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First Love, v. 1


cration, she converted her fruit-pole into a weapon defensive and offensive, and
hobbling towards the poor child, drove him from her premises; over the boundary
of which, long after he had so far escaped, she continued to address to him, at the
very top of her voice, every opprobrious epithet of which she was mistress: her
shrill tones the while collecting, at the heels of the fugitive, hooting boys, and
barking curs innumerable. These, however, did not follow him far; and when they
returned to their homes or their sports, he wandered about for the rest of the day,
avoiding houses and people, and fearing that every one he met would beat him.
At length, towards evening, he found himself on the borders of the lake of Derwent,
and seeing a boat fastened close to the land, he got into it; partly with the idea of
hiding him
[8]
self, and partly with a vague recollection of having often wished to be a sailor -boy,
when begging about with his mother in sea-port towns. He rolled himself up in an
old cloak which lay under one of the benches, where, exhausted by pain, hunger, and
fatigue, he fell asleep.
Shortly after our poor wanderer had chosen this refuge, in stepped Master Henry St.
Aubin, whose pleasure-boat it was, to take a sail alone, contrary to reiterated
commands, and for no other reason, but because, for fear of accidents, he had been
desired never to go without a servant. He pushed from the land, and began to
arrange his canvass. He put up his main-sail, which filling immediately, bent his little
bark on one side, almost level with the water, and made it fly across the lake in great
style. When, however, it got under shade of the high mountains on the Borrowdale
coast,
[9]
the breeze slackened, and he determined to add his mizen and jib; but what was his
surprise, when, on attempting to remove the old cloak which lay near them, he
discovered within its folds the sleeping boy. Supposing him to be a spy placed there
to watch his movements, and report his disobedience, he began to curse and swear,
kicked at him under the bench, and ordered him to pack out of his boat instantly.
The poor child, but half awake, gazed all round him, got up as well as his bruises
would permit, and was about to obey in silence; but, when, he saw how far they
were from land, he hesitated; upon which Henry took up a rope’s end, and lashed at
him in the manner that sailors call starting, repeating at each stroke, “Jump, spy!
jump!”
Driven almost wild with the pain of the blows, the child at last did jump; but, at the
[10]
same moment, caught instinctively at the side of the boat, to which he hung with
both hands, and so kept his head above water. Henry set up a loud laugh, and rowed
out, towing him after him. Then, willing to make sport for himself, by terrifying the
beggar brat, he attempted to push his fingers off the edge of the boat, but they clung
to it with all the tenacity of self preservation; when the one hand was forced for a
moment from its hold, the grasp of the other became but the more convulsively
strong; and when the second was assailed by the united efforts of both of Henry’s,
the first returned to its former position.
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