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" If you land me there," said I, " I shall be
drowned. The water is rising, and those rocks
are not to be climbed."

" Jump overboard ! " said he, with a menacing
flourish of his knife.

" It is a bit of a swim as yet," said I. " I
am sick and without strength. For God's sake
put me a little closer to the beach that I may
have a chance ! "

He hesitated a moment, then stooped to pick


up an oar. In that instant I bounded upon
"him. Impelled by the incommunicable agony
of mind I was in, by what I may truly call the
terrific impulse of the despair that was upon
me, I leapt the thwart with the velocity of a
wolf at full cry, and ere he could lift his eyes
I had put my shoulder to his side, and hove
him into the water. Shipping an oar, I pulled
the boat's head round, shipped the other oar
betwixt the thole-pins, and pulled out of the
bay with all my might.

Before the point of cliffs had shut out
the bay, I caught sight of his head. The
fellow was swimming, and swimming strongly,
towards the curve of the sand at the foot of
the cliff. I now understood the sort of fate he
had intended for me. Having gained the sand,
I should have been imprisoned by the water ;
but the tide was making fast, and, when the
flood was at its full, the sea-line stood some feet
above the level of the sand. There was not


an accessible piece of jutting rock nothing for
the hand to grasp, nor for the foot to support
itself by, upon the face of the perpendicular
steep. Therefore I must inevitably have been
drowned. And what story would the ruffian
have invented to account for my disappearance ?
I conceived this : that he would have leisurely
rowed back to the harbour, moored his boat,
and lounged upon the pier, as his custom was,
without uttering a syllable about me, unless,
indeed, he had been observed to row me out
in his boat in the morning, and should be asked
what had become of me. Supposing this ques-
tion asked, he would answer that at my request
he had set me ashore some two or three miles
down the coast, as I desired to walk home by
way of the cliffs. Who could have disproved
this ? It must have been readily credited. It
was a thing that was again and again happen-
ing. And now imagine my body found upon
the sands of the little bay where he had com-


pelled me to swim ashore ! There would have
been an inquest ; it would be ascertained that
I was the gentleman whom the gipsy boatman
had set ashore. What more probable, then,
than that I should have changed my mind,
have attempted to make my way home in my
ignorance of the neighbourhood, by way of the
beach, instead of by way of the cliffs, and so
have perished ?

These thoughts occupied my inind as I rowed
the wherry in the direction of the harbour. I
pulled at the oars with fury ; I was sensible of
a horrid distraction of fear, as though it were
in the power of the ruffian to pursue me, to
arrest the boat, to enter her and cut my throat
with the knife he had flourished. I entered
the harbour, sculled to a landing stage, secured
the painter of the boat to it, and stepped
ashore. There were many people about; the
air resounded with the cries of boatmen inviting
the passers-by to go out for a row or a sail.


None of these men took any notice of me.
Probably none of them knew that I had started
in company with the gipsy boatman, and they
would probably imagine that I had returned
from a solitary pull out to sea. I walked a little
way, and presently observed a harbour police-
man. I approached him, and said

" I want to inform against a ruffian who has
just attempted my life."

He looked me hard in the face, and was
clearly impressed by my agitation and ap-

" What's wrong ? " said he.

u A boatman whom I went out with this
morning has attempted to drown me," said I.

" Step this way, sir," said the man ; and
with that he conducted me to a brick- built
house adjoining a row of warehouses, and in
the window of this brick-built house was a
large wire blind, on which was wrought in
golden letters the words, " Harbour Police


Office." The policeman lifted the latch of the
door and entered, and I followed him. An
immense man, with large, red whiskers, wear-
ing a sort of naval cap with letters interwreathed
over the peak of it, and a frock-coat, the breast
of which was braided, sat upon a tall, three-
legged stool reading a newspaper. He looked
at me over his spectacles as I entered.

" Here's a gent says that one of the boatmen's
been a-trying to drown him," said the police-
man ; and, addressing me, he added, " This is
the superintendent."

The superintendent put down his paper and
took off his glasses, and asked me to tell him
my business. I forthwith related my experi-
ences to him. He listened attentively, occa-
sionally glancing at the constable, who stood
by listening with his mouth slightly open.

" Describe the man, sir," said the superin-

I did so.



" It's Gipsy Bill," said the constable.

" Yes, it's Gripsy Bill," said the superin-
tendent " the same man as took out the party
that was drowned last month."

" And the same man," said the constable,


" as took out the party that was drowned a year
ago come next month."

The superintendent thumped his leg. " IVe
been suspicious of that chap all through," said


he. " Freeman, call Jones and Woodward,
and take the boat and get the man. The flood'll
not be at its height yet, and the man himself 11
be as prettily nailed as though we had him in
the lock-up."

I heard him pronounce these words, then
a blood-red blaze of fire seemed to rush from
my brain out through my eyes. I fell, and
remember no more.

When I recovered my consciousness I was in
bed in my own lodgings. All necessary in-
formation about me had been found in my
pocket, in the shape of letters and cards. My
sister had been telegraphed for, and she was at
my bedside when I awoke, after three days of
utter insensibility. When I was strong enough
to listen and converse, I was told that the
police-boat had pulled down to the little bay,
found the man, and brought him to the town,
where he was lying, locked up, charged with
the attempt to murder me. Confirmatory proofs


of his guilt, outside the story I had related to
the superintendent, were found upon his person,
for the demon, probably forgetting in his time
of peril that he had pocketed my watch and
chain, my ring, and my money, had omitted
to conceal them or fling them away when the
police-boat showed herself round the corner.

But this was not all ; two visitors had lost
their lives within a year. The body of one
only was recovered, and this was the poor
fellow whose remains I had stumbled upon
during my lonely moonlight walk along the
sands. It was believed that both these men
had perished whilst bathing from a boat, and
the coroner, during the inquest held upon the
body that had been recovered, had commented
somewhat significantly upon the circumstance
of both these disasters having occurred from
the same boat, in charge of the same man.

And now, whilst I had lain unconscious, the
police had searched the little house, or room,


occupied by the boatman named Gripsy Bill, and
there they had discovered a gold pencil-case and
a pair of gold pince-nez glasses and a watch-
chain, of which articles the two former were
claimed as belonging to the man who had been
drowned in the previous year, whilst the watch-
chain was sworn to by the widow of the gentle-
man whose body I had discovered, the poor
lady happening to be in the town whilst I lay
unconscious. The upshot of it was that Gripsy
Bill was sentenced to penal servitude for life.
That he was guilty of two murders was certain,
and therefore he ought to have been hanged.
Nevertheless, the circumstantial evidence did
not seem sufficiently strong to admit of the
death penalty, for it could not certainly be
proved that the fiend, when his victims had
plunged overboard, had quietly continued to
row, leaving the unhappy men to sink with
exhaustion in his wake. It could not certainly
be proved that the poor fellows had not been


seized with cramp and suddenly sunk ; but, all
the same, no one who heard the story ever
doubted that this demon of a gipsy boatman
had left them to perish, or, as he had at-
tempted in my case, had hastened their end by
a blow with his oar.




THE interior of St. James's
Church, in Havenpool Town,
was slowly darkening under
the close clouds of a winter
afternoon. It was Sunday :
service had just ended, the
face of the parson in the
pulpit was buried in his
hands, and the congregation, with a cheerful
sigh of release, were rising from their knees to

For the moment the stillness was so complete



that the surging of the sea could\ be heard
outside the harbour-bar. Then it was broken
by the footsteps of the clerk going towards
the west door to open it in the usual manner
for the exit of the assembly. Before, however,
he had reached the doorway, the latch was
lifted from without, and the dark figure of
a man in a sailor's garb appeared against
the light.

The clerk stepped aside, the sailor closed
the door gently behind him, and advanced
up the nave till he stood at the chancel step.
The parson looked up from the private little
prayer which, after so many for the parish,
he quite fairly took for himself, rose to his
feet, and stared at the intruder.

" I beg your pardon, sir," said the sailor,
addressing the minister in a voice distinctly
audible to all the congregation. "I have
come here to offer thanks for iny narrow
escape from shipwreck. I am given to


understand that it is a proper thing to do,
if you have no objection ? "

The parson, after a moment's pause, said
hesitatingly, " I have no objection ; certainly.
It is usual to mention any such wish before
service, so that the proper words may be
used in the General Thanksgiving. But, if
you wish, we can lead from the form for
use after a storm at sea."

" Ay, sure ; I ain't particular," said the sailor.

The clerk thereupon directed the sailor to
the page in the Prayer-book where the collect
of thanksgiving would be found, and the
rector began reading it, the sailor kneeling
where he stood, and repeating it after him
word by word in a distinct voice. The people,
who had remained agape and motionless at
the proceeding, mechanically knelt down like-
wise ; but they continued to regard the isolated
form of the sailor who, in the precise middle
of the chancel step, remained fixed on his


knees, facing the east, his hat beside him,
his hands joined, and he quite unconscious of
his appearance in their regard.

When his thanksgiving had come to an
end, he arose ; the people arose also, and all
went out of church together. As soon as
the sailor emerged, so that the remaining
daylight fell upon his face, old inhabitants
began to recognize him as no other than
Shadrach Jolliffe, a young man who had not
been seen at Havenpool for several years. A
son of the town, his parents had died when
he was quite young, on which account he
had early gone to sea, in the Newfoundland

He talked with this and that townsman as
he walked, informing them that, since leaving
his native place years before, he had become
captain and owner of a small coasting-ketch,
which had providentially been saved from the
gale as well as himself. Presently he drew


near to two girls who were going out of the
churchyard in front of him ; they had been
sitting in the nave at his entry, and had
watched his doings with deep interest, after-
wards discussing him as they moved out of
church together. One was a slight and
gentle creature, the other a tall, large-framed,
deliberative girl. Captain Jolliffe regarded the
loose curls of their hair, their backs and
shoulders, down to their heels, for some time.

" Who may those two maids be ? " he
whispered to his neighbour.

" The little one is Emily Hanning ; the tall
one Joanna Phippard."

" Ah ! I recollect 'em now, to be sure."

He advanced to their elbow, and genially
stole a gaze at them.

u Emily, you don't know me ? " said the
sailor, turning his beaming brown eyes on her.

"I think I do, Mr Jolliffe," said Emily,


The other girl looked straight at him with
her dark e}'es.

"The face of Miss Joanna I don't call to


mind so well/' he continued. " But I know
her beginnings and kindred."


They walked and talked together, Jolliffe
narrating particulars of his late narrow escape,
till they reached the corner of Sloop Lane, in
which Emily Hanning dwelt, when, with a
nod and smile, she left them. Soon the sailor
parted also from Joanna, and, having no especial
errand or appointment, turned back towards
Emily's house. She lived with her father,
who called himself an accountant, the daughter,
however, keeping a little stationery shop as
a supplemental provision for the gaps of
his somewhat uncertain business. On entering
Jolliffe found father and daughter about to
begin tea.

" Oh, I didn't know it was teatime," he said.
" Ay, 111 have a cup with much pleasure."

He remained to tea and long afterwards,
telling more tales of his seafaring life. Several
neighbours called to listen, and were asked
to come in. Somehow Emily Hanning lost
her heart to the sailor that Sunday night,


and in the course of a week or two there was
a tender understanding between them.

One moonlight evening in the next month
Shadrach was ascending out of the town by
the long straight road eastward, to an elevated
suburb where the more fashionable houses
stood if anything near this ancient port could
be called fashionable when he saw a figure
before him whom, from her manner of glancing
back, he took to be Emily. But, on coming
up, he found she was Joanna Phippard. He
gave a gallant greeting, and walked beside her.

" Go along," she said, " or Emily will be
jealous ! "

He seemed not to like the suggestion, and

What was said and what was done on that
walk never could be clearly recollected by
Shadrach; but in some way or other Joanna
contrived to wean him away from her gentler
and younger rival. From that week onwards,


Jolliffe was seen more and more in the wake
of Joanna Phippard and less in the company
of Emily ; and it was soon rumoured about
the quay that old Jolliffe's son, who had come
home from sea, was going to be married to
the former young woman, to the great disap-
pointment of the latter.

Just after this report had gone about, Joanna
dressed herself for a walk one morning, and
started for Emily's house in the little cross
street. Intelligence of the deep sorrow of her
friend on account of the loss of Shadrach
had reached her ears also, and her conscience
reproached her for winning him away.

Joanna was not altogether satisfied with the
sailor. She liked his attentions, and she
coveted the dignity of matrimony ; but she
had never been deeply in love with Jolliffe.
For one thing, she was ambitious, and socially
his position was hardly so good as her own,
while there was always the chance of an


attractive woman mating considerably above
her. It had long been in her mind that she
would not strongly object to give him back
again to Emily if her friend felt so very badly
about him. To this end she had penned a
letter of renunciation to Shadrach, which
letter she carried in her hand, intending to
post it if personal observation of Emily con-
vinced her that her friend was suffering.

Joanna entered Sloop Lane and stepped down
into the stationery shop, which was below
the pavement level. Emily's father was never
at home at this hour of the day, and it seemed
as though Emily was not at home either, for
the visitor could make nobody hear. Customers
came so seldom hither that a five minutes'
absence of the proprietor counted for little.
Joanna waited in the little shop, where Emily
had tastefully set out as women can articles
in themselves of slight value, so as to obscure
the meagreness of the stock-in-trade ; till she


saw a figure pausing without the window
apparently absorbed in the contemplation of
the sixpenny books, packets of paper, and
prints hung on a string. It was Captain
Shadrach Jolliffe, peering in to ascertain if
Ernily was there alone. Moved by an impulse
of reluctance to meet him in a spot which
breathed of Emily, she slipped through the
door that communicated with the parlour at
the back. Joanna had frequently done so
before, for in her friendship with Emily she
had the freedom of the house without cere-

Jolliffe entered the shop. Through the thin
blind which screened the glass partition she
could see that he was disappointed at not
finding Emily there. He was about to go out
again, when her form darkened the doorway,
hastening back from some errand. At sight
of Jolliffe she started back as if she would
have gone out again.


"Don't run away, Emily; don't!" said he.
" What can make ye afraid ? "

" I'm not afraid, Captain Jolliffe. Only
only I saw you all of a sudden, and it made
me jump." Her voice showed that her heart
had jumped even more than the rest of her.

" I just called as I was passing," he said.

" For some paper ? " She hastened behind
the counter.

' 'No, no, Emily. Why do ye get behind
there ? Why not stay by me ? You seem to
hate me."

" I don't hate you. How can I ? "

" Then come out, so that we can talk like

Emily obeyed with a fitful laugh, till she
stood again beside him in the open part of the

" There's a dear," he said.

" You mustn't say that, Captain Jolliffe ;
because the words belong to somebody else."


u Ah ! I know what you mean. But, Emily,
upon my life I didn't know till this morning
that you cared one bit about rne, or I should
not have done as I have done. I have the best
of feelings for Joanna, but I know that from
the beginning she hasn't cared for me more
than in a friendly way ; and I see DOW the one
I ought to have asked to be my wife. You
know, Emily, when a man comes home from
sea after a long voyage he's as blind as a bat
he can't see who's who in women. They are
all alike to him, beautiful creatures, and he
takes the first that comes easy, without
thinking if she loves him, or if he might not
soon love another better than her. From the
first I inclined to you most, but you were so
backward and shy that I thought you didn't
want me to bother 'ee, and so I went to
Joanna. 7 '

" Don't say any more, Mr. Jolliffe, don't ! "
said she, choking. "You are going to marry


Joanna next month, and it is wrong to
to "

" Oh, Emily, my darling ! " he cried, and
clasped her little figure in his arms before she
was aware.

Joanna, behind the curtain, turned pale,
tried to withdraw her eyes, but could not.

" It is only you I love as a man ought to
love the woman he is going to marry ; and I
know this from what Joanna has said, that she
will willingly let me off. She wants to marry
higher, I know, and only said ' Yes ' to me out
of kindness. A fine, tall girl like her isn't the
sort for a plain sailor's wife ; you be the best
suited for that."

He kissed her and kissed her again, her
flexible form quivering in the agitation of his

" I wonder are you sure Joanna is going
to break off with you ? Oh, are you sure ?
Because "


" I know she would not wish to make us
miserable. She will release me."

" Oh, I hope I hope she will! Don't stay
any longer. Captain Jolliffe ! "

He lingered, however, till a customer came
for a penny stick of sealing-wax, and then he

Green envy had overspread Joanna at the
scene. She looked about for a way of escape.
To get out without Emily's knowledge of her
visit was indispensable. She crept from the
parlour into the passage, and thence to the
front door of the house, w T here she let herself
noiselessly into the street.

The sight of that caress had reversed all her
resolutions. She could not let Shadrach go.
Reaching home, she burnt the letter, and told
her mother that if Captain Jolliffe called she
was too unwell to see him.

Shadrach, however, did not call. He sent
her a note expressing in simple language the


state of his feelings, and asking to be allowed
to take advantage of the hints she had given
him that her affection, too, was little more than
friendly, by cancelling the engagement.

Looking out upon the harbour and the island
beyond he waited and waited in his lodgings
for an answer that did not come. The suspense
grew to be so intolerable that after dark he
went up the High Street. He could not resist
calling at Joanna's to learn his fate.

Her mother said her daughter was too unwell
to see him, and to his questioning admitted that
it was in consequence of a letter received from
himself, which had distressed her deeply.

" You know what it was about, perhaps,
Mrs. Phippard ? " he said.

Mrs. Phippard owned that she did, adding
that it put them in a very painful position.
Thereupon Shadrach, fearing that he had been
guilty of an enormity, explained that if his
letter had pained Joanna it must be owing to


a misunderstanding,, since he had thought it
would be a relief to her. If otherwise, he
would hold himself bound by his word, and
she was to think of the letter as never having
been written.

Next morning he received an oral message
from the young woman, asking him to fetch
her home from a meeting that evening. This
he did, and while walking from the Town Hall
to her door, with her hand in his arm, she

" It is all the same as before between us,
isn't it, Shadrach ? Your letter was sent in
mistake ? "

" It is all the same as before," he answered,
" if you say it must be."

" I wish it to be," she murmured, with hard
lineaments, as she thought of Emily.

Shadrach was a religious and scrupulous man,
who respected his word as his life. Shortly
afterwards the wedding took place, Jolliffe


having conveyed to Emily as gently as possible
the error he had fallen into when estimating
Joanna's mood as one of indifference.


A MONTH after the marriage Joanna's mother
died, and the couple were obliged to turn theii
attention to very practical matters. Now thai
she was left without a parent, Joanna could
not bear the notion of her husband going to
sea again, but the question was, What could
he do at home ? They finally decided to take
on a grocer's shop in High Street, the goodwill
and stock of which were waiting to be disposed
of at that time. Shadrach knew nothing of
shopkeeping, and Joanna very little, but they
hoped to learn.

To the management of this grocery business
they now devoted all their energies, and con-
tinued to conduct it for many succeeding years,


without great success. Two sons were born
to them, whom their mother loved to idolatry,
although she had never passionately loved
her husband ; and she lavished upon them all
her forethought and care. But the shop did
riot thrive, and the large dreams she had
entertained of her sons' education and career
became attenuated in the face of realities.
Their schooling was of the plainest, but, being
by the sea, they grew alert in all such nautical
arts and enterprises as were attractive to their

The great interest of the Jolliffes' married
life, outside their own immediate household,
had lain in the marriage of Emily. By one
of those odd chances which lead those that lurk
in unexpected corners to be discovered while
the obvious are passed by, the gentle girl had
been seen and loved by a thriving merchant
of the town, a widower, some years older than
herself, though still in the prime of life. -At

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Online LibraryThomas HardyStories in Black and white → online text (page 4 of 13)