The sailor's home : Or, the girdle of truth

Transcriber's note: Unusual and inconsistent spelling is as printed.



"You seem to be weary, my friend," said Mr. Curtis,
the vicar of Colme, stopping courteously to speak to a sailor,
who was seated on the stump of a tree at the side of the pathway.



The Girdle of Truth.


A. L. O. E.



    London:                      Edinburgh:













The Sailor's Home;





"You seem to be weary, my friend," said Mr. Curtis, the vicar of Colme, stopping courteously to speak to a sailor, who was seated on the stump of a tree at the side of the pathway. It was a glowing day in August; the air was hot and sultry, and dust lay thick on the road.

Ned Franks, the sailor, rose on being addressed, and touched his glazed hat, on which appeared the badge of the anchor, surmounted by a crown, which showed that he had belonged to the Royal Navy. He was a fine stalwart-looking young man, scarcely thirty years of age, with sunburnt cheek, and thick curling hair; and as Mr. Curtis met the glance of his clear blue eye, the clergyman thought that he had never looked upon a face more manly or pleasant.

"I've walked twenty miles, sir, since sunrise," said Franks, glancing at the bundle which he had been carrying on a stick across his shoulder, and which was now resting against the stump from which he had risen. "But I'm nigh port now, I take it, if yonder's the village of Colme."

"Are you going to visit it?" asked the vicar.

"I'm going to drop anchor there for good, sir," answered the tar. "I've a sister—a step-sister I should say, living yonder; she and I are all that are left of the family now, and I'll make my home with her, please God."

"Surely you are too young to give up the navy, my friend. Idleness would be no blessing to a fine strong lad such as you seem to be; you may have many years before you yet of good service to the Queen."

"I shall never serve the Queen again, bless her!" replied the young sailor, with a touch of sadness.

And Mr. Curtis then, for the first time, remarked that the left sleeve of Ned's blue jacket hung empty.

"But I don't look to be idle, sir," continued Franks, in a tone more cheerful, "Bessy will have my bit of a pension for the mess and the berth, and I'll see if I can't make myself useful in some way or other—go errands, or maybe try the teaching tack; anything would be better than lying like a log on the shore."

"Teaching?" repeated the clergyman. "What are you able to teach?"

"Not many things," replied the sailor, with a smile, "reading, 'riting, 'rithmetic, and not much of them neither; but I like a book when I can overhaul one, and I usually make good way with the younkers."

"I well believe that," said Mr. Curtis; "I doubt not that you've many a good sea story to tell, and stirring adventure to relate. I see," he continued, "from the badge on your hat that you've served in the 'Queen;' I daresay that you lost your arm by a Russian ball from a Sebastopol battery," and the vicar looked with interest at the young seaman, picturing him at the post of duty amidst the smoke and din of a fight.

"No, sir," replied Ned, frankly; "I smashed my arm on shore, stumbling down an open cellar on a starless night."

Mr. Curtis slightly raised his eyebrows, and there was a little less interest in his manner as he inquired, "And who is the sister with whom you are to live?"

"Bessy Peele, sir; she's a widow in these parts."

"I know her," said Mr. Curtis, rather drily; "she lives in the thatched cottage yonder, whose chimney you can just see over these trees. I hope that she may make you comfortable," he added.

"It's not much, sir, that I want," said the sailor: "a dry berth, a wholesome mess, and a welcome, he who gets that may be thankful, whether on sea or on shore."

"I shall call and see you," said the clergyman, kindly, "and have a little talk with you on other matters than those which concern but this passing life."

"I shall be heartily glad, sir," replied Ned, again touching his glazed hat; "it's well to have some one to teach us how to steer 'twixt the rocks and the shoals."

"I hope that we have both the same port in view," said the clergyman.

"I hope so," answered Ned Franks, cheerfully; and as the vicar bade him good day, he turned in the direction of his new home.

Mrs. Peele's cottage stood a little retired from the dusty high road, being divided from it by a bit of waste ground, on which some pigs were feeding. The ground was overgrown with nettles and straggling briars: the dwelling was of mud, with a roof of thatch, green with lichen and moss, under which, as under heavy overhanging brows, peeped two dots of windows like eyes. The door stood open, and within Ned caught sight of his sister engaged in washing.

Mrs. Peele was a tall bony woman, with a habitual stoop, clad in a rusty black dress, with a cap which was rustier still. Broad lines of grey streaked her hair, and Ned's first feeling was that of painful surprise at the change which years had made. He did not stop, however, to dwell on the past.

"Holloa, Bessy! Don't you know me?" he exclaimed, as he quickened his pace, and the next minute Mrs. Peele had run out, with her bare arms covered with soap-suds, to welcome her younger brother.

She was followed by a lad about ten or eleven years of age; a sharp, wiry boy, whose pointed upturned nose, quick little black eyes, and restless manner, somehow suggested to the sailor's mind the idea of a weasel. Ned shook him heartily by the hand on hearing that this was his nephew Dan; and, with a heart glowing with pleasure at being once more in a home, the seaman entered the cottage accompanied by the Peeles.

"Now, Dan, you take your uncle, and show him his room, while I wring these out, and get a bit of something ready for dinner," said Bessy. "I hardly looked for you so early, Ned," she added, addressing herself to her brother.

"I was up with the lark," answered the sailor.

Dan, looking up with curiosity in his keen small eyes towards the stranger, whom he scarcely yet ventured to call "uncle," led the way to the back of the cottage, where was a kind of garden—if a place could deserve that name where nothing but sickly cabbages seemed to grow, with a full crop of chickweed and groundsel between. A small wood-house adjoined the cottage, and over this was a little loft, to be reached by a rough sort of ladder.

"We're to go up the hatchway, are we?" said Ned, mounting the ladder with a lightness and rapidity which surprised his nephew. He had to stoop his curly head low as he passed through the entrance, the door of which appeared never to have been intended to fit, since even when shut it admitted as much light as the small one-paned window of greenish glass, with a thick knob in the middle. The loft was very small, with walls unpapered, and rafters uncovered; a dirty mattress lay on the dirtier floor, and a musty scent pervaded the place.

"I can't say much for the berth," thought Ned; "it's not big enough to swing a cat in, and doesn't look as if the planks had ever been holystoned. I must set things a little ship-shape. Bessy, poor soul, has enough to keep her busy with her washing; I must try if I can't make my one hand do the business of two."

The man-of-war's seaman, accustomed to spotless cleanliness and neatness, looked around on the miserable den with a mixture of disgust and good humour.

"I'll rub up the bull's eye," he said, "and get that door to fasten with something better than a piece of old rope; and I'll try to knock up a bit of a shelf in that corner, for I've a few books in that bundle of mine. We'll soon have all right and trim as a captain's cabin!"

Ned Franks was to find that other things in his new home required setting to rights as well as his loft, and that there are spots and stains harder to rub out than those on his walls and floor.

"Why don't you keep that garden in trimmer order?" asked the sailor, as he descended the ladder, followed by Dan. "You might grow enough of potatoes and cabbages in yon slip to supply your mother half the year."

"I've not a minute's time," answered Dan; "I look after Sir Lacy Barton's cows."

"Lacy Barton!" repeated Ned. "Why that's the name of one of our middies."

"Sir Lacy has a son in the 'Queen' as I've heard."

"What are you saying about Sir Lacy?" asked Bessy Peele, catching the sound of the name, as her brother and Dan re-entered the kitchen.

"That he has a son aboard my old vessel the 'Queen.'"

"That's a piece of luck for us!" cried Bessy, pausing in her occupation of cutting rashers from a fine large piece of bacon. "He's our landlord, is Sir Lacy Barton, and he's thinking of pulling down our cottage to build the new school in its place, and I'm mighty anxious to be in his favour. 'Tis a lucky chance that you've come, and can tell him all about his son."

"That depends on what I've to tell," answered Ned, with a smile; "in some cases, it's 'least said soonest mended.' I hope that none of the family will come to question me about young Mr. Barton—" and the frank face of the sailor expressed more than his words, as he remembered the doings of the most worthless youth on board of the man-of-war.

"Well, if you was asked, you'd say something pleasant I hope," observed Bessy.

"I could not say what was false," answered Ned.

The words were simple enough, but the decided tone in which they were uttered, made Bessy exchange glances with her son. The boy shrugged his shoulders slightly, and something like a smile rose to the corners of his lips. The very straightforwardness of the sailor made him appear strange to those who had long mistaken cunning for wisdom, and low deceit for sharpness.



The table was spread with food, homely but abundant, steaming bacon and greens.

"A twenty miles' walk must have made you ready for your dinner, Ned," said Bessy, as she seated herself at the table, and a well-filled plate was soon before each of the party.

"Why, uncle, what are you waiting for?" asked Dan, surprised that the hungry sailor did not at once begin his meal.

"Bessy," said Ned, quietly, "do you say grace, or shall I?"

Again mother and son exchanged glances. As no answer was given, Ned, in few words, thanked God for His mercies through Christ. This was no mere form with the weather-beaten sailor, who found himself in haven at last, after the tempest and the fight, the hardships and perils of a sea life, and was thankful to God for mercies greater than preservation through all these.

"I'm afraid," said Ned, looking with a good-humoured smile at his plate, "that a maimed Jack-tar such as I am, must signal for assistance even at the mess."

Bessy had for the moment forgotten her brother's condition; she had not realised the constant inconvenience which must follow the loss of an arm. Ned's misfortune did not, however, appear in the least to weigh down his spirits, and he chatted merrily through dinner-time, talking over old days, and then making inquiries as to what hope there might be of his getting such employment as might suit a one-armed man.

"I've heard as how Mr. Curtis, our vicar, is looking out for some one to help with his school," said Dan.

"I think that it must have been your parson who hailed me on my course here," observed Ned.

"He's rather an oldish man, bald, with a little limp in his walk," said Dan.

"That's he!" cried the sailor. "He talked to me friendly enough, and asked me how I had lost my arm."

"And what said you?" inquired Bessy.

"The truth, of course, that I was lubber enough to stumble down into a cellar at night."

"Oh! Ned, he would think that you were drunk," exclaimed Bessy.

"I'm afraid that he did," said Ned. "I could see in his face that I'd let myself down a peg in his good opinion."

"Oh! Uncle, what a chance you lost!" cried Dan, his black eyes twinkling slily under his shock of rough hair. "If I'd been you, I'd have told such a tale, how I lost that arm boarding a thundering big ship, or saving an officer's life, or doing some desperate deed! You'd have been a reg'lar hero in Colme; they'd have been getting up a subscription for you, and Mr. Curtis would have clapped you into the place of teacher at once! 'Twould have been the making of you, it would!"

"Dan," said Ned, laying down his fork, and looking steadily at his nephew across the table, "do you know what a lie is?"

The boy was taken aback by the sudden question, and his eyes sunk under the gaze that was fixed upon him.

Receiving no answer, the sailor went on—"A lie is a mean thing—a senseless, a wicked: a habitual liar is a sneak, a coward, and a fool!"

"A fool! I don't see how you can make that out," muttered Dan, who was secretly not a little proud of his cunning, and who thought the name of fool a great deal worse than that of knave.

"It's easy enough to make out," said Ned; "a liar is a fool as regards this life; for, look ye, he's sure to be found out afore long, and a good character is worth more than anything that he could get in exchange for it. Is it nothing to be trusted, is it nothing to be able to look any man in the face?"

Dan was at the moment uneasily peering down at the crumbs on the floor.

"Would a man not be called a fool who should put to sea in a vessel whose timbers were all rotten, however gaily painted she might be, or however fine a figure-head she might carry? She must be stove in when the first storm came, she must soon show that she was not seaworthy."

Ned had spoken with the fiery energy of one who, as he often owned, carried "too much gunpowder in his cargo;" but his tone softened to quiet earnestness as he went on.

"And if we come to speak of another world, my lad, what shall we say of the folly of lying, whatever the temptation to do so may be? Was it without reason, think you, that St. Paul, when telling how a Christian man should be armed to fight against the devil, bade him first be 'girt about with truth.' * Why, we couldn't so much as set a foot in the golden city without it; you've heard what's said in God's Word of that matter; outside, shut out of glory, in company with murderers and idolaters will be 'whosoever loveth and maketh a lie'! † The devil himself is the father of lies, ‡ such as make them, follow him; and they who choose their portion with him are fools, whatever the world may give, or whatever the world may call them!"

* Eph. vi. 14.    † Rev. xxii. 15.    ‡ John viii. 44.

There was silence in the cottage for several minutes after Ned had ceased speaking.

Dan attempted no reply, but finished his dinner in somewhat sulky reserve; then appearing suddenly to remember that he had to look after the cows, the boy rose and slunk out of the place. Dan did not, however, go in the direction of the fields, but into the village to play at pitch-and-toss with Tom and Jack Mullins, and to tell them wonderful stories of his sailor uncle, who was, he said, a first-rate fellow for fighting, and polished off Russians as fast as they might knock down ninepins, but who had a ticklish temper to deal with, flaring up like fire at a word.



"You took Dan up sharp, brother," said Bessy, as her son quitted the cottage.

"Maybe I did," answered Ned, frankly. "I'm trying to keep down that hot temper of mine, but there's nothing stirs it up like anything of deceit, and it gets in a blaze afore I'm aware. There was something in the lad's looks more than his words, that made me fancy him one of those who don't see clearly the difference atween truth and falsehood, and who get amongst the shoals almost without knowing it. I wanted to show him the beacon lights set in the Bible to warn us off them, that's all."

"Ah! Dan's quick enough at lying," said Bessy, with a sigh. "I can't believe a word that he says. Many and many's the time I tells him, 'Dan, with all those fine stories of yours, you'll get into trouble at last.'"

"And don't you tell him," said Ned, "that God hears, and marks down, and that 'every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment'?" *

* Matt. xii. 36.

"Oh! I'm not one of your saints that likes religion brought in at every turn," said Bessy, peevishly. "'Tis all well enough to go decently to church on Sundays: and dear me!" she exclaimed, suddenly interrupting herself, and starting up from her seat. "If that is not Mrs. Curtis coming over the green! That woman is always taking one unawares."

And, with a quickness which astonished the sailor, Bessy whisked off the dish from the table, flung an old shawl over the large piece of bacon from which the rashers had been cut, and stowed away a heap of damp linen which she had been washing into a cupboard.

"She's in a mighty hurry to tidy the room for the lady," thought Ned, "but it doesn't look a bit neater than before."

Just as Bessy had finished her hasty preparations, Mrs. Curtis, a small, delicate lady, very simply but neatly dressed, tapped at the door of the cottage, and entered. Bessy was all smiles and curtsies; she dusted a chair and placed it for her guest, hoped that she had not been troubled by the heat of the day, and asked after "the young masters and misses," like one who took an affectionate interest in the well-being of the family.

"I am glad to see your brother here," said Mrs. Curtis, courteously bending her head as the sailor respectfully rose at her entrance.

"Ah! Yes, poor fellow!" exclaimed Bessy. "He's my only brother living, and as long as I have a crust, he shall be welcome to share it. We must all care for one another, ma'am, as our good minister told us last Sunday in his beautiful sermon."

"It would be but fair," thought Ned, "if Bessy gave the lady a notion that I pay for this half-crust with the whole of my pension."

"It's but a poor home that my brother has come to," continued Bessy, whose voice, in addressing the clergyman's wife, had a plaintive drawling tone, quite unlike that in which she usually spoke. "I have been wanting much, ma'am, to speak a word or two to you or to Mr. Curtis."

"My husband told me that he intended to call here soon," said the lady.

"Ah! How glad I am even to see his blessed face. Ah! What I owe him," cried Bessy, heaving a long sigh, as if to express by it gratitude too deep for words. "But what I was a-going to say, ma'am, was, that I hopes as how Mr. Curtis will be good enough to put me again on the widows' list for the loaves. I've really such a hard pull to live, I don't know how we can get on without it;" and there was another long-drawn sigh.

"Ha!" thought the indignant sailor. "The gratitude was for favours to come."

"I don't see how my husband can put you on the needy widows' list," said the clergyman's quiet little wife; "your daughter is in service, your son gets work, you take in washing—"

"Please, ma'am, begging pardon for interrupting you," said Bessy, again dropping a curtsey, "the trifle Dan earns would not keep him in bread (and it's little but bread as ever we tastes), and I've not had all this blessed week more than tenpence worth of washing, and—" here Bessy Poole's eyes chanced to meet those of her brother, flashing on her a glance of such fiery indignation, that, quite confused, she stopped short, stammered, and could not finish what she was saying.

Mrs. Curtis naturally turned to see the cause of the cottager's evident embarrassment, and was much struck by the stern countenance of the young man, who stood tightly pressing his lips together, as if to keep in some indignant burst. Finding that he had attracted notice, Ned, who had no wish to expose his sister, and who had difficulty in commanding himself, thought it safest to quit the cottage without uttering a word.

"Is anything the matter with your brother?" asked the lady, after Ned's abrupt departure.

"He has an odd temper, ma'am, very odd; I know that we shall have a good deal to put up with, but, as our good minister told us last Sunday—" and the woman went on with a string of what were meant as pious phrases, but which, being only lip-deep, made far less impression on her visitor than the speaker wished and intended.

"She talk to her son about truth," exclaimed the indignant Ned Franks, as he strode into the back-garden, forgetful, in the storm of his spirit, of the twenty miles which he had walked in the morning. "An acted lie is as bad as a spoken one, and her way of going on was all one wretched piece of acting from beginning to end. If there's one thing I scorn, despise, and detest more than another, it's hypocrisy like that."

Ned struck the nailed heel of his boot violently against one of the weeds, and uprooted it from the ground; perhaps he connected the worthless plant in his mind with the more hateful weed of deceit, or he wanted something on which to vent the angry feelings within him.

"All weeds!" he muttered to himself, "I've a great mind to hoist sail at once and sheer off, and find some other home where all will be open and above board, at least where there will be no hoisting of false colours, or hanging out of false lights, saying one thing and thinking another."

Ned took one or two rapid turns up and down the garden; then gradually slackened his pace as his anger began to cool down.

"Who am I that I should judge another?" thought the frank-hearted seaman. "Are we not all of an evil nature, our souls as full of wickedness as this wretched garden of weeds? There's nothing good grows of itself, it's all God's grace as plants it. Am I—wilful wayward sinner as I have been—am I to throw my own sister overboard, because she has not yet been led to see things as I see them, and to know that the straight course is the shortest course, and the only course that can land us in a safe haven at last? Maybe, with prayer and pains, we'll get the better both of her weeds and mine; I master my impatience and bad temper, she, and that lad of hers, learn that 'a lying tongue is an abomination unto the Lord', * and that all who serve a God of Truth must speak the truth from the heart."

* Proverbs vi. 17.

Ned took another turn up and down, stooping down now and then to pull up and throw away some straggling weed, till he found his spirit calm enough for prayer. The sailor looked up at the sky, so blue, and clear, and transparent above him, and his heart rose, in what was earnest supplication, though he could not have put it into a regular form of prayer. He wished that his deeds, and his sayings, and those of his family, might be pure, and clear, and open as heaven's sunlight; that they might be in the sight of God what they wanted to appear in the sight of men, and be honest and true in all things, like faithful servants of the Lord.

Ned's meditations were broken in upon by Bessy Peele, who came running up towards him, with a bustling, excited air.

"What's in the wind?" cried Ned.

"You must come in directly," answered Bessy. "Who do you think is in my kitchen—I knew she'd be here—but I'm sure—for Lady Barton herself to walk all the way from the Hall!"

"What has she come for?" asked Ned, knitting his brow from an uneasy apprehension of what was likely to follow.

"To hear about her son, to be sure! Lady Barton thinks no end of her son—a pretty scapegrace though he be! When he left her, she lay crying in her bed for a week—there was never a mother so fond—or so blind!"

"But what can I say?" exclaimed Ned. "I can tell nothing good of the lad!"

"You must invent something good then!" cried Bessy, in an irritated tone. "I can't have you, with your stupid bluntness, setting my landlord's wife against me, and getting my home pulled down over my head at Michaelmas, and my boy turned off, and my washing taken away!"

"I'd better not see Lady Barton," said Ned.

"Shall I hurry back and say I couldn't find you? You could get over yon hedge and be off, without coming in front of the cottage."

"No—no sneaking," said the sailor, quickly. "I'll face out the matter at once!"

"And you'll say the best you can!" cried Bessy, changing her tone and tactics with a perception that her best chance with Ned lay in working upon his affection. "You wouldn't injure your poor widowed sister, as looks to you for comfort and kindness?"

"I'll do no harm—if I can help it!" muttered the tar, feeling far more uneasy as he followed his sister than he would have done had he been led up to an enemy's battery.



LADY BARTON sat in the old wooden arm-chair, which formed the chief article of furniture in Mrs. Peele's kitchen, the flounces of her rich blue silk dress filling up the space between the red brick fireplace and the deal table, which was still scattered over with the crumbs of the recent repast. Lady Barton was a stately and elegant woman, with an air of fashion and dignity, which contrasted with the simple attire and manner of Mrs. Curtis, with whom she was conversing before Ned and Bessy re-entered the cottage.

As they came in, Lady Barton was just returning into her pocket a purse, from which she had taken a half sovereign, with what intent both the sailor and Bessy could not but guess as they caught sight of the glittering beads of the purse as it was replaced within the silk dress.

"Ah!" exclaimed Lady Barton, with a queenly graciousness of manner to the sailor, "I am glad to have an opportunity of speaking with one of the gallant men who have served in the same ship with my son. You can give me late accounts of Mr. Lacy Barton."

With a bright smile on her lips, the lady awaited Ned's reply.

"I was aboard the same vessel as Mr. Barton for more than a year," said the tar, with the respectful manner with which he would have spoken to any lady.

"You must have seen much of him then?"

Ned only bowed, thinking to himself "a good deal too much."

As he did not seem inclined to be communicative, the partial mother tried to draw him out by an observation! "My son usually makes himself a great favourite wherever he goes."

Bessy nudged her brother's arm, but Ned did not speak at the hint.

Lady Barton's gloved hand closed more tightly over the little piece of gold which it hid; rather less graciously she inquired whether Mr. Barton had been quite well when the sailor had seen him last.

Ned paused for a moment before he replied. "There was nothing much the matter with his health."

The tender mother took alarm from his hesitation as well as his words.

"Not much the matter?" she anxiously repeated. "Was Mr. Barton not well, was he obliged to keep his cabin?"

"Only for a few days, lady," said Ned, sincerely desirous to relieve her.

"What ailed him?" asked Lady Barton. "Was he laid up with fever?" Her voice betrayed her emotion.

"No, not fever," answered the sailor, wishing himself up to his neck in water rather than standing there to answer the lady's questions.

"It was not his chest—not his lungs?" said the anxious mother, dropping her voice. "He was so subject to coughs as a boy!"

"His lungs are as sound as can be, I'll answer for that!" replied Ned, with a clear recollection of the strength of a voice which, raised in an oath or a curse, might be heard above the roar of a storm.

"Then what was the matter with him?" repeated Lady Barton, in the tone of one who must, and will, have a reply.

Ned's honest face was suffused with a flush, as if he himself had been the culprit as he answered—"He'd had a bit of a spree on shore, and been knocked about a little; these things will sometimes happen, but a few bruises don't do much harm."

Lady Barton asked no more questions; she knew enough of her son's former habits to enable her to guess but too well what the sailor had left unsaid. Sorrow taking the form of mortified pride, the lady drew herself up, and the delicate kid-gloved hand slid something back into her pocket, a movement which did not escape the covetous eyes of Bessy.

Without condescending to say another word to Ned Franks, Lady Barton rose from her seat, and, turning to address Mrs. Curtis, plunged at once into a different subject of conversation. She asked the vicar's wife about her scholars, said that Sir Lacy had resolved on beginning to build the new school at Michaelmas, and observed that somewhere about this spot would be the best possible place for the site.

Bessy clenched her teeth, and scowled at her brother, but the expression of anger on her face was instantly changed to one of obsequious mildness, as she caught the eye of the stately Lady Barton. If Bessy had been gratified by the visit of the vicar's wife, she was overwhelmed by the honour of one from a titled lady, and with a double number of curtsies and thanks, she shewed her two guests to the door, sending blessings after them as long as they remained within hearing.

And then!—

"You heartless good-for-nothing, unfeeling, ill-mannered dolt!" she exclaimed, turning towards her brother with a gesture of her clenched fist, as though she could have found it in her heart to have struck him, had she dared. "What ill luck brought you here to bring trouble, and ill-will, and ruin, on a poor lone widow as never did you any harm!"

"I'm as vexed as you can be, Bessy," said the sailor, passing his hand through his thick curly hair.

"You'd better have bit off that foolish tongue of yours, than have let it provoke such a lady!"

"It was grieving the mother, that I felt," said Ned Franks, "it was seeing her so anxious and troubled. 'Twas a stiff gale to weather, and I was never in my life more nigh dragging my anchor. But I'm glad," he added to himself, "I'm glad that I held fast by the truth."

Ned was to have little peace during the remainder of that day. He had to endure the "continual dropping" that made him bitterly remember Solomon's proverb—"It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house." *

* Proverbs xxi. 9.

On Dan's return home in the evening, the storm which Ned had lulled a little, broke forth anew with fresh fury.

"What do you think, Dan, that this hero uncle of yours has been a-doing!" exclaimed Bessy to her son, banging down the kettle on the bar of the grate, as if it too had grievously wronged her. "Lady Barton herself, in her grand sweeping gown, came down from the Hall; I'd never but once afore seen her enter my cottage, and that was when your poor father lay a-dying!"

"What could she come for?" asked Dan, curiosity gleaming in his keen little eyes.

"What for but to hear about her son, to be sure, and to talk to this bear's cub about him, and to tip him with what would have bought me a Sunday gown, I'll be bound, for I saw the lady thrusting back her purse into her pocket. And there was he—" Bessy pointed at Ned with her thumb—"first standing dumb as a stock-fish, looking as if he couldn't utter a word, and then bounce out with such a fine tale, how Mr. Lacy had got himself smashed in a drunken row, how he had to lie in his bed for days all covered with bruises, how he was the most swaggering, quarrelsome—"

Ned felt the hot blood mounting to his face, and the fiery passion to his heart: there was nothing for it but to beat a retreat, before he should utter as an angry man what as a Christian he might have regretted. Weary as the sailor was, there was something which he felt to be worse than fatigue, and he walked out into the cool fresh evening air, once more to quiet his fevered spirit under the light of the pale young moon.



REFRESHED by a good night's rest, notwithstanding the discomforts of his new abode, Ned Franks rose on the following morning with a cheerful, thankful heart. He awoke with the verse on his lips—

"I bless the Lord who safe hath kept,
 Who did protect me while I slept.
 Lord! Grant when I from death awake,
 I may of endless life partake!"

Up sprang Ned from his rough bed, ready to forget and to forgive the "breeze" of the preceding day, and to set about his work in the spirit of the command, "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with all thy might."

After his morning prayer, and Bible reading, Ned begun in earnest to set things "ship-shape" in what he called his "little cabin." The loss of his left hand greatly increased the difficulty of labouring, but Ned Franks worked with a will, and therefore with good success. His only interruptions were from the little attentions required by a poor lame squirrel that the sailor had picked up on the previous evening, and which he nursed with the tenderness which seems peculiar to seamen. Ned carried it down with him when he went to breakfast in the kitchen, where he found his sister scarcely yet recovered from her fit of displeasure; but her sulkiness could not stand against the influence of his sunny good-humour.

"Come, Bessy, lass," cried the sailor, "let bygones be bygones, we'll have smooth water to-day. After I've set my cabin to rights, I'll see what's to be done in your garden; if we could only get the ground clear of weeds, it's a fine crop we might look for next year."

Bessy Peele grew so gracious that she not only filled her brother's wooden bowl almost to overflowing with hot bread and milk, but she examined his squirrel with interest, prescribed for its wounded leg, and filled an old basket with hay to make a bed for the sailor's new pet. The poor little creature seemed already to know its master—did not flinch from his hand, and let him warm it within his rough jacket.

"One could never harm a creature that trusted one," said Ned. "I'll nurse the squirrel till its leg is all right, and then give it its freedom again. 'Twould be hard to keep it in limbo, when it might enjoy itself in the woods."

Back went Ned Franks to his work; nor did he stop till he had wrought a wondrous change in the appearance of his dull little loft, by the help of a pail of whitewash which he had procured from the village.

"It's beginning to look all taut and trim," said the light-hearted tar, stepping back with the big whitened brush in his hand, to survey and admire his work. "When I've earned a little more ready rhino, I'll have a bit of bunting of the Union-Jack pattern over my bed, and stick a few pictures round the wall, to make the cabin quite smart. And I'll have my books up there aloft."

In default of a shelf, Ned had carefully ranged along the floor what he deemed his best earthly treasures, his Bible, and such works as the "Pilgrim's Progress" and "Saint's Rest," with a few other little books of a useful kind, from which the sailor had gleaned more knowledge than is usually possessed by one in his station of life.

Ned had made such good use of his time, that before dinner he had an hour to spare for the garden.

Bessy Peele, as she ironed out her linens, could hear Ned's manly voice behind the cottage singing blithely as a bird such sea-songs as "Poor Jack" and "The Arethusa." Ned Franks felt perfectly happy at his work; its very nature cheered him, for every weed that he pulled up, seemed to his mind like an emblem of some evil habit rooted out.

"God is ready to give us His sunshine and his dew," thought the sailor, "but He will have us to labour all the while; and though ours be but one-handed work as it were, He'll never refuse his blessing if He knows that we're doing our best. I did ill yesterday to be so angry with Bessy and her boy, because of their sly sneaking ways, just as I looked with scorn on the dirty loft and the weedy garden. 'One fault-mender is worth fifty fault-finders;' says the proverb. Maybe the great Pilot has guided me hither that I may take Dan Peele in tow, and get him out of the shoals of deceit, and show him that it's better to sail with the wind of truth right in our canvass, than to lose way by tacking about, and split on the rocks at last."

Dan, on coming home to the cottage for dinner, found the sailor sitting by the table, with the crippled squirrel on his knee.

"Ah! I say, where did you get that?" asked the boy.

"In the woods, yester evening," answered Ned.

"In the woods—what woods?" inquired Bessy, turning round from the fire-place, where she was stirring something in the saucepan.

"Those woods yonder, at t'other side of the road," said the sailor.

"Why, that's Sir Lacy's park!" exclaimed Dan. "Didn't you see the board up about trespassers being prosecuted?"

"I noticed no board," answered Franks; "it was getting dark, and I minded nothing but the squirrel. As I was cruising about on the road, I saw the little creature limping on the footway. Thinks I, 'the village boys will hunt it to death, or 'twill fall a prey to the weasels, so I'll catch it to save its life.' Easier said than done; lame as it was, the little squirrel nearly managed to get off, squeezing itself through a hole in the fence, and so getting into the wood, or park as you call it. But I was over, and after it in a minute."

"I don't know how you, managed to get over, maimed as you are," observed Bessy.

Ned Franks burst into a merry laugh. "A Jack-tar who is used to go aloft when 'tis blowing great guns, is not likely to make much of a bit of oak-fence," said he. "It was easy enough to climb over, but it was not easy to catch the squirrel; he led me a good long dance before I could clap my hand upon him."

"Then he did say right," exclaimed Dan thumping his fist on the table.

"He! What do you mean?" cried the sailor, looking at the boy with surprise.

"The gamekeeper did say right when he declared that he caught a glimpse of a sailor in the wood."

"Likely enough," said Ned Franks, "I hope that no one thinks that I was poaching."

"Something worse may be thought," cried Dan, winking mysteriously, like one in the possession of an important secret. "Maybe you don't know what all the village is talking of, that just after dark, half the panes in Lady Barton's hothouse were smashed, a lot of them coloured panes too, and that the constable's on the look out to catch whoever has done the mischief."

"I've heard nothing about it," said Ned Franks, as he stroked quietly the reddish brown coat of his little squirrel.

"But you're like to hear a great deal about it, a great deal more than you'd like to hear," cried Dan. "'Tis said all about that you've some bitter ill-will 'gainst the young master aboard the 'Queen,' and all his family too, and that you was angry at something that the lady said or did yesterday, and the gamekeeper saw you in the wood—and, of course, you was there for no good—and there's not a soul as doubts as you went there and smashed the glass out of spite."

"Some one has got up a fine story about me," said Ned, who more than suspected that the whole was his nephew's invention.

Bessy Peele looked alarmed. "I hope—I hope," she exclaimed, "that we're not agoing to get into another scrape with Lady Barton! Sir Lacy is a hard man, and never lets any one off; 'twould be a dreadful business, Ned, if you was to be sent to prison!"

Franks flushed indignantly, as if the very thought were an insult; but he only said, "There's little danger of that, Bessy, I never hove in sight of the house."

"How unlucky it was that you were in the park at all," began Dan, but his mother cut him short.

"What's the use, you simpleton, of saying a word about the park? Who need know that your uncle was there at all?"

"But the gamekeeper—"

"What of him?" interrupted Mrs. Peele. "He only guessed that he saw something like a sailor in the dusk, and even had he seen Ned as plainly as I do now, he's only one, and there's us three, you, I, and your uncle, as can say—and hold by it too, that he never stirred from that there chimney-corner from sunset to midnight!"

"Bessy!" exclaimed her brother, sternly.

"You don't mean to say," cried Bessy, "that with your ridiculous notions about truth, you'll run into a trap with your eyes wide open, and get yourself disgraced, and locked up in jail! What's the use, I should like to know, of your telling the world that you were in the woods hunting a lame squirrel like a boy!"

"I shall say nothing about the matter," answered Ned, "unless—"

"Hist! Hist!" exclaimed Dan, starting up. "If there ben't Sir Lacy himself, and the vicar, the constable, gamekeeper, and all! And they're coming here!" he added, in alarm.

"Oh, Ned, Ned!" exclaimed Bessy, "Whatever you do, don't own that you ever got in them woods."



NED rose from his seat on the entrance of the two gentlemen; the constable and gamekeeper remained at the door. Conscious of innocence, the sailor confronted the knight with a quiet composure which astonished his sister and Dan.

Sir Lacy was a short, thickly-built man, with bushy white whiskers, and white hair, round a face whose usually pink hue was now flushed to a deeper tint. His round, grey, prominent eyes, with their expression of proud domineering insolence, disagreeably reminded Ned Franks of those of the knight's namesake and son.

"Your name is Ned Franks," said Sir Lacy at once, without deigning to take any notice of Mrs. Peele and her low curtsies.

"At your service, sir," answered Ned.

"You were trespassing in my park last evening?"

"No, indeed, he never left this cottage," began Bessy, but her brother silenced her by a glance.

"I am sorry that I trespassed, sir," he said, respectfully, "I did not see the board, and I was after this little creature."

He drew out the squirrel which, frightened by the entrance of strangers, had taken refuge within his blue jacket.

"You were after something else," said Sir Lacy, roughly. "Do you mean to say that you did not wilfully smash some twenty panes in my conservatory last evening?"

Ned looked steadily into the face of the rude questioner as he replied, "I was never in sight of your conservatory, sir; and as for smashing your windows, I know no more who did the mischief than Mr. Curtis himself." And as if to appeal to his sense of justice, Ned Franks turned towards the clergyman.

"Perhaps you'll say that you know nothing about this," cried Sir Lacy, holding out a large leaden ball on which was roughly scratched the word "Sebastopol."

Ned Franks looked surprised, and, for a moment perplexed, and passed his hand through his hair, as was his wont when in any difficulty.

"Can you deny that it is yours?" asked the knight.

"It is mine," said the sailor, frankly. "'Tis a ball which struck me when we lay off the Crimea; but which—being spent—did not wound me at all, and I kept it in remembrance of a preservation from death. I lost it yesterday, I cannot tell where."

"I can tell where," exclaimed Sir Lacy, in a tone that rang through the cottage, and reached the group of village boys, whom curiosity had led to follow at a little distance the steps of the knight and the constable. "I can tell where you lost it! It was picked up in my conservatory this morning, having escaped notice last night when a dozen stones were found, which, like it, had been used in breaking my glass!"

Ned Franks with an effort kept down his temper, and replied calmly but firmly, "How the ball came there I know not; it was certainly never thrown by my hand."

"That's a falsehood!" cried the furious knight.

Then, indeed, the gunpowder blazed up in the breast of the young sailor; he struck his hand on the table, and, with flashing eyes, he exclaimed, "I never told a falsehood in my life, and you are the first man who ever spoke such a word of Ned Franks."

Mr. Curtis laid his hand on the arm of Sir Lacy, and whispered something to him in a low, earnest tone, while Bessy stood wringing her hands, and Ned remained with his form drawn up to more than its usual height, looking as a man might look who was facing desperate odds, but with unflinching resolution.

"Don't tell me!" exclaimed Sir Lacy, shaking off the hand of the clergyman. "He shall go to the lock-up at once, and answer for himself before the magistrate to-morrow. The fellow shall pay for my broken glass with a couple of months in jail! Here, Masson!"

And at the call, the constable entered, and Ned Franks was given to him in charge.

Surprise, indignation, anguish, struggled in the breast of the seaman; his first strong impulse was to knock the constable down! But even in the sudden gust of passion Ned, whose leading principle was love and faith towards God, was like a ship that still obeys the helm, even when tost on a raging sea.

"The God of Truth will make my truth clear one day!" Ned exclaimed, and with that appeal to One who could never be unjust, and who had Himself endured the anguish of reproach and false accusation, the sharpest pang of the seaman's trial passed away. He remembered that he was drinking of his Master's cup, and would submit to do so for the sake of that Master. With more composure than Ned but an hour before would have believed himself capable of showing under such circumstances—for disgrace to the seaman was worse than death—he gave a few needful directions to his sister, commended his lame squirrel to her care, and bade her and Dan good-bye.

"Cheer up," were the sailor's words, as he wrung Bessy's hand at parting, "the blackest cloud will blow over, and we can't be driven from our moorings while the cable of truth holds fast."



"I don't believe that he did it," said Mr. Curtis, thoughtfully, as he stood with his back to the mantelpiece in his own little study, with his hands behind him.

"I am convinced that he did not!" exclaimed Mrs. Curtis, from her seat by the table, where she was preparing some work for her girls' school.

"And on what do you found that conviction, my love?" asked the vicar.

"If the sailor had broken the windows, he would have said so at once," answered the lady. "That man could no more stoop to a falsehood than that pine—" she glanced out of the window—"could stoop to crawl on the ground like bindweed! Ned Franks has a soul above lying!"

"You speak very positively upon a very short acquaintance, my dear," said the vicar With a smile, for he had seldom seen his gentle wife roused to give an opinion with such animation.

"What were you yourself just telling Henry? Did you not say that you were struck by the singular frankness with which the sailor owned that he had been trespassing in the park, and that the ball was his, and with the dignity of truth with which he asserted his innocence concerning the glass? And I also have seen him tried, and bearing the trial in a manner that would make me take the sailor's word against that of a dozen other men. Was I not by when Lady Barton questioned Franks hard about her son? Did I not see the pain which her questions gave him! How he flushed and bit his lip, and yet from those lips an untruth could no more come than if they had been of marble! Oh, Henry, I am as sure of that young man's innocence as I am of my own."

"I'm afraid that we shall find it difficult to prove it, my dear."

"The way will be to find out who really did break the glass," said the lady. "I think it very likely that the mischief was done by one of the boys of our school."

"Nothing more probable," said the vicar, "but I see no way at present of discovering the real offender."

"I'll go to the park myself," exclaimed Mrs. Curtis, beginning hurriedly to put up her work. "I'll search all about the spot from which the stones must have been thrown, and see if I can pick up nothing, if I can find no clue to the secret. And you, dear Henry," Mrs. Curtis laid her hand on the arm of her husband, "you have a Bible-class with the boys this evening, let your subject be truth. You have such a power to convince, to persuade, you may lead the culprit to confess."

"I fear that you hope too much, Eliza," said the vicar, shaking his head.

"I cannot hope too much," cried the lady, "when my hope is in the mercy and justice of God, who can make all dark things light, and who will clear the guiltless. I'll go at once for my bonnet and shawl."

"The sun is very hot, still—"

"Oh! Never mind the heat," said Mrs. Curtis, as she hurried out of the room, first to pray for success, and then to take what other means she could to ensure it.

In about an hour the gentle little lady returned, looking heated and tired, but with an eager expression on her face as she reentered the study, where her husband was busy at his desk.

"Have you found anything, Eliza?" he asked, glancing up from his writing.

"Very, very little, but something," she said, taking out of her bag a bit of whity-brown paper, roughly cut into shape.

"What may this be?" asked the vicar, taking it up in his fingers.

"It is the size, the exact size, as well as I could manage to make it out, of a footprint which I found on one spot where the ground was a little less dry than in other places. It was just about a stone's throw from the conservatory of Sir Lacy."

"A single footprint!" exclaimed the vicar.

"And so faint that I passed the place thrice before I saw it all," said the lady. "But two things at least were clear; there were nails in the boot which made the mark, as in those which our village boys wear, and the foot that wore it, was a good deal smaller than that of a tall man like Ned Franks."

"There's something in that," observed the vicar, fixing his eyes thoughtfully on the paper. "But it by no means follows that the footprint was left by the person who broke the glass."

"Then you think the paper of no use," said the lady, in a tone of disappointment.

"I never said so; I trust that it may be of great use, my dear, and I thank you, not only for bringing it, but for the hint which you gave me in regard to my lecture this evening. I have been thinking over the subject."

"And praying, I am sure," said his wife.

"Ay," replied the vicar of Colme; "we can do nothing without God's blessing, and we can do everything if it be ours."



MR. CURTIS looked unusually thoughtful and grave as he walked up the schoolroom. The boys missed the kindly smile and familiar nod, and the inquiries after sick relatives, which were wont to make his greeting resemble that of a father. All felt that the vicar had something on his mind, as he stood behind the reading-desk, with the sunset glow on his bald head, looking down on the throng of boys clustering in the closely-filled benches.

Instead of going on with the history of St Paul, which he had been explaining in a course of lectures, the vicar turned to the fifth chapter of Acts. Before beginning to read, with his hand on the open Bible, Mr. Curtis said a few words to the boys, who listened in the deep silence of expectation.

"You see me anxious and disturbed—I am so. You all know, I doubt not, what has happened in our village to-day. A sailor who, after serving his country through hardships and dangers, had come here but yesterday to enjoy rest and peace in a cottage-home, has been sent to the lock-up, accused of an offence, which I believe from my soul that he never committed."

Mr. Curtis paused, and the silence was so profound in the room, that the murmur of a little neighbouring brook was distinctly heard.

"My belief of his innocence," continued the vicar, "is chiefly founded on his character for truth. I believe Franks to be incapable of the meanness and sin of telling a lie. But if the sailor be innocent, some one else must be guilty, and I have chosen the history of Ananias and Sapphira for our reading this evening, that we may all learn from it how Almighty God sees, knows, and can bring to light these things that we believe to be hidden for ever from the eyes of all men."

Mr. Curtis then went on to read aloud the awful story recorded in the Word of God, of the man and woman whose characters had stood fair before the world, who had been counted amongst the flock of faithful Christians, but who had been struck down dead, with falsehood upon their tongues! Fearful warning to all who think lightly of the guilt of untruth!

Mr. Curtis closed the Bible. "Such a history as that which I have just read," he remarked, "needs no comment of mine. We see in it written, as with letters of fire, what falsehood is in the sight of the Lord! Now, to return to the subject on which I was speaking, I wish all here to know that a clue, though a slight one, has been discovered as to the real author of the mischief done. The footprint of a boy has been left on the sod!"

A thrill at the words ran through the assembly; the scholars looked one at another, and then fixed their eager eyes on the speaker, gazing open-mouthed, as if they expected that the next moment his finger would be stretched forth to point out the offender.

"A boy!" repeated the vicar, emphatically. "Perhaps one of these now before me! A fac-simile of the footprint has been carefully taken on paper, and I intend tomorrow to compare it with the boots of each one here present, unless—as I hope and trust—he who broke the glass will earn the respect and confidence of all who know him by frankly, honestly, nobly, confessing the truth at once."

Again there was that kind of electric thrill through the throng, again the boys turned inquiring looks one upon another.

"In such case," continued the clergyman, "I shall do everything in my power to shield that boy from the punishment which his mischievous act has deserved, I shall use my influence to procure his full pardon from Sir Lacy. But even if he have something to bear, it will be more than made up to him by the satisfaction of feeling that, in confessing, he has done what is manly and right; that he has saved an innocent man from distress; that he himself has no sudden shameful disclosure to fear; that he has earned a character for honour, the respect of his comrades, the approval of conscience; and that he has put on that Girdle of Truth without which whatever he may call himself, or think himself, he can be a Christian only in name."

Mr. Curtis knelt down, and all the scholars followed his example. Very fervent was the vicar's prayer to God, that He might give to all present grace and courage ever to speak the truth, to conceal nothing that ought to be confessed, remembering that a great Day is coming when, before assembled myriads of angels and men, the most secret things shall be manifest, when we shall know even as we are known! There was some encouragement to the clergyman in the earnest "amen" from the boys, which followed his prayer.

"I hope that your words have made an impression, Henry," said Mrs. Curtis to her husband, as they sat together that night in the little study.

The vicar had been reading aloud to his wife, but the minds of both had wandered from the book.

"Why, we have no evidence beyond your little slip of paper, my love, and—" Mr. Curtis was interrupted by the sound of a timid ring at the door-bell: faint as it was, both the vicar and his wife instinctively turned to listen, and nothing was said by either till the maid opened the study-door with:

"The glazier's little boy says that he wishes to speak with you, sir."

Mrs. Curtis knew Stephen White to be one of the scholars, and her heart beat fast with expectation.

"Ask him to step in here," said the vicar.

A thin, sly, slouching boy soon stood at the entrance, and then, after being twice desired to come forward, moved one or two steps into the room. He hung his head, fumbled with the buttons of his jacket, and looked the picture of confusion and shyness.

"I am glad to see you here, Stephen," said Mr. Curtis, encouragingly; "speak out freely, and tell me what you have come for to-night."

"Please, sir-" stammered forth the boy, "you said as how you would try to get me off."

Mrs. Curtis could hardly refrain from an exclamation of pleasure, as she dropped her work on her knee.

"I will keep my promise to an honest, truthful boy, who, having done a wrong and a foolish action, is going to make what amends are in his power."

Stephen White looked ready to cry, and put the back of his hand up to his face.

"Why did you break the glass?" asked the vicar, seeing that in this case silence was clearly consent.

"I thought as how it would give father a job," faintly stuttered forth the boy.

"And how came you to have the ball, the leaden ball, that was found in the hothouse?"

"I picked it up on the road yesterday," said Stephen, "and put it in my pocket along with the stones. I didn't think, indeed I didn't, of getting the sailor into trouble."

"I do not doubt you, my boy," cried the vicar.

Then, turning to his wife, he added, "Eliza, my love, just write down his words; you and I will sign the paper as witnesses, and I'll carry it myself to Sir Lacy Bar-ton's this very night."

"But oh! Sir," cried Stephen in alarm, "you will, you will get me out of this scrape!"

"I'll do my best," answered the vicar, "and I've little doubt but that I shall succeed."

Mrs. Curtis, with a hand that trembled with joyful excitement, had already dipped a pen into ink, and a clear brief statement of the whole truth was soon drawn up and signed, first by Stephen in round text, very shaky and uneven, then by the pastor and his lady as witnesses.

"I am so glad," said the vicar's wife, as she brought to her husband his hat and stick, and a comforter to protect him from the night air. "I am so thankful that the character of that gallant tar is now cleared from all suspicion."

"And I am as glad and thankful," said the vicar, looking at Stephen White as he spoke, "that one of my boys, resolving not to add sin unto sin, has come forward with a brave confession, and that I shall always be able henceforth to trust his honour and his word."

Stephen gave a great sigh of relief; a weight was lifted off from the heart of the boy; he felt that now he could bear even the risk of being sent to prison.



"A PRECIOUS scrape Uncle Ned has got himself into!" exclaimed Dan on the following morning, as he blew the steam from his bowl of hot milk and bread. "He'll be had up afore the magistrate to-day, and then clapped into jail for I don't know how long!"

"If he'd only had the wit to say that he'd never entered them woods!" exclaimed Bessy.

"Ah! He won't be atwitting me again for what he calls 'a mean thing, a senseless, a wicked'—we shan't be hearing no more that a liar is 'a sneak, a coward, a fool!'"

"Don't make too sure of that, my lad!" cried a loud cheery voice at the door.

Bessy and Dan both started up in surprise, as Mr. Curtis and the sailor entered the cottage.

"Well, if ever! Is he cleared?" exclaimed Bessy, reading an answer at once in the beaming face of her brother.

"Yes, cleared, come off with flying colours," said the vicar; "truth has ever the victory at last."

"Why," exclaimed the wondering Dan, "here comes Sir Lacy himself, at this hour of the day!"

In bustled the knight with his flushed face and his bushy white whiskers, but looking a different man from what he had done on the previous day. Notwithstanding a violent temper, which led often to passion, and not unfrequently to injustice, there was something kindly and generous still in the character of Sir Lacy.

"I could not rest," he said, as to the utter amazement of the Peeles, he held out his hand to the sailor, "I could not rest till I had told you how much I regret yesterday's mistake. But you'll own that appearances were against you."

"Ay, ay, sir, things looked ill," replied Ned.

"I should wish—I should like," began the knight, half pulling a sovereign out of his waistcoat pocket, but Ned instinctively drew back, with a feeling utterly incomprehensible to Mrs. Peele and her son.

"No, sir; if you do me a favour, please kindly to let off the little chap who bravely spoke out the truth and cleared me."

"I've done that already, at the request of my good friend the vicar," said the knight. "I want to do something else, my fine fellow, to show my feeling towards yourself."

"Then, sir, if you'd have the kindness not to send my sister here adrift at Michaelmas: she has a love for her little cabin, and is sore loath to leave it."

"As long as you remain here," said the knight, "I give you my word that the cottage shall stand."

Bessy poured out a torrent of thanks and blessings to which no one gave heed, while Ned Franks simply replied, "I thank you, sir, kindly."

Then, turning towards the vicar, he expressed in few but heartfelt words his gratitude towards him and his lady.

"Depend upon it, Ned Franks," said Mr. Curtis, "a man who will not speak an untruth either for fear or for favour, is never likely to want a friend. He only can walk on the straight path freely, firmly, fearlessly, who keeps the Master's command in mind and wears the Girdle of Truth."