+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

winking at me in that way. I remember one
creature that always aimed straight at you
with his tail pointed, holding it like a gun.

It might have been about nine o’clock, or
perhaps half-past eight, when we turned in.
I know I heard the old church clock chiming
pleasantly as we lay down. After watching
the fire flashing up and down, and taking a
look at the funny faces in the bunch
overhead, I soon went sound asleep. I woke
again, before the fire was out, and looking
towards Will’s cot, saw that it was empty.
A vague feeling of uneasiness mingled with
my surprise at that discovery, and made me
jump out of bed in a moment. I reflected for
a littlefelt more uneasy than everhuddled
on my clothes in a great hurryand, without
giving myself a moment’s time for any second
thoughts, went out to see what had become
of Ding Dong Will.

He was not in the neighbourhood of the
Forge, so I followed a steep footpath in the
wood behind which led straight to the water’s
edge. I walked on a little, observing that
the moon was out and the stars shining,
and the sky of a fine frosty blue, until I came
to an old tree that I knew well. I had hardly
cast a first careless look at it, before I
started back all in a fright, for I saw at my
feet, stretched out among the leaves, a figure
with a fisherman’s hat beside it. I knew
it to be young Mr. Temple, lying there
quite dead, with his face all over blood. I
thought I should have sunk down upon the
earth with grief and horror, and ran farther
along the little pathway as fast as I could
to a place where the trees opened a little,
full in the moonlight. There, I saw Ding
Dong Will standing quite still and motionless,
with his hammer on his shoulder, and
his face covered up in his hand.

He stayed a long time that way, without
ever stirring, and then began to come up,
very slowly, weeping, his eyes upon the
ground. I felt as if I were fixed to that one
spot, and waited till he met me full face
to face. What a guilty start he gave!—I
thought he would have dropped.

O, Will, Will! what have you been
doing?” Some terrible thing!”

III, nothing!” he said, staggering
about, and hiding his face.

What have you done with himMr.
Temple?” I said, still holding him. He
was trembling all over like a palsied man,
and fell back against a tree with a deep
groan. I saw how it was thenit was as
good as written in his face. So I left him
thereagainst the treeand all the rest of
that horrible night I wandered up and down
along the roads and lanes: anything sooner
than be under the same roof with him. At
last morning came; and, as soon as the sun
rose I stole back, and, looking through the
window, found that he was gone. I never like
to think of that night, though it is so far back.

By noon the next day the whole town was
in a fever: people talking and whispering at
corners. He had been missed; but they were
on his track, for it was well known that he
was away among the hills hiding. They
dragged the river all day; and, on that night,
the body of young Mr. Temple was found;
his head beaten in with a hammer.

What end Will Whichelo came to, it would
not be hard to guess. But Mary Arthurshe
who drove him on to it, as everybody knew
she was let away, and went up to London,
where she lived to do mischief enough. The
old Forge was shut up, and fell into greater
ruin. For many a long day no one ventured
near that part of the river walk after dark.


It was the fifth evening towards
twilight, when poor Dick began to singin
my boat, the Surf-Boat. At first nobody took
any notice of him, and indeed he seemed
to be singing more to himself than to any one
else. I had never heard the tune before,
neither have I heard it since, but it was
beautiful. I don’t know how it might sound
now, but then, in the twilight, darkness
coming down on us fast, and, for aught we
knew, death in the darkness, its simple words
were full of meaning. The song was of a
mother and child talking together of Heaven.
I saw more than one gaunt face lifted up, and
there was a great sob when it was done, as if
everybody had held their breath to listen.
Says Dick then, “That was my cousin Amy’s
song, Mr. Steadiman.”

Then it will be a favourite of yours,
Dick;” I replied, hazarding a guess at the
state of the case.

Yes. I don't know why I sing it.
Perhaps she put it in my mind. Do you believe
in those things, Mr. Steadiman?”

In what things, Dick?” I wanted to draw
him on to talk of himself, as he had no other
story to tell.

She’s dead, Captain; and it seemed a little
while since as if I heard her voice, far away,
as it might be in England, singing it again;
and when she stopped, I took it up. It must
be fancy, you know, it could not really be.”
Before long the night fell, and when we could
not see each other’s facesexcept by the faint
starlightit seemed as if poor Dick’s heart
opened, and as if he must tell us who and
what he was.

Perhaps I ought to say how poor Dick came
to be with us at all. About a week before
we sailed, there came to Captain Ravender
one morning at his inn, a man whom he had
known intimately; when they two were young
fellows. Said he, “Captain, there’s my
nephewpoor Dick TarrantI want to ship
him off to Australia, to California, or
anywhere out of the way. He does nothing but
get into mischief here, and bring disgrace on
the family. Where are you bound for, next
voyage?” Captain Ravender replied,
California. “California is a long way off,” said