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Distant Homes; or the Graham Family in New Zealand

Chapter XV

page 102

Chapter XV.

Aps gets into the Boat—Nearly Drowned—Tom Faints.

Shortly after breakfast, Captain Graham and the two workmen went off as usual. Mrs. Graham went into the kitchen, first telling the children that she hoped they would be prepared to receive some friends that night, as the clergyman from Christchurch was coming, and with him his wife and two sons. Here was a surprise. The clergyman, whom I mentioned before as getting the girls leave to attend the school, was a great favourite with them both. Tom had never seen his sons, who had been at college at Auckland, but was quite delighted at the idea of naving boys with him, and went off immediately to see if his boat was in order.

Lucy and Beatrice went off to finish threading the red berries, having first appointed to meet Tom at a favourite spot in the forest.

The morning passed quickly away, as all mornings do when people are very busy, and, just about two o'clock, Lucy and Beatrice set off to the wood, carrying with them a basket containing Tom's and their dinner, to which Bridget had added some beautiful mince-pies. Neither of them remarked Aps following them; and their Mamma, page 103 seeing him close beside them as they passed out of the garden, concluded they were taking him with them, and, rather glad to be quite at liberty to help Bridget, did not say anything, though she did not usually permit him to go to the forest.

Perfectly unconscious, the girls hurried on, talking of the delights of the morrow; wondering what their Papa was doing, and what surprise their mother had prepared. Meanwhile, Aps followed, without saying a word; but, presently, catching a glimpse of a beautiful butterfly, he gave chase, and ran on until he lost sight of his sisters. He was just a little frightened when he found he was quite alone, and very nearly began to cry. He would have done so at once if he had been in England, but even Aps, though little more than four years old, had learnt to be very manly and independent during the time that had elapsed since their settling in the plains, and, imitating Tom in everything, had become quite a determined little fellow, and very seldom cried, except when he was angry. Now, he was frightened; but, remembering Tom's boat-house was near, it suddenly entered into his head that it would be a capital opportunity for an excursion in the boat, and, having been anxious, for some time, to be allowed to get into it alone, he ran off, delighted at the chance, and hoping he would not see Tom.

There was very little danger of this, for Tom had gone about half-a-mile down the stream, to meet his sisters, and had left the boat, as he thought, quite safely moored by a thick cord.

Aps clapped his hands with glee, and, running down, scrambled into the boat; but, here he was puzzled, the page 104 boat was tied, so he had to content himself with jumping about, making it swing in the water. By doing this, he got the boat into the stream, and she was very soon straining and hauling at the rope, keeping a couple of yards from the bank. Aps did not see this at first, but, when he had played a long time, and began to feel hungry, he thought he would go home, get some dinner, and then steal back again.

This, however, was easier said than done. He looked over and saw the deep water on every side. What could he do. He was very hungry, and just a little frightened. He had seen Tom and his Papa swimming, and did not know why he should not, so, after thinking for a while, he got up to the edge of the boat and went deliberately into the water.

Now, as poor Aps had not the least notion of swimming, and was a fat, heavy child, the first thing he did was to go flop down to the bottom. He rose, coughing and choking, to the top, and gave a loud scream, trying to catch hold of the boat; but the foolish little boy had got over the wrong side of the boat, and was already in the power of the stream. He felt it carrying him away, and tried to think what he should do. He threw out his little arms and legs the way he had seen Tom do, but he soon tired. Then he remembered seeing his brother lying upon his back upon the top of the water, so he stretched himself out, and presently floated along as smoothly and easily as possible, his clothes acting as buoys. He was not frightened now, but rather enjoyed it. Still, he did not like the idea of floating all the way down to the sea, so began shouting for Tom as loud as ever he could.

page 105

Now, it happened that, after eating their dinner, Tom and the girls thought they would go to the banks of the river, to gather some of the beautiful lilies and flags that grew there. They were heaping up a large pile of the latter, when a loud scream drew off their attention. They knew Aps's voice directly, and, throwing down their flowers, looked at each other in consternation, Tom's face flushing crimson, while Lucy's was as white as a sheet. Another and another scream rang in the air, and acting upon one impulse, the three ran down to the brink of the river, just where a sharp turn sent the stream against the bank, with considerable force. What was their horror to see their brother lying on the surface of the water, and being carried past at great speed. Lucy gave a loud shriek, which was very nearly having the effect of drowning poor Aps, who was so happy when he heard her voice that he forgot he must lie still, and tried to look up.

“Lie still, lie still, Aps,” shouted Tom, pulling off his boots and jacket. “Lie still, and I'll pull you out.”

But poor Aps had made a false move, his head got under water, and down he went. Tom was in in a moment, and Lucy sank down upon her knees, and, covering her face with her hands, dare not look. Presently the poor little child rose to the surface just beside Tom, who seized him by the dress, and shouted to Lucy to come to the edge and catch him.

Lucy tottered to her feet, and managed to get to the brink of the river, where Tom was holding on by the grass and rushes with one hand and supporting Aps with the other.

“Take hold, Luce; he's all right,” called Tom; “only be quick, for he's very heavy, and the stream is strong; quick, dear.”

page 106

Poor Tom was gasping, although he did not say so. The exertion of holding Aps against the rapid stream was almost beyond his strength. Lucy stooped down, but could not reach the surface of the water.

“Oh Tom,” she groaned, “I can't reach.”

“Lie down, dear. Oh! be quick.”

“Down Lucy went, and this time her hands grasped Aps's clothes, and, before she knew how she did it, he was safe on the bank beside her. Tom clambered up and lay panting beside him. Poor Aps was white and shivering, much too frightened even to cry, which, when he began to see he was safe, he did with a right good will. Aps had strong lungs, and could make himself heard a long way off, so much so, that his Mamma had often threatened to send him to bed if he cried so loud.

Now, it happened that directly the children had seen Aps in the water, Beatrice, thinking it the best way, ran off home for help, and was coming back with her Mamma and Bridget, running as fast as possible, when Aps's cries reached them. You may fancy how delighted poor Mrs. Graham was, when the welcome cry struck her ears; for she knew, by the very sound, that he was safe. Every mother knows by the tone of her child's voice, whether it is crying from fear, pain, or only passion.

Bridget, who ran faster than her mistress, had Aps in her arms, when she came up, and was patting and kissing him in a frantic way.

They were all so occupied with the child, that no one remarked Tom, who lay, pale and insensible upon the bank, his face just enough covered to escape observation.

But when Lucy had told how Tom jumped in, and page break
Aps Saved from Drowing.

Aps Saved from Drowing.

page break page 107 pulled him out, Bridget, who was very proud of anything her favourite did, ran up to Tom, saying,— “Get up, Acushla; ye’ av done the deed of a haro.”

But Tom did not move, and they found the poor boy had fainted, and now required more looking to than the cause of the accident, who had only got a severe fright and a wetting. Bridget took him up in her arms, and, with tears in her eyes, carried him up as fast as she could, and laid him by the kitchen fire; then getting some brandy, she put some in his mouth, and rubbed a handful on his chest; gradually the colour returned, and Mrs. Graham, who was holding his head upon her knees, felt him shudder.

“God bless him!—he's all right now, dear Mistress; he'll be best in bed. Come, Master Tom, you're a noble boy! Acushla, let me carry ye up; I'll do it as gently as av ye were a lamb.”

“What is it, Biddy? Mamma!—Where am I?—Oh, Aps!—Where is he?—is he safe?”

Quite safe, my brave noble boy,” said Mr. Graham. “You saved him, Tom; I have to thank you, dear, for Aps's life.”

“Oh, Mamma!” said Tom, “I thought I could not hold him. If Lucy had not behaved so well, we should both have been drowned. Indeed, Lucy, your presence of mind saved us both.”

Lucy blushed with astonishment and delight. She thought she had been so very foolish, and that she had done nothing; and here was Tom praising her for her presence of mind, and telling her she had saved his life. The scene on board ship during the storm flashed upon page 108 her; and, creeping up to her Mamma, she put her arms round her, and whispered, “You'll forget the earthquake now, dear Mamma.”

This accident had quite put a stop to all the preparations for the next day, and threw them all out; for Mrs-Graham would not let Tom get out of bed until late in the afternoon, when he had a good sleep, and declared he felt as well, or better, than ever he did, and must go and get some evergreens, etc., for the girls. Seeing he looked as bright and rosy as usual, his mother consented to his dressing, and going about.

So he, Lucy, and Beatrice were soon on their way to the forest, to gather more flowers, while Master Aps was sound asleep in bed; this time shut into the room, with no chance of getting out, to cause more anxiety that day. Mrs. Graham could not help being proud of the coolness and forethought the little child had displayed, and, like most mammas, thought she had one of the most wonderful children in the world.