Read CHAPTER ELEVEN - RUTH AND CAPTAIN BREAM TAKE TO SCHEMING. of The Young Trawler , free online book, by R.M. Ballantyne, on ReadCentral.com.

Returning to London, we will follow Captain Bream, who, one fine morning, walked up to Mrs Dotropy’s mansion at the west end, and applied the knocker vigorously.

“Is Miss Ruth at home?”

Yes, Miss Ruth was at home, and would he walk in.

He was ushered into the library of the mansion; that room in which the Dotropy ancestors, who could not find space among their kindred in the dining-room, held, so to speak, an overflow meeting to themselves.  Ruth soon joined him.

“I’m so glad to see you, Captain Bream,” she said, shaking with much fervency the hand held out to her.  “Sit down.  It is so kind of you to come at once to help me in my little schemes-though I have not seen you to explain why I asked you-but there, I was almost off on another subject before I had begun the one I wish to consult you about.  And, do you know, captain,” added Ruth, with a slightly perplexed look, “I find scheming a very troublesome business!”

“I should think you did, Miss Ruth, and it seems to me that it’s always better to go straight at what you’ve got to do without scheming-all fair an’ aboveboard.  Excuse me, my dear, but an old man who has sailed your lamented father’s ships for over thirty years, and known you since you were a baby, may be allowed to say he’s surprised that you should take to scheming.”

“An old man who has not only sailed my dear father’s ships for over thirty years,” said Ruth, “but has brought me toys from all parts of the world, and has, besides, been as true to the family as the needle to the pole-or truer, if all be true that is said of needles-may say to my father’s daughter exactly what he pleases without the smallest chance of giving offence.  But, let me tell you, sir, that you are a foolish old man, and much too quick in forming your opinions.  Scheming is both justifiable and honourable at times-as I shall soon convince you.”

A beaming smile overspread the captain’s visage as he said-

“Very well, Miss Ruth.  Go on.”

“But before I go on tell me how are the Miss Seawards?”

“Quite well, I believe.  At least I have no reason to think otherwise.  Rather thinnish if anything, but filled out wonderfully since I first saw ’em.”

“That’s good,” said Ruth, laughing.  “And now, do you know why I asked you to go and lodge with them?”

“Well, I always thought it was because you knew I wanted a lodgin’, though I confess it has puzzled me to make out why you wanted me to come to such an out-o’-the-way part o’ the city; and, to tell you the truth, it is rather inconvenient, but your letter was so urgent, Miss Ruth, that I knew you must have some good reason, and as your dear father’s daughter has a right to command me, I obeyed, as you know, without question.”

“You are a good old man,” returned Ruth, laying her hand on the brown fist of the captain and looking up in his face with the same loving girlish look that she had bestowed on him many a time in years past on his frequent visits with foreign toys, “and I shall test your goodness a good deal before I have done with you.”

“Test away, Miss Ruth.  You’ll find I can stand a good deal of testin’.  I haven’t sailed the salt sea for forty years for nothing.”

“Well then,” said Ruth, looking slightly perplexed again.  “What would you do, Captain Bream, if you knew of two ladies who were unable to work, or to find suitable work, and so poor as to be literally starving-what would you do?”

“Give ’em money, of course.”

“But suppose that, owing to some delicacy of feeling, or, perhaps, some sort of mistaken pride, they would not accept money, and flushed very much and felt hurt, if you ventured to offer it to them?”

“Why, then, I’d send ’em victuals.”

“But suppose,” continued Ruth, “that there were great difficulties in the way of doing that, and they felt as much objection to receive gratuitous victuals as money, what would you do then? you would not let them starve, would you?”

“Of course not,” returned the captain, promptly.  “If it fairly came to that I’d be apt to treat ’em as nurses do obstinate infants and castor oil.  I’d take ’em on my knee, force open their mouths, and shove the victuals down their throats.”

Ruth burst into a merry little laugh at this.

“But,” said she, “don’t you think that before proceeding to such forcible treatment you might scheme a little to get them to take it willingly, as nurses sometimes disguise the taste of the oil with coffee or milk?”

“Well, you might scheme a little on that sort of principle, Miss Ruth; but in ordinary cases I prefer straightforward plans myself.”

“Then why, let me ask,” said Ruth with some severity in her look, “do you dare to scheme with the wind as you and all sailors do when it is dead against you?”

“You’re becomin’ too deep for me now, my dear; what d’ee mean?”

“When the wind blows dead against you, say from the north,” replied Ruth, “don’t you begin your naughty-at least your nautical-scheming at once?  Don’t you lay your course to the nor’-west and pretend you are going in that direction, and then don’t you soon tack about-isn’t that what you call it-and steer nor’-east, pretending that you are going that way, when all the time you are wanting to go due north?  What do you call that, sir, if it is not scheming to circumvent the wind?”

While she was speaking, Captain Bream’s smile expanded and broke forth at last in one of his bass broadsides of laughter, which gave Ruth great delight for she had, as a little girl, enjoyed these thunderous laughs excessively, and her taste for them had not departed.

“Well, my dear,” said her visitor, “I admit that there are some sorts o’ fair-an’-above-board schemin’ which ain’t dishonourable, or unworthy of a British sailor.”

“Very good,” returned Ruth; “then listen while I reveal some of my recent scheming.  Some time ago I found out that two very dear friends of mine-who were in delicate health and quite unable to work hard, as well as being unable to find any kind of work whatever-were on the point of starvation.  They would not accept money.  I schemed a little to get them to earn money, but it was not easy, and the result was not a sufficiently permanent income.  At last I thought I would try to get them a boarder-a somewhat rich boarder, whose powerful appetite and large meals might leave some crumbs for-”

“You don’t mean to tell me, Miss Ruth,” interrupted the captain, in amazement, “that the Miss Seawards were in a state of starvation when I went to ’em!”

“Indeed I do,” replied Ruth; “at least as nearly in that state as was compatible with existence.”

“Well, well,” said the captain, “no wonder they looked so thin; and no wonder they’re beginnin’ to be a little better in flesh now, wi’ the legs o’ mutton an’ chops an’ such like things that I get in to take the edge off my appetite-which, as you justly observe, Miss Ruth, is not a bad one.  I’m glad you’ve told me this, however, for I’ll go in for extra heavy feedin’ now.”

“That’s right.  But stay, Captain Bream, I have not nearly done with my scheming yet.  And I shall still want you to help me.”

“Go ahead, my dear.  I’m your man, for, to tell ’ee the downright truth, I’ve taken a great fancy to these two sisters, an’ would steer a long way out o’ my course to help ’em.”

“I knew you would,” returned Ruth with a little look of triumph.  “Whoever comes in contact with these dear friends of mine thinks exactly as you do.  Now, their health is not nearly as good as it ought to be, so I want them to have a change of air.  You see, the poor little street in which they live is not the freshest in London.”

“Exactly so.  They want a trip to Brighton or Broadstairs or Ramsgate, and a whiff of fresh sea-air, eh?” said the captain with a look of satisfaction.

“No not to these places,” said Ruth; “I thought of Yarmouth.”

“Well, Yarmouth-just as good.  Any part o’ the coast will do to blow the London cobwebs out o’ their brains-say Yarmouth.”

“Very good, captain, but my difficulty is, how to manage it.”

“Nothing easier, Miss Ruth.  I will take an afternoon train, run down, hire a lodgin’, come up to-morrow, an’ carry the Miss Seawards off wi’ me.”

“But suppose they won’t go?”

“But they must go.  I’m quite able to take up one under each arm an’ carry ’em off by force if they won’t.”

“I would highly approve of that method, captain, if it were possible, but I’m afraid such things are not permitted in this free country.  No, if done at all, the thing must be gone about with a little more care and delicacy.”

“Well then, I’ll go down an’ take a lodgin’, an’ write up and ask them to pay me a visit for the benefit of their health.”

Ruth shook her pretty little head and frowned.

“Won’t do,” she said.  “I know them too well.  They’re so unselfish that they won’t budge a step to benefit themselves.”

“H’m!  I see, Miss Ruth, we want a little scheming here-eh?  Well, I’ll manage it.  You leave this little matter in my hands, and see if I don’t get ’em to visit Yarmouth, by hook or by crook.  By the way, Miss Ruth, was it one o’ your little schemes, givin’ ’em these mitts and comforters to make?”

“Of course it was,” Ruth replied with a laugh and a blush.  “You see these things are really very much wanted by the North sea fishermen, and a great many benevolent women spend much time in knitting for them-and not only women, but also boys.”

“Boys!” echoed the captain in surprise-“boys knit mitts and comforters?”

“Yes.  I assure you that the telegraph boys of the Notting Hill branch of the Post-office have actually spent some of their spare time in doing this work.”

“I’ll look upon telegraph boys with more respect ever after this,” said the captain with emphasis.

“Well, as I was saying,” continued Ruth, “Mamma bought far more worsted for me than I could ever find time to work up into mitts or comforters, so I have employed the Miss Seawards to do it for me-at so much a pair.  But they don’t know it’s for me, so be careful not to-”

“Yes, yes, I see-more scheming.  Well, I’ll take care not to blab.”

“And I sent the worsted and arranged the transaction through such a dear pretty little fisher-boy from Yarmouth.  But perhaps you have seen him at your lodging.”

“No, I haven’t seen him, but I’ve heard a good deal about him.  The ladies seem to be as much impressed with his sweetness and prettiness as yourself, Miss Ruth.  For my part, I’m not over fond o’ sweet pretty boys.  I prefer ’em rough-cast or even ugly, so long’s they’re smart an’ willin’.”

“Oh! but you have no idea what a smart and willing boy he is,” said Ruth, firing up in defence of her little friend.  “I assure you he is most willing and intelligent, and I do believe he would scratch his face and twist his little nose into a screw if by so doing he could make himself ugly, for I have observed that he is terribly annoyed when people call him pretty-as they often foolishly do.”

“Well, I’ll be off now on this little business,” said the captain, rising and smoothing his hat with his cuff.  “But-but-Miss Ruth- excuse me, you said something about sending the Miss Seawards a rich lodger when you sent me.  How d’ee know I’m rich?”

“Well, I only guessed it,” returned Ruth with a laugh, “and, you know, more than once you have hinted to me that you had got on very well-that God had prospered you-I think these were the words you have sometimes used.”

“These are the words I would always use,” returned the captain.  “The prosperity that has attended me through life I distinctly recognise at being the result of God’s will, not of my wisdom.  Don’t we see that the cleverest of men sometimes fail, and, on the other hand, the most stupid fellows sometimes succeed?  It is God that setteth up one and putteth down another.”

“I’m glad to hear that you think so clearly on this point, captain, though I did not know it before.  It is another bond between us.  However, if I have been wrong in supposing you to be rich, I-”

“Nay, I did not deny it, Miss Ruth, but it does not follow that a man means to say he is rich when he says that he has got on very well.  However, my dear, I don’t mind tellin’ you, as a secret that I am rich-as rich, that is, as there’s any use to be, an’ far richer than I deserve to be.  You must know,” continued the captain, sinking his voice to a hoarse whisper, “that your dear father used to allow me to put my savin’s into his hands for investment, and the investments succeeded so well that at last I found myself in possession of five hundred a year!”

Captain Bream said this with much deliberation and an emphatic nod for each word, while he gazed solemnly in Ruth’s face.  “Not a bad fortune for an old bachelor, eh?  Then,” he continued, after a moment’s pause, “when I was wrecked, two years ago in Australia, I took a fancy to have a look at the gold diggin’s, so off I went to Bendigo, and I set to work diggin’ for the mere fun o’ the thing, and the very first day I turned up a nugget as big as my fist and two of the same sort the day after, an’ then a lot o’ little ones; in fact I had got hold of a first-rate claim, an’ when I had dug away for a month or so I put it all in a big chest, sold the claim, and came straight home, bringin’ the chest with me.  I have it now, up in my cabin yonder.  It well-nigh broke my back gittin’ it up the stair, though my back ain’t a weak one.”

“And how much is the gold worth?” eagerly asked Ruth, who had listened with a sympathetic expression on her face.

“That’s more than I can tell.  I scarce know how to go about convertin’ it into cash; but I’m in no hurry.  Now mind, Miss Ruth, not a word o’ this to any livin’ soul.  Not even to your own mother, for she ain’t my mother, d’ee see, an’ has no right to know it.  In fact I’ve never told it to any one till this day, for I have no one in the wide world to care about it.  Once, indeed, I had-”

He stopped short.

“Ah! you are thinking of your sister?” said the sympathetic Ruth; “the sister whom you once told me about long ago.”

“Yes, Miss Ruth, I was thinkin’ o’ her; but-” He stopped again.

“Do tell me about her,” said Ruth, earnestly.  “Has she been long dead?”

“Dead! my dear.  I didn’t say she was dead, an’ yet it ain’t unlikely she is, for it’s long, long since I heard of her.  There’s not much to tell about her after all,” said the captain, sadly.  “But she was a dear sweet little girl at the time-just turned eighteen-an’ very fond o’ me.  We had no parents living, an’ no kindred except one old aunt, with whom my sister lived.  I was away at the time on a long voyage, and had to take a cargo from the East Indies to China before returnin’ home.  At Hongkong I fell ill, an’ was laid up there for months.  Altogether a good many troubles came on me at that time-though they were blessed troubles to me, for they ended in the saving o’ my soul through my eyes bein’ opened to see my sins and Jesus Christ as my Saviour.  It was three years before I set foot in England again, and when I got back I found that my old aunt was dead, and that my dear sister had married a seaman and gone away-no one knew where.”

“And you’ve never heard of her since?” asked Ruth.

“Never.”

“And don’t know who she married?”

“Know nothin’ more about her, my dear, than I’ve told ’ee.  Good-bye now, Miss Ruth.  I must look sharp about this business of yours.”

He showed such evident disinclination to continue the painful subject, that Ruth forbore to press it, and they parted to prosecute their respective schemes.