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"Did you say he was going to France at four to-morrow morning, Bill ?” interrupted little John.
“Yes, the tide serves them to make the harbour of Boulogne, I heard him say, so he wants to be off-do but hear what a chattering the French Mounseer makes," said Bill, who was about fourteen years of age, and thought it looked manly to ridicule a Frenchman. By this time the bargain was concluded between the fisherman and the apple-merchant; and as the latter left the cottage, John Barton took rather a hasty leave of his friend, and ran after the stranger, whom he overtook just as he reached the beach.
“Sir, Mr. Frenchman,” said John, as he approached him, somewhat out of breath, “Şir, I want to speak to you, if you please.”
“Heh, what you say, littel boy?" said the man, turning round.
"A'n't you going to France, sir ?" said John,
“Yes, I am, at to-morrow morning ; but what den, my littel shild ?”
“Why, sir, I want very much to go to France, and if you'd be so good as to take me in your boat--".
"Take you in my boat! what for should I do that?" answered the Frenchman.
“Why, I can give you nothing for taking me, to be sure,” said John; “I have neither money nor anything else of my own, to give away, but I will work as well and hard as ever I can; I can mend nets, and I can tar boats, and I can splice ropes, and I can—"
“Stop, stop! stay!" interrupted the Frenchman; “I was not tinking of what you could give me, or what you could do for me; but I was tinking what should be the use if I was to take you in my bateau-in my boat.”
“O, then you will take me, sir! O thank you, sir,” said John, eagerly, “what use, did you say, sir? O, I want very much to go to France, to find a gentleman, who I hope will be a friend to my poor mother."
“Your moder, did you say, my littel friend if you want to go to France to do good to your moder, you must be de bon fils--de good son, so you shall go wid me in my bateau.”
"O, thank you, kind Frenchman,” said John, taking his hand and shaking it, and pressing it to his bosom, so overjoyed that he scarcely knew what he did or what he said; "then I will come to the harbour, by four to-morrow, and you will be there and take me, I shall be sure to find you."
“ Oui, yes," returned the Frenchman; “you may come, but be sure you do not be too late after---you must be quite positivement a littel before four, because I would not lose de marais, dat is to say de what you call de tide, for de universe.” So saying, he walked away in the direction of Dover town, leaving John to pursue his way home to the hut under the
By this time the twilight had gradually given way to the coming on of night; and John Barton had been so earnestly engaged in talking and arranging his plan of going to France, that he had not perceived the increasing darkness. The sea that lay calmly before him, and the wide heavens that were above him, were both so exactly the same deep blue colour, that they seemed to touch and be one vast space, excepting that the waters beneath now and then broke into little white sparkles on the tops of the waves, and the sky over his head
was bright with many stars. The cliffs around, with their white fronts stretching down towards the beach, looked cold and ghastly, and there was scarcely a sound to be heard but the flapping wings of a solitary sea-gull, and the distant cry of the sailors, keeping time to their pulling altogether, as they hauled in their cables.
Little John could not help stopping for a moment to look round upon a scene, which, although seen by him every day, yet seemed now to look particularly beautiful, and at the same time of a kind of awful loveliness. Now that he stood quite alone, and had time to think, he felt that he had just done a very bold thing in undertaking to make so long a voyage of his own accord, and without having asked the advice of any one, no not even the advice of his own mother. And then came the thought of what she would say when she found what he had done. “I know,” thought he, “I am doing right, for I am trying to do good to my mother, and perhaps if I were to have asked her leave first, she would have been afraid to let such a little boy as I am go all alone, and with strangers, too-but then no one would hurt such a little fellow as I am; and then she would think, that I should never be able to travel in France, because I have no money, and I can't speak French, which I have heard everybody speaks in France, even the little boys and girls, and she would be afraid I should have no bed, and be obliged to lie in the fields, and then she would perhaps forbid me to go, which I should be very sorry for, because I should not like to disobey her, yet all the time I should know I ought to go, for though there will be a great many difficulties, yet I feel that if I try hard and do my best to get through them and help myself, that God will be so good and kind as to take care of me." Little John, as he thought of all this, looked over the blue waters, and felt the tears come in his eyes, and a kind of swelling sensation come over his breast, and it seemed to him as if he had never prayed so earnestly in all his life, though he could not say a word. Just then he recollected that it must be very late, and that he had stayed away from home so long that his mother would be uneasy; so he ran as quickly as he could towards the hut, determining that he had better not mention his intention of going to his mother at all.
“Why, Johnny dear,” said she, as he bounced into the cottage quite out of breath, "what a long time you have been away. I suppose neighbour Haul kept you.
John felt inclined to say, “yes, mother," but he knew it would not be quite the truth, so he said "I stayed a little while talking with Bill Haul, mother, and I stayed the rest of the time on the beach, but, if you please, mother, I would rather you would n't ask me what I stayed there for.”
“ Very well, dear,” said his mother; “no harm, I dare say.”
“No indeed, mother,” answered John; and they sat down to their supper of dried fish, onions, and brown bread.
“What ails you, child, a’n’t you hungry?" said his mother, observing that he cut off his usual portion of bread and fish, but that, instead of eating it at once, he took only a small piece of each, and put by the rest.
“Thank’ee mother, I do n't wish the whole of it to-night," said John, for he thought that he should want something to take with him the next morning, and he did not like to deprive his mother of any more than he could help, as she could so ill afford to spare it. And then he was still more glad that he had not told his mother of his intended voyage, for even if
she had allowed him to go, she would have given him everything she had in the house, and left herself entirely without food.
When the time came for going to bed, and little John wished his mother “good night," as she placed her hand as usual on his head, and said, “ God bless you, my comfort,” he again felt the swelling sensation at his breast, and was very much inclined to throw himself into her arms, and tell her all he intended to do for her; but he checked himself, and saying, “ May God be a friend to us, mother,” kissed her fervently and tenderly, and ran hastily into his own little room, where he threw himself on his straw mattrass, and was soon sound asleep.
When he awoke, he was alarmed to see that it was already daylight, and feared that the sun must be risen. He jumped up, put on his clothes as quickly as he could, put up his two remaining checked shirts in a bundle together, with two more pair of grey stockings, and tying his best handkerchief (which his mother had given him for a keepsake) round her spinning-wheel, as a sort of farewell remembrance, for he could not write, he left the cottage, and ran as fast as he could along the sea-beach, eating part of the remainder of his supper as he went. It was not until he had reached the harbour, that he found the sun was already up, for the cliffs hindered him from seeing it while he was on the beach underneath them; he was afraid it was very late, and asked a man, who was standing with his hands in his pockets, looking at a crab that lay kicking on its back among some sea-weed, what o'clock it was. The man carelessly answered, without looking up, "past four."
“O, dear, I shall be too late; what shall I do?” exclaimed little John. “Master,” continued he, turning again to the man, who was now scraping some sand with his foot over the sprawling