Then my grandfather told him all he could about my poor mother. How she had longed to hear from him; and how, as week after week and month after month went by, and no news came, she had gradually become weaker and weaker. All this and much more he told him; and whenever he stopped, my father always wanted to hear more, so that it was not until we were sitting over the watchroom fire in the evening that my father began to tell us his story.
He had been shipwrecked on the coast of China. The ship had gone to pieces not far from shore, and he and three other men had escaped safely to land. As soon as they stepped on shore, a crowd of Chinese gathered round them with anything but friendly faces. They were taken prisoners, and carried before some man who seemed to be the governor of that part of the country. He asked them a great many questions, but they did not understand a word of what he said, and, of course, could not answer him.
For some days my father and the other men were very uncertain what their fate would be; for the Chinese at that time were exceedingly jealous of any foreigner landing on their shore. However, one day they were brought out of the wooden house in which they had been imprisoned, and taken a long journey of some two hundred miles into the interior of the country. And here it was that my poor father had been all those years, when we thought him dead. He was not unkindly treated, and he taught the half-civilized people there many things which they did not know, and which they were very glad to learn. But both by day and night he was carefully watched, lest he should make his escape, and he never found a single opportunity of getting away from them. Of course, there were no posts and no railways in that remote place, and he was quite shut out from the world. Of what was going on at home he knew as little as if he had been living in the moon.
Slowly and drearily eleven long years passed away, and then, one morning, they were suddenly told that they were to be sent down to the coast, and put on board a ship bound for England. They told my father that there had been a war, and that one of the conditions of peace was, that they should give up all the foreigners in their country whom they were holding as prisoners.
‘Well, David, my lad,’ said my grandfather, when he had finished his strange story, ’it’s almost like getting thee back from the dead, to have thee in the old home again!’
ON THE ROCK.
About a fortnight after my father arrived, we were surprised one Monday morning by another visit from old Mr. Davis. His son-in-law had asked him to come to tell my grandfather that he had received a letter with regard to the little girl who was saved from the Victory. So he told my father and me as we stood on the pier; and all the way to the house I was wondering what the letter could be.