“You’re a noble-hearted little fellow, Thames,” rejoined Wood, casting a look of pride and affection at his adopted son, whose head he gently patted; “and give promise of a glorious manhood.”
Thames Darrell was, indeed, a youth of whom a person of far greater worldly consequence than the worthy carpenter might have been justly proud. Though a few months younger than his companion Jack Sheppard, he was half a head taller, and much more robustly formed. The two friends contrasted strikingly with each other. In Darrell’s open features, frankness and honour were written in legible characters; while, in Jack’s physiognomy, cunning and knavery were as strongly imprinted. In all other respects they differed as materially. Jack could hardly be accounted good-looking: Thames, on the contrary, was one of the handsomest boys possible. Jack’s complexion was that of a gipsy; Darrell’s as fresh and bright as a rose. Jack’s mouth was coarse and large; Darrell’s small and exquisitely carved, with the short, proud upper lip, which belongs to the highest order of beauty. Jack’s nose was broad and flat; Darrell’s straight and fine as that of Antinous. The expression pervading the countenance of the one was vulgarity; of the other, that which is rarely found, except in persons of high birth. Darrell’s eyes were of that clear gray which it is difficult to distinguish from blue by day and black at night; and his rich brown hair, which he could not consent to part with, even on the promise of a new and modish peruke from his adoptive father, fell in thick glossy ringlets upon his shoulders; whereas Jack’s close black crop imparted the peculiar bullet-shape we have noticed, to his head.
While Thames modestly expressed a hope that he might not belie the carpenter’s favourable prediction, Jack Sheppard thought fit to mount a small ladder placed against the wall, and, springing with the agility of an ape upon a sort of frame, contrived to sustain short spars and blocks of timber, began to search about for a piece of wood required in the work on which he was engaged. Being in a great hurry, he took little heed where he set his feet; and a board giving way, he must have fallen, if he had not grasped a large plank laid upon the transverse beam immediately over his head.
“Take care, Jack,” shouted Thames, who witnessed the occurrence; “that plank isn’t properly balanced. You’ll have it down.”
But the caution came too late. Sheppard’s weight had destroyed the equilibrium of the plank: it swerved, and slowly descended. Losing his presence of mind, Jack quitted his hold, and dropped upon the frame. The plank hung over his head. A moment more and he would have been crushed beneath the ponderous board, when a slight but strong arm arrested its descent.
“Get from under it, Jack!” vociferated Thames. “I can’t hold it much longer—it’ll break my wrist. Down we come!” he exclaimed, letting go the plank, which fell with a crash, and leaping after Sheppard, who had rolled off the frame.