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Adventures of Don Lavington: Nolens Volens

George Manville Fenn

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The Adventures of Don Lavington, by George Manville Fenn.


  Lindon, known as Don, is a boy in his late teens who has left school,and who lives with his mother and uncle Josiah, his father being dead,and works as a clerk in the office, the business being sugar and tobaccoimportation, in Bristol, England, which he does not much like.

  One day some money is missing from the office. It's pretty obvious whothe thief is, but Uncle Josiah continues to accuse Don. Another workerhas a row with his new young wife, and Don and he (Jem) decide to goaway for a bit, both feeling rather ill-used. Unfortunately they aretaken that night by the press-gang, and after some attempts to get away,they sail away to New Zealand. Here they manage to escape from theship, though the search for them is keen. They fall in with someMaoris, among whom lives an Englishman, who is actually an escapedconvict, but a good chap nonetheless. They assist the Maoris in theirown battles against other tribes.

  The scene turns to some English settlers. They become friendly with ourheroes. A Maori tribe attacks then, having been set up to do so bythree villains, who have also escaped from the convict settlement atNorfolk Island. They hold their own, but there is a timely interventionby the police. One of the three villains turn out to have been the manwho actually stole the money from Uncle Josiah's office. From this pointthings begin to turn out for the better, and the two heroes return toEngland, and all is forgiven. NH





  "Mind your head! Crikey! That was near, 'nother inch, and you'd ha'crushed him like an eggshell."

  "Well, you told me to lower down."

  "No, I didn't, stupid."

  "Yes, you did."

  "No, I didn't. You're half tipsy, or half asleep, or--"

  "There, there, hold your tongue, Jem. I'm not hurt, and Mike thoughtyou said lower away. That's enough."

  "No, it arn't enough, Mas' Don. Your uncle said I was to soop'rintend,and a nice row there'd ha' been when he come back if you hadn't had anyhead left."

  "Wouldn't have mattered much, Jem. Nobody would have cared."

  "Nobody would ha' cared? Come, I like that. What would your mother ha'said to me when I carried you home, and told her your head had beenscrunched off by a sugar-cask?"

  "You're right, Mas' Don. Nobody wouldn't ha' cared. You aren't wantedhere. Why don't you strike for liberty, my lad, and go and make yourfortun' in furren parts?"

  "Same as you have, Mike Bannock? Now just you look ye here. If ever Ihears you trying to make Master Don unsettled again, and setting himagen his work, I tells Mr Chris'mas, and no begging won't get you backon again. Fortun' indeed! Why, you ragged, penny-hunting, lazy,drunken rub-shoulder, you ought to be ashamed of yourself!"

  "And I arn't a bit, Jem Wimble, not a bit. Never you mind him, MasterDon, you strike for freedom. Make your uncle give you your father'smoney, and then off you goes like a man to see life."

  "Now lookye here," cried the sturdy, broad-faced young fellow who hadfirst spoken, as he picked up a wooden lever used for turning over thegreat sugar-hogsheads lying in the yard, and hoisting them into atrolly, or beneath the crane which raised them into the warehouse."Lookye here, Mike Bannock, I never did knock a man down with this herewooden bar, but if you gets stirring Mas' Don again, has it you do,right across the back. Spang!"

  "Be quiet, Jem, and put the bar down," said Lindon Lavington, a dark,well set-up lad of seventeen, as he sat upon the head of asugar-hogshead with his arms folded, slowly swinging his legs.

  "No, I sha'n't put the bar down, Mas' Don. Your uncle left me in chargeof the yard, and--what yer sitting on the sugar-barrel for when there'sa 'bacco hogshead close by? Now just you feel how sticky you are."

  Don got off the barrel, and made a face, as he proved with one hand thetruth of the man's words, and then rubbed his treacly fingers againstthe warehouse wall.

  "Your mother'll make a row about that, just as my Sally does when I getmolasses on my clothes."

  "You should teach her to lick it off, Jemmy Wimble," said therough-looking, red-faced labourer, who had lowered down a sugar-hogsheadso rapidly, that he had been within an inch of making it unnecessary towrite Don Lavington's life, from the fact of there being no life towrite.

  "You mind your own business, Mike," said Jem, indignantly.

  "That's what I'm a-doing of, and a-waiting for orders, Mr Jem Wimble.He's hen-pecked, Mas' Don, that what's the matter with him. Beenmarried only three months, and he's hen-pecked. Haw-haw-haw! Poor oldcock-bird! Hen-pecked! Haw-haw-haw!"

  Jem Wimble, general worker in the warehouse and yard of JosiahChristmas, West India merchant, of River Street, Bristol, gave Mike thelabourer an angry look, as he turned as red as a blushing girl.

  "Lookye here," he cried angrily, as Don, who had reseated himself, thistime on a hogshead crammed full of compressed tobacco-leaves fromBaltimore, swung his legs, and looked on in a half-moody, half-amusedway; "the best thing that could happen for Christmas' Ward and forBristol City, would be for the press-gang to get hold o' you, and takeyou off to sea."

  "Haw-haw-haw!" laughed the swarthy, red-faced fellow. "Why don't yougive 'em the word, and have me pressed?"

  "No coming back to be begged on then by Miss Kitty and Mas' Don, afterbeing drunk for a week. You're a bad 'un, that's what you are, MikeBannock, and I wish the master wouldn't have you here."

  "Not such a hard nut as you are, Jemmy," said the man with a chuckle."Sailors won't take me--don't want cripples to go aloft. Lookye here,Mas' Don, there's a leg."

  As he spoke, the great idle-looking fellow limped slowly, with anexaggerated display of lameness, to and fro past the door of the office.

  "Get out, Mike," said Don, as the man stopped. "I believe that's nearlyall sham."

  "That's a true word, Mas' Don," cried Jem. "He's only lame when hethinks about it. And now do please go on totting up, and let's getthese casks shifted 'fore your uncle comes back."

  "Well, I'm waiting, Jem," cried the lad, opening a book he had under hisarm, and in which a pencil was shut. "I could put down fifty, while youare moving one."

  "That's all right, sir; that's all right. I only want to keep thingsstraight, and not have your uncle rowing you when he comes back. Seemsto me as life's getting to be one jolly row. What with my Sally athome, and your uncle here, and you always down in the mouth, and Mikenot sticking to his work, things is as miserable as mizzar."

  "He's hen-pecked, that's what he is," chuckled Mike, going to the handleof the crane. "Poor old Jemmy! Hen-pecked, that's what's the matterwith him."

  "Let him alone, Mike," said Don quietly.

  "Right, Mas' Don," said the man; "but if I was you," he murmuredhoarsely, as Jem went into the warehouse, "I'd strike for liberty. Iknows all about it. When your mother come to live with your uncle shegive him all your father's money, and he put it into the business. Iknow. I used to work here when you first come, only a little un, and anice little un you was, just after your poor father died."

  Don's brow wrinkled as he looked searchingly at the man.

  "You've a right to half there is here, Mas' Don; but the old man'sgrabbing of it all for his gal, Miss Kitty, and has made your mother andyou reg'lar servants."

  "It is not true, Mike. My uncle has behaved very kindly to my motherand me. He has invested my money, and given me a home w
hen I was leftan orphan."


  That is the nearest approach to the sound of Mike's derisive laugh, onewhich made the lad frown and dart at him an angry look.

  "Why, who told you that, my lad?"

  "My mother, over and over again."

  "Ah, poor thing, for the sake o' peace and quietness. Don't you believeit, my lad. You've been werry kind to me, and begged me on again herewhen I've been 'most starving, and many's the shillin' you've give me,Mas' Don, to buy comforts, or I wouldn't say to you what I does now, andwerry welcome a shilling would be to-day, Mas' Don."

  "I haven't any money, Mike."

  "Got no money, my lad? What a shame, when half of all this here oughtto be yourn. Oh dear, what a cruel thing it seems! I'm very sorry foryou, Mas' Don, that I am, 'specially when I think of what a fine dashingyoung fellow like--"

  "Don't humbug, Mike."

  "Nay, not I, my lad; 'tarn't likely. You know it's true enough. You'reone of the young fellows as is kep' out of his rights. I know what I'ddo if I was you."


  "Not be always rubbing my nose again a desk. Go off to one o' thembu'ful foreign countries as I've told you of, where there's gold andsilver and dymons, and birds jus' like 'em; and wild beasts to kill, andsnakes as long as the main mast. Ah! I've seen some sights in furrenabroad, as what I've told you about's like nothing to 'em. Look here,Mas' Don, shall I stop on for an hour and tell you what I've seen inSouth America?"

  "No, no, Mike; my uncle doesn't like you to be with me."

  "Ah, and well I knows it. 'Cause I tells you the truth and he feelsguilty, Mas' Don."

  "And--and it only unsettles me," cried the boy with a despairing look inhis eyes. "Get on with your work, and I must get on with mine."

  "Ah, to be sure," said the scoundrel with a sneer. "Work, work, work.You and me, Mas' Don, is treated worse than the black niggers as cutsthe sugar-canes down, and hoes the 'bacco in the plantations. I'm sorryfor you."

  Lindon Lavington thrust his little account book in his breast, andwalked hurriedly in the direction taken by the man Jem, enteringdirectly after a low warehouse door, where rows of sugar-hogsheads lay,and there was a murmur and buzz made by the attracted flies.

  Mike Bannock stood with his hands clasping the handle of the crane winchagainst which he leaned without moving, but his eyes were hard at work.

  He followed Don with them till he had disappeared through the low darkdoorway, then glanced at the closed gate leading into the busy street,and then at the open office door, a few yards away.

  All was still, save the buzzing of the flies about the casks on that hotmidsummer's day, and without the trace of a limp, the man steppedrapidly into the office, but only to dart back again in alarm, for, allat once, there was a loud rattling noise of straps, chains, and heavyharness.

  There was no cause for alarm. It was only the fat, sleepy horse in thetrolly shafts, who, at the same time that he gave his nosebag a toss,shook himself violently to get rid of the flies which preferred hisjuices to the sugar oozing from many a hogshead's seams.

  Mike darted into the office again; the flies buzzed; the horse munchedoats; the faint sound of Don's voice in converse with Jem Wimble couldhe heard; then there was a faint click as if a desk had been shut downsoftly, and Mike stepped out again, gave a hasty glance round, and thenext moment was standing dreamily with his eyes half-closed, graspingthe handle of the crane winch as Don returned, closely followed by JemWimble.

  "Now, Mas' Don, I'll just mark another," said Jem, "and we'll have himout."

  He took a lump of chalk from a ledge close by, and ascended a stepladder to a door about six feet above the spot where Mike stood, and Donstood with his book under his arm, his brow rugged, and a thoughtfullook in his eyes.

  Just then the small door in the yard gate was opened, and asturdy-looking grey-haired man in snuff-coloured coat and cocked hat,drab breeches and gaiters, entered unseen by the pair, who had theirbacks to him.

  "I 'member, Mas' Don, when I were out in the _Mary Anne_ five year ago.We'd got to Pannymah, when the skipper stood with his glass to his eye,looking at a strange kind o' hobjick ashore, and he says to me, `Mike,my lad--'"

  "You idle scoundrel! How many more times am I to tell you that I willnot have my time wasted over those lying stories of yours? Lindon, am Iever to be able to trust you when business takes me away?"

  The words came in short sharp tones, and the speaker's dark eyes seemedto flash. The effect was marvellous.

  Mike began to turn the handle at a rapid rate, winding up the rope tillthe pair of hooks used for grasping the great hogsheads rattled withtheir chains against the pulley wheels of the crane, and a shout camefrom the warehouse,--

  "Whatcher doing of? Hold hard!"

  "Stop, sir!" cried the stern-looking man to Mike, just as Jem appearedat the upper doorway and looked down.

  "Oh!" he ejaculated. "Didn't know as you was there, sir."

  "It is disgraceful, Lindon. The moment my back is turned you leave yourdesk to come and waste the men's time. I am ashamed of you."

  Lindon's forehead grew more wrinkled as Josiah Christmas, merchant ofBristol city, and his maternal uncle, walked into the office, whitherthe lad followed slowly, looking stubborn and ill-used, for MikeBannock's poison was at work, and in his youthful ignorance and folly,he felt too angry to attempt a frank explanation.

  In fact, just then one idea pervaded his mind--two ideas--that his unclewas a tyrant, and that he ought to strike against his tyranny and befree.