Charles Dickens

Leaving the rest in the boat, I stepped ashore, and

found the light to be in a window of a public-house. It was a dirty

place enough, and I dare say not unknown to smuggling adventurers;

but there was a good fire in the kitchen, and there were eggs and

bacon to eat, and various liquors to drink. Also, there were two

double-bedded rooms - "such as they were," the landlord said. No

other company was in the house than the landlord, his wife, and a

grizzled male creature, the "Jack" of the little causeway, who was

as slimy and smeary as if he had been low-water mark too.

With this assistant, I went down to the boat again, and we all came

ashore, and brought out the oars, and rudder, and boat-hook, and

all else, and hauled her up for the night. We made a very good meal

by the kitchen fire, and then apportioned the bedrooms: Herbert and

Startop were to occupy one; I and our charge the other. We found

the air as carefully excluded from both, as if air were fatal to

life; and there were more dirty clothes and bandboxes under the

beds than I should have thought the family possessed. But, we

considered ourselves well off, notwithstanding, for a more solitary

place we could not have found.

While we were comforting ourselves by the fire after our meal, the

Jack - who was sitting in a corner, and who had a bloated pair of

shoes on, which he had exhibited while we were eating our eggs and

bacon, as interesting relics that he had taken a few days ago from

the feet of a drowned seaman washed ashore - asked me if we had

seen a four-oared galley going up with the tide? When I told him

No, he said she must have gone down then, and yet she "took up

too," when she left there.

"They must ha' thought better on't for some reason or another,"

said the Jack, "and gone down."

"A four-oared galley, did you say?" said I.

"A four," said the Jack, "and two sitters."

"Did they come ashore here?"

"They put in with a stone two-gallon jar, for some beer. I'd

ha'been glad to pison the beer myself," said the Jack, "or put some

rattling physic in it."


"I know why," said the Jack. He spoke in a slushy voice, as if much

mud had washed into his throat.

"He thinks," said the landlord: a weakly meditative man with a pale

eye, who seemed to rely greatly on his Jack: "he thinks they was,

what they wasn't."

"I knows what I thinks," observed the Jack.

"You thinks Custum 'Us, Jack?" said the landlord.

"I do," said the Jack.

"Then you're wrong, Jack."

"Am I!"

In the infinite meaning of his reply and his boundless confidence

in his views, the Jack took one of his bloated shoes off, looked

into it, knocked a few stones out of it on the kitchen floor, and

put it on again. He did this with the air of a Jack who was so

right that he could afford to do anything.

"Why, what do you make out that they done with their buttons then,

Jack?" asked the landlord, vacillating weakly.

"Done with their buttons?" returned the Jack. "Chucked 'em

overboard. Swallered 'em. Sowed 'em, to come up small salad. Done

with their buttons!"

"Don't be cheeky, Jack," remonstrated the landlord, in a melancholy

and pathetic way.

"A Custum 'Us officer knows what to do with his Buttons," said the

Jack, repeating the obnoxious word with the greatest contempt,

"when they comes betwixt him and his own light. A Four and two

sitters don't go hanging and hovering, up with one tide and down

with another, and both with and against another, without there

being Custum 'Us at the bottom of it." Saying which he went out in

disdain; and the landlord, having no one to reply upon, found it

impracticable to pursue the subject.

This dialogue made us all uneasy, and me very uneasy. The dismal

wind was muttering round the house, the tide was flapping at the

shore, and I had a feeling that we were caged and threatened.