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Owen Hartley; or, Ups and Downs: A Tale of Land and Sea

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  Owen Hartley; or, Ups and Downs, A Tale of Land and Sea, by William H GKingston.


  Owen is a teenager who had been quite well educated, but who had justbeen orphaned. There is a family relation who has a shipping businessin Wapping, London. A kind friend escorts the boy there, and he isgranted an interview with the head of the firm, his relation. He isable to prove to the old man that he is indeed his relation, and isgiven a job as an assistant clerk. He does his work very well, and itis decided that he ought to be sent on a round trip away by sea, so thathe shall understand more of the business.

  Unfortunately the kind and helpful captain is taken ill, and his placeis taken by the mate, who is a very nasty piece of work. Owen issupposed to be an honoured passenger, but is ordered to give up hiscabin, and take a berth among the ship's boys. One of the boys, Nat, isan especial target for the general nastiness of the mate, now thecaptain. Owen had previously rescued Nat when he had fallen overboard,and they had become great friends.

  The stupid and drunken mate, now acting as the captain, insists one daythat his sunsight is correct, while everybody else's is wrong, andinsists on the ship holding her course, which the other officers knewwould lead her into danger. Of course there is a wreck. But maybe wehave now told you enough, so you can read it for yourselves, or listento it.




  "Well, boy, what do you want?"

  These words were uttered in a no pleasant tone by an old gentleman witha brownish complexion, a yellowish brown scratch wig, somewhat awry, adecidedly brown coat, breeches, and waistcoat, a neckcloth, once white,but now partaking of the sombre hue of his other garments; brownstockings and brownish shoes, ornamented by a pair of silver buckles,the last-mentioned articles being the only part of his costume on whichthe eye could rest with satisfaction.

  On his lap was placed a pocket handkerchief, of a nondescript tint,brown, predominating, in consequence of its frequent application to alongish nose, made the recipient of huge quantities of snuff.Altogether there was a dry, withered-leaf-like look about the old manwhich was not prepossessing. His little grey eyes were sunk deeply inhis head, his sight being aided by a large pair of tortoiseshellspectacles, which he had now shoved up over his forehead.

  He was seated on a high stool at a desk in a little back dingy office,powerfully redolent of odours nautical and unsavoury, emanating fromcoils of rope, casks of salt butter, herrings, Dutch cheese, whale oil,and similar unaromatic articles of commerce. It was in that region madeclassical by Dibdin--Wapping. The back office in which the oldgentleman sat opened out of one of much larger proportions, thoughequally dull and dingy, full of clerks, old and young, on high stools,busily moving their pens, or rapidly casting up accounts--evidence thatno idleness was allowed in the establishment. On one side was awarehouse, in which large quantities of the above named and similarship's stores were collected. In front was a shop, the ceiling hungwith tallow candles, brushes, mats, iron pots, and other things moreuseful than ornamental. From one end to the other of it ran a long,dark-coloured counter, behind which stood a man in a brown apron, andsleeves tucked up, ready to serve out, in small quantities, tea, sugar,coffee, tallow candles, brushes, twine, tin kettles, and the pots whichhung over his head, within reach of a long stick, placed ready fordetaching them from the hooks on which they were suspended. In thewindows, and on the walls outside, were large placards in red and blackletters, announcing the sailing of various ships of wonderful seaqualities, and admirable accommodation for passengers, with a statementthat further information would be afforded within.

  "Speak, boy; what do you want?" repeated the old gentleman, in a testyand still harsher tone than before, as he turned round on his stool withan angry glance under his spectacles. "Eh?"

  The person he addressed was a fair complexioned boy, about twelve yearsold, with large blue eyes, and brown hair in wavey curls, a broadforehead, and an open, frank, intelligent countenance. He was dressedin a jacket and trousers of black cloth, not over well made perhaps, norfresh looking, although they did not spoil his figure; his broad shirtcollar turned back and fastened by a ribbon showed to advantage his neckand well-set-on head. It would have been difficult to find two peopleoffering a greater contrast than the old man and the boy.

  "Please, sir," answered the latter, with considerable hesitation,"Farmer Rowe wished me to come here to see you, as he hopes--"

  "And who in the name of wonder is Farmer Rowe, and who are you?"exclaimed the old gentleman, kicking his heels against the leg of thestool.

  Before the boy could find words to go on with what he was saying, orcould check the choking sensation which rose in his throat, a clerk, thecounterpart of his master, in respect of dinginess and snuffiness,entered with a handful of papers which required signing, and a hugefolio under his arm. As, in the eyes of the old gentleman, his businesswas of far more consequence than any matter which could be connectedwith that pale-faced, gentle boy in the threadbare suit, he turned roundto the desk, and applied himself to the papers, as his clerk handed themto him in succession.

  The boy was, in the meantime, left unnoticed to his own reflections.While the old gentleman was absorbed in the folio, the clerk gave aglance round at the young stranger, and the expression conveyed in thatglance did not add pleasantness to the lad's feelings, as he stoodclutching his crape-bound hat. Leaving the two old men engaged in theirbooks and papers, a fuller account must be given of the boy than he waslikely to afford of himself.

  Some thirty years before the period at which this history commences ayoung gentleman, Owen Hartley, who was pursuing his academical coursewith credit, preparatory to entering the ministry, fell in love during along vacation with a well-educated young lady of respectable position inlife, if not of birth equal to his. She returned his affection, and itwas agreed that they should marry when he could obtain a living. Beingordained, he was appointed to a curacy of 50 pounds a year, in whichpost he faithfully discharged his duty, expecting to obtain thewished-for incumbency. Susan Walford existed on the same hope, but yearafter year passed by, and she grew pale, and even his spirits sometimessank, when the realisation of their expectations seemed likely to beindefinitely deferred. At length, however, he obtained a living. Itwas one no person, except in his circumstances, would have taken. Nowonder; it was among the fens of Lincolnshire, and, after certaindeductions, scarcely produced a hundred a year. Still it was a living,and a certainty. At the same time Susan received a legacy. It madetheir hearts very grateful; although the amount was small, yet, in theireyes, it seemed magnificent, a clear 350 pounds. To be sure, 300 poundswould produce only 12 pounds a year when invested, still, that wassomething added to a hundred.

  The extra fifty was retained for furnishing the vicarage. Ten yearsthey had waited patiently, now they were married, and were contented andhappy. They did not live for themselves alone, but to be a blessing toall around them. True, they could not give money, but Owen gave Gospeltruths, simple and without stint; and she, kind words and sympathy, anda portion of many of their scanty meals. The hale as well as the sickwere visited, believers strengthened and encouraged, and inquirersinstructed. They reaped a rich harvest of affection from theirparishioners. Three years after their marriage a son was born; he was atreasure for which they were grateful, and he was their only one
. Thelittle Owen flourished, for he was acclimatised, but the breezes whichblow over those Lincolnshire fens are raw and keen, if not generallyunhealthy to the natives, and the vicar and his wife began to complainof touches of ague, which became, as time went on, more and morefrequent. An income of 112 pounds a year will not allow the happypossessors to indulge in many of the luxuries of life, and certainly notin that of foreign travel. When, therefore, the parish doctor hintedthat a change of climate, and more generous diet and port wine, wereabsolutely necessary for their restoration, Mr Hartley smilinglyobserved, that as he did not think a better climate would come to them,and as they certainly could not go to it, he did not see how thecombination could be brought about; and as to port wine, it had longbeen a stranger to his palate, and was likely to continue so. Still thedoctor urged that he must take it, and sent him some from his own store,and, moreover, spoke so very earnestly to Mrs Hartley, saying that herhusband would altogether be incapacitated from performing his dutiesunless he was supplied with stimulants and more food, that she resolvedto do what many have resolved to do before, and will do again undersimilar circumstances. She did not exactly kill the golden goose, butbegan to sell out. It was indeed pleasant to have 20 pounds at command.She ordered wine of the best, with beef steaks and mutton chops, suchthings had rarely before been seen at the vicarage. The butcherwondered, but she paid regularly, and he asked no questions. She,however, only made-believe to eat of them herself, that Owen might havethe more; and when he came home to dinner she was sure to have taken alarge luncheon while he was out. She thought that his health wasimproving, and he declared that he felt stronger.

  So delighted was she with the result of this new system, that sheordered more port wine, and still more amply supplied the table. Yetthe doctor was not satisfied, and urged change of air for a shorttime--"His life is so valuable," was his remark, and the doctor'sobservation conquered all scruples. A clergyman to do Owen's duty wasto be obtained, no easy matter, and he must be paid. One was found, andthe excursion made. Mr Hartley felt wonderfully better, but not manyweeks after his return the terrible ague again attacked him. Week afterweek he was unable to perform his ordinary duty. He staggered to thechurch, and in a voice which he could with difficulty render audible,preached the glorious Gospel as before.

  The parish did not suffer so much as it might have done, for Susanvisited the parishioners more frequently than ever. At length thefaithful wife herself fell ill.

  The disease made more rapid progress in her weak frame than it had donein that of her husband. Owen now compelled her to take the sameremedies which she had given to him; both lingered on, striving to dotheir duty. The vicar was apparently getting better, and Susan revivedsufficiently to enable her to assist in the education of the youngerOwen. Year after year showed the ravages illness was making on theirframes; the doctor shook his head when the parishioners inquired afterthem. Susan died first, Owen did not mourn as one without hope,although it was evident that he had received a terrible blow. Since hismarriage he had placed all worldly concerns in Susan's hands--no childcould have known less than he did how to manage them--the consequenceswere inevitable. The vicar got into debt, not very deeply at first, afew pounds only, but to these few pounds others were gradually added.

  The vicar had a faithful servant, Jane Hayes, who, when a girl, had cometo him and Mrs Hartley on their marriage, for her food and enough wagesto buy clothes. Jane went and went again to the shops for suchprovisions as she considered the vicar and Master Owen required.

  One was too ill, the other too young to make inquiries or consider howthey were to be paid for. When by chance any tradesman demurred, Janewas very indignant, asserting confidently that the vicar would pay forwhatever he had when his dues came in.

  Mr Hartley now no longer rose from his bed. A neighbouring clergyman,not much better off than himself, came over occasionally to perform theduty in the church, getting his own done by a relative who was payinghim a visit. Mr Hartley, although ready to depart, clung to existencefor the sake of his boy. When he had sufficient strength to speak, herepeated to young Owen the advice and exhortations he had constantlygiven him when in health. They came now, however, with greater forcethan ever from the lips of the dying man, and words which before hadbeen heard unheeded, now sank deeply into the heart of the boy.

  Young Owen knew nothing of the world, he had never left home, but he wasthus really better prepared to encounter its dangers and difficultiesthan many who go forth, confident in their own strength and courage. Hescarcely had, hitherto, realised the fact that his father was to betaken from him.

  "My boy," said the village doctor, as he led him into his father's room,"you must be prepared for the worst."

  These words made Owen feel sick at heart.

  While the vicar clasped the hand of his boy, and gazed into that belovedyoung face, his gentle spirit winged its flight to heaven, and Owen knewthat he was an orphan. He was not aware, however, how utterly destitutehe had been left. The vicar had to the last been under the impressionthat the larger portion of Susan's fortune, for so he was pleased tocall it, still remained, and that it would be sufficient to start Owenin life. He had paid great attention to the education of his boy, whopossessed a much larger amount of general knowledge than most lads ofhis age. The principal people in the parish attended the coffin oftheir late vicar to the grave. They had not far to go from the vicarageto the churchyard.

  Farmer Rowe, who lived near, at Fenside Farm, had been the faithfulfriend of Mr Hartley from the time of his first coming to the parish,and taking him by the hand, followed as a mourner. Owen bore up duringthe ceremony, but on returning to his desolate home, at length gave wayto the grief which was well-nigh breaking his young heart.

  "Don't take on so, Master Owen," cried Jane, leading him to his littleroom; "he who is gone would not wish you to grieve. He is happy, dependupon it, and he wants you to be happy too. We shall have to leave this,I am afraid, for they will not let you take your father's place, seeingyou are somewhat young, otherwise I am sure you could do it. You readso beautiful like, and I would rather hear a sermon from you than anyone."

  Owen shook his head.

  "No, Jane, I should have to go to college first; a person must beregularly ordained before he could come and preach in our church."

  Still Jane was not convinced on that point, and she inquired from FarmerRowe whether he could get Master Owen made vicar in his fathers stead.

  "That is impossible, Jane," answered the farmer, smiling. "We will,however, do our best for the boy; we must look into the state of hisaffairs, for I can hear of no kindred of his who are likely to do so."

  Owen was allowed to remain at the vicarage longer than might have beenexpected. It was not easy to find a successor to Mr Hartley. Theplace had a bad name, few incumbents had lived long there. Thetradesmen of Reston, the neighbouring town, however, somewhat hesitatedabout supplying Jane with provisions.

  "But there is the furniture," she answered, "and that will sell for Idon't know how much; it is very beautiful and kept carefully."

  In Jane's eyes it might have been so, as it was superior to what she hadseen in her mother's humble cottage. In the meantime she employedherself in preparing a proper suit of mourning for Owen.

  "The dear boy will have to go out among strangers, and he shall be welldressed, at all events," she observed as she stitched away at hisgarments. She had to work up all sorts of old materials. Her own smallwages were due, but of that she thought not; her great desire was thather young master should be properly dressed.

  At length, however, the creditors put in their claims; the furniture andall the property of the late vicar had to be sold, but it wasinsufficient to meet their demands. Farmer Howe, knowing he matterswere likely to turn out, took Owen to his house.

  The farmer had a large farm of his own, but there had been a badharvest, and at no time had Fenside Farm been a very profitable one; hetherefore could not do as much for th
e poor lad as his kind heartdictated. His second son David, the scholar of the family, as he calledhim, who was articled to an attorney in a neighbouring town, happened atthe time to be at home.

  "David," said Farmer Howe, "surely the vicar and his wife must have hadsome kith and kin, and we must find out who they are; they may beinclined to do something for the boy, or, if not, they ought to do so."

  "The first thing I would suggest, father, is to question Owen, and hearwhat he knows about the matter," answered David; "we may then see whatletters the poor lady or the vicar have left; they may throw some lighton the subject."

  Owen was forthwith called in. He had seldom heard his parents allude totheir relatives, but he held an opinion that his father had several, andfrom the way in which he had heard them spoken of he fancied that theywere some great people, but who they were he could not tell. Theycertainly, however, had never shown any regard for Mr Hartley, or paidhim the slightest attention. Owen knew that his mother had relations,and that her father had been in some public office, but had died withoutleaving her any fortune; his grandmother had also died a year or twoafter her marriage. This much Owen knew, but that was very little. "Ohyes," he said, "I remember that her name was Walford."

  "Well, that must have been your grandfather's name too. Do you knowwhat your mother's maiden name was?" asked David.

  Owen could not tell.

  "Perhaps it will be in some of her books," suggested David. "Theysometimes help one in such cases as this."

  "The books, I am afraid, were sold with the other property," said thefarmer.

  "Then we must find out who bought them," remarked David; "perhaps Dobbsof our town did. I saw him at the sale. He is not likely to havedisposed of them yet; I will get him to let me look over them."

  David fulfilled his promise. Mr Dobbs allowed him to look over thelibrary of the late Vicar of Fenside, and at length he came to a volumeof "Sturm's Reflections," on the title page of which was written, in aclear mercantile hand, "Given to Susan Fluke, on her marriage with HenryWalford Esquire, by her loving cousin Simon Fluke."

  David bought the volume and returned with it in triumph. "I have, atall events, found out the maiden name of the boy's grandmother on hismother's side, so, if we cannot discover his relatives on one side, wemay on the other. We have now got three names--Fluke, Walford, andHartley. The Hartley side will give us most difficulty, for it is clearthat the vicar and his father held no communication for many years withany of the relatives they may have possessed. Fluke, however, is not acommon name; we will search among the Flukes and Walfords, and see ifany persons or person of those names will acknowledge young Owen. SimonFluke, Simon Fluke--the London and County Directories may help us; ifthey cannot, we must advertise. It will be hard if we cannot rake upSimon Fluke or his heirs. To be sure, that book may have been given tohis grandmother fifty years ago or more, and Simon Fluke may be dead."

  David carefully locked up the book. "It may tend to prove yourrelationship with the said Simon Fluke; and who knows that he may be, ormay have been, a rich man, and that you may become his heir," heremarked to Owen.

  Owen, although he listened to what the young lawyer said, scarcelyunderstood the full meaning of his observations. Farmer Rowe, ill as hecould afford the expense, sent David off next day to London to makeinquiries. Both the farmer and his family did their best to amuse theorphan.

  Although the hearts of the young are elastic, his loss had been sorecent, and his grief so overpowering, that, in spite of all the effortsof his kind friends, he could not recover his spirits. Owen, however,had become calmer when Jane Hayes came to wish him good-bye. She hadbeen offered another situation, which, seeing that he was well takencare of, she had accepted. Owen was in the garden when Jane arrived;the sight of her, as she came to meet him, renewed his grief. They satdown on a bench together, under a tall old tulip-tree, just out of sightof the house. Owen burst into tears.

  "That's just what I feel like to do, Master Owen," said the faithfulwoman, taking his hand; "but it seems to me, from all master used to saywhen he was down here with us, that up there, where he and missis havegone, there is no crying and no sorrow. So you see, Master Owen, youshould not take on so. They had their trials on earth, that I am surethey had, for I seed it often before you was born; but when you came youwas a blessing to them. Now they are happy, that is the comfort Ihave."

  "I am not crying for them, Susan," said Owen, trying to stifle histears, "I am crying for myself; I cannot help it. I know you love me,and you always have ever since I could remember--if you punished me itwas kindly done--and now you are going away, and I do not know when Ishall see you again. Mr Rowe is very kind and good, and so are MrsRowe, and John, and David, and their sisters, but, Jane, it is frompity, for they cannot care much about me, and I feel all alone in theworld."

  "Well, I will give up the place, Master Owen, and work for you; I cannottell how I should ever have had the heart to think of going away andleaving you among strangers, although I have known Farmer Rowe and hisfamily all my born days, and good people they are as ever breathed."

  Owen took her hand and put his head on her lap, just as he used to dowhen he was a little child, and thus he remained without speaking. Janelooked down on him with the affection of a mother, and tears droppedslowly from her eyes.

  "The Lord bless the boy," she murmured to herself, as she lifted herface towards the blue sky, "and take care of him, and give him strengthagainst all the enemies he will have to meet--the world, the flesh, andthe devil." Her plain features--for Jane had little to boast of inregard to good looks--were lighted up with an expression which gave hera beauty many fairer faces do not possess.

  Owen lay still for some time; Jane thought that he was sleeping, and wasunwilling to arouse him. At length, looking up, he said--

  "I never can repay you enough for all you have done for me. I should beacting a cowardly part if I were to let you give up a good place for mysake, and allow you to toil and slave for me, when I am ready enough towork for my own support; you cannot tell how much I can do, and how muchI know. I do not say it for the sake of boasting, but my father assuredme that I knew enough to teach boys much older than myself. If I wasbigger, I could become an usher at a school, or perhaps Mr OrlandoBrowne, David Howe's employer, would take me as a clerk. So you see,Jane, that I am not afraid of having to work, or afraid of starving; youmust therefore go to Mrs Burden's and look after her children, I amsure that they will love you, and then you will be happy. It is theknowing that some one loves us that makes us happy, Jane. I know thatyou love me, and that makes me happy now."

  "Ah, Master Owen, there is One who loves you ten thousand times morethan I can do, and if you will always obey Him, you will never cease tobe happy too. Master often used to say that to us, you mind. Ah! ifyou think of his sayings--and he spoke the truth out of the Book--itwill be a blessing to you."

  "Thank you, Jane, for reminding me," answered Owen, his countenancebrightening. "I do, I do; I will try ever to do so."

  "That's right, Master Owen, that's right," said Jane; "it makes me veryglad to hear you say that."

  The shades of evening were coming on; they warned Jane that she ought tobe on her way. Unwillingly she told Owen that she must be going. Heaccompanied her to the gate, for she could not bring herself to go inand say good-bye to the farmer's family. "They will know that it wasfrom no want of respect," said Jane. "God bless you, Master Owen, Godbless you."

  Owen looked after her until she was lost to sight at the end of thelane. It was some time before he could command himself sufficiently togo back into the house.