Those old boyish days, how long ago they seemed! What was the use of recalling them? It would not bring back the mother I had lost, or the father who had cared for me, and it only made me depressed to think of them. What good, I asked myself, would my holiday do me if I spent it in brooding over bygone sorrow? I must forget all this kind of thing, and cheer up, and get back my spirits again.
‘Now, little Jack,’ I said, ’big Jack must go back to his picture; come and climb into the old boat, and I’ll see how you would do in the foreground of it.’ He looked such a merry little rogue, perched amongst the nets and fishing tackle, that I felt I should improve my picture by introducing him into it, and therefore from that day he came for a certain time every morning to be painted. He was such a good little fellow, he never moved a limb after I told him I was ready, and never spoke unless I spoke to him. A more lovable child I never saw, nor a more obedient one. With all his fun, and in spite of his flow of spirits, he was checked in a moment by a single word. No one could be dull in his company, and as the week passed on I began to regain my usual cheerfulness, and to lose the uncomfortable impression left on my mind by the sermon on the shore and the questions the preacher had asked us.
THE TUG OF WAR
I had quite made up my mind not to attend the service on the following Sunday, and when a pink paper floated down on my easel on the Saturday morning, I caught it and thrust it into my pocket, without even looking to see what the subject was to be.
‘Have you got it, Mr. Jack?’ said the child’s voice above me.
‘All right, little man,’ I answered; ‘it’s all safe and sound.’
I made my plans for Sunday with great care. I asked for an early breakfast, so that I might walk over to Kettleness, a place about two miles off along the coast, and which could only be reached at low tide; and when I was once there, on the other side of the bay, I determined to be in no hurry to return, but to arrive at Runswick too late for the service on the sands. If Duncan and Polly missed me, they would simply conclude that I had found the walk longer than I had expected.
But, as I was just ready to set out for Kettleness, a tremendous shower came on.
‘You’ll never set off in this weather, sir?’ said Duncan anxiously.
‘Oh no, of course not,’ I answered lightly.
I fancied that he looked more concerned than the occasion warranted, and I feared that he suspected the real reason for my early walk.
There was now nothing to be done but to wait till the shower was over, and by that time I found it would be impossible for me to go to Kettleness without seeming deliberately to avoid the service.
The sun came out, and the sky was quite blue before eleven o’clock, and the fishermen spread tarpaulins on the sand for the congregation to sit on, and I found myself—I must say very much against my will—being led to the place by little Jack.