Page:Court Royal.djvu/15

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


over the ham and sausage shop, Thresher by name, saw what was the matter; her visual ray was not cut off by the washing. She shouted some practical advice, then turned and scolded her husband, who lay on the bed with his boots upon the pillow, reading a Radical paper. After that she drew on a jacket and descended to the quay.

Some men, moreover, who had finished their dinner, issued from the eating-houses to ascertain what was the matter, and those who had not done bolted the rest of their food, fearful of being too late for an accident, yet unwilling to leave unconsumed good victuals for which they had paid.

The screams became louder, shriller. Then they were interrupted for a minute, again to ring forth as loudly as before.

The cries issued from the lungs of a child—a girl—of twelve, who was in the arms of a wretched-looking woman. They were near the edge of the quay when the screams began. The woman was attempting to fling herself and the child into the water. The girl had her arms about an old cannon, planted in the granite coping as a hold for hawsers, and clung to it desperately. Finally, the superior strength of the woman prevailed, and she precipitated herself and the child over the edge into the Pool. Then, for a moment, the cries were silenced, for a moment only, while the child was under water. Both rose to the surface, covered with mud, near a chain. In a moment, the child saw her opportunity, grasped the chain, and crawled up it, with the water streaming from her, looking like a drowning rat, and again she shrieked as loud as her lungs would allow.

In a moment, also, the pierkeeper was at hand in the boat. He lifted the woman out of the water, and then laid hold of the child. The latter, unable at first to distinguish that the hands grasping her were not those of her mother, and that the object for which she was grasped was not to drown her, clung frantically to the chain, and yelled with such force and penetration in the tones, that the guard lost patience, and said angrily, ‘Let go, you squalling cat, will you?’

Instantly the child relaxed her hold, and allowed herself to be lifted into the boat. She knew, by the voice, that she was in the hands of a man, come to save her. When she was in the boat, she dipped her palms in the water, and washed the mud from her eyes and mouth and nose. After that she set