By GEORGE MANVILLE FENN
"Oh, bother the old books!"
And as if to bother them, though more likely
to break their backs, Lance Penwith closed two
with a sharp clap, rose from his seat at the table, and
then, holding one flat in each hand, he walked round
behind his cousin, who was bent over another, with his
elbows on the study-table, a finger in each ear, and his
eyes shut as if to keep in the passage he was committing
to memory. But the next moment he had started up,
hurting his knees, and stood glaring angrily at Lance,
who was roaring with laughter.
For the hearty-looking sunburned boy had passed
behind his fellow-student's chair with the intention of
putting his books on one of the shelves, but seeing his
opportunity, a grin of enjoyment lit up his face, and
taking a step back, he stood just at his cousin's back, and
brought the two books he carried together, cymbal fashion,
but with all his might, and so close to the reader's head
that the air was stirred and the sharp crack made him
spring up in alarm.
"What did you do that for?"
"To wake you up, Alfy. There, put 'em away now,
and let's go down to the cliff."
"And leave my lessons half done?—Don't you do
that again. You won't be happy till I've given you a
"Shouldn't be happy then," said Lance, with a laugh;
"and besides, you couldn't do it, Alfy, my lad, without I
lay down to let you."
"What! I couldn't?"
"Not you. Haven't got strength enough. Jolly old
molly-coddle, why don't you come out and bathe and
climb and fish?"
"And hang about the dirty old pilchard houses and
among the drying hake, and mix with the rough old
smugglers and wreckers."
"How do you know they're smugglers and wreckers?"
"Everybody says they are, and uncle would be
terribly angry if I told him all I know about your goings
"Tell him, then: I don't care. Father doesn't want
me to spend all my time with my nose in a book, my eyes
shut, and my ears corked up with fingers."
"Uncle wants you to know what Mr. Grimston teaches
"Course he does. Well, I know my bits."
"You don't: you can't. You haven't been at work
"Yes, I have; we sat down at ten, and it's a quarter
past eleven, and I know everything by heart. Now, then,
"Go on, then," cried the other.
"Not likely. I've done. Come on and let's do something.
The rain's all gone off and it's lovely out."
"There, I knew you didn't," cried the other. "You
can't have learned it all. And look here, if you do that
again I shall certainly report it to uncle."
"Very well, report away, sneaky. Now then, will
you come? We'll get Old Poltree's boat and make Hezz
come and row."
The student reseated himself, frowning, and bent over
his book again.
"Look here," cried his cousin, "I'll give you one
more chance. Will you come?"
"One more chance. Will you come?"
"Will you leave off interrupting me?" cried the other
"Certainly, sir. Very sorry, sir. Hope you will
enjoy yourself, sir. Poor old Alf! He'll want specs
Then pretending great alarm, the speaker darted out
into the hall, and thrust his head through a door on the
right, which he half opened, and stood looking in at a
slightly grey-haired lady who was bending over her work.
"Going out, mother," he said.
The lady looked up and smiled pleasantly.
"Don't be late for dinner, my dear. Two o'clock
"Oh, I shall be back," said the boy, laughing.
"And don't do anything risky by the cliff."
"Oh no, I'll mind."
The boy closed the door and crossed the hall, just as
a shadow darkened the porch, and a tall, bluff-looking
"Hullo, you, sir!" he cried; "how is it you are not
at your studies?—Going out?"
"Yes, father; down to the shore a bit. Done
"Why don't you take your cousin with you?"
"Won't come, father. I did try."
It was only about half a mile to the cliff, where a few
fishermen's cottages stood on shelves of the mighty granite
walls which looked as if they had been built up of blocks
by the old Cornish ogres, weeded out by the celebrated Jack
the Giant-killer; and here Lance made his way to where
in front of one long whitewashed granite cot, perched a
hundred feet above the shore, there was a long protecting
rail formed of old spars planted close to the edge of the
cliff, just where a tiny river discharged itself into the
sea. This opened sufficiently to form a little harbour for
half-a-dozen fishing luggers, the rocks running out sufficiently
to act as a breakwater and keep off the huge billows
which at times came rolling in from the south-west, so
that on one side of the cliffs lay piled up a slope of wave-washed
and rounded boulders, many as big as great
Cheshire cheeses, while on the other, where the luggers
lay, there were pebbles and sand.
Upon this rail four men were leaning with folded arms,
apparently doing nothing but stare out at the bright, clear
sea; but every eye was keenly on the look-out for one of
those dark-cloud, shadow-like appearances on the surface
which to them meant money and provisions.
But there was no sign of fish breaking the surface of
the water, and as Lance approached he had a good view
of four immense pairs of very thick flannel trousers, whose
bottoms were tucked into as many huge boots, which,
instead of being drawn well up their owners' thighs, hung
in folds about their ankles, and glittered in the sunshine,
where they were well specked with bright fish scales.
Higher up Lance looked upon four pairs of very short
braces, hitched over big bone buttons, and holding the
aforesaid trousers close up under their wearers' armpits.
The rest of the costume consisted of caps, home-made,
and of fur formerly worn by unfortunate seals which had
come too near a boat instead of seeking safety in one of
the wave-washed caves round the point.
"Hi! Old Poltree!" shouted Lance, as he drew near,
The broadest man present raised his head a little, screwed
it round, and unfolding his arms, set one at liberty to give
three thrusts downward of a hand which was of the same
colour as all that could be seen of a very hairy face—mahogany.
"Thankye," shouted Lance, turning off to the left, and
the big man folded his arms again and looked seaward,
the others not having stirred.
Lance's turn to the left led him to a steep descent all
zigzag—a way to the shore that a stranger would have
attacked like a bear and gone down backwards; but Lance
was no stranger, and the precipitous nature of the way did
not deter him, for he descended in a series of jumps from
stone to stone, till he finished with a drop of about ten or
a dozen feet into a bed of sand lying at the mouth of a
wave-scooped hollow, from which came strange moans
and squeaks, the latter painfully shrill, the former deepening
at times into a roar.
The said stranger would have imagined that a person
had fallen from the cliff and was lying somewhere below,
badly broken and wanting help; but there was nothing
the matter. It was only Hezz, or more commonly "Hezzerer,"
in three syllables, and he had been busy at work
putting a patch on the bottom of a clumsy upturned boat
which, as he put it, "lived in the cave," and he was now
daubing his new patch with hot tar from a little three-legged
iron kettle held in his left hand.
But this does not account for the groans and squeaks.
These were produced from the youth's throat. In fact,
Hezz was singing over his work, though it did not sound
very musical at the time, for something was broken; but it
was only Hezz's voice, and it was only the previous night
that Old Poltree, his father, had said to Billy Poltree,
another of the big fisherman's offspring, "Yo' never know
wheer to have him now, my son: one minute he's hoarse
as squire's Devon bull, and next he's letting go like the
pig at feeding time."
At the sound of the dull thuds made by Lance's feet
in the sand, Hezz Poltree whisked himself round and
held his tar-kettle and brush out like a pair of balances
to make him turn, and showed a good-looking young
mahogany face—that is to say, it was paler than his
father's, and not so ruddy and polished.
"Hullo, Master—Lance," he said, widening his mouth
and showing his white teeth, joining in the laughter as the
visitor threw himself down on the sand and roared.
"I can't help it, Master—Lance."
"Try again," cried the new-comer, wiping the tears
from his eyes.
"I do try," growled the boy, beginning once more
in a deep bass, and then ending in a treble squeak.
"There's somethin' got loose in my voice. 'Tarn't my
fault. S'pose it's a sort o' cold."
"Never mind, gruff un. But I didn't know the boat
was being mended. I wanted to go out fishing, and the
pitch isn't dry."
"That don't matter," growled Hezz, setting down his
kettle and brush, and catching up a couple of handfuls of
dry sand, which he dashed over the shiny tar. "Come on."
Lance came on in the way of helping to turn the
clumsy boat over on its keel; then it was spun round so
as to present its bows to the sea; a block was placed
underneath, another a little way off, and the two boys
skilfully ran it down the steep sandy slope till it was half
afloat, when they left it while they went back to the natural
boat-house for the oars, hitcher, and tackle.
"Got any bait?" said Lance.
"Heaps," came in a growl. Then in a squeak—"Thought
you'd come down, so I got some wums—lugs
and rags, and there's four broken pilchards in the maund,
and a couple o' dozen sand-eels in the coorge out yonder
by the buoy."
"Are there any bass off the point?"
"Few. Billy saw some playing there 'smorning, but
p'raps they won't take."
"Never mind; let's try," said Lance eagerly. "Look
sharp; I must be back in time for dinner."
"Lots o' time," growled Hezz, as he loaded himself up
with the big basket, into which he had tumbled the coarse
brown lines and receptacles of bait, including a scaly piece
of board with four damaged pilchards laid upon it and a
sharp knife stuck in the middle. "You carry the oars
and boat-hook," came in a squeak.
They hurried down to the boat, and were brought
back to the knowledge that four pairs of eyes were watching
them from a hundred feet overhead, by Old Poltree
roaring out as if addressing some one a mile at sea—
"You stopped that gashly leak proper, my son?"
"Iss, father," cried Hezz, in a shrill squeak, as he
dumped down his load.
Lance thrust in the oars and hitcher and sprang
in, after giving the boat a thrust; and as a little wave
came in and floated her, Hezz ran her out a bit
farther and sprang in too, thrust an oar over the stern,
and sculled the craft out, fish-tail fashion, to where a
black keg did duty for a buoy. Here he kept the boat's
head while Lance leaned over the side to unhitch a piece
of line and draw a spindle-shaped wicker basket along
the side to the stern, where he made it fast to a ring
bolt, the movement sending a score or so of eely-looking
silvery fish gliding over one another and flashing by the
thin osiers of which the basket was formed.
Then each seized an oar and pulled right away to get
round the rocky buttress which was continued outward in
a few detached rocks, that stood up boldly, to grow
smaller farther out, and farther, till only showing as submerged
reefs over which the sea just creamed and foamed.
It was out here that the tide ran swiftly, a favourite
spot for the bass to play, and as they approached the
familiar spot Lance handed his oar to his sturdy companion,
while he took one of the lines, laid the hook and
lead ready, and then drew the coorge in, opened a wicker
trap-door in the top, inserted his hand, closed the lid
again, and with deft fingers hooked the silvery writhing
fish, popped it overboard, and let the line run out with
the tide, while Hezz kept the boat carefully, as nearly as
he could, in one place.
"There they are, Master Lance," he cried. "Be on
the look-out; they'll take that bait pretty sharp perhaps."
The lad was quite right, for hardly five minutes had
elapsed before there was a snatch at the line, and something
"Got him!" cried Lance, whose face was glowing
with excitement. "Oh, why didn't Alfy come? I say,
Hezz, he's a whopper. He does pull. Shall I let him
"Gahn! no. Haul him in fast as you can, 'fore he
The tackle was coarse and strong, and there was no
scientific playing attempted. It was plain, straightforward
pully-hauly work, and in a very short time the transparent
water astern seemed to be cut into flashing
streaks by something silvery which was drawn in hand
over hand, till, just as Lance was leaning over to get his
fingers close to the end of the snood where the hook
was tied, the water was splashed up into his face, and he
sat up with a cry of disappointment, seeing only a streak
of silver flashing in the sunshine, for the fish had gone.
"Never mind: bait again," squeaked Hezz.
"Bait again," cried Lance, imitating him. "What!
with that hook? Look at it. Nearly straightened out.
I wish you wouldn't have such nasty soft-roed things.
Why, that was a fifteen pounder."
"Take another hook, Master Lance. Look sharp;
look at 'em playing."
Lance put on a fresh hook, baited again, and sent the
sand-eel gliding off along the rushing tide, which played
among the rocks like a mill-stream, and waited excitedly
for another snatch, but waited in vain.
"Don't pull," he said at last; "let the boat run out a
Hezz obeyed, cleverly managing so that the boat
glided slowly after the bait in the direction of the broken
water where the shoal of bass could be seen feeding; but
they got no nearer, for so sure as the boat went farther
from land, so did the fish, and in spite of fresh and tempting
baits being tried there was no seizure made.
"That there one as got away has told all the others to
look out," said Hezz, with a chuckle. "You won't get
"Stuff and nonsense! Just as if fish could talk!
Let's go out farther."
The boat glided on, with the current growing less
swift, and at last Lance drew in his line, sat down, and
between them they rowed slowly in against the sharp
"It's no good now," said Hezz. "Let's go along
yonder by the mouth of the caves, and try for a pollack
among the rocks. If we don't get one we may ketch a
rock-fish or two."
"Or a conger in one of the deep holes."
"Nay, you won't ketch none o' them till it's getting
"Dark enough in the holes," said Lance.
"Very well; you try."
So the boat was rowed out of the sharp current, and
then away towards the west under the cliffs, and about a
hundred yards from the shore, where the tide ran slowly.
Here Lance gave up his oar and began to fish again, trying
first one and then another kind of bait, but with no
greater result than catching a grey gurnard—"tub" Hezz
called it—and soon after a couple of gaily-coloured
wrasse, not worth having.
"Oh, this is miserable work!" cried the boy, drawing
in his line and covering a large hook with half a pilchard.
"Pull a little farther along, and I'll throw out in that dark
quiet part. There'll be a conger there, I know."
Hezz uttered a croak, and his eyes said plainly, "No
conger there"; but he rowed to the spot, which was where
a rock rose up out of the water like a little island, on
which a dusky cormorant which had been fishing sat
drying its wet wings, paying no heed to the approaching
boat till it was some twenty yards away, when the bird
took flight and went off close to the surface.
"Now put her just in yonder," said Lance, "and be
as gentle as you can, so as to keep her there without
Hezz obeyed cleverly enough; and his companion, after
seeing that the line lay in rings free from obstruction, sent
the heavy sinker and bait right away to where the water
looked blackest, making Hezz chuckle loudly.
"What are you laughing at?"
"You: telling me to be so quiet, and sending the
lead in with a splash like that."
"Don't matter; it's only at the top. The fish deep
down won't notice it. Look! it is deep too," for the
line went on running out as the lead descended, and
Lance seated himself to wait, with a self-satisfied look
upon his countenance.
"I like fishing in the still water," he said. "You see
if I don't soon get hold of something big."
"P'raps," said Hezz; "but I never caught anything
"Ah, you don't know everything. I say, what's that
vessel out yonder?"
"Chasse-marée," said Hezz, shading his eyes to look at
the long three-masted lugger with a display of interest.
"No, no; the one with all the white sails set."
"Rev'nue cutter," said Hezz shortly; and proof of his
words was given the next minute, for there was a white
puff of smoke seen to dart out from her bows, and a dull
thud echoed from the cliff.
"Why, she's after that long lugger. She's a smuggler,"
cried Lance excitedly. "Is there going to be a fight?"
"Na-a-a-a-y!" growled Hezz. "She's only fishing."
"How do you know? She's a smuggler, and there'll
be a fight. Let's row out and see."
But in obedience to the summons the long low vessel
glided slowly round till her brown sails began to shiver and
flap, and as the boys watched they saw the cutter run pretty
close up, and a small boat was lowered and rowed across.
"They're French, and cowards," cried Lance, who was
deeply interested. "They've surrendered without striking
"Arn't got nothing to strike blows with," croaked
Hezz sulkily. "Didn't I tell you she was a fishing-boat?"
"Oh, yes; but I know what fishing-boats catch sometimes,
Master Hezz," said Lance, laughing, his companion
looking at him curiously the while—"brandy snappers,
'bacco biters, and lace-fins, Hezz. But they're French
cowards, or they'd have made a run of it. I say, they'll
make her a prize, and take her into port. Where will
they take her—Plymouth or Falmouth?"
"Nowheres. They'll let her go."
The lads sat watching till all at once in the distance
they saw the little boat row back, and the sails of the
chasse-marée began to fill.
"Who's right now?" said Hezz, laughing.
"I am. They've put a prize crew on board."
"What! out of that little boat?" squeaked Hezz.
"That they haven't. There was five in her when she put
put off, and there's five in her now."
"You can't see at this distance."
"Can't I? That I can, quite plain."
"That's upset all my fishing," said Lance, "and it's
getting on for dinner-time. Oh, what bad luck I do
"You ketch lots sometimes, and you did nearly get a
fine bass to-day. That was a good twelve-pounder."
"Twelve? Fifteen," said Lance, preparing to haul in
"P'raps," said Hezz. "Going to try any more?"
"No; I mustn't be late for——Oh, look here! I've
got one on."
For the line was tight, and as Lance began to haul, it
was against a heavy persistent drag.
"Lead caught in the rocks," croaked Hezz contemptuously.
"Oh, is it! Look here! It's coming up."
"Weed, then," squeaked Hezz.
"'Tisn't," cried Lance; "I know by the heavy, steady
pull. It's a big conger."
"No congers there."
"How do you know?"
"And if there were they wouldn't bite at this time
"You mind your own business," cried Lance excitedly.
"It's a thumping big one, and he isn't awake yet to his
being hooked. He's coming, and he'll begin to make a
rush directly to get in his hole. You begin rowing, and
get him right out away from the rocks."
Hezz did as he was told, but only made two or three
strokes and then stopped, for his companion had to give
"Slower," said Lance, panting, as he held on again.
"Wait till he makes a rush. I say, did you bring the
big gaff hook?"
"No; but that line'll hold any conger you can catch,
and I've got the little chopper in the locker when he comes
on board. But that isn't a conger."
"'Tis, I tell you. I can feel him trying to get back.—What
is it, then?"
"Weed," croaked Hezz in his deep bass.
"You're a weed! It's a big conger, and he has got
his tail round a rock or in a hole."
"Let him go, then."
"What? Why he'd shuffle back into his hole, and I
should lose him. Wait till he gets a bit tired and gives
way a bit."
"Let go, and if it's a conger he'll slack the line and
come swimming up to see what's the matter. But you've
only hooked a weed."
"Ha! ha!" laughed Lance. "You're a clever one,
Hezz. Look, he's coming up quite steady;" and the boy
drew in a couple of yards of line.
"It arn't a conger, or he'd begin to cut about now and
shake his head to get riddy of the hook."
"Then it's some other big fish. Think it's a shark."
"No. What would a shark be doing there?"
"I dunno; but he's coming up. I say, put down
Hezz nodded, laid in his oars, and stood close behind
his companion, gradually growing as excited for a minute
or so, and then grinning.
"It arn't no fish," he said.
"It is, I tell you," cried Lance, as he kept up a steady
haul, the boat having yielded till it was exactly over the
"I never see a fish take it so quiet as that," continued
"It's only till he sees us, and then he'll make a desperate
rush to get away."
"I'll be ready for him," said Hezz, laughing softly, as
he gently rested the handle of the boat-hook on the side,
thrusting it out towards the tightened line, which still
came slowly in, though the strain threatened to make it
part. "Hope it will be good to eat, Master Lance."
"I know what it is," cried the boy, in a low hoarse
voice. "It's one of those great cuttles, the same as were
washed on shore after last year's storm. It will come up
all of a lump, with its feelers and suckers twisted round
A sudden change came over Hezz. Instead of grinning,
his face turned preternaturally solemn, and taking
his right hand from the boat-hook he thrust it into his
pocket, drew out a big jack-knife, to open it by seizing
the blade in his teeth.
"That's right," whispered Lance, husky now with the
excitement; "but don't use the knife if you can get a
good hold with the hook. Look, look, here it comes!
Oh, it is a monster!"
The boy had been steadily hauling till he had
brought his capture nearly to the surface, and he now
caught sight of what seemed to be its curved and rounded
"Now, Hezz—quick! down with the hook. Get a
good hold at once. Snatch, lad, snatch!"
But at the crucial moment, when the dark back of
the monster slowly rolled up to the surface, Hezz dropped
the boat-hook, leaned over the side, hindering his companion's
view, and plunged his knife-armed hand down
The next moment there was a slight jar which ran
from Lance's fingers right up his arms, the tension ceased,
and a yard or two of the stout fishing-line flew up in the
For, as if to save his companion from some danger,
Hezz had reached down as low as he could, and with a
vigorous cut divided the fishing-line, so that the dark
round body sank down again like a shadow, leaving the
two lads gazing fiercely at each other.
"Oh, I say!" cried Lance. "Only to think of that!
Why, Hezz, it's——"
"Never you mind what it is," said the boy roughly.
"And you knew it was, then?"
"Swears I didn't," said the boy fiercely. "Think I
should have let you fish there if I had knowed?"
"Why, there must have been a whole string of 'em
tied together on a line and sunk there."
"You don't know nothing of the sort," growled Hezz.
"You didn't see."
"I saw one; and another coming like a shadow."
"No, you didn't."
"Yes, I did—brandy kegs—smuggled. Here, I'll hail
"No, you don't," said Hezz fiercely; and as he stood
with the knife in his hand he looked threatening. "They
couldn't hear you if you did."
"Then I'll make signals."
"No, you won't. I shan't let you, and you wouldn't
be such a sneak, Master Lance."
"It isn't the act of a sneak."
"Yes, it is. Your cousin would, but you wouldn't get
poor men into trouble."
That hit hard, and Lance hesitated.
"Why, it must be your father's and your brother's
doing. And just under our noses too! Oh, what a disgraceful
shame! There, Hezz, I've done with you."
"I didn't know about it, Master Lance."
"You must have known."
"Wish I may die if I did. There!"
"Take the oars, Hezz," said Lance coldly.
"But, Master Lance——?"
"Take the oars," said Lance sternly. "I want to go
"To tell Squire Penwith what you've seen? O Master
Lance! you don't know what you're going to do."
"No," said Lance sternly, as the lad took the oars and
began to row back, "I don't."
"You make me feel as if I'd sooner kill you than you
should do this. It means having my poor father took up
and sent out of the country, and p'raps he didn't know the
kegs was hid like that."
"Go on rowing, I tell you," cried Lance sharply,
"make haste. Pull! do you hear? Pull!"
Hezz uttered a low sound something like a gulp, and
dragged away at the oars with all his might till he ran the
boat on to the sands, where Lance was perfectly aware,
though he would not look up, that the four big fishermen
were still leaning over the rail and looking out to sea, and
he expected to hear a cheery question as to sport as he
hurried up over the sands and began to climb the zigzag.
But no hail came, for the men's eyes were bent upon
the revenue cutter, a mile away, watching every movement
of that and the chasse-marée.
At least so thought Lance Penwith as he hurried home,
pondering upon his cousin's words, and asking himself
whether he was not doing wrong by associating with these
fisher-folk on the cliff.
"I must tell father," he said to himself. "I ought to
tell him," he said; and then he began thinking of what it
meant, the severe punishment of pretty well every man in
the cluster of cottages, some being sent to prison, the
younger men to serve in King George's men-of-war; and
ever since he could remember, they had all been to him
the kindest friends.
"I can't help it," said Lance to himself, after a weary
sleepless night; "I don't feel as if I could go and tell
tales. I'm not sure; and if I was wrong, and these men
were punished for what they did not do, I should never
be happy again."
Lance had made up his mind that he would have no
more to do with the people down by the cliff, for he felt
now that they were not honest. But there was a bitter
feeling of disappointment in coming to this resolve; for
it had been so pleasant to get away from the refinements
of home with its choice cookery, plate, glass, and fine
linen, to the boisterous welcome he always had at Old
Poltree's neat cottage. How delicious the baked hake
was, and how luscious the conger pie!—though they were
as nothing to the split and grilled fish he caught himself;
and Hezz's mother was always ready to cook for the
And now it was all over; but still he might go and
climb to the steep edge, from whence he could look down
on the whitewashed cottages, the busy harbour, and the
This he did, and grew quite excited as he saw that the
revenue cutter was lying off the point, a couple of miles
out, as if watching the place.
"Poor old Hezz!" he said to himself bitterly, "I
hope they will not take him."
Then incongruously enough he smiled as he thought
of the boy's breaking voice.
They'd laugh at him if they heard him croak and
squeak as he does now, and perhaps let him off because
he's only a boy. But it would be horrible for the other
"Why, father's a magistrate too," said the lad suddenly,
"and he'd be with the others who punished them for
smuggling if it was found out. Oh, I can't go and tell
what I know! It would be horrid."
Lance lay there upon the warm cliff for some time
thinking, and then he started and looked down, wondering
at what was to him quite a marvel. For there, moving
slowly, about a hundred feet below him, was his cousin,
threading his way amongst the masses of granite tangled
with brambles, in a part where there was no path, nothing
more than a faint track or two made by the grazing sheep,
and it seemed unaccountable.
"What's he doing there?" muttered Lance. "He
must be looking for me. Well, let him look. I don't
want him. If I shout to him he'll only come and begin
to preach at me in his pompous way. When I'm in a
good temper it only makes me laugh; but I'm in a bad
temper now, and if he begins I shall feel as if I must
punch his head."
So Lance lay and watched, making unpleasant remarks
the while, all of a derisive nature. He watched
till Alfred had disappeared beyond the chaos of rocks
which had fallen from above, and at last he strolled back
home, forgetting all about his cousin till he took his place
at the luncheon-table, and felt surprised to see him there,
looking quite cool and as if he had passed the morning
reading in the shade.
There was another surprise for Lance before he left the
table, the squire letting fall the announcement that Captain
Barry was going to dine there at six o'clock that
"So you boys will have to put on your best manners."
"Who's Captain Barry, father?"
"To speak correctly, he is Lieutenant Barry, my boy,
and is in command of the revenue cutter lying on and off.
They are giving us all a good hunt up, for he tells me
that there has been a great deal of smuggling carried on
along this coast; but I told him the only smuggling
about here is the smuggling of fish."
Lance felt that the tips of his ears turned hot, and
thought that they must be red. He knew that this was
the opportunity for telling all he had found out, but somehow
the words would not come.
The officer was rowed ashore from the cutter that
evening, and the squire had walked down to the tiny
harbour, with the two boys, to meet him, and find him a
frank, pleasant, middle-aged man, who, for some reason,
had never been promoted.
He shook hands, and Lance turned scarlet, and then
glanced shoreward, to see that Hezz was busy turning the
clumsy boat half inside the cavern, and that the big
trousers and boots were up on the shelf, while the men
inside them seemed to be gazing out to sea in search of a
The officer was very pleasant and frank during his
stay. He chatted with the boys and asked them if they
would like to go to sea; but somehow he found Lance
dull and glum, and the boy's father bantered him that
night after the visitor had gone back to the cutter.
A week had glided by, and fishing was in full progress
below the cliff. Hezz and his people had enclosed a small
shoal of mackerel in their seine, and at another time Lance
would have been in the thick of the business, revelling in
seeing the line of corks drawn in closer and closer till the
shoal was dashing about seeking for a way of escape,
before the tuck net was brought to bear, and the
arrowy wave and ripple-marked fish were ladled out
Lance had watched the movements of the cutter
anxiously while she stayed off the point; but one fine
day she had glided away west with all sail set to the
light breeze, and the boy breathed more freely.
Then the days passed and nothing seemed to happen,
except that when Lance went along the high cliffs, climbing
from place to place till he settled himself down in
some snug rift where he could scan the sea and note
what was going on in the cove below, to see if there was
any sign of smuggling, he found that his cousin came
cautiously along no less than three times, and the boy
laughed to himself from his hiding-place.
"He's watching me to see if I go down and join Hezz.
How can any one be such a sneak?"
Lance often mused after this fashion as the days
slipped by; but he kept away from the people down by
the cliff, in spite of a wistful look or two he caught from
Hezz, who came up to the house several times to sell fish.
"No," Lance said firmly, "I haven't told tales; but I
won't have anything to do with smugglers."
One fine afternoon soon after dinner Lance saw his
cousin go into the study and take down a book, rest his
head on his hands, and begin to read.
Lance had followed him to propose that they should
go inland and have a ramble in the woods, but his cousin's
action checked him.
"It's of no use," he said; "he wouldn't come."
So the lad went off till he reached one of his favourite
look-outs, just by a rift overgrown with brambles, where,
when the tide was up, the whispering and washing of
water could be heard, showing that one of the many
caverns and cracks along the bold coast ran in a great
"Wish I knew which of them belonged to this," he
had more than once said; and upon this particular occasion
as he seated himself he began listening to the strange
"I meant to have tried to find this out," he said,
"along with Hezz. Why, I did say something about it
once, and he only laughed and said it was a land-spring.
Well, I can't get the boat now."
Somehow the place had a strange fascination for him
that day, and after looking about a bit he picked up a
piece of mossy granite as big as his head and pitched it
among the bramble growth and ferns just where the
whispering washing sound could be faintly heard.
To his surprise there was the fluttering of wings, and
a jackdaw flew out and away.
"Nest there," he muttered; but his thoughts were
divided by hearing the stone he had pitched down strike
heavily, sending up a hollow sound; and directly after it
struck again more loudly, and all was still.
He was in the act of rising to examine the spot, but
he sank down directly, ducking his head behind a great
tuft of ragwort.
"Well, he is a sneak," he muttered.
He sat close, and Alfred passed about twenty yards
below, going on cautiously away to the right, and passing
out of sight.
Lance sighed, rose, and looked away to the west;
but there was no sign of his cousin, so he walked back
The night came on soft and calm, and after sitting
reading a bit, and going over some translation ready for
the vicar next day, Lance looked up, to see that he was
alone, so putting away his books he strolled out on to
the big sloping lawn to where he could see the sea; but
it looked quite dark and forbidding, and the stars were half
hidden by a haze. Still it was very pleasant out there,
and after a time he turned to look back at the house
with its light or two in the windows of the ground-floor,
while everything else looked black, till all at once a little
window high up in the centre gable of the old Elizabethan
place shone out brightly with a keen steady bluish light
which lasted while he could have counted twenty, and
then all was blacker than ever.
"Why, it's a firework," said Lance to himself. "It
must be Alf."
He had hardly thought this when the light shone out
again, burned brightly for a time, and once more went
out, leaving the boy wondering, till it once again blazed
out sharply, and left all blacker than ever.
Lance's mind was just as black and dark, for he could
make nothing of it. Alfred was not likely to be letting off
fireworks. What could it mean?
Coming to the conclusion that his cousin had been
amusing himself in some way or another connected with
chemistry, he stood thinking for a minute and then went
in, to find the object of his thoughts sitting by his aunt's
side talking quietly, while the squire seemed engrossed in
"Well, perhaps you had better," said Mrs. Penwith.
"There's nothing like bed for a bad sick headache."
The boy sighed, said good-night, and went up to his
"He had too long a walk to-day," said Mrs. Penwith,
"and the sun upset him. By the way, Lance, your cousin
complains about your being given to avoiding him. Do,
pray, put aside all sulkiness and be more brotherly."
"Why, it is Alf, mother, who never will come out
"There, there, say no more about it," said Mrs. Penwith
gently. "You know I wish you to be brotherly, so
Lance felt too much aggrieved to say anything, and
sat in moody silence till it was bed-time, when he said
"good-night" and went to his own room, thinking the
while about those lights.
There he lay, thinking and listening for above an hour,
during which he heard the various sounds in the house of
the servants shutting up and going to bed, and soon after
his father and mother's room door closed, and he settled
down to go to sleep.
He might as well have settled down to keep awake,
for he turned and twisted, and got out of bed to drink
water, and got in again. Then he turned the pillow and
tried that. Next he threw off the quilt because he was
too hot. And so on, and so on, till he sat up to try and
face the question which haunted his brain: What did
those lights in the little upper window mean?
"It's of no use," said the boy at last. "I shall never
go to sleep till I know." He sprang out of bed and
dressed himself, and then stood thinking. Did he dare go
up in the dark to that little room in the roof and see
whether he could find out anything?
Yes; and while the exaltation of brain was upon him, he
softly opened his door, went out into the broad passage,
and along it to the end where the little oak staircase led
up to the three attic-like places in the three gables, rooms
that were only used for lumber and stores.
The boy's heart beat heavily as he went up in his
stockings, and twice over when a board cracked he was
ready to rush back to his room; but he forced himself
into going on, and stood at last at the centre door of the
three, feeling that if he hesitated now he should never
So pushing the door it yielded, and he nearly darted
back, for there was a peculiar sulphury smell in the dark
But Lance had made fireworks in his time, especially
blue lights, and the smell was just the same as that, and he
no longer felt scared, for the thought flashed across his
brain that some one had burned some pieces of blue light
there, and if such were the case there would be something
on the window-sill on which they had been burned.
He stepped boldly in, and there, sure enough, he found
what he expected—a little piece of sheet-iron about half
the size of a slate.
But what for?
A signal! came the next moment in answer; and wildly
excited now, he stepped back across the room, descended
the stairs and went to the door of his cousin's chamber,
tried the door softly, found it yield, and entered.
The bed was empty, and quite cold.
A few moments elapsed, and then it was Lance who
had turned quite cold. For his brain was wonderfully
active now, as he seemed to grasp as facts that his cousin
had not been watching him on the cliff, but had found out
something about the smugglers and was watching them.
Then, too, he recalled how friendly he had been with the
captain of the revenue cutter, and how they had talked
This, then, was the meaning of the signal: Alf had
found out something—of course; a long low chasse-marée
had been lying off that day, he recalled, and the signal lights
had been meant for the cutter, which must have crept in
at dusk, and for aught he knew the King's men might be
landing, in answer to the signals, to catch the fishermen
and smugglers in the very act of landing a cargo.
Right or wrong, Lance paused to think no more. It
was a time to act and try and warn his old friends. How
could Alf be such a sneak?
Quickly and silently he stepped out and back to his
own room, put on his boots, opened the window and
lowered himself down the heavy trellis, reached the lawn,
and ran to get to the zigzag and reach Old Poltree's
cottage on the ledge.
"I'll tell Hezz," he said to himself—"just say the
King's men are out, and then get back."
It is easier to make plans than to carry them out.
When Lance reached the long whitewashed cottage,
meaning to knock till Hezz came to his window, he was
caught by a strong hand, wrenched round, and a hoarse
voice said in a whisper—
"I—Lance, Mother Poltree. I came to tell you I'm
afraid the King's men are coming to-night."
"Whish!" she said, as she clapped another great
hand over his mouth. "Who told tales—you?"
"No, no, I wouldn't."
"Whish! they're coming," she cried, as she stood
listening. "They came after you."
"I—I didn't know," whispered Lance, as he made
out steps descending the zigzag, showing that he was
only just in time, for whoever it was had been close
"This way," said the old woman sternly, and all
thought of retreat was cut off, for she held the boy's arm
firmly and hurried him to the end of the cottage and across
the patch of garden.
The way was new to Lance, and thoroughly excited
now, he allowed the sturdy old woman to half guide, half
thrust him along, till the way was so narrow along the
steep cliff slope that at her bidding he went on first, with
the consequence that more than once he lost his footing,
and would have fallen from the narrow track but for the
help he received.
At one time they were ascending as if to climb to the
cliff top, then down, and up again, till at the end of a
few hundred yards a rift was reached, down which the old
woman hurried the lad, uttering a peculiar hissing sound the
while, which quite changed the aspect of the scene which
had unfolded itself to Lance's astonished gaze. For there
below him, lit up by a few lanterns, he could make out
the hull of a great lugger, lying in the jaws of the rift
down which they were hurrying, while men were wading
waist-deep to and fro—those going out to the lugger's
side empty-handed, these coming bearing bales and kegs,
which they carried to a low rocky archway, so low that it
must have been covered when the tide was up, while now
they stooped and passed in their loads to other hands,
which seized them and bore them away.
At the warning hiss uttered by the old fisherwoman
the work ceased, and as a man, evidently the captain,
swung himself down into the water, Old Poltree, his sons,
and another man crept out from beneath the rugged
Few words were spoken. The captain of the lugger
gave an order or two, splashed through the water with
his men, and climbed on board, where the lanterns were
extinguished, hitchers and sweeps thrust forth on either
side, and the English fishermen waded out to put their
shoulders to the stern of the boat and help to thrust her
out into the open water.
Their help did not last, for the water deepened rapidly
and the great lugger was well on the move, and unless
the boats of the revenue cutter were waiting for them her
safety was assured. The danger was from the shore for
those who had been breaking the laws.
"This your doing, young gen'leman?" growled Old
Poltree fiercely, approaching Lance.
"No!" cried the boy eagerly.
"Nay, no lies, my lad. The French skipper saw
three lights, and he thought it was our doing. You did
it to bring 'em on."
"Indeed, no!" cried Lance. "I saw them too, and as
soon as I guessed what it meant I ran down to warn you;
didn't I, Mother Poltree?"
"Iss, my son.—You're wrong, old man, it was t'other
youngster. I told you he was after no good."
"Then it warn't you, Master Lance?" squeaked a
"You hold your row, Hezzerer," growled his father;
and then quickly, "Look, they've found the way down.
Someun's showing 'em with a light."
His gruff voice was evidently heard, for from where
the dull yellow light of a horn lantern shone at the top
of the gash in the massive cliff a stern voice shouted—
"Surrender, in the King's name, or we fire."
"Fire away, then," muttered Old Poltree. "Tide'll be
up soon. In with you, my lads. In with you, missus,
for you can't get back now."
"Come along, Master Lance," whispered Hezz, who
had crept close to his old companion.
"No, no!" cried Lance, aghast. "I'm not coming
with you; I must go back."
"Nay, my son; you can't now," growled Old Poltree.
"In with you;" and he dragged the boy down into the
water and gave him a thrust, while as Lance indignantly
raised his head again to rush back, he saw by the light of a
single lantern held by one of the men that he was in a
spacious water-floored cavern which evidently extended
for some distance; but what interested him most in his
awkward position was the sight of the big old man on one
side of the exit, his eldest son on the other, each armed
with a piece of broken oar, ready to defend the natural
door against all comers.
"Right away with that light," growled the old man,
and its bearer splashed through the water farther and
"Come on, Master Lance," whispered Hezz, catching
him by the arm.
"Let go," cried the boy angrily. "I will not be taken
"Nay, you shan't be, young Master Lance," whispered
the old woman. "My Hezz'll show you the way out,
while my old man keeps the sailors back till the tide's up
and they can't get in."
"Yes, that's right, Master Lance," whispered Hezz,
and the boy unwillingly followed the lantern-bearer till
at the end of a hundred yards the water had ceased and
they were walking over the dry rocky bottom of the
rapidly-contracting cave, where Lance noticed that a heap
of casks and bales had been hurriedly piled up.
And now from behind him there came the shouts of
men and the noise of heavy blows and splashing; but
neither of those with him seemed in the least disturbed,
Hezz even chuckling and saying—
"It's all right, old mother; father won't let no one
pass. I say, we shall have to haul you up."
"'Fraid so, my son," said the old woman. "I'm too
heavy to clamber now."
A wild feeling of excitement pervaded Lance all this
time, mingled with indignation at what he mentally called
his cousin's treachery. But he felt better at the thought
that he was to escape, for the idea of being captured with
the smugglers was horrible.
And now his attention was taken up by the movements
of Hezz, who, while the man held the lantern up,
took a coil of rope from where it rested on a big stone,
thrust his head and one arm through it, and began to
climb up a rugged narrow crack at the end of the cavern—climbing
as if he had been up there before, and soon
disappearing from their view.
But they could hear him plainly enough, his boots
grating on the rock, and his heavy breathing coming
whispering down for some minutes before all was still, but
only for the silence to be broken by a curious rustling
sound, and Lance caught sight of the rope uncoiling as it
"Up with you," said the man with the lantern, and
Old Poltree's second son seized the rope, and by its help
climbed up in much less time than his brother; while
Lance longed for his turn to come that he might hurry
away, but felt an unwillingness to go before the woman
with them was saved.
"Come on," was whispered, and the other man gave
the lantern to Mother Poltree, while the shouting and
splashing at the cavern entrance grew fainter.
In a very short time there was another summons from
above, but at this moment they were joined by big Billy
"All right, mother," he said. "Mouth's pretty well
covered. I'll go next, so as to help pull you up. They
can't get in now."
The man seized the rope, and as he disappeared in the
dark crack Lance thought of the consequences if the
King's men came now and seized them, so that he started
round guiltily when he heard a sound behind him; but it
was only the old fisherman.
"Hullo, young squire," he said; "not gone? Well,
I'll go next, and then I can help with you both."
With a display of agility that was wonderful in so old
and heavy a man, he directly after seized the rope and
climbed up, leaving Lance with the old woman, who stood
silently holding the lantern and gazing back.
"Tide's right over the mouth now," she said.
"Is it?" replied Lance; and anxiously, "Pray tell
them all, Mother Poltree, that I didn't betray them. I
wouldn't do such a thing."
"Needn't tell 'em, my son," said the old woman.
"No one would believe it of you. But it's a bad job for
us if they catch my folk. It means sending 'em across
the seas. Now, then, up with you, quick; and then I'll
dowse the light."
"No, you first," said Lance.
"Nay, my son, you. Don't waste time. They ought
to be making for the moors by now."
Lance seized the rope and climbed actively, finding
plenty of foothold, and soon after reaching the open air
in the spot which he felt sure was where he had heard the
splashing and thrown down the stone.
"Now quick, boys," whispered Old Poltree. "She's
got the rope fast round her I can feel. Haul steady;
give her time; and then we must make for the hills. They
won't hurt the women."
"Quick! this way; I can hear them," cried a familiar
voice out of the darkness, and from two ways there was
a rush of footsteps and a scrambling sound.
Lance made a dart to dash away, but some one flung
his arms about him, lifted him from the ground, and
rolled with him over and over amongst the furze and
"Keep still," whispered a voice in his ear; and he lay
quiet, for it was Hezz listening to the sounds of struggling
and pursuit till they died away, and then he rose.
"Don't say naught to me, Master Lance—I'm too bad;
but you keep close to me and I'll show you how to get
back to the big house without the King's men ketching of
you. Quick! here's one of 'em."
This on hearing a hoarse panting, but a voice
"You, mother! Got up?"
"Yes, my son, with all the skin off my hands. Have
they got away?"
"I think so, mother. What are you going to do?"
"Get home to tell the girls. And you?"
"See Master Lance safe, and then get hid somewheres
till they're all gone. I shall be all right, and they won't
hurt you. Come on, Master Lance."
No more was said, Lance having his work to do in
climbing after his companion, who led him by what by
daylight he would have considered to be an impossible
path; but it ended at the stone wall which bordered the
cliff part of the home grounds, and when he began to
thank his companion he was gone, only a faint rustling
as of a rabbit telling of which way.
Ten minutes later Lance had climbed back to his bedroom
window, closed it, and after regaining his breath he
stole out into the passage to make his way to his cousin's
But all was silent there. Alf had not returned.
Lance crept back to his own bedroom, undressed, and
lay down to listen for his cousin's return, undecided as to
what he should do.
Nature decided it for him, sending him off fast asleep,
wearied out by his exertions; but before dawn his door
was opened and a light step crossed the floor and paused
by his bedside, a low ejaculation as of astonishment being
heard, and then the steps were directed to the door, which
was softly closed.
Lance made his appearance at breakfast the next morning
rather late, and as he entered the room, wondering whether
his father knew of the events of the night, he saw at a
glance that everything had come out, for the squire was
speaking angrily to Alfred, who stood before him with his
face cut and scratched, and a great piece of sticking-plaister
across one hand.
"You may have considered it your duty, sir, still I
think it was very dishonourable of Captain Barry to make
use of you as his spy without a word to me; but of course
he would know that I should not countenance such a
thing. It is quite time you went away from home, sir;
so prepare yourself, and you will go to one of the big
grammar schools as soon as you can make arrangements.
That will do, sir: I do not want to hear another word. I
am a magistrate, and I want to uphold the law, but all
this business seems to me cowardly and bad.—Oh," he
cried, "there you are, sir!"
"Yes, father," said Lance, drawing a deep breath.
"You know, I suppose, that the King's men have found
a nest of smugglers here, under my very nose?"
"And you were in bed all night, of course?"
"No, father. I found out by accident that Alf was
going to betray them."
"Betray, eh? And pray how?"
"He burnt blue lights at the top window as a signal
to bring the French lugger ashore."
"Indeed! Worse and worse," cried the squire angrily.
"And you, sir—pray what did you do?"
"Went and told Old Poltree and his lads to look out."
"You did, eh?"
"And pray why?"
"Because, father," said the boy boldly, "I thought it
was such a shame."
"You hear this, my dear?" said the squire, turning
to Mrs. Penwith.
"Yes, love," said that lady, looking at her son with
"And I am a magistrate, and my son behaves like
this! 'Pon my word, this is supporting the law with a
vengeance. But here's breakfast. I'll think about it, and
see what I ought to do."
But the squire was so taken up with a visit from the
commander of the cutter, which had made its appearance
off the point that morning, and going down and seeing
the clearing out of the cave, in which there was a grand
haul for the sailors, that he apparently forgot to speak to
his son. He had no prisoners brought before him, for the
smugglers had all escaped; and when Mrs. Penwith told
him with a troubled face that their two boys had met at
the bottom of the garden, quarrelled, and fought terribly,
he only said—
"Lance, my dear. Alfred is terribly knocked about."
"Oh," said the squire, and that was all.
A month passed away before Hezz was seen back at
the cottage, and oddly enough that was the very day on
which Alfred said good-bye to the place and was driven
off with his box, his cousin going with him to the cross
roads six miles away, where he was to meet the Plymouth
waggon; and it was on Lance's return that he strolled to
the cliff to look down at the cottage, and saw Hezz below
on the sands once more tarring his boat.
The cliff and the little harbour beneath looked as beautiful
as ever; but there was an element of sadness about the
place whenever Lance went down to see Hezz, for he was
pretty sure to encounter one or other of the sad-faced
women busy in some way or another.
There was no playtime for Hezz, whose big, open,
boyish face had grown old and anxious-looking; but he
always had a smile and a look of welcome for Lance
whenever he went down, and rushed off to get the boat
ready for a fishing trip somewhere or another.
But these were not pleasure excursions, for as soon
as the boat was pushed off the two lads tugged at the
oars or set the sail to run off to some well-known fishing
ground, where they worked away in a grim earnest way
to get together a good maund of fish, a part of which was
always sold up at the "big house," and at a good price
As for the women, they worked hard in their patches
of garden, or went out in couples to bait and lay the
lobster pots, or set the trammel nets, sometimes successfully,
more often to come back empty; but somehow
they managed to live and toil on patiently with a kind of
hopeful feeling that one day things would mend.
"Ever see any of the French smugglers now, Hezz?"
said Lance to him one day.
The boy's eyes flashed, and he knit his brows.
"No," he said, in a deep growl, for there had been no
squeak in his voice since the night of the fight; the last
boyish sound broke right away in that struggle, and he
seemed to have suddenly developed into a man. "No,"
he said, "nor don't want to. If it hadn't been for them
the old man and Billy and t'others would ha' been at
home, 'stead o' wandering the wide world over."
"Have you any idea where they are, Hezz?"
The lad looked at him fiercely.
"Want to get 'em took?" he growled.
"Of course," said Lance, smiling. "Just the sort of
thing I should do."
"Well, I didn't know," said Hezz.
"Yes, you did," cried Lance. "Want me to kick you
for telling a lie?"
"Well, you're a young gent, and young gents do such
things. Look at your cousin."
"Now, just you apologise for what you said, or I'll
pitch into you, Hezz," cried Lance. "Now then: is that
the sort of thing I should do if I knew where the old man
and the rest were?"
"No," said Hezz, grinning, "not you."
"Then just you apologise at once."
"Beg your pardon, grant your grace, wish I may die
if I do so any more. That do?"
"Yes, that'll do. Now tell me where they are, just to
show me you do trust me."
"Tell you in a minute, Master Lance," cried the lad
earnestly, "but I don't know a bit. We did hear from a
Falmouth boat as some un' had sin 'em up Middlesbro'
way after the herrin'; but that's all, and p'raps they're all
drownded. I say, I'll tell you something, though. What
d'yer think my old woman said about your mother?"
"I don't know. What did she say?"
"Said she was just a hangel, and she didn't know
what she should ha' done all through the stormy time if
it hadn't been for her."
"Oh, bother! I didn't want to hear about that," said
"But you ought to hear, and so I telled you. I say,
what's gone of your cousin?"
"Never you mind. What is it to you?" said Lance
roughly. "You don't want to see him again."
"Nay, I don't want to see him, Master Lance, 'cause
I might feel tempted like; and I don't want to run again'
him, it might make me feel mad."
"Ah, well, you won't feel mad, Hezz, for he is never
likely to come back here again. He's at a big school
place, and going to college soon."
"Well, I'm glad he isn't likely to come; not as I
should fly out at him, but Billy's wife right down hates
him, and there's the other women do too, for getting
their lads sent away. You see they've the little uns to
keep; and Billy's wife says to me, on'y las' Sunday as we
come back along the cliffs from church with the little gal,
'Hezz,' she says, and she burst out crying, 'it's like
being a lone widow with her man drowned in a storm,
and it's cruel, cruel hard to bear.'"
"And what did you say, Hezz?"
"Nothin', Master Lance. Couldn't say nothing.
Made me feel choky and as if my voice was goin' to
break agen; so I give her luttle gal a pigaback home,
and that seemed to do Billy's wife good. Hah, I should
like to see our old man home agen, for it's hard work to
comfort mother sometimes when I come back without my
fish, and she shakes her head at me and says, 'Ah, if your
father had been here!'"
"Poor old lady!" said Lance.
"You see, it's when she's hungry, Master Lance.
She don't mean it, 'cause she knows well enough there
was times and times when the old man come back with
an empty maund; but then you see she'd got him, and
now it's no fish and no him nayther.—No, I won't,
Master Lance. I didn't say all that for you to be givin'
me money agen."
"Well, I know that, stupid. It's my money, and I
shall spend it how I like. It isn't to buy anything for
you, but for you to give to the old woman."
"Nay, I won't take it. If you want to give it her,
give it yourself. I arn't a beggar.—Yes, I am, Master
Lance—about the hungriest beggar I ever see."
"You take that half-crown and give it to Mother
Poltree, or I'll never speak to you again."
"No, I won't. You give it her."
"I can't, Hezz; she makes so much fuss about it, and
kisses me, and then cries. Seems to do more harm than
"I won't take it," growled Hezz, "but you may shove
the gashly thing in my pocket if you like.—Thankye for
her, Master Lance; it arn't for me. And look here,
mind, I've got it all chalked down in strokes behind my
bedroom door, and me and Billy and the old man'll pay
it all back agen some day."
"All right, Hezz," said Lance merrily. "You shall;
so it's all so much saved up, and when you do pay it
we'll buy a new boat, regular clinker-built, copper-fastened,
and sail and mast."
"That we will, Master Lance," cried the lad eagerly.
"One as can sail too, so's we can hold a rope astern and
offer to give t'others a tow. I say, think the old man will
ever come back?"
"I hope so, Hezz."
"Ay, that's what I do—hopes. Sent over the sea, I
s'pose, if they did."
"Oh, don't talk about it, Hezz!" cried Lance bitterly.
"Why didn't they be content with getting a living with
Hezz made no reply, but trudged off to the long
whitewashed cottage on the cliff, where as Lance watched
he saw Mother Poltree come out and Hezz hand her the
big silver coin with King George's head on one side.
The result was that the brawny old woman threw her
apron over her face, tore it down again and looked down
below, caught sight of the giver, and began to descend.
But Lance was too quick for her: he took flight and
ran below the cliff, scrambling over the rocks, for it was
low tide, and had a toilsome climb up a dangerous part so
as to get back home.
It was one bright spring morning after getting well on
with his Latin reading with the vicar, that Lance thought
he would go down to the cliff and see what luck Hezz
had had with the trammel overnight.
Suddenly he stopped short and stood staring down at
the cliff shelf, hardly believing it was true, for there below
him in a row stood four great pairs of stiff flannel trousers
in four pairs of heavy fisherman's boots, just as if the
men's wives had put them out in the sunshine against the
old wooden rail to sweeten and dry out some of the damp
salt, in case their wearers should come back.
But Lance Penwith had lived there too long to be
deceived by such a sight as that, and uttering a cry of
amazement he began trying to break his neck by a heavy
fall before he arrived safely on the broad shelf, to yell out,
Then, and then only, did the biggest and broadest
pair of trousers begin to move, and a great shaggy head
turned to show a dark mahogany face fringed with stiff
"Come back!" shouted Lance; "and you too, Billy;
and you two."
"Master Lahnce, lad!" cried the old man, making a
grab at the boy's hand with one of his huge paws, clapping
the other upon it, and working it up and down slowly as
he said, "The old 'ooman's told me all about it, and I says,
humble and thankful like, God bless yer!"
"And so says all on us," chorused his companions.
"That's right, my sons; that's right," growled the old
"But you've come back," cried Lance, trying in vain
to free his hand, for the others wanted to shake it, and
Billy Poltree had to be content with the left, while the
other men ornamented the boy with fleshly epaulettes in
the shape of a hand apiece on the shoulders.
"Ay, my lad, we've come back," said Old Poltree
solemnly, "for it's weary months and months as we four
has been in desert lands up the eastern parts and up
the norrard coasties; but it's allus been with a long look-out
for the native land as we felt as we must see once
more afore we died. We bore it all as long as we could,
and then we said we'd get home and see our wives and
bairns, and then they might take us and send us away
across the main, for it arn't been living, has it, my
There was a tremendous No! and plenty of answering
of eagerly put questions before Lance could get away and
run panting up to where the squire and his mother were
sitting at home.
"They've come back—they've come back!" he
shouted, and then he stood as if struck dumb at the
thought of what he had done—raced off to tell the only
magistrate for miles round that the fugitive smugglers had
returned as if to give themselves up.
A few questions followed, and Mrs. Penwith sat gazing
anxiously from husband to son and back again, for the
same thought occurred to her as had flashed upon her
boy—"What will he say?" But it was something quite
different from anything they expected.
"Come back, Lance? Yes, you've come back, and
the dinner is getting cold. Come along."
But his father said something more before they left
"So those smuggling rascals have come back? Well,
I always expected they would. A nice long lesson they've
had. Well, knowing what I do, I shall not take any
steps unless I am obliged by pressure from Falmouth.
Then, of course, I must. They are your friends, Lance,
not mine; and I suppose they have quite given up
"Yes, father," cried the boy; "Old Poltree told me,
with tears in his eyes, that if he had known what was to
come of it he would never have touched keg or bale.
They'll never smuggle again."
"Let them prove it while they have a chance, my boy;
it may tell in their favour when they are arrested and sent
"But this is a very out-of-the-way place," he said
afterwards to Mrs. Penwith, "and I don't think any one
will trouble them, for the matter is almost forgotten
"But ought you to——"
"Where's that boy?" said the squire, frowning.
Lance had rushed off again to tell his friends on the
cliff how his father had taken their return.