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Raromi, or, The Maori Chief's Heir

Chapter II. Noble at Work

page 12

Chapter II. Noble at Work.

Hullo, Falconer! Come along, hurrah! for a "tot;" you're late,' said the barkeeper. 'Good evening, boss,' replied the new-comer.

'Why, what's up, Falconer? You're late, and you look as sober as a judge!'

'Do I? I mean to keep so.'

'Here you are; fill up! Come on, Falconer, have a good "nip" for luck. Three cheers for—'

'Not to-night, lads. I've given up drink. Let me pay my score and be off.'

The barkeeper and the drinking crew of sailors and beach-combers actually stared at him, speechless for a moment. Never had they known a sailor, in health and in his senses, who refused to drink, and especially with his old companions.

'Why, what's up, Falconer? You're ill!'

'No! I'm first-rate.'

'He's turned "Methodiss,"' cried one of the gang, exasperated. 'Give him a white "choker!"'

'It would be a good thing for you,' replied Falconer, 'if you were a "Methodiss," if it kept you from drink, and taught you to pay your debts.'

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'I told you so,' sneered another; 'give him a tub to stand on, he'll give us a sermon in a minute.'

'Yes, I'll give you a sermon in a few words, Garry: don't eat and drink until you've paid your debts like an honest man.'

'Ha, ha! that's good,' added the barkeeper. 'Come, Garry, my lad, what about your old score?'

But the half-drunken crew had had enough of Falconer's quiet humour. They were heated by drink, and were ready for mischief.

'No man ever refused to drink with me,' cried Garry, the biggest and roughest of the lot, 'or else—'

'Or else what?'

'Why, just look here, my fine fellow; you think too much of yourself, and I'll take it out of you!'

'Go away, Garry,' added Falconer, laughing. 'You'll lose the grog; see how the others are lapping it up.'

'Let him alone, Garry,' said the barkeeper. 'I know all about it. Noble's at the bottom of it all. He's always prowling about after Falconer. I'll be one with him yet; he's my enemy.'

'I advise you to let him alone,' said Falconer, seriously. 'He's my friend, and whoever touches him touches me. But no one with the heart of a man in him would touch a poor cripple; I won't believe it!'

'How big we are!' sneered Garry; 'and yet led by the nose by a bit of a dwarf.'

'I tell you, man,' replied Falconer, warmly,' that poor crooked body covers a brave heart, a noble soul, which is more than you can boast of having,'

'Speak for yourself, not for me.'

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'Oh, I know my own faults, and I'm ashamed of them. By Noble's help I hope to shake off a few.'

'No doubt, and your old chums too.'

'Most of them, probably. And, seeing the little good they do me, it won't be much loss, I fancy.'

Falconer turned away and left the Bar; but directly he did so the drinkers followed him,' to take a rise out of him,' as they said.

Noble sat on one side of his cottage, and, strange to say, his hands were idle;—he was dull and sad. His side, his whole frame, pained him, and he felt low-spirited.

'Come! come! Noble,' said he to himself,' what a silly old fellow you are, you're down in the dumps again. You're poor, are you? You're going to starve, are you?

'Ah! see what pride did for you—lifted you up to the skies, and then knocked away the ladder from under your feet, and down you came. Thank God, you silly old fellow, you have a shelter you can call your own, with a bit of garden. And you have the great privilege of working with your own hands, like the great Apostle Paul—what more do you want?

'But mind, if you want any peace here, if you want to look up, and feel you have God's blessing, then, he must be saved, at all risks.

'And Clara? Two lives in my keeping! Perhaps their future for all time depends on me.

'And yet I dare not reveal her secret—poor, faithful heart—nor his!'

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Just then a heavy, blundering knock was heard at the door, the latch was lifted—

'What is it, my good woman? Why, it's Mrs. Crappy!'

Mrs. Crappy, a gaunt, hungry-looking woman, rushed in, threw herself into a chair, and began to moan and rock herself about.

'What's the matter, Mrs. Crappy?'

'He's dying—he's dying!'

'Dying! But who?'

'Crappy, to be sure! They had such a terrible fight down town somewhere, and he's dying—dying! May God have mercy on us! What shall we do? oh, what shall we do, Mr. Noble?' The poor woman broke down, and sobbed aloud in her misery.

The little man guessed that his help was wanted. He set to work at once. He gathered up lint, and ointment, and other little matters out of a small box, and put them carefully into a kind of old satchel. Then shuffling into a big overcoat, he opened the door, saying cheerfully, 'Come along, Mrs. Crappy, we'll see what we can do.'

Crappy was in a terrible plight. His mates had thrown him on his bed, and there Noble found him, dirty, battered, bleeding, and hardly conscious.

'Humph!' said Noble to himself; 'drink again!'

One arm was badly hurt; and when Noble felt amongst his ribs he groaned with pain. His face too was covered with blood, dirt, and bruises.

Noble worked hard and long, washing, binding up, and soothing the wounded man. He seemed to know page 16what to do, and he did it with a quick and tender touch.

When Noble left, he toiled along homeward with great difficulty. Slower and slower he walked, suffering very acutely. At times he was racked by sharp pains and these took away his strength.

'My poor side!' he murmured, stopping; adding 'Come, come, Noble, be a man. A few more steps and then—'

But the little man had overtasked his strength. His head swam round. His legs gave way under him, and clutching at a fence to save himself, he sank down in a faint.

'Hullo! Who is this?'

'It's Noble,' cried Falconer, in amazement and g[gap — reason: damage] 'Who has done this? If I find out any of them had a hand in this,' he cried out fiercely, 'let them look out!'

Not long afterwards Noble gave a sigh, and opening his eyes found himself lying on his bed, and Falconer bending over him, at his wits' end to know what to do.

'It's only a faint,' said Noble; 'I'm all right now and so glad you are here. I'm better already—all directly you are with me.'

'Thank God!' exclaimed Falconer, greatly relieved.

'But do stay a bit with me. I am so—oh, what's that? Your head is cut; you have been hurt!'

'It's nothing. I was set upon by the loafers at the Bar. I got away from them and went home, but some page 17how I couldn't rest. The barkeeper had threatened to [gap — reason: damage]ve you out, so I came along to see if all was right.

[gap — reason: damage] what a fright you gave me, when I found you on the found, insensible. I'll stay with you now and keep anchor-watch.'

Falconer finished the night by the fire.