half open, the upper lip was curled up, and the sharp teeth showed.
The hind feet were drawn somewhat under her as in readiness for
an instant spring. Her front paws were before her, the talons were
somewhat stretched, and one paw was curved. Her ears lay slightly
back. She was evidently on the point of springing. The macaw perch,
which had been cut down to a height of two feet, stood behind her.
The bird hung by its feet, and, head downwards, stretched with
open beak towards the tip of the cat's tail, which was slightly
uplifted. On a piece of paper Frank wrote, "Dangerous Play."
It was evening before he had finished perfectly to his satisfaction.
Then he called the naturalist in. The old man stopped at the door,
surveying the group. Then he entered and examined it carefully.
"Wonderful!" he said. "Wonderful! I should have thought them alive.
There is not a shop in the West End where it could have been turned
out better, if so well.
"Lad, you are a wonder! Tell me now who and what are you? I saw
when you first addressed me that you were not what you seemed to
be, a working lad."
"I have been well educated," Frank said, "and was taught to preserve
and stuff by my father, who was a great naturalist. My parents
died suddenly, and I was left on my own resources, which," he
said, smiling faintly, "have hitherto proved of very small avail.
I am glad you are pleased. If you will take me into your service I
will work hard and make myself useful in every way. If you require
references I can refer you to the doctor who attended us in the
country; but I have not a single friend in London except a railway
porter, who has most kindly and generously taken me in and sheltered
me for the last two months."
"I need no references," the old man said; "your work speaks for
itself as to your skill, and your face for your character. But I
can offer you nothing fit for you. With such a genius as you have
for setting up animals, you ought to be able to earn a good income.
Not one man in a thousand can make a dead animal look like a live
one. You have the knack or the art."
"I shall be very content with anything you can give me," Frank said;
"for the present I only ask to earn my living. If later on I can,
as you say, do more, all the better."
The old man stood for some time thinking, and presently said, "I
do but little except in live stock. When I had my daughter with me
I did a good deal of stuffing, for there is a considerable trade
hereabout. The sailors bring home skins of foreign birds, and want
them stuffed and put in cases, as presents for their wives and
sweethearts. You work fast as well as skillfully. I have known men
who would take a fortnight to do such a group as that, and then it
would be a failure. It will be quite a new branch for my trade. I
do not know how it will act yet, but to begin with I will give you
twelve shillings a week, and a room upstairs. If it succeeds we
will make other arrangements. I am an old man, and a very lonely
one. I shall be glad to have such a companion."
Frank joyfully embraced the offer, and ran all the way home to tell
his friend, the porter, of the engagement.
"I am very glad," the man said; "heartily glad. I shall miss you
sorely. I do not know what I should have done without you when I
first lost poor Jane and the kids. But now I can go back to my old
"Perhaps," Frank suggested, "you might arrange to have a room also
in the house. It would not be a very long walk, not above twenty or
five and twenty minutes, and I should be so glad to have you with
The man sat silent for a time. "No," he said at last, "I thank you
all the same. I should like it too, but I don't think it would be
best in the end. Here all my mates live near, and I shall get on
in time. The Christmas holiday season will soon be coming on and
we shall be up working late. If you were always going to stop at
the place you are going to, it would be different; but you will
rise, never fear. I shall be seeing you in gentleman's clothes
again some of these days. I've heard you say you were longing to
get your books and to be studying again, and you'll soon fall into
your own ways; but if you will let me, I'll come over sometimes and
have a cup of tea and a chat with you. Now, look here, I'm going
out with you now, and I'm going to buy you a suit of clothes,
something like what you had on when I first saw you. They won't
be altogether unsuitable in a shop. This is a loan, mind, and you
may pay me off as you get flush."
Frank saw he should hurt the good fellow's feelings by refusing, and
accordingly went out with him, and next morning presented himself
at the shop in a quiet suit of dark gray tweed, and with his other
clothes in a bundle.
"Aha!" said the old man; "you look more as you ought to do now,
though you're a cut above an assistant in a naturalist's shop in
Ratcliff Highway. Now, let me tell you the names of some of these
birds. They are, every one of them, foreigners; some of them I
don't know myself."
"I can tell all the family names," Frank said quietly, "and the
species, but I do not know the varieties."
"Can you!" the old man said in surprise. "What is this now?"
"That is a mockingbird, the great black capped mockingbird, I think.
The one next to it is a golden lory."
So Frank went round all the cages and perches in the shop.
"Right in every case," the old man said enthusiastically; "I shall
have nothing to teach you. The sailor has been here this morning.
I offered him two pounds for the cat and bird to put in my front
window, but he would not take it, and has paid me that sum for
your work. Here it is. This is yours, you know. You were not in my
employment then, and you will want some things to start with, no
doubt. Now come upstairs, I will show you your room. I had intended
at first to give you the one at the back, but I have decided now
on giving you my daughter's. I think you will like it."
Frank did like it greatly. It was the front room on the second
floor. The old man's daughter had evidently been a woman of taste
and refinement. The room was prettily papered, a quiet carpet
covered the floor, and the furniture was neat and in good keeping.
Two pairs of spotless muslin curtains hung across the windows.
"I put them up this morning," the old man said, nodding. "I have
got the sheets and bedding airing in the kitchen. They have not
been out of the press for the last three years. You can cook in
the kitchen. There is always a fire there.
"Now, the first thing to do," he went on when they returned to
the shop, "will be for you to mount a dozen cases for the windows.
These drawers are full of skins of birds and small animals. I get
them for next to nothing from the sailors, and sell them to furriers
and feather preparers, who supply ladies' hat and bonnet makers. In
future, I propose that you shall mount them and sell them direct.
We shall get far higher prices than we do now. I seem to be putting
most of the work on your shoulders, but do not want you to help me
in the shop. I will look after the birds and buy and sell as I used
to do; you will have the back room private to yourself for stuffing
Frank was delighted at this allotment of labor, and was soon at
work rummaging the drawers and picking out specimens for mounting,
and made a selection sufficient to keep him employed for weeks. That
evening he sallied out and expended his two pounds in underlinen,
of which he was sorely in need. As he required them his employer
ordered showcases for the window, of various sizes, getting the
backgrounds painted and fitted up as Frank suggested.
Frank did not get on so fast with his work as he had hoped,
for the fame of the sailor's cat and macaw spread rapidly in the
neighborhood, and there was a perfect rush of sailors and their
wives anxious to have birds and skins, which had been brought from
abroad, mounted. The sailor himself looked in one day.
"If you like another two pounds for that 'ere cat, governor, I'm
game to pay you. It's the best thing that ever happened to me.
Every one's wanting to see 'em, and there's the old woman dressed
up in her Sunday clothes a-sitting in the parlor as proud as a
peacock a showing of 'em off. The house ain't been so quiet since
I married. Them animals would be cheap to me at a ten pound note.
They'll get you no end of orders, I can tell you."
The orders, indeed, came in much faster than Frank could fulfill
them, although he worked twelve hours a day; laying aside all other
work, however, for three hours in order to devote himself to the
shop cases, which were to be chef d'oeuvres.
CHAPTER VII: AN OLD FRIEND
For three months Frank passed a quiet and not unpleasant life with
the old naturalist in Ratcliff Highway. The latter took a great
liking to him, and treated him like a son rather than an assistant.
The two took their meals together now, and Frank's salary had been
raised from twelve to eighteen shillings a week. So attractive
had the cases in the windows proved that quite a little crowd
was generally collected round them, and the business had greatly
augmented. The old naturalist was less pleased at this change than
most men would have been in his position. He had got into a groove
and did not care to get out of it. He had no relatives or any one
dependent on him, and he had been well content to go on in a jog
trot way, just paying his expenses of shop and living. The extra
bustle and push worried rather than pleased him.
"I am an old man," he said to Frank one day, as after the shop was
closed they sat over their tea. "I have no motive in laying by
money, and had enough for my wants. I was influenced more by my
liking for your face and my appreciation of your talent, than by
any desire of increasing my business. I am taking now three times
as much as I did before. Now I should not mind, indeed, I should
be glad, if I thought that you would succeed me here as a son would
do. I would gladly take you into partnership with me, and you would
have the whole business after my death. But I know, my boy, that
it wouldn't do. I know that the time will come when you will not
be content with so dull a life here. You will either get an offer
from some West End house which would open higher prospects to you,
or you will be wandering away as a collector. In any case you would
not stop here, of that I am quite sure, and therefore do not care,
as I should have done, had you been my son, for the increase of
the business. As it is, lad, I could not even wish to see you waste
your life here."
Frank, after he was once fairly settled at his new work, had written
to his friend the doctor, at Deal, telling him of the position
he had taken, and that he was in a fair way to make at least a
comfortable living, and that at a pursuit of which he was passionately
fond. He asked him, however, while writing to him from time to time
to give him news of his sister, not to tell any one his address,
as although he was not ashamed of his berth, still he would rather
that, until he had made another step up in life, his old schoolfellows
should not know of his whereabouts. He had also written to his
friend Ruthven a bright chatty letter, telling him somewhat of his
adventures in London and the loss of his money, and saying that
he had now got employment at a naturalist's, with every chance of
making his way.
"When I mount a bit higher," he concluded, "I shall be awfully glad
to see you again, and will let you know what my address may then
be. For the present I had rather keep it dark. If you will write
to me, addressed to the General Post Office, telling me all about
yourself and the fellows at school, I shall be very, very glad to
get your letter. I suppose you will be breaking up for Christmas
in a few days."
Christmas came and went. It was signalized to Frank only by the
despatch of a pretty present to Lucy, and the receipt of a letter
from her written in a round childish hand. A week afterwards he
heard somebody come into the shop. His employer was out, and he
therefore went into the shop.
"I knew it was!" shouted a voice. "My dear old Frank, how are you?"
and his hand was warmly clasped in that of Ruthven.
"My dear Ruthven," was all Frank could say.
"I had intended," Ruthven exclaimed, "to punch your head directly
I found you; but I am too glad to do it, though you deserve it
fifty times over. What a fellow you are! I wouldn't have believed
it of you, running away in that secret sort of way and letting none
of us know anything about you. Wasn't I angry, and sorry too, when
I got the letter you wrote me from Deal! When I went back to school
and found that not even Dr. Parker, not even your sister, knew
where you were, I was mad. So were all the other fellows. However,
I said I would find you wherever you had hidden yourself."
"But how did you find me?" Frank asked greatly moved at the warmth
of his schoolfellow's greeting.
"Oh! it wasn't so very difficult to find you when once I got your
letter saying what you were doing. The very day I came up to town
I began to hunt about. I found from the Directory there were not
such a great number of shops where they stuffed birds and that
sort of thing. I tried the places in Bond Street, and Piccadilly,
and Wigmore Street, and so on to begin with. Then I began to work
east, and directly I saw the things in the window here I felt sure
I had found you at last. You tiresome fellow! Here I have wasted
nearly half my holidays looking for you."
"I am so sorry, Ruthven."
"Sorry! you ought to be more than sorry. You ought to be ashamed
of yourself, downright ashamed. But, there, I won't say any more
now. Now, can't you come out with me?"
"No, I can't come out now, Ruthven; but come into this room with
There for the next hour they chatted, Frank giving a full account
of all he had gone through since he came up to town, while Ruthven
gave him the gossip of the half year at school.
"Well," Ruthven said at last, "this old Horton of yours must be a
brick. Still, you know, you can't stop here all your life. You must
come and talk it over with my governor."
"Oh, no, indeed, Ruthven! I am getting on very well here, and am
very contented with my lot, and I could not think of troubling your
father in the matter."
"Well, you will trouble him a great deal," Ruthven said, "if you
don't come, for you will trouble him to come all the way down here.
He was quite worried when he first heard of your disappearance,
and has been almost as excited as I have over the search for you.
"You are really a foolish fellow, Frank," he went on more seriously; "I
really didn't think it of you. Here you save the lives of four or
five fellows and put all their friends under a tremendous obligation,
and then you run away and hide yourself as if you were ashamed. I
tell you you can't do it. A fellow has no more right to get rid of
obligations than he has to run away without paying his debts. It
would be a burden on your mind if you had a heavy debt you couldn't
pay, and you would have a right to be angry if, when you were
perfectly able to pay, your creditor refused to take the money.
That's just the position in which you've placed my father. Well,
anyhow, you've got to come and see him, or he's got to come and
see you. I know he has something in his mind's eye which will just
suit you, though he did not tell me what it was. For the last day
or two he has been particularly anxious about finding you. Only
yesterday when I came back and reported that I had been to half a
dozen places without success, he said, 'Confound the young rascal,
where can he be hiding? Here are the days slipping by and it will
be too late. If you don't find him in a day or two, Dick, I will
set the police after him - say he has committed a murder or broken
into a bank and offer a reward for his apprehension.' So you must
either come home with me this afternoon, or you will be having my
father down here tonight."
"Of course, Ruthven," Frank said, "I would not put your father to
such trouble. He is very kind to have taken so much interest in
me, only I hate - "
"Oh, nonsense! I hate to see such beastly stuck up pride, putting
your own dignity above the affection of your friends; for that's
really what it comes to, old boy, if you look it fairly in the
Frank flushed a little and was silent for a minute or two.
"I suppose you are right, Ruthven; but it is a little hard for a
fellow - "
"Oh, no, it isn't," Ruthven said. "If you'd got into a scrape from
some fault of your own one could understand it, although even then
there would be no reason for you to cut your old friends till they
cut you. Young Goodall, who lives over at Bayswater, has been over
four or five times to ask me if I have succeeded in finding you,
and I have had letters from Handcock, and Childers, and Jackson.
Just as if a fellow had got nothing to do but to write letters.
How long will you be before you can come out?"
"There is Mr. Horton just come in," Frank said. "I have no doubt
he will let me go at once."
The old naturalist at once assented upon Frank's telling him that
a friend had come who wished him to go out.
"Certainly, my dear boy. Why, working the hours and hours of
overtime that you do, of course you can take a holiday whenever
"He will not be back till late," Ruthven said as they went out. "I
shall keep him all the evening."
"Oh, indeed, Ruthven, I have no clothes!"
"Clothes be bothered," Ruthven said. "I certainly shall end by
punching your head, Frank, before the day's out."
Frank remonstrated no more, but committed himself entirely to his
friend's guidance. At the Mansion House they mounted on the roof
of an omnibus going west, and at Knightsbridge got off and walked
to Eaton Square, where Ruthven's father resided. The latter was
out, so Frank accompanied his friend to what he called his sanctum,
a small room littered up with books, bats, insect boxes, and a
great variety of rubbish of all kinds. Here they chatted until the
servant came up and said that Sir James had returned.
"Come on, Frank," Ruthven said, running downstairs. "There's nothing
of the ogre about the governor."
They entered the study, and Ruthven introduced his friend.
"I've caught him, father, at last. This is the culprit."
Sir James Ruthven was a pleasant looking man, with a kindly face.
"Well, you troublesome boy," he said, holding out his hand, "where
have you been hiding all this time?"
"I don't know that I've been hiding, sir," Frank said.
"Not exactly hiding," Sir James smiled, "only keeping away from
those who wanted to find you. Well, and how are you getting on?"
"I am getting on very well, sir. I am earning eighteen shillings
a week and my board and lodging, and my employer says he will take
me into partnership as soon as I come of age."
"Ah, indeed!" Sir James said. "I am glad to hear that, as it shows
you must be clever and industrious."
"Yes, father, and the place was full of the most lovely cases of
things Frank had stuffed. There was quite a crowd looking in at
"That is very satisfactory. Now, Frank, do you sit down and write
a note to your employer, asking him to send down half a dozen of
the best cases. I want to show them to a gentleman who will dine
with me here today, and who is greatly interested in such matters.
When you have written the note I will send a servant off at once
in a cab to fetch them."
"And, father," Dick continued, "if you don't mind, might Frank and
I have our dinner quietly together in my room? You've got a dinner
party on, and Frank won't enjoy it half as much as he would dining
quietly with me."
"By all means," Sir James said. "But mind he is not to run away
without seeing me.
"You are a foolish lad," he went on in a kind voice to Frank; "and
it was wrong as well as foolish to hide yourself from your friends.
However independent we may be in this world, all must, to a
certain extent, rely upon others. There is scarcely a man who can
stand aloof from the rest and say, 'I want nothing of you.' I can
understand your feeling in shrinking from asking a favor of me,
or of the fathers of the other boys who are, like myself, deeply
indebted to you for the great service you have rendered their sons.
I can admire the feeling if not carried too far; but you should
have let your schoolfellows know exactly how you were placed, and
so have given us the opportunity of repaying the obligation if we
were disposed, not to have run away and hidden yourself from us."
"I am sorry, sir," Frank said simply. "I did not like to seem to
trade upon the slight service I rendered some of my schoolfellows.
Dr. Bateman told me I was wrong, but I did not see it then. Now I
think, perhaps he was right, although I am afraid that if it happened
again I should do the same."
Sir James smiled.
"I fear you are a stiff necked one, Master Frank. However, I will
not scold you any further. Now, what will you do with yourselves
till dinner time?"
"Oh, we'll just sit and chat, father. We have got lots more things
to tell each other."
The afternoon passed in pleasant talk. Frank learned that Ruthven
had now left Dr. Parker's for good, and that he was going down
after the holidays to a clergyman who prepared six or eight boys
for the army. Before dinner the footman returned with half a dozen
of the best cases from the shop, which were brought up to Dick's
room, and the latter was delighted with them. They greatly enjoyed
their dinner together. At nine o'clock a servant came up and took
down the cases. Five minutes later he returned again with a message,
saying that Sir James wished Mr. Richard and his friend to go down
into the dining room. Frank was not shy, but he felt it rather
a trial when he entered the room, where seven or eight gentlemen
were sitting round the table, the ladies having already withdrawn.
The gentlemen were engaged in examining and admiring the cases of
stuffed birds and animals.
"This is my young friend," Sir James said, "of whom I have been
speaking to you, and whose work you are all admiring. This, Frank,
is Mr. Goodenough, the traveler and naturalist, of whom you may
"Yes, indeed," Frank said, looking at the gentleman indicated. "I
have Mr. Goodenough's book on The Passerine Family at home."
"It is rather an expensive book too," the gentleman said.
"Yes, sir. My father bought it, not I. He was very fond of natural
history and taught me all I know. He had a capital library of books
on the subject, which Dr. Bateman is keeping for me, at Deal, till
I have some place where I can put them. I was thinking of getting
them up soon."
Mr. Goodenough asked him a few questions as to the books in the
library, and then put him through what Frank felt was a sort of
examination, as to his knowledge of their contents.
"Very good indeed!" Mr. Goodenough said. "I can see from your work
here that you are not only a very clever preparer, but a close
student of the habits and ways of wild creatures. But I was hardly
prepared to find your scientific knowledge so accurate and extensive.
I was at first rather inclined to hesitate when Sir James Ruthven
made me a proposal just now. I do so no longer. I am on the point
of starting on an expedition into the center of Africa in search
of specimens of natural history. He has proposed that you should
accompany me, and has offered to defray the cost of your outfit,
and of your passage out and home. I may be away for two years. Of
course you would act as my assistant, and have every opportunity
of acquiring such knowledge as I possess. It will be no pleasure
trip, you know, but hard work, with all sorts of hardships and,
perhaps, some dangers. At the same time it would be a fine opening
in a career as a naturalist. Well, what do you say?"
"Oh, sir!" Frank exclaimed, clasping his hands, "it is of all things
in the world what I should like most. How can I thank you enough?
And you, Sir James, it is indeed kind and thoughtful of you."
"We are not quits yet by any means, Frank," Sir James said kindly.
"I am glad indeed to be able to forward your wishes; and now you
must go upstairs and be introduced to my wife. She is most anxious
to see you. She only returned home just before dinner."
Frank was taken upstairs, where he and his cases of birds were made
much of by Lady Ruthven and the ladies assembled in the drawing
room. He himself was so filled with delight at the prospect opened
to him that all thought of his dark tweed suit being out of place