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Only Tim by Sarah Doudney


“I say, Bee, are you coming?”

Claude Molyneux, in all the glory of fourteen summers and a suit of new white flannels, stands looking up with a slight frown of impatience at an open bay-window. It has been one of the hottest of August days; and now at four o'clock in the afternoon the haze of heat hangs over the sea, and makes a purple cloud of the distant coast. But, for all that, it is splendid weather; just the kind of weather that a boy likes when he comes to spend his holidays at the seaside; and Claude, who is an Indian-born boy, has no objection to a good hot summer.

As he stands, hands in pockets, on the narrow pebbled path under the window, you cannot help admiring the grace of his slim, well-knit figure, and the delicate moulding of his features. The fair skin is sun-tanned, as a boy's skin ought to be; the eyes, large and heavy-lidded, are of a dark grey, not brilliant, but soft; the light, fine hair is cropped close to the shapely head. He is a lad that one likes at the first glance; and although one sees, all too plainly, that those chiselled lips can take a disdainful curl sometimes, one knows instinctively that they may always be trusted to tell the simple truth. Anything mean, anything sneaky, could not live in the steady light of those dark-grey eyes.

“I say, Bee-e!” he sings out again, with a little drawl, which, however, does not make the tone less imperative. Master Claude is not accustomed to be kept waiting, and is beginning to think himself rather badly used.

“Coming,” cries a sweet treble; and then a head and shoulders appear above the row of scarlet geraniums on the window-sill.

She is worth waiting for, this loitering Bee, whose thirteen years have given her none of the airs of premature womanhood. Her smooth round cheeks are tinted with the tender pink of the shell; her great eyes, of speedwell blue, are opened frankly and fearlessly on the whole world. Taken singly, not one of her features is, perhaps, quite faultless; but it would be hard to find a critic who could quarrel with the small face, framed in waves of ruddy golden hair that go tumbling down below her waist. You can see a freckle or two on the sides of her little nose, and notice that her slender hands are browned by the sea-side sun; for Bee is one of those lucky girls who are permitted to dabble freely in salt-water, and get all the benefit that briny breezes can bestow.

“I couldn't come sooner,” she says in a tone of apology. “We always have to learn a hymn on Saturdays, and I've had such a bother with Dolly. She would want to know where 'the scoffer's seat' was, and if it had a cushion? And it does so worry me to try to explain.”

“Oh, you poor thing—you must be quite worn out!” responds Claude, with genuine sympathy. “But make haste; you haven't got your hat on yet.”

Bee makes a little dive, and brings up a wide-brimmed sailor's hat with a blue ribbon round it. She puts it on, fastens it securely under the silken masses of her hair, and then declares herself to be quite ready.

In the next instant the girl and boy are walking side by side along the shore, near enough to the sea to hear the soft rush of the tide. The blue eyes are turned inquiringly on Claude's face, which is just a shade graver than it ought to be on this delightful do-nothing day.

“Bee,” he says after a silence, “I don't quite approve of your being great friends with Crooke—Tim Crooke. What a name it is! He may be a good sort of fellow, but he's not in our set at all, you know.”

“He is a good sort of fellow,” she answers. “There's no doubt about that. Aunt Hetty likes him very much. And he's clever, Claude; he can do ever so many things.”

“I dare say he can,” says Mr. Molyneux, throwing back his head and quickening his pace. “But you needn't have got so very intimate. We could have done very well without him to-day.”

“He's Mr. Carey's pupil,” remarks Bee quietly. “Aunt Hetty couldn't invite Mr. Carey and leave out Tim.”

“Well, we could have been jolly enough without Mr. Carey. It's a mistake, I think, to see too much of this Tim Crooke; he isn't a gentleman, and he oughtn't to expect us to notice him particularly.”

“He doesn't expect anything; we like him; he's our friend.” The soft pink deepens on Bee's cheeks, and her ripe lips quiver a little. She loves Claude with all her heart, and thinks him the king of boys; but, for all that, she won't let him be unjust if she can help it.

Claude tramps on over sand, and pebbles, and seaweed, with lips firmly compressed and eyes gazing steadily before him. Bee, as she glances at him, knows quite well what Claude feels when he looks as if his features had got frozen into marble. And she knows, too, that he will be painfully, frigidly, exasperatingly polite to her all the evening.

Matters cannot go on like this, she says to herself in desperation. Claude arrived only yesterday, and here they are beginning his holiday with a dreadful disagreement. She has been counting the days that must pass before she sees him; writing him little letters full of sweet child-love and longing; wearing a pinafore over her newest frock, that it may be kept fresh and pretty for his critical eyes. And now he is here, walking by her side; and she has offended him.

Is it Heaven or the instincts of her own innocent little heart that teach this girl tact and wisdom? She doesn't proceed to inspire Claude with a maddening desire to punch Tim's head, by recounting a long catalogue of Mr. Crooke's perfections, as a more experienced person would probably have done. But she draws a shade closer to her companion, and presently he finds a tiny brown hand upon his white flannel sleeve.

“You dear old Empey,” she says lovingly, “I've been wanting you for, oh, such a long time!”

The frozen face thaws; the dark grey eyes shine softly. “Empey” is her pet name for him, an abbreviation of “Emperor;” and he likes to hear her say it.

“And I've wanted you, old chap,” he answers, putting his arm round the brown-holland waist.

“Empey, we always do get on well together, don't we?”

“Of course we do,”—with a squeeze.

“Then, just to please me, won't you be a little kind to poor Tim? He's not a splendid fellow like you, and he knows he never will be. I do so want you to forget that he's a nobody. We are all so much more comfortable when we don't remember things of that sort. You're not angry, Empey?”

“Angry; no, you silly old thing!”

And then she knows, without any more words, that he will grant her request.

The little boat that Claude has hired is waiting for them at the landing-place, and Bee steps into it with the lightest of hearts. Aunt Hetty and the rest will follow in a larger boat; but Mr. Molyneux has resolved to row Miss Beatrice Jocelyn himself.

He rows as he does everything, easily and gracefully, and Bee watches him with happy blue eyes as they go gliding over the warm sea. How still it is to-day! Beyond the grey rocks and yellow sands they can see the golden harvest fields full of standing sheaves, and still farther away there are low hills faintly outlined through the hot mist. The little town, with its irregularly-built terraces, looks dazzlingly white in the sunshine; but the church, standing on high ground, lifts a red spire into the hazy blue.

“I could live on the sea!” says Bee ecstatically. “You don't know what it costs me to come out of a boat; I always want this lovely gliding feeling to go on for ever. Don't you?”

“I like it awfully,” he replies; “but then there are other things that I want to do by-and-by. I mean to try my hand at tiger-shooting when I go out to the governor.”

“But, oh, Empey, it'll be a long time before you have to go out to India!”

Her red mouth drops a little at the corners, and her dimples become invisible. He looks at her with a gleam of mischief in his lazy eyes.

“What do you call a long time?” he asks. “Just a year or two, that's nothing. Never mind, Bee, you'll get on very well without me.”

“Oh, Empey!”

The great blue eyes glisten; and Claude is penitent in an instant.

“You ridiculous old chap!” he says gaily. “Haven't you been told thousands of times that my dad is your guardian, and as good as a father to you? And do you suppose that I'd go to India and leave you behind? You're coming too, you know, and you'll sit perched up on the back of an elephant to see me shoot tigers. What a time we'll have out there, Bee!”

“Do you really mean it?” she cries, with a rapturous face; blue eyes shining like sapphires, cheeks aglow with the richest rose.

“Of course I do. It was all arranged, years ago, by our two governors; I thought Aunt Hetty had told you. But I say, Bee, when the time does come, I hope you won't make a fuss about leaving England!”

“Not a bit of it,” she says sturdily. “I shall like to see the Ganges, and the big water-lilies, and the alligators. But what's to become of Dolly?”

“I don't know; I suppose she'll have to stay with Aunt Hetty. You belong to us, you see, old girl; so you and I shall never be parted.”

“No, never be parted,” she echoes, looking out across the calm waters with eyes full of innocent joy.


As soon as the boat grates on the shallows, two small bare-legged urchins rush forward to help Miss Jocelyn to land. But Bee, active and fearless, needs no aid at all, and reaches the pebbled beach with a light spring.

“Is tea nearly ready, Bob?” she asks, addressing the elder lad, who grins with delight from ear to ear.

“Yes, miss.”

“And has your mother got an immense lobster, and a big crab, and heaps of prawns?”

“Yes, miss; whoppers, all of 'em.”

“That's right; the sea does give us such appetites, doesn't it, Empey? I hope the others will be here soon.”

“If they don't make haste they'll find only the shell of the lobster,” he answers, joining her on the shore. “I shall never be able to control myself if I take one look at him!”

“Then don't look at him, greedy!” she cries, clapping her hands, and dancing round and round him, while the fisherman's children stare at her wonderful golden locks. “I didn't forget your weakness for lobster; Aunt Hetty said I might arrange it all; and we shall have a splendid tea!”

He looks at her with his quiet smile, half amused, wholly loving.

“Don't be whirling like a Dervish, and making yourself too hot to eat anything,” he says, putting a stop to her evolutions. “Let's saunter along the beach, and sit down a bit, my Queen Bee.”

It is a bright, glistening beach, strewn with many-coloured pebbles and stones, brown, yellow, purple, crimson, and snow-white; there are empty shells in abundance, out of which charming pincushions can be constructed by skilful fingers; and, best of all, there are little heaps of delicate sea-weed, capable of being pressed out into tiny tree-like forms of coral-pink. Altogether, this strip of shore is a very treasury for children, and Bee can never come here without wanting to load her own pockets and everybody else's with heavy spoils.

Claude, who has already been presented with seven shell pincushions, a polished pebble, and three copy-books filled with gummed sea-weed, does not care to add to this valuable collection of marine treasures. He arrests the little hand that is making a grasp at a clam, and says persuasively, “Stop till we come here again, Bee; don't pick up things this afternoon. It's so jolly to loaf about and do nothing, you know.”

She obeys, after casting one regretful glance at that fascinating scalloped shell; and they stroll on in placid contentment. From this part of the coast they get a wide ocean outlook, and can gaze far away to the faint sea-line dissolving into the sky.

How calm it is! Beautiful, infinite sea, suggesting thoughts of voyages into unknown climes; of delightful secrets, yet unfathomed; of that enchanting “by-and-by” which is the children's Promised Land! The boy and girl are quiet for a time, dreaming their tranquil little dreams in the silence of utter satisfaction, while the waves wash the beach with the old lulling sound, and the rock-shadows are slowly lengthening on the sand.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Drake, the fisherman's wife, is busy with her preparations indoors. The cottage stands in a sheltered nook, a wooden dwelling, coated with tar, with nets hanging outside its walls, and a doorstep as white as snow. A few hardy geraniums in pots brighten the windows, but garden there is and can be none; the pebbly shore must serve the children as a playground. Rosy cheeks and sound lungs give proof that the little Drakes are thriving in their seaside home; and the youngest, a baby of two, lies placidly sucking its thumb on the sunny beach.

The boat containing Aunt Hetty and her party nears the landing, and just for one second Claude's brow darkens again. A sturdy lad is pulling strong strokes, with arms that seem almost as strong as Drake's; and the lad has a merry brown face and black curly hair, and wears a scarlet cap set jauntily on his head. It is Tim Crooke, looking provokingly at his ease among his aristocratic friends, and quite prepared to enjoy himself.

Aunt Hetty, gentlest and kindest of elderly ladies, is assisted to land by the clergyman; while Tim takes up Dolly in his strong arms and places her safely on the shore. And then they all make for the cottage, Bee lingering in the rear with Claude, and winning him back to good-humour with a pleading look from the sunny blue eyes.

Surely this tea in the fisherman's kitchen is a banquet fit for the gods! It is a happy, hungry group that gathers round the deal table; Bee, doing the honours, pours out tea, and has a great deal of business on her hands; Aunt Hetty, at the other end of the board, keeps anxious watch over Dolly, who consumes prawns with frightful rapidity; Tim Crooke beams on everybody and ministers to the wants of everybody, like the good-natured fellow that he is. And Claude, true to his unuttered promise, is kind to Tim in a pleasant, natural way.

At length the meal comes to an end; lobster, prawns, and crab are all demolished! and the last drop is drained out of the teapot. The party stroll out of doors, and revel in the cool of the evening air.

How is it that they begin to talk about heroes and heroism? Nobody can remember afterwards who started the subject; but certain it is that all, save Dolly, become interested in the conversation, and each has a word to say. Mr. Carey, the clergyman, is the leading talker; and he talks well, not priggishly, nor prosily, but speaks the right words in the right way, and wins the attention of his companions.

“Charles Kingsley has told us,” he says, “'that true heroism must involve self-sacrifice;' it is the highest form of moral beauty. And it's a good thing when girls and boys fall to thinking about heroes and heroines; the thinking begets longing to do likewise. What was it that you were saying last night about your favourite hero, Tim?”

Tim lifts his head, and a rush of colour comes suddenly into his brown face.

“Jim Bludso is the fellow I like,” he says, speaking quickly. “Wasn't it grand of him to hold the bow of the Prairie Belle against the bank, while she was burning? The passengers all got off, you know, before the smoke-stacks fell; only Bludso's life was lost. He let himself be burnt to save the rest.”

“It was grand!” murmurs Bee, drawing a long breath.

“Yes,” says Claude, bringing out his words slowly; “but I like Bert Harte's 'Flynn of Virginia' better still. You see, it was Jim Bludso's own fault that the steamer caught fire. Nothing would stop him from running a race with the Movestar; and so the Prairie Belle came tearing along the Mississippi—

    “'With a nigger squat on her safety-valve,
    And her furnace crammed, rosin and pine!'

Jolly fun it must have been, but anybody could have foretold the end. As to Flynn, he was working on the Central Pacific Railway with his mate, a married man, when they found the whole concern giving way. And Flynn set his back against the wall in the dark drift, and held the timbers that were ready to fall, and sang out to Jake to run for his wife's sake.”

“Oh, that was beautiful!” Bee sighs, with her blue eyes full of tears. “Flynn was only Flynn, wasn't he? But Jake had got somebody who couldn't live without him.”

“That was just what Flynn felt, he was only Flynn,” Claude replies, pleased that his hero is appreciated. “There was something splendidly deliberate in his self-sacrifice, don't you think so, sir?” he adds, turning to Mr. Carey.

“You are quite right,” Mr. Carey answers thoughtfully.

Dolly comes running up to the group with shrill cries showing a little live crab in her small palm. A faint breeze is blowing off the sea, the west grows golden, and Aunt Hetty rises from her seat on the beach.

“We must be going home now,” she says. “Claude, dear boy, will you look for my shawl?”

Claude obediently goes into the cottage to bring out the wraps; Mr. Carey hastens off to summon Drake; and Tim finds himself, for a few seconds, by Bee's side.

“Hasn't it been a lovely afternoon?” she says. “I've been so happy, haven't you? Oh, Tim, Claude has told me something!”

“Is it a secret?” Tim asks.

“No, he didn't say so. He says it was arranged years ago that he is to take me out to India, by-and-by. I'm so glad, Tim; I'd go anywhere with Claude.”

The golden glow that shines on Tim's face seems to dazzle him, and he turns his head away from the speaker.

“I'm glad that you are glad, Bee,” he says quietly. And that is all.


Sunday morning dawns, hot and still, but clearer than the day before. Aunt Hetty and her nieces are sitting in the bay-windowed room, which has the usual furniture of seaside lodgings. They have just gone through their morning readings, and are ready to begin breakfast when Claude comes downstairs.

“How is the wrist, dear boy?” Aunt Hetty asks tenderly.

In jumping out of the boat last night he has managed to get a sprain, but is disposed to treat the matter lightly.

“Oh, it will soon be well, thanks,” he says, taking his place, and giving a smile to Bee.

A little later they all set out for church, and Bee and Claude attract many an admiring glance as they walk together along the terraces. She wears her new frock, of some soft creamy stuff, and a quaint “granny” bonnet of ivory satin lined with pale blue; her short skirts display silk stockings and dainty little shoes of patent leather. Aunt Hetty, her tall thin figure draped with black lace, follows with Dolly, that little witch of eight years old, who is the pet and plague of the good lady's life. Other seaside visitors look after the party from Nelson Lodge, and discuss them freely among themselves; but they do not speak from personal knowledge of Lady Henrietta Jocelyn and her charges. All they know is that Lady Henrietta is the maiden aunt of the two girls, and that they were committed to her care by her brother who died in India.

The church is large, recently built, and smells strongly of mortar and varnish. In winter Mr. Carey has to preach to a scanty congregation; but in summer, when the lodging-houses are full, there is always a goodly number of worshippers.

The Jocelyns, whose home is in town, are accustomed to attend St. George's, Hanover Square, and never feel perfectly comfortable in this seaside church, which is, as Bee says, “so dreadfully new, and so unfurnished.” She wishes they could all worship out of doors, among the rocks, with the blue sea murmuring near them; and yet she likes to hear Tim's voice, as he stands among the other surpliced boys and leads the singing.

Not that Tim is by any means an ideal chorister. His surplice makes his brown skin look browner, and his curly head blacker than ever; and there is not a heavenly expression in his quick dark eyes. He is not in the least like one of those saintly boys we read of sometimes, who sing and lift their glances upward, and pass gently and speedily away from this wicked world. Judging from Tim's robust appearance he has many a year of earthly life before him, and many a hot battle to fight with the flesh and the devil.

But it is a marvellous voice that comes from the lad's massive throat; a voice that goes up like a lark's song, carrying heavy hearts to higher regions with its notes. In future days there are some who will remember that morning's anthem, which Tim sings with all his triumphant power and thrilling sweetness. A few fishermen, standing just within the doors, listen entranced, and one rugged old fellow puts up a hard hand to hide his eyes.

“The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.

“The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

“Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh Thine house, O Lord, for ever.”

The service comes to an end, and Aunt Hetty and her children walk homeward along the terraces, under a glaring sun. The sea is still calm, but a light breeze is stirring, creeping off the water and breathing across the hot sand and shingle. Bee gives a deep sigh of satisfaction as the zephyr kisses her rosy cheeks.

“It's going to be just a little cooler, Empey,” she says, as they draw near Nelson Lodge.

“Yes; it must be jolly on the sea to-day,” he remarks, following a little cutter with longing eyes.

When the midday meal is ended, Aunt Hetty repairs to the sofa to read Jeremy Taylor; and Dolly, having discovered an illustrated copy of the “Pilgrim's Progress,” is silently gloating over a picture of Apollyon, dragon-winged, with smoke coming out of his nostrils. For fifteen or twenty minutes Claude and Bee whisper by the open window, and then a gentle sound from the sofa tells them that good Jeremy has lulled Aunt Hetty to repose.

Claude gives Bee an expressive glance which plainly says, “Come along.” Dolly's back is turned towards them; moreover, she has just lighted upon a whole family of fiends, and cannot take her eyes off the book. So the pair slip out of the room unheard and unseen, and gain the beach without let or hindrance.

They shun the pier, and foot it briskly along the shore till they have left most of the promenaders behind. On and on they go till they get to the low rocks, and the smooth yellow sands strewn with mussel and cockle shells; and then they sit down to rest, and listen to the music of the tide.

“You must take me to White Cove one day, Empey,” says Bee, after a pause. “There are the most lovely shells to be found there, and agates, and things. Mr. Carey said that somebody once picked up a bit of amber there.”

“I could row you there at once,” returns Claude, “if it wasn't for this wrist of mine.”

“Oh, but it's Sunday; Aunt Hetty wouldn't like us to go.”

“She wouldn't mind it if I reasoned with her,” responds Mr. Molyneux with perfect confidence in his own powers of argument. “All those little prejudices of hers could soon be got rid of.”

“Drake says it's rather dangerous near White Cove,” observes Bee after another silence; “because of all the sunken rocks, you know.”

“No, I don't know: I've never been there. But you've set me longing to see the place, old chap.”

“Oh, it's lovely!” she cries, with enthusiasm. “Thousands and thousands of sea-birds sit on the cliffs; and there are lots of little caves, all hung with silky green sea-weeds, so quiet and cool.”

Claude leans back against the low rock behind him, and looks out across the sea with eyes half-closed. The horizon line is sharp and clear to-day; the blue of the sky meets, but does not mingle with the deeper blue of the ocean; a few white sails can be distinctly seen. Now and then a gull flashes silvery wings in the sunshine, and its cry comes wailing across the water to the shore.

“Why, there's Tim!” says Bee, pointing to a broad-shouldered figure moving leisurely along the sand.

He hears the well-known voice, and turns instantly.

“Well, he may make himself useful to-day,” remarks Claude, with a sudden inspiration. “I daresay he'll be glad enough to row to the cove if we ask him.”

Tim is more than glad, he is delighted to be included in the plans of Claude and Bee. To tell the truth, Sunday afternoon is generally rather a lonesome time to Tim Crooke. He has no vocation for Sunday-school teaching, and always feels intensely grateful to Mr. Carey for not bothering him to take a class. The little vicarage is, however, a dreary house when master and servants are out; and Tim is usually to be found wandering on the shore till the hour for tea.

“Bill Drake is down yonder,” says Tim, waving his hand towards a block of stone some distance off. “And he's got a little boat, a battered old thing, but——”

“Any old thing will do,” interrupts Claude, rising eagerly. “We are not going to show off in front of the pier, you know; we only want to get away to White Cove and enjoy ourselves. Do you know the place, Crooke?”

“Yes, very well. I've been there several times with Mr. Carey; it's a wonderful place for gulls. I suppose there are thousands of them.”

“Well, come along,” cries Claude; and Bee springs gladly to her feet. It delights her to see the magnificent Empey growing so friendly with that good old Tim, and as she trips on, leaving dainty footprints on the sands, her mind is busy with plans for the coming days. “This is only the beginning of pleasures,” she says to herself; the holidays will last a long time, and they can enjoy many excursions about the coast. It is all going to be perfectly jolly, now that Claude has really consented to accept Tim; for Tim is so good-natured and useful that she hardly knows what they would do without him.

The little boat is a battered old thing indeed, but nobody is inclined to find fault with it. Bill Drake is quite ready to let the young gentleman have his way; Bee steps in lightly enough, and seats herself; the lads follow, and then Tim pushes off, leaving Bill standing grinning on the shore.

A happy girl is Bee Jocelyn as the boat glides on, and the fresh air fans her face. She has put on her broad-brimmed hat again; and the light breeze lifts her bright silky tresses, and spreads them round her head like a golden veil. She dips one little hand in the water—the beautiful sunny water that is as green as an emerald when you look deep into its depths; and then she trails her fingers in the sea and smiles at Claude.

“Oh, Empey,” she says, “how nice it would be if one of Undine's sea-relations were to put a coral necklace, all red and glittering, into my hand!”

“Or some strings of pearls,” suggests Tim.

“She will have a set of pearls one day,” remarks Claude, in that quiet tone of his. “They were my mother's, and they are waiting in India for Bee.”

There is an unwonted softness in Tim's black eyes. He is a stout-hearted, matter-of-fact lad, people say, not given to dreaming; and yet he is seeing visions this afternoon. He sees Bee, not in her sailor's hat and girlish frock, but in white robes, with all her wealth of hair plaited up, and the pearls glistening on her neck. He sees the merry face grown graver, yet lovelier than ever; and then he tries to picture her home in that far-off land that he will never behold; a land of dark faces, and temples, and palms, and flowers.

And Claude will be with her always; what a beautiful poetical life these two will live together! All the poetry is for them, and all the prose for Tim. His thoughts don't shape themselves into these very words, perhaps; but he does certainly feel that it is a dull path which lies before Tim Crooke.

While he dreams, he pulls as steadily as usual, and they are drawing nearer and nearer to the little cove. Soon they gain a full view of those cliffs where the sea-birds sit, tier upon tier, like spectators in a circus, and the calm air is filled with strange cries. Bee claps her hands in delight; the sight is so novel, and the birds that have taken wing sweep so gracefully around their rocky haunts, that there is a charm, past explaining, in the whole scene.

Meanwhile the tide is rising fast and floats the boat onward to White Cove. They are making for a landing-place just at the foot of the sea-birds' cliff, and Tim pulls cautiously, telling Claude to keep a sharp look-out for the rocks that lie treacherously hiding under the flood.

“There's the Chair!” cries Bee suddenly. “Look, Empey, we are quite close to it! It was Mr. Carey who gave it that name, because you see it's exactly like a chair, and it has a seat, and a little ledge where your feet may rest. Mr. Carey got up there once; it's quite easy to climb.”

“At high water the tide comes almost up to the footstool of the Chair,” says Tim. “I've noticed it standing up out of the sea with a bird or two perched on its seat. It looks very funny then, when all the rocks near it are quite covered.”

“It really is curious,” Claude is beginning to say, when there is a bump and a terrible grating noise. The boat has struck against one of those traitorous rocks, and her rotten planks have given way. Long before they can reach the landing-place she will be full of water; there is already a stream flowing in through the rent in her side, and Tim, quiet and cool, takes in every detail of the case before Claude has begun fully to realise their condition. Without a moment's hesitation he pulls straight towards the little strip of sand that is to be seen at the base of the Chair.

“Quick, Claude,” he says in decided tones, “the wind is rising, and the tide is coming in fast. You must get Bee up into the Chair, and you'll have to follow her; although there's hardly room for two.”

“Do you mean that we shall have to stay up there till the tide goes out?” asks Claude. “Why, it's absurd! Is there no other way to——”

“There is no other way to save your lives, so far as I can see. Now don't lose time; the Chair isn't so easy to climb, after all. There are little dents in the rock where your toes may go, but no projections anywhere. It's just a smooth block of stone.”

Poor Bee, who knows that Tim must have good reasons for being serious, tries to obey him without delay. But how could she ever have fancied that this dreadful rock was easy to climb! It is nearly as slippery as glass, and affords so little hold for hands or feet that she is almost in despair. The boys encourage her with their voices; Claude is scrambling up after her—not without difficulty, however, for his sprained wrist gives him many a sharp twinge. And then at last, after terrible efforts, the “footstool” ledge is gained, and Bee drags herself up to the seat of the chair.

But what a seat it is! Merely a niche which looks as if it had been scooped out of the solid stone and furnished with a narrow shelf. How will it be possible for her to make herself very small, and leave space for Claude?

Even in these fearful moments she finds herself thinking of the eleven swan princes in the fairy tale, and that little rock in mid ocean on which they stood crowded together when the sun went down. Claude is here, squeezed into the narrow niche by her side, and he is calling out to Tim, down below.

“Come up, Tim,” he cries, and there is a ring of agony in his voice now.

But Tim's answer reaches them, clear and loud, above the roar of the advancing tide.

“I shall not come; there isn't room for three. You know that well enough.”

“But, Tim, what will you do? I'll come down, and give you my place.”

“Stay where you are,” Tim shouts sternly. “You've got Bee to take care of. And there's a heavy sea rolling in, she'll have to sit fast.”

As Tim speaks the flood is surging up to his knees, and the wind, too, is rising higher and higher. All around him the waves are foaming over the sunken rocks, and the sea-thunder grows louder and more terrible every moment.

“I'll come down,” cries Claude, making a desperate movement to descend. “You sha'n't stop there and drown alone! Do you think I'll be such a hound as to let you?”

But Bee with all her strength, holds him back. “Empey, dear Empey,” she moans, “stay for my sake!”

“I'll take my chance,” Tim sings out cheerily. “I can swim; I mean to try for the landing-place.”

“You're mad; the tide will dash you on the rocks!” groans Claude, in despair. And then, so slight is his foothold that he nearly loses his balance in looking downward; and Bee, clinging to him, screams with terror.

“I can't bear it!” he says wildly.

How fast the waters rise! Great waves are breaking against the sides of the Chair, and leaping up nearer and nearer to the ledge whereon the pair support their feet. Once more Claude calls to Tim, passionately, almost fiercely,—

“I'll never forgive myself if you are lost! Tim, Tim, where are you?”

And the clear voice comes up, somewhat faintly, from below. “It's all right. God bless you and Bee.”

A mighty billow flings its cloud of foam over the faces of Claude and the shrinking girl by his side, and blinds them with salt spray. But high as the tide is, the Chair is still above its reach, and although the wave may sprinkle them, it cannot swallow them up. Only they are deafened as well as blinded, and Bee feels that she is losing her senses. Surely her brain is wandering, else she could never hear the notes of the anthem again, and Tim's voice singing the words of the old psalm in such exulting tones,—

“The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.”

       * * * * *

When night is closing over the little watering-place there are rejoicings and lamentations in Nelson Lodge. Aunt Hetty's heart is full of gratitude; Claude and Bee brought safely home by old Drake, have fallen asleep at last in their rooms, while she steals from chamber to chamber to look first at one tired young face and then at the other. But the tears hang on Claude's lashes as he sleeps; and more than once Bee moves restlessly on her pillow and murmurs Tim's name.

The wind, that has been blowing hard all through the night, subsides soon after sunrise. Clouds clear away from the east, and the golden morning shines upon the creamy cliffs of White Cove. Just at the foot of one of the low rocks lies Tim; his brown face turned up to the sky, and his curly hair matted with sea-weed. His life-work is done.

Only Tim;—yes, Master Claude; but what would the world be without such souls as Tim's? Fine manners, fine speech, and fine clothes, of these he had none, but he had what glorifies the earth's greatest sons, he had what the angels rank highly and what God loves, a brave, true, unselfish heart.


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