The Rudder Grangers Abroad and Other Stories
The Water-Devil: A Marine Tale
In the village of Riprock there was neither tavern nor inn, for it was but a small place
through which few travellers passed; but it could not be said to be without a place of
entertainment, for if by chance a stranger--or two or three of them, for that matter--
wished to stop at Riprock for a meal, or to pass the night, there was the house of
blacksmith Fryker, which was understood to be always open to decent travellers.
The blacksmith was a prominent man in the village, and his house was a large one, with
several spare bedrooms, and it was said by those who had had an opportunity of judging,
that nobody in the village lived better than blacksmith Fryker and his family.
Into the village there came, late one autumn afternoon, a tall man, who was travelling on
foot, with a small valise hanging from his shoulder. He had inquired for lodging for the
night, had been directed to the blacksmith's house, had arranged to stop there, had had his
supper, which greatly satisfied him, and was now sitting before the fire in the large
livingroom, smoking blacksmith Fryker's biggest pipe.
This stranger was a red-haired man, with a cheery expression, and a pair of quick, bright
eyes. He was slenderly but strongly built, and was a good fellow, who would stand by,
with his hands in the pockets of his short pea-jacket, and right willingly tell one who was
doing something how the thing ought to be done.
But the traveller did not sit alone before the crackling fire of logs, for the night being
cool, a table was drawn near to one side of the fire-place, and by this sat Mistress Fryker
and her daughter Joanna, both engaged in some sort of needle-work. The blacksmith sat
between the corner of the fire-place and this table, so that when he had finished smoking
his after-supper pipe, he might put on his spectacles and read the weekly paper by the
light of the big lamp. On the other side of the stranger, whose chair was in front of the
middle of the fire-place, sat the school-master, Andrew Cardly by name; a middle-aged
man of sober and attentive aspect, and very glad when chance threw in his way a book he
had not read, or a stranger who could reinforce his stock of information. At the other
corner of the fire-place, in a cushioned chair, which was always given to him when he
dropped in to spend an evening with the blacksmith, sat Mr. Harberry, an elderly man, a
man of substance, and a man in whom all Riprock, not excluding himself, placed
unqualified confidence as to his veracity, his financial soundness, and his deep insight
into the causes, the influences, and the final issue of events and conditions.
"On a night like this," said the stranger, stretching his long legs toward the blaze, "there is
nothing I like better than a fire of wood, except indeed it be the society of ladies who do
not object to a little tobacco smoke," and he glanced with a smile toward the table with a
lamp upon it.
Now blacksmith Fryker was a prudent man, and he did not consider that the privileges of
his hearthstone--always freely granted to a decent stranger--included an acquaintance