Charles Dickens


four-oared galley hovering about in so unusual a way as to attract

this notice, was an ugly circumstance that I could not get rid of.

When I had induced Provis to go up to bed, I went outside with my

two companions (Startop by this time knew the state of the case),

and held another council. Whether we should remain at the house

until near the steamer's time, which would be about one in the

afternoon; or whether we should put off early in the morning; was

the question we discussed. On the whole we deemed it the better

course to lie where we were, until within an hour or so of the

steamer's time, and then to get out in her track, and drift easily

with the tide. Having settled to do this, we returned into the

house and went to bed.

I lay down with the greater part of my clothes on, and slept well

for a few hours. When I awoke, the wind had risen, and the sign of

the house (the Ship) was creaking and banging about, with noises

that startled me. Rising softly, for my charge lay fast asleep, I

looked out of the window. It commanded the causeway where we had

hauled up our boat, and, as my eyes adapted themselves to the light

of the clouded moon, I saw two men looking into her. They passed by

under the window, looking at nothing else, and they did not go down

to the landing-place which I could discern to be empty, but struck

across the marsh in the direction of the Nore.

My first impulse was to call up Herbert, and show him the two men

going away. But, reflecting before I got into his room, which was

at the back of the house and adjoined mine, that he and Startop had

had a harder day than I, and were fatigued, I forbore. Going back

to my window, I could see the two men moving over the marsh. In

that light, however, I soon lost them, and feeling very cold, lay

down to think of the matter, and fell asleep again.

We were up early. As we walked to and fro, all four together,

before breakfast, I deemed it right to recount what I had seen.

Again our charge was the least anxious of the party. It was very

likely that the men belonged to the Custom House, he said quietly,

and that they had no thought of us. I tried to persuade myself that

it was so - as, indeed, it might easily be. However, I proposed

that he and I should walk away together to a distant point we could

see, and that the boat should take us aboard there, or as near

there as might prove feasible, at about noon. This being considered

a good precaution, soon after breakfast he and I set forth, without

saying anything at the tavern.

He smoked his pipe as we went along, and sometimes stopped to clap

me on the shoulder. One would have supposed that it was I who was

in danger, not he, and that he was reassuring me. We spoke very

little. As we approached the point, I begged him to remain in a

sheltered place, while I went on to reconnoitre; for, it was

towards it that the men had passed in the night. He complied, and I

went on alone. There was no boat off the point, nor any boat drawn

up anywhere near it, nor were there any signs of the men having

embarked there. But, to be sure the tide was high, and there might

have been some footpints under water.

When he looked out from his shelter in the distance, and saw that I

waved my hat to him to come up, he rejoined me, and there we

waited; sometimes lying on the bank wrapped in our coats, and

sometimes moving about to warm ourselves: until we saw our boat

coming round. We got aboard easily, and rowed out into the track of

the steamer. By that time it wanted but ten minutes of one o'clock,

and we began to look out for her smoke.

But, it was half-past one before we saw her smoke, and soon

afterwards we saw behind it the smoke of another steamer. As they

were coming on at full speed, we got the two bags ready, and took

that opportunity of saying good-bye to Herbert and Startop. We had

all shaken hands cordially, and neither Herbert's eyes nor mine

were quite dry, when I saw a four-oared galley shoot out from under

the bank but a little way ahead of us, and row out into the same