We return, now, to the coast of Kent,
and beg the reader to follow us into the Smuggler’s
Cave at Saint Margaret’s Bay.
Here, in a dark corner, sat old Jeph.
It was a stormy Sunday afternoon. The old man
had gone to the Bay to visit Coleman, and accompany
him to his place of worship. Jeph had wandered
alone in the direction of the cave after church.
He found that some one had recently cleared its mouth
of the rubbish that usually filled it, and that, by
bending low, he could gain an entrance.
Being of an adventurous disposition,
the old man went in, and, seating himself on a projecting
rock in a dark corner, fell into a profound reverie.
He was startled out of this by the sound of approaching
“Come in, come in,” said
a deep hoarse voice, which Jeph at once recognised
as that of Long Orrick, his old enemy. “Come
in, Nick; you seem to have got a’feer’d
o’ the dark of late. We’ll be out
o’ sight here, and I’ll amuse ye till
this squall blows over with an account o’ what
I heer’d the old man say.”
“This squall, as ye call it,
won’t blow over so soon as ye think,”
replied Rodney Nick in a sulky tone. “Hows’ever,
we may as well wait here as anywhere else; or die
here for all that I care!”
“Hallo! messmate, wot’s
ado that ye should go into the blues when we’re
on the pint o’ making our fortins?”
“Ado!” cried Rodney angrily,
“is it not bad enough to be called messmate
by you, and not be able to deny it?”
“You’re civil, anyhow,” said Orrick,
with an oath.
“I mean to be,” retorted Nick, fiercely.
“Come, come, it’s no use
quarrelling,” said Orrick, with an affectation
of good-humour. “Never say die! Nick;
them’s the words o’ the immortial Nelson,
w’en he gave the signal to blaze away at Trafalgar.
But sit ye down here on this rock, and I’ll tell
ye all about wot I see’d last night. Ye’d
like to know, I dessay.”
“I’d like to have know’d
sooner, if you had seen fit to tell me,” said
Rodney Nick, in a gruff tone.
“Well, then, keep yer mind easy,
and here goes. You know as how I chanced to
hear old Jeph make an appointment with that young puppy,
Guy Foster, to meet him at the darkest hour o’
night at the tomb o’ Mary Bax. Thinks
I, it won’t be for nothin’ you’re
goin’ to meet at sich an hour in sich
a place, my hearties, so I’ll go an’ keep
ye company in a private way!
“You may be sure I was up to
time. Two hours did I wait in the ditch behind
the tomb, and I can tell ye, Nick, it’s desprit
eerie work a-sittin’ there all alone of a dark
night, a-countin’ of the beatins of yer ‘art,
an’ thinkin’ every shadow of the clouds
is a ghost. Hows’ever, the old man came
at last, and lies down flat on the grave, and begins
to groan a bit. Arter that he takes to prayin’,
an’, d’ye know, the way that old feller
prays is a caution. The parsons couldn’t
hold a candle to him. Not that I ever heer’d
ony of ’em, but I s’pose they couldn’t!
“Well, he was cut short in the
middle by the arrival of the puppy .”
“Wot puppy?” inquired Rodney.
“Guy, to be sure; ain’t he the biggest
puppy in Deal?” said Orrick.
“Mayhap, but he ain’t the longest,”
retorted Rodney; “go on.”
“Humph! well, down
sits Guy on the head o’ the tombstone, and pats
old Jeph on the shoulder.
“`Here I am, Jeph; come now,
what is it you are so anxious to tell me?’
“The old man sat up: `I’m goin’
to die,’ says he.
“`Nonsense,’ cried the
young ’un, in a cheerie tone, by way of “don’t
say that.” `You’re as tough as an old
bo’sn. Come, that wasn’t what you
wanted to tell me, I’m sure.’
“`Ay, but it was,’ says
the old man in sich an earnest voice that the
young ‘un was forced to become serious. `Listen,
Guy,’ he goes on, `I’m goin’ to
die, an’ there’s no one in this world as
I’ve got to look after me.’
“Guy was goin’ to interrupt
him at this point, but he laid his hand on his shoulder
and bade him be silent.
“`I’ve got no relations,
Guy, except two,’ says he, `an’ I’ve
no childer. I never married. The only
girl I ever loved lies under the cold, cold sod.
You know that I’m a poor man, an’ the
two relations I spoke of are rich rich ay,
and they’re fond o’ money. Mayhap
that’s the reason they are rich!
Moreover, they know I’ve got the matter o’
forty pounds or thereabouts, and I know that when I
die they’ll fight for it small though
it is, and rich though they be and my poor
fortune will either go to them or to the lawyers.
Now, Guy, this must not be; so I want you to do me
a kindness. I’m too old and frail to go
about matters o’ business, an’ I never
was good at wot they call business in my best days,
so I want you to pay all my debts for me, and bring
me the receipts.’
“`I’ll do it, Jeph,’
said Guy, `and much more than that, if you’ll
only tell me how I can serve you; but you mustn’t
speak in that sorrowful way about dying.’
“`Sorrowful!’ cries the
old man, quite surprised like; `bless your heart,
I’m not sorrowful. Don’t the Book
say, “It’s better to be absent from the
body and present with the Lord?"’ (ah, you may
grin as you please, Nick, but I give ye the ‘xact
words o’ the old hypocrite.) `No, no, Guy,’
continued Jeph, `I’ll be right glad to go; many
a sad yet pleasant hour have I spent here, but I’m
weary now, and would fain go, if the Lord will.
Now, it’s my opinion that I’ve just two
weeks to live ’
“`Jeph!’ exclaimed Guy.
“`Don’t interrupt me,
lad. I’ve got two weeks to live,
so I want you to go and arrange about my funeral.
Get a coffin made I used to be six feet
when I was young, but I dessay I’m shorter now and
get the undertaker to cast up beforehand wot it’ll
all come to, and pay him, and bring me the receipts.
Will ye do this, lad?’
“`I will, if you wish it, but ’
“`If I didn’t wish it I wouldn’t
“`Well, Jeph,’ said Guy, earnestly, `I
will do it.’
“`Thank’ee, lad, thank
’ee. I know’d ye would, so I brought
the money with me. Here it is forty
pounds all told; you’ll pay for the things,
and bring me the receipts, and keep the rest and
use it in the service of God. I know I can
trust you, lad, so that’s enough. All I
want is to prevent my small savin’s goin’
to the winds, or to those as don’t need ’em;
you understand how to give it to those as do.’”
“Is that all?” said Rodney Nick, impatiently.
“No that’s not all,”
replied his companion, “though if it was
all, it’s a rather coorious fact, for which
ye might thank me for takin’ the trouble to
tell you. But you’re thankless by nature.
It seems to me that nother you nor me’s likely
to trouble Guy Foster to look arter our spare
cash in that way! But that ain’t the end
o’ my story yet.”
“What! you didn’t rob
’em? eh! you didn’t pitch into the `Puppy,’
and ease him o’ the shiners?”
Rodney Nick said this with a sneer,
for he was well aware that his boastful companion
would not have risked a single-handed encounter with
Guy on any consideration.
“No, I didn’t; it warn’t
worth the trouble,” said Orrick, “but you
shall hear. Arter the old man had said his say,
Guy asked him if that was all, for if it was, he didn’t
see no occasion to make no secret about it.”
“`No,’ said the old man,
`that’s not all. I want you to take charge
of a packet, and give it to Bax after I’m gone.
No one must break the seal but Bax. Poor Bax,
I’d thought to have seen him once again before
I went. I’ll leave the old house to him;
it ain’t worth much, but you can look arter
it for him, or for Tommy Bogey, if Bax don’t
want it. Many a happy evening we’ve spent
in it together. I wanted to give you the parcel
here here out on the dark Sandhills, where
no one but God hears us. It’s wonderful
what a place the town is for eavesdroppin’! so
I made you come out here. You must promise me
never to open the packet unless you find that Bax
is dead; then you may open it, and do as you
think fit. You promise me this?’
“`I do,’ said Guy, as
the old man pulled a small packet, wrapped in brown
paper, from his breast pocket, and put it into his
hands. Then, they rose and went away together.”
“Well?” said Rodney Nick.
“Well!” echoed Long Orrick, “wot
“What next? what d’ye want to do?”
“Do,” cried Orrick, “I
mean to get hold o’ that packet if I can, by
fair means or by foul, that’s wot I mean
to do, and I mean that you shall help me!”
The reader may imagine what were the
feelings of the poor old man as he sat in the dark
corner of the cave listening to this circumstantial
relation of his most secret affairs. When he
heard Long Orrick’s last words, and felt how
utterly powerless he was in his weakness to counteract
him in his designs, he could not prevent the escape
of a deep groan.
The effect on the two men was electrical.
They sprang up, filled with superstitious horror,
and fled precipitately from the cave.
Old Jeph staggered out after them,
and made for the cottage of his friend Coleman.
The latter met him near the threshold.
“Why, Jeph, is this you?
I’ve bin searchin’ for ye more than an
hour, and come to the conclusion ye must ha’
gone home; but why, you’re ill, Jeph!”
“Ay, I’m ill, come, help me home.”
“Nay, not this night, you shall
stop with me; the missus’ll give you a cup o’
tea as will do yer old heart good.”
“No, I must go home now,”
said Jeph, in a tone so decided that his friend was
“You can’t walk it, you
know, in a stormy night like this.”
“I will walk it,” said Jeph.
“Come, then, if you’re
bent on it, you’d better go in your own lugger;
it’s here just now, agoin’ to put off in
ten minutes or so. Nothin’ ever stops
Bluenose, blow high, blow low. W’en he
wants to go off to sea, he goes off, right
or wrong. But you’ll take a glass o’
Old Jeph would not do this, so he
was led down to the beach by Coleman, where they found
the boat being launched.
“Good-bye, old man,” said
Coleman, helping him over the side.
said Jeph earnestly. “I came here to-day
a-purpose to say farewell; shake hands, God bless you.”
The coast-guard-man was surprised
by the warmth of his friend’s manner, as well
as by his words; but before he could ask him what he
meant, the boat was run down the beach and out to
sea. An hour later old Jeph was carefully put
to bed in his own cottage, by his friend Captain Bluenose.