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Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England




The Island of Gold
A Sailor's Yarn
By Gordon Stables
Illustrations by Allan Stewart
Published by Thomas Nelson and Sons, London, Edinburgh and New York.

The Island of Gold, by Gordon Stables.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
THE ISLAND OF GOLD, BY GORDON STABLES.

Book 1 - CHAPTER ONE.

TWO MITHERLESS BAIRNS.

Ransey Tansey was up much earlier than usual on this particular morning,
because father was coming home, and there was a good deal to do.

As he crawled out of his bed - a kind of big box arrangement at the
farther end of the one-roomed cottage - he gave a glance towards the
corner where Babs slept in an elongated kind of basket, which by
courtesy might have been called a bassinette.

Yes, Babs was sound and fast, and that was something Ransey Tansey had
to be thankful for. He bent over her for a few seconds, listening as if
to make sure she was alive; for this wee three-year-old was usually
awake long before this, her eyes as big as saucers, and carrying on an
animated conversation with herself in lieu of any other listener.

The boy gave a kind of satisfied sigh, and drew the coverlet over her
bare arm. Then he proceeded to dress; while Bob, a beautiful, tailless
English sheep-dog, lay near the low hearth watching his every movement,
with his shaggy head cocked a trifle to one side, as if he had his
considering cap on.

In summer time - and it was early summer now - dressing did not take
Ransey long.

When he opened the door at last to fetch some sticks to light the fire,
and stood for a moment shading his brow with his hand against the red
light of the newly-risen sun, and gazing eastwards over a landscape of
fields and woods, he looked a strange little figure. Moreover, one
could understand now why he had taken such a short few minutes to dress.

The fact is, Ransey Tansey hadn't very much to wear just then. Barely
eight years of age was Tansey, though, as far as experience of the world
went, he might have been called three times as old as that; for, alas,
the world had not been over-gentle with the boy.

Ransey wore no cap, just a head of towy hair, which was thick enough,
however, to protect him against summer's sun or winter's cold. The
upper part of his body was arrayed in a blue serge shirt, very much open
at the neck; while below his waist, and extending to within nine inches
of his bare feet, where they ended in ragged capes and promontories like
a map of Norway, he wore a pair of pants. It would have been difficult,
indeed, to have guessed at the original colour of these pants, but they
were now a kind of tawny brindle, and that is the nearest I can get to
it. They were suspended by one brace, a bright red one, so broad that
it must have belonged to his father. I think the boy was rather proud
than otherwise of this suspender, although it had a disagreeable trick
of sliding down over his shoulder and causing some momentary
disarrangement of his attire. But Ransey just hooked it back into its
place again with his thumb, and all was right, till the next time.

A rough little tyke you might have called Ransey Tansey, with his
sun-burnt face, neck, and bosom. Yet there was something that was
rather pleasing than otherwise in his clear eyes and open countenance;
and when his red and rather thin lips parted in a smile, which they very
often did, he showed a set of teeth as clean and white as those of a
six-months-old Saint Bernard puppy, and you cannot better that.

Had this little lad been a town boy, hands and face and feet would have
been far from clean; but Ransey lived away down in the cool, green
country, in a midland district of Merrie England, and being as often in
the water as a duck, he was just as clean as one.

Away went Ransey Tansey now, and opened a rough old door in a rock which
formed part of the hill by the side of which the humble cottage stood.
The door opened into a kind of cave, which was a storehouse for all
kinds of things.

He was soon back again, and in five minutes' time had lit the fire,
swept the hearth as tidily as a girl could have done it, and hung the
kettle on a hook and chain. By this time another member of this small
family came in, a very large and handsome tabby cat, with a white chest
and vandyked face.

Murrams, as he was called, was holding his head very high indeed. In
fact he had to, else the nice young leveret he carried would have
trailed on the ground. Bob jumped up to meet him, with joy in his brown
eyes.

Had Bob possessed a tail of any consequence, he would have wagged it.
Bob's tail, however, was a mere stump, and it was quite buried in the
rough, shaggy coat that hung over his rump. But though honest Bob had
only the fag-end of a tail, so to speak, he agitated this considerably
when pleased.

He did so when he saw that leveret.

"Oh, you clever old Murrams!" Bob seemed to say. "What a nice drop of
soup that'll make, and all the bones for me!"

Murrams walked gingerly past him, and throwing the leveret on the
hearth, proceeded to wash his face and warm his nose at the blaze.

Ransey put away the young hare, patted pussy on his broad, sleek
forehead, then took down a long tin can to go for the morning's milk.
He left the door open, because he knew that if Babs should awake and
scramble out of her cot, she would toddle right out to clutch at wild
flowers, beetles, and other things, instead of going towards the fire.

Ransey Tansey happened to look round when he was about thirty yards from
the cottage. Why, here was Bob coming softly up behind. Murrams
himself couldn't have walked more silently.

His ears disappeared backwards when he was found out, and he looked very
guilty indeed.

Ransey Tansey shook his finger at him.

"Back ye goes - back ye goes to look after Babs."

Bob lay down to plead.

"It ain't no go, Bob, I tell ye," continued Ransey Tansey, still shaking
his finger. "Back to Babs, Bob - back to Babs. We can't both on us
leave the house at the same time."

This latter argument was quite convincing, and back marched Bob, with
drooping head and with that fag-end of a tail of his drooping earthwards
also.

There grew on the top of the bank a solitary brown-stemmed pine-tree.
Very, very tall it was, with not a branch all the way up save a very
strong horizontal limb, which was used to hang people from in the happy
days of old. The top of this tree was peculiar. It spread straight out
on all sides, forming a kind of flat table of darkest green needled
foliage. Had you been sketching this tree, then, after doing the stem,
you could easily have rubbed in the top of it by dipping your little
finger in ink and smudging the paper crosswise.

When not far from this gibbet-tree, as it was generally called, Ransey
looked up and hailed, -

"Ship ahoy! Are ye on board, Admiral?"

And now a somewhat strange thing happened. No sooner had the boy hailed
than down from a mass of central foliage there suddenly hung what, at
first sight, one might have taken for a snake.

It was really a bird's long neck.

"Craik - craik - crik - cr - cr - cray!"

"All right," cried Ransey, as if he understood every word. "Ye mebbe
don't see nuthin' o' father, do ye?"

"Tok - tok - tok - cr - cray - ay!"

"Well, ye needn't flop down, Admiral. I'll come up myself."

No lamplighter ever ran quicker up a ladder than did Ransey Tansey swarm
up that pine-tree. In little over two minutes he was right out on the
green roof, and beside him one of the most graceful and beautiful cranes
it is possible to imagine. The boy's father had bought the bird from a
sailor somewhere down the country; and, except on very stormy nights, it
preferred to roost in this tree. The neck was a greyish blue, as was
also the back; the wings were dark, the legs jet black, the tail purple.
Around the eyes was a broad patch of crimson; and the bill was as long
as a penholder, more or less slender, and slightly curved downwards at
the end. [A species of what is popularly known an the dancing crane.]

The Admiral did all he could to express the pleasure he felt at seeing
the boy, by a series of movements that I find it difficult to describe.
The wings were half extended and quivering with delight, the neck
forming a series of beautiful curves, the head at times high in air, and
next moment down under Ransey's chin. Then he twisted his neck right
round the boy's neck, from left to right, then from right to left, the
head being laid lovingly each time against his little master's cheek.

"Now then, Admiral, when ye're quite done cuddlin' of me, we'll have a
look for father's barge."

From his elevated coign of vantage, Ransey Tansey could see for many
miles all around him. On this bright, sunny summer morn, it was a
landscape of infinite beauty; on undulating, well-wooded, cultivated
country, green and beautiful everywhere, except in the west, where a
village sheltered itself near the horizon, nestling in a cloudland of
trees, from which the grey flat tower of a church looked up.

To the left yonder, and near to the church, was a long strip of silver -
the canal. High on a wooded hill stood the lord of the manor's house,
solid, brown, and old, with the blue smoke therefrom trailing lazily
along across the tree-tops.

But the house nearest to Ransey's was some distance across the fields
yonder - an old-fashioned brick farm-building with a steading behind it,
every bit of it green with age.

"So ye can't see no signs o' father, or the barge, eh? Look again,
Admiral; your neck's a bit longer'n mine."

"Tok - tok - tok - cray!"

"Well, I'm off down. There's the milk to fetch yet; and if I don't
hurry up, Bob and Babs are sure to make a mess on't afore I gets back.
Mornin' to ye, Admiral."

And Ransey Tansey slid down that tree far more quickly even than he had
swarmed up it.

Scattering the dew from the grass and the milk-white clover with his
naked feet, the lad went trotting on, and very quickly reached the farm.
He had to stop once or twice by the way, however. First, Towsey, the
short-horned bull, put his great head over a five-barred gate, and
Ransey had to pause to scratch it. Then he met the peacock, who
insisted on instant recognition, and walked back with him till the two
were met by Snap, the curly-coated retriever.

"I don't like Snap," said the peacock. "I won't go a bit further. The
ugly brute threatened to snap my head off; that's the sort of Snap he
is."

The farmer's wife was fat and jolly looking.

"Well, how's all the family?"

"Oh, they're all right, ye know; especially Babs, 'cause she's asleep.
And we kind of expect father to-day. But even the Admiral can't see
'im, with _his_ long neck."

She filled his can, and took the penny. That was only business; but the
kindly soul had slyly slipped two turkey's eggs into the can before she
poured in the milk.

When he got back to his home, the first thing he saw was that crane,
half hopping, half flying round and round the gibbet-tree. The fact of
the matter is this: the bird did not wish to go far away from the house
just yet, as he generally followed his little master to the brook or
stream; but, nevertheless, on this particularly fine morning he found
himself possessed of an amount of energy that must be expended somehow,
so he went hopping round the tree, dangling his head and long neck in
the drollest and most ridiculous kind of way imaginable. Ransey Tansey
had to place his milk-can on the ground in order to laugh with greater
freedom. The most curious part of the business was this: crane though
he was, wheeling madly round like this made him dizzy, so every now and
then he stopped and danced round the other way.

The Admiral caught flies wherever he saw them; but flies, though all
very well in their way, were mere tit-bits. Presently he would have a
few frogs for breakfast, and the bird was just as fond of frogs as a
Frenchman is.

Ransey Tansey opened the door of the little cottage very quietly, and
peeped in. Bob was there by the bassinette. He agitated that fag-end
of a tail of his, and looked happy.

Murrams paused in the act of washing his ears, with one paw held aloft.
He began to sing, because he knew right well there was milk in that can,
and that he would have a share of it.

Babs's blue eyes had been on the smoke-grimed ceiling, but she lowered
them now.

"Oh," she said, "you's tome back, has 'oo?"

"And Babs has been so good, hasn't she?" said Ransey.

"Babs is dood, and Bob is dood, and Murrams is dooder. 'Ift [lift] me
up twick, 'Ansey."

Two plump little arms were extended towards her brother, and presently
he was seated near the fire dressing her, as if he had been to the
manner born.

There was a little face to wash presently, as well as two tiny hands and
arms; but that could be done after they had all had breakfast.

"Oh, my!" cried Ransey Tansey; "look, Babs! Two turkey's eggs in the
bottom of the can!"

"Oh, my! 'Ansey," echoed the child. "One tu'key's egg fo' me, and one
fo' 'oo."

The door had been left half ajar, and presently about a yard of long
neck was thrust round the edge, and the Admiral looked lovingly at the
eggs, first with one roguish eye, then with the other.

This droll crane had a weakness for eggs - strange, perhaps, but true.
When he found one, he tossed it high in air, and in descending caught it
cleverly. Next second there was an empty egg-shell on the ground, and
some kind of a lump sliding slowly down the Admiral's extended gullet.
When it was fairly landed, the bird expressed his delight by dancing a
double-triple fandango, which was partly jig, partly hornpipe, and all
the rest a Highland schottische.

"Get out, Admiral! - get out, I tell ye!" cried the boy. "W'y, ye
stoopid, if the door slams, off goes yer head."

The bird seemed to fully appreciate the danger, and at once withdrew.

Ransey placed the two turkey's eggs on a shelf near the little gable
window. One pane of glass was broken, and was stuffed with hay.

Well, the Admiral had been watching the boy, and as soon as his back was
turned, it didn't take the bird long to pull out that hay.

"O 'Ansey, 'ook! 'ook!" cried Babs.

It was too late, however, for looking to do any good. For the same yard
of neck that had, a few minutes before, appeared round the edge of the
doorway, was now thrust through the broken pane, and only one turkey's
egg was left.

Babs looked very sad. She considered for a bit, then said solemnly, -

"'Oo mus' have the odel [other] tu'key's _egg_. You is dooder nor me."

But Ransey didn't have it. He contented himself with bread and milk.

And so the two mitherless bairns had breakfast.

Book 1 - CHAPTER TWO.

LIFE IN THE WOODS.

I trust that, from what he has already seen and heard of Ransey Tansey,
the reader will not imagine I desire this little hero of mine to pose as
a real saint. Boys should be boys while they have the chance. Alas,
they shall grow up into men far too soon, and then they needn't go long
journeys to seek for sorrow; they will find it near home.

And now I think, reader, you and I understand each other, to some extent
at all events. Though I believe he was always manly and never mean,
yet, as his biographer, I am bound to confess that there was just as
much monkey-mischief to the square inch about Ransey Tansey, as about
any boy to whom I have ever had the honour of being introduced.

It was said of the immortal George Washington that when a boy at school
he climbed out of a bedroom window and robbed a wall fruit tree, because
the other boys were cowards and afraid to do so. But George refused to
eat even a bite of one of these apples himself. I think that Ransey
Tansey could have surpassed young Washington; for not only would he have
taken the apples, but eaten his own share of them afterwards.

To do him justice, however, I must state that on occasions when his
father went in the barge to a distant town on business, as he had been
now for over a week, Ransey being left in charge of his tiny sister and
the whole establishment, the sense of his great responsibility kept him
entirely free from mischief.

Now a very extraordinary thing happened on this particular morning -
Ransey Tansey received a letter.

The postman was sulky, to say the least of it.

"Pretty thing," he said, as he flung the letter with scant ceremony in
through the open doorway; "pretty thing as I should have to come
three-quarters of a mile round to fetch a letter to the likes o' you!"

"Now, look 'ee here," said Ransey, "if ye're good and brings my letters
every day, and hangs yer stockin' out at Christmas-time, I may put
somethin' in it."

"Gur long, ye ragged young nipper!"

Ransey was dandling Babs upon his knee, but he now put her gently down
beside the cat. Then he jumped up.

"I'se got to teach you a lesson," he said to the boorish postman, "on
the hadvantages o' civeelity. I ain't agoin' to waste a good pertater
on such a sconce as yours, don't be afeard; but 'ere's an old turmut
[turnip] as'll meet the requirements o' the occasion."

It was indeed an old turnip, and well aimed too, for it caught the
postman on the back of the neck and covered him with slush from head to
toe.

The lout yelled with rage, and flew at Ransey stick in hand. Next
moment, and before he could deal the boy a blow, he was lying flat on
the grass, with Bob standing triumphantly over him growling like a wild
wolf.

"Call off yer dog, and I won't say no more about it."

"Oh, ye won't, won't ye? I calls that wery considerate. But look 'ee
here, I ain't agoin' to call Bob off, until ye begs my parding in a
spirit o' humility, as t'old parson says. If ye don't, I'll hiss Bob on
to ye, and ye'll be a raggeder nipper nor me afore Bob's finished the
job to his own satisfaction."

Well, discretion is the better part of valour, and after grumbling out
an apology, the postman was allowed to sneak off with a whole skin.

Then Ransey kissed Bob's shaggy head, and opened his letter.

"Dear Sonnie, - Can't get home before four days. Look after Babs.
Your Loving Father."

That was all. The writing certainly left something to be desired, but
it being the first letter the boy had ever received, he read it twice
over to himself and twice over to Babs; then he put it away inside his
New Testament.

"Hurrah, Babs!" he cried, picking the child up again, and swinging her
to and fro till she laughed and kicked and crowed with delight - "hurrah,
Babs! we'll all away to the woods. Murrams shall keep house, and we'll
take our dinner with us."

It was a droll procession. First walked Bob, looking extremely solemn
and wise, and carrying Ransey's fishing-rod. Close behind him came the
tall and graceful crane, not quite so solemn as Bob; for he was catching
flies, and his head and neck were in constant motion, and every now and
then he would hop, first on one leg, and then on the other. Ransey
Tansey himself brought up the rear, with a small bag slung in front of
him, and Babs in a shawl on his back.

Away to the woods? Yes; and there was a grand little stream there, and
the boy knew precisely where the biggest fish lay, and meant to have
some for supper. The leveret could hang for a few days.

Arrived at his fishing-ground, where the stream swept slowly through the
darkling wood, Ransey lowered his back-burden gently on the moss, and
lay down on his face in front of her to talk Babs into the best of
tempers.

This was not difficult to do, for she was really a good-natured child;
so he gave her his big clasp-knife and his whistle, and proceeded to get
his rod in order and make a cast. Bob lay down beside the tiny mite to
guard her. She could whistle herself, but couldn't get Bob to do the
same, although she rammed the whistle halfway down his throat, and
afterwards showed him how she did it.

Well, there are a few accomplishments that dogs cannot attain to, and I
believe whistling is one of them.

The fish were very kind to-day, and Ransey was making a very good bag.
Whenever he had finished fishing in about forty yards of stream, he
threw down his rod and trotted off back for Babs, and placed her down
about twenty yards ahead of him, fished another forty yards and changed
her position again, Bob always following close at the boy's heels and
lying down beside his charge, and permitting himself to be pulled about,
and teased, and cuddled, and kissed one moment, and hammered over the
nose with that tin whistle the next. Even when Babs tried to gouge his
eye out with a morsel of twig, he only lifted his head and licked her
face till, half-blinded, she had to drop the stick and tumble on her
back.

"You's a funny dog, Bob," she said; "'oor tisses is so lough [rough]."

Of course they were. He meant them to be, for Bob couldn't afford to
lose an eye.

I think the Admiral enjoyed himself quite as much as any one. He chose
a bit of the stream for himself where the bank was soft, and there he
waded and fished for goodness only knows what - beetles, minnows, tiny
frogs, anything alive and easy to swallow.

I don't think, however, that the Admiral was a very good Judge of his
swallowing capabilities. That neck of his was so very, very long, and
though distensible enough on the whole, sometimes he encountered
difficulties that it was almost impossible to surmount. Tadpoles slid
down easily enough, so did flies and other tiny insects; but a too-big
frog, if invited to go down head-foremost, often had a disagreeable way
of throwing his hind-legs out at right angles to the entrance of the
Admiral's gullet. This placed the Admiral in a somewhat awkward
predicament. No bird can look his best with its beak held forcibly
agape, and the two legs of a disorderly frog sticking out one at each
side.

The crane would hold his head in the air and consider for a bit, then
lower his face against the bank and rub one leg in, then change cheeks
and rub the other in; but lo! while doing so, leg number one would be
kicked out again, and by the time that was replaced out shot leg number
two.

It was very annoying and ridiculous. So the Admiral would step
cautiously on to the green bank, and stride very humbly down the stream
to Ransey Tansey, with his neck extended and his head on a level with
his shoulders.

"You see the confounded fix I'm in," he would say, looking up at his
master with one wonderfully wise eye.

Then Ransey would pull out the frog, and the little rascal would hop
away, laughing to himself apparently.

"Crok - crok - cray - ay!" the Admiral would cry, and go joyfully back to
his fishing-ground.

But sometimes Mr Crane would swallow a big water-beetle, and if this
specimen had a will of its own, as beetles generally have, it would
catch hold of the side of the gullet and hang on halfway down.

"I ain't going another step," the beetle would say; "it isn't good
enough. The road is too long and too dark."

So this disobliging beetle would just stop there, making a kind of a
mump in the poor Admiral's neck.

When Ransey saw his droll pet stride out of the pool and walk solemnly
towards a tree and lean his head against it, and close his eyes, the lad
knew pretty well what was the matter.

There is nothing like patience and plenty of it, and presently the
beetle would go to sleep, relax its hold, and slip quietly down to
regions unknown. There would be no more mump now, and the crane would
suddenly take leave of his senses with joy.

"Kaik - kaik - kay - ay?" he would scream, and go madly hopping and dancing
round the tree, a most weird and uncanny-looking object, raising one leg
at a time as high as he could, and swinging his head and neck fore and
aft, low and aloft, from starboard to port, in such a droll way that
Ransey Tansey felt impelled to throw himself on his back, so as to laugh
without bursting that much-prized solitary suspender of his, while Bob
sat up to bark, and Babs clapped her tiny hands and crowed.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Ransey got tired of fishing at last, and made up his rod. There was
some sort of silent joy or happiness away down at the bottom of the
boy's heart, and for a moment he couldn't make out what was causing it.
The big haul of fish he had caught? Oh, no; that was a common exploit.
Having smashed the postman with a mushy turnip? That was capital, of
course, but that wasn't it. Ah! now he has remembered - father was


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