manage to buy a jersey for himself before starting, he brought out with it two bits of pasteboard, the sight of which shot a pang to his heart : they were the pawn-tickets for his watch and Lucy's ring, which he had bought back from the holder on that same terrible night on which he had lost almost everything worth having. It was well he had only thrust them into the pocket of his trowsers, instead of putting them into his pocket-book. They had stuck to the pocket and been dried with it, had got loose during the next day, and now came to light, reminding him of his utter meanness, not to say dishonesty, in parting with the girl's ring that he might follow his cursed play. The gleam of gladness which the hope of escaping from London gave him had awaked his conscience more fully, and he felt the despicableness of his conduct as he had never felt it before. How could he have done it? The ring to wear which he had been proud because it was not his own, but Lucy's, he had actually exposed to the contamination of vile hands -had actually sent from her pure lovely person into the pocket of a foul-talker, and thence to a pawnbroker's shop. He could have torn himself to pieces at the thought. And now that she was lost to him for ever, was he to rob her of her mother's jewel as well? He must get it again. But if he went after it now, even if he had the money
to redeem it, he might run into the arms of the searching Law, and he and it too would be gone. But he had not the money. The cold dew broke out on his face as he stood beside the pump-handles of the beer-shop. But Mr. Potts had been watching him for some time. He knew the look of those tickets, and dull as his brain was, with a dulness that was cousin to his red nose, he divined at once that Thomas's painful contemplation had to do with some effects of which those tickets were the representatives. He laid his hand on Thomas's shoulder from behind. Thomas gave a great start.
“I beg your pardon for frightening of you, sir," said Mr. Potts ; " but I believe a long experience in them things makes me able to give you good advice.”
“What things ?” asked Thomas.
“Them things," repeated Potts, putting a fat forefinger first on the one and then on the other pawn-ticket. “ 'Twasn't me, nor yet Bessie. It's long since I was at my uncle's. All I had to do there was a gettin' of 'em down the spout. I never sent much up it : my first wife, Joan—not Bessie, bless her! Now I ain't no witch, but I can see with 'alf a heye that you've got summat at your uncle's you don't like to leave there, when you're a goin' a voyagin' to the ends o' the earth. Have you got the money as well as the tickets ?"
“ Oh dear no !” answered Thomas, almost crying.
“Come now," said Potts, kindly, “sweep out the chimley. It's no use missing the crooks and corners, and having to send a boy up after all. Sweep it out. Tell me all about it, and I'll see what I can do--or can't do, it may be."
Thomas told him that the tickets were for a watch-a gold watch, with compensation balance-and a diamond ring. He didn't care about the watch; but he would give his life to get the ring again.
“Let me look at the tickets. How much did you get on 'em, separate ?"
Thomas said he did not know, but gave him the tickets to examine.
Potts looked at them. “You don't care so much for the watch ?” he said.
“No, I don't," answered Thomas; "though my mother did give it me,” he added, ruefully.
Why don't you offer 'em both of the tickets for the ring, then ?" said Potts.
“ What ?" said Thomas. “I don't see"
"You give 'em to me," returned Potts. Here, Bessie !-- You go in and have a chat with the captain.--I'm going out, Bessie, for an hour. Tell the captain not to go till I come back.”
So saying Potts removed his white apron, put on a black frock coat and hat, and went out, taking the tickets with him.
Mrs. Potts brought a tumbler of grog for her brother, and he sat sipping it. Thomas refused to join him ; for he reaped this good from his sensitive organization, that since the night on which it had helped to ruin him, he could scarcely endure even the smell of strong drink. It was rather more than an hour before Mr. Potts returned, during which time Thomas had been very restless and anxious. But at last his host walked into the back room, laid a small screw of paper before him, and said
" There's your ring, sir. You won't want your watch this voyage. I've got it, though; but I'm forced to keep it, in case I should be behind with my rent. Any time you look in, I shall have it, or know where it is."
Thomas did what he could to express his gratitude, and took the ring with a wonderful feeling of relief. It seemed like a pledge of further deliverance. He begged Mr. Potts to do what he pleased with the watch; he didn't care if he never saw it again ; and hoped it would be worth more to him than what it had cost him to redeem them both. Then, after many kind farewells, he took his leave with the captain of the “Raven.” As they walked along, he could not help looking round every few yards; but after his new friend had taken him to a shop, where he bought a blue jersey and a glazed hat, and tied his coat up in a handkerchief, his sole bundle of luggage, he felt more comfortable. In a couple of hours he was on board the “ Raven,” a collier brig of between two and three hundred tons. They set sail the same evening ; but not till they reached the Nore did Thomas begin to feel safe from pursuit.
The captain seemed a good deal occupied with his own thoughts, and there were few things they understood in common, so that Thomas was left mostly to his own company ; which, though far from agreeable, was no doubt the very best for him under the circumstances. For it was his real self that he looked in the face the self that told him what he was, showed him whence he had fallen, what he had lost, how he had hitherto been wasting his life, and how his carelessness had at length thrown him over a precipice up which he could not climb--there was no foothold upon it. But this was not all : he began to see not only his faults, but the weakness of his character, the refusal to combat which had brought him to this pass. His behaviour to Lucy was the bitterest thought of all. She looked ten times more lovely to him now that he had lost her That she should despise him was terrible-even more terrible the likelihood that she would turn the rich love of her strong heart upon some one else. How she had entreated him to do her justice ! And he saw now that she had done so even more for his sake than for her own. He had not yet any true idea of what Lucy was worth. He did not know how she had grown since the time when, with all a girl's inexperience, she had first listened to his protestations. While he had been going down the hill, she had been going