But by-and-bye, as we caught the first draught of the trades, the boy began to punctuate my fables with that hateful cough. This went on for a week; and one day, in the midst of our short stroll, his legs gave way under him. As I caught him in my arms, he looked up with a smile.
“I’m very weak, you know. But it’ll be all right when I get to England.”
But it was not till we had passed well beyond the equatorial belt that Johnny grew visibly worse. In a week he had to lie still on his couch beneath the awning, and the patter of his feet ceased on the deck. The captain, who was a bit of a doctor, said to me one day—
“He will never live to see England.”
But he did.
It was a soft spring afternoon when the Midas sighted the Lizard, and Johnny was still with us, lying on his couch, though almost too weak to move a limb. As the day wore on we lifted him once or twice to look.
“Can you see them quite plain?” he asked; “and the precious stones hanging on the trees? And the palaces—and the white elephants?”
I stared through my glass at the serpentine rocks and white-washed lighthouse above them, all powdered with bronze and gold by the sinking sun, and answered—
“Yes, they are all there.”
All that afternoon we were beside him, looking out and peopling the shores of home with all manner of vain shows and pageants; and when one man broke down another took his place.
As the sun fell, and twilight drew on, the bright revolving lights on the two towers suddenly flashed out their greeting. We were about to carry the child below, for the air was chilly; but he saw the flash, and held up a feeble hand.
“What is that?”
“Those two lights,” I answered, telling my final lie, “are the lanterns of Cormelian and Cormoran, the two Cornish giants. They’ll be standing on the shore to welcome us. See—each swings his lantern round, and then for a moment it is dark; now wait a moment, and you’ll see the light again.”
“Ah!” said the child, with a smile and a little sigh, “it is good to be—home!”
And with that word on his lips, as he waited for the next flash, Johnny stretched himself and died.
I.—SAINT PIRAN AND THE MILLSTONE.
Should you visit the Blackmore tin-streamers on their feast-day, which falls on Friday-in-Lide (that is to say, the first Friday in March), you may note a truly Celtic ceremony. On that day the tinners pick out the sleepiest boy in the neighbourhood and send him up to the highest bound in the works, with instructions to sleep there as long as he can. And by immemorial usage the length of his nap will be the measure of the tinners’ afternoon siesta for twelve months to come.