Page:Court Royal.djvu/18

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a man’s mouth, but natur’ herself protests when you see either in the mouth of a woman.’

‘Did you hear how the little creature squealed?’ asked the pierkeeper.

‘Her cries drew me from my dinner, and lost me the picking of my rabbit-bones,’ said one of the men.

‘I’d have had another glass of ale,’ said a second, ‘but I thought two foreigners was lighting and sticking knives into each other. I wouldn’t ha’ missed that. I was always a bit of a sportsman since I was a boy.’

‘I cried,’ said the girl, ‘because I would not let mother drown me.’

‘And cry tha’ did, by jiggers!’ exclaimed a skipper, a large man from Yorkshire. ‘I was down in my cabin when tha’ piped.’

‘Look here,’ said the pier-guard; ‘if us stand here in a knot, the police will be suspecting something and turn their beaks this way. Then they’ll have this unfortunate female up before the magistrates on the double charge of felo-de-se and felo-de-child, and transport her for it to Dartmoor. So let us be moving. Now then, ma’am!’—he spoke to the woman, planting himself before her, legs apart, and his hands on his hips—‘if you will pass your word that you won’t play no more of these pranks, I’ll let you go; if not, I’ll tow you into custody myself.’

‘No, sir, I won’t do it no more,’ said the miserable creature.

‘Her sha’n’t!’ protested the child.

‘What is to be done with them?’ asked the pierman. ‘They are both wet to the marrow of their bones.’

No one was prepared with an answer. One man, suspecting a subscription, tailed away.

‘You must go home and have a change,’ said the pierman kindly. ‘And let me counsel a drop of hot grog. It will drive the chill out of you and the squealer.’

‘I have no home—I have no change! I have nowhere and nothing,’ answered the woman mournfully.

‘There is that blessed institootion, the Work’us, always open,’ said one man in a tone of sarcasm.

‘I’d rather drown than go there,’ answered she; ‘there they’d take my Joanna from me.’

A grunt of assent.

‘Her’s got the proper principles of a Christian,’ said the woman in the red petticoat. ‘I’d go into Sutton Pool myself