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crab, “I say, Master, have you seen a Frenchman about here this morning ?”
The man stared for a moment full in little John's face, and said, “Lord, how should I know;" and then returned again to his stupid cruel amusement.
“O dear me, what shall I do--but I had better not stay here,” thought little John; “I must do as well as I can, and try to find him out for myself." He went towards a few men whom he saw at a little distance, who seemed to be watching some fishing-boats going out. As he pushed into the midst of them, he felt himself touched on the shoulder, and, on looking round, he saw his friend the Frenchman.
“Ah, my littel ami, my littel friend,” said he, "you are very good time here, I see.”
“O, I am glad I have found you, I was afraid I should be too late, for a man told me just now that it was past four o'clock.”
“No, no such ting,” answered the Frenchman; “it is half an hour past tree only.”
“O, I am so glad,” replied John, “for then there will be time for me to run and leave a message with Bill Haul for my mother, who, I am afraid, will be frightened when she finds I have gone away."
The Frenchman agreed, telling him to mind and be back in time, and so John went to Bill Haul, and told him all about his intended journey to France, begging him to go every day and see his mother, and be kind to her, for his sake, while he was away. Bill Haul promised all this, for he loved little John Barton for his goodnature and obliging disposition, and when John returned to the harbour, he felt much happier
than he did before, now that he knew his mother would know where he was, and that she would have some one to go and help her in his absence. At first, John Barton was very happy on board the Frenchman's boat, helping him and two other men, who were aboard, to work the vessel ; but when he had been there about an hour and a half, he began to feel very sick at the stomach, and his head ached so much, that he had a great mind to ask Jacques Bontemps (which was the Frenchman's name) if he might go into the cabin and lie down for a little while; but as he saw that he and the men were busy, he thought he would manage as well as he could for himself; so seeing a large boat-cloak in a corner, he threw himself upon it, and had not lain long there before he felt quite recovered, which, perhaps, would not have been the case if he had gone below, as the warm air of a confined cabin is more likely to bring on sea-sickness than to relieve it. The fresh air of the deck, and his being constantly at work, soon made him quite well; and when the Frenchman came to him to see if he wanted any breakfast, he found that he was very hungry. He produced a small bit of dried fish and some crust, which was all that was left of his provision, and began to eat it.
“Ah, my poor littel ami! What, is dat all what you have for your dejeuné-for your breakfast? Stop, stop! Stay, let me see if I cannot give you something better.”
The kind Jacques went and fetched him some boiled eggs, wine, and some bread. John thanked him, and eat it very heartily; but he mixed some water with the wine. Jacques Bontemps, who was watching him, said, “Ah, ha! it is all very well dat you put de water to de wine now, but you
will like it quite by itself when you have been a littel time in France. What for are you going to France ?” continued he, “and for how long time?”
John answered that he did not know how long he should be there, but he was going to try and find out a gentleman who lived in Paris.
“ And what name is de gentleman ? and what street in Paris does he live in ?" asked Jacques.
But when little John told him he knew neither, and that he had no money, nor could he speak a word of French, the goodnatured Frenchman lifted up his hands and eyes in astonishment : “My poor littel friend,” he exclaimed, “how will you do to travel all dat way if you have no got money? I would myself go wid you and shew you de way, but I must not leave my métier—my trade; and I have very little money to give away, but what I can give I will.” So saying the good man took out a half-franc piece * and fifteen sous,t and gave them to little John Barton, who had never possessed so large a sum in all his life.
The vessel just then requiring the captain's attention, he left the little boy, bidding him rest himself, as he would have a long way to walk soon. So John threw himself again upon the boat-cloak, where he slept soundly some hours.
He was awakened by a loud confused noise, and starting upon his feet, he found that the vessel was alongside the quay in the port of Boulogne, where a great number of people were assembled to witness the arrival of a steampäcket from London.
* A small silver coin, worth five-pence English.
All these people seemed to be talking at once, and at the very top of their voices. He saw some men dressed in green coats adorned with silver, with canes in their hands, who seemed to be ordering every one about, and now and then some of them conducted the people who left the packet-boat to a small house at a little distance, surrounded with white pillars. There were also some strange-looking women, with very short dark blue woollen petticoats on, curious little figured cotton caps on their heads, very long gold ear-rings, round baskets strapped to their backs, and heavy wooden-soled slippers on, which went clicket-i-clack, clicket-i-clack, every time they moved a step, and added to the noise they made by screaming and bawling to each other. Then he noticed a number of young men and boys who held little cards in their hands, which they seemed to be endeavouring to force upon every one who landed, talking, like all the rest, as loud as they possibly could. Even some fishermen and sailors, who were assisting Bontemps to moor his boat, all shouted in the same high tone of voice as every one else. John Barton could not help remarking how different they were to the English sailors at Dover, who seemed to do double the work, though they spoke not a word, perhaps, the whole time, much less made such a bustle and a hubbub as these strange sailors did. What made all this noise seem still more confusing to little John was, that not one word of what he heard around did he understand. No; nothing was spoken everywhere about him but French ; — he was now in France! He felt still more helpless and desolate when he had taken leave of his kind friend, Jacques Bontemps, and was wandering along one of the streets of Boulogne, uncertain which way to go; however, he was determined to keep
up his spirits, and not to give way to fear and anxiety till there should be real occasion for them. He now began to feel extremely thirsty, and therefore looked about for some place where he might get a draught of water or milk, but it was in vain; there was not a single shop which seemed at all likely to sell anything of the kind. At last he determined to ask, as well as he could, for some at the first shop he should come to of any kind. It happened to be a baker's; he went in, and tried hard to make the woman he found there understand what he wanted, but in vain.
John, disappointed, left the shop, fearing he should never be able to make any one understand him in France; he walked on, and at the end of the street came to a square open place that looked like a market. To his great joy he saw on one of the stalls some fine ripe cherries and strawberries, and upon producing a sous the woman placed in his hand a large cabbageleaf full of fruit. As he was eating it, and thinking how much better his bargain was here, than the little paper pottles with, perhaps, half a dozen strawberries in them, given for the same money in England, he saw standing opposite to him, at a small distance, a little beggar-girl, whose eyes were fixed longingly on the juicy fruit he held in his hand, but directly she perceived he noticed her, she hastily withdrew them. Her face was extremely pale and thin; her eyes, though of a beautiful dark brown, looked hollow and sickly; her clothes hung in rags about her; and her little tender feet were bare. John Barton went towards her, and held his leaf of fruit before her. She hesitated, and looked up in his face; he took her hand, which was hot and parched, and placing it among the tempting red berries, he said, “Do eat some, little dear!”