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Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir

Chapter I. The Vow

page 7

Chapter I. The Vow.

Come, Noble, let me help you. You'll never get home at that rate.'

'Ah, Falconer, how glad I am to see you—so bonny, so strong! You always put me in mind of a big, noble ship under full sail God bless you, lad!'

'Then, as you are making heavy weather of it, I, the big ship, must take you in tow.'

'My bonny sailorlad, how often I think of you—and watch for you yonder, hoping—'

'Don't trouble about me, Noble, I'm not worth it. I'm only a—a beach-comber—on my "beam ends"—going to ruin!'

'To ruin, Falconer! No, never,' said Noble, stopping and looking up at the big sailor; 'weak, unworthy as I am, I will stand between you and ruin—God helping me.'

Serious thoughts filled each heart, and the two walked on in silence.

Noble always seemed to others to be contented and page 8happy, minding his own business, and living a simple, earnest, hard-working life. Everybody thought his name was Noble, so everybody gave it him, and it suited him well.

Nobody, however, knew who he was, or where he came from, and yet everybody in Port Nic. knew him, and knew his kind, unselfish character, and his affection for the big sailor, Falconer.

Noble lived alone. He had a small wooden cottage and some land, lying back from the harbour, on high ground, and away from the town; and his view embraced the whole extent of the magnificent harbour—a panoramic scene of great beauty and of vast extent. Here Noble worked on his land, or made nets and fishing lines when unable to work out of doors.

'You don't get along to-day,' said Falconer; 'I'll carry you—on my back. I'm strong—and useless;—and you're weak, and always at work. You look ill!'

'It's nothing, lad; only a bit of pain in my side. But here we are at home. Come in and have a bit of supper.'

'Not now; I'm going to meet some lads down town.'

'Sit down a minute, then, and cheer me up, lad. That's it. Now I can see you. To see your bonny bright face, and hear your open, ringing laugh, puts new life in me; and I thank God with all my heart for giving us such big, brave, sailor-lads, like yourself. Yes, let's have a chat together.'

The deformed little man buzzed and hummed about cheerfully; now chatting, and now inciting Falconer to chat, until in a few minutes his little deal table was laid page 9for supper, and a smoking dish of fragrant stew enticed the hungry sailor to stay.

'I'm off, Noble,' cried Falconer, jumping up.

'Listen! Falconer. Have a good plate of stew, and a talk with your old friend. Then, having warmed my poor old heart, and done me a world of good, you'll be just in time to go down town.'

Noble said grace with deep reverence, and the two sat down to a meal which was greatly relished, for both were hungry. Never had Falconer laughed more heartily, nor had the dwarf been gayer when listening to Falconer's boisterous mirth.

'Now I must go!' cried the sailor.

'Won't you stay a little longer?'

'Not to-night; but I'II soon come in again, never fear.'

'Oh, Falconer!' said Noble, holding the sailor by the hand, and speaking with deep emotion; 'don't go with the drunken gang at Barrett's Bar. With them you'll lose your manliness, your self-respect, your all; all that makes life of value and use. My heart yearns for you, oh, my son, my son, but you are in great danger!'

'Never fear for me, Noble.'

'But I do fear, lad. I must speak out the truth. Those men are a bad-hearted lot, a band of drunkards. Would you become like them? Brave as a lion before the foe, or in danger, you are as weak as water amongst false friends!'

'I'm not afraid,' said Falconer, with a laugh.

'That's what troubles me. I wish you were afraid to join that crew at the Bar; what will the end of it be?'

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'I don't know, and hardly care!' replied Falconer, somewhat bitterly.

'Think! a blow, a false step, a plunge over the jetty, and a brave blue-jacket disappears for ever! Oh, Falconer, when I think of this, and tremble to think it might happen to you, my heart is full of sorrow!' Noble trembled with emotion, and tears stood in his eyes.

His words were not lost. His heart, his life, had spoken to the sailor with irresistible force. And now, at last, the hidden forces of a noble nature responded to the call.

Falconer was deeply touched. He drew himself up, and looked straight into his friend's eyes, with the air of a man whose mind is made up.

'Oh! Noble,' he exclaimed, grasping his hands tightly, 'what you say is too true. I am utterly ashamed of myself. The companion of drunkards and fools, I shall soon be the same, if I'm not that already. But look here! In your presence I vow, before God, to give up the company of drunkards; I'll touch drink no more, come what may of it!'

'Your hand on it, Falconer.'

They gripped each other's right hand.

'I can trust you now, my bonny lad; but mind, the moment of trial must come. Let us both now work, act, and think together. Have something useful to do, and do it. You were meant for better things, I know it. God bless you!'

When Falconer was gone, Noble sat at the door of his cottage buried in thought; and his eyes and thoughts seemed to roam over the upland at his feet, over the page 11great expanse of blue water forming the magnificent harbour; over to the lofty ranges bounding his vision; and then up to the clear blue sky forming the vault of the heavens.

'Alone, alone! A solitary old man!' he murmured to himself. 'Alone, and yet not alone. No. As I look round on this beautiful, wonderful scene, this Nature teeming with life, full of sunshine and beauty, I feel myself a part of it God speaks to me through it, as He never spoke in the olden time, and my fears are hushed. I listen and I hear Him. What care I for the wealth I once craved for, and sinned for, alas! God has stripped me of it to shew me how hollow and false it made me. There I am again, dreaming; and about myself, always about myself!

'Falconer, my brave sailor, you should fill my thoughts, my life. The thought of you should nerve me to action. My debt to you is great; great shall be the payment, if God will only help me to do it.

'But will he stand the test? It must come. It comes to all of us, sooner or later. Will he stand the taunt, the sneer, the laugh, and not be turned from the right? Will he come out of all this faithful and true? If he does, he is saved. O God, help me!' cried the old man; 'help me to save him—to save him from ruin!'