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Frank and I, A study of flagellation in England by the author of “Dolly Morton”, by Anonymous

Frank and I

A study of flagellation in England by the author of “Dolly Morton”



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Chapter I

A Strange Meeting - Running Away To Sea - “Frank” And His New Clothes - The Good Samaritan


Twenty years ago, on a beautiful evening in the month of September, I was plodding along a tree-bordered road in Hampshire, on my way home after a long day’s partridge shooting. I was looking forward to the good dinner awaiting me, and I was feeling perfectly satisfied with everything, for I had had splendid sport; the “birds” had been plentiful, my dogs had been staunch, and I had missed very few shots.

I was thirty years old; a bachelor,-I am one still- and I lived, with a number of male and female servants, in a rambling, old, red brick mansion which had been in the possession of my family for several generations.

It was past six o’clock, and the rays of the setting sun, streaming between the trunks of the lofty trees, cast alternate lines of golden light and deep shade athwart the dusty white road. The hush of evening was over everything; no sound broke the stillness but the twittering of unseen birds; while the only living thing in sight was the solitary figure of a lad who was walking slowly along the road about a hundred yards ahead of me. As I was walking fast, I soon overtook the boy, and was about to pass him, when he asked me to tell him the time.

I did so; then slackening my gait, I entered into conversation with him, and we walked along side by side at a slow pace, for the boy was evidently footsore. He did not talk much at first, but he was not at all shy or awkward, and he seemed to be glad of my company on the lonely road. He was apparently about thirteen years old; a slender built, good-looking lad, with small hands and feet; short, curly fair hair, and blue eyes. He was dressed in a Norfolk jacket and trousers of dark tweed; neat, laced boots, and a white straw hat, but I noticed that his clothes, though almost new, were dusty and travel-stained. His manner was quiet and self-possessed; he expressed himself well, speaking with an educated accent; and he appeared to be in every respect a little gentleman.

“You seem tired,” I remarked.

“I am rather tired. I have walked fifteen miles to-day,” he replied.

“That’s a long walk for a little chap like you. Where are you going?”

“I am going to Southampton. I want to go to sea,” he answered, without the least hesitation. “Oh, indeed,” said I, very much surprised at his answer; especially as we were quite twenty miles from Southampton.

“You don’t intend to walk all the way,” I observed, in a chaffing way.

“Yes, I do. I have not enough money to go by train,” he said, getting a little red in the face. I thought to myself, that he had run away from school. However, it was no business of mine; moreover, I felt pretty sure that no skipper would take such a slight, delicate-looking lad on his ship; and therefore the runaway would soon have to communicate with his friends.

“How old are you? I don’t think you are strong enough to be a sailor yet awhile,” said L.

“I am going on for fifteen, and I am stronger than I look,” said the boy.

I did not believe he was so old. He certainly did not look it.

“Well, anyhow, you can’t go much further to-night. What are you going to do for food; and where are you going to sleep?” I inquired.

“I have a little money, and I intend to buy some bread and cheese at the first public-house I come to; and I shall sleep in a haystack-as I did last night,” replied the little fellow, bravely.

I laughed, but at the same time I admired the lad’s pluck.

“I suppose you have run away from school. Don’t you think your parents will be angry, and alarmed when they hear what you have done?”

He looked up in my face, and replied, with a catch in his voice, “I have neither father nor mother; and I have not run away from school.”

“Well, from relations, or friends then,” said I.

“I have no relations, or friends,” he said, huskily, his eyes suddenly filling with tears, which he at once brushed away.

“But you must have been living with someone until now. Tell me all about yourself. Don’t be afraid of me. I won’t interfere with you. And perhaps I may be able to help you along, if you are determined to go.”

He hesitated for a moment, and then spoke: “My father was an officer in the army, and both he and my mother died in India five years ago. I was sent to a school near London where I remained until six months ago: then I believe the money which had been left for me came to an end, and I was taken away from the school by some people with whom I lived until the day before yesterday. I do not want to tell who they are, or where they live. I do not know why they kept me, for they were not paid to do so, and I have no claim upon them in any way. I had never seen or heard of them until they came to the school and took me away. They were not unkind to me until lately, and then, because I refused to do a certain thing they wished me to do, they ill-treated me, and told me that if I did not consent to do what they wanted, they would turn me out of the house. I still refused, and after a few more days had passed, they told me they would not keep me any longer, and that I was to go away at once. So two days ago I left the house, quite determined to make my way to Portsmouth, and go to sea.”

This story appeared to be a highly improbable one in every way, but he told it without hesitating, in a most straightforward manner, and there was a ring of truth in his voice. I looked searchingly at him, and cross-questioned him, trying to make him contradict himself in some way, but he did not get the least confused, nor did he alter his original story in the smallest detail, and he politely, but firmly, refused to give me his reasons for leaving the people with whom he had been living. He evidently noticed that I seemed rather incredulous, for he raised his head and said proudly, his face flushing and his lips trembling a little as he spoke: “I am not a liar. I have told you nothing but the truth; and I have not done anything wrong.”

His face was so open, and his candid blue eyes met mine so unflinchingly, that I began to think that his story might perhaps be true. If it was true, he was very much to be pitied, for it was very hard that a young, fragile, and apparently gently nurtured lad like him should be thrown alone on the world to make his own living. At any rate there was some mystery about the whole affair, and I began to feel an interest in the lad; so I determined to take him home with me, give him some dinner, and put him up for the night.

I said, “Well, anyhow you may as well come home with me to dinner, and I will give you a bed for the night. Then in the morning I will see what I can do for you.”

The boy’s sad face brightened, he gave me a grateful look, and exclaimed earnestly:

“Oh! thank you! Thank you very much. You are very, very kind.”

“Well, that is all settled. Let us walk a little faster. My house is close by,” said I.

We stepped out briskly; the boy’s manner became more confidential; he informed me that his Christian name was Francis, and confessed that he had only sixpence left, and that he had not had much sleep in the haystack the previous night. In a short time we reached my lodge gates, and walked up the long, winding avenue leading to the house; the first sight of which seemed to impress the boy very much, for he evidently had an eye for the picturesque.

“Oh!” he ejaculated, “what a fine old house, and such a splendid lawn!”



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