On a certain summer morning, about the middle of the present century, a
big bluff man, of seafaring aspect, found himself sauntering in a
certain street near London Bridge. He was a man of above fifty, but
looked under forty in consequence of the healthful vigour of his frame,
the freshness of his saltwater face, and the blackness of his shaggy
Although his gait, pilot-cloth coat, and pocketed hands proclaimed him a
sailor, there were one or two contradictory points about him. A huge
beard and moustache savoured more of the diggings than the deep, and a
brown wide-awake with a prodigiously broad brim suggested the backwoods.
Pausing at the head of one of those narrow lanes which--running down
between warehouses, filthy little rag and bone shops, and low
poverty-stricken dwellings--appear to terminate their career, not
unwillingly, in the Thames, the sailor gazed before him with nautical
earnestness for a few seconds, then glanced at the corner house for a
name; found no name; cast his eyes up to the strip of blue sky overhead,
as if for inspiration; obtained none; planted his legs wide apart as if
he had observed a squall coming, and expected the lane to lurch
heavily--wrinkled his eyebrows, and pursed his lips.
"Lost yer bearin's, capp'n?" exclaimed a shrill pert voice at his side.