‘That’s why me and the missus is glad to get a lodger now and again,’ he said; ’it all goes to the boat, every penny of it. We mean to call her The Little John. He’s going in her the very first voyage she takes; he is indeed, sir, for he’ll be her captain one day, please God, little John will.’
It was a calm, beautiful evening; the sea was like a sheet of glass. Hardly a ripple was breaking on the shore. The sun was setting behind the cliff, and the fishing village would soon be in darkness. The fishermen were leaving their cottages and were making for the shore. Already some of the boats were launched, and the men were throwing in their nets and fishing-tackle, and were pulling out to sea. I enjoyed watching my new friend making his preparations. His three mates brought out the nets, and he gave his orders with a tone of command. He was the owner and the captain of the Mary Ann, and the rest were accustomed to do his bidding.
When all were on board, Duncan himself jumped in and gave the word to push from shore. He nodded to me and bid me good-night, and when he was a little way from shore, I saw him stand up in the boat and wave his oil-skin cap to some one above me on the cliff.
I looked up, and saw Polly standing on the rock overhanging the shore with little John in his white nightgown in her arms. He was waving his red cap to his father, and continued to do so till the boat was out of sight.
I slept well in my strange little bedroom, although I was awakened early by the sunlight streaming in at the window. I jumped up and looked out. The sun was rising over the sea, and a flood of golden light was streaming across it.
I dressed quickly and went out. Very few people were about, for the fishermen had not yet returned from their night’s fishing. The cliff looked even more beautiful than the night before, for every bit of colouring stood out clear and distinct in the sunshine. ’I shall get my best effects in the morning,’ I said to myself, ’and I had better choose my subject at once, so that after breakfast I may be able to begin without delay.’
How many steps I went up, and how many I went down, before I came to a decision, it would be impossible to tell; but at last I found a place which seemed to me to be the very gem of the whole village. An old disused boat stood in the foreground, and over this a large fishing net, covered with floats, was spread to dry. Behind rose the rocks, covered with tufts of grass, patches of gorse, tall yellow mustard plants and golden ragwort, and at the top of a steep flight of rock-hewn steps stood a white cottage with red-tiled roof, the little garden in front of it gay with hollyhocks and dahlias. A group of barefooted children were standing by the gate feeding some chickens and ducks, a large dog was lying asleep at the top of the steps, and a black cat was basking in the morning sunshine on the low garden wall. It was, to my mind, an extremely pretty scene, and it made me long to be busy with my brush.