The Garret and the Garden

Robert Michael Ballantyne
The Garret and the Garden, by
R.M. Ballantyne

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Title: The Garret and the Garden
Author: R.M. Ballantyne
Release Date: June 7, 2007 [EBook #21737]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ASCII

Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England


In the midst of the great wilderness--we might almost say the wilds--of
that comparatively unknown region which lies on the Surrey side of the
Thames, just above London Bridge, there sauntered one fine day a big
bronzed seaman of middle age. He turned into an alley, down which,
nautically speaking, he rolled into a shabby little court. There he stood
still for a few seconds and looked around him as if in quest of
It was a miserable poverty-stricken court, with nothing to commend it
to the visitor save a certain air of partial-cleanliness and
semi-respectability, which did not form a feature of the courts in its
"I say, Capting," remarked a juvenile voice close at hand, "you've bin
an sailed into the wrong port."
The sailor glanced in all directions, but was unable to see the owner of
the voice until a slight cough--if not a suppressed laugh--caused him to
look up, when he perceived the sharp, knowing, and dirty face of a
small boy, who calmly contemplated him from a window not more than
a foot above his head. Fun, mischief, intelligence, precocity sat
enthroned on the countenance of that small boy, and suffering wrinkled
his young brow.
"How d'ee know I'm in the wrong port--monkey?" demanded the sailor.
"'Cause there ain't no grog-shop in it--gorilla!" retorted the boy.
There is a mysterious but well-known power of attraction between
kindred spirits which induces them to unite, like globules of quicksilver,
at the first moment of contact. Brief as was this interchange of
politenesses, it sufficed to knit together the souls of the seaman and the
small boy. A mutual smile, nod, and wink sealed, as it were, the sudden
"Come now, younker," said the sailor, thrusting his hands into his

coat-pockets, and leaning a little forward with legs well apart, as if in
readiness to counteract the rolling of the court in a heavy sea, "there's
no occasion for you an' me to go beatin' about--off an' on. Let's come to
close quarters at once. I haven't putt in here to look for no grog-shop--"
"W'ich I didn't say you 'ad," interrupted the boy.
"No more you did, youngster. Well, what I dropped in here for was to
look arter an old woman."
"If you'd said a young 'un, now, I might 'ave b'lieved you," returned the
pert urchin.
"You may believe me, then, for I wants a young 'un too."
"Well, old salt," rejoined the boy, resting his ragged arms on the
window-sill, and looking down on the weather-beaten man with an
expression of patronising interest, "you've come to the right shop,
anyhow, for that keemodity. In Lun'on we've got old women by the
thousand, an' young uns by the million, to say nuffin o' middle-aged
uns an' chicks. Have 'ee got a partikler pattern in yer eye, now, or d'ee
on'y want samples?"
"What's your name, lad?" asked the sailor.
"That depends, old man. If a beak axes me, I've got a wariety o' names,
an' gives 'im the first as comes to 'and. W'en a gen'leman axes me, I'm
more partikler--I makes a s'lection."
"Bein' neither a beak nor a gentleman, lad, what would you say your
name was to me?"
"Tommy Splint," replied the boy promptly. "Splint, 'cause w'en I was
picked up, a small babby, at the work'us door, my left leg was broke,
an' they 'ad to putt it up in splints; Tommy, 'cause they said I was like a
he-cat; w'ich was a lie!"
"Is your father alive, Tommy?"

"'Ow should I know? I've got no father nor mother--never had none as I
knows on; an' what's more, I don't want any. I'm a horphing, I am, an' I
prefers it. Fathers an' mothers is often wery aggrawatin'; they're
uncommon hard to manage w'en they're bad, an' a cause o' much
wexation an' worry to child'n w'en they're good; so, on the whole, I
think we're better without 'em. Chimleypot Liz is parent enough for
"And who may
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