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stinct for shaping a course which is often found among men
of such pursuits. But although they held a true course in the
main, and corrected it when they lost the road by aid of th«
compass and a light obtained with great difficulty in the roomy
deptlis of the captain's hat, they could not help losing the road
often. On such occasions they would become involved in the
difficult ground of the spongy moor, and, after making a labo-
rious loop, would emerge upon the road at some point they
had passed before they left it, and thus would have a good
deal of work to do twice over. But the young fisherman was
not easily lost, and the captain (and his comb) would probably
have turned up, with perfect coolness and self-possession, at
any appointed spot on the surface of this globe. Conse-
quently, they were no more than retarded in their progress
to Lanrean, and arrived in that small place at nine oVIock.
By that time the captain's hat had fallen back over his ears,
and rested on the nape of his neck ; but he still had his hands
in his pockets, and showed no other sign of dilapidation.

They had almost run against a low stone house with red-
curtained windows, before they knew they had hit upon the
little hotel, the King Arthur's Arms. They could just descry
through the mist, on tlie opposite side of the narrow road,



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'2^ A HESSAQE FROM THE SBl.

other low stone baildings which were its outhouses and 8tft-
bles; and somewhere overhead its invisible sign was bdng
wrathfullj swung bj the wind.

" Now, wait a bit," said the captain. ** They might be foil
here, or they might offer us cold quarters. Consequently, the
policy is to take an observation, and, when we've found the
warmest room, walls right slap into it."

The warmest room was evidently that f^om which fire and
candle streamed reddest, and brightest, and from which the
sound of voices engaged in some discussion came out into
the night. Captain Jorgan having jsstablished the bearings
of this room, merely said to his young friend, " Follow me T
and was in it before King Arthur's Arms had any notion that
they infolded a stranger.

"Order, order, order I" cried several voices, as the captain,
with his hat under his arm, stood within the door be had opened.

*' Qentlemen," said the captain, advancing, "I am mneb be-
holden to you for the opportunity you give me of addressing
you ; but will not detain you with any lengthened observations.
I have the honor to be a cousin of yours on the Uncle Sam
side ; this yoang friend of mine is a nearer relation of yours
on the Devonshire side ; we are both pretty nigh used up, and
much in want of supper. I thank you for your welcomo, and
I am proud to take you by the hand, sir, and I hope I see y<m
well.**

These last words were addressed to a jolly-looking chairmaii,
with a wooden hammer near him ; which, but for the captaiot
friendly grasp, he would have taken up and hammered the
table with.

'* How do yon do, sir?" said the captain, shaking this chair-
roan's hand with the greatest heartiness, while his new friend
ineffectually ejed his hammer of office ; " when you come to my
country, I shall be proud to return your welcome, sir, and thai
of this good company."

The captain now took his seat near the fire, and invited liis
companion to do the like — whom he congratulated aloud, on
their having " fallen on their feet."

The company, who might be about a dosen in number, were
at a loss what to make of, or do with, the captain. Bat



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A MBS8AGB FROM THE SEA. 2$l

littie old man in long flapping shirt collars who, with only his
hkce ftad them Tbible throngh a cloud of tobacco smoke, looked
like a snperannnated Oherubim : said sharply :

''This is a Club."

" This is a Glob," the captain repeated to his jouog friend.
" Wa'al BOW, that's curions I Didn't I say, coming along, if we
eould only light upon a Glob J"

The captain's doubling himself op and slapping his leg
finished the chairman. He had been softening toward the
captain from the first, and he melted. ''Gentlemen King
Arthurs," said he, rising, " though it is not the custom to ad-
mit strangers, still, as we have broken the rule once to-night, I
will exert my authority and break it again. And while the
sapper of these travelers is cooking;" here his eye fell on the
landlord, who discreetly took the hint and withdrew to see about
it; " I will recall you to the subject of the sea-faring man."

" D^ye hear I" said the captain, aside to the young fisherman ;
" that's in our way. Who's the sea-faring man, I wonder ?"

" I see several old men here," returned the young fisher-
man, eagerly, for his thoughts were always on his object
" Perhaps one or more of the old men whose names you wrote
down in your book may be here."

" Perhaps," said the captain ; I've got my eye on 'em. But
don't force it. Try if it won't come nat'ral."

Thus the two, behind their hands, while they sat warming
them at the fire. Simultaneously, the Glub beginning to be at
its ease again, and resuming the discussion of the sea-faring
min, the captain winked to his feilow- traveler to let him attend
toil.

As it was a kind of conversation not altogether unprecedented
in Boch assemblages, where most of those who spoke at all
apoke all at once, and where half of those could put no begin-
aiug to what they had to say, and the other half could put
no end, the tendency of the debate was discursive, and not very
intelligible. All the captain had made out, down to the time
when tlie separate little table laid for two was covered with a
smoking broiled fowl and rashers of bacon, reduced itself to
these heads. That, a sea-faring man had arrived at the King
Arthur's Arms, benighted, au hour or so earlier in the evening.



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^^ A HBSSAGB FBOH THB 8B^

That, the Oentlemen King ArthQtB had admitted bfm, thoogk
unknown, into the sanctuary of their Clab. That, thef bad
invited him to make his footinj? food by telling a etory. Thai,
he had, after some pressing, began a story of adventure and
shipwreck ; at an interesting point of which he had suddenly
broke off, and positively refused to finish. That, he had there-
upon taken up a candlestick, and gone to bed, and was now the
sole occupant of a double-bedded room up stairs. The qne^im
raised on these premises appeared to be, whether the sea-faring
man was not in a state of contumacy and contempt, and ought
not to be formally voted and declared in that conditioa. This
deliberation involved the difficulty (suggested by the more jo-
cose and irreverent of the Gentlemen King Arthurs) that it might
make no sort of difference to the sea-faring man whether he was
so voted and declared, or not. '

Captain Jorgan and the young fisherman ate their supper
and drank their beer, and their knives and forks bad ceased
to rattle and their glasses had ceased to dink, and stilt the
discussion nhowed no symptoms of coming to any conclusion.
But when they bad left their little Bupper-table and had
returned to their seats by the fire, the Ohairman hammered
himself into attention, and thus outspake :

*' Gentlemen King Arthurs ; wiien the night is so bad
without, harmony should prevail within. When the moor is so
windy, cold, and bleak, this room should be cheerful, convivial,
and entertaining. Oentlemen, at present it is neither the one,
nor yet the other, nor yet the other. Gentlemen King Arthwa,
I recall you to yourselves. Gentlemen King Arthnrs, what are
you ? Ton are iiihabitants-^-old inhabitants — of the noble vil-
lage of Lanrean. You are in council assembled. Too are a
monthly Club through all the winter months, and they are many.
It is your perroud perrivilege, on a new member'fi entrance,
or on a member's birthday, to call upon that member to make
good his footing by relating to you some transactiou or ad-
venture in his life, or in the life of a relation, or in the life af
Bf fi'iend, and then depute me as your representative to apin a
teetotum to pass it round. (Jentlemen King Arthurs, yoar
perroud perrivilcges shall not suffer in my keeping. N — uol
Therefore, as the member whose birthday the present oecasian



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M liEaSAGB PROBl THB 9EAk t^

btts the faoiior to be, baa gratified you ; and as tbe sea-fanog
tnun orerheftd baa not gratified 700 ; I start yon fresb, by spin*
Ding tl)e teetotam attocbed to my office, and calliog on the
^ntlemea it falls to to speak up wben his nanie is declared."

The eaptaitt and bis young friend looked hard at the tee-
totum as it whirled rapidly, and harder still when it gradually
itpcanne intoxicated aad began to stagger about the table in
•II iiUcofiducted aod disorderly manner. Finally it came into
eoltisioD with a candlestick, and leaped agahist tbe pipe of tbe
old gentleman with the flapping shirt collars. Thereupon the
chairman struck the table once with his hammer and said :

"Mr. Parvisl"

"D'ye hear that?" whispered the captain, greatly excited^
to tbe young fisherman. " I'd have laid you a tbousand dollars
a good half-hour ago, that that old cherubim in the clouds
was Arson Parvis 1"

The reipeotable personage in question, after turning up one
eye to assist his memory — at which Ume he bore a very strikf*
ing resemblance indeed to the ooRYentional representations of
bia raee as eoDcouted in oU by various ancient masters — com-
menced a narrative, of whieb the interest centred in a waist-
cottt It appeared that tiie waistcoat was a yellow waistcoat
with a green stripe, white sleeves, and a plain brass button.
It also appeared that the waistcoat was made to order, by
Nieh^aa iSndold of Peniauce, who was thrown off tbe top
of a fbur^lorse eoacb coming down the bill on the Plymouth
road, and, pitching on bia bead where be was not sensitive,
lived two-aod^birty years afterward, and considered himself
the better for tbe accident*— roused up, as it might be. It fur-
ther appeared that tbe waistcoat belonged to Mr. Parvis^
father, and had once attended him, in company with a pair of
gaiters, to the annual feagt of tninera at St. Just ; where the
iixiraordinary circumstances which ever afterward rendered it a
waistcoat famous in story bad occurred* But the celebrity of
the waistcoat was not thoroughly accounted for by Mr. Parvis,
and bad to be to some extent taken on trust by the company,
in consequence of that gentleman's entirely forgetting all about
the extraordiaary circumstance that bad banded it down to
&ma. Indeedi be waa even uoable^ ou a gentle crosa-exaii^-



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264 A MESSAQB FROM THB SBA.

nation instituted for the asslstanoe of his memorj, to infomi
the Gentlemen King Arthars whether ft was a circamstance of
a nataral or a supernataral character. Having thos responded
to the teetotnro, Mr. Parvis, after looking ont from hu doods
as if he would like to see the man who would beat that^ 8ub«
sided into himself.

The fraternitj were plunged into a blank condition hj Mr.
Pnrvis's success, and the chairman was about to trj another
spin, when young Raybrock — whom Captain Jorgan had with
difficulty restrained — rose, and said might he ask Mr. Panria
a question.

The Gentlemen King Arthurs holding, with loud cries of
** Order I" that he might not, he asked the question as soon as
he could possibly make himself heard.

Did the forgotten circumstance relate in any way to money f
To a sura of money, such as five hundred pounds f To money
supposed by its posss^sor to be honestly come by, but in re*
ality illgotten and stolen f

A general surprise seized upon the olnb when this remark*
able inquiry was preferred ; which would bare becone resent
ment but for the captain's interposition.

" Strange as it sounds," said he, ** and tnspidons as It sonndi^
I pledge myself, gentlemen, that my young friend here has a
mtiiily 8ti\iid-(ip Cornish treason fbr his words. Also, I pledge
myself that tliey are inoffensive words. He and I are search-
ing for information on a subject which those words generally
describe. Such information we may get from the honestest
and best of men — may get, or not get, here or anywhere about
here. •! hope the Honorable Mr. Arson — I ask his pardon —
Parvis — will not object to quiet my young friend's mind by
snying Yes or No."

After some time, the obtuse Mr. Parvis was with gpreat trouble
and diflBculty induced to roar out *'Nol" For which eoneea-
fiion the captain rose and thanked him.

" Now, listen to the next," whispered the captain to the
young fisherman. "There may be more in him than In tbe
other crittiir. Don't interrupt lifra. Hear him out"

The chairman with all due formality spun the teetotnm, aad
H reeled into <he brandy-and- water of a strong brown man of



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A MESSAaE FROM THE SEA. 20o

sixty or so ; John Tredgear ; the manager of a neighboring
mine. He immediately began as follows, with a plain business-
like air that gradually warmed as he proceeded :

It happened that at one period of my life the path of my
destiny (not a tin path then) lay along the highways and
byways of France, and that I had occasion to make frequent
stoppages at common French roadside cabarets — that kind of
tavern which has a very bad name in French hooks and French
plays. I had engaged myself in an nndertnking which rendered
such jonmeys necessary. A very old friend of mine had re-
cently established himself at Paris in a wholesale commercial
enterprise, ioto the nature of which it is not necessary for our
preseat purpose to enter. He had proposed to me a certain
share in the undertaking, and one of the duties of my post was
to involve occasional journeys among the smaller towns and
Tillages of France, with the view of establishing agencies and
opening connections. My friend had applied to me to under-
take this function, rather than to a native, feeling that ha
could trust me better than a stranger. He knew also that.
In consequence of my having been half of my life at school in
France, my knowledge of the language would be sufficient for
every purpose that could be required.

I accepted my friend's proposal, and entered with such en«
ergy as I conld command upon my new mode of life. Some-
times my journeyings from place to place were accomplished
by means of the railroad, or other public conveyance; but
there were other occasions, and these last I liked the best,
vheu it was necessary I should go to out-of-the-way places,
and by snch cross-roads as rendered it more convenient for me
to travel with a carriage and horse of my own. My carriage
was a kind of phaeton without a coach-box, with a leather
hood that would put up and down ; and there was plenty
of room at the back for such specimens or samples of goods
as it was necessary that I should carry with me. For my horse
—it was absolutely indispensable that it should be an animal
of some value, as no horse but a very good one would be ca-
pable of performing the long courses, day after day, which
my mode of traveling rendered necessary. He cost me two
thousand francs, and was any thing but dear at the price.



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J



260 A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA.

Mniij were the journeys we performed together orer Hie
broad acres of beautiTul France. Many were the hotels, many
the aaberges, many the bad dinners, many the damp beds, and
many ihe fleas which I encountered en route. Many were the
dull old fortified towns over whose draw-bridf^es I rolled;
many the still more dull old towns withont fbrtiBeatiofis and
without draw-bridges, at which my aroefttions made ft oecesaarf
for me to halt.

I don't know how it was that on the morning when 1 was to
start from the town of Douliiise, with the intention of sleeping
at Fraiiey-le- Grand, I was an hour later in commeneing ay
journey than I ought to hate been. I have said I donH kno#
how it was, but this is scarcely true. I do know bow H was.
It was because on that morning, to use a popular expresMoa,
every thing went wrong. So it was an hour later than it ought
to have been. Gentlemen, when I drew up the sheep-skin lining
of my carriage apron over my legs, and, establishing my little
dog comfortably on the seat beside me, set off on my joomey;
In all my expeditions I was accompanied by a flivorite terrier
of mine, which I had brought with me fh>ro England. I nerer
traveled without her, and fonnd her a companion.

It was a miserable dfiy in the month of October. A per*
feetly gray sky, with white gleams about the borison, gave
nnmistiikable evidence that the small drittrie which wns faHinit
would continue for four-and -twenty hours at least. It was coM
and cheerless weather, and on the deserted road I was paraahig
there was scarcely a human being (unless it was an oecasioDal
cantonnier, or road-mender) to break the solitude. A deserted
way indeed, with poplars on each side of it, which had tamed
yellow in the autumn, and had shed their leaves in abntMNuice
all across the road, so that my mare's footsteps had q«iite a
muffled sound as she trampled them under her hoofs. Widely-
extended flats st)read out on either side tiH the riew was lost kl
an inconceivably melancholy scene, and the road itself was se
perfectly straight, that you could see something like ten miles
of it diminishing to a point in front of you, while a similar
Tiew was visible through the little window at the back of
the carriage.

lo the hurry of the morning's departure, I had omitted Is



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k MBSSAGB VftOM THB 8BA. ^

iofoife» M I geoerally did in traTeling an anknowB rofidi at
what village it woald be best for me to 9top, about noon, to
bait, and wiiat was the name of the moat respectable bouse of
pobMc entertainment in my w'aj ; so that when I arrived, be-
tween tweWe and one o'olock, at a certain place where four
roads met, and when, at one of the corners formed by their
onion, I saw a great bare-looking inn, with the sign of the
Tdte Noire swinging in, front, I had nothing Cor it bnt to put
up there, witboat knowiag asy tUng of the character of the
honse.

The look of the place did not please me. It was a great,
bare^ nn inhabited-looking honse, which seemed much larger
than was necessary, and presented a black and dirty appear
anoe» which, considering the distance from any town, it was
diffioult to account for. AH the doors and all the windows
were shut \ there was no sign of any living creature about the
place ; and niched into the wall above the principal entrance
was a grim and ghastly-looking life-size figure of a Saint. For
a moment I hesitated whether I should tnm into the open
gates of the stable-yard, or go further in search of some more
attractive halting^pJaee.. Bnt my mare was tired, I was more
than half-way oa my road, and this would be the best division
of the journey. Besides, €kntlemen, why not put op here 7
If I waa only going to stop at snch places of entertainment as
completely satisfied me, externally as well as internally, I had
better give up traveling altogether.

There were no more signs of life in the interior of the yard
thaa were presented by the external aspect of the house as
it fronted the road. Every thing seemed shut up. All the
stables and outhouses were .chamcteriaed by closed doors,
withottt 80 m.uch as a straw clinging to their thresholds to
indicate that these buildings were sometimes put to a practical
use. I saw no manure strewed about the place, and no living
creature : no pigi^ no duck?, no fowls. It was perfectly still
and quiet, and as it was one of those days when a fine small
rain deaceads quite straight, without a breath of air to drive it
one way or the other, the silence was complete and distressing.
I gare n loud shont, and began undoing the harness while my
•ttttouMis waa taking effect,



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268 A MESSAGB FROM THB 6BA.

The first person whom the sound of my voice sppesndto
have reached was a small bat precocious boy, who opened t
door in the back of the house, and descending the flight of
steps which led to it, approached to aid me in my task. I wis
JQSt undoing the final bnckte on my side of the harness, when,
happening to tarn round, I discovered, standing close behind
roe, a personage who had approached so quietly that it would
have been a confusing thing to find him bo near, even if there
had been nothing in his appearance which was calculated to
startle one. He was the most ill-looking man, OenUemes,
that it was erer my fortune to behold. Nearer fifty tbio
any other ago I could give him, his dry, spare nature had k«fft
him as light and active as a restless boy. An absence of
flesh, however, was not the only want I felt to exist in the pe^
sonal appearance of the landlord of the T^te Noire. There
was a mnch more serions defect in him than this. A waot
of any hint of mercy, or conscience, or any accessible approach
to the better side (if there was a better side) of the man's na-
ture. When first I looked at his eyes, as he stood behind dm
in the open court, and as they rapidly glanced over the cone^
points of my horse, and thence to the packages insMe mj
carriage, and the portmanteau strapped on in f^nt of iu-at
that time the color of his eyes appeared to me to be of an al-
most orange tinge ; but when, a minute afterward, we stood
together in the dark stable, I noted that a kind of blue plio«>
phorescence gleamed upon their surface, vailing their real btn,
and imparting to them a tigerish lustre. The moment when
I remarked this, by-the-by, was when the organs I have beta
describing were fixed upon the very large gold ring whick
I had not ceased to wear when I adopted my adventurous life»
and which you may see upon my finger now. There were
two other things aboat this man thiit struck me. Theat Wftn^
a bald red projecting Inmp of flesh at the back of his head, and
a deep scar, which a scrap of fronsy whisker on his ekeak
wholly declined to conceal.

"A nasty day for a journey of pleasure," said the kMlleid,
looking at me with a satirical smile.

"Perhaps it is nol a journey of pleasure," I answered, dryif

"We have few such travelers on the road now^" aaM tkt



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A MESSAGE FROM THE SEA. 269

evii-faoed man. "The railroads make the country a desert and
the roads arc as wild as they were three hundred years ago/'

"They are well enough," I answered carelessly, **for those
who are obliged to travel by them. Nobody else, I should
thiok, would be likely to make use of them."

" Will you come into the house ?" said the landlord,
abruptly, looking me full in the face.

I never felt a stronger repugnance than I entertained to*
ward the idea of entering this man's doors. Yet what other
eoarae was open to me 7 My mare was already half through
the first installment of her oats, so there was no more excuse for
remaining in the stable. To take a walk in the drenching rain
was out of the question, and to remain sitting in my caliche
would have been a worse indication of suspicion and mis-
trust. Besides, I had had nothing since the morning's coffee,
and I wanted something to eat and drink. There was nothing
to be done, then, but to accept my ill-looking friend's offer.
He led the way up the flight of steps which gave access to the
interior of the bnilding.

The room in which I found myself on passing through the
door at the top of these steps, was one of those rooms which
an excess of light not only fails to enliven, but seems even to
invest with an additional degree of gloom. There is some-
Hnie4s this character about light, and I have seen before now
a work-house ward, and a barren school-room, which have
owed a good share of their melancholy to an immoderate
aiBount of cold gray daylight. This room, then, into which
I was shown, was one of those which, on a wet day, seemed
several degrees lighter than the open air. Of course it could
not be really lighter than the thing that lit it, but it seemed
80. It also appeared larger than the whole outdoor world ;
and this, certainly, could not be, either, but seemed so. Vast
as it was, there appeared through two glass doors in one of
the walls another apartment of similar dimensions. It was not
a square room, nor an oblong room, but was smaller at one
end than at the other; a phenomenon which, as you have very
likely observed. Gentlemen, has always an unpleasant effect.
The billiard table, which stood in the middle of the apartment,
though really of the usual size, looked quite a trifling piece



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270 j[ MESSAQB FROM (JIB SEA.

of fiirnitnre; and as to the other tables, which were planted



Online LibraryCharles DickensCharles Dickens' complete works → online text (page 61 of 84)