When the boat returned, the clerk was sent for, and desired by Mr W—— to make out Mr Aveleyn's discharge, as the officers and midshipmen thought (for Mr W—— had kept his secret), for his disobedient conduct. The poor boy, who thought all his prospects blighted, was sent on shore, the tears running down his cheeks, as much from the applause and kind farewells of his shipmates, as from the idea of the degradation which he underwent. Now, the real culprit was young Malcolm, who, to oblige the captain, had taken his station at the foretop-gallant mast-head, because the dog "Ponto" thought proper to cut off his own tail. The first lieutenant, in his own woe, forgot that of others; and it was not until past nine o'clock at night that Malcolm, who thought that he had stayed up quite long enough, ventured below, when he was informed of what had taken place.
The youngster immediately penned a letter to the captain, acknowledging that he was the offender, and requesting that Mr Aveleyn might not be discharged from the service; he also ventured to add a postscript, begging that the same lenity might be extended towards himself; which letter was sent on shore by the captain's gig, when it left the ship the next morning, and was received by Captain L—— at the very same time that young Aveleyn, who had not been sent on shore till late in the evening, called upon the captain to request a reprieve from his hard sentence.
The boy sent up his name and was immediately admitted.
"I presume you know why you are discharged from the service?" said Captain L——, smiling benignantly.
"Yes, sir," replied the boy, holding his head down submissively, "because of that accident—I'm very sorry, sir."
"Of course you must, and ought to be. Such heavy blows are not common, and hard to bear. I presume you go immediately to Buckhurst?"
"I suppose I must, sir; but I hope, Captain L——, that you'll look over it."
"I shall have very great pleasure in so doing," replied Captain L——; "I hear that it is—"
"Thanky, sir, thanky," replied the youngster, interrupting the captain. "Then may I go on board again and tell the first lieutenant?"
"Tell the first lieutenant what?" cried Captain L——, perceiving some mistake. "Why, has not Mr W——told you?"
"Yes, sir, he told me it was your orders that I should be dismissed his Majesty's service."
"Discharged—not dismissed. And I presume he told you why: because your two elder brothers are dead, and you are now Lord Aveleyn."
"No, sir!" cried the youngster with astonishment; "because his three front teeth are knocked out with a bottle of scaldchops, and I would not peach who stowed it away in the bunt of the sail."
"This is excessively strange!" replied Captain L——. "Do me the favour to sit down, my lord; the letters from the ship will probably explain the affair."
There was, however, no explanation, except from young Malcolm. The captain read his letter, and put it into the hands of Lord Aveleyn, who entered into a detail of the whole.
Captain L—— produced the letter from the trustees, and, desiring his lordship to command him as to any funds he might require, requested the pleasure of his company to dinner. The boy, whose head wheeled with the sudden change in his prospects, was glad to retire, having first obtained permission to return on board with young Malcolm's pardon, which had been most graciously acceded to. To the astonishment of everybody on board, young Aveleyn came alongside in the captain's own gig, when the scene in the midshipmen's berth and the discomfiture of the first lieutenant may be imagined.
"You don't belong to the service, Frank," said the old master's mate; "and, as peer of the realm, coming on board to visit the ship, you are entitled to a salute. Send up and say you expect one, and then W—— must have the guard up, and pay you proper respect. I'll be hanged if I don't take the message, if you consent to it."
But Lord Aveleyn had come on board to pay a debt of gratitude, not to inflict mortification. He soon quitted the ship, promising never to forget Malcolm; and, unlike the promises of most great men, it was fulfilled, and Malcolm rose to be a captain from his own merit, backed by the exertions of his youthful patron.
For the next week the three mast-heads were so loaded with midshipmen, that the boatswain proposed a preventer backstay, that the top-masts might not go over the side; but shortly after, Captain L——, who was not pleased at the falsehood which Mr W—— had circulated, and who had many other reasons for parting with him, succeeded in having him appointed to another ship; after which the midshipmen walked up and down the quarter-deck with their hands in their pockets, as before.
"But Adeline determined Juan's wedding In her own mind, and that's enough for woman; But then with whom? There was the sage Miss Redding, Miss Raw, Miss Flaw, Miss Showman and Miss Knowman, And the two fair co-heiresses Giltbedding. She deem'd his merits something more than common. All these were unobjectionable matches, And might go on, it well wound up, like watches." BYRON.
The young Lord Aveleyn returned to the hall of his ancestors, exchanging the gloomy cockpit for the gay saloon, the ship's allowance for sumptuous fare, the tyranny of his messmates and the harshness of his superiors for adulation and respect. Was he happier? No. In this world, whether in boyhood or riper years, the happiest state of existence is when under control. Although contrary to received opinion, this is a fact; but I cannot now stop to demonstrate the truth of the assertion.
Life may be compared to a gamut of music: there are seven notes from our birth to our marriage; and thus may we run up the first octave—milk, sugar-plums, apples, cricket, cravat, gun, horse; then comes the wife, a da capo to a new existence, which is to continue until the whole diapason is gone through. Lord Aveleyn ran up his scale like others before him.
"Why do you not marry, my dear Frank?" said the dowager Lady Aveleyn, one day, when a thick fog debarred her son of his usual pastime.
"Why, mother, I have no objection to marry; and I suppose I must, one of these days, as a matter of duty: but I really am very difficult to please; and if I were to make a bad choice, you know a wife is not like this gun, which will go off when I please."
"But still, my dear Frank, there are many very eligible matches to be made just now."
"I do not doubt it, madam, but pray who are they?"
"Why, Miss Riddlesworth—"
"A very pretty girl, and I am told a large fortune. But let me hear the others first."
"Clara Beauchamp, well connected, and a very sweet girl."
"Granted also, for anything I know to the contrary. Have you more on your list?"
"Certainly. Emily Riddlesdale; not much fortune, but very highly connected indeed. Her brother, Lord Riddlesdale, is a man of great influence."
"Her want of money is no object, my dear mother, and the influence of her brother no inducement; I covet neither. I grant you that she is a very nice girl. Proceed."
"Why, Frank, one would think that you were a sultan with his handkerchief. There is Lady Selina Armstrong."
"Well, she is a very fine girl, and talks well."
"There is Harriet Butler, who has just come out."
"I saw her at the last ball we were at—a very pretty creature."
"Lady Jemima Calthorpe."
"Not very good-looking, but clever and agreeable."
"There is Louisa Manners, who is very much admired."
"I admire her very much myself."
"Well, Frank, you have exhausted my catalogue. There is not one I have mentioned who is not unexceptionable, and whom I would gladly embrace as a daughter-in-law. You are now turned of forty, my dear son, and must make up your mind to have heirs to the title and estates. I am, however, afraid that your admiration is so general, that you will be puzzled in your choice."
"I will confess to you, my dearest mother, that I have many years thought of the necessity of taking to myself a wife, but have never yet had courage to decide. I admit that if all the young women you have mentioned were what they appear to be, a man need not long hesitate in his choice; but the great difficulty is, that their real tempers and dispositions are not to be ascertained until it is too late. Allow that I should attempt to discover the peculiar disposition of every one of them, what would be the consequence?—that my attentions would be perceived. I do not exactly mean to accuse them of deceit; but a woman is naturally flattered by perceiving herself an object of attraction; and when flattered, is pleased. It is not likely, therefore, that the infirmities of her temper (if she have any) should be discovered by a man whose presence is a source of gratification. If artful, she will conceal her faults; if not so, there will be no occasion to bring them to light. And even if, after a long courtship, something wrong should be discovered, either you have proceeded too far in honour to retract, or are so blinded by your own feelings as to extenuate it. Now, it is only the parents and near relations of a young woman who can be witnesses to her real character, unless it be, indeed, her own maid, whom one could not condescend to interrogate."
"That is all very true, Frank; but recollect the same observations apply to your sex as well as ours. Lovers and husbands are very different beings. It is quite a lottery on both sides."
"I agree with you, my dear mother; and, as marry I must, so shall it be a lottery with me—I will leave it to chance, and not to myself: then, if I am unfortunate, I will blame my stars, and not have to accuse myself of a want of proper discrimination." Lord Aveleyn took up a sheet of paper, and, dividing it into small slips, wrote upon them the names of the different young ladies proposed by his mother. Folding them up, he threw them on the table before her, and requested that she would select any one of the papers.
The dowager took up one.
"I thank you, madam," said Lord Aveleyn, taking the paper from her hand, and opening it—"'Louisa Manners.' Well, then, Louisa Manners it shall be; always provided that she does not refuse me. I will make my first advances this very afternoon—that is, if it does not clear up, and I can take out the pointers."
"You surely are joking, Frank?"
"Never was more serious. I have my mother's recommendation, backed by fate. Marry I must, but choose I will not. I feel myself desperately in love with the fair Louisa already. I will report my progress to you, my dear madam, in less than a fortnight."
Lord Aveleyn adhered to his singular resolution, courted, and was accepted. He never had reason to repent his choice; who proved to be as amiable as her countenance would have indicated. The fruits of his marriage was one son, who was watched over with mingled pride and anxiety, and who had now arrived at the age of fifteen years.
Such was the history of Lord Avelyn, who continued to extend his friendship to Edward Forster, and, if he had required it, would gladly have proffered his assistance, in return for the kindness which Forster had shown towards him when he was a midshipman. The circumstances connected with the history of the little Amber were known to Lord Aveleyn and his lady; and the wish of Forster, that his little charge should derive the advantage of mixing in good female society, was gladly acceded to, both on his account and on her own. Amber would often remain for days at the mansion, and was a general favourite, as well as an object of sympathy.
But the growth of their son, too rapid for his years, and which brought with it symptoms of pulmonary disease, alarmed Lord and Lady Aveleyn; and, by the advice of the physicians, they broke up their establishment, and hastened with him to Madeira, to re-establish his health. Their departure was deeply felt both by Forster and his charge; and before they could recover from the loss, another severe trial awaited them in the death of Mrs Beazely, who, full of years and rheumatism, was gathered to her fathers. Forster, habituated as he was to the old lady, felt her loss severely: he was now with Amber, quite alone; and it so happened that in the following winter his wound broke out, and confined him to his bed until the spring.
As he lay in a precarious state, the thought naturally occurred to him, "What will become of this poor child if I am called away? There is not the slightest provision for her: she has no friends, and I have not even made it known to any of my own that there is such a person in existence." Edward Forster thought of his brother, the lawyer, whom he knew still to be flourishing, although he had never corresponded with him; and resolved that, as soon as he was able to undertake the journey, he would go to town, and secure his interest for the little Amber, in case of any accident happening to himself.
The spring and summer passed away before he found himself strong enough to undertake the journey. It was late in the autumn that Edward Forster and Amber took their places in a heavy coach for the metropolis, and arrived without accident on the day or two subsequent to that on which Nicholas and Newton had entered it on foot.
"Through coaches, drays, choked turnpikes, and a whirl Of wheels, and roar of voices, and confusion, Here taverns wooing to a pint of 'purl,' There mails fast flying off, like a delusion.
"Through this, and much, and more, is the approach Of travellers to mighty Babylon; Whether they come by horse, or chair, or coach, With slight exceptions, all the ways seem one." BYRON.
When Newton Forster and his father arrived at London, they put up at an obscure inn in the Borough. The next day, Newton set off to discover the residence of his uncle. The people of the inn had recommended him to apply to some stationer or bookseller, who would allow him to look over a red-book; and, in compliance with these instructions, Newton stopped at a shop in Fleet-street, on the doors of which was written in large gilt letters—"Law Bookseller." The young men in the shop were very civil and obliging, and, without referring to the "Guide," immediately told him the residence of a man so well known as his uncle, and Newton hastened in the direction pointed out.
It was one of those melancholy days in which London wears the appearance of a huge scavenger's cart. A lurid fog and mizzling rain, which had been incessant for the previous twenty-four hours; sloppy pavements, and kennels down which the muddy torrents hastened to precipitate themselves into the sewers below; armies of umbrellas, as far as the eye could reach, now rising, now lowering, to avoid collision; hackney-coaches in active sloth, their miserable cattle plodding along with their backs arched and heads and tails drooping like barndoor fowls crouching under the cataract of a gutter; clacking of pattens and pestering of sweepers; not a smile upon the countenance of one individual of the multitude which passed him;—all appeared anxiety, bustle, and selfishness. Newton was not sorry when he turned down the narrow court which had been indicated to him, and, disengaged from the throng of men, commenced a more rapid course. In two minutes he was at the door of his uncle's chambers, which, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, stood wide open, as if there should be no obstacle in a man's way, or a single moment for reflection allowed him, if he wished to entangle himself in the expenses and difficulties of the law. Newton furled his weeping umbrella; and, first looking with astonishment at the mud which had accumulated above the calves of his legs, raised his eyes to the jambs on each side, where in large letters he read at the head of a long list of occupants, "Mr Forster, Ground Floor." A door with Mr Forster's name on it, within a few feet of him, next caught his eye. He knocked, and was admitted by the clerk, who stated that his master was at a consultation, but was expected back in half-an-hour, if he could wait so long. Newton assented, and was ushered into the parlour, where the clerk presented the newspaper of the day to amuse him until the arrival of his uncle.
As soon as the door was closed, Newton's curiosity as to the character of his uncle induced him to scrutinise the apartment and its contents. In the centre of the room, which might have been about fourteen feet square, stood a table, with a shadow lamp placed before the only part of it which was left vacant for the use of the pen. The remainder of the space was loaded with parchment upon parchment, deed upon deed, paper upon paper. Some, especially those underneath, had become dark and discoloured by time; the ink had changed to a dull red, and the imprint of many a thumb inferred how many years they had been in existence, and how long they had lain there as sad mementos of the law's delay. Others were fresh and clean, the japanned ink in strong contrast with the glossy parchment,—new cases of litigation, fresh as the hopes of those who had been persuaded by flattering assurances to enter into a labyrinth of vexation, from which, perhaps, not to be extricated until these documents should assume the hue of the others, which silently indicated the blighted hopes of protracted litigation. Two massive iron chests occupied the walls on each side of the fireplace; and round the whole area of the room were piled one upon another large tin boxes, on which, in legible Roman characters, were written the names of the parties whose property was thus immured. There they stood like so many sepulchres of happiness, mausoleums raised over departed competence; while the names of the parties inscribed appeared as so many registers of the folly and contention of man.
But from all this Newton could draw no other conclusion than that his uncle had plenty of business. The fire in the grate was on so small a scale, that, although he shivered with the wet and cold, Newton was afraid to stir it, lest it should go out altogether. From this circumstance he drew a hasty and unsatisfactory conclusion that his uncle was not very partial to spending his money.
But he hardly had time to draw these inferences and then take up the newspaper, when the door opened, and another party was ushered into the room by the clerk, who informed him, as he handed a chair, that Mr Forster would return in a few minutes.
The personage thus introduced was a short young man, with a round face, bushy eyebrows, and dogged countenance, implying wilfulness without ill-nature. As soon as he entered, he proceeded to divest his throat of a large shawl, which he hung over the back of a chair; then doffing his great coat, which was placed in a similar position, he rubbed his hands, and walked up to the fire, into which he insinuated the poker, and immediately destroyed the small symptoms of combustion which remained, reducing the whole to one chaos of smoke.
"Better have left it alone, I believe," observed he, reinserting the poker, and again stirring up the black mass, for the fire was now virtually defunct.
"You're not cold, I hope, sir?" said the party, turning to Newton.
"No, sir, not very," replied Newton, good humouredly.
"I thought so; clients never are: nothing like law for keeping you warm, sir. Always bring on your cause in the winter months. I do, if I can; for it's positive suffocation in the dog-days!"
"I really never was at law," replied Newton, laughing; "but if ever I have the misfortune, I shall recollect your advice."
"Never was at law! I was going to say, what the devil brings you here? but that would have been an impertinent question. Well, sir, do you know, there was a time at which I never knew what law was," continued the young man, seating himself in a chair opposite to Newton. "It was many years ago, when I was a younger brother, and had no property: no one took the trouble to go to law with me; for if they gained their cause, there were no effects. Within the last six years I have inherited considerable property, and am always in hot water. I heard that the lawyers say, 'causes produce effects.' I am sure I can say that 'effects have produced causes!'"
"I am sorry that your good fortune should be coupled with such a drawback."
"Oh, it's nothing! It's just to a man what a clog is to a horse in a field—you know pretty well where to find him. I'm so used to it—indeed so much so, that I should feel rather uncomfortable if I had nothing on my hands: just keeps me from being idle. I've been into every court in the metropolis, and have no fault to find with one of them, except the Court of R———ts."
"And pray, sir, what is that court, and the objection you have to it?"
"Why, as to the court, it's the most confounded ras———; but I must be careful how I speak before strangers: you'll excuse me, sir; not that I suspect you, but I know what may be considered as a libel. I shall, therefore, just state that it is a court at which no gentleman can appear; and if he does, it's of no use, for he'll never get a verdict in his favour."
"What, then it is not a court of justice?"
"Court of justice! no, it's a court for the recovery of small debts; but I'll just tell you, sir, exactly what took place with me in that court, and then you will be able to judge for yourself. I had a dog, sir; it was just after I came into my property; his name was Caesar, and a very good dog he was. Well, sir, riding out one day about four miles from town, a rabbit put his nose out of a cellar, where they retailed potatoes. Caesar pounced upon him, and the rabbit was dead in a moment. The man who owned the rabbit and the potatoes, came up to me and asked my name, which I told him; at the same time I expressed my sorrow at the accident, and advised him in future to keep his rabbits in hutches. He said he would, and demanded three shillings and sixpence for the one which the dog had killed. Now, although he was welcome to advice, money was quite another thing; so he went one way muttering something about law, and I another, with Caesar at my heels, taking no notice of his threat. Well, sir, in a few days my servant came up to say that somebody wished to see me upon particular business, and I ordered him to be shown up. It was a blackguard-looking fellow, who put a piece of dirty paper in my hand; summoned me to appear at some dog-hole or another, I forget where. Not understanding the business, I enclosed it to a legal friend, who returned an answer, that it was a summons to the Court of R——ts; that no gentleman could go there; and that I had better let the thing take its course. I had forgotten all about it, when, in a few days, a piece of paper was brought to me, by which I found that the court adjudged me to pay L1 2s. 6d., for damages and costs. I asked who brought it, and was told it was the son of the potato-merchant, accompanied by a tipstaff. I requested the pleasure of their company, and asked the legal gentleman what it was for.
"'Eighteen shillings for ten rabbits destroyed by your dog, and 4s. 6d. for costs of court.'
"'Ten rabbits!' exclaimed I; 'why, he only killed one.'
"'Yes, sir,' squeaked out the young potato-merchant; 'but it was a doe rabbit in the family way; we counted nine young ones, all killed too!'
"'Shameful!' replied I. 'Pray, sir, did your father tell the court that the rabbits were not born?'
"'No, sir; father only said there was one doe rabbit and nine little ones killed. He asked 4s. 6d. for the old one, but only 1s. 6d. a-piece for the young ones.'
"'You should have been there yourself, sir,' observed the tipstaff.
"'I wish Caesar had left the rabbit alone. So it appears,' replied I, 'he only asked 3s. 6d. at first; but by this Caesarean operation, I am nineteen shillings out of pocket.'—Now, sir, what do you think of that?"
"I think that you should exclaim against the dishonesty of the potato-merchant, rather than the judgment of the court. Had you defended your own cause, you might have had justice."
"I don't know that. A man makes a claim against another, and takes his oath to it; you must then either disprove it, or pay the sum; your own oath is of no avail against his. I called upon my legal friend, and told him how I had been treated, and he then narrated the following circumstance, which will explain what I mean:—
"He told me that he never knew of but one instance in which a respectable person had gained his cause, and in which, he was ashamed to say, that he was a party implicated. The means resorted to were as follows:—A Jew upholsterer sent in a bill to a relation of his for a chest of drawers, which had never been purchased or received. Refusing to pay, he was summoned to the Court of R——ts. Not knowing how to act, he applied to my informant, who, being under some obligations to his relative, did not like to refuse.
"'I am afraid that you will have to pay,' said the attorney to his relation, when he heard the story.
"'But I never had them, I can swear to it.'
"'That's of no consequence; he will bring men to swear to the delivery. There are hundreds about the court who are ready to take any oath, at half a crown a-head; and that will be sufficient. But, to oblige you, I will see what I can do.'
"They parted, and, in a day or two my legal acquaintance called upon his relation, and told him that he had gained his cause. 'Rather at the expense of my conscience, I must acknowledge,' continued he; 'but one must fight these scoundrels with their own weapons.'
"'Well, and how was it?' inquired the other.
"'Why, as I prophesied, he brought three men forward, who swore to the delivery of the goods. Aware that this would be the case, I had provided three others, who swore to their having been witness to the payment of the bill! This he was not prepared for; and the verdict was given in your favour.'"
"Is it possible," exclaimed Newton, "that such a court of Belial can exist in England?"
"Even so; and as there is no appeal, pray keep out of it. For my—"
But here the conversation was interrupted by the entrance of Mr John Forster, who had returned from his consultation.
We have already described Mr John Forster's character; we have now only to introduce his person. Mr John Forster was about the middle height, rather inclined to corpulency, but with great show of muscular strength. His black nether garments and silk stockings fitted a leg which might have been envied by a porter, and his breadth of shoulder was extreme. He had a slouch, probably contracted by long poring over the desk; and his address was as abrupt as his appearance was unpolished. His forehead was large and bald, eye small and brilliant, and his cheeks had dropped down so as to increase the width of his lower jaw. Deep, yet not harsh, lines were imprinted on the whole of his countenance, which indicated inflexibility and self-possession.
"Good morning, gentlemen," said he, as he entered the room; "I hope you have not been waiting long. May I request the pleasure of knowing who came first? 'First come, first served,' is an old motto."
"I believe this gentleman came first," replied the young man.
"Don't you know, sir? Is it only a believe?"
"I did arrive first, sir," said Newton; "but as I am not here upon legal business, I had rather wait until this gentleman has spoken to you."
"Not upon legal business—humph!" replied Mr Forster, eyeing Newton. "Well, then, if that is the case, do me the favour to sit down in the office until I have communicated with this gentleman."
Newton, taking up his hat, walked out of the door, which was opened by Mr Forster, and sat down in the next room until he should be summoned. Although the door between them was closed, it was easy to hear the sound of the voices within. For some minutes they fell upon Newton's ears; that of the young man like the loud yelping of a cur; that of his uncle like the surly growl of some ferocious beast. At last the door opened:
"But, sir," cried the young man, in alto.
"Pay, sir, pay! I tell you, pay!" answered the lawyer, in a stentorian voice.
"But he has cheated me, sir!"
"Charged twice their value, sir!"
"I tell you, pay!"
"But, sir, such imposition!"
"I have told you twenty times, sir, and now tell you again—and for the last time—pay!"
"Won't you take up my cause, sir, then?"
"No, sir! I have given you advice, and will not pick your pocket!—Good morning, sir:" and Mr Forster, who had backed his client out of the room, shut the door in his face, to prevent further discussion.
The young man looked a moment at the door after it was closed, and then turned round to Newton.
"If yours is really law business, take my advice, don't stay to see him; I'll take you to a man who is a lawyer. Here you'll get no law at all."
"Thankye," replied Newton, laughing; "but mine really is not law business."
The noise of the handle of the door indicated that Mr Forster was about to re-open it to summon Newton; and the young man, with a hasty good morning, brushed by Newton and hastened into the street.
"HAMLET.—Is not parchment made of sheepskin?
HORATIO.—Ay, my lord, and of calves' skins too.
HAMLET.—They are sheep and calves which Seek out their assurance in that."
The door opened as intimated at the end of our last chapter, and Newton obeyed the injunction from the lawyer's eye to follow him into the room.
"Now, sir, your pleasure?" said Mr Forster.
"I must introduce myself," replied Newton: "I am your nephew, Newton Forster."
"Humph! where's your documents in proof of your assertion?"
"I did not consider that anything further than my word was necessary. I am the son of your brother, Nicholas Forster, who resided many years at Overton."
"I never heard of Overton: Nicholas I recollect to have been the name of my third brother; but it is upwards of thirty years since I have seen or heard of him. I did not know whether he was alive or dead. Well, for the sake of argument, we'll allow that you are my nephew;—what then?"
Newton coloured up at this peculiar reception. "What then, uncle?—why I did hope that you would have been glad to have seen me; but as you appear to be otherwise, I will wish you good morning;"—and Newton moved towards the door.
"Stop, young man; I presume that you did not come for nothing! Before you go, tell me what you came for."
"To tell you the truth," replied Newton with emotion, "it was to ask your assistance, and your advice; but—"
"But jumping up in a huff is not the way to obtain either. Sit down on that chair, and tell me what you came for."
"To request you would interest yourself in behalf of my father and myself; we are both out of employ, and require your assistance."
"Or probably I never should have seen you!"
"Most probably: we knew that you were in good circumstances, and thriving in the world; and as long as we could support ourselves honestly, should not have thrust ourselves upon you. All we wish now is that you will, by your interest and recommendation, put us in the way of being again independent by our own exertions; which we did not consider too much to ask from a brother and an uncle."
"Humph!—so first you keep aloof from me because you knew that I was able to assist you, and now you come to me for the same reason!"
"Had we received the least intimation from you that our presence would have been welcome, you would have seen us before."
"Perhaps so; but I did not know whether I had any relations alive."
"Had I been in your circumstances, uncle, I should have inquired."
"Humph!—Well, young man, as I find that I have relations, I should like to hear a little about them;—so now tell me all about your father and yourself."
Newton entered into a detail of the circumstances, with which the reader is already acquainted. When he had finished, his uncle, who had listened with profound attention, his eye fixed upon that of Newton, as if to read his inmost thoughts, said, "It appears, then, that your father wishes to prosecute his business as optician. I am afraid that I cannot help him. I wear spectacles certainly when I read; but this pair has lasted me eleven years, and probably will as many more. You wish me to procure you a situation in an East Indiaman as third or fourth mate. I know nothing about the sea; I never saw it in my life; nor am I aware that I have a sailor in my acquaintance."
"Then, uncle, I will take my leave."
"Not so fast, young man; you said that you wanted my assistance and my advice. My assistance I cannot promise you for the reasons I have stated; but my advice is at your service. Is it a legal point?"
"Not exactly, sir," replied Newton, who was mortified almost to tears; "still I must acknowledge that I now more than ever wish that the articles were in safe keeping, and out of my hands." Newton then entered into a detail of the trunk being picked up at sea; and stated his having brought with him the most valuable of the property, that it might be deposited in safe hands.
"Humph!" observed his uncle, when he had finished. "You say that the articles are of value."
"Those who are judges consider the diamonds and the other articles to be worth nearly one hundred pounds; I cannot pretend to say what their real value is."
"And you have had these things in your possession these seven years?"
"I have, sir."
"Did it never occur to you, since you have been in distress, that the sale of these articles would have assisted you?"
"It often has occurred to me, when I have found that the little I could earn was not sufficient for my father's support; but we had already decided that the property was not legally mine, and I dismissed the idea as soon as I could from my thoughts. Since then I have ascertained to whom the property belongs, and of course it has become more sacred."
"You said a minute ago that you now more than ever wished the property in sate keeping. Why so?"
"Because, disappointed in the hopes I had entertained of receiving your assistance, I foresaw that we should have more difficulties than ever to struggle against, and wished not to be in the way of temptation."
"You were right. Well, then, bring me those articles to-morrow, by one o'clock precisely; I will take charge of them, and give you a receipt. Good morning, nephew; very happy to have had the pleasure of making your acquaintance. Remember me kindly to my brother, and tell him I shall be happy to see him at one, precisely."
"Good morning, sir," replied Newton, with a faltering voice, as he hurried away to conceal the disappointment and indignation which he felt at this cool reception and dismissal.
"Not legally mine—humph! I like that boy," muttered the old lawyer to himself when Newton had disappeared.—"Scratton!"
"Yes, sir," replied the clerk, opening the door.
"Fill up a cheque for five hundred pounds, self or bearer, and bring it to me to sign."
"Is it this evening or to-morrow, that I attend the arbitration meeting?"
"This evening, seven o'clock."
"What is the name of the party by whom I am employed?"
"East India director, is he not?"
"Humph!—that will do."
The clerk brought in the draft, which was put into his pocket-book without being signed; his coat was then buttoned up, and Mr John Forster repaired to the chop-house, at which for twenty-five years he had seldom failed to make his appearance at the hour of three or four at the latest.
It was with a heavy heart that Newton returned to the inn in the Borough, at which he had left his father, whom he found looking out of window, precisely in the same seat and position where he had left him.
"Well, Newton, my boy, did you see my brother?"
"Yes, sir; but I am sorry to say that I have little hope of his being of service to us."
Newton then entered into a narration of what had passed.
"Why really, Newton," said his father, in his single-heartedness, "I do not see such cause of despair. If he did doubt your being his nephew, how could he tell that you were? and if he had no interest with naval people, why it's not his fault. As for my expecting him to break his spectacles on purpose to buy new ones of me, that's too much, and it would be foolish on his part. He said that he was very happy to have made your acquaintance, and that he should be glad to see me. I really don't know what more you could expect. I will call upon him to-morrow, since he wishes it. At five o'clock precisely, don't you say?"
"No, sir, at one."
"Well, then, at one; those who have nothing to do must suit their hours to those who are full of business. Recollect now, two o'clock precisely."
"One o'clock, sir."
"Ay, very true, one o'clock I meant; now let's go to dinner."
Nicholas Forster appeared in excellent spirits: and Newton, who did not like to undeceive him, was glad to retire at an early hour, that he might be left to his own reflections, and form some plan as to their proceedings in consequence of this unexpected disappointment.
"Now, by two-headed Janus. Nature hath named strange fellows in her time; Some that will ever more peep through their eyes, And laugh like parrots at a bagpiper; And others of such vinegar aspect, That they'll not show their teeth in way of smile, Though Nestor swear the jest be laughable."
The next forenoon Nicholas and his son left the inn in good time to keep their appointment. The weather had changed, and the streets through which they passed were crowded with people who had taken advantage of the fine weather to prosecute business which had admitted of being postponed. Nicholas, who stared every way except the right, received many shoves and pushes, at which he expostulated, without the parties taking even the trouble to look behind them as they continued their course. This conduct produced a fit of reverie, out of which he was soon roused by another blow on the shoulder, which would twist him half round; and thus he continued in an alternate state of reverie and excitement, until he was dragged by Newton to his brother's chambers. The clerk, who had been ordered to admit them, opened the parlour door, where they found Mr John Forster, sitting at his table, with his spectacles on, running through a brief.
"Your servant, young man.—Nicholas Forster, I presume," said he, taking his eyes off the brief, and looking at Forster without rising from his chair. "How do you do, brother?"
"Are you my brother John?" interrogated Nicholas.
"I am John Forster," replied the lawyer.
"Well, then, I am really very glad to see you, brother," said Nicholas, extending his hand, which was taken with a "humph!"—(A minute's pause.)
"Young man, you're ten minutes past your time," said John, turning to Newton. "I told you one o'clock precisely."
"I am afraid so," replied Newton; "but the streets were crowded, and my father stopped several times."
"Why did he stop?"
"To expostulate with those who elbowed him: he is not used to it."
"He soon will be if he stays here long. Brother Nicholas," said Forster, turning round; but perceiving that Nicholas had taken up his watch, and was examining the interior, his intended remark was changed. "Brother Nicholas, what are you doing with my watch?"
"It's very dirty," replied Nicholas, continuing his examination; "it must be taken to pieces."
"Indeed it shall not," replied John.
"Don't be alarmed, I'll do it myself, and charge you nothing."
"Indeed you will not do it yourself, brother. My watch goes very well when it's left alone. Do me the favour to hand it to me."
Nicholas shut up the watch, and handed it to his brother over the table. "It ought not to go well in that state, brother."
"But I tell you that it does, brother," replied John, putting the watch into his fob.
"I have brought the things that I mentioned, sir," said Newton, taking them out of his handkerchief.
"Very well; have you the inventory?"
"Yes, sir, here it is."
"No. I, a diamond ring."
"I should rather think that they were No. 3," observed Nicholas, who had taken up his brother's spectacles. "You're not very short-sighted, brother."
"I am not, brother Nicholas;—will you oblige me by giving me my spectacles?"
"Yes, I'll wipe them for you first," said Nicholas, commencing his polish with an old cotton handkerchief.
"Thanky, thanky, brother, that will do," replied John, holding out his hand for the spectacles, which he immediately put in the case and conveyed into his pocket. The lawyer then continued the inventory.
"It is all right, young man; I will sign a receipt."
The receipt was signed, and the articles deposited in the iron chest.
"Now, brother Nicholas, I have no time to spare; have you anything to say to me?"
"No," replied Nicholas, starting up.
"Well, then, I have something to say to you. In the first place, I cannot help you in your profession (as I told my nephew yesterday), neither can I afford you any time, which is precious: so good-bye, brother. Here is something for you to read when you go home." John Forster took out his pocket-book, and gave him a sealed letter.
"Nephew, although I never saw the sea, or knew a sailor in my life, yet the law pervades everywhere. An East India director, who is under obligations to me, has promised a situation for you as third mate on board of the Bombay Castle. Here is his address: call upon him, and all will be arranged. You may come here again before you sail; and I expect you will make proper arrangements for your father, who, if I can judge from what I have already seen, will lose that paper I have given him, which contains what is not to be picked up every day." Nicholas was in a deep reverie; the letter had dropped from his hand, and had fallen, unnoticed by him, on the carpet. Newton picked it up, and, without Nicholas observing him, put it into his own pocket. "Now, good-bye, nephew; take away my brother, pray. It's a good thing, I can tell you, sometimes to find out an uncle."
"I trust my conduct will prove me deserving of your kindness," replied Newton, who was overjoyed at the unexpected issue of the meeting.
"I hope it will, young man. Good morning. Now, take away your father, I'm busy;" and old Forster pulled out his spectacles, and recommenced his brief.
Newton went up to his father, touched him on the shoulder, and said in a low tone, and nodding his head towards the door—"Come, father."
Nicholas got upon his legs, retreated a few steps, then turned round—"Brother, didn't you say something about a letter I was to put in the post?"
"No, I didn't," replied John, shortly, not raising his eyes from the brief.
"Well, I really thought I heard something—"
"Come, father; my uncle's busy."
"Well, then, good-bye, brother."
"Good-bye," replied John, without looking up; and Newton with his father, quitted the room.
No conversation passed during the walk to the inn, except an accidental remark of Nicholas, that it appeared to him that his brother was very busy.
When they arrived Newton hastened to open the enclosure, and found in it the draft for L500, which his uncle had ordered to be filled up the day before. Nicholas was lost in astonishment; and Newton, although he had already gained some insight into his uncle's character, was not a little surprised at his extreme liberality.
"Now," cried Nicholas, rubbing his hands, "my improvement upon the duplex;" and the subject brought up by himself again led him away, and he was in deep thought.
There was one little piece of advice upon the envelope—"When you cash the draft take the number of your notes." This was all; and it was carefully attended to by Newton, who took but L20, and left the remainder in the hands of the banker. The next day Newton called on the East India director, who gave him a letter to the captain of the ship, lying at Gravesend, and expecting to sail in a few days. To Gravesend he immediately repaired, and, presenting his credentials, was favourably received, with an intimation that his company was required as soon as convenient. Newton had now no other object to occupy him than to secure an asylum for his father; and this he was fortunate enough to meet with when he little expected. He had disembarked at Greenwich, intending to return to London by the coach, when, having an hour to spare, he sauntered into the hospital, to view a building which had so much of interest to a sailor. After a few minutes' survey he sat down on a bench, occupied by several pensioners, outside of the gate, wishing to enter into conversation with them relative to their condition, when one addressed another—"Why, Stephen, since the old man's dead, there's no one that'll suit us; and I expects that we must contrive to do without blinkers at all. Jim Nelson told me the other day that that fellow in town as has his shop full of polished brass, all the world like the quarter-deck of the Le Amphitrite, when that sucking Honourable (what was his name?) commanded her—Jim said to me, as how he charged him one-and-sixpence for a new piece of flint for his starboard eye. Now you know that old Wilkins never axed no more than threepence. Now, how we're to pay at that rate comes to more than my knowledge. Jim hadn't the dirt, although he had brought his threepence; so his blinkers are left there in limbo."
"We must find out another man; the shop's to let, and all handy. Suppose we speak to the governor?"
"No use to speak to the governor; he don't use blinkers; and so won't have no fellow-feeling."
Newton entered into conversation, and found that an old man, who gained his livelihood in a small shop close to the gate, by repairing the spectacles of the pensioners, had lately died, and that his loss was severely felt by them, as the opticians in town did not work at so reasonable a rate. Newton looked at the shop, which was small and comfortable, commanding a pleasant view of the river; and he was immediately convinced that it would suit his father. On his return he proposed it to Nicholas, who was delighted at the idea; and the next day they viewed the premises together, and took a short lease. In a few days Nicholas was settled in his new habitation, and busily employed in enabling the old pensioners to read the newspapers and count their points at cribbage. He liked his customers, and they liked him. His gains were equal to his wants; and, unless on particular occasions—such as a new coat, which, like his birthday, occurred but once in the year—he never applied to the banker's for assistance. Newton, as soon as his father was settled, and his own affairs arranged, called upon his uncle previous to his embarkation. Old Forster gave a satisfactory "Humph!" to his communication; and Newton, who had tact enough to make his visit short, received a cordial shake of the hand when he quitted the room.
"Poor, short-lived things! what plans we lay! Ah! why forsake our native home, To distant climates speed away, For self sticks close, where'er we roam.
"Care follows hard, and soon o'ertakes The well-rigg'd ship; the warlike steed Her destin'd quarry ne'er forsakes: Nor the wind flees with half the speed."
Newton, who had made every preparation, as soon as he had taken leave of his uncle, hastened to join his ship, which still remained at Gravesend, waiting for the despatches to be closed by the twenty-four leaden heads presiding at Leadenhall Street. The passengers, with the exception of two, a Scotch Presbyterian divine and his wife, were still on shore, divided amongst the inns of the town, unwilling until the last moment to quit terra firma for so many months of sky and water, daily receiving a visit from the captain of the ship, who paid his respects to them all round, imparting any little intelligence he might have received as to the probable time of his departure.
When Newton arrived on board, he was received by the first mate, a rough, good-humoured, and intelligent man, about forty years of age, to whom he had already been introduced by the captain on his previous appearance with the letter from the director.
"Well, Mr Forster, you're in very good time. As in all probability we shall be shipmates for a voyage or two, I trust that we shall be good friends. Now for your traps:" then, turning round, he addressed, in the Hindostanee language, two or three Lascars (fine, olive-coloured men, with black curling bushy hair), who immediately proceeded to hoist in the luggage.
The first mate, with an "excuse me a moment," went forward to give some directions to the English seamen, leaving Forster to look about him. What he observed, we shall describe for the benefit of our readers.
The Indiaman was a twelve-hundred-ton ship, as large as one of the small class seventy-four in the king's service, strongly built, with lofty bulwarks, and pierced on the upper deck for eighteen guns, which were mounted on the quarter-deck and forecastle. Abaft, a poop, higher than the bulwarks, extended forward, between thirty and forty feet, under which was the cuddy or dining-room, and state-cabins, appropriated to passengers. The poop, upon which you ascended by ladders on each side, was crowded with long ranges of coops, tenanted by every variety of domestic fowl, awaiting, in happy unconsciousness, the day when they should be required to supply the luxurious table provided by the captain. In some, turkeys stretched forth their long necks, and tapped the decks as they picked up some ant who crossed it, in his industry. In others, the crowing of cocks and calling of the hens were incessant: or the geese, ranged up rank and file, waited but the signal from one of the party to raise up a simultaneous clamour, which as suddenly was remitted. Coop answered coop, in variety of discord, while the poulterer walked round and round to supply the wants of so many hundreds committed to his charge.
The booms before the main-mast were occupied by the large boats, which had been hoisted in preparatory to the voyage. They also composed a portion of the farmyard. The launch contained about fifty sheep, wedged together so close that it was with difficulty they could find room to twist their jaws round, as they chewed the cud. The stern-sheets of the barge and yawl were filled with goats and two calves, who were the first-destined victims to the butcher's knife; while the remainder of their space was occupied by hay and other provender, pressed down by powerful machinery into the smallest compass. The occasional ba-aing and bleating on the booms were answered by the lowing of three milch-cows between the hatchways of the deck below; where also were to be descried a few more coops, containing fowls and rabbits. The manger forward had been dedicated to the pigs; but, as the cables were not yet unbent or bucklers shipped, they at present were confined by gratings between the main-deck guns, where they grunted at each passer-by, as if to ask for food.
The boats hoisted up on the quarters, and the guys of the davits, to which they were suspended, formed the kitchen-gardens, from which the passengers were to be supplied, and were loaded with bags containing onions, potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets, and cabbages, the latter, in their full round proportions, hanging in a row upon the guys, like strings of heads, which had been demanded in the wrath or the caprice of some despot of Mahomet's creed.
Forster descended the ladder to the main-deck, which he found equally encumbered with cabins for the passengers, trunks and bedding belonging to them, and many other articles which had not yet found their way into the hold, the hatches of which were open, and in which lanterns in every direction partially dispelled the gloom, and offered to his view a confused outline of bales and packages. Carpenters sawing deals, sailmakers roping the foot of an old mainsail, servants passing to and fro with dishes, Lascars jabbering in their own language, British seamen d——-g their eyes, as usual, in plain English, gave an idea of confusion and want of method to Newton Forster, which, in a short time, he acknowledged himself to have been premature in having conceived. Where you have to provide for such a number, to separate the luggage of so many parties, from the heavy chest to the fragile bandbox, to take in cargo, and prepare for sea, all at the same time, there must be apparently confusion. In a few days everything finds its place; and, what is of more consequence, is itself to be found as soon as it may be required.
According to the regulations on board of East India ships, Forster messed below with the junior mates, midshipmen, surgeon's assistant, &c.: the first and second mates only having the privilege of constantly appearing at the captain's table, while the others receive but an occasional invitation. Forster soon became on intimate terms with his shipmates. As they will, however, appear upon the stage when required to perform their parts, we shall at present confine ourselves to a description of the captain and the passengers.
Captain Drawlock was a man of about fifty years of age. Report said that in his youth he had been wild; and some of his contemporary commanders in the service were wont to plague him by narrating divers freaks of former days, the recollection of which would create anything but a smile upon his face. Whether report and the other captains were correct or not in their assertions, Captain Drawlock was in appearance quite a different character at the time we introduce him. He was of sedate aspect, seldom smiled, and appeared to be wrapt up in the importance of the trust confided to him, particularly with respect to the young women who were sent out under his protection. He talked much of his responsibility, and divided the whole of his time between his chronometers and his young ladies; in both of which a trifling error was a source of irritation. Upon any deviation on the part of either, the first were rated carefully, the latter were rated soundly; considering the safety of the ship to be endangered on the one hand, and the character of his ship to be equally at stake on the other.' It was maliciously observed that the latter were by far the more erratic of the two; and, still more maliciously, that the austere behaviour on the part of Captain Drawlock was all pretence; that he was as susceptible as the youngest officer in the ship; and that the women found it out long before the voyage was completed.
It has been previously mentioned that all the passengers were on shore, except two, a Presbyterian divine and his wife, the expenses attending whose passage out were provided for by a subscription which had been put on foot by some of the serious people of Glasgow, who prayed fervently, and enlivened their devotions with most excellent punch. The worthy clergyman (for worthy he was) thought of little else but his calling, and was a sincere, enthusiastic man, who was not to be checked by any consideration in what he considered to be his duty; but although he rebuked, he rebuked mildly, and never lost his temper. Stern in his creed, which allowed no loophole by which the offender might escape, still there was a kindness and even a humility in his expostulation, which caused his zeal never to offend, and often to create serious reflection. His wife was a tall, handsome woman, who evidently had usurped an ascendency over her husband in all points unconnected with his calling. She, too, was devout; but hers was not the true religion, for it had not charity for its basis. She was clever and severe; spoke seldom; but the few words which escaped from her lips were sarcastic in their tendency.
The passengers who still remained on shore were numerous. There was an old colonel, returning from a three years' furlough, the major part of which had been spent at Cheltenham. He was an Adonis of sixty, with yellow cheeks and white teeth; a man who had passed through life doing nothing; had risen in his profession without having seen service, except on one occasion, and of that circumstance he made the most. With a good constitution and happy temperament, constantly in society, and constantly in requisition, he had grown old without being aware of it, and considered himself as much an object of interest with the other sex as he was formerly when a gay captain of five-and-twenty, with good prospects. Amusing, and easily amused, he had turned over the pages of the novel of life so uninterruptedly, that he had nearly arrived at the last page without being conscious that the finis was at hand.
Then there were two cadets from the college, full of themselves and their own consequence, fitted out with plenty of money and plenty of advice, both of which were destined to be thrown away. There was also a young writer, who talked of his mother, Lady Elizabeth, and other high relations, who had despatched him to India, that he might be provided for by a cholera morbus or a lucrative post; a matter of perfect indifference to those who had sent him from England. Then, let me see,—oh! there were two officers of a regiment at St Helena, with tongues much longer than their purses; who, in the forepart of the day, condescended to talk nonsense to the fairer of the other sex, and, in the evening, to win a few pounds from the weaker of their own.
But all these were nobodies in the eyes of Captain Drawlock; they were a part of his cargo, for which he was not responsible. The important part of his consignment were four unmarried women; three of them were young, good-looking, and poor; the other ill-favoured, old, but rich.
We must give precedence to wealth and age. The lady last mentioned was a Miss Tavistock, born and educated in the city, where her father had long been at the head of the well-established firm of Tavistock, Bottlecock & Co., Dyers, Calenderers, and Scourers. As we before observed, she was the fortunate sole heiress to her father's accumulation, which might amount to nearly thirty thousand pounds; but had been little gifted by nature. In fact, she was what you may style most preposterously ugly; her figure was large and masculine; her hair red; and her face very deeply indented with the small-pox. As a man, she would have been considered the essence of vulgarity; as a woman, she was the quintessence: so much so, that she had arrived at the age of thirty-six without having, notwithstanding her property, received any attentions which could be construed into an offer. As we always seek most eagerly that which we find most difficult to obtain, she was possessed with une fureur de se marier; and, as a last resource, had resolved to go out to India, where she had been informed that "anything white" was acceptable. This passion for matrimony (for with her it had so become, if not a disease) occupied her whole thoughts; but she attempted to veil them by always pretending to be extremely sensitive and refined; to be shocked at anything which had the slightest allusion to the "increase and multiply;" and constantly lamented the extreme fragility of her constitution; to which her athletic bony frame gave so determined a lie, that her hearers were struck dumb with the barefaced assertion. Miss Tavistock had kept up a correspondence with an old schoolmate, who had been taken away early to join her friends in India, and had there married. As her hopes of matrimony dwindled away, so did her affection for her old friend appear, by her letters, to increase. At last, in answer to a letter, in which she declared that she would like to come out, and (as she had long made a resolution to continue single) adopt one of her friend's children, and pass her days with them, she received an answer, stating how happy they would be to receive her, and personally renew the old friendship, if indeed she could be persuaded to venture upon so long and venturous a passage. Whether this answer was sincere or not, Miss Tavistock took advantage of the invitation; and writing to intimate her speedy arrival, took her passage in the Bombay Castle.
The other three spinsters were sisters: Charlotte, Laura, and Isabel Revel, daughters of the Honourable Mr Revel, a roue of excellent family, who had married for money, and had dissipated all his wife's fortune except the marriage settlement of L600 per annum. Their mother was a selfish, short-sighted, manoeuvring woman, whose great anxiety was to form establishments for her daughters, or, in other terms, remove the expense of their maintenance from her own to the shoulders of other people, very indifferent whether the change might contribute to their happiness or not. Mr Revel may be said to have long deserted his family; he lived nobody knew where, and seldom called, unless it was to "raise the wind" upon his wife, who by entreaties and threats was necessitated to purchase his absence by a sacrifice of more than half her income. Of his daughters he took little notice, when he did make his appearance; and if so, it was generally in terms more calculated to raise the blush of indignant modesty than to stimulate the natural feelings of affection of a daughter towards a parent. Their mother, whose income was not sufficient to meet the demands of a worthless husband, in addition to the necessary expenses attendant on three grown-up women, was unceasing in her attempts to get them off her hands: but we will introduce a conversation which took place between her and a sedate-looking, powdered old gentleman, who had long been considered as a "friend of the family," as thereby more light will perhaps be thrown upon her character.
"The fact is, my dear Mr Heaviside, that I hardly know what to do. Mr Revel, who is very intimate with the theatre people, proposed that they should try their fortune on the stage. He says (and indeed there is some truth in it) that nowadays, the best plan for a man to make himself popular is to be sent to Newgate; and the best chance that a girl has of a coronet, is to become an actress. Well, I did not much like the idea; but at last I consented. Isabel, my youngest, is, you know, very handsome in her person, and sings remarkably well, and we arranged that she should go on first; and, if she succeeded, that her sister Charlotte should follow her; but Isabel is of a very obstinate disposition, and when we proposed it to her, she peremptorily refused, and declared that she would go out as a governess, or anything, rather than consent. I tried what coaxing would do, and her father tried threatening; but all was in vain. This was about a year ago, and she is now only seventeen; but she ever was a most decided, a most obstinate character."
"Very undutiful, indeed, ma'am; she might have been a duchess before this:—a very foolish girl, indeed, ma'am," observed the gentleman.
"Well, Mr Heaviside, we then thought that Charlotte, our eldest, had the next best chance of success. Although not by any means so good-looking as her sister; indeed, to tell you the truth, Mr Heaviside, which I would not do to everybody, but I know that you can keep a secret, Charlotte is now nearly thirty years old, and her sister, Laura, only one year younger."
"Is it possible, madam!" replied Mr Heaviside, looking at the lady with well-feigned astonishment.
"Yes, indeed," replied the lady, who had forgotten that in telling her daughters' secrets, she had let out her own. "But I was married so young, so very young, that I am almost ashamed to think of it. Well Mr Heaviside, as I was saying, although not so good-looking as her sister, Mr Revel, who is a good judge in these matters, declared that by the theatre lights Charlotte would be reckoned a very fine woman. We proposed it to her, and, after a little pouting, she consented. The only difficulty was whether she should attempt tragedy or comedy. Her features were considered rather too sharp for comedy, and her figure not quite tall enough for tragedy. She herself preferred tragedy, which decided the point; and Mr Revel, who knows all the actors, persuaded Mr Y—— (you know who I mean, the great tragic actor) to come here, and give his opinion of her recitation. Mr Y—— was excessively polite; declared that she was a young lady of great talent, but that a slight lisp, which she has, unfitted her most decidedly for tragedy. Of course, it was abandoned for comedy, which she studied some time, and when we considered her competent, Mr Revel had interest enough to induce the great Mr M—— to come and give his opinion. Charlotte performed her part, as I thought, remarkably well, and when she had finished she left the room, that Mr M—— might not be checked by her presence from giving me his unbiased opinion."
"Which was favourable, ma'am, I presume; for, if not fitted for the one, she naturally must have been fit for the other."
"So I thought," replied the lady, to this polite non sequitur of the gentleman. "But Mr M—— is a very odd man, and if I must say it, not very polite. What do you think, Mr Heaviside, as soon as she left the room he rose from his chair, and, twisting up the corner of his mouth, as he looked me in the face, he said, 'Madam, it is my opinion that your daughter's comedy, whenever she makes her appearance on the boards, will, to use a Yankee expression, be most particularly damned! I wish you a very good morning.'"
"Very rude, indeed, madam; most excessively unpolite of Mr M——. I should not have thought it possible."
"Well, Mr Heaviside, as for Laura, poor thing! you are aware that she is not quite so clever as she might be; she never had any memory: when a child, she never could recollect the evening hymn if she missed it two nights running; so that acting was out of the question with her. So that all my hopes of their forming a splendid establishment by that channel have vanished. Now, my dear Mr Heaviside, what would you propose?"
"Why, really, ma'am, it is so difficult to advise in these times; but, if anxious to dispose of your daughters, why not send them out to India?"
"We have thought of it several times; for Mr Revel has an uncle there unmarried, and they say very rich. He is a colonel in the Bombay marine, I believe."
"More probably in the Bengal army, ma'am."
"Well, I believe you are right; but I know it's in the Company's service. But the old gentleman hates my husband, and will not have anything to say to him. I did write a very civil letter to him, in which I just hinted how glad one or two of my daughters would be to take care of his house, but he never condescended to give me an answer. I am told that he is a very unpleasant man."
"A difficult thing to advise, ma'am, very difficult indeed! but I can tell you a circumstance which occurred about five years ago, when a similar application to a relative in India was made by a friend of mine. It was no more attended to than yours has been. Nevertheless, as it was supposed that the answer had miscarried, the young lady was sent out to her relative with a decent equipment, and a letter of introduction. Her relation was very much surprised: but what could he do? he could not permit the young lady to remain without a roof over her head, so he received her, and as he did not like to say how he had been treated, he held his tongue. The young lady, in the course of three months, made a very good match; and is, to my knowledge, constantly sending home India shawls and other handsome presents to her mother."
"Indeed, Mr Heaviside, then do you advise—"
"It is difficult, extremely difficult to advise upon so nice a point. I only state the fact, my dear madam: I should think the colonel must feel the want of female society; but, God bless me! it's nearly two o'clock. Good morning, my dear Mrs Revel—good morning."
"Good morning, my dear Mr Heaviside; it's very kind of you to call in this sociable way and chat an hour or two. Good morning."
The result of the above conversation was a consultation between Mr Revel and his wife upon their first meeting. Mr Revel was delighted with the plan, not so much caring at the disposal of his daughters as he was pleased with the idea of annoying his uncle, from whom he, at one time, had great expectations; but, as it was necessary to be circumspect, especially with Isabel, Mr Revel took the opportunity of a subsequent visit to state that he had received a letter from his uncle in India, wishing one of his daughters to go out and live with him. In a few months he read another letter (composed by himself, and copied in another hand), earnestly desiring that they might all come out to him, as it would be much to their advantage. The reluctance of the two eldest was removed by pointing out the magnificent establishments they might secure: the consent of Isabel by a statement of difficulty and debt on the part of her parents, which would end in beggary if not relieved from the burden of their support.
By insuring her life, a sum of money sufficient for their outfit and passage was raised on Mrs Revel's marriage settlement; and the three Miss Revels were thus shipped off by their affectionate parents, as a "venture," in the Bombay Castle.
"Thus the rich vessel moves in trim array, Like some fair virgin on her bridal day: Thus like a swan, she cleaves the watery plain, The pride and wonder of the AEgean main.
"The natives, while the ship departs the land, Ashore, with admiration gazing stand; Majestically slow before the breeze, In silent pomp, she marches on the seas."
Much to the satisfaction of Captain Drawlock, the chronometers and the ladies were safe on board, and the Bombay Castle proceeded to the Downs, where she was joined by the purser, charged with despatches of the august directors. Once upon a time a director was a very great man, and the India board a very great board. There must have been a very great many plums in the pudding, for in this world people do not take trouble for nothing; and until latter years, how eagerly, how perseveringly was this situation applied for—what supplicating advertisements—what fawning and wheedling promises of attention to the interests of the proprietors—"your voices, good people!" But now nobody is so particularly anxious to be a director, because another board "bigger than he" has played the kittiwake, and forced it to disgorge for the consumption of its superior,—I mean the Board of Control: the reader has probably heard of it; the board which, not content with the European residents in India being deprived of their proudest birthright, "the liberty of the press," would even prevent them from having justice awarded to them, by directing two tame elephants (thereby implying two —— ——) to be placed on each side of a wild one (thereby implying an honest and conscientious man). Notwithstanding all which, for the present, the tongue, the ears, and the eyes are permitted to be made discreet use of, although I believe that the new charter is to have a clause introduced to the contrary.
The prevalent disease of the time we live in is ophthalmia of intellect, affecting the higher classes. Monarchs, stone-blind, have tumbled headlong from their thrones, and princes have been conducted by their subjects out of their principalities. The aristocracy are purblind, and cannot distinctly decipher the "signs of the times." The hierarchy cannot discover why people would have religion at a reduced price: in fact, they are all blind, and will not perceive that an enormous mass, in the shape of public opinion, hangs over their heads and threatens to annihilate them. Forgetting that kings, and princes, and lords, spiritual or temporal, have all been raised to their various degrees of exaltation by public opinion alone, they talk of legitimacy, of vested rights, and Deuteronomy.—Well, if there is to be a general tumble, thank God, I can't fall far!
We left the Bombay Castle in the Downs, where she remained until joined by several other India vessels. On the arrival of a large frigate, who had orders to escort them as far as the Island of St Helena, they all weighed, and bore down the Channel before a strong S.E. gale. The first ten days of a voyage there is seldom much communication between those belonging to the ship and the passengers; the former are too much occupied in making things shipshape, and the latter with the miseries of sea-sickness. An adverse gale in the Bay of Biscay, with which they had to contend, did not at all contribute to the recovery of the digestive powers of the latter; and it was not until a day or two before the arrival of the convoy at Madeira that the ribbon of a bonnet was to be seen fluttering in the breeze which swept the decks of the Bombay Castle.
The first which rose up from the quarter-deck hatchway was one that encircled the head of Mrs Ferguson, the wife of the Presbyterian divine, who crawled up the ladder, supported on one side by her husband, and on the other by the assiduous Captain Drawlock.
"Very well done, ma'am, indeed!" said the captain, with an encouraging smile, as the lady seized hold of the copper stanchions which surrounded the sky-lights, to support herself, when she had gained the deck. "You're a capital sailor, and have by your conduct set an example to the other ladies, as I have no doubt your husband does to the gentlemen. Now allow me to offer you my arm."
"Will you take mine also, my dear," said Mr Ferguson.
"No, Mr Ferguson," replied the lady, tartly; "I think it is enough for you to take care of yourself. Recollect your Scripture proverb of 'the blind leading the blind.' I have no inclination to tumble into one of those pits," added she, pointing to the hatchway.
Captain Drawlock very civilly dragged the lady to the weather-side of the quarter-deck, where, after in vain attempting to walk, she sat down on one of the carronade slides.
"The fresh air will soon revive you, ma'am; you'll be much better directly," observed the attentive captain. "I beg your pardon one moment, but there is another lady coming out of the cuddy."
The cabins abaft the cuddy, or dining-room, were generally occupied by the more distinguished and wealthy passengers (a proportionate sum being charged extra for them). The good people of Glasgow, with a due regard to economy, had not run themselves into such unnecessary expenses for the passage of Mr and Mrs Ferguson. Mr Revel, aware of the effect produced by an appearance of wealth, had taken one of them for his daughters. The other had been secured by Miss Tavistock, much to the gratification of the captain, who thus had his unmarried ladies and his chronometers both immediately under his own eye.
The personage who had thus called away the attention of the captain was Isabel Revel, whom, although she has already been mentioned, it will be necessary to describe more particularly to the reader.
Isabel Revel was now eighteen years old, endowed with a mind so superior, that had not her talents been checked by a natural reserve, she might have stepped from the crowd, and have been hailed as a genius. She had been brought up by a foolish mother, and had in her earlier years been checked by her two insipid sisters, who assumed over her an authority which their age alone could warrant. Seldom, if ever, permitted to appear when there was company, that she might not "spoil the market" of the eldest, she had in her solitude applied much to reading, and thus had her mind been highly cultivated.
The conduct of her father entitled him to no respect; the heartlessness of her mother to no esteem; the tyranny of her sisters to no affection; yet did she strive to render all. Until the age of sixteen she had been the Cinderella of the family, during which period of seclusion she had learned to think and to act for herself.
Her figure was a little above the middle size, light and elegant; her features beautiful, with an expression of seriousness, arising probably from speaking little and reflecting much. Yet she possessed a mind ardent and enthusiastic, which often bore her away in animated discourse, until the eye of admiration fixed upon her would suddenly close her lips, for her modesty and her genius were at perpetual variance.
It is well known to most of my readers that woman is a problem; but it may not be as well known that nowadays she is a mathematical problem. Yet so it is. As in the latter you have certain known quantities given by which you are to find a quantity unknown, so in a lady you have the hand, the foot, the mouth, &c., apparent; and 'tis only by calculation, now that modern dresses are made so full, that you can arrive at a just estimate of her approach to total perfection. All good arithmeticians, as they scrutinised the outward and the visible of Isabel Revel, were perfectly assured as to her quotient. But if I talked for hours, I could say no more than that she was one of those ideal images created in the dream of youth and poetry, fairly embodied in flesh and blood. As her father had justly surmised, could she have been persuaded to have tried her fortune on the stage, she had personal attractions, depth of feeling, and vivacity of mind to have rendered her one of the very first in a profession, to excel in which there is, perhaps, more correct judgment and versatility of talent required than in any other, and would have had a fair prospect of obtaining that coronet which has occasionally been the reward of those fair dames who "stoop to conquer."
Mr Revel, who had been made acquainted with the customs on board of East India ships, had been introduced to Mrs Ferguson, and had requested her to take upon herself the office of chaperon to his daughters, during the passage: a nominal charge indeed, yet considered to be etiquette. Mrs Ferguson, pleased with the gentlemanlike demeanour and personal appearance of Mr Revel, and perhaps at the same time not sorry to have an authority to find fault, had most graciously acquiesced; and the three Miss Revels were considered to be under her protection.
As I said before, Miss Isabel Revel made her appearance not unattended, for she was escorted by Doctor Plausible, the surgeon of the ship. And now I must again digress while I introduce that gentleman. I never shall get that poor girl from the cuddy-door.
Doctor Plausible had been summoned to prescribe for Miss Laura Revel, who suffered extremely from the motion of the vessel, and the remedies which she had applied to relieve her uneasiness. Miss Laura Revel had been told by somebody, previous to her embarkation, that the most effectual remedy for sea-sickness was gingerbread. In pursuance of the advice received, she had provided herself with ten or twelve squares of this commodity, about one foot by eighteen inches, which squares she had commenced upon as soon as she came on board, and had never ceased to swallow, notwithstanding various interruptions. The more did her stomach reject it the more did she force it down, until, what with deglutition, et vice versa, she had been reduced to a state of extreme weakness, attended with fever.
How many panaceas have been offered without success for two evils—sea-sickness and hydrophobia! and between these two there appears to be a link, for sea-sickness as surely ends in hydrophobia, as hydrophobia does in death. The sovereign remedy prescribed, when I first went to sea, was a piece of fat pork, tied to a string, to be swallowed, and then pulled up again; the dose to be repeated until effective. I should not have mentioned this well-known remedy, as it has long been superseded by other nostrums, were it not that this maritime prescription has been the origin of two modern improvements in the medical catalogue—one is the stomach-pump, evidently borrowed from this simple engine; the other is the very successful prescription now in vogue, to those who are weak in the digestive organs, to eat fat bacon for breakfast, which I have no doubt was suggested to Doctor Vance, from what he had been eye-witness to on board of a man-of-war.
But here I am digressing again from Doctor Plausible to Doctor Vance. Reader, I never lose the opportunity of drawing a moral; and what an important one is here! Observe how difficult it is to regain the right path when once you have quitted it. Let my error be a warning to you in your journey through life, and my digressions preserve you from diverging from the beaten track, which, as the Americans would say, leads clean slick on to happiness and peace.
Doctor Plausible was a personable man, apparently about five-and-thirty years old; he wore a little powder in his hair, black silk stockings, and knee-breeches. In this I consider Doctor Plausible was right; the above look much more scientific than Wellington trousers; and much depends upon the exterior. He was quite a ladies' man; talked to them about their extreme sensibility, their peculiar fineness of organic structure, their delicacy of nerves; and soothed his patients more by flattery than by physic. Having discovered that Miss Laura was not inclined to give up her gingerbread, he immediately acknowledged its virtues, but recommended that it should be cut into extremely small dice, and allowed, as it were, to melt away upon the tongue; stating, that her digestive organs were so refined and delicate, that they would not permit themselves to be loaded with any large particles, even of farinaceous compound. Isabel Revel, who had been informed that Mrs Ferguson was on deck, expressed a wish to escape from the confined atmosphere of the cabin; and Dr Plausible, as soon as he had prescribed for Miss Laura, offered Miss Isabel his services; which, for want of a better, perhaps, were accepted.
The ship at this time had a great deal of motion. The gale was spent; but the sea created by the violence of the wind had not yet subsided, and the waves continued still to rise and fall again, like the panting breasts of men who have just desisted from fierce contention. Captain Drawlock hastened over to receive his charge from the hands of the medical attendant; and paying Isabel some compliments on her appearance, was handing her over to the weather-side, where Mrs Ferguson was seated, when a sea of larger dimensions than usual careened the ship to what the sailors term a "heavy lurch." The decks were wet and slippery. Captain Drawlock lost his footing, and was thrown to leeward. Isabel would most certainly have kept him company; and indeed was already under weigh for the lee-scuppers, had not it been that Newton Forster, who stood near, caught her round the waist, and prevented her from falling.
It certainly was a great presumption to take a young lady round the waist previous to any introduction; but, at sea, we are not very particular; and if we do perceive that a lady is in danger of a severe fall, we do not stand upon etiquette. What is more remarkable, we generally find that the ladies excuse our unpolished manners, either upon the score of our good intentions, or because there is nothing so very impertinent in them, after all. Certain it is, that Isabel, as soon as she had recovered from her alarm, thanked Newton Forster, with a sweet smile, for his timely aid, as she again took the arm of Captain Drawlock, who escorted her to the weather-side of the quarter-deck.
"I have brought you one of your protegees, Mrs Ferguson," said Captain Drawlock. "How do you feel, Miss Revel?"
"Like most young ladies, sir, a little giddy," replied Isabel. "I hope you were not hurt, Captain Drawlock; I'm afraid that you fell by paying more attention to me than to yourself."
"My duty, Miss Revel. Allow me to add, my pleasure," replied the captain, bowing.
"That's very politely said, Captain Drawlock," replied Isabel.
"Almost too polite, I think," observed Mrs Ferguson (who was out of humour at not being the first object of attention), "considering that Captain Drawlock is a married man, with seven children." The captain looked glum, and Miss Revel observing it, turned the conversation by inquiring—"Who was that gentleman who saved me from falling?"
"Mr Newton Forster, one of the mates of the vessel. Would you like to walk, Miss Revel, or remain where you are?"
"Thank you, I will stay with Mrs Ferguson."
The gentlemen passengers had as yet but occasionally appeared on deck. Men generally suffer more from the distressing sickness than women. As soon, however, as the news had been communicated below that the ladies were on deck, some of the gentlemen immediately repaired to their trunks to make themselves presentable, and then hastened on deck. The first on deck was the old colonel, who tottered up the hatchway, and by dint of seizing rope after rope, at last succeeded in advancing his lines to within hearing range of Mrs Ferguson, to whom he had been formally introduced. He commenced by lamenting his unfortunate sufferings, which had prevented him from paying those attentions, ever to him a source of enjoyment and gratification; but he was a martyr—quite a martyr; never felt any sensation which could be compared to it, except when he was struck in the breast with a spent ball, in the battle of ——; that their appearance had made him feel revived already; that as the world would be a dark prison without the sun, so would a ship be without the society of ladies; commenced a description of Calcutta, and then—made a hasty retreat to the lee-gangway.
The young writer next made his appearance, followed by the two boys, who were going out as cadets; the first, with a new pair of grey kid gloves, the others in their uniforms. The writer descanted long upon his own miseries, without any inquiry or condolement for the sufferings of the ladies. The cadets said nothing; but stared so much at Isabel Revel, that she dropped her veil.
The ladies had been about a quarter of an hour on deck, when the sun, which had not shown itself for two days, gleamed through the clouds. Newton, who was officer of the watch, and had been accustomed, when with Mr Berecroft, to work a chronometer, interrupted the captain, who was leaning on the carronade, talking to Mrs Ferguson.
"The sun is out, and the horizon pretty clear, sir: you may have sights for the chronometers."
"Yes, indeed," said the captain, looking up; "be quick, and fetch my sextant. You'll excuse me, ladies, but the chronometers must be attended to."
"In preference to us, Captain Drawlock?—Fie, for shame!" replied Mrs Ferguson.
"Why, not exactly," replied the captain, "not exactly; but the fact is, that the sun may go in again."
"And we can stay out, I presume?" replied Isabel, laughing. "I think, Mrs Ferguson, we ought to go in too."
"But, my dear young lady, if the sun goes in, I shall not get a sight!"
"And if we go in, you will not get a sight either," replied Mrs Ferguson.
"Between the two, sir," observed Newton, handing Captain Drawlock his sextant, "you stand a chance of losing both. There's no time to spare; I'm all ready."
Captain Drawlock walked to the break of the gangways, so far concealed from the ladies that they could not perceive that he was looking through his sextant, the use of which they did not comprehend, having never seen one before. Newton stood at the capstern, with his eyes fixed on the watch.
"Captain Drawlock," said Mrs Ferguson, calling to him, "allow me to observe—"
"Stop," cried Captain Drawlock, in a loud voice. Newton, to whom this was addressed, noted the time.
"Good heavens! what can be the matter;" said Mrs Ferguson, with astonishment, to those near her; "how excessively rude of Captain Drawlock;—what can it be?" continued she, addressing the colonel, who had rejoined them.
"Really, madam, I cannot tell; but it is my duty to inquire," replied the colonel, who, going up to Captain Drawlock, commenced—"Have the ladies already so fallen in your estimation—"
"Forty degrees!" cried Captain Drawlock, who was intent upon his sextant. "Excuse me, sir, just now."
"When will you be at leisure, sir?" resumed the colonel, haughtily.
"Twenty-six minutes," continued the captain, reading off his sextant.
"A little sooner, I should hope, sir," retorted the colonel.
"This is really quite insufferable! Miss Revel, we had better go in."
"Stop!" again cried Captain Drawlock, in a loud voice.
"Stop!" repeated Mrs Ferguson, angrily; "surely we are not slaves."
Newton, who heard what was passing, could not repress his laughter.
"Indeed, I am sure there must be some mistake, Mrs Ferguson," observed Isabel. "Wait a little."
"Forty-six minutes, thirty seconds," again read off the captain. "Capital sights both! but the sun is behind that dark cloud, and we shall have no more of his presence."
"Nor of ours, I assure you, sir," said Mrs Ferguson, rising, as Captain Drawlock walked from the gangway to the capstern.
"Why, my dear madam, what is the matter?"
"We have not been accustomed to such peremptory language, sir. It may be the custom on board ship to holla 'stop' to ladies when they address you, or express a wish to leave the deck."
"My dearest madam, I do assure you, upon my honour, that you are under a mistake. I ordered Mr Forster to stop, not you."
"Mr Forster!" replied the lady; "why, he was standing still the whole time!"
It was not until the whole system of taking sights for chronometers had been satisfactorily explained, that the lady recovered her good-humour. While the captain was thus employed with Mrs Ferguson, Newton, although it was not necessary, explained the mystery to Miss Revel, who, with Mrs Ferguson, soon after quitted the deck.