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the justice of the acquittal. We have never yet had any better evidence than Peter's word, and probably we never shall have.”
"I suppose, as he was captain of a merchantman, Peter is a move above the other Lower Fishpool people in education ?”
“It must be a very small move, then. No; I fancy his theoretical seamanship was of a very rough and ready description. But it is the unanimous opinion of Lower Fishpool, that for skill in handling craft of any rig or build, from a punt to a line-of-battle ship, Peter is without his equal in the three kingdoms."
"How was it he never got another ship?"
“Probably because his want of education disqualified him for the post of master, although he had already occupied such a position. I daresay he might have got a place as mate, but he chose to come here, where he was born, and invested his savings in a fishing-boat."
“And the presence of this man in Lower Fishpool appears to be an unmitigated evil ?"
“I am afraid it is so. The only good thing I know about him is that he was at church about four Sundays ago, to my great surprise."
"And he hasn't been since ?"
"No; I'm afraid very little effect was produced upon him by the sermon: its only visible effect, in fact, was to send him to sleep, which it did very soon."
“What were you preaching about? I often think there is great difficulty in finding out in what way one is most likely to make al impression upon such as he.”
“I preached from the text, “Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.' I saw him looking at me with a puzzled expression for a few minutes, and then he composed himself to sleep. I have seen him since, but he proved rery uncommunicative."
“Shall we see him to-day, do you think?”. “ Probably not. I believe he has gone somewhere inlanů to arrange a fish contract, accompanied by his nephew, Joe Cowell, also a native of Lower Fishpool."
"By the bye, where is Higher Fishpool ?"
“ Upper Fishpool is just over the hill there. It is a sort of watering place, consisting of about a dozen houses. A few people from W— send their children there. We generally get there by taking a boat round the point; the road over the hill is so rough as to be almost impracticable.”
By this time we were entering the village. The side of the bay on which Lower Fishpool is situated terminates in a rocky headland, at the other side of which is Upper Fishpool. The harbour (which is dry at low water) is formed by a sickle-shaped tongue of land which,
VOL. I.-NO. III.
with the stone jetty thrown out at the end of it, encloses a space sufficiently large to accommodate two or three hundred fishing-boats of various sizes, from five tons to thirty. The village consists of an irregular row of houses facing “ the pool.” It did not strike me as a very pleasant-looking place as we approached. Some of the houses were covered with a mouldy-looking plaster, and others were of rough dark stone, which gave
sombre look. Large flat fish were hanging on the walls outside to dry, and nets were spread on most of the roofs. Women were gossipping about their doors, and one old lady was enjoying a long clay pipe. All seemed to be utterly without occupation, except one who, attired in a striped shirt, a man's rough blue jacket and a sou’wester hat, was sculling a boat across the harbour. Most of the men were in their boats, which lay at anchor in the bay outside.
We strolled up the natural breakwater on the west side of the harbour, and from thence to the pier at the end, which seemed to be a favourite place of rendezvous for the half-naked children of the village. Parties of these were variously employed in the common pursuit of mischief. Half a dozen were in a boat, clamorously endeavouring to replace the plug which one of their number had drawn out for his own private amusement. This was presently accomplished, but not till the boat was nearly half full of water. Looking again at the same group, I was horrified at seeing one sturdy urchin delibe.rately push his next ncighbour over the side into the water--choosing this method of revenging himself on another of his companions who had wantonly poured a canful of water down his back, by way of diversifying the tedious operation of baling out the boat. My horror, however, was turned into amusement when I saw the ease and indifference with which the immersed one paddled off to the steps.
Three more young ragamuffins, who ran away on our approach, were attempting to wriggle out of its place the wooden scale of feet which marked the depth of water at the pier end.
Just as we turned to go back we heard a shrill little voice cxclaim. ing, “Hi, come out o' that boo-at there; here's Black Peter a-comin'!"
“ So there is,” said V- “ That is Peter with a couple of oars over his shoulder; and there's Joe Cowell following him. I daresay they have just arrived, and are going to Peter's boat in the bay to prepare for the night's fishing."
I looked at Peter with some interest as we met. He was a tall and very powerful-looking man, apparently between fifty and sixty years of age. He had on a glazed hat, a blue woollen jersey, and rough cloth trousers tucked into fisherman's boots. His bushy whiskers and short curling hair were iron gray. The face was a study for a physiognomist-gray eyes, steady and piercing; a straight nose; a well-formed
mouth with deep lines about it, showing invincible strength of will. The whole countenance-hair, eyes, and whiskers to match—seemed to have received a peculiar character from having habitually faced fierce storms of wind and sea.
"Good evening, Peter,” said V-
Just come-me and Joe; goin' out to the 'Mary Ann'." “ This is your new vicar," said V
Peter nodded and then touched his hat, and so we passed on; soon, however, to return.
As we drew near the village again, we were met by a young woman, apparently a servant, leading by the hand a little girl about five years old. Concerning which little girl the reader will hear more.
The woman, who was looking about her with an air of uncertainty, came up to us and asked V- if he thought she could get somebody to take the child round the head to Upper Fishpool. She herself had to wait for some luggage from W-, and wished to send her charge on to Upper Fishpool, where her mother was expecting her. " I daresay Peter would do it," said V-;
and we'll ask.”
We hurried back, and found Peter clearing his dingy of the water the children had left in it. After a little hesitation he agreed to pull round to Upper Fishpool.
The little passenger was a very pretty child, plump and rosy, with blue eyes and flaxen ringlets, and a quiet confiding expression of face. I carried her down the steps, and Black Peter took her in his great hands and placed her on one of the seats where Joe's jacket was spread for a cushion.
From that moment conceived a more favourable impression of Peter. As he took the child from me and looked into her pretty innocent face, a gentle expression came into the cold gray eyes, and the shadow of a smile—which shadow had something kindly in itrelaxed the hard mouth.
Joe pushes off with the end of his oar, and the boat is soon clear of the harbour ; while V-- and I stroll homewards, leaving the reader to follow Peter's dingy.
CHAPTER III.-MARTIN'S REEF.
"SEVEN foot,” said Peter, looking at the scale of fect as they passed the end of the pier;" high water at eight o'clock, I suppose."
“Plenty of water over Martin's Reef,” said Joe. "Plenty."