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"Lor' bless you, Miss, she would do anything for you; she said the other day she would, and that she did not care whether she lost her place or not; she did not want to stop with thieves. Oh, you may depend on her, Miss."

Two days afterwards, Mr. Billow informed Robert that he had made an appointment for him to meet two first-rate hands that evening, at a quiet place, where they could talk things over without being interrupted. Accordingly, at nine o'clock, Robert Gregory made some excuse to Sophy, and went out. He found Mr. Billow waiting for him at the corner of the street; and although for once he was sober, and had evidently taken some pains with his personal appearance, Robert could not help thinking what a dirty, disreputable old man he looked, and feeling quite ashamed of him as he kept close to his heels along the busy Westminster Bridge Road. They crossed the bridge, kept on in front of the old Abbey, and entered the network of miserable lanes and alleys which lie almost beneath the shadow of its towers. Into this labyrinth they plunged, and went on their way through lanes of squalid houses, with still more squalid courts leading from them, reeking with close, foul smells, which sickened the mere passer-by, and told their tales of cholera and typhus; miserable dens, where honest labour and unsuccessful vice herd and die together; hotbeds of pestilence and fever, needing only a spark to burst into a flame of disease, and spread the plague arounda fitting judgment on the great, rich city which permits their existence within it. Through several of these they passed, and then emerged into a wider street, where the gaslight streamed out from nearly every house, and where the doors were ever on the swing. By the sides of the pavements were stalls with candles in paper lanterns, with hawkers proclaiming the goodness of the wares which they sold; stale vegetables, the refuse of the fish at the public sales at Billingsgate, and strange, unwholesome-looking meats, which would puzzle any one to define the animals from which they were taken, or the joints which they were supposed to represent. Round them were numbers of eager, haggling women; and the noise, the light, and bustle, formed a strange contrast to the silent, ill-lighted lanes through which they had just passed. In a rather wider lane than usual, leading off this sort of market, was a quiet-looking public-house, offering a strong contrast to its brilliant rivals close by, with their bright lamps, and plate-glass, and gaudy fittings. Into this Mr. Billow entered, followed by Robert Gregory. Two or three men were lounging at the bar, who looked up rather curiously as the new comers entered. Mr. Billow spoke a word or two to the landlord, to whom he was evidently known, and then passed along a passage into a small room, where two men were sitting with glasses before them, smoking long pipes. They rose when Robert and his conductor entered, with a sort of half bow, half nod. Mr. Billow closed the door carefully behind him, and then said to Robert,

"And who is your son Thomas's Sarah?" I asked, smiling.

"Well ladies, and your honours," the sailor said, "when I felt the boat go over I stuck to her, and never left go. I soon got my head above water, and clambered on to her bottom. I had hardly got my breath, before I saw a head come out of the water close by me. I held on to the keel with my hook, leaned over, and caught him by the hair, and helped him on to the boat beside me. That was Mr. Robert Harmer. I looked round again, and thought I saw an arm come up for a moment, but that was all I saw of any of them, and I don't think one of them ever came up after she upset. Mr. Robert Harmer was very weak, but he clung with me for nigh ten minutes, sometimes washed nearly off, and getting weaker and weaker every minute, and I saw he could not last long. We did not speak, the waves and the wind were too high, and we were half the time under water; but I could see the poor gentleman was praying very hard. At last a big wave came over all, and nearly carried me off, and I had a hard fight to get back again. When I had time to look round, Mr. Robert Harmer was gone, and that was the last I ever saw of him. Which I am ready to take my davy."

"Oh, Polly, have pity on me, too," Percy said, and his lips quivered now; and although he kept the features of his face still rigid and under control, the tears were starting from his eyes. "What shall I do!"

Lady Desborough presently came down. She was extremely gracious and cordial, and, although it was not more than six months since she had seen me, she assured me that I had very much improved, especially in figure and carriage,the points, she observed, in which young girls generally fail; and she said she should be quite proud of two such belles as Ada and myself to introduce into society.

"I shall do very well, Mr. Harmer. I can walk about the grounds. I see there are a good many people about, and I am sure to find some one to talk to till it is time for me to come in."

They greeted each other warmly, for they had been a great deal together in the time when Gregory was in London, and their satisfaction at meeting was mutual. After a while, they sat down before the fire, ordered fresh glasses of spirits and water, and prepared for a long talk over all that had happened since they had parted some four years agoRobert to return to his father at Canterbury, Fielding to continue for a short time longer the reckless life they were living about town.