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CHAPTER VIII.

A HAPPY HOLIDAY.

In after years, when Joshua was many thousands of miles away from Stepney, Dan loved to linger over the memory of one especially happy day which he, and Joshua, and Ellen, and the Old Sailor spent together. Upon that day the sun was rising now; and Dan, lying in bed, was waiting impatiently for the solemn and merry church-bells to strike the hour of seven. His Sunday clothes were smoothly laid out upon a chair, close to his bed. Had the day not been an eventful one, he would not have been allowed to wear his best suit in the middle of the week. When Joshua makes his appearance in Dan's bedroom, it will be seen that he will also be dressed in his best clothes. The secret of all this is, that the lads had received permission from their parents to spend the day with the Old Sailor at the waterside, and were to be taken in

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à cart to the Old Sailor's castle—the barge near the Tower Stairs. Twenty times at the least had Dan said to Joshua, I should so like to see the Old Sailor, Jo!' And Joshua, in the most artful manner, had fished for the invitation, which would have been very readily given had the Old Sailor been aware of Joshua's desire. But Joshua, like a great many other diplomatists who think themselves wise in their generation, went to work in a subtle roundabout way, and so gave himself a vast deal of trouble, which would have been saved had he come straight to the point at once. At length, one day, when the Old Sailor had said, “And how is Dan, Josh ?' and Joshua had answered that he thought Dan was beginning to grow strong, he ventured to add, with inward fear and trembling : • And he would so much like to see you, sir, and hear some of your sea-stories! When I tell them they don't sound the same as when you tell them. There's no salt in them.' Artful Joshua! Well, my lad,' the Old Sailor had said with a chuckle (he was not insensible to flattery, the old dog !), 'why not bring him here to spend the day ?'

• When shall it be, sir ?' asked Joshua, secretly delighted.

• Next Wednesday, Josh,' said the Old Sailor.

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So next Wednesday it was. And Joshua ran to Dan's house wild with delight, and coaxed Dan's parents into giving their permission.

It was on this very Wednesday morning that Dan was lying awake, waiting for seven o'clock to strike. He awoke at least two hours before the proper time to rise; and those hours appeared to him to be longer than hours ever were before. The ride itself would be an event in Dan's life; but it was not to be compared with what was to come afterwards—the spending of a whole day and night in a house on the water. During the past week Dan had been in a fever of pleasurable anticipation, and in a fever of fright also, lest it should rain upon this particular day. The previous night it had rained; and Dan, lying awake for a longer time than usual, had prayed for the rain to go away. Ellen-standing at the window in his bedroom, after she had got out his clean shirt and Sunday clothes, and brushed and smoothed them, and taken up a stitch in them here and there, as women and girls after them) say-had seen the spots of rain falling, and, joining her prayer to his, had begged very earnestly to the rain to go away and come again another day.

And now the day was dawning; and Dan, opening his eyes, clapped his hands in delight to see the sun shining so brightly upon the broken jug which stood upon the window-sill, and in which was a handful of the sweet-smelling humble wall-flower. The pair of bullfinches which Joshua had bought for the Old Sailor were busily at work in their cage, which was hanging at the window, and were as conscious of the beauty of the morning as the most sensible human being could possibly be. Dan was so delighted that he whistled 'Rule, Britannia ! Britannia rules the waves!' And one of the bullfinches, after abstracting the last hempseed from the glass containing their morning meal, immediately piped out with fervid patriotism, ‘For Britons never, never, NE-ver shall be slaves !' From this episode the reader will learn that the education of the bullfinches was completed. “Rule, Britannia,' was not their sole vocal accomplishment. They could whistle · And did you not hear of a jolly young waterman ?' in a very superior manner. On that day the bullfinches were to be presented to their new master -to whom not a hint had been given of the pleasant surprise in store for him ; which made it all the more delightful.

While the patriotic bullfinch was asserting in

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the most melodiously-persuasive notes that‘Britons never, never, NE-ver shall be slaves,' its mate was engaged drawing up water in the tiniest little bucket in the world—another of the accomplishments (coming, presumably, under the head of 'extras') which patient Dan had taught the birds in order to win the heart of the Old Sailor. The industrious bullfinch had a remarkably rakish eye, which flashed saucily and impatiently as the music fell upon its ears. The slender rope which held the bucket being in its beak, it could not join in the harmony; but directly the bucket was hauled up and secured, it whetted its whistle, and piped out in opposition :

And did you not hear of a jolly young waterman,

Who at Blackfriars-bridge used for to ply?
He feathered his oars with such skill and dexterity,

Winning each heart and delighting each eye;'

repeating, as was its wont, the last line, Winning each heart and delighting each eye,' so as to produce a greater effect. I do not assert that the bullfinch actually uttered the words, but I do assert positively that it sang the music of them with the most beautiful trills that mortal ever heard.

But there was the solemn church-bell striking

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