"You seem to be in a great hurry, Frank."
"Not greater, Sir," said I, "than the object deserves."
He bowed, and my father began—
"I cannot say," observed the good old gentleman, "that I much approve of matrimony before you are a commander. At least, till then, you are not your own master."
"Oh, if I am to wait for that, Sir," said I, "I may wait long enough; no man is ever his own master in our service, or in England. The captain is commanded by the admiral, the admiral by the Admiralty, the Admiralty by the Privy Council, the Privy Council by the Parliament, the Parliament by the people, and the people by printers and their devils."
"I admire your logical chain of causes and effects," said my father; "but we must, after all, go to the lace manufactory at Charing-cross, to see if we cannot have your shoulders fitted with a pair of epaulettes. When we can see you command your own sloop of war, I shall be most happy, as I am sure my good friend Somerville will be also, to see you command his daughter, the finest and the best girl in the county of ——"
No arguments could induce the two old gentlemen to bate one inch from these sine qua non. It was agreed that application should be made to the Admiralty forthwith for my promotion; and when that desirable step was obtained, that then Emily should have the disposal of me for the honeymoon.
All this was a very pretty story for them on the score of prudence, but it did not suit the views of an ardent lover of one-and-twenty; for though I knew my father's influence was very great at the Admiralty, I also knew that an excellent regulation had recently been promulgated, which prevented any lieutenant being promoted to the rank of commander until he had served two years at sea from the date of his first commission; nor could any commander, in like manner, be promoted before he had served one year in that capacity. All this was no doubt very good for the service, but I had not yet attained sufficient amor patriae to prefer the public to myself; and I fairly wished the regulation, and the makers of it, in the cavern at New Providence, just about the time of high water.
I put it to the ladies whether this was not a case of real distress, after all my hardships and my constancy, to be put off with such an excuse? The answer from the Admiralty was so far favourable, that I was assured I should be promoted as soon as my time was served, of which I then wanted two months. I was appointed to a ship fitting at Woolwich, and before she could be ready for sea, my time would be completed, and I was to have my commission as a commander. This was not the way to ensure her speedy equipment, as far as I was concerned; but there was no help for it; and as the ship was at Woolwich, and the residence of my fair one at no great distance, I endeavoured to pass my time, during the interval, between the duties of love and war; between obedience to my captain, and obedience to my mistress; and by great good fortune, I contrived to please both, for my captain gave himself no trouble about the ship or her equipment.
Before I proceeded to join, I made one more effort to break through the inflexibility of my father. I said I had undergone the labours of Hercules; and that if I went again on foreign service, I might meet with some young lady who would send me out of the world with a cup of poison, or by some fatal spell break the magical chain which now bound me to Emily. This poetical imagery had no more effect on them, than my prose composition. I then appealed to Emily herself. "Surely," said I, "your heart is not as hard as those of our inflexible parents? surely you will be my advocate on this occasion? Bend but one look of disapprobation on my father with those heavenly blue eyes of yours, and, on my life, he will strike his flag."
But the gipsy replied, with a smile (instigated, no doubt, from head-quarters), that she did not like the idea of her name appearing in the Morning Post as the bride of a lieutenant. "What's a lieutenant, now-a-days?" said she; "nobody. I remember when I was on a visit at Fareham, I used to go to Portsmouth to see the dock-yard and the ships, and there was your great friend the tall admiral, Sir Hurricane Humbug, I think you call him, driving the poor lieutenants about like so many sheep before a dog; there was one always at his heels, like a running footman; and there was another that appeared to me to be chained, like a mastiff, to the door of the admiral's office, except when the admiral and family walked out, and then he brought up the rear with the governess. No, Frank, I shall not surrender at discretion, with all my charms, to any thing less than a captain, with a pair of gold epaulettes."
"Very well," replied I, looking into the pier glass, with tolerable self-complacency; "if you choose to pin your happiness on the promises of a first lord of the Admiralty, and a pair of epaulettes, I can say no more. There is no accounting for female taste; some ladies prefer gold lace and wrinkles, to youth and beauty—I am sorry for them, that's all."
"Frank," said Emily, "you must acknowledge that you are vain enough to be an admiral at least."
"The admirals are much obliged to you for the compliment," said I. "I trust I should not disgrace the flag, come when it will; but to tell you the truth, my dear Emily, I cannot, say I look forward to that elevation, with any degree of satisfaction. Three stars on each shoulder, and three rows of gold lace round the cuff, are no compensation, in my eyes, for grey hairs, thin legs, a broken back, a church-yard cough, and to be laughed at or pitied by all the pretty girls in the country into the bargain."
"I am sorry for you, my hero," said the young lady; "but you must submit."
"Well then, if I must, I must," said I; "but give me a kiss in the meantime."
I asked for one, and took a hundred, and should have taken a hundred more, but the confounded butler came in, and brought me a letter on service, which was neither more nor less than an order to join my ship forthwith; sic transit, &c.
Pocketing my disappointment with as much sang froid as I could muster, I continued to beguile the time and to solace myself for my past sufferings, by as much enjoyment as could be compressed into the small space of leisure time allotted to me. Fortunately, the first lieutenant of the frigate was what we used to call "a hard officer;" he never went on shore, because he had few friends and less money. He drew for his pay on the day it became due, and it lasted till the next day of payment; and as I found he doated on a Spanish cigar, and a correct glass of cognac grog—for he never drank to excess—I presented him with a box of the former, and a dozen of the latter, to enable him to bear my nightly absence with Christian composure.
As soon as the day's work was ended, the good-natured lieutenant used to say, "Come, Mr Mildmay, I know what it is to be in love; I was once in love myself, though it is a good many years ago, and I am sure I shall get into the good graces of your Polly (for so he called Emily) if I send you to her arms. There is the jolly for you: send the boat off as soon as you have landed, and be with us at nine to-morrow morning, to meet the midshipman and the working party in the dock-yard."
All this was perfectly agreeable to me. I generally got to Mr Somerville's temporary residence on Blackheath by the time the dressing-bell rang, and never failed to meet a pleasant party at dinner. My father and dear Clara were guests in the house as well as myself. By Mr Somerville's kind permission, I introduced Talbot, who, being a perfect gentleman in his manners, a man of sound sense, good education, and high aristocratic connections, I was proud to call my friend. I presented him particularly to my sister, and took an opportunity of whispering in Emily's ear, where I knew it would not long remain, that he possessed the indispensable qualification of two epaulettes. "Therefore," said I, "pray do not trust yourself too near him, for fear you should be taken by surprise, like the True-blooded Yankee."
Talbot knowing that Emily was bespoken, paid her no more than the common attentions which courtesy demands; but to Clara his demeanour was very different: and her natural attractions were much enhanced in his eyes, by the friendship which we had entertained for each other ever since the memorable affair of swimming away from the ship at Spithead; from that time he used jocularly to call me "Leander."
But before I proceed any further with this part of my history, I must beg leave to detain the reader one minute only, while I attempt to make a sketch of my dear little sister Clara. She was rather fair, with a fine, small, oval, well-proportioned face, sparkling black and speaking eyes, good teeth, pretty red lips, very dark hair, and plenty of it, hanging over her face and neck in curls of every size; her arms and bust were such as Phidias and Praxiteles might have copied; her waist was slender; her hands and feet small and beautiful. I used often to think it was a great pity that such a love as she was should not be matched with some equally good specimen of our sex; and I had long fixed on my friend Talbot as the person best adapted to command this pretty little, tight, fast-sailing, well-rigged smack.
Unluckily, Clara, with all her charms, had one fault, and that, in my eyes, was a very serious one. Clara did not love a sailor. The soldiers she doated on. But Clara's predilections were not easily overcome, and that which had once taken root grew up and flourished. She fancied sailors were not well bred; that they thought too much of themselves or their ships; and, in short, that they were as rough and unpolished as they were conceited.
With such obstinate and long-rooted prejudices against all of our profession, it proved no small share of merit in Talbot to overcome them. But as Clara's love for the army was more general than particular, Talbot had a vacant theatre to fight in. He began by handing her to dinner, and with modest assurance seated himself by her side. But so well was he aware of her failing, that he never once alluded to our unfortunate element; on the contrary, he led her away with every variety of topic which he found best suited to her taste: so that she was at last compelled to acknowledge that he might be one exception to her rule, and I took the liberty of hoping that I might be another.
One day at dinner Talbot called me "Leander," which instantly attracted the notice of the ladies, and an explanation was demanded; but for a time it was evaded, and the subject changed. Emily, however, joining together certain imperfect reports which had reached her ears, through the kindness of "some friends of the family," began to suspect a rival, and the next morning examined me so closely on the subject, that fearing a disclosure from other quarters, I was compelled to make a confession.
I told her the whole history of my acquaintance with Eugenia, of my last interview, and of her mysterious departure. I did not even omit the circumstance of her offering me money; but I concealed the probability of her being a mother. I assured her that it was full four years and a half since we had met; and that as she knew of my engagement, it was unlikely we should ever meet again. "At any rate," I said, "I shall never seek her; and if accident should throw me in her way, I trust I shall behave like a man of honour."
I did not think it necessary to inform her of the musket-shots fired at me by order of Talbot, as that might have injured him in the estimation of both Emily and Clara. When I had concluded my narrative, Emily sighed and looked very grave. I asked her if she had forgiven me.
"Conditionally," said she, "as you said to the mutineers."
In all states of Europe, there are a set of men who assume from their infancy a pre-eminence independent of their moral character. The attention paid to them from the moment of their birth, gives them the idea that they are formed for command, and they soon learn to consider themselves a distinct species: and, being secure of a certain rank and station, take no pains to makes themselves worthy of it.—RAYNAL.
It is now time to make my reader acquainted with my new ship and new captain. The first was a frigate of the largest class, built on purpose to cope with the large double-banked frigates of the Yankees. She carried thirty long twenty-four pounders on her main deck, and the same number of forty-two pound carronades on her quarter-gangways and forecastle.
I had been a week on board, doing duty during the day and flirting on shore, at Mr Somerville's, at Blackheath, during the evening. I had seen no captain yet, and the first lieutenant had gone on shore one morning to stretch his legs. I was commanding officer; the people were all at their dinner; it was a drizzling soft rain, and I was walking the quarter-deck by myself, when a shore-boat came alongside with a person in plain clothes. I paid him no attention, supposing him to be a wine merchant, or a slop-seller, come to ask permission to serve the ship. The stranger looked at the dirty man-ropes, which the side-boys held off to him, and inquired if there was not a clean pair? The lad replied in the negative; and the stranger perceiving there was no remedy, took hold of the dirty ropes and ascended the side.
Reaching the quarter-deck, he come up to me, and showing a pair of sulphur-coloured gloves, bedaubed with tar and dirt, angrily observed, "By G——, Sir, I have spoiled a new pair of gloves."
"I always take my gloves off when I come up the side," said I.
"But I choose to keep mine on," said the stranger. "And why could not I have had a pair of clean ropes?"
"Because," said I, "my orders are only to give them when the side is piped."
"And why was not the side piped for me, Sir?"
"Because, Sir, we never pipe the side until we know who it is for."
"As sure as I shall sit in the House of Peers, I will report you to your captain for this," said he.
"We only pipe the side for officers in uniform," said I; "and I am yet to learn by what right you demand that honour."
"I am, Sir," said he (showing his card), "...., &c. Do you know me now?"
"Yes, Sir," said I, "as a gentleman; but until I see you in a captain's uniform, I cannot give you the honours you demand:" as I said this, I touched my hat respectfully.
"Then, Sir," said he, "as sure as I shall sit in the House of Peers, I shall let you know more of this:" and having asked whether the captain was on board, and received an answer in the negative, he turned round and went down the side into his boat, without giving me an opportunity of supplying him with a pair of clean ropes. He pulled away for the shore, and I never heard any thing more of the dirty ropes and soiled gloves.
This officer, I afterwards learned, was in the habit of interlarding his discourse with this darling object of his ambition; but as he is now a member of the Upper House, it is to be supposed he has exchanged the affidavit for some other. While he commanded a ship, he used to say, "As sure as I shall sit in the House of Peers, I will flog you, my man;" and when this denunciation had passed his lips, the punishment was never remitted. With us, the reverse of this became our bye-word; lieutenants, midshipmen, sailors and marines, asserted their claim to veracity by saying, "As sure as I shall not sit in the House of Peers."
This was the noble lord, who when in the command of one of his Majesty's ships in China, employed a native of that country to take his portrait. The resemblance not having been flattering, the artist was sharply rebuked by his patron. The poor man replied, "Ai awe, master, how can handsome face make if handsome face no have got?" This story has, like many other good stories, been pirated, and applied to other cases; but I claim it as the legitimate property of the navy, and can vouch for its origin as I have related.
My messmates dropped in one after another until our number was completed; and at length a note, in an envelope addressed to the first lieutenant "on service," and marked on the lower left hand corner with the name of the noble writer, announced that our captain would make his appearance on the following day. We were of course prepared to receive him in our full uniforms with our cocked hats and swords, with the marine guard under arms. He came alongside at half-past twelve o'clock, when the men were at dinner, an unusual hour to select, as it is not the custom ever to disturb them at their meals if it can be avoided. He appeared in a sort of undress frock coat, fall down collar, anchor buttons, no epaulettes, and a lancer's cap, with a broad gold band.
This was not correct, but as he was a lord, he claimed privilege, and on this rock of privilege we found afterwards that he always perched himself on every occasion. We were all presented to him; and to each he condescended to give a nod. His questions were all confined to the first lieutenant, and all related to his own comforts. "Where is my steward to lie? where is my valet to sleep? where is my cow-pen? and where are my sheep to be?" We discovered when he had been one hour in our company, that his noble self was the god of his idolatry. As for the details of the ship and her crew, masts, rigging, stowage, provisions, the water she would carry, and how much she drew, they were subjects on which he never fatigued his mind.
One hour having expired since he had come on board, he ordered his boat, and returned to the shore, and we saw no more of him until we arrived at Spithead, when his lordship came on board, accompanied by a person whom we soon discovered was a half pay purser in the navy: a man who, by dint of the grossest flattery and numerous little attentions, had so completely ingratiated himself with his patron, that he had become as necessary an appendage to the travelling equipage, as the portmanteau or the valet-de-chambre. This despicable toady was his lordship's double; he was a living type of the Gnatho of Terence; and I never saw him without remembering the passage that ends "si negat id quoque nego." Black was white, and white was black with toady, if his lordship pleased; he messed in the cabin, did much mischief in the ship, and only escaped kicking, because he was too contemptible to be kicked.
My fair readers are no doubt anxious to know how I parted with Emily, and truly I am not unwilling to oblige them, though it is, indeed, a tender subject. As soon as we received our orders to proceed to Spithead, Mr Somerville, who had kept his house at Blackheath while the ship was fitting, in hopes that my promotion might have taken place before she was ready, now prepared to quit the place. To the renewed application of my father, the answer was that I must go abroad for my promotion. This at once decided him to break up his summer quarters, very wisely foreseeing that unless he did so, my services would be lost to my ship; and if he and Emily did not leave me behind at Woolwich, I should probably be left behind by my captain: he therefore announced his intended departure within twenty-four hours.
Emily was very sorry, and so was I. I kindly reproached her with her cruelty; but she replied with a degree of firmness and good sense, which I could not but admire, that she had but one counsellor, and that was her father, and that until she was married, she never intended to have any other; that by his advice she had delayed the union: and as we were neither of us very old people, "I trust in God," said she, "we may meet again." I admired her heroism, gave her one kiss, handed her into her carriage, and we shook hands. I need not say I saw a tear or two in her eyes. Mr Somerville saw the shower coming on, pulled up the glass, gave me a friendly nod, and the carriage drove off. The last I saw of Emily, at that time, was her right hand, which carried her handkerchief to her eyes.
After the dear inmates were gone, I turned from the door of the house in disgust, and ran direct to my boat, like a dog with a tin-kettle. When I got on board, I hated the sight of every body, and the smell of every thing; pitch, paint, bilge-water, tar and rum, entering into horrible combination, had conspired against me: and I was as sick and as miserable as the most love-sick seaman can conceive. I have before observed that we had arrived at Spithead, and as I have nothing new to say of that place, I shall proceed to sea.
We sailed for the North American station, the pleasantest I could go to when away from Emily. Our passage was tedious, and we were put on short allowance of water. Those only who have known it will understand it. All felt it but the captain; who, claiming privilege, took a dozen gallons every day to bathe his feet in, and that water, when done with, was greedily sought for by the men. There was some murmuring about it, which came to the captain's ears, who only observed, with an apathy peculiar to Almack's,
"Well, you know, if a man has no privilege, what's the use of being a captain?"
"Very true, my lord," said the toad-eater, with a low bow.
I will now give a short description of his lordship. He was a smart, dapper, well made man, with a handsome, but not an intellectual countenance; cleanly and particular in his person; and, assisted by the puffs of Toady, had a very good opinion of himself; proud of his aristocratic birth, and still more vain of his personal appearance. His knowledge on most points was superficial—high life, and anecdotes connected with it, were the usual topics of his discourse; at his own table he generally engrossed all the conversation: and while his guests drank his wine, "they laughed with counterfeited glee," &c. His reading was comprised in two volumes octavo, being the Memoirs of the Count de Grammont, which amusing and aristocratical work was never out of his hand. He had been many years at sea; but strange to say, knew nothing, literally nothing, of his profession. Seamanship, navigation, and every thing connected with the service, he was perfectly ignorant of. I had heard him spoken of as a good officer, before he joined us; and I must, in justice to him, say that he was naturally good tempered, and I believe as brave a man as ever drew a sword.
He seldom made any professional remark, being aware of his deficiency, and never ventured beyond his depth intentionally. When he came on the quarter-deck, he usually looked at the weather main-brace, and if it was not as taut as a bar, would order it to be made so. Here he could not easily commit himself: but it became a bye-word with us when we laughed at him below. He had a curious way of forgetting, or pretending to forget, the names of men and things, I presume, because they were so much beneath him; and in their stead, substituted the elegant phrases of "What's-his-name," "What-do-ye-call-'em," and "thingumbob."
One day he came on deck, and actually gave me the following very intelligible order. "Mr, What's-his-name, have the goodness to—what-do-ye-call-'em,—the,—the thingumbob."
"Ay, ay, my lord," said I. "Afterguard! haul taut the weather main-brace." This was exactly what he meant.
He was very particular and captious when not properly addressed. When an order is given by a commanding officer, it is not unusual to say, "Very good, Sir;" implying that you perfectly understand, and are going cheerfully to obey it. I had adopted this answer, and gave it to his lordship when I received an order from him, saying "Very good, my lord."
"Mr Mildmay," said his lordship, "I don't suppose you mean anything like disrespect, but I will thank you not to make that answer again: it is for me to say 'very good,' and not you. You seem to approve of my order, and I don't like it; I beg you will not do it again, you know."
"Very good, my lord," said I, so inveterate is habit. "I beg your lordship's pardon, I mean very well."
"I don't much like that young man," said his lordship to his toady, who followed him up and down the quarter-deck, like "the bob-tail cur," looking his master in the face. I did not hear the answer, but of course it was an echo.
The first time we reefed topsails at sea, the captain was on deck; he said nothing, but merely looked on. The second time, we found he had caught all the words of the first lieutenant, and repeated them in a loud and pompous voice, without knowing whether they were applicable to the case or not. The third time he fancied he was able to go alone, and down he fell—he made a sad mistake indeed. "Hoist away the fore-topsail," said the first lieutenant. "Hoist away the fore-topsail," said the captain. The men were stamping aft, and the topsail yards travelling up to the mast-head very fast, when they were stopped by a sudden check with the fore-topsail haul-yards.
"What's the matter?" said the first lieutenant, calling to me, who was at my station on the forecastle.
"Something foul of the topsail-tie," I replied.
"What's the matter forward?" said the captain.
"Topsail-tie is foul, my lord," answered the first lieutenant.
"D——n the topsail-tie! cut it away. Out knife there, aloft! I will have the topsail hoisted; cut away the topsail-tie."
For the information of my land readers, I should observe that the topsail-tie was the very rope which was at that moment suspending the yard aloft. The cutting it would have disabled the ship until it could have been repaired; and had the order been obeyed, the topsail-yard itself, would, in all probability, have been sprung or broke in two on the cap.
We arrived at Halifax without falling in with an enemy; and as soon as the ship was secured, I went on shore to visit all my dear Dulcineas, every one of whom I persuaded, that on her account alone I had used my utmost interest to be sent out on the station. Fortunately for them and for me, I was not long permitted to trifle away my time. We were ordered to cruise on the coast of North America. It was winter and very cold; we encountered many severe gales of wind, during which time we suffered much from the frequent and sudden snowstorms, north-east gales, and sharp frosts, which rendered our running-rigging almost unmanageable, and obliged us to pour boiling water into the sheaves of the blocks to thaw them, and allow the ropes to traverse; nor did the cold permit the captain to honour us with his presence on deck more than once in the twenty-four hours.
We anchored off a part of the coast, which was not in a state of defence, and the people being unprotected by their own government, considered themselves as neutrals, and supplied us with as much fish, poultry, and vegetables, as we required. While we lay here, the captain and officers frequently went on shore for a short time without molestation. One night, after the captain had returned, a snow-storm and a gale of wind came on. The captain's gig, which ought to have been hoisted up, was not; she broke her painter, and went adrift, and had been gone some time before she was missed. The next morning, on making inquiry, it was found that the boat had drifted on shore a few miles from where we lay; and that having been taken possession of by the Americans, they had removed her to a hostile part of the coast, twenty-two miles off. The captain was very much annoyed at the loss of his boat, which he considered as his own private property, although built on board by the king's men, and with the king's plank and nails.
"As my private property," said his lordship, "it ought to be given up, you know."
I did not tell him that I had seen the sawyers cutting an anchor-stock into the plank of which it was built, and that the said plank had been put down to other services in the expense-book. This, however, was no business of mine; nor had I any idea that the loss of this little boat would so nearly produce my final catastrophe; so it was, however, and very serious results took place in consequence of this accident.
"They must respect private property, you know," said the captain to the first lieutenant.
"Yes," answered the lieutenant; "but they do not know that it is private property."
"Very true: then I will send and tell them so;" and down he went to his dinner.
The yawl was ordered to be got ready, and hoisted out at daylight, and I had notice given me that I was to go away in her. About nine o'clock the next morning, I was sent for into the cabin; his lordship was still in bed, and the green silk curtains were drawn close round his cot.
"Mr Thingamy," said his lordship, "you will take the what's-his-name, you know."
"Yes, my lord," said I.
"And you will go to that town, and ask for my thingumbob."
"For your gig, my lord?" said I.
"Yes, that's all."
"But, my lord, suppose they won't give it to me?"
"Then take it."
"Suppose the gig is not there, my lord, and if there, suppose they refuse to give it up?"
"Then take every vessel out of the harbour."
"Very well, my lord. Am I to put the gun in the boat? or to take muskets only?"
"Oh, no, no arms—take a flag of truce—No. 8 (white flag) will do."
"Suppose they will not accept the flag of truce, my lord?"
"Oh, but they will: they always respect a flag of truce, you know."
"I beg your lordship's pardon, but I think a few muskets in the boat would be of service."
"No, no, no,—no arms. You will be fighting about nothing. You have your orders, Sir."
"Yes," thinks I, "I have. If I succeed, I am a robber; if I fail, I am liable to be hanged on the first tree."
I left the cabin, and went to the first lieutenant. I told him what my orders were. This officer was, as I before observed, a man who had no friends, and was therefore entirely dependent on the captain for his promotion, and was afraid to act contrary to his lordship's orders, however absurd. I told him, that whatever might me the captain's orders, I would not go without arms.
"The orders of his lordship must be obeyed," said the lieutenant.
"Why," said I, irritated at his folly, "you are as clever a fellow as the skipper."
This he considered so great an affront, that he ran down to his cabin, saying, "You shall hear from me again for this, Sir."
I concluded that he meant to try me by a court-martial, to which I had certainly laid myself open by this unguarded expression; but I went on the quarter-deck, and, during his absence, got as many muskets into the boat as I wanted, with a proper proportion of ammunition. This was hardly completed, before the lieutenant came up again, and put a letter into my hands: which was no more than the very comfortable intelligence, that, on my return from the expedition on which I was then going, he should expect satisfaction for the affront I had offered him. I was glad, however, to find it was no worse. I laughed at his threat; and, as the very head and front of my offending was only having compared him to the captain, he could not show any resentment openly, for fear of displeasing his patron. In short, to be offended at it, was to offer the greatest possible affront to the man he looked up to for promotion, and thus destroy all his golden prospects.
As I put this well-timed challenge into my pocket, I walked down the side, got into my boat, and put off. It wanted but one hour of sunset when I reached the part where this infernal gig was supposed to be, and the sky gave strong indications of an approaching gale. Indeed, I do not believe another captain in the navy could have been found who, at such a season of the year, would have risked a boat so far from the ship on an enemy's coast and a lee-shore, for such a worthless object.
My crew consisted of twenty men and a midshipman. When we arrived off the mouth of the harbour, we perceived four vessels lying at anchor, and pulled directly in. We had, however, no opportunity of trying our flag of truce, for as soon as we came within range of musket-shot, a volley from two hundred concealed militiamen struck down four of my men. There was then nothing left for it but to board, and bring out the vessels. Two of them were aground, and we set them on fire, it being dead low water (thanks to the delay in the morning): in doing this, we had more men wounded. I then took possession of the other two vessels, and giving one of them in charge of the midshipman, who was quite a lad, I desired him to weigh his anchor. I gave him the boat, with all the men except four, which I kept with me. The poor fellow probably lost more men, for he cut his cable, and got out before me. I weighed my anchor, but had one of my men killed by a musket ball in doing it. I stood out after the midshipman. We had gained an offing of four miles, when a violent gale and snow-storm came on. The sails belonging to the vessel all blew to rags immediately, being very old. I had no resource, except to anchor, which I did on a bank, in five fathom water. The other vessel lost all her sails, and, having no anchor, as I then conjectured, and afterwards learned, drifted on shore, and was dashed to pieces, the people being either frozen to death, wounded, or taken prisoners.
The next morning I could see the vessel lying on shore a wreck, covered with ice. A dismal prospect to me, as at that time I knew not what had become of the men. My own situation was even less enviable; the vessel was frail, and deeply laden with salt: a cargo, which, if it by any means gets wet, is worse than water, since it cannot be pumped out, and becomes as heavy as lead; nothing could, in that event, have kept the vessel afloat, and we had no boat in case of such an accident. I had three men with me, besides the dead body, in the cabin, and a pantry as clear as an empty house: not an article of any description to eat. I was four miles from the shore, in a heavy gale of wind, the pleasure of which was enhanced by snow, and the bitterest cold I ever experienced. We proceeded to examine the vessel, and found that there was on board a quantity of sails and canvas, that did not fit, but had been bought with an intention of making up for this vessel, and not before she wanted them; there was also an abundance of palms, needles, and twine; but to eat, there was nothing except salt, and to drink, nothing but one cask of fresh water. We kindled a fire in the cabin, and made ourselves as warm as we could, taking a view on deck now and then, to see if she drove, or if the gale abated. She pitched heavily, taking in whole seas over the forecastle, and the water froze on the deck. The next morning we found we had drifted a mile nearer to the shore, and the gale continued with unabated violence. The other vessel lay a wreck, with her masts gone, and as it were in terrorem, staring us in the face.
We felt the most pinching hunger; we had no fuel after the second day, except what we pulled down from the bulkheads of the cabin. We amused ourselves below, making a suit of sails for the vessel, and drinking hot water to repel the cold. But this work could not have lasted long; the weather became more intensely cold, and twice did we set the prize on fire, in our liberality with the stove to keep ourselves warm. The ice formed on the surface of the water in our kettle, till it was dissolved by the heat from the bottom. The second night passed like the first; and we found, in the morning, that we had drifted within two miles of the shore. We completed our little sails this day, and with great difficulty contrived to bend them.
The men were now exhausted with cold and hunger, and proposed that we should cut our cable and run on shore; but I begged them to wait till the next morning, as these gales seldom lasted long. This they agreed to: and we again huddled together to keep ourselves warm, the outside man pulling the dead man close to him by way of a blanket. The gale this night moderated, and towards the morning the weather was fine, although the wind was against us, and to beat her up to the ship was impossible. From the continued freezing of the water, the bob-stays and the rigging were coated with ice five or six inches thick, and the forecastle was covered with two feet of clear ice, showing the ropes coiled underneath it.
There was no more to be done: so, desiring the men to cut the cable, I made up my mind to run the vessel on shore, and give myself up. We hoisted the foresail, and I stood in with the intention of surrendering myself and people at a large town which I knew was situated about twelve miles farther on the coast. To have given myself up at the place where the vessels had been captured, I did not think would have been prudent.
When we made sail on the third morning, we had drifted within half a mile of the shore, and very near the place we had left. Field pieces had been brought down to us. They had the range, but they could not reach us. I continued to make more sail, and to creep along shore, until I came within a few cables' length of the pier, where men, women, and children were assembled to see us land; when suddenly a snow-storm came on; the wind shifted, and blew with such violence, that I could neither see the port, nor turn the vessel to windward into it; and as I knew I could not hold my own, and that the wind was fair for our ship, then distant about forty miles, we agreed to up helm and scud for her.
This was well executed. About eleven at night we hailed her, and asked for a boat. They had seen us approaching, and a boat instantly came, taking us all on board the frigate, and leaving some fresh hands in charge of the prize.
I was mad with hunger and cold, and with difficulty did we get up the side, so exhausted and feeble were the whole of us. I was ordered down into the cabin, for it was too cold for the captain to show his face on deck. I found his lordship sitting before a good fire, with his toes in the grate; a decanter of Madeira stood on the table, with a wine glass, and most fortunately, though not intended for my use, a large rummer. This I seized with one hand and the decanter with the other; and, filling a bumper, swallowed it in a moment, without even drinking his lordship's good health. He stared, and I believe thought me mad. I certainly do own that my dress and appearance perfectly corresponded with my actions. I had not been washed, shaved, or "cleaned," since I had left the ship, three days before. My beard was grown, my cheeks hollow, my eyes sunk, and for my stomach, I leave that to those fortunate Frenchmen who escaped from the Russian campaign, who only can appreciate my sufferings. My whole haggard frame was enveloped in a huge blue flushing coat, frosted, like a plum-cake, with ice and snow.
As soon as I could speak, I said, "I beg pardon, my lord, but I have had nothing to eat or drink since I left the ship."
"Oh, then you are very welcome," said his lordship; "I never expected to see you again."
"Then why the devil did you send me?" thought I to myself.
During this short dialogue, I had neither been offered a chair nor any refreshment, of which I stood so much in need; and if I had been able, should have been kept standing while I related my adventures. I was about to commence, when the wine got into my head; and to support myself, I leaned, or rather staggered, on the back of a chair.
"Never mind now," said the captain, apparently moved from his listless apathy by my situation; "go and make yourself comfortable, and I will hear it all to-morrow."
This was the only kind thing he had ever done for me; and it came so apropos, that I felt grateful to him for it, thanked him, and went below to the gun-room, where, notwithstanding all I had heard and read of the dangers of repletion after long abstinence, I ate voraciously, and drank proportionably, ever and anon telling my astonished messmates, who were looking on, what a narrow escape the dead body had of being dissected and broiled. This, from the specimen of my performance, they had no difficulty in believing. I recommended the three men who had been with me to the care of the surgeon; and, with his permission, presented each of them with a pint of hot brandy and water, well sweetened, by way of a night cap. Having taken these precautions, and satisfied the cravings of nature on my own part, as well as the cravings of curiosity on that of my messmates, I went to bed, and slept soundly till the next day at noon.
Thus ended this anomalous and fatal expedition: an ambassador sent with the sacred emblem of peace, to commit an act of hostility under its protection. To have been taken under such circumstances, would have subjected us to be hung like dogs on the first tree; to have gone unarmed, would have been an act of insanity, and I therefore took upon me to disobey an unjust and absurd order. This, however, must not be pleaded as an example to juniors, but a warning to seniors how they give orders without duly weighing the consequences: the safest plan is always to obey. Thus did his Majesty's service lose eighteen fine fellows, under much severe suffering, for a boat, "the private property" of the captain, not worth twenty pounds.
The next day, as soon as I was dressed, the first lieutenant sent to speak to me. I then recollected the little affair of the challenge. "A delightful after-piece," thought I, "to the tragedy, to be shot by the first lieutenant only for calling him as clever a fellow as the captain." The lieutenant, however, had no such barbarous intentions; he had seen and acknowledged the truth of my observation, and, being a well meaning north-countryman, he offered me his hand, which I took with pleasure, having had quite enough of stimulus for that time.
Bell. You have an opportunity now, Madam, to revenge yourself upon him for affronting your squirrel. Belin. O, the filthy, rude beast. Aram. 'Tis a lasting quarrel.
We sailed the next day, and after one month more of unsuccessful cruising, arrived safe at Halifax, where I was informed that an old friend of my father's, Sir Hurricane Humbug, of whom some mention has already been made in this work, had just arrived. He was not in an official character, but had come out to look after his own property. It is absolutely necessary that I should here, with more than usual formality, introduce the reader to an intimate acquaintance with the character of Sir Hurricane.
Sir Hurricane had risen in life by his own ingenuity, and the patronage of a rich man in the South of England: he was of an ardent disposition, and was an admirable justice of peace, when the argumentum baculinum was required, for which reason he had been sent to reduce two or three refractory establishments to order and obedience; and, by his firmness and good humour, succeeded. His tact was a little knowledge of everything (not like Solomon's, from the hyssop to the cedar), but from the boiler of a potato to the boiler of a steam-boat, and from catching a sprat to catching a whale; he could fatten pigs and poultry, and had a peculiar way of improving the size, though not the breed of the latter; in short, he was "jack of all trades and master of none."
I shall not go any farther back with his memoirs than the day he chose to teach an old woman how to make mutton-broth. He had, in the course of an honest discharge of his duty, at a certain very dirty sea-port town, incurred the displeasure of the lower orders generally: he nevertheless would omit no opportunity of doing good, and giving advice to the poor, gratis. One day he saw a woman emptying the contents of a boiling kettle out of her door into the street. He approached, and saw a leg of mutton at the bottom, and the unthrifty housewife throwing away the liquor in which it had been boiled.
"Good woman," said the economical baronet, "do you know what you are doing? A handful of meat, a couple of carrots, and a couple of turnips, cut up into dice, and thrown into that liquor, with a little parsley, would make excellent mutton-broth for your family."
The old woman looked up, and saw the ogre of the dockyard; and either by losing her presence of mind, or by a most malignant slip of the hand, she contrived to pour a part of the boiling water into the shoes of Sir Hurricane. The baronet jumped, roared, hopped, stamped, kicked off his shoes, and ran home, d——ning the old woman, and himself too, for having tried to teach her how to make mutton-broth. As he ran off, the ungrateful hag screamed after him, "Sarves you right; teach you to mind your own business."
The next day, in his magisterial capacity, he commanded the attendance of "the dealer in slops." "Well, Madam, what have you got to say for yourself for scalding one of his Majesty's Justices of the Peace? don't you know that I have the power to commit you to Maidstone gaol for the assault?"
"I beg your honour's pardon, humbly," said the woman; "I did not know it was your honour, or I am sure I wouldn't a done it; besides, I own to your honour, I had a drop too much."
The good-natured baronet dismissed her with a little suitable advice, which no doubt the good woman treated as she did that relative to the mutton-broth.
My acquaintance with Sir Hurricane had commenced at Plymouth, when he kicked my ship to sea in a gale of wind, for fear we should ground on our beef bones. I never forgave him for that. My father had shown him great civility, and had introduced me to him. When at Halifax, we resided in the same house with a mutual friend, who had always received me as his own son. He had a son of my own age, with whom I had long been on terms of warm friendship, and Ned and I confederated against Sir Hurricane. Having paid a few visits en passant, as I landed at the King's Wharf, shook hands with a few pretty girls, and received their congratulations on my safe return, I went to the house of my friend, and, without ceremony, walked into the drawing-room.
"Do you know, Sir," said the footman, "that Sir Hurricane is in his room? but he is very busy," added the man, with a smile.
"Busy or not," said I, "I am sure he will see me," so in I walked.
Sir Hurricane was employed on something, but I could not distinctly make out what. He had a boot between his knees and the calves of his legs, which he pressed together, and as he turned his head round, I perceived that he held a knife between his teeth.
"Leave the door open, messmate," said he, without taking the least notice of me. Then rising, he drew a large, black, tom cat, by the tail, out of the boot, and flinging it away from him to a great distance, which distance was rapidly increased by the voluntary exertion of the cat, which ran away as if it had been mad, "There," said he, "and be d——d to you, you have given me more trouble than a whole Kentucky farm-yard; but I shall not lose my sleep any more, by your d——d caterwauling."
All this was pronounced as if he had not seen me—in fact, it was a soliloquy, for the cat did not stay to hear it. "Ah!" said he, holding out his hand to me, "how do you do? I know your face, but d——n me if I have not forgot your name."
"My name, Sir," said I, "is Mildmay."
"Ah, Mildmay, my noble, how do you do? how did you leave your father? I knew him very well—used to give devilish good feeds—many a plate I've dirtied at his table—don't care how soon I put my legs under it again;—take care, mind which way you put your helm—you will be aboard of my chickabiddies—don't run athwart hawse."
I found, on looking down, that I had a string round my leg, which fastened a chicken to the table, and saw many more of these little creatures attached to the chairs in the room; but for what purpose they were thus domesticated I could not discover.
"Are these pet chickens of yours, Sir Hurricane?" said I.
"No," said the admiral, "but I mean them to be pet capons, by and by, when they come to table. I finished a dozen and a half this morning, besides that d——d old tom cat."
The mystery was now explained, and I afterwards found out (every man having his hobby) that the idiosyncrasy of this officer's disposition had led him to the practice of neutralising the males of any species of bird or beast, in order to render them more palatable at the table.
"Well, sir," he continued, "how do you like your new ship—how do you like your old captain?—good fellow, isn't he?—d——n his eyes—countryman of mine—I knew him when his father hadn't as much money as would jingle on a tombstone. That fellow owes every thing to me. I introduced him to the duke of ——, and he got on by that interest; but, I say, what do you think of the Halifax girls?—nice! a'n't they?"
I expressed my admiration of them.
"Ay, ay, they'll do, won't they?—we'll have some fine fun—give the girls a party at George's Island—haymaking—green gowns—ha, ha, ha. I say, your captain shall give us a party at Turtle Cove. We are going to give the old commissioner a feed at the Rockingham—blow the roof of his skull off with champagne do you dine at Birch Cove to-day? No, I suppose you are engaged to Miss Maria, or Miss Susan, or Miss Isabella—ha, sad dog, sad dog—done a great deal of mischief," surveying me from head to foot.
I took the liberty of returning him the same compliment; he was a tall raw-boned man, with strongly marked features, and a smile on his countenance that no modest woman could endure. In his person he gave me the idea of a discharged life-guardsman; but from his face you might have supposed that he had sat for one of Rubens' Satyrs. He was one of those people with whom you become immediately acquainted; and before I had been an hour in his company, I laughed very heartily at his jokes—not very delicate, I own, and for which he lost a considerable portion of my respect; but he was a source of constant amusement to me, living as we did in the same house.
I was just going out of the room when he stopped me—"I say, how should you like to be introduced to some devilish nice Yankee girls, relations of mine, from Philadelphia? and I should be obliged to you to show them attention; very pretty girls, I can tell you, and will have good fortunes—you may go farther and fare worse. The old dad is as rich as a Jew—got the gout in both legs—can't hold out much longer—nice pickings at his money bags, while the devil is picking his bones."
There was no withstanding such inducements, and I agreed that he should present me the next day.
Our dialogue was interrupted by the master of the house and his son, who gave me a hearty welcome; the father had been a widower for some years, and his only son Ned resided with him, and was intended to succeed to his business as a merchant. We adjourned to dress for dinner; our bed-rooms were contiguous, and we began to talk of Sir Hurricane.
"He is a strange mixture," said Ned. "I love him for his good temper; but I owe him a grudge for making mischief between me and Maria; besides, he talks balderdash before the ladies, and annoys them very much."
"I owe him a grudge too," said I, "for sending me to sea in a gale of wind."
"We shall both be quits with him before long," said Ned; "but let us now go and meet him at dinner. To-morrow I will set the housekeeper at him for his cruelty to her cat; and if I am not much mistaken, she will pay him off for it."
Dinner passed off extremely well. The admiral was in high spirits; and as it was a bachelor's party, he earned his wine. The next morning we met at breakfast. When that was over, the master of the house retired to his office, or pretended to do so. I was going out to walk, but Ned said I had better stay a few minutes; he had something to say to me; in fact, he had prepared a treat without my knowing it.
"How did you sleep last night, Sir Hurricane?" said the artful Ned.
"Why, pretty well; considering," said the admiral, "I was not tormented by that old tom cat. D——n me, Sir, that fellow was like the Grand Signior, and he kept his seraglio in the garret, over my bed-room, instead of being at his post in the kitchen, killing the rats that are running about like coach-horses."
"Sir Hurricane," said I, "it's always unlucky to sailors, if they meddle with cats. You will have a gale of wind, in some shape or another, before long."
These words were hardly uttered, when, as if by preconcerted arrangement, the door opened, and in sailed Mrs Jellybag, the housekeeper, an elderly woman, somewhere in the latitude of fifty-five or sixty years. With a low courtesy and contemptuous toss of her head, she addressed Sir Hurricane Humbug.
"Pray, Sir Hurricane, what have you been doing to my cat?"
The admiral, who prided himself in putting any one who applied to him on what he called the wrong scent, endeavoured to play off Mrs Jellybag in the same manner.
"What have I done to your cat, my dear Mrs Jellybag? Why, my dear Madam" (said he, assuming an air of surprise), "what should I do to your cat?"
"You should have left him alone, Mr Admiral; that cat was my property; if my master permits you to ill-treat the poultry, that's his concern; but that cat was mine, Sir Hurricane—mine, every inch of him. The animal has been ill-treated, and sits moping in the corner of the fireplace, as if he was dying; he'll never be the cat he was again."
"I don't think he ever will, my dear Mrs Housekeeper," answered the admiral, drily.
The lady's wrath now began to kindle. The admiral's cool replies were like water sprinkled upon a strong flame, increasing its force, instead of checking it.
"Don't dear me, Sir Hurricane. I am not one of your dears—your dears are all in Dutchtown—more shame for you, an old man like you."
"Old man!" cried Sir Hurricane, losing his placidity a little.
"Yes, old man; look at your hair—as grey as a goose's."
"Why, as for my hair, that proves nothing, Mrs Jellybag, for though there may be snow on the mountains, there is still heat in the valleys. What d'ye think of my metaphor?"
"I am no more a metafore than yourself, Sir Hurricane; but I'll tell you what, you are a cock-and-hen admiral, a dog-in-the-manger barrownight, who was jealous of my poor tom cat, because—, I won't say what. Yes, Sir Hurricane, all hours of the day you are leering at every young woman that passes, out of our windows—and an old man too; you ought to be ashamed of yourself—and then you go to church of a Sunday, and cry, 'Good Lord, deliver us.'"
The housekeeper now advanced so close to the admiral, that her nose nearly touched his, her arms akimbo, and every preparation for boarding. The admiral, fearing she might not confine herself to vocality, but begin to beat time with her fists, thought it right to take up a position; he therefore very dexterously took two steps in the rear, and mounted on a sofa; his left was defended by an upright piano, his right by the breakfast-table, with all the tea-things on it; his rear was against the wall, and his front depended on himself in person. From this commanding eminence he now looked down on the housekeeper, whose nose could reach no higher than the seals of her adversary's watch; and in proportion as the baronet felt his security, so rose his choler. Having been for many years Proctor at the great universities of Point-street and Blue-town, as well as member of Barbican and North Corner, he was perfectly qualified, in point of classical dialect, to maintain the honour of his profession. Nor was the lady by any means deficient. Although she had not taken her degree, her tongue from constant use had acquired a fluency which nature only concedes to practice.
It will not be expected, nor would it be proper, that I should repeat all that passed in this concluding scene, in which the housekeeper gave us good reason to suppose that she was not quite so ignorant of the nature of the transaction as she would have had us believe.
The battle having raged for half an hour with great fury, both parties desisted, for want of breath, and consequently of ammunition. This produced a gradual cessation of firing, and by degrees the ships separated—the admiral, like Lord Howe on the first of June, preserving his position, though very much mauled; and the housekeeper, like the Montague, running down to join her associates. A few random shots were exchanged as they parted, and at every second or third step on the stairs, Mrs Margaret brought to, and fired, until both were quite out of range; a distant rumbling noise was heard, and the admiral concluded, by muttering that she might go—, somewhere, but the word died between his teeth.
"There, admiral," said I, "did not I tell you that you would have a squall?"
"Squall! yes—d——n my blood," wiping his face; "how the spray flew from the old beldam! She's fairly wetted my trousers, by God. Who'd ever thought that such a purring old b——h could have shown such a set of claws!—War to the knife! By heavens, I'll make her remember this."
Notwithstanding the admiral's threat, hostilities ceased from that day. The cock-and-hen admiral found it convenient to show a white feather; interest stood in the way, and barred him from taking his revenge. Mrs Jellybag was a faithful servant, and our host neither liked that she should be interfered with, or that his house should become an arena for such conflicts; and the admiral, who was peculiarly tenacious of undrawing the strings of his purse, found it convenient to make the first advances. The affair was, therefore, amicably arranged—the tom cat was, in consideration of his sufferings, created a baronet, and was ever afterwards dignified by the title of Sir H. Humbug; who certainly was the most eligible person to select for god-father, as he had taken the most effectual means of weaning him from "the pomps and vanities of this wicked world."
It was now about one o'clock, for this dispute had ran away with the best part of the morning, when Sir Hurricane said, "Come, youngster, don't forget your engagements—you know I have got to introduce you to my pretty cousins—you must mind your P's and Q's with the uncle, for he is a sensible old fellow—has read a great deal, and thinks America the first and greatest country in the world."
We accordingly proceeded to the residence of the fair strangers, whom the admiral assured me had come to Halifax from mere curiosity, under the protection of their uncle and aunt. We knocked at the door, and the admiral inquired if Mrs M'Flinn was at home; we were answered in the affirmative. The servant asked our names. "Vice Admiral Sir Hurricane Humbug," said I, "and Mr Mildmay."
The drawing-room door was thrown open, and the man gave our names with great propriety. In we walked; a tall, grave-looking, elderly lady received us, standing bolt upright in the middle of the room; the young ladies were seated at their work.
"My dear Mrs M'Flinn," said the admiral, "how do you do? I am delighted to see you and your fair nieces looking so lovely this morning."—The lady bowed to this compliment—a courtesy she was not quite up to—"Allow me to introduce my gallant young friend, Mildmay—young ladies, take care of your hearts—he is a great rogue, I assure you, though he smiles so sweet upon you."
Mrs M'Flinn bowed again to me, hoped I was very well, and inquired "how long I had been in these parts."
I replied that I had just returned from a cruise, but that I was no stranger in Halifax.
"Come, officer," said the admiral, taking me by the arm, "I see you are bashful—I must make you acquainted with my pretty cousins. This, Sir, is Miss M'Flinn—her Christian name is Deliverance. She is a young lady whose beauty is her least recommendation."
"A very equivocal compliment," thought I.
"This, Sir, is Miss Jemima; this is Miss Temperance; and this is Miss Deborah. Now that you know them all by name, and they know you, I hope you will contrive to make yourself both useful and agreeable."
"A very pretty sinecure," thinks I to myself, "just as if I had not my hands full already." However, as I never wanted small talk for pretty faces, I began with Jemima. They were all pretty, but she was a love—yet there was an awkwardness about them that convinced me they were not of the bon ton of Philadelphia. The answers to all my questions were quick, pert, and given with an air of assumed consequence; at the same time I observed a mode of expression which, though English, was not well-bred English.
"Did you come through the United States," said I, "into the British territory, or did you come by water?"
"Oh, by water," screamed all the girls at once, "and liked to have been eaten up with the nasty roaches."
I did not exactly know what was meant by "roaches," but it was explained to me soon after. I inquired whether they had seen a British man-of-war, and whether they would like to accompany me on board of that which I belonged to? They all screamed out at same moment—
"No, we never have seen one, and should like to see it of all things. When will you take us?"
"To-morrow," said I, "if the day should prove fine."
Here the admiral, who had been making by-play with the old chaperon, turned round, and said:
"Well, Mr Frank, I see you are getting on pretty well without my assistance."
"Oh, we all like him very much," said Temperance; "and he says he will take us on board his ship."
"Softly, my dear," said the aunt: "we must not think of giving the gentleman the trouble, until we are better acquainted."
"I am sure, aunt," said Deborah, "we are very well acquainted."
"Then," said the aunt, seeing she was in the minority, "suppose you and Sir Hurricane come and breakfast with us to-morrow morning at eleven o'clock, after which, we shall all be very much at your service."
Here the admiral looked at me with one of his impudent leers, and burst into a loud laugh; but I commanded my countenance very well, and rebuked him by a steady and reserved look.
"I shall have great pleasure," said I, to the lady, "in obeying your orders from eleven to-morrow morning, till the hour of dinner, when I am engaged."
So saying, we both bowed, wished them a good morning, and left the room. The door closed upon us, and I heard them all exclaim—"What a charming young man!"
I went on board, and told the first lieutenant what I had done; he, very good-naturedly, said he would do his best, though the ship was not in order for showing, and would have a boat ready for us at the dock-yard stairs at one o'clock the next day.
I went to breakfast at the appointed hour. The admiral did not appear, but the ladies were all in readiness, and I was introduced to their uncle—a plain, civil-spoken man, with a strong nasal twang. The repast was very good; and as I had a great deal of work before me, I made hay while the sun shone. When the rage of hunger had been a little appeased, I made use of the first belle to inquire if a lady whom I once had the honour of knowing, was any relation of theirs, as she bore the same name, and came, like them, from Philadelphia.
"Oh, dear, yes, indeed, she is a relation," said all the ladies together; "we have not seen her this seven years, when did you see her last?"
I replied that we had not met for some time; but that the last time I had heard of her, she was seen by a friend of mine at Turin on the Po. The last syllable was no sooner out of my mouth, than tea, coffee, and chocolate was out of theirs, all spirting different ways, just like so many young grampuses. They jumped up from the table and ran away to their rooms, convulsed with laughter, leaving me alone with their uncle. I was all amazement, and I own felt a little annoyed.
I asked if I had made any serious lapsus, or said any thing very ridiculous or indelicate; if I had, I said I should never forgive myself.
"Sir," said Mr M'Flinn, "I am very sure you meant nothing indelicate; but the refined society of Philadelphia, in which these young ladies have been educated, attaches very different meanings to certain words, to what you do in the old country. The back settlements, for instance, so called by our ancestors, we call the western settlements, and we apply the same term, by analogy, to the human figure and dress. This is a mere little explanation, which you will take as it is meant. It cannot be expected that 'foreigners' should understand the niceties of our language."
I begged pardon for my ignorance; and assured him I would be more cautious in future. "But pray tell me," said I, "what there was in my last observation which could have caused so much mirth at my expense?"
"Why, Sir," said Mr M'Flinn, "you run me hard there; but since you force me to explain myself, I must say that you used a word exclusively confined to bedchambers."
"But surely, Sir," said I, "you will allow that the name of a celebrated river, renowned in the most ancient of our histories, is not to be changed from such a refined notion of false delicacy?"
"There you are wrong," said Mr M'Flinn. "The French, who are our instructors in every thing, teach us how to name all these things; and I think you will allow that they understand true politeness."
I bowed to this dictum, only observing, that there was a point in our language where delicacy became indelicate; that I thought the noble river had a priority of claim over a contemptible vessel; and, reverting to the former part of his discourse, I said that we in England were not ashamed to call things by their proper names; and that we considered it a great mark of ill-breeding to go round about for a substitute to a common word, the vulgar import of which a well bred and modest woman ought never to have known.
The old gentleman felt a little abashed at this rebuke, and, to relieve him, I changed the subject, hoping that the ladies would forgive me for this once, and return to their breakfasts.
"Why, as for that matter," said the gentleman, "the Philadelphia ladies have very delicate appetites, and I dare say they have had enough."
Finding I was not likely to gain ground on that tack, I steered my own course, and finished my breakfast, comforting myself that much execution had been done by the ladies on the commissariat department, before the "Po" had made its appearance.
By the time I had finished, the ladies had composed themselves; and the pretty Jemima had recovered the saint-like gravity of her lovely mouth. Decked in shawls and bonnets, they expressed much impatience to be gone. We walked to the dock-yard, where a boat with a midshipman attended, and in a few minutes conveyed us alongside of my ship. A painted cask, shaped like a chair, with, a whip from the main yard-arm, was let down into the boat; and I carefully packed the fair creatures, two at a time, and sent them up. There was a good deal of giggling, and screaming, and loud laughing, which rather annoyed me; for as they were not my friends, I had no wish that my messmates should think they belonged to that set in Halifax in which I was so kindly received.
At length, all were safely landed on the quarter-deck, without the exposure of an ancle, which they all seemed to dread. Whether their ancles were not quite so small as Mr M'Flinn wished me to suppose their appetites were, I cannot say.
"La! aunt," said Deborah, "when I looked up in the air, and saw you and Deliverance dangling over our heads, I thought if the rope was to break, what a 'squash' you would have come on us: I am sure you would have paunched us."
Determined to have the Philadelphia version of this elegant phrase, I inquired what it meant, and was informed, that in their country when any one had his bowels squeezed out, they called it "paunching."
"Well," thought I, "after this, you might swallow the Po without spoiling your breakfasts." The band struck up "Yankee Doodle," the ladies were in ecstacy, and began to caper round the quarter-deck.
"La! Jemima," said Deborah, "what have you done to the western side of your gown? it is all over white."
This was soon brushed off, but the expression was never forgotten in the ship, and always ludicrously applied.
Having shown them the ship and all its wonders, I was glad to conduct them back to the shore. When I met the admiral, I told him I had done the honours, and hoped the next time he had any female relatives, he would keep his engagements, and attend to them himself.
"Why, now, who do you think they are?" said the admiral.
"Think!" said I, "why, who should they be but your Yankee cousins?"
"Why, was you such a d——d flat as to believe what I said, eh? Why, their father keeps a shop of all sorts at Philadelphia, and they were going to New York, on a visit to some of their relatives, when the ship they were in was taken and brought in here."
"Then," said I, "these are not the bon-ton of Philadelphia?"
"Just as much as Nancy Dennis is the bon-ton of Halifax," said the admiral; "though the uncle, as I told you, is a sensible fellow in his way."
"Very well," said I; "you have caught me for once; but remember, I pay you for it."
And I was not long in his debt. Had he not given me this explanation, I should have received a very false impression of the ladies of Philadelphia, and have done them an injustice for which I should never have forgiven myself.
The time of our sailing drew near. This was always a melancholy time in Halifax; but my last act on shore was one which created some mirth, and enlivened the gloom of my departure. My friend Ned and myself had not yet had an opportunity of paying off Sir Hurricane Humbug for telling tales to Maria, and for his false introduction to myself. One morning we both came out of our rooms at the same moment, and were proceeding to the breakfast parlour, when we spied the admiral performing some experiment. Unfortunately for him, he was seated in such a manner, just clear of a pent-house, as to be visible from our position; and at the same time, the collar of his coat would exactly intersect the segment of a circle described by any fluid, projected by us over this low roof, which would thus act as a conductor into the very pole of his neck.
The housemaid (these housemaids are always the cause or the instruments of mischief, either by design or neglect), had left standing near the window a pail nearly filled with dirty water, from the wash-hand basins, &c. Ned and I looked at each other, then at the pail, then at the admiral. Ned thought of his Maria: I of my false introduction. Without saying a word, we both laid our hands on the pail, and in an instant, souse went all the contents over the admiral.
"I say, what's this?" he roared out. "Oh, you d——d rascals!"
He knew it could only be us. We laughed so immoderately, that we had not the power to move or to speak; while the poor admiral was spitting, sputtering, and coughing, enough to bring his heart up.
"You infernal villains! No respect for a flag-officer? I'll serve you out for this."
The tears rolled down our cheeks; but not with grief. As soon as the admiral had sufficiently recovered himself to go in pursuit, we thought it time to make sail. We knew we were discovered; and as the matter could not be made worse, we resolved to tell him what it was for. Ned began.
"How do you do, admiral? you have taken a shower-bath this morning."
He looked up, with his teeth clenched—"Oh, it's you, is it? Yes, I thought it could be no one else. Yes, I have had a shower-bath, and be d——d to you; and that sea-devil of a friend of yours. Pretty pass the service has come to, when officers of my rank are treated in this way. I'll make you both envy the tom-cat."
"Beware the housekeeper, admiral," said Ned. "Maria has made it up with me, admiral, and she sends her love to you."
"Oh, very well, I'll tell her so," said Ned.
"Admiral," said I, "do you remember when you sent the —- to sea in a gale of wind, when I was midshipman of her? Well, I got just as wet that night as you are now. Pray, admiral, have you any commands to the Misses M'Flinn?"
"I'll tell you when I catch hold of you," said Sir Hurricane, as he moved up stairs to his room, dripping like Pope's Lodona, only not smelling so sweet.
Hearing a noise, the housekeeper came up, and all the family assembled to condole with the humid admiral, but each enjoying the joke as much as ourselves. We however paid rather dearly for it. The admiral swore that neither of us should eat or drink in the house for three days; and Ned's father, though ready to burst with laughter, was forced in common decency to say that he thought the admiral perfectly right after so gross a violation of hospitality.
I went and dined on board my ship, Ned went to a coffee-house; but on the third morning after the shower, I popped my head into the breakfast parlour, and said,
"Admiral, I have a good story to tell you, if you will let me come in."
"I'd see you d——d first, you young scum of a fish pond. Be off, or I'll shy the ham at your head."
"No, but indeed, my dear Admiral, it is such a nice story; it is one just to your fancy."
"Well then, stand there and tell it, but don't come in, for if you do—"
I stood at the door and told him the story.
"Well, now," said he, "that is a good story, and I will forgive you for it." So with a hearty laugh at my ingenuity, he promised to forgive us both, and I ran and fetched Ned to breakfast.
This was the safest mode we could have adopted to get into favour, for the admiral was a powerful, gigantic fellow, that could have given us some very awkward squeezes. The peace was very honourably kept, and the next day the ship sailed.
They turned into a long and wide street, in which not a single living figure appeared to break the perspective. Solitude is never so overpowering as when it exists among the works of man. In old woods, or on the tops of mountains, it is graceful and benignant, for it is at home; but where thick dwellings are, it wears a ghost-like aspect.—INESILLA.
We were ordered to look out for the American squadron that had done so much mischief to our trade; and directed our course, for this purpose, to the coast of Africa. We had been out about ten days, when a vessel was seen from the mast-head. We were at that time within about one hundred and eighty leagues of the Cape de Verd Islands. We set all sail in chase, and soon made her out to be a large frigate, who seemed to have no objection to the meeting, but evidently tried her rate of sailing with us occasionally: her behaviour left us no doubt that she was an American frigate, and we cleared for action.
The captain, I believe, had never been in a sea fight, or if he had, he had entirely forgotten all he had learned; for which reason, in order to refresh his memory, he laid upon the capstan-head, the famous epitome of John Hamilton Moore, now obsolete, but held at that time to be one of the most luminous authors who had ever treated on maritime affairs. John, who certainly gives a great deal of advice on every subject, has, amongst other valuable directions, told us how to bring a ship into action, according to the best and most approved methods, and how to take your enemy afterwards, if you can. But the said John must have thought red hot shot could be heated by a process somewhat similar to that by which he heated his own nose, or he must entirely have forgotten "the manners and customs in such cases used at sea," for he recommends, as a prelude or first course to the entertainment, a good dose of red hot shot, served up the moment the guests are assembled; but does not tell us where the said dishes are to be cooked. No doubt whatever that a broadside composed of such ingredients, would be a great desideratum in favour of a victory, especially if the enemy should happen to have none of his own to give in return.
So thought his lordship, who walking up to the first lieutenant, said,
"Mr Thingamay, don't you think red hot what-do-ye-call-ums should be given in the first broadside to that thingumbob?"
"Red hot shot, do you mean, my lord?"
"Yes," said his lordship; "don't you think they would settle his hash?"
"Where the devil are we to get them, my lord?" said the first lieutenant, who was not the same that wanted to fight me for saying he was as clever a fellow as the captain: that man had been unshipped by the machinations of Toady.
"Very true," said his lordship.
We now approached the stranger very fast, when, to our great mortification, she proved to be an English frigate; she made the private signal, it was answered; showed her number, we showed ours, and her captain being junior officer came on board, to pay his respects and show his order. He was three weeks from England, brought news of a peace with France, and, among other treats, a navy list, which, next to a bottle of London porter, is the greatest luxury to a sea officer in a foreign climate.
Greedily did we all run over this interesting little book, and among the names of the new made commanders, I was overjoyed to find my own; the last on the list to be sure, but that I cared not for. I received the congratulations of my messmates; we parted company with the stranger, and steered for the island of St Jago, our captain intending to complete his water in Port Praya Bay, previous to a long cruise after the American squadron.
We found here a slave vessel in charge of a naval officer, bound to England; and I thought this a good opportunity to quit, not being over anxious to serve as a lieutenant when I knew I was a commander. I was also particularly anxious to return to England for many reasons, the hand of my dear Emily standing at the head of them. I therefore requested the captain's permission to quit the ship; and as he wished to give an acting order to one of his own followers, he consented. I took my leave of all my messmates, and of my captain, who, though an unfeeling coxcomb and no sailor, certainly had some good points about him: in fact, his lordship was a gentleman; and had his ship fallen in with an enemy, she would have been well fought, as he had good officers, was sufficiently aware of his own incapability, would take advice, and as a man of undaunted bravery, was not to be surpassed in the service.
On the third day after our arrival, the frigate sailed. I went on board the slaver, which had no slaves on board except four to assist in working the vessel; she was in a filthy state, and there was no inn on shore, and of course no remedy. Port Praya is the only good anchorage in the island; the old town of St Jago was deserted, in consequence of there being only an open roadstead before it, very unsafe for vessels to lie in. The town of Port Praya is a miserable assemblage of mud huts; the governor's house, and one more, are better built, but they are not so comfortable as a cottage in England. There were not ten Portuguese on the island, and above ten thousand blacks, all originally slaves; and yet every thing was peaceable, although fresh arrivals of slaves came every day.
It was easy to distinguish the different races: the Yatoffes are tall men, not very stoutly built; most of them are soldiers. I have seen ten of them standing together, the lowest not less than six feet two or three inches. The Foulahs, from the Ashantee country, are another race, they are powerful and muscular, ill-featured, badly disposed, and treacherous. The Mandingoes are a smaller race than the others, but they are well disposed and tractable.
The island of slaves is kept in subjection by slaves only, who are enrolled as soldiers, miserably equipped; a cap and a jacket was all they owed to art, nature provided the rest of their uniform. The governor's orderly alone sported a pair of trousers, and these were on permanent duty, being transferred from one to the other as their turn for that service came on.
I paid my respects to the governor, who, although a Portuguese, chose to follow the fashion of the island, and was as black as most of his subjects. After a few French compliments, I took my leave. I was curious to see the old town of St Jago, which had been abandoned; and after a hot walk of two hours over uncultivated ground, covered with fine goats, which are the staple of the island, I reached the desolate spot.
It was melancholy to behold: it seemed as if the human race were extinct. The town was built on a wide ravine running down to the sea; the houses were of stone, and handsome; the streets regular and paved, which proves that it had formerly been a place of some importance; but it is surprising that a spot so barren as this island generally is should ever have had any mercantile prosperity. Whatever it did enjoy, I should conceive must have been anterior to the Portuguese having sailed round the Cape of Good Hope; and the solidity and even elegance of construction among the buildings justifies the supposition.
The walls were massive, and remained entire; the churches were numerous, but the roofs of them and the dwelling-houses had mostly fallen in. Trees had grown to a considerable height in the midst of the streets, piercing through the pavements and raising the stones on each side; and the convent gardens were a mere wilderness. The cocoa-nut tree had thrust its head through many a roof, and its long stems through the tops of the houses; the banana luxuriated out of the windows. The only inhabitants of a town capable of containing ten thousand inhabitants, were a few friars who resided in a miserable ruin which had once been a beautiful convent. They were the first negro friars I had ever seen; their cowls were as black as their faces, and their hair grey and woolly. I concluded they had adopted this mode of life as being the laziest; but I could not discover by what means they could gain a livelihood, for there were none to give them anything in charity.
The appearance of these poor men added infinitely to the necromantic character of the whole melancholy scene. There was a beauty, a loveliness, in these venerable ruins, which delighted me. There was a solemn silence in the town; but there was a small, still voice, that said to me: "London may one day be the same—and Paris; and you and your children's children will all have lived and had their loves and adventures; but who will the wretched man be, that shall sit on the summit of Primrose Hill, and look down upon the desolation of the mighty city, as I, from this little eminence, behold the once flourishing town of St Jago?"
The goats were browsing on the side of the hill, and the little kids frisking by their dams. "These," thought I, "perhaps are the only food and nourishment of these poor friars." I walked to Port Praya, and returned to my floating prison, the slave ship. The officer who was conducting her home, as a prize, was not a pleasant man; I did not like him: and nothing passed between us but common civility. He was an old master's mate, who had probably served his time thrice over; but having no merit of his own, and no friends to cause that defect to be overlooked, he had never obtained promotion: he therefore naturally looked on a young commander with envy. He had only given me a passage home, from motives which he could not resist; first, because he was forced to obey the orders of my late captain; and, secondly, because my purse would supply the cabin with the necessary stock of refreshments, in the shape of fruit, poultry, and vegetables, which are to be procured at Port Praya; he was therefore under the necessity of enduring my company.
The vessel, I found, was not to sail on the following day, as he intended. I therefore took my gun, at daybreak, and wandered with a guide up the valleys, in search of the pintados, or Guinea fowl, with which the island abounds; but they were so shy that I never could get a shot at them; and I returned over the hills, which my guide assured me was the shortest way. Tired with my walk, I was not sorry to arrive at a sheltered valley, where the palmetto and the plantain offer a friendly shade from the burning sun. The guide, with wonderful agility, mounted the cocoa-nut tree, and threw down half a dozen nuts. They were green, and their milk I thought the most refreshing and delicious draught I had ever taken.
The vesper bells at Port Praya were now summoning the poor black friars to their devotion; and a stir and bustle appeared among the little black boys and girls, of whose presence I was till then ignorant. They ran from the coverts, and assembled near the front of the only cottage visible to my eye. A tall elderly negro man came out, and took his seat on a mound of turf a few feet from the cottage; he was followed by a lad, about twenty years of age, who bore in his hand a formidable cowskin. For the information of my readers, I must observe that a cowskin is a large whip, made like a riding whip, out of the hide of the hippopotamus, or sea-cow, and is proverbial for the severity of punishment it is capable of inflicting. After the executioner came, with slow and measured steps, the poor little culprits, five boys and three girls, who, with most rueful faces, ranged themselves, rank and file, before the old man.
I soon perceived that the hands were turned up for punishment; but the nature of the offence I had yet to learn: nor did I know whether any order had been given to strip. With the boys this would have been supererogatory, as they were quite naked. The female children had on cotton chemises, which they slowly and reluctantly rolled up, until they had gathered them close under their armpits.
The old man then ordered the eldest boy to begin his Pater Noster; and simultaneously the whipper-in elevated his cowskin by way of encouragement. The poor boy watched it, out of the corner of his eye, and then began "Pattery nobstur, qui, qui, qui—(here he received a most severe lash from the cowskin bearer)—is in silly," roared the boy, as if the continuation had been expelled from his mouth by the application of external force in an opposite direction—"sancty fisheter nom tum, adveny regnum tum, fi notun tas, ta, ti, tu, terror," roared the poor fellow, as he saw the lash descending on his defenceless back—
"Terror indeed," thought I.
"Pannum nossum quotditty hamminum da nobs holyday, e missy nobs debitty nossa si cut nos demittimissibus debetenibas nossimus e, ne, nos hem-duckam in, in, in temptationemum, sed lillibery nos a ma—ma—" Here a heavy lash brought the very Oh! that was "caret" to complete the sentence.
My readers are not to suppose that the rest of the class acquitted themselves with as much ability as their leader, who, compared to them, was perfectly erudite; the others received a lash for every word, or nearly so. The boys were first disposed of, in order, I suppose, that they might have the full benefit of the applicant's muscles; while the poor girls had the additional pleasure of witnessing the castigation until their turn came; and that they were aware of what awaited them was evident, from their previous arrangement and disposition of dress, at the commencement of the entertainment. The girls accordingly came up one after another to say their Ave Maria, as more consonant to their sex; but I could scarcely contain my rage when the rascally cowskin was applied to them, or my laughter when, smarting under its lash, they exclaimed, "Benedicta Mulieribus," applying their little hands with immoderate pressure to the afflicted part.
I could have found in my heart to have wrested the whip out of the hands of the young negro, and applied it with all my might to him, and his old villain of a master, and father of these poor children, as I soon found he was. My patience was almost gone when the second girl received a lash for her "Plena Gratia." She screamed, and danced, and lifted up her poor legs in agony, rubbing herself on her "west" side, as the Philadelphia ladies call it, with as much assiduity as if it had been one of those cases in which friction is prescribed by the faculty.
But the climax was yet to come. A grand stage effect was to be produced before the falling of the curtain. The youngest girl was so defective in her lesson, that not one word of it could be extracted from her, even by the cowskin; nothing but piercing shrieks, enough to make my heart bleed, could the poor victim utter. Irritated at the child's want of capacity to repeat by rote what she could not understand, the old man darted from his seat, and struck her senseless to the ground.
I could bear no more. My first impulse was to wrest the cowskin from the negro's hand, and revenge the poor bleeding child as she lay motionless on the ground; but a moment's reflection convinced me that such a step would only have brought down a double weight of punishment on the victims when I was gone; so, catching up my hat, I turned away with disgust, and walked slowly towards the town and bay of Port Praya, reflecting as I went along what pleasant ideas the poor creatures must entertain of religion, when the name of God and of the cowskin were invariably associated in their minds. I began to parody one of Watts's hymns—
"Lord! how delightful 'tis to see A whole assembly worship thee."
The indignation I felt against this barbarous and ignorant negro was not unmingled with some painful recollections of my own younger days, when, in a Christian and protestant country, the bible and prayer-book had been made objects of terror to my mind; tasks, greater than my capacity could compass, and floggings in proportion were not calculated to forward the cause of religious instruction in the mind of an obstinate boy.
Reaching the water-side, I embarked on board of my slaver; and the next day sailed for England. We had a favourable passage until we reached the chops of the channel, when a gale of wind from the north-east caught us, and drove us down so far to the southward that the prize master found himself under the necessity of putting into Bordeaux to refit, and to replenish his water.
I was not sorry for this, as I was tired of the company of this officer, who was both illiterate and ill-natured, neither a sailor nor a gentleman. Like many others in the service, who are most loud in their complaints for want of promotion, I considered that even in his present rank he was what we called a king's hard bargain—that is, not worth his salt; and promoting men of his stamp would only have been picking the pocket of the country. As soon, therefore, as we had anchored in the Gironde, off the city of Bordeaux, and had been visited by the proper authorities, I quitted the vessel and her captain, and went on shore.
Taking up my abode at the Hotel d'Angleterre, my first care was to order a good dinner; and having despatched that, and a bottle of Vin de Beaune (which, by the by, I strongly recommend to all travellers, if they can get it, for I am no bad judge), I asked my valet de place how I was to dispose of myself for the remainder of the evening?
"Mais, monsieur," said he, "il faut aller au spectacle?"
"Allons," said I, and in a few minutes I was seated in the stage-box of the handsomest theatre in the world.
What strange events—what unexpected meetings and sudden separations are sailors liable to—what sudden transitions from grief to joy, from joy to grief, from want to affluence, from affluence to want! All this the history of my life, for the last six months, will fully illustrate.
You will proceed in pleasure and in pride, Beloved, and loving many; all is o'er For me on earth, except some years to hide My shame and sorrow deep in my heart's core.
I paid little attention to the performance; for the moment I came to the house, my eyes were rivetted on an object from which I found it impossible to remove them. "It is," said I, "and yet it cannot be; and yet why should it not?" A young lady sat in one of the boxes; she was elegantly attired, and seemed to occupy the united attentions of many Frenchmen, who eagerly caught her smiles.
"Either that is Eugenia," thought I, "or I have fallen asleep in the ruins of St Jago, and am dreaming of her. That is Eugenia, or I am not Frank. It is her, or it is her ghost." Still I had not that moral certainty of the identity, as to enable me to go at once to her, and address her. Indeed, had I been certain, all things considered, the situation we were in would have rendered such a step highly improper.
"If that be Eugenia," thought I, again, "she has improved both in manner and person. She has a becoming embonpoint, and an air de bon societe which, when we parted, she had not."
The more intensely I gazed, the more convinced was I that I was right; the immovable devotion of my eyes attracted the attention of a French officer, who sat near me.
"C'est une jolie femme, n'est-ce pas, monsieur?"
"Vraiment" said I. "Do you know her name?"
"Elle s'appelle Madame de Rosenberg."
"Then I am wrong, after all," said I to myself. "Has she a husband, Sir?"
"Pardonnez-moi, elle est veuve, mais elle a un petit garcon de cinq ans, beau comme un ange."
"That is her," said I again, reviving. "Is she a Frenchwoman?"
"Du tout, Monsieur, elle est une de vos compatriottes; c'est un fort joli exemplaire."
She had only been three months at Bordeaux, and had refused many very good offers in marriage. Such was the information I obtained from my obliging neighbour; and I was now convinced that Madame de Rosenberg could be no other than Eugenia. Every endeavour to catch her eye proved abortive. My only hope was to follow the carriage.
When the play was over, I waited with an impatience like that of a spirited hunter who hears the hounds. At last, the infernal squalling of the vocalists ceased, but not before I had devoutly wished that all the wax candles in the house were down their throats and burning there. I saw one of the gentlemen in the box placing the shawl over her shoulders, with the most careful attention, while the bystanders seemed ready to tear him in pieces, from envy. I hurried to the door, and saw her handed into her carriage, which drove off at a great pace. I ran after it, jumped up behind, and took my station by the side of the footman.
"Descendez donc, Monsieur," said the man.
"I'll be d——d if I do," said I.
"Comment donc?" said the man.
"Tais-toi bete" said I, "ou je te brulerai la cervelle."
"Vous f——e," said the man, who behaved very well, and instantly began to remove me, vi et armis; but I planted a stomacher in his fifth button, which I knew would put him hors de combat for a few minutes, and by that time, at the rate the carriage was driving, my purpose would have been answered. The fellow lost his breath—could not hold on or speak—so tumbled off and lay in the middle of the road.
As he fell on dry ground and was not an English sailor, I did not jump after him, but left him to his own ease, and we saw no more of him, for we were going ten knots, while he lay becalmed without a breath of wind. This was one of the most successful acts of usurpation recorded in modern history. It has its parallels, I know; but I cannot now stop to comment on them, or on my own folly and precipitation. I was as firmly fixed behind the carriage, as Bonaparte was on the throne of France after the battle of Eylau.
We stopped at a large porte cochere, being the entrance to a very grand house, with lamps at the door, within a spacious court yard; we drove in and drew up. I was down in a moment, opened the carriage door, and let down the steps. The lady descended, laid her hand on my arm without perceiving that she had changed her footman, and tripped lightly up the stairs. I followed her into a handsome saloon, where another servant in livery had placed lights on the table. She turned round, saw me, and fainted in my arms.
It was, indeed, Eugenia, herself; and with all due respect to my dear Emily, I borrowed a thousand kisses while she lay in a state of torpor, in a fauteuil to which I carried her. It was some few minutes before she opened her eyes; the man-servant, who had brought the lights, very properly never quitted the room, but was perfectly respectful in his manner, rightly conceiving that I had some authority for my proceedings.
"My dearest Frank," said Eugenia, "what an unexpected meeting! What, in the name of fortune, could have brought you here?"
"That," said I, "is a story too long, Eugenia, for a moment so interesting as this. I also might ask you the same question; but it is now one o'clock in the morning, and, therefore, too late to begin with inquiry. This one question, however, I must ask—are you a mother?"
"I am," said Eugenia, "of the most lovely boy that ever blessed the eyes of a parent; he is now in perfect health and fast asleep—come to-morrow, at ten o'clock, and you shall see him."
"To-morrow," said I, with surprise, "to-morrow, Eugenia? why am I to quit your house?"
"That also you shall know, to-morrow," said she; "but now you must do as you are desired. To-morrow, I will be at home to no one but you."
Knowing Eugenia as I did, it was sufficient that she had decided. There was no appeal; so, kissing her again, I wished her a good night, quitted her, and retired to my hotel. What a night of tumult did I pass! I was tossed from Emily to Eugenia, like a shuttlecock between two battledores. The latter never looked so lovely; and to the natural loveliness of her person, was added a grace and a polish, which gave a lustre to her charms, which almost served Emily as I had served the footman. I never once closed my eyes during the night—dressed early the next morning, walked about, looked at Chateau Trompette and the Roman ruins—thought the hour of ten would never strike, and when it did, I struck the same moment at her door.
The man who opened it to me was the same whom I had treated so ill the night before; the moment he saw me, he put himself into an attitude at once of attack, defence, remonstrance, and revenge, all connected with the affair of the preceding evening.