We and the World, Part II. (of II.) - A Book for Boys
by Juliana Horatia Ewing
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"What he has learnt is wonderful, I can tell ye," said Dennis to me, "but his accent's horrid! And we'd get on faster than we do if he didn't argue every step we go, though he doesn't know a word that I've not taught him."

But far funnier than Alister's corrections of his teacher, was a curious jealousy which the boatswain had of the Scotch lad's new accomplishment. We could not quite make out the grounds of it, except that the boatswain himself had learned one or two words of what he called parly voo when he was in service at the boys' school, and he was jealously careful of the importance which his shreds and scraps of education gave him in the eyes of the ordinary uneducated seaman. With Dennis and me he was uniformly friendly, and he was a most entertaining companion.

Owing to head winds, our passage was longer than the average. A strange thing happened towards the end of it. We had turned in for sleep one night, when I woke to the consciousness that Dennis had got out of his berth, and was climbing past mine, but I was so sleepy that I did not speak, and was only sure that it was not a dream, when Alister and I went on deck for the next watch, and found Dennis walking up and down in the morning mist.

"Have you had no sleep?" I asked, for his face looked haggard.

"I couldn't. For dreaming," he said, awkwardly.

I laughed at him.

"What have you been dreaming about?"

"Don't laugh, Jack. I dreamt of Barney."

"Well, that's natural enough, Dennis. This end of the voyage must recall the poor fellow."

"I wouldn't mind if it was a kindly dream. But I dreamed he'd an old woman's bonnet on and a handkerchief tied over it. It haunts me."

"Go back to bed," I advised. "Perhaps you'll dream of him again looking like himself, and that will put this out of your head."

Dennis took my advice, and I stood Alister's watch with him, and by and by Dennis appeared on deck again looking more at ease.

"Did you dream of him again?" I asked. He nodded.

"I did—just his own dear self. But he was sitting alone on the edge of some wharf gazing down into the water, and not a look could I get out of him till I woke."

The following morning Dennis was still sound asleep when I rose and went on deck. The coast of Ireland was just coming into sight through the haze when he joined me, but before pointing it out to him, I felt curious to know whether he had dreamed a third time of old Barney.

"Not I," said he; "all I dreamed of was a big rock standing up out of the sea, and two children sitting on it had hold of each other's hands."

"Children you know?"

"Oh dear, no! Just a little barefoot brother and sister."

He seemed to wish to drop the subject, and at this moment a gleam of sunshine lit up the distant coast-line with such ethereal tints, that I did not wonder to see him spring upon the bulwarks and, catching a ratlin with one hand, wave his cap above his head with the other, crying, "GOD bless the Emerald Isle!"

We reached Liverpool about four o'clock in the afternoon, and as we drew up alongside of the old wharf, my first thought was to look for Biddy Macartney. Alister had to remain on board for a time, but Dennis came willingly with me in search of the old woman and her coffee-barrow. At last we betook ourselves to the dock-gatekeeper, to make inquiries, and from him we heard a sad story. The old woman had "failed a deal of late," he said. He "had heard she wasn't right in her mind, but whether they'd shifted her to a 'sylum or not, he couldn't say." If she was at home, she was at an address which he gave us.

"Will you go, Dennis? I must. At once."

"Of course."

Biddy was at home, and never whilst I live can I forget the "home." Four blocks of high houses enclosed a small court into which there was one entrance, an archway through one of the buildings. All the houses opened into the court. There were no back-doors, and no back premises whatever. All the dirt and (as to washing) all the cleanliness of a crowded community living in rooms in flats, the quarrelling and the love-making, the old people's resting, and the children's playing;—from emptying a slop-pail to getting a breath of evening air—this court was all there was for it. I have since been told that if we had been dressed like gentlemen, we should not have been safe in it, but I do not think we should have met with any worse welcome if we had come on the same errand—"to see old Biddy Macartney."

Roughly enough, it is true, we were directed to one of the houses, the almost intolerable stench of which increased as we went up the stairs. By the help of one inmate and another, we made our way to Biddy's door, and then we found it locked.

"The missis 'll be out," said a deformed girl who was pulling herself along by the balustrades. She was decent-looking and spoke civilly, so I ventured to ask, "Do you mean that old Biddy is out?"

"Nay, not Biddy. The woman that sees to her. When she's got to go out she locks t' old lass up to be safe," and volunteering no further help, the girl rested for a minute against the wall, with her hand to her side, and then dragged herself into one of the rooms, and shut the door in our faces.

The court without and the houses within already resounded so to the squalling of children, that I paid no attention to the fact that more of this particular noise was coming up the stairs; but in another moment a woman, shaking a screaming baby in her arms, and dragging two crying children at her skirts, clenched her disengaged fist (it had a key in it) close to our faces and said, "And which of you vagabones is t' old lass's son?"

"Neither of us," said I, "but we want to see her, if we may. Are you the woman who takes care of her?"

"I've plenty to do minding my own, I can tell ye," she grumbled, "but I couldn't abear to see t' ould lass taken to a 'sylum. They're queer places some on 'em, as I know. And as to t' House! there's a many folks says, 'Well, if t' guardians won't give her no relief, let her go in.' But she got hold on me one day, and she says, 'Sally, darling' (that's t' ould lass's way, is calling ye Darling. It sounds soft, but she is but an old Irish woman, as one may say), 'if ever,' she says, 'you hear tell of their coming to fetch me, GOD bless ye,' she says, 'just give me a look out of your eye, and I'm gone. I'll be no more trouble to any one,' she says, 'and maybe I'll make it worth your while too.'"

At this point in her narrative the woman looked mysterious, nodded her head, craned over the banisters to see that no one was near, slapped the children and shook up the baby as a sort of mechanical protest against the noise they were making (as to effects they only howled the louder), and drawing nearer to us, spoke in lower tones:

"T' old lass has money, it's my belief, though she gives me nowt for her lodging, and she spends nowt on herself. She's many a time fair clemmed, I'll assure ye, till I can't abear to see it, and I give her the bit and sup I might have had myself, for I'm not going to rob t' children neither for her nor nobody. Ye see it's her son that's preying on her mind. He wrote her a letter awhile ago, saying times was bad out yonder, and he was fair heart-broke to be so far away from her, and she's been queer ever since. She's wanted for everything herself, slaving and saving to get enough to fetch him home. Where she hides it I know no more nor you, but she wears a sight of old rags, one atop of another, and pockets in all of 'em for aught I know—hold your din, ye unrewly children!—there's folks coming. I'll let ye in. I lock t' old lass up when I go out, for she might be wandering, and there's them hereabouts that would reckon nought of putting her out of t' way and taking what she's got, if they heard tell on't."

At last the door was unlocked, and we went in. And sitting on a low box, dressed as before, even to the old coat and the spotted kerchief over her bonnet, sat Biddy Macartney.

When she lifted her face, I saw that it was much wasted, and that her fine eyes had got a restless uneasy look in them. Suddenly this ceased, and they lit up with the old intelligence. For half an instant I thought it was at the sight of me, but she did not even see me. It was on Dennis O'Moore that her eyes were bent, and they never moved as she struggled to her feet, and gazed anxiously at his face, his cap, and his seafaring clothes, whilst, for his part, Dennis gazed almost as wildly at her. At last she spoke:

"GOD save ye, squire! Has the old counthry come to this? Is the O'Moore an alien, and all?"

"No, no. I'm the squire's son," said Dennis. "But tell me quick, woman, what are you to Barney Barton?"

"Barney is it? Sure he was brother to me, as who knows better than your honour?"

"Did you live with us, too?"

"I did, acushla. In the heighth of ease and comfort, and done nothin' for it. Wasn't I the big fool to be marryin' so early, not knowin' when I was well off!"

"I know. Barney has told me. A Cork man, your husband, wasn't he? A lazy, drunken, ill-natured rascal of a fellow."

"That's him, your honour!"

"Well, you're quit of him long since. And, as your son's in New York, and all I have left of Barney is you ——"

"She doesn't hear you, Dennis."

I interrupted him, because in his impetuosity he had not noticed that the wandering look had come back over the old woman's face, and that she sat down on the box, and fumbled among her pockets for Micky's letter, and then crouched weeping over it.

We stayed a long time with her, but she did not really revive. With infinite patience and tenderness, Dennis knelt beside her, and listened to her ramblings about Micky, and Micky's hardships, and Micky's longings for home. Once or twice, I think, she was on the point of telling about her savings, but she glanced uneasily round the room and forbore. Dennis gave the other woman some money, and told her to give Biddy a good meal—to have given money to her would have been useless—and he tried hard to convince the old woman that Micky was quite able to leave America if he wished. At last she seemed to take this in, and it gave her, I fear, undue comfort, from the conviction that, if this were so, he would soon be home.

After we left Biddy we went to seek decent lodgings for the night. For Dennis was anxious to see her again in the morning, and of course I stayed with him.

"Had you ever seen her before?" I asked, as we walked.

"Not to remember her. But, Jack, it wasn't Barney I saw in that first dream. It was Bridget."

Dennis was full of plans for getting her home with him to Ireland; but when we went back next day, we found a crowd round the archway that led into the court. Prominent in the group was the woman who "cared for" Biddy. Her baby was crying, her children were crying, and she was crying too. And with every moment that passed the crowd grew larger and larger, as few things but bad news can make a crowd grow.

We learnt it very quickly. Biddy had been so much cheered up by our visit, that when the woman went out to buy supper for them, she did not lock the door. When she came back, Biddy was gone. To do her neighbours justice, we could not doubt—considering how they talked then—that they had made inquiries in all the streets and courts around.

"And wherever t' owld lass can ha' gone!" sobbed the woman who had been her neighbour in the noblest sense of neighbourhood.

I was beginning to comfort her when Dennis gripped me by the arm:

"I know," said he. "Come along."

His face was white, his eyes shone, and he tossed his head so wildly, he looked madder than Biddy had looked; but when he began to run, and roughs in the streets began to pursue him, I ran too, as a matter of safety. We drew breath at the dock gates.

The gatekeeper told us that old Biddy, "looking quite herself, only a bit thinner like," had gone through the evening before, to meet some one who was coming off one of the vessels, as he understood, but he had not noticed her on her return. He had heard her ask some man about a ship from New York.

I wanted to hear more, but Dennis clutched me again and dragged me on.

"I'll know the wharf when I see it," said he.

Suddenly he stopped, and pointed. A wharf, but no vessel, only the water sobbing against the stones.

"That's the wharf," he gasped. "That's where he sat and looked down. She's there!"

* * * * *

He was right. We found her there at ebb of tide, with no sign of turmoil or trouble about her, except the grip that never could be loosened with which she held Micky's one letter fast in her hand.


"Oh! dream of joy! is this indeed The lighthouse-top I see? Is this the hill? Is this the Kirk? Is this mine own countree?

We drifted o'er the harbour bar, And I with sobs did pray— O let me be awake, my GOD! Or let me sleep alway." The Ancient Mariner.

When Alister joined us the first evening after we came back from poor Biddy, he was so deeply interested in hearing about her, that he would have gone with us the next morning, if he had not had business on hand. He had a funny sort of remorse for having misjudged her the day she befooled the sentry to get me off. Business connected with Biddy's death detained Dennis in Liverpool for a day or two, and as I had not given any warning of the date of my return to my people, I willingly stayed with him. My comrades had promised to go home with me before proceeding on their respective ways, but (in answer to the letter which announced his safe arrival in Liverpool) Alister got a message from his mother summoning him to Scotland at once on important family matters, and the Shamrock fell to pieces sooner than we had intended. In the course of a few days, Dennis and I heard from our old comrade.

"The Braes of Buie.

"MY DEAR JACK AND DENNIS: I am home safe and sound, though not in time for the funeral, which (as partly consequent on the breaking of a tube in one engine, and a trifling damage to the wheels of a second that was attached, if ye understand me, with the purpose of rectifying the deficiencies of the first, the Company being, in my humble judgment, unwisely thrifty in the matter of second-hand boilers) may be regarded as a dispensation of Providence, and was in no degree looked upon by any member of the family as a wanting of respect towards the memory of the deceased. With the sole and single exception of Miss Margaret MacCantywhapple, a far-away cousin by marriage, who, though in good circumstances, and a very virtuous woman, may be said to have seen her best days, and is not what she was in her intellectual judgment, being afflicted with deafness and a species of palsy, besides other infirmities in her faculties. I misdoubt if I was wise in using my endeavours to make the poor body understand that I was at the other side of the world when my cousin was taken sick, all her response being, 'they aye say so.' However, at long and last, she was brought to admit that the best of us may misjudge, and as we all have our faults, and hers are for the most part her misfortunes, I tholed her imputations on my veracity in the consideration of her bodily infirmities.

"My dear mother, thank GOD, is in her usual, and overjoyed to see my face once more. She desires me to present her respects to both of you, with an old woman's blessing. I'm aware that it will be a matter of kindly satisfaction to you to learn that her old age is secured in carnal comforts through my father's cousin having left all his worldly gear for her support; that is, he left it to me, which is the same thing. Not without a testimony of respect for my father's memory, that all the gear of Scotland would be cheap to me by the side of; and a few words as to industry, energy, and the like, which, though far from being deserved on my part, sound—like voices out of the mist upon the mountain side—sweeter and weightier, it may be, than they deserve, when a body hears them, as ye may say, out of the grave.

"It's an ill wind that blows nobody good, and it's not for me to complain of the down-break in the engines, seeing that in place of rushing past the coast, we just crawled along the top of these grand cliffs in the bonny sunshine, which hardly wakes a smile upon the stern faces of them, while the white foam breaks at no allowance about their feet. Many's the hour, Jack, I've lain on the moss, and looked down into a dark cove to watch the tide come in, and turn blue, and green, and tawny purple over the weeds and rocks, and fall back again to where the black crags sit in creamy surf with sea-birds on their shoulders. Eh! man, it's sweet to come home and see it all again; the folk standing at their doors, and bairns sitting on the dykes with flowers in their hands, and the waving barley-fields on the cliff tops shining against the sea and sky, as lights and shades change their places over a woman's hair. There were some decent bodies in the train beside me, that thought I was daft, with my head out of the window, in an awful draught, at the serious risk of brow-ague, not to speak of coal-smuts, which are horrid if ye get them in your eye. And not without reason did they think so, for I'll assure ye I would have been loth to swear whether it was spray or tears that made my cheeks so salt when I saw the bit herring-boats stealing away out into the blue mist, for all the world as if they were laddies leaving home to seek their fortunes, as it might be ourselves.

"But I'm taking up your time with havers about my own country, and I ask your pardon; though I'm not ashamed to say that, for what I've seen of the world—tropics and all—give me the north-east coast of Scotland!

"I am hoping, at your leisure, to hear that ye both reached home, and found all belonging to ye as ye could wish; and I'm thinking that if Dennis wrote in French, I might make it out, for I've come by an old French Dictionary that was my father's. GOD save the Shamrock! Your affectionate friend, "ALISTER AUCHTERLAY.

"I am ill at saying all that I feel, but I'll never forget."

Dennis and I tramped from Liverpool. Partly for the walk, and partly because we were nearly penniless. His system, as I told him, seemed to be to empty his pockets first, and to think about how he was going to get along afterwards. However, it must be confessed that the number and the needs of the poor Irish we came across in connection with Biddy's death and its attendant ceremonies, were enough to be "the ruination" of a far less tender-hearted Paddy than Dennis O'Moore.

And so—a real sailor with a real bundle under my arm—I tramped Home.

Dennis had been a good comrade out in the world; but that was a trifle to the tact and sympathy he displayed when my mother and father and I were making fools of ourselves in each other's arms.

He saw everything, and he pretended he saw nothing. He picked up my father's spectacles, and waltzed with the dogs whilst the old gentleman was blowing his nose. When Martha broke down in hysterics (for which, it was not difficult to see, she would punish herself and us later on, with sulking and sandpaper), Dennis "brought her to" by an affectionate hugging, which, as she afterwards explained, seemed "that natteral" that she never realized its impropriety till it was twenty-four hours too late to remonstrate.

When my dear mother was calmer, and very anxious about our supper and beds, I ascertained from my father that the Woods were from home, and that Jem had gone down to the farm to sit for an hour or so with Charlie; so, pending the preparation of our fatted calf, Dennis and I went to bring both Jem and Charlie back for the night.

It was a dark, moonless night, only tempered by the reflections of furnace fires among the hills. Dennis thought they were northern lights. The lane was cool, and fresh and damp, and full of autumn scents of fading leaves, and toadstools, and Herb Robert and late Meadow Sweet. And as we crossed the grass under the walnut-trees, I saw that the old school-room window was open to the evening air, and lighted from within.

I signalled silence to Dennis, and we crept up, as Jem and I had crept years ago to see the pale-faced relation hunting for the miser's will in the tea-caddy.

In the old arm-chair sat Charlie, propped with cushions. On one side of him Jem leant with elbows on the table, and on the other side sat Master Isaac, spectacles on nose.

The whole table was covered by a Map of the World, and Charlie's high, eager voice came clearly out into the night.

"Isaac and I have marked every step they've gone, Jem, but we don't think it would be lucky to make the back-mark over the Atlantic till they are quite safe Home."

Dennis says, in his teasing way, he never believed in my "athletics" till he saw me leap in through that window. He was not far behind.



When Jem released me and I looked round, Charlie was resting in Dennis O'Moore's arms and gazing up in his own odd, abrupt, searching way into the Irish boy's face.

"Isaac!" he half laughed, half sobbed: "Dennis is afraid of hurting this poor rickety body of mine. Come here, will you, and pinch me, or pull my hair, that I may be sure it isn't all a dream!"


* * * * *


The present Series of Mrs. Ewing's Works is the only authorized, complete, and uniform Edition published.

It will consist of 18 volumes, Small Crown 8vo, at 2s. 6d. per vol., issued, as far as possible, in chronological order, and these will appear at the rate of two volumes every two months, so that the Series will be completed within 18 months. The device of the cover was specially designed by a Friend of Mrs. Ewing.

The following is a list of the books included in the Series—

















17. MISCELLANEA, including The Mystery of the Bloody Hand—Wonder Stories—Tales of the Khoja, and other translations.

18. JULIANA HORATIA EWING AND HER BOOKS, with a selection from Mrs. Ewing's Letters.

* * * * *



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