Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

culprit was dismissed. That threat decided the fate of Our Jack; on the following morning, he was missing. He had written down his crime on a slate, in his large ungainly school-boy hand, and left it on the table, praying for his mother's and the farmer's forgiveness, and promising in future to be a good lad, and begging of her to pray for him while away. Round spots on the letters shewed where the tears had fallen while he wrote.

Another day came, and closing her cottage shutter, and leaving the key under the door, the sad-hearted mother set out in her weather-stained scarlet cloak to search for Our Jack. She made her way towards the little seaport, inquiring at almost every cottage and toll-gate she passed, and of nearly every traveller she met; but no one had seen him. At

length she met the village carrier returning. Jack had ridden part of the way with him : he had gone to sea.

The carrier knew the captain who had taken him; the ship sailed that very

[graphic]

а

morning; he had shaken hands with Our Jack as he went on board. The carrier made no mention of the half-crown he had given the boy, nor how well he had treated him on the road. So the dear old woman returned, and sat down by her solitary cottage-hearth to bemoan the loss of Our Jack. The farmer whose orchard he had helped to rob was one of the first who called to comfort her, and he expressed his regret that he had used a threat which he never intended to execute, as he feared it had driven him away. But her constant comforter was the joiner's pretty little daughter, who lived opposite. There the little maiden was beside the widow, shedding tears of sympathy when she saw her weeping for the loss of Our Jack.

Time wore away; the widow became resigned; but excepting a few trifling presents, and a short letter or two which had been left at the inn where the village carrier 'put nip,' his mother received no further tidings of Our Jack.

Three years elapsed, and there came a longer letter, with an order to draw a sum of money every six months at the banker's in the market-town. He had got a berth on board H.M.S. something or other—the schoolmaster said Vulcan; the clergyman, Vulture; the little tailor read Valiant; but Our Jack wrote such a strange scrawming hand,' as his dear mother called it, that it inight mean any manner of things.' On turning to the purser's order for the money,

it was found to be the Valiant, bound for the African coast to intercept slavers. Two more years, and with an increase in the money she drew, there came a rich shawl, which would have become his dear old mother about as well as the dress of a

6

a

duchess; and a pair of beautifully stuffed birds for the joiner's daughter, who had sent her respects' in his mother's letters. The farmer whose orchard Jack helped to rob, had sent out his best wishes, and had received in return a basket of curious shells, which, as he said, 'made his parlour look as fine as five-pence.' More letters and presents from time to time, with orders for more money, came, and so seven years passed away since he first left home. Another June came on in her chariot of roses, and a sinell of new hay hung around the village, which the carrier's cart was entering two or three hours before sunset, with a beautiful parrot in an immense cage, fastened on the tilt of his vehicle, and a long stuffed sword-fish that hung partly over the shaft-horse. All the village was out to look at the parrot and the swordfish. With half the villagers behind and around, the cart at last halted before the cottage where Our Jack's mother resided. Then the dear old woman came out in her spectacles, thinking he had brought her another letter; when a tall, handsome sailor, as brown as a horse-chestnut, sprang with a bound from the cart-shafts, and throwing his arms round her, exclaimed : 'Dear mother;' while, in a tremulous voice, as she raised her eyes to heaven, she uttered the words: “My son, my dear son!' and all the villagers said : “Why, it's Our Jack!' Jack had no eyes, no ears, no words for any one saving his dear old mother. The first interview over, there was the carrier's cart to unload; and many a long month had elapsed since the old man had brought such a load, for it was half filled with the presents brought by Our Jack, who had something for everybody whose name he

[ocr errors]

6

once more.

could remember-coral, shells, curious sea-weed, stufted birds and fishes, skins, Indian ornaments, besides more costly articles; for he had already risen to the rank of Mate.

Partly to ease his overflowing heart, and hide the tears which would keep falling, Our Jack went out into the little garden to look at

What numbers of times he had recalled that old lilac-tree, with the bees murmuring amid its bloom in spring; that rose-tree covered, as he then saw it, with summer roses; the vine he had trained on the cottage-wall, and often wondered if it were hung with purple grapes in autumn; the holly, from which he had gathered crimson berries in winter-and which were all there. Ah, how often had they appeared to his “inward eye' while keeping watch at sea! The sun setting on the cottagewindow; the daisy-covered field beyond the garden-hedge; the old thorn, with its moonlight-coloured May-blossoms, with the singing of the birds in those golden mornings, had come back upon his waking thoughts, and mingled with his dreams when he lay baking under hatches on the African coast, or riding through the swell of stormier seas.

Then he inquired after his old school-fellows and playmates, and sighed over the memory of those that were dead; and the next morning he stood all alone in the village church yard, having cleared the low wall with a stride and a skip, and given his trousers a hitch, and paced about with folded arms and rocking gait, as when he walked the deck at sea. And as he thought of those who lay there, and the messmates he had seen lowered into the deep-and above all, of the tarry topman who was his sworn brother, and whose

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

eyes he had closed-tears stood in his eyes, as if at a loss which way to flow along those hardy, sun-tanned cheeks, which neither fear nor danger could furrow.

But Jack did not go to sea again. He was content to spend the rest of his days in his own village, and, having married his old play-fellow, the joiner's daughter, as all sailors are handy fellows, he soon learned her father's trade, and became a steady and industrious man. Sometimes the boys and young chaps in the village would get him if they could to tell them some tales of his sea-faring life, and of the foreign countries, and the strange people he saw there, and then they would ask if he would advise them to go. But Jack was honest enough to let them know something about the hardships of a sailor's life, and that very few who went to sea were as successful as he had been. They might do as they pleased, but he dare not advise them to go, and so they should not have him to blame if they went. If he had his time to come over again he would mind more what his mother and his master said, he would play less and learn more, and not get into such scrapes as robbing orchards, and running away to be a sailor. He had been sorry he had done so many a time. He was, however, thankful that Providence had preserved him through many dangers; and now he wished to spend the rest of his days like a sober minded christian man, for he knew there was a better country, and farther off than any he had yet visited, and there be hoped to go when the voyage of life was ended.

a

« AnteriorContinuar »