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for ever with card-playing. The sight of a pack would turn me sick, I do believe.”
"Sorry for you, gov'nor. I know a fellow, though, that makes a good thing of the thimble.
“ I've no turn for tailoring, I'm afraid."
“Beggin' your spardon, gov'nor, but you are a muff! You never thought I meant a gentleman like you to take to a beastly trade like that? I meant the thimble and peas, you know, at fairs, and such like. It's all fair, you know. You tell 'em they don't know where the pea is, and they don't. I know a friend o' mine 'll put you up to it for five or six bob. Bless you ! there's room for free trade and money made.”
Thomas could hardly be indignant with Jim for speaking according to his kind. But when he looked into it, it stung him to the heart to think that every magistrate would regard him as quite capable of taking to the profession of thimble-rigging after what he had been already guilty of. Yet in all his dealings with cards, Thomas had been scrupulously honourable. He said no more to Jim about finding him something to do.
They had gone a good way, and Thomas's strength was beginning to fail him quite. Several times Jim had inquired after the Marmaid, always in public-houses, where he paid for the information or none, as the case might be, by putting a name upon something at Thomas's expense; so that he began to be rather uplifted. At length he called out joyfully
“ Here's the fishy one, gov'nor, at last! Come along."
So saying, he pushed the swing door, to which was attached a leather strap to keep it from swinging outwards, and entered. It admitted them to a bar served by a big, fat man, with an apron whose substratum was white at the depth of several strata of dirt, and a nose much more remarkable for colour than drawing, being in both more like a half-ripe mulberry than any thing else in nature. He had little round watery eyes, and a face indicative of nothing in particular, for it had left its original conformation years behind. As soon as they entered, Jim went straight up to the landlord, and stared at him for a few moments across the counter.
“ You don't appear to know me gov'nor ?” he said, for the many things he had drunk to find the way had made him larky. His vocabulary of address, it will be remarked, was decidedly defective.
“Well, I can't take upon me to say as I do," answered the man, putting his thumbs in the string of his apron, and looking at Jim with a mixture of effort and suspicion on his puffy face.
And I'll be bound to say,” remarked Jim, turning towards Thomas, “ that you don't remember this gen’leman neither. Do'ee now, gov'nor ? On yer honour, right as a trivet? No ye don't.”
Can't say I do."
“ Was you by ?
“ Look at him, then. Ain't he fit to remember? Don't he look respectable?" Come, none o' your
chaff! Say what you've got to say. What do you want ?”
“Cut it short, Jim," said Thomas.
“ How's your young marmaid, as took to the water so nat'ral at the Horsleydown t’other day, Mr. Potts ?” asked Jim, leaning on his elbows on the counter.
“ Jolly," answered the landlord.
“ Wasn't I then! And there's a gov'nor was nearer than I was. Mr. Potts, that's the very gen’leman as went a header into the water and saved her, Mr. Potts. Hold up yer head, gov'nor.”
“You're a chaffin' of me, I know,” said Potts.
“ Come, come, Jim don't make a fool of me," said Thomas. “I wish I had known you were bringing me here. Come along. I won't stand it."
But Jim was leaning over the counter, speaking in a whisper to the down-bent landlord.
" You don't mean it?" said the latter. “Ask the mis'ess, then," said Jim.
"You don't mean it !" repeated the landlord, in a husky voice, and with increase of energy. Then looking towards Thomas, “What will he take?” he said, and, with the words, turned his back upon Jim and his face towards a shelf on which stood his choicest bottles, between two cask-like protuberances. He got down one of brandy, but Thomas, who was vexed at being brought there as if he wanted some acknowledgment of the good deed he had been fortunate enough to perform, refused to take anything.
“What will you take, then ?” said the man, whose whole stock of ideas seemed to turn upon taking.
But at the moment a woman entered from behind the shop.
“There, mis'ess,” said her husband, can you tell who that gentleman is?”
She looked at him for a moment, and exclaimed
“ Bless my soul ! it's the gentleman that took our Bessie out of the water. How do you do, sir?" she continued, with mingled pleasure and respect, as she advanced from behind the counter and courtesied to Thomas.
“None the worse for my ducking, thank you," said Thomas, holding out his hand in the delight a word of real friendship always gives.
She shook it warmly, and would hardly let it go.
“Oh! isn't he, then ?” muttered Jim, mysteriously, but loud enough for Potts to hear.
“Won't you come in, sir?” said the woman, turning to lead
“ Thank you," answered Thomas. “I have been walking about 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 sofa 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 banks notes. 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 I 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 little 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 filling 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 seafaring 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
It was the first glimmer of gladness i hat 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."
“I 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.
“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