CHRISTIE, THE KING'S SERVANT
A Sequel to 'Christie's Old Organ'
By MRS. O.F. WALTON
AUTHOR OF 'CHRISTIE'S OLD ORGAN'
'A PEEP BEHIND THE SCENES'
'THE KING'S CUPBEARER'
'SHADOWS' ETC ETC
I RUNSWICK BAY
II LITTLE JOHN
III STRANGE MUSIC
IV WHAT ARE YOU?
V THE RUNSWICK SPORTS
VI THE TUG OF WAR
VII OVER THE LINE
VIII A NIGHT OF STORM
IX ASK WHAT YE WILL
X WE KNOW
XI LITTLE JACK AND BIG JACK
XII WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
It was the yellow ragwort that did it! I have discovered the clue at
last. All night long I have been dreaming of Runswick Bay. I have been
climbing the rocks, talking to the fishermen, picking my way over the
masses of slippery
seaweed, and breathing the fresh briny air. And all
the morning I have been saying
to myself, 'What can have made me dream
of Runswick Bay? What can have brought the events of my short stay in
little place so vividly
before me?' Yes, I am convinced of
it; it was that bunch of yellow ragwort on the mantelpiece in my
bedroom. My little Ella gathered it in the lane behind the house
yesterday morning, and brought it in triumphantly, and seized the best
china vase in the drawing-room, and filled it with water at the tap, and
thrust the great yellow bunch into it.
'Oh, Ella,' said Florence, her elder sister, 'what ugly common flowers!
How could you put them in mother's best vase, that Aunt Alice gave her
on her birthday! What a silly child you are!'
'I'm not a silly child,' aid Ella stoutly, 'and mother is sure to like
them; I know she will. _She_ won't call them common flowers. She
loves all yellow flowers. She said so when I brought her the daffodils;
and these are yellower, ever so much yellower.'
Her mother came in at this moment, and, taking
our little girl on her
knee, she told her that she was quite right; they were very beautiful in
her eyes, and she would put them at once in her own room, where she
could have them all to herself.
And that is how it came about, that, as I lay in bed, the last thing my
eyes fell upon was Ella's bunch of yellow ragwort; and what could be
more natural than that I should go to sleep and dream of Runswick Bay?
It seems only yesterday
that I was there, so clearly can I recall it,
and yet it must be twenty years ago. I think I must write an account
my visit to Runswick Bay and give it to Ella, as it was her yellow
flowers which took me back to the picturesque
little place. If she
cannot understand all I tell her now, she will learn to do so as she
I was a young man then, just beginning
to make my way as an artist. It
is slow work at first; until you have made a name, every one looks
critically at your work; when once you have been pronounced
artist, every daub from your brush has a good market value. I had had
much uphill work, but I loved my profession
for its own sake, and I
worked on patiently, and, at the time my story begins, several of my
pictures had sold for fair prices, and I was not without hope that I
might soon find a place in the Academy.
It was an unusually
hot summer, and London was emptying fast. Every one
who could afford it was going either to the moors or to the sea, and I
felt very much inclined to follow their example. My father and mother
had died when I was quite a child, and the maiden
aunt who had brought
me up had just passed away, and I had mourned her death very deeply, for
she had been both father and mother to me. I felt that I needed change
of scene, for I had been up for many nights with her during her last
illness, and I had had my rest broken for so long, that I found it very
difficult to sleep, and in many ways I was far from well. My aunt had
left all her little property to me, so that the means to leave London
and to take a suitableholiday
were not wanting. The question was, where
should I go? I was anxious
to combine, if possible, pleasure and
business--that is to say, I wished to choose some quiet place where I
could get bracing air and thorough
change of scene, and where I could
also find studies for my new picture, which was (at least, so I fondly
dreamed) to find a place in the Academy the following spring.
It was whilst
I was looking for a suitable
spot that Tom Bernard, my
great friend and confidant, found one for me.
'Jack, old fellow,' he said, thrusting a torn newspaper into my hand,
'read that, old man.'
The newspaper was doubled down tightly, and a great red cross of Tom's
making showed me the part he wished me to read.
is not half so well known
as it deserves to be. For the lover of the beautiful,
for the man with an artistic
eye, it possesses a charm
which words would fail to describe. The little bay is a
for artists; they, at least, know how
its beauties. It would be well for any who
may desire to visit this wonderfullypicturesque
enchanting spot to secure hotel or lodging-house
accommodation as early as possible, for the demand for
rooms is, in August and September, far greater than the
'Well, what do you think of it?' said Tom.
'It sounds just the thing,' I said; 'fresh air and plenty to paint.'
'Shall you go?'
'Yes, to-morrow,' I replied; 'the sooner the better.'
My bag was soon packed, my easel and painting
materials were collected,
and the very next morning I was on my way into Yorkshire.
It was evening when I reached the end of my long, tiring railway
journey; and when, hot and dusty, I alighted at a village which lay
about two miles from my destination. I saw no sign of beauty as I walked
from the station; the country was slightly
undulating in parts, but as a
rule nothing met my gaze but a long flat stretch of field after field,
covered, as the case might be, with grass or corn. Harebells and pink
campion grew on the banks, and the meadows were full of ox-eye daisies;
but I saw nothing besides that was in the least attractive, and
certainly nothing of which I could make a picture.
A family from York had come by the same train, and I had learnt
their conversation that they had engaged lodgings for a month at
Runswick Bay. The children, two boys of ten and twelve, and a little
fair-haired girl a year or two younger, were full of excitement
'Father, where is the sea?' they cried. 'Oh, we do want to see the sea!'
'Run on,' said their father, 'and you will soon see it.'
So we ran together, for I felt myself a child again as I watched them,
and if ever I lagged behind, one or other of them would turn round and
cry, 'Come on, come on; we shall soon see it.'
Then, suddenly, we came to the edge of the high cliff, and the sea in
all its beauty and loveliness
burst upon us. The small bay was shut in
by rocks on either side, and on the descent
of the steep cliff was built
the little fishing
village. I think I have never seen a prettier place.
The children were already running
down the steep, rocky path--I cannot
call it a road--which led down to the sea, and I followed more slowly
behind them. It was the most curiously
built place. The fishermen's
cottages were perched on the rock, wherever
a ledge or standing
could be found. Steep, narrow paths, or small flights of rock-hewn
steps, led from one to another. There was no street in the whole place;
there could be none, for there were hardly two houses which stood on the
same level. To take a walk through this quaint
village was to go up and
down stairs the whole time.
At last, after a long, downward
scramble, I found myself on the shore,
and then I looked back at the cliff and at the irregular
little town. I
did not wonder that artists were to be found there. I had counted four
as I came down the hill, perched on different platforms on the rock, and
all hard at work at their easels.
Yes, it was certainly a picturesque
place, and I was glad that I had
come. The colouring
was charming: there was red rock in the background,
here and there covered with grass, and ablaze with flowers. Wild roses
and poppies, pink-thrift and white daisies, all contributed to make the
old rock gay. But the yellow ragwort was all over; great patches of it
grew even on the margin
of the sand, and its bright flowers gave the
whole place a golden colouring. There seemed to be yellow everywhere,
and the red-tiled cottages, and the fishermen in their blue jerseys, and
flights of steps, all appeared to be framed in the
Yes, I felt sure I should find something to paint in Runswick Bay. I was
not disappointed in Tom's choice for me.
After admiring the beauties of my new surroundings for some little time,
I felt that I must begin to look for quarters. I was anxious, if
possible, to find a lodging
in one of the cottages, and then, after a
good night's rest, I would carefully select a good subject for my
picture. I called at several houses, where I noticed a card in the
window announcing _Apartments to Let_, but I met the same answer
everywhere, 'Full, sir, quite full.' In one place I was offered a bed in
the kitchen, but the whole place smelt so strongly
of fried herrings and
of fish oil, that I felt it would be far more pleasant to sleep on the
beach than to attempt to do so in that close and unwholesome atmosphere.
After wandering up and down for some time, I passed a house close to the
village green, and saw the children with whom I had travelled sitting at
tea close to the open window. They, too, were eating herrings, and the
smell made me hungry. I began to feel that it was time I had something
to eat, and I thought my best plan would be to retrace my steps to the
hotel which I had passed on my way, and which stood at the very top of
the high cliff. I turned a little lazy when I thought of the climb, for
I was tired with my journey, and, as I said before, I was not very
strong, and to drag my bag and easel up the ruggedascent
effort at the best of times. I noticed that wooden
been placed here and there on the different platforms of the rock, for
of the fishermen, and I determined to rest for a quarter
of an hour on one of them before retracing my steps up the steep hill to
the hotel. The fishermen were filling most of the seats, sitting side by
side, row after row of them, talking together, and looking down at the
beach below. As I gazed up at them, they looked to me like so many blue
birds perched on the steep rock.
There was one seat in a quiet corner which I noticed was empty. I went
to it, and laying my knapsack and other belongings
beside me, I sat down
But I was not long to remain alone. A minute afterwards a young
fisherman, dressed like his mates in blue jersey
and oilskin cap,
planted himself on the other end of the seat which I had selected.
'Good-day, sir,' he said. 'What do you think of our bay?'
'It's a pretty place, very pretty,' I said. 'I like it well enough now,
but I daresay I shall like it better still to-morrow.'
'Better still to-morrow,' he repeated; 'well, it _is_ the better
for knowing, in my opinion, sir, and I _ought_ to know, if any one
should, for I've lived my lifetime
I turned to look at him as he spoke, and I felt at once that I had come
across one of Nature's gentlemen. He was a fine specimen
of an honest
English fisherman, with dark eyes and hair, and with a sunny smile on
his weather-beaten, sunburnt face. You had only to look at the man to
feel sure that you could trust him, and that, like Nathanael, there was
no guile in him.
'I wonder if you could help me,' I said; 'I want to find a room here if
I can, but every place seems so full.'
'Yes, it is full, sir, in August; that's the main time here. Let me see,
there's Brown's, they're full, and Robinson's, and Wilson's, and
Thomson's, all full up. There's Giles', they have a room, I believe, but
they're not over clean; maybe you're particular, sir.'
'Well,' I said, 'I do like things clean; I don't mind how rough they are
if they're only clean.'
'Ah,' he said, with a twinkle
in his eye; 'you wouldn't care for one pan
to do all the work of the house--to boil the dirty clothes, and the
fish, and your bit of pudding
for dinner, and not overmuch cleaning of
it in between.'
'No,' I said, laughing; 'I should not like that, certainly.'
'Might give the pudding
a flavour of stockings, and a sauce of fish
oil,' he answered. 'Well, you're right, sir; I shouldn't like it myself.
Cleanliness is next to godliness, that's my idea. Well, then, that being
as it is, I wouldn't go to Giles', not if them is your sentiments with
regard to pans, sir.'
'Then I suppose there's nothing for it but to trudge
up to the hotel at
the top of the hill,' I said, with something of a groan.
'Well, sir,' he said, hesitating a little; 'me and my missus, we have a
room as we lets sometimes, but it's a poor place, sir, homely
ye may say. Maybe you wouldn't put up with it.'
'Would you let me see it?' I asked.
'With pleasure, sir; it's rough, but it's clean. We could promise you a
clean pan, sir. My missus
she's a good one for cleaning; she's not one
of them slatternly, good-for-nothing lasses. There's heaps of them here,
sir, idling away their time. She's a good girl is my Polly. Why, if that
isn't little John a-clambering up the steps to his daddy!'
He jumped up as he said this, and ran quickly down the steep flight
steps which led down from the height
on which the seat was placed, and
soon returned with a little lad about two years old in his arms.
The child was as fair as his father was dark. He was a pretty boy with
light hair and blue eyes, and was tidily dressed in a bright red cap and
'Tea's ready, daddy,' said the boy; 'come home with little John.'
'Maybe you wouldn't object to a cup o' tea, sir,' said the father,
turning to me; 'it'll hearten you up a bit after your journey, and
there's sure to be herrings. We almost lives on herrings here, sir, and
then, if you're so minded, you can look at the room after. Ye'll excuse
me if I make too bold, sir,' he added, as he gently
patted little John's
tiny hand, which rested on his arm.
'I shall be only too glad to come,' I said; 'for I am very hungry, and
if Polly's room is as nice as I think it will be, it will be just the
place for me.'
He walked in front of me, up and down several flights of steps, until,
at some little distance lower down the hill, he stopped before a small