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go to bed, and the beasts went away."

It was many long weeks before she told him this, or her solemn little
visage smiled again.

He went to the little room off the hall, where he almost always found
her waiting for him, dressed to go. She was not there. Nobody came. He
grew impatient, and ran in his eagerness up the front stair. At the
top he met the butler coming from the drawing-room - a respectable old
man, who had been in the family as long as his master.

"Pardon me, Mr. Porson," said the butler, who was especially polite to
Clare, recognizing in him the ennoblement of his own order, "but it is
against the rules for any of the gentlemen below to come up this

"I know I'm in the wrong," answered Clare; "but I was in such a hurry
I ventured this once. I've been waiting for Miss Ann twenty minutes."

"If you will go down, I will make inquiry, and let you know directly,"
replied the butler.

Clare went down, and had not waited more than another minute when the
butler brought the message that the child was not to go out. In vain
Clare sought an explanation; the old man knew nothing of the matter,
but confessed that Miss Shotover seemed a little put out.

Then Clare saw that his desire to do justice had thwarted his
endeavour: Marway had seen Miss Shotover, he concluded, and had so
thoroughly prejudiced her against anything he might say, that she had
already taken the child from him! He repented that he had told him his
purpose before he was ready to follow it up with immediate
action. Distressed at the thought of little Ann's disappointment, he
set out for the show, glad in the midst of his grief, that he was
going to see Pummy once more.

The weather had been a little cloudy all day, but as he left the
closer part of the town, the vaporous vault gave way, and the west
revealed a glorious sunset. Troubled for the trouble of little Ann,
Clare seemed drawn into the sunset. The splendour said to him: "Go on;
sorrow is but a cloud. Do the work given you to do, and the clouds
will keep moving; stop your work and the clouds will settle down

"When I was on the tramp," thought Clare, "I always went on, and
that's how I came here. If I hadn't gone on, I should never have found
the darling!"

As little as during any day's tramp did he know how his reflection was
going to be justified.

He wandered on, and the minutes passed slowly: it was wandering now
with no child in his arms! He was in no haste to go to the menagerie;
he would be in good time for the beasts; and the later he was, the
sooner he would see his mother alone and have a talk with her!

At last, it being now quite dark, he turned, and made for the

A crowd was going up the steps, passing Mrs. Halliwell slowly, and
descending into the area surrounded by the beasts. Clare went up, and
laid his money on the little white table. The good woman took it with
a smile, threw it in her wooden bowl, and handed him, as if it had
been his change, three bright sovereigns. Clare turned his face
away. He could not take them. He felt as if it would break one bond
between them.

"The money's your own!" she said, in a low voice.

"By and by, mother!" he answered.

"No, no, take it now," she insisted, in an almost angry whisper; but
the same moment threw the sovereigns among the silver, and some
coppers that lay on the table over them.

Judging by her look that he had better say nothing, he turned and went
down the steps. Before he reached the bottom of them, Glum Gunn
elbowed his way past him, throwing a scowl on him from his ugly eyes
at the range of a few inches.

The place was fuller than it had been all the evening, and with a
rougher sort of company. The show would close in about an hour. It
seemed to Clare not so well lighted as usual. Perhaps that was why he
did not observe that he was watched and followed by Marway, with two
others, and one burly, middle-aged, sailor-looking fellow. But I doubt
whether he would have seen them in any light, for he had no
suspicions, and was not ready to analyze a crowd and distinguish

He avoided making straight for Pummy, contenting himself for the
moment with an occasional glimpse of him between the moving heads, now
opening a vista, now closing it again, for he hoped to get gradually
nearer unseen, so as to be close to the animal when first he should
descry him, for he dreaded attracting attention by becoming, while yet
at a distance, the object of an uproarious outbreak of affection on
the part of the puma.

But while he was yet a good way from him, a most ferocious yell sprang
full grown into the air, which the very fibres of his body knew as one
of the cries of the puma when most enraged. There he was on his hind
legs, ramping against the front of the cage, every hair on him
bristling, his tail lashing his flanks. The same instant arose a
commotion in the crowd behind Clare, a pushing and stooping and
swaying to and fro, with shouts of, "Here he is! here he is!"

Filled with a foreboding that was almost a prescience, he fell to
forcing his way without ceremony, and had got a little nearer to the
puma, when, elbowing roughly through the spectators, with red, evil
face, in drink but not drunk, Glum Gunn appeared, almost between him
and the cage - once more, to the horror of Clare, holding by the neck
his poor little Abdiel, curled up into the shape of a flea. The brute
was making his way with him to the cage of the puma, whose wrath,
grown to an indescribable frenzy, now blazed point-blank at the dog.

I think some waft of the wild odour of the menagerie must have reached
the nostrils of the loving creature, brought back old times and his
master, and waked the hope of finding him. That he had but just
arrived was plain, for he had not had time to get to his master.

Clare was almost at the edge of the close-packed, staring crowd,
absorbed in the sight of the huge raving cat. Breaking through its
outermost ring in the strength of sudden terror, he darted to the cage
to reach it before Glum Gunn. A man crossed and hustled him. Gunn
opened the door of the cage, and flung Abdiel to the puma. Ere he
could close it, Clare struck him once more a stout left-hander on the
side of his head. Gunn staggered back. Clare sprang into the
cage - just as Pummy spying him uttered a jubilant roar of
recognition. His jumping into the cage just prevented the puma from
getting out, and the crowd from trampling each other to death to
escape The Christians' Friend; but now that Clare was in, the
cage-door might have swung all night open unheeded - so long, that is,
as no dog appeared.

As for Abdiel the puma had forgotten him: the dog was out of his sight
for the moment, though only behind him, while his friend and he were
rubbing recognizant noses. Abdiel showed his wisdom by keeping in the
background. The moment he was flung into the cage, he had got into a
corner of it, and stood up on his hind legs.

His master believed that, knowing how the puma loved the human form
divine, he thought to prejudice him in his favour by showing how near
he could come to it. There he yet stood, his head sunk on his chest,
watching out of his eyes for the terrible moment when his enemy should
again catch sight of him.

The moment came. The puma's delight had broken out in wildest
motion. He sprang to the roof of his cage, and grappling there, looked
down with retorted neck, and saw the dog. Poor Abdiel immediately
raised his head, and in hope of propitiation all but forlorn, began a
little dance his master had taught him.

What Pummy would have done with him, I fear, but I cannot tell. Clare
sprang to the rescue, and the weight of the puma's bulk descended, not
on Abdiel, but on the shoulders of Clare who had the dog in his
bosom. In a moment more it was evidenced that a common love, however
often the cause of jealousy, is the most powerful mediator between the
generous. The puma forgot his hate, the dog forgot his fear, and
presently, to the admiration of the crowd, Clare and Pummy and Abby
were rolling over and over each other on the floor of the cage.

Pummy had the best of the rough game. One moment he would be a bend in
a seemingly unloosable knot of confused animality, the next he would
be clinging to the top of his cage, where the others could not follow
him. Perhaps to have a human to play with, was even better than dreams
of loveliest frolics with brothers and sisters, and a mother as madly
merry as they, in still, moonlit nights among the rocks, where neither
sound nor scent of horse woke the devil in any of their bosoms!

Glum Gunn, too angry to speak, stood watching with a scowl fit for
Lucifer when he rose from his first fall from heaven. He could do
nothing! If he touched one, all three would be upon him! Experience
had taught him what the puma would do in defence of Clare! He must
bide his time! - But he must keep hold of his chance! He drew from his
pocket his master-key, and at a moment when Clare was under the other
two, slid it into the key-hole, and locked the door of the cage. He
had him now - and his beast of a dog too! If he could have turned the
puma mad, and made him tear them both to shreds, he would not have
delayed an instant. But he must think! He must say, like Hamlet,
"About, my brains!"

The man, however, who wishes to do evil, will find as ready helpers as
he who wishes to do well: in the place were those who wanted Gunn's
aid, and would give him theirs.

He felt a touch on his arm, glanced sullenly round, and saw a face
under whose beauty lay the devil. Marway, with eye and thumb,
requested him to withdraw for a moment, and he did not hesitate. As he
went he chuckled to himself at the thought of Clare when he found the
door locked.

Marway's three accomplices had drifted off one by one to wait him
outside: he rejoined them with Gunn; and, retiring a little way from
the caravans, the five held a council, the results of which make an
important part of Clare's history.

Clare seemed absorbed in his game with his four-footed, one-tailed
friends, but he was wide awake: he had Abdiel to deliver, and kept,
therefore, all the time, at least half an eye on Glum Gunn. He saw
Marway come up to him, and saw them retire together: it was the very
moment to leave the cage with Abdiel! He rose, not without difficulty,
because of the jumping of his playmates upon him and over him, and
went to the door.

The moment he did so, the crowd was greatly amused to see the puma
turn upon the dog with a snarl, and the dog, at the fearful sound of
altered mood, immediately put on the man, rise to one pair of feet,
and begin to dance. The puma turned from him, went to the heel of his
chosen master, and there stood.

In vain Clare endeavoured to open the gate. He had never known it
locked, and could not think when it had been done. At length, amid the
laughter of the spectators, he desisted, and the three resumed their

At this the admiration of the visitors broke out. They had seen the
door made fast, and had kept pretty quiet, waiting what would come:
they had thus earned their amusement when he sought in vain to open
it. When his withdrawal confessed him foiled, the merrier began to
mock and the ruder to jeer. But when they saw him laugh, and all three
return to their gambols, they applauded heartily.

Just before this last portion of the entertainment, Mr. Halliwell, who
had been looking on for a while, retired, not knowing the cage-door
was locked. He went to his wife and said, that, if they had but the
boy and his dog again, and were but free of that brother of his, the
menagerie would be a wild-beast paradise. He would have had her go and
see the pranks in the puma's cage, but she was too tired, she said; so
he strolled out with his pipe, and left his men to close the
exhibition. Mrs. Halliwell fastened her door and went to bed, a little
hurt that Clare did not come to her.

Gradually the folk thinned away; and at last only a few who had got in
at half-price remained. To them the attendants hinted that they were
going to shut shop, and one by one they shuffled out, the readier that
Clare was now so tired that Pummy could not get up the merest tail of
a lark more. He was quite fresh himself, and had he been out in the
woods, would certainly not have gone home till morning. But he was
such a human creature that he would not insist when he saw Clare was
weary; and that he had no inclination to play with Abdiel when his
master was out of the game, was quite as well for Abdiel, for Pummy
might have forgot himself. When Abby, not free from fear, as knowing
well he was not free from danger, crept to his master's bosom, Pummy
gave a low growl, and shoving his nose under the long body of the dog,
with one jerk threw him a yard off upon the floor, whence Abdiel
returned to content himself with his master's feet, abandoning the
place of honour to one who knew himself stronger, and probably counted
himself better. So they all fell asleep in peace. For although Clare
knew himself and Abdiel Gunn's prisoners, he feared no surprise with
two such rousable companions.

Chapter LXIII.

The dome of the angels.

When Clare awoke, he knew he had been asleep a long time. It was,
notwithstanding, quite dark, and there was something wrong with
him. His head ached: it had never ached before. He put out his hands:
Pummy's hairy body was nowhere near. He called Abdiel: no whimper
answered; no cold nose was thrust into his hand. He had gone to sleep,
surely between his two friends! Could he have only dreamed it?

Why was the darkness so thick? There must surely be light in the
clouds by this time! He felt half awake and half dreaming.

What was the curious motion he grew aware of? Was something trying to
keep him asleep, or was something trying to wake him? Had they put him
in a big cradle? Were they heaving him about to rouse him? Or could it
be a gentle earthquake that was rocking him to and fro? Would it wake
up in earnest presently, and pull and push, and shake and rattle,
until the dome of the angels came shivering down upon him?

Where was he? Not on the hard floor of Pummy's cage, but on something
much harder - like iron. Was he in the wagon in which they carried the
things for setting up the show? Something had happened to him, and his
mother was taking him with her! But in that case he would be lying
softer! _She_ would not have given him a bed so full of aches!

What would they think at the bank? What would little Ann think if he
came to her no more?

He could not be in a caravan; the motion was much too smooth and
pleasant for that!

He put his hand to his face: what was it wet on his cheek? It did not
feel nice; it felt like blood! Had he had a blow on the head? Was that
what gave him this headache? He felt his head all over, but could find
no hurt.

Why was he lying like a log, wondering and wondering, instead of
getting up and seeing what it all meant? It must be the darkness and
the headache that kept him down! The place was very close! He
_must_ get out of it!

He tried to get on his feet, but as he rose, his head struck
something, and he dropped back. He got again on his knees and groped
about. On all sides he was closed in. But he was not shut in a dungeon
of stone. He seemed to be in a great wooden box - small enough to be a
box, much too large for a coffin. Could it be one of the oubliettes in
the roof of the doge's palace at Venice? He laughed at the idea, for
the motion continued, the gentle earthquake that seemed trying to rock
him to sleep: the doge's palace could hardly be afloat on the grand

What could it all mean? What would little Ann do without him? She
would not cry: she never cried - at least, he had never seen her cry!
but that would not make it easier for her!

What had become of Abdiel? Had Glum Gunn got him? Then the wet on his
face was Abdiel's blood - shed in his defence, perhaps, when his
enemies were taking him away!

Fears and anxieties, such as he had never known before, began to crowd
upon him - not for himself; he was not made to think of himself, either
first or second. Something dreadful might be going on that he could
not prevent! He had never been so miserable. It was high time to do
something - to ask the great one somewhere, he did not know where, who
could somehow, he did not know how, hear the thoughts that were not
words, to do what ought to be done for little Ann, and Abdiel, and
Pummy! He prayed in his heart, lay still, and fell fast asleep.

He came to himself again, in the act of drawing a deep breath of cool,
delicious air. He was no longer shut in the dark, stifling box. He was
coming alive! A comforting wind blew all about him. It was like a live
thing putting its own life into him. But his eyelids were heavy; he
was unable to open them.

All at once they opened of themselves.

The dome of the angels had come down and closed in round him, but
bringing room for him, taking none away. It was blue, and filled with
the loveliest white clouds, possessed by a blowing wind that never was
able to blow them away. They were of strangely regular shapes; not the
less were they alive - piled one above the other, up and up - up ever so
high! They all kept their places, and some had the loveliest blue
shadows upon them, which glided about a little. But the dome of the
angels rose high, and ever higher still, above them. The dome of the
angels was at home, and the clouds were at home in it. He gazed
entranced at the sight. Then came a sudden strong heave and roll of
the earthquake, and a light shone in his eyes that blinded him.

It was but the strong friendly sun. When Clare opened his eyes again,
he knew that he was lying on the deck of one of the great ships he had
so frequently looked at from the shore. Oh, how often had he not
longed after this one and that one of them, as if in some one
somewhere, perhaps in that one, lay something he could not do without,
which yet he could never set his eyes, not to say his hands upon. He
had his heart's desire, and what was to come of it? He lay on the
ship, and the ship lay on the sea, a little world afloat on the water,
moving as a planet moves through the heavens, but carrying her own
heaven with her, attended by her own clouds, bearing her whither she
would. Up into those clouds he lay gazing, up into the dome of the
angels, drawing deeper and deeper breaths of gladness, too happy to
think - when a foot came with a kick in the ribs, and a voice ordered
him to get up: was he going to lie there till the frigate was paid

Chapter LXIV.

The panther.

Clare scrambled to his feet, and surveyed the man who had thus roused
him. He had a vague sense of having seen him before, but could not
remember where. Feeling faint, and finding himself beside a gun, he
leaned upon it.

The sailor regarded him with an insolent look.

"Wake up," he said, "an' come along to the cap'n. What's the service a
comin' to, I should like to know, when a beggarly shaver like you has
the cheek to stow hisself away on board one o' his majesty's frigates!
Wouldn' nothin' less suit your highness than a berth on the Panther?"

"Is that the name of the ship?" asked Clare.

"Yes, that's the name of the ship!" returned the man, mimicking
him. "You'll have the Panther, his mark, on the back o' _you_
presently! Come along, I say, to the cap'n! We ha' got to ask _him_,
what's to be done wi' rascals as rob their masters, an' then stow
theirselves away on board his majesty's ships!"

"Take me to the captain," said Clare.

The man seemed for a moment to doubt whether there might not be some
mistake: he had expected to see him cringe. But he took him by the
collar behind, and pushed him along to the quarter-deck, where an
elderly officer was pacing up and down alone.

"Well, Tom," said the captain, stopping in his walk, "what's the
matter? Who's that you've got?"

"Please yer honour," answered the boatswain, giving Clare a shove,
"this here's a stowaway in his majesty's ship, Panther. I found him
snug in the cable-tier. - Salute the captain, you beggar!"

Clare had no cap to lift, but he bowed like the gentleman he was. The
captain stood looking at him. Clare returned his gaze, and smiled. A
sort of tremble, much like that in the level air on a hot summer day,
went over the captain's face, and he looked harder at Clare.

A sound arose like the purring of an enormous cat, and, sure enough,
it was nothing else: chained to the foot of the forward binnacle stood
a panther, a dark yellow creature with black spots, bigger than Pummy,
swinging his tail. Clare turned at the noise he made. The panther made
a bound and a leap to the height and length of his chain, and uttered
a cry like a musical yawn. Clare stretched out his arms, and staggered
toward him. The next moment the animal had him. The captain darted to
the rescue. But the beast was only licking him wherever there was a
bare spot to lick; and Clare wondered to find how many such spots
there were: he was in rags! The panther kept tossing him over and over
as if he were a baby, licking as he tossed, and in his vibrating body
and his whole behaviour manifested an exceeding joy. The captain stood
staring "like one that hath been stunned."

The boatswain was not astonished: he had seen Clare at home among wild
animals, and thought the panther was taken with the wild-beast smell
about him.

"I beg your pardon, sir," said Clare, rolling himself out of the
panther's reach, and rising to his feet, "but wild things like me,
somehow! I slept with a puma last night. He and this panther, sir,
would have a terrible fight if they met!"

The captain threw a look of disappointment at the panther.

"Go forward, Tom," he said.

The man did not like the turn things had taken, and as he went wore
something of the look of one doomed to make the acquaintance of
another kind of cat.

"What made you come on board this ship, my lad?" asked the captain, in
a voice so quiet that it sounded almost kind.

"I did not come on board, sir."

"Don't trifle with _me_," returned the captain sternly.

Clare looked straight at him, and said -

"I have done nothing wrong, sir. I know you will help me. I fell
asleep last night, as I told you, sir, in the cage of a puma. I knew
him, of course! How I came awake on board your ship, I know no more
than you do, sir."

The smile of Clare's childhood had scarcely altered, and it now shone
full on the captain. He turned away, and made a tack or two on the
quarter-deck. He was a tall, thin man, with a graceful carriage, and a
little stoop in the shoulders. He had a handsome, sad face, growing
old. His hair was more than half way to gray, and he seemed somewhere
about fifty. He had the sternness of a man used to command, but under
the sternness Clare saw the sadness.

The attention of the boy was now somewhat divided between the captain
and his panther, which seemed possessed with a fierce desire to get at
him, though plainly with no inimical intent. The attention of the
captain seemed divided between the boy and the panther; his eyes now
rested for a moment on the animal, now turned again to the boy. Two
officers on the port side of the quarter-deck stole glances at the
strange group - the stately, solemn, still man; the ragged creature
before him, who looked in his face without fear or anxiety, and with
just as little presumption; and the wildly excited panther, whose
fierce bounding alternated with cringing abasement of his beautiful
person, accompanied by loving sweeps of his most expressive tail.

The captain made a tack or two more on the quarter-deck, then turned
sharp on the boy.

"What is your name?" he asked.

"I don't quite know, sir," answered Clare.

"Come with me," said the captain.

To the surprise of the officers, he led the way to his state-room, and
the boy followed. The panther gave a howl as Clare disappeared. The
officers remarked that the captain looked strange. His lips were
compressed as if with vengeance, but the muscles of his face were

Chapter LXV.

At home.

Clare followed, wondering, but nowise anxious. He saw nothing to make
him anxious. The captain looked a good man, and a good man was a
friend to Clare! But when he entered the state-room, and saw himself
from head to foot in a mirror let into a bulkhead, he was both
startled and ashamed: how could the captain take such a scarecrow into
his room! he thought. He did not reflect that it was just the sort of
thing he did himself. He had indeed felt dirty and disreputable, and

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Online LibraryGeorge MacDonaldA Rough Shaking → online text (page 23 of 24)