“‘Holmness. An Island or Islet in the Bristol Channel—’”
“Ah!” The boy let his breath escape almost in a sob.
The old chemist looked up over the rims of his spectacles; but whether questioning or because the sound had interrupted him, Tilda could not determine.
“Yes,” said the boy eagerly. “They thought that about—about the other Island, sir. Didn’t they?”
The old man, either not hearing or not understanding, looked down at the page again. He read out the latitude and longitude—words and figures which neither of the children understood.
“’Extreme length, three-quarters of a mile; width at narrowest point, 165 yards. It contains 356 acres, all of short grass, and affords pasturage in summer for a few sheep from the mainland. There is no harbour; but the south side affords fair anchorage for vessels sheltering from N.W. winds. The distance from nearest point of coast is three and three-quarter miles. Reputed to have served anciently as rendezvous for British pirates, and even in the last century as a smugglers’ entrepot. Geological formation—’”
“Is that all?” asked Tilda as the old man ceased his reading.
“That is all.”
“But the river will take us to it,” said the boy confidently.
“Hey? What river?”
“Why this river—the Avon. It leads down to it—of course it must!”
“Why, yes,” answered the old chemist after considering a while. “In a sense, of course, it does. I hadn’t guessed at your age you’d be so good at geography. The Avon runs down to Tewkesbury, and there it joins the Severn; and the Severn leads down past Gloucester and into the Bristol Channel.”
“I was sure!”
The boy said it in no very loud tone: but something shook in his voice, and at the sound of it all the readers looked up with curiosity—which changed, however, to protest at sight of the boy’s rags.
“S—sh—sh!” said two or three.
The old chemist gazed around apologetically, closed the volume, replaced it, and shepherded the children forth.
BY WESTON WEIR.
“Down below the Weir Brake
Journeys end in lovers’ meeting:
You and I our way must take,
You and I our way will wend
Farther on, my only friend—
Farther on, my more than friend—
My sweet sweeting.”—COUNTRY SONG.
In a private apartment of the Red Cow Public-house Sam Bossom sat doggedly pulling at a short pipe while Mr. Mortimer harangued him.
On the table stood a cheap, ill-smelling oil-lamp between two mugs of beer. Sam had drawn his chair close, and from time to time reached out a hand for his mug, stared into its depths as though for advice, and gloomily replaced it. For the rest, he sat leaning a little forward on his crossed arms, with set, square chin, and eyes fixed on a knot in the deal table top.