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Dutch the Diver; Or, A Man's Mistake

George Manville Fenn

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Dutch the DiverA Man's MistakeBy George Manville FennPublished by Cassell and Company Limited, London.This edition dated 1883.Dutch the Diver, by George Manville Fenn.


  ________________________________________________________________________DUTCH THE DIVER, BY GEORGE MANVILLE FENN.




  "I say, Rasp. Confound the man! Rasp, will you leave that fire alone?Do you want to roast me?"

  "What's the good o' you saying will I leave the fire alone, Mr Pug?"said the man addressed, stoking savagely at the grate; "you know as wellas I do that if I leave it half hour you never touches it, but lets itgo out."

  Half a scuttle of coals poured on.

  "No, no. No more coals, Rasp."

  "They're on now, Mr Pug," said Rasp, with a grim grin. "You know howthe governor grumbles if the fire's out, and it's me as ketches it."

  "The office is insufferably hot now."

  "Good job, too; for it's cold enough outside, I can tell you; andthere's a draught where I sits just as if you'd got yer ear up again theescape-valve of the air-pump."

  "Get a screen, then," said the first speaker, impatiently, as hescratched his thick, curly, crisp brown hair with the point of a pair ofcompasses, and gazed intently at a piece of drawing-paper pinned outupon the desk before him.

  "Screen? Bah! What do I want wi' screens? I can stand wind and cold,and a bit o' fire, too, for the matter o' that. I ain't like somepeople."

  "Hang it all, Rasp, I wish you'd go," said the first speaker. "You seehow busy I am. What's the matter with you this morning? Really, you'reabout the most disagreeable old man I ever knew."

  "Disagreeable? Old?" cried Rasp, seizing the poker, and inserting it inthe bars for another good stoke at the office fire, when the compasseswere banged down on the desk, their owner leaped off the stool, twistedthe poker out of the stoker's hand, and laughingly threw it down on thefender.

  "I'll get Mr Parkley to find you a post somewhere as fireman at afurnace," said the first speaker, laughing.

  "I don't want no fireman's places," growled Rasp. "How'd the work go onhere wi'out me? Old, eh? Disagreeable, eh! Sixty ain't so old,nayther; and just you wear diving soots for forty year, and get yourhead blown full o' wind till you're 'most ready to choke, and be alwaysgoing down, and risking your blessed life, and see if you wouldn't soonbe disagreeable."

  "Well, Rasp, I've been down pretty frequently, and in as risky places asmost men of my age, and it hasn't made me such an old crab."

  "What, you? Bah! Nothing puts you out--nothing makes you cross 'cepttoo much fire, and you do get waxey over that. But you try it for fortyyear--forty year, you know, and just see what you're like then, MrPug."

  "Confound it all, Rasp," cried the younger man, "that's the third timein the last ten minutes that you've called me Pug. My name is Pugh--PUGH--Pugh."

  "'Taint," said the old fellow, roughly, "I ain't lived sixty year in theworld, and don't know how to spell. PEW spells _pew_, and PUGH spells_pug_, with the H at the end and wi'out it, so you needn't tell me."

  "You obstinate old crab," said the other, good-humouredly, as he stoppedhim from making another dash at the poker. "There, be off, I'm verybusy."

  "You allus are busy," growled the old fellow; "you'll get your brainsall in a muddle wi' your figuring and drawing them new dodges and plans.No one thinks the better o' you, no matter how hard you works. It's myopinion, Mr Dutch--there, will that suit yer, as you don't like to becalled Mr Pug?"

  "There, call me what you like, Rasp, you're a good, old fellow, and Ishall never forget what you have done for me."

  "Bah! Don't talk stuff," cried the old fellow, snappishly.

  "Stuff, eh?" said the other, laughing, as he took up his compasses, andresumed his seat. "Leave--that--fire--alone!" he cried, seizing a heavyruler, and shaking it menacingly as the old man made once more for thepoker. "And now, hark here--Mrs Pugh says you are to come out to thecottage on Sunday week to dinner, and spend the day."

  "Did she say that? Did she say that, Mr Dutch?" cried the old man,with exultation.

  "Yes, she wants to have a long chat with the man who saved her husband'slife."

  "Now, what's the good o' talking such stuff as that, Mr Pug?" cried theold man, angrily. "Save life, indeed! Why, I only come down and put arope round you. Any fool could ha' done it."

  "But no other fool would risk his life as you did yours to save mine,Rasp," said the younger man, quietly. "But, there, we won't talk aboutit. It gives me the horrors. Now, mind, you're to come down on Sundayweek."

  "I ain't comin' out there to be buttered," growled the old fellow,sourly.

  "Buttered, man?"

  "Well, yes--to be talked to and fussed and made much of by your missus,Master Dutch."


  "'Taint nonsense. There, I tell you what, if she'll make a contract notto say a word about the accident, and I may sit and smoke a pipe in thatthere harbour o' yourn, I'll come."

  "Arbour at this time of the year, Rasp?" laughed the younger man. "Why,it's too cold."

  "What's that to do wi' it? Just as if I couldn't stand cold. Dealbetter than you can heat."

  "Then I shall tell her you are coming, Rasp. What would you like fordinner?"

  "Oh, anything'll do for the likes o' me. I ain't particular."

  "No, but you may as well have what you like for dinner."

  "Oh, I ain't particular. Have just what you like. But if there was amorsel o' tripe on the way I might pick a bit."

  "Good!" said the other, smiling, "you shall have some tripe for dinnerfor one thing."

  "Don't you get letting it be got o' purpose for me. Anything'll do forme--a bit o' sooetty pudden, for instance."

  "All right, Rasp. Tripe and suet pudding on Sunday week."

  "If ever there was," said Rasp, thoughtfully, as he made an offer to getat the poker, "a woman as was made to be a beautiful angel, and didn'tturn out to be one because they forgot her wings, that's your missus,Master Dutch."

  "Thank you, Rasp, old fellow, thank you," said the young man, smiling;and his eyes brightened as he listened to this homely praise of thewoman he worshipped.

  "But what's a puzzle to me," continued the old fellow, with a grimchuckle, "is how she as is so soft, and fair, and dark-haired, andgentle, could take up with such a strong, broad-shouldered chap as you,Mr Dutch."

  "Yes, it was strange," said the young man.

  "I should more like have expected to see you pair off wi' CaptainStudwick's lass--Miss Bessy. Now, she's a fine gal, if you like."

  "Yes, she's a fine, handsome girl, Rasp; and her father's very proud ofher, too."

  "I should just think he ought to be," said Rasp. "Why, it's my belief,if any chap offended her, she'd give him such a clap aside o' the headas would make his ears ring."

  "I don't know about that, Rasp," laughed the other; "but I do believewhoever wins her will have a true-hearted Englishwoman for his wife."

  "O' course he will, else she wouldn't be the skipper's lass. Blessher!--she's always got a nice, pleasant word to say to a man when shecomes here with her father. He used to think you meant to make up toher, Master Dutch."

  "Nonsense, man, nonsense!"

  "Oh, but he did; and then this other affair came off. I never couldunderstand it, though."

  "Ah, it was a problem, eh?" laughed the younger man.

  "For you ain't good-looking, are you, sir?"

p; "Not at all, Rasp," laughed the other. "We should neither of us get theprize for beauty, eh, Rasp?"

  "_I_ should think not," said Rasp: "but I always was the ugliest man ourway. I think she took to you because you were so straight, and stout,and strong."

  "Perhaps so, Rasp."

  "I've heerd say, as the more gentle, and soft, and tender a woman is,the more she likes a fellow as is all big bone and muscle, so as to takecare of her, you know. That must ha' been it, sir," continued the oldfellow, chuckling, "unless she took a fancy to your name. Ho! ho! ho!"

  "No, I don't think it was that, Rasp, my man," said the other, quietly.

  "More don't I, sir; Dutch Pug. Ho! ho! ho!"

  "Dutch Drayson Pugh, Master Rasp."

  "Pug's bad enough," said the old fellow; "but Dutch! What did they callyou Dutch for?"

  "It was a whim of my father," said the other. "My grandfather married alady in Holland, and in memory of the alliance my father said--so I'veoften been told--that as I was a fair, sturdy little fellow, like aDutch burgomaster in miniature, I should be called Dutch; and that is myname, Mr Rasp, at your service."

  "Well, you can't help it now, sir, any more than you can the Pug; but ifit had been me I should have called myself Drayson."

  "And seemed ashamed of the name my dear old father gave me, Rasp! No,I'm not the man for that," said Dutch, warmly.

  "No, sir, you ain't," said Rasp, in a more respectful tone, as he lookedat the colour flaming up in the younger man's cheeks, and in his heartof hearts acknowledged that he was not such a bad-looking fellow afterall; for, though far from handsome, he was bold, bluff, and Saxon ofaspect, broad-shouldered, and evidently Herculean in strength, though,from his deep build and fine proportions, in no wise heavy.

  Now, on the other hand, Rasp was a decidedly plain man, rough, rugged,grizzled, and with eyebrows and whiskers of the raggedest naturepossible. Their peculiar bristly quality was partaken of also by hishair, which, though cut short, was abundant; and though you might havebrushed it to your heart's content, it was as obstinate as its owner,for it never lay in any direction but that it liked.

  At this point Rasp, who was a favoured old servant of the firm in whichDutch Pugh held a confidential post, made another attempt to stoke thefire, was turned on his flank, and retreated, leaving the young man tobusily resume the drawing of a plan for some piece of machinery.

  It was a dark, gloomy-looking room, that in which he worked, for the onewindow opened upon the narrow street of the busy sea-port of Ramwich;and a heavy, yellow fog hung over the town, and made the office lookgloomy and full of shadow.

  The place was fitted up as a private office, and near the window wasplaced one of those great double-sloped desks, so arranged that fourpeople could stand, or sit upon the high leather-covered stools, andwrite at it at the same time. A wide level divided the two slopes, andthis was dominated by brass rails, beneath which stood a couple of thosebroad, flat, pewter inkstands common in commercial offices, and which inthis case it was Rasp's delight to keep clean.

  There were other objects about the gloomy office, though, upon whichRasp bestowed his time; for in three places, fitted on stands, andstrapped to the wall to prevent their falling forward, were what lookedat first sight, as they peered from the gloom, like so many suits ofgrotesque armour; for what light there was gleamed from the hugepolished helmets, with their great brass, latticed goggle glass eyes--whose crests were tubes, and ornamentation glistening rims and studs ofcopper. A nervous person coming upon them in the dark might easily havebeen startled, for, with a certain grim idea of humour, Rasp had bydegrees so arranged them that they leaned forward in peculiarlylife-like positions--the hand of one holding a copper lantern, anotherbeing in the act of striking with a massive hatchet, and the thirdpoising a huge crowbar in a menacing mode.

  Farther back in the gloom stood a strange-looking air-pump; while invarious directions, coiled and trailed like snakes, great lengths ofindia-rubber tubing, apparently in disorder, but really carefully keptready for instant use, this being Rasp's special task, of which he wasproud to a degree.

  "This is a teaser," said Dutch to himself, after making sundry lines onthe paper before him, and then pausing, compasses in one hand, pen inthe other. "Valve A to close tube B--escape-valve at A dash--smallcopper globe at B dash, as a reservoir, and--hum--ha--yes--to be sure,small stop-cock in the middle of the copper tube at H. That's it! I'vegot it at last."

  "Of course you have--I knew you would," said a short quick voice.

  Dutch started, and turned sharply round, to confront the little,square-built man who had entered the office quietly, and stood peeringover his shoulder.

  "Ah, Mr Parkley! I didn't hear you come in," said Dutch, smiling.

  "Too busy over your work," said the new-comer, who seemed all hat andcomforter, from between which peered a pair of keen, restless eyes. "Iknew you'd work that out, Dutch, or else I shouldn't have given you thejob. Dutch Pugh, I'd give something for your cleverness with pen andpencil. Look at me, sir, a man dragged up instead of brought up--a manwho never signs his name because he can't write decently--a man who canhardly read a newspaper, unless the type's big. Ignorant, ignorant to adegree--a man--"

  "Of sound judgment, sir," said Dutch, interrupting him, "who from thepower of his brain and long experience has suggested more improvementsin hydraulic machinery than any of our greatest scientists, and who hasnot only originated and made his great business, but whose opinion issought from everywhere in all great diving cases."

  "Stuff--stuff--stuff, Dutch! I'm ashamed of my ignorance."

  "And who is one of the wealthiest men in Ramwich."

  "Gammon and flattery, Dutch, my lad," said the other, taking off hisgreat hat to place it jauntily on one of the diving-helmets, and thenreturning into the light, with his broad bald head shining, and hisdark, restless eyes twinkling good-humouredly. "Here, catch hold ofthat," he continued, thrusting one hand into his chest, and dragging outthe fringed end of his white woollen comforter.

  Dutch Pugh laid down his compasses, smiling, and took hold of the end ofthe comforter, when its wearer began slowly to turn round before thefire, as if he was being roasted, unwinding about three yards ofcomforter from his neck, and then giving a sigh of relief as he againwent into the back part of the office, and hung the woollen wrap roundone of the diver's necks.

  "I've managed to make bread and cheese, Pugh--bread and cheese," hesaid, chuckling, as he came back, climbed upon a stool by that of hisassistant, and sat with his hands on his knees. "Yes, bread and cheese;beef and horse-radish. Pugh, how's the little wife?"

  "Quite well, Mr Parkley," said Dutch, smiling.

  "That's right, bless her! Tell her I'm coming down to spend a Sundaysoon."

  "We shall only be too glad, sir," said Dutch, smiling. "When shall itbe?"

  "Soon, man; but not yet. Too busy. I've got this big job on," hecontinued, rubbing his bald head, which looked as if he had worn adiver's helmet till all the hair had been frayed off. "Oh, here's aletter."

  For just then Rasp came into the office, not quietly, like his master--who walked slowly and heavily, as if putting down boots with massiveleaden soles, and seemed as if he were wading through deep water, andliable to get entangled amongst sunken rigging--but with a bang and arush like a big wind, and even made the letter he held in his handrustle as he held it out to Mr Parkley, saying, with a surly snarl--

  "Letter. Answer. Waiting."

  Then, uttering a snort, he walked across to the diving suits, snatchedoff Mr Parkley's hat, whisked off the comforter, and dabbed them bothon a hat-peg close at hand; after which he took out a large blue-checkcotton pocket-handkerchief drew forward a set of short steps, and,growling as he did so, began to breathe on the bright copper, gave it agood polishing, and then went off to his den.

  "See that?" said Mr Parkley, nodding his head sideways at Rasp, as hewent out--but not until he had seized the poker, rammed it between thebars with a sci
entific twist, and made the blaze go dancing up thechimney. "See that, Pugh! He's the real master here. He's a tyrant."

  "Well, really, sir, he has his own way pretty well."

  "Rare stuff though, Pugh, my dear boy--rare stuff. That man's one youcan always trust in any emergency. I'd leave my life in his hands atany time."

  "I know that, sir," said Dutch, warmly. "He is as true as steel."

  "Right, Pugh, my dear boy--right. But look here," he continued,thrusting a finger in the young man's button-hole, "I wish you woulddrop that `sir' to me. I don't like it. I'm only a business fellow,and you've had the education of a gentleman, and I feel sometimes as ifI ought to say `sir' to you."

  "My dear sir--"

  "There you go again."

  "Well, my dear Mr Parkley, then, I have you to thank for so muchkindness."

  "Stuff! stuff! stuff!" cried the elder, laying his hand playfully on hismouth. "You came to me to help me, and I was to pay you for that help.Well, look here, Pugh, you've been no end of value to me, and get moreuseful every day. What I pay you is nonsense to what you are worth.Now, look here; in three months the current business year with me willbe up, and I'm going to ask you to join me as junior partner."

  "Mr Parkley!" cried the young man, astounded, as his employer leapedoff his stool, and took down and replaced his hat.

  "Say no more," he cried; "I don't act without thinking, do I?"

  "Never, sir."

  "Then it's all right. Catch hold of this," he continued, handing theyoung man one end of the comforter, and then, tucking the other in underhis waistcoat, he slowly wound himself up in it again, tapped theletter, and said, "Big job on here--I'm going to see them about it;" andthen, lifting his feet in his peculiar way, he seemed to move out of theoffice as if he were under water, and the door closed behind him.