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A message from the sea : The extra Christmas number of All the year round online

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CHAPTER I. The Village . Page
CHAPTEK II. The Money . ,



1 I CHAPTER III. The Club-Night . Pago
4 CHAPTER IV. The Seafaring Man

The Restitution . . Page 44


a mighty sing'lar and pretty place it
is, as ever 1 saw in all the days of my life !" said
Captain Jorgan, looking up at it.

Captain Jorgan had to look high to look at it,
for the village was built sheer up the face of a
steep and lofty cliff. There was no road in it,
there was no wheeled vehicle in it, there was
not a level yard in it. From the sea-beach to
the cliff-top, two irregular rows of white houses,
placed opposite to one another, and twisting
here and there and there and here, rose, like
the sides of a long succession of stages of
crooked ladders, and you climbed up the village
or climbed down the village by the staves be-
tween : some six feet wide or so, and made of
sharp irregular stones. The old pack-saddle,
long laid aside in most parts of England as one
of the appendages of its infancy, flourished here
intact. Strings of pack-horses and pack-donkeys
toiled slowly up the staves of the ladders, bear-
ing fish, and coal, and such other cargo as was
unshipping at the pier from the dancing fleet
of village boats, and from two or three little
coasting traders. As the beasts of burden as-
cended laden, or descended light, they got so
lost at intervals in the floating clouds of village
smoke, that they seemed to dive down some of
the village chimneys and come to the surface
again far off, high above others. No two
houses in the village were alike, in chimney, size,
shape, door, window, gable, roof-tree, anything.
The sides of the ladders were musical with
water, running clear and bright. The staves
were musical with the clattering feet of the
pack-horses and pack-donkeys, and the voices
of the fishermen urging them up, mingled with
the voices of the fishermen's wives and their
many children. The pier was musical with the
wash of the sea, the creaking of capstans and
windlasses, and the airy fluttering of little vanes
and sails. The rough sea-bleached boulders of
which the pier was made, and the whiter boulders
of the shore, were brown with drying nets. The
red-brown cliffs; richly wooded to theiv ex-
fcremest verge, had their softened and beautiful

forms tenccted in the bluest water, under the


clear North Devonshire sky of a November day
without a cloud. The village itself was so
steeped in autumnal foliage, from the houses
giving on the pier, to the topmost round
of the topmost ladder, that one might have
fancied it was out a birds' -nesting;' and was (as
indeed it was) a wonderful climber. And men-
tioning birds, the place was' not without some
music from them too ; for, the rook was very
busy on the higher levels, and the gull with his
flapping wings was fishing in the bay, and the
lusty little robin was hopping among the great
stone blocks and iron rings of the breakwater,
fearless in the faith of his ancestors and the
Children in the Wood.

Thus it came to pass that Captain Jorgan,
sitting balancing himself on the pier-wall, struck
his leg with his open hand, as some men do when
they are pleased and as he always did when he
was pleased and said :

" A mighty sing'lar and pretty place it is, as
ever I saw in all the days of my life !"

Captain Jorgan had not been through the
village, but had come down to the pier by a
winding side-road, to have a preliminary look at
it from the level of his own natural element.
He had seen many things and places, and had
stowed them all away in a shrewd intellect and
a vigorous memory. He was an American born,
was Captain Jorgan a New Englander but
he was a citizen of the world, and a combination
of most of the best qualities of most of its best

Eor Captain Jorgan to sit anywhere in his
long-skirted blue coat and blue trousers, with-
out holding converse with everybody within
speaking distance, was a sheer impossibility. So,
the captain fell to talking with the fishermen, and
to asking them knowing questions about tho
fishery, and the tides, and the currents, and the
race of water off that point yonder, and what
you kept in your eye and got into a line with
what else when you ran into the little harbour ;
and other nautical profundities. Among the
men who exchanged ideas with the captain, \ras
a young .fellow who exactly lilt his fancy a young
fisherman of two or tlu-^'-uud-twenty,. in. the
rough sua-drcss of his craft, with a brown face,

2 [December 13, I860.]


[Conducted by

dark curling hair, and bright modest eyes under
his Sou'-Wester hat, and with a frank but simple
and retiring manner which the captain found
uncommonly taking. "I'd bet_ a thousand
dollars," said the captain to himself, " that
your father was an honest man !"

"Might you be married now?" asked the
captain when he had had some talk with this
new acquaintance.

" Not yet."

" Going to be ?" said the captain. .

"I hope so."

The captain's keen glance followed the
slightest possible turn of the dark eye, and the
slightest possible tilt of the Sou'-Wester hat.
The captain then slapped both his legs, and said
to himself :

" Never knew such a good thing in all my
life ! There's his sweetheart looking over the
wall !"

There was a very pretty girl looking over the
wall, from a little platform of cottage, vine, and
fuchsia ; and she certainly did not look as if the
presence of this young fisherman in the land-
scape, made it any the less sunny and hopeful
for her.

Captain Jorgan, having doubled himself up to
laugh with that hearty good nature which is
quite exultant in the innocent happiness of
other people, had undoubled himself and was
going to start a new subject, when there ap-
peared coming down the lower ladders of stones
a man whom he hailed as " Tom Pettifer Ho !"
Tom Pettifer Ho responded with alacrity, and
in speedy course descended on the pier.

"Afraid of a sunstroke in England in Novem-
ber, Tom, that you wear your tropical hat,
strongly paid outside and paper-lined inside,
here ?" said the captain, eyeing it.

" It's as well to be on the safe side, sir," re-
plied Tom.

" Safe side !" repeated the captain, laughing.
" You'd guard agamst a sunstroke with that old
hat, in an Ice Pack. Wa'al ! What have you
made out at the Post-office ?"

" It is the Post-office, sir."

"What's the Post-office?" said the captain.

" The name, sir. The name keeps the Post-

" A coincidence !" said the captain. " A
lucky hit ! Show me where it is. Good-by,
shipmates, for the present ! I shall come and
have another look at you, afore I leave, this

This was addressed to all there, but especially
the young fisherman ; so, all there acknowledged
it, but especially the young fisherman. " He's
a sailor !" said one to another, as they looked
after the captain moving away. That he was ;
and so outspeaking was the sailor in him, that
although his dress had nothing nautical about
it with the single exception of its colour, but
was a suit of a shore-going shape and form, too
long in the sleeves, and too short in the legs,
and too unaccommodating everywhere, termi-
nating earthward in a pair 9f Wellington boots,
and' Surmounted by a tall stiff hat l which no

mortal could have worn at sea in any wind
under Heaven ; nevertheless, a glimpse of his
sagacious weather-beaten face or his strong
brown hand would have established the cap-
tain's calling. Whereas, Mr. Pettifer a man
of a certain plump neatness with a curly whisker,
and elaborately nautical in a jacket and shoes
and all things correspondent looked no more
like a seaman, beside Captain Jorgan, than he
looked like a sea-serpent.

The two climbed high up the village which
had the most arbitrary turns and twists in it, so
that the cobbler's house came dead across the
ladder, and to have held a reasonable course you
must have gone through his house, and through
him too, as he sat at his work between two little
windows, with one eye microscopically on the
geological formation of that part of Devonshire,
and the other telescopically on the open sca-
the two climbed high up the village, and stopped
before a quaint little house, on which was
painted " MRS. RAYBROCK, DRAPER ;" and also,
" POST-OFFICE." Before it, ran a rill of murmur-
ing water, and access to it was gained by a little

"Here's the name," said Captain Jorgan,
"sure enough. You can come in if you like,

The 'captain opened the door, and passed
into an odd little shop about six feet high,
with a great variety of beams and bumps in
the ceiling, and, besides the principal window
giving on the ladder of stones, a purblind little
window of a single pane of glass : peeping out
of an abutting corner at the sun-lighted ocean,
and winking at its brightness.

" How do you do, ma'am ?" said the captain.
"I am very glad to see you. I have come a
long way to see you."

" Have you, sir ? Then I am sure I am very
glad to see you, though I don't know you from

Thus, a comely elderly woman, short of sta-
ture, plump of form, sparkling and dark of eye,
who, perfectly clean and neat herself, stood in
the midst of her perfectly clean and neat ar-
rangements, and surveyed Captain Jorgan with
smiling curiosity. " Ah ! but you are a sailor,
sir," she added, almost immediately, and with a
slight movement of her hands, that was not very
unlike wringing them ; " then you are heartily

"Thankee, ma'am," said the captain. "I
don't know what it is, I am sure, that brings
out the salt in me, but everybody seems to see
it on the crown of my hat and the collar of my
coat. Yes, ma'am, I am in that way of life."

" And the other gentleman, too," said Mrs.

" Well now, ma'am," said the captain, glanc-
ing shrewdly at the other gentleman, " you are
that nigh right, that he goes to sea if that
makes him a sailor. This is my steward, ma'am,
Tom Pettifer ; he's been a'most all trades you
could name, in the course of his life \yould
have bought all your chairs and tables, once,
if you had ' wished to sell em but now he s

Chariot Uiokoni.]


[December 13, I860.] 3

my steward. My name's Jorgan, and I'm a
shipowner, and I sail my own and my partners'
ships, and have done so this five-and-twenty
year. According to custom I am called Cap-
tain Jorgan, but I am no more a captain, bless
your heart ! than you are."

" Perhaps you'll come into my parlour, sir,
arid take a chair?" said Mrs. Raybrock.

" Ex-actly what I was going to propose my-
self, ma'am. After you."

Thus replying, and enjoining Tom to give an
eye to the shop, Captain Jorgan followed Mrs.
Raybrock into the little low back-room deco-
rated with divers plants in pots, tea-trays, old
china teapots, and punch-bowls which was at
once the private sitting-room of the Raybrock
family, and the inner cabinet of the post-office
of the village of Steepways.

" Now, ma'am," said the captain, " it don't
signify a cent to you where I was born, ex-
cept " But, here the shadow of some one

entering, fell upon the captain's figure, and he
broke off to double himself up, slap both his
legs, and ejaculate, "Never knew such a thing
in all my life ! Here he is again ! How are
you ?"

These words referred to the young fellow who
had so taken Captain Jorgan's fancy down at
the pier. To make it all quite complete he
came in accompanied by the sweetheart whom
the captain had detected looking over the wall.
A prettier sweetheart the sun could not have
shone upon, that shining day. As she stood be-
fore the captain, with her rosy lips just parted
in surprise, her brown eyes a little wider open
than was usual from the same cause, and her
breathing a little quickened by the ascent (and
possibly by some mysterious hurry and flurry at
the parlour door, in which the captain had ob-
served her face to be for a moment totally
eclipsed by the Sou' -Wester hat), she looked so
charming, that the captain felt himself under a
moral obligation to slap both his legs again.
She was very simply dressed, with no other or-
nament than an autumnal flower in her bosom.
She wore neither hat nor bonnet, but merely a
scarf or kerchief, folded squarely back over the
head, to keep the sun off according to a fashion
that may be sometimes seen in the more genial
parts of England as well as of Italy, and which is
probably the first fashion of head-dress that came
into the world when grasses and leaves went out.

" In my country," said the captain, rising to
give her his chair, and dexterously sliding it
close to another chair on which the young fisher-
man must necessarily establish himself " in my
country we should call Devonshire beauty, first-
rate !"

Whenever a frank manner is offensive, it is
because it is strained or feigned ; for, there may
be quite as much intolerable affectation in plain-
ness, as in mincing nicety. All that the captain
said and did, was honestly according to his na-
ture, and his nature was open nature and good
nature ; therefore, when he paid this little com-
pliment, and expressed with a sparkle or two of
his knowing eye, " I see how it is, and nothing

could be better," he had established a delicate
confidence on that subject with the family.

" I was saying to your worthy mother," said
the captain to the young man, after again intro-
ducing himself by name and occupation : "<I
was saying to your mother (and jou're very like
her) that it didn't signify where I was born, ex-
cept that I was raised on question-asking ground,
where the babies as soon as ever they come into
the world, inquire of their mothers 'Neow,
how old may you be, and wa'at air you a goin' to
name me ?' which is a fact." Here he slapped
his leg. " Such being the case, I may be ex-
cused for asking you if your name's Alfred ?"

" Yes, sir, my name is Alfred," returned the
young man.

" I am not a conjuror," pursued the captain,
"and don't think me so, or I shall right soon
undeceive you. Likewise don't think, if you
please, though I do come from that country of
the babies, that I am asking questions for
question-asking's sake, for I am not. Somebody
belonging to you, went to sea ?"

"My elder brother Hugh," returned the
young man. He said it in an altered and lower
voice, and glanced at his mother : who raised her
hands hurriedly, and put them together across
her black gown, and looked eagerly at the

" No ! For God's sake, don't think that !"
said the captain, in a solemn way ; "I bring no
good tidings of him."

There was a silence, and the mother turned
her face to the fire and put her hand between it
and her eyes. The young fisherman slightly
motioned towards the window, and the captain,
looking in that direction, saw a young widow
sitting at a neighbouring window across a little
garden, engaged in needlework, with a young
child sleeping on her bosom. The silence con-
tinued until the captain asked of Alfred :

" How long is it since it happened ?"

" He shipped for his last voyage, better than
three years ago."

" Ship struck upon some reef or rock, as T
take it," said the captain, " and all hands lost ?"

" Yes."

"Wa'al!" said the captain, after a shorter
silence. "Here I sit who may come to the
same end, like enough. He holds the seas in
the hollow of His hand. We must all strike
somewhere and go down. Our comfort, then,
for ourselves and one another, is, to have done
our duty. I'll wager your brother did his !"

" He did !" answered the young fisherman.
" If ever man strove faithfully on all occasions
to do his duty, my brother did. My brother
was not a quick man (anything but that), but he
was a faithful, true, and just man. We were
the sons of only a small tradesman in this
county, sir ; yet our father was as watchful of
his good name as if he had been a king."

" A precious sight more so, I hope bearing in
mind the general run of that class of crittur,"
said the captain. " But I interrupt."

" My brother considered that our father left
the good name to us, to keep clear and true."

4 [December 13, I960.]


[Conducted by

"Your brother considered right," said tl
captain; "and you couldn't take care of
better legacy. But again I interrupt."

" No ; for I have nothing more to say. W
know that Hugh lived well for the good name
and we feel certain that he died well for th

food name. And now it has come into m
eeping. And that's all."
"Well spoken!" cried the captain. "We
spoken, young man! Concerning the maune
of your brother's death ;" by this time, the cap
tain had released the hand he had shaken, and sa
with his own broad brown hands spread out o:
his knees, and spoke aside ; " concerning th
manner of your brother's death, it may be tlia
T have some information to give you ; though i
may not be, for I am far from sure. Can w
have a little talk alone ? !>

The young man rose ; but, not before the cap
tain's quick eye had noticed that, on the pretty
sweetheart's turning to the window to greet the
young widow with a nod and a wave of the hand
the young widow had held up to her the needle
work on which she was engaged, with a patient
and pleasant smile. So the captain said, being
on his legs :

" What might she be making now ?"
"What is Margaret making, Kitty?" asked
the young fisherman with one of his arms ap
parently mislaid somewhere.

As Kitty only blushed in reply, the captain
doubled himself up, as far as he could, standing,
and said, with a slap of his leg :

" In my country we should call it wedding-
clothes. Fact ! We should, I do assure you."
But, it seemed to strike the captain in another
light too ; for, his laugh was not a long one, and
lie added in quite a gentle tone :

" And it's very pretty, my clear, to see her
poor young thing, with her fatherless child upon
her bosom giving up her thoughts to your home
and your happiness. It's very pretty, my dear,
and it's very good. May your marriage be more
prosperous than hers, and"be a comfort to her,
too. May the blessed sun see you all happy
together, in possession of the good name, long
after I have done ploughing the great salt field
that is never sown !"

Kitty answered very earnestly. " ! Thank
you, sir, with all my heart !" And, in her loving
little way, kissed her hand to him, and pos-
sibly by implication to the young fisherman too,
as the latter held the parlour door open for the
captain to pass out.


" THE stairs are very narrow, sir," said Alfred
Raybrock to Captain J organ.

"Like my cabin-stairs," returned the captain,
" on many a voyage."

"And they are rather inconvenient for the

" If my head can't take care of itself by this
time, after all the knocking about the world it
has had," replied the captain, as unconcernedly
as if he had no connexion with it, " it's not
worth looking after."

Thus, they cam* into the young fisherman's
bedroom, which was as perfectly neat and clean
as the shop and parlour below: though it was but
a little place, with a sliding window, and a phre-
nological ceiling expressive of all the peculiarities
of the house-roof. Here the captain sat down
on the foot of the bed, and, glancing at a dread-
ful libel on Kitty which ornamented the wall
the production of some wandering limner, whom
the captain secretly admired, as having studied
portraiture from the figure-heads of ships mo-
tioned to the voung^ nmn to take the rush-chair
on the other side of the small round table. That
done, the captain put his hand into the deep
breast-pocket of his long-skirted blue coat, and
took out of it a strong square case-bottle not
a large bottle, but such as may be seen in any or-
dinary ship's medicine chest. Setting this bottle
on the table without removing his hand from it,
Captain Jorgau then spake as follows.

"In my last voyage homeward-bound," said
the captain, "and that's the voyage off of which
I now come straight, I encountered such wea-
ther off the Horn, as is not very often met with,
even there. I have rounded that stormy Cape
pretty often, and I believe I first beat about
there in the identical storms that blew the devil's
lorns and tail off, and led to the horns being
worked up into toothpicks for the plantation
overseers in my country, who may be seen (if you
ravel down South, or away West, fur enough)
ticking their teeth with 'em, while the whips,
nade of the tail, flog hard. In this last voyage,
omeward -bound for Liverpool from South
/Vmerica, I say to you my young friend, it
>lew. Whole measures ! No half measures, nor
naking believe to blow ; it blew ! Now, I warn't
ilown clean out of the water into the 1 sky-
hough I expected to be even that but I was
>lown clean out of my course ; and when at last
t fell calm, it fell dead calm, and a strong cur-
ent set one way, day and night, night and day,
nd I drifted drifted drifted out of all the
rdinary tracks and courses of ships, and drifted
et, and yet drifted. It behoves a man who
akes charge of fellow-critturs' lives, never to
st from making himself master of his calling.
'. never did rest, and consequently I knew pretty
r ell ('specially looking over the side in the dead
aim at that strong current), what dangers to
xpect, and what precautions to take against
m. In short, we were driving head on, to an
sland. There was no Island in the chart, and,
lerefore, you may say it was ill manners in the
sland to be there; I don't dispute its bad
reeding, but there it was. Thanks be to
[eaveu, I was as ready for the Island as the
sland was ready for me. I made it out myself
om the masthead, and I got enough way upon
er in good time, to keep her off. I ordered a
oat to be lowered and manned, and went in that
oat myself to explore the Island. There WAS
reef outside it, and, floating in a corner of the
nooth water within the reef, was a heap of sea-
eed, and entangled in that seaweed was this
Here, the captain took his hand from the

Chariot Dickens.]


[December 13, I860.] 5

bottle for a moment, that the young fisherman
might direct a wondering glance at it ; and then
replaced his hand and went on :

" If ever you come or even if ever you don't
come to a des<jrt place, use you your eyes and
your spy-glass well ; for the smallest thing you
see, may prove of use to you, and may have some
information or some warning in it. That's the
principle on which I came to see this bottle. I
picked up the bottle and ran the boat alongside
the Island and made fast and went ashore, armed,
with a part of my boat's crew. We found that
every scrap of vegetation on the Island (I give it
you as my opinion, but scant and scrubby at the
test of times) had been consumed by fire. As
we were making our way, cautiously and toil-
somely, over the pulverised embers, one of my
people sank into the earth, breast high. He
turned pale, and 'Haul me out smart, ship-
mates,' says he, 'for my feet are among bones.'
We soon got him on his legs again, and then we
dug up the spot, and we found that the man was
right, and that his feet had been among bones.
More than that, they were human bones ; though
whether the remains of one man, or of two or
three men, what with calcination and ashes, and
what with a poor practical knowledge of ana-
tomy, I can't undertake to say. We examined
the whole Island and made out nothing else,
save and except that, from its opposite side, I
sighted a considerable tract of land, which land

I was able to identify, and according to the bear-
ings of which (not to trouble you with my log)
I took a fresh departure. When I got aboard
again, I opened the bottle, which was oilskin-
covered as you see, and glass-stoppered as you
see. Inside of it," pursued the captain, suiting
his action to his words, "I found this little
crumpled folded paper, just as you see. Out-
side of it was written, as you see, these words :
' Whoever Jinds this, is solemnly entreated by the
dead, to convey it unread to Alfred Raybrock,
Steepways, North Devon, England.' A sacred
charge," said the captain, concluding his narra-
tive, " and, Alfred Raybrock, there it is !"
" This is my poor brother's writing !"
" I supposed so," said Captain Jorgan. " I'll

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Online LibraryCharles DickensA message from the sea : The extra Christmas number of All the year round → online text (page 1 of 12)