The sights taken proved the ship to be to the eastward of her reckoning. The other ships in company had made the same discovery, and the course was altered one quarter of a point. In two days they dropped their anchor in Funchal Roads.
But I must for a little while recross the Bay of Biscay, and, with my reader, look into the chambers of Mr John Forster.
"Look Upon this child—I saved her, must not leave Her life to chance; but point me out some nook Of safety, where she less may shrink and grieve.
This child, who parentless, is therefore mine."
A few minutes after Newton had quitted the chambers of his uncle, the clerk made his appearance, announcing to Mr John Forster that a gentleman requested to speak to him.
"I asked the gentleman's name, sir," observed the clerk, shutting to the door, "but he did not choose to give it. He has a little girl with him."
"Very well, Scratton, the little girl cannot concern me," replied the old lawyer; "ask him to walk in;"—and he again conned over the brief, not choosing to lose the minute which might elapse before he was again to be interrupted. The door was reopened, and Edward Forster, with Amber holding him by the hand, entered the room.
"Your servant, sir. Scratton, a chair—two chairs, Scratton. I beg your pardon, young lady."
When the clerk had retired, Mr John Forster commenced as usual.—"Now, sir, may I request the favour of asking your business with me?"
"You do not recollect me; nor am I surprised at it, as it is fifteen years since we last met. Time and suffering, which have worn me to a skeleton, have also worn out the remembrance of a brother. I am Edward Forster."
"Edward Forster!—humph! Well, I did not recollect you; but I'm very glad to see you, brother. Very strange—never have heard of one of my family for years, and now they all turn up at once! No sooner get rid of one, than up starts another. Nicholas came from the Lord knows where, the other day."
Edward Forster, who was better acquainted with his brother's character than Newton, took no notice of the abruptness of his remarks, but replied:
"Nicholas! Is he, then, alive? I shall be delighted to see him."
"Humph!" replied John, "I was delighted to get rid of him. Take care of your watch or spectacles when you meet him."
"Indeed, brother! I trust he is not such a character."
"But he is a character, I can tell you; not what you suppose—he's honest enough. Let me see—if my memory serves me, brother Edward, we last met when you were passing through London on your way to ——, having been invalided, and having obtained a pension of forty pounds per annum for a severe wound received in action. And pray, brother, where have you been ever since?"
"At the same spot, from which I probably never should have been induced to remove, had it not been for the sake of this little girl who is now with me."
"And pray who may be that little girl? Is she your daughter?"
"Only by adoption."
"Humph, brother! for a half-pay lieutenant, that appears rather an expensive whim!—bad enough to maintain children of our own begetting."
"You say true," replied Edward; "but if in this instance I have incurred an expense and responsibility, it must be considered to be more my misfortune than my fault." Edward Forster then entered into the particulars connected with Amber's rescue. "You must acknowledge, brother John," observed Edward, as he closed his narrative, "that I could not well have acted otherwise; you would not yourself."
"Humph! I don't know that; but this I do know, that you had better have stayed at home!"
"Perhaps so, considering the forlorn prospects of the child; but we must not judge. The same Providence which willed that she should be so miraculously saved also willed that I should be her protector;—why otherwise did the dog lay her at my feet?"
"Because it had been taught to 'fetch and carry,' I suppose: but however, brother Edward, I have no right to question your conduct. If the girl is as good as she is pretty, why all the better for her; but, as I am rather busy, let me ask if you have any more to say to me?"
"I have, John; and the discourse we have had is preliminary. I am here with a child, forced upon me I may say, but still as dear to me as if she were mine own. You must be aware that I have nothing but my pension and half-pay to subsist upon. I can save nothing. My health is undermined and my life precarious. Last winter I never expected to quit my bed again; and, as I lay in it, the thought naturally occurred of the forlorn and helpless state in which this poor little girl would be in case of my decease. In a lonely cottage, without money—without family or friends to apply to—without anyone near her being made acquainted with her unfortunate history, what would have become of her? It was this reflection which determined me, if my life was spared, as soon as my health would permit, to come to you, the only relative I was certain of still having in the world, that I might acquaint you with her existence, and, with her history, confide to you the few articles of dress which she wore when rescued, and which may eventually lead to her recognition—a case of extreme doubt and difficulty, I grant; but the ways of Providence are mysterious, and her return to the arms of her friends will not be more wonderful than her preservation on that dreadful night. Brother! I never have applied to you in my own behalf, although conscious how ample are your means—and I never will; but I do now plead in favour of this dear child. Worn out as I am, my pilgrimage on earth can be but short; and if you would smooth the pillow of a dying brother, promise him now that you will extend your bounty to this poor orphan, when I'm no more!"
Edward Forster's voice was tremulous at the close of his appeal, and his brother appeared to be affected. There was a silence of a minute, when the customary "humph!" was ejaculated, and John Forster then continued: "A very foolish business, brother—very foolish, indeed. When Nicholas and his son came here the other day and applied to me—why it was all very well—there was relationship; but really, to put another man's child upon me!"
"Not while it pleases heaven to spare my life, brother."
"'May you live a thousand years!' then, as the Spanish say; but, however, brother Edward, as you say, the poor thing must not starve; so, if I am to take care of a child of another man's begetting, as soon as you are dead, I can only say, it will very much increase my sorrow at your loss. Come here, little one: What's your name?"
"Amber! who the devil gave you that fool's name?"
"I did, brother," replied Edward; "I thought it appropriate."
"Humph! really can't see why. Why did you not call her Sukey, or some name fit for a Christian? Amber! Amber's a gum, is it not? Stop, let's see what Johnson says."
The lawyer went to a case of books which were in the next room, and returned with a quarto.
"Now," said he, seating himself; "AG—AL—AM—Ambassador—Ambassadress— Amber!—humph! here it is, 'A yellow, transparent substance of a gummous or bituminous consistence, but of a resinous taste, and a smell like oil of turpentine; chiefly found in the Baltic sea or the coast of Prussia.' Humph! 'Some have imagined it to consist of the tears of birds; others the'—humph!—'of a beast; others the scum of the Lake Cephesis, near the Atlantic; others a congelation in some fountains, where it is found swimming like pitch.' Really, brother," continued the lawyer, fixing his eyes on the little girl, and shutting the book, "I can't see the analogy."
"Be her godfather, my dear brother, and call her any name you please."
"Pray, papa," said Amber, turning to Edward Forster, "What's the meaning of 'humph'?"
"Humph!" repeated the lawyer, looking hard at Amber.
"It implies yes or no, as it may be," replied Edward Forster, smiling.
"I never heard anyone say it before, papa. You're not angry with me, sir?" continued Amber, turning round to John Forster.
"No, not angry, little girl; but I'm too busy to talk to you—or indeed with you, brother Edward. Have you anything more to say?"
"Nothing, my dear brother, if I have your promise."
"Well, you have it; but what am I to do with her, God only knows! I wish you had kept better hours. You mentioned some clothes which might identify her to her relations; pray let me have them; for I shall have the greatest pleasure in restoring her to them, as soon as possible, after she is once in my hands."
"Here they are, brother," replied Edward, taking a small packet from his coat-pocket; "you had better take charge of them now; and may God bless you for having relieved my mind from so heavy a load!"
"Humph! by taking it on my own shoulders," muttered John, as he walked to the iron safe, to deposit the packet of linen; then returning to the table, "Have you anything more to say, brother?"
"Only to ask you where I may find my brother Nicholas?"
"That I can't tell; my nephew told me somewhere down the river; but it's a long way from here to the Nore. Nephew's a fine lad; I sent him off to the East Indies."
"I am sorry then that I have no chance of seeing him:—but you are busy, brother?"
"I have told you so three times, as plain as I could speak!"
"I will no longer trespass on your time. We return home to-morrow morning; and, as I cannot expect ever to see you again, God bless you, my dear John! and farewell, I am afraid I may say, in this world at least, farewell for ever!"
Edward held out his hand to his brother. It was taken with considerable emotion. "Farewell, brother, farewell!—I'll not forget."
"Good-bye, sir," said Amber, going close up to John Forster.
"Good-bye, my little girl," replied he, looking earnestly in her face; and then, as if thawing towards her, as he scanned her beautiful and expressive features, removing his spectacles and kissing her, "Good-bye."
"Oh! papa," cried Amber, as she went out of the room, "he kissed me!"
"Humph!" said John Forster, as the door closed upon them.
The spectacles were put on, and the reading of the brief immediately continued.
"Strickland.—These doings in my house distract me. I met a fine gentleman; when I inquired who He was—why, he came to Clarinda. I met A footman too, and he came to Clarinda. My wife had the character of a virtuous Woman——."
"Let us no more contend Each other, blamed enough elsewhere, but strive In offices of love, how we may lighten Each other's burden in our share of woe."
I do not know a spot on the globe which astonishes and delights, upon your first landing, as the island of Madeira.
The voyager embarks, and is in all probability confined to his cabin, suffering under the dreadful protraction of sea-sickness. Perhaps he has left England in the gloomy close of the autumn, or the frigid concentration of an English winter. In a week, or even in a shorter period, he again views that terra firma which he had quitted with regret, and which in his sufferings he would have given half that he possessed to regain.
When he lands upon the island, what a change! Winter has become summer, the naked trees which he left are exchanged for the most luxuriant and varied foliage, snow and frost for warmth and splendour; the scenery of the temperate zone for the profusion and magnificence of the tropics; fruit which he had never before seen, supplies for the table unknown to him; a bright sky, a glowing sun, hills covered with vines, a deep-blue sea, a picturesque and novel costume; all meet and delight the eye, just at the precise moment when to have been landed, even upon a barren island, would have been considered as a luxury. Add to all this, the unbounded hospitality of the English residents, a sojourn too short to permit satiety; and then is it to be wondered that the island of Madeira is a "green spot" in the memory of all those who land there, or that they quit it with regret?
The Bombay Castle had not been two hours at anchor before the passengers had availed themselves of an invitation from one of the English residents, and were quartered in a splendid house, which looked upon a square and one of the principal churches in the city of Funchal. While the gentlemen amused themselves, at the extensive range of windows, with the novelty of the scene, and the ladies retired to their apartments to complete the hasty toilet of their disembarkation, Captain Drawlock was very busy in the counting-house below, with the master of the house. There were so many pipes of Madeira for the Honourable Company; so many for the directors' private cellars, besides many other commissions for friends, which Captain Drawlock had undertaken to execute; for at that period Madeira wine had not been so calumniated as it latterly has been.
A word upon this subject. I am a mortal enemy to every description of humbug; and I believe there is as much in the medical world as in any other. Madeira wine had for a century been in high and deserved reputation, when on a sudden some fashionable physician discovers that it contained more acid than sherry. Whether he was a sleeping partner in some Spanish house, or whether he had received a present of a few pipes of sherry that he might turn the scale of public favour towards that wine, I know not; but certain it is, that it became fashionable with all medical gentlemen to prescribe sherry; and when once anything becomes fashionable, c'est une affaire decidee.
I do not pretend to be much of a pathologist; but on reading Mr F——'s analysis on the component parts of wine, I observed that in one hundred parts there are perhaps twenty-two parts of acid in Madeira, and nineteen in sherry; so that, in fact, if you reduce your glass of Madeira wine just one sip in quantity, you will imbibe no more acid than in a full glass of sherry; and when we consider the variety of acids in sugar and other compounds, which abound in culinary preparations, the fractional quantity upon which has been grounded the abuse of Madeira wine appears to be most ridiculous.
But if not a pathologist, I have a most decided knowledge of what is good wine; and if the gout should some day honour me with a visit, I shall at least have the consolation to know that I have by potation most honestly earned it.
But allowing that the medical gentlemen are correct, still their good intentions are frustrated by the knavery of the world; and the result of their prescriptions is that people drink much more acid than they did before. I do every justice to good old sherry when it does make its appearance at table; it is a noble wine when aged and unsophisticated from its youth; but for once that you meet with it genuine, you are twenty times disappointed. When Madeira wine was in vogue, the island could not produce the quantity required for consumption, and the vintage from the north side of the island, or of Teneriffe, was substituted. This adulteration no doubt was one cause of its losing its well-established reputation. But Madeira wine has a quality which in itself proves its superiority over all other wines—namely, that although no other wine can be passed off as Madeira, yet with Madeira the wine-merchants may imitate any other wine that is in demand. What is the consequence? that Madeira, not being any longer in request as Madeira now that sherry is the "correct thing," and there not being sufficient of the latter to meet the increased demand, most of the wine vended as sherry is made from the inferior Madeira wines. Reader, if you have ever been in Spain, you may have seen the Xerez or sherry wine brought from the mountains to be put into the cask. A raw goat-skin, with the neck-part and the four legs sewed up, forms a leathern bag, containing perhaps from fifteen to twenty gallons. This is the load of one man, who brings it down on his shoulder exposed to the burning rays of the sun. When it arrives, it is thrown down on the sand, to swelter in the heat with the rest, and remains there probably for days before it is transferred into the cask. It is this proceeding which gives to sherry that peculiar leather twang which distinguishes it from other wines—a twang easy to imitate by throwing into a cask of Cape wine a pair of old boots, and allowing them to remain a proper time. Although the public refuse to drink Madeira as Madeira, they are in fact drinking it in every way disguised—as port, as sherry, &c.; and it is a well-known fact that the poorer wines from the north side of the island are landed in the London Docks, and shipped off to the Continent, from whence they reappear in bottles as "peculiarly fine flavoured hock!"
Now, as it is only the indifferent wines which are thus turned into sherry,—and the more inferior the wine, the more acid it contains,—I think I have made out a clear case that people are drinking more acid than they did before this wonderful discovery of the medical gentlemen, who have for some years led the public by the nose.
There are, however, some elderly persons of my acquaintance who are not to be dissuaded from drinking Madeira, but who continue to destroy themselves by the use of this acid, which perfumes the room when the cork is extracted. I did represent to one of them that it was a species of suicide, after what the doctors had discovered; but he replied, in a very gruff tone of voice, "May be, sir; but you can't teach an old dog new tricks!"
I consider that the public ought to feel very much indebted to me for this expose. Madeira wine is very low, while sherry is high in price. They have only to purchase a cask of Madeira and flavour it with Wellington boots or ladies' slippers, as it may suit their palates. The former will produce the high-coloured, the latter the pale sherry. Further, I consider that the merchants of Madeira are bound to send me a letter of thanks, with a pipe of Bual to prove its sincerity. Now I recollect Stoddart did promise me some wine when he was last in England; but I suppose he has forgotten it.
But from the produce I must return to the island and my passengers. The first day of their arrival they ate their dinner, took their coffee, and returned to bed early to enjoy a comfortable night after so many of constant pitching and tossing. The next morning the ladies were much better, and received the visits of all the captains of the India ships, and also of the captain of the frigate who escorted them.
The officers of the Bombay Castle had been invited to dinner; and the first mate not being inclined to leave the ship, Newton had for one accepted the invitation. On his arrival, he discovered in the captain of the frigate his former acquaintance, Captain Carrington, in whose ship he had obtained a passage from the West Indies, and who, on the former being paid off, had been appointed to the command of the Boadicea. Captain Carrington was delighted to meet Newton; and the attention which he paid to him, added to the encomiums bestowed when Newton was out of hearing, raised him very high in the opinion, not only of Captain Drawlock, but also in the estimation of the ladies. At the request of Captain Carrington, Newton was allowed to remain on shore till their departure from the island; and from this circumstance he became more intimate with the ladies than he would in all probability have otherwise been in the whole course of the voyage. We must pass over the gallop up to Nostra Senhora da Monte,—an expedition opposed by Captain Drawlock on the score of his responsibility; but he was overruled by Captain Carrington, who declared that Newton and he were quite sufficient convoy. We must pass over the many compliments paid to Isabel Revel by Captain Carrington, who appeared desperately in love after an acquaintance of four-and-twenty hours, and who discovered a defect in the Boadicea which would occupy two or three days to make good, that he might be longer in her company; but we will not pass over one circumstance which occurred during their week's sojourn at this delightful island.
A certain Portuguese lady of noble birth had been left a widow with two daughters, and a fine estate to share between them. The daughters were handsome; but the estate was so much handsomer that it set all the mandolins of the Portuguese inamoratos strumming under the windows of the lady's abode from sunset to the dawn of day.
Now, it did so occur, that a young English clerk in a mercantile house, who had a fresh complexion and a clean shirt to boast of (qualifications unknown to the Portuguese), won the heart of the eldest daughter; and the old lady, who was not a very strict Catholic, gave her consent to this heretical union. The Catholic priests, who had long been trying to persuade the old lady to shut up her daughters in a convent, and endow the church with her property, expressed a holy indignation at the intended marriage. The Portuguese gentlemen, who could not brook the idea of so many fair hills of vines going away to a stranger, were equally indignant: in short, the whole Portuguese population of the island were in arms; but the old lady, who had always contrived to have her way before her husband's death, was not inclined to be thwarted now that she was her own mistress; and, notwithstanding threats and expostulations from all quarters, she awaited but the arrival of an English man-of-war that the ceremony might be performed, there being at that time no Protestant clergyman on the island; for the reader must know that a marriage on board of a king's ship, by the captain, duly entered in the log-book, is considered as valid as if the ceremony were performed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
I once married a couple on board of a little ten-gun brig of which I condescended to take the command, to oblige the first lord of the Admiralty; offered, I believe, to provide for me, and rid the Board of all future solicitations for employment or promotion.
It was one of my sailors, who had come to a determination to make an honest woman of Poll and an ass of himself at one and the same time. The ceremony took place on the quarter-deck. "Who gives this woman away?" said I, with due emphasis, according to the ritual. "I do," cried the boatswain, in a gruff voice, taking the said lady by the arm and shoving her towards me, as if he thought her not worth keeping. Everything went on seriously, nevertheless. The happy pair were kneeling down on the union-jack, which had been folded on the deck in consideration of the lady's knees, and I was in the middle of the blessing, when two pigs, which we had procured at St Jago's, being then off that island (creatures more like English pigs on stilts than anything else, unless you could imagine a cross between a pig and a greyhound), in the lightness of their hearts and happy ignorance of their doom, took a frisk, as you often see pigs do on shore, commenced a run from forward right aft, and galloping to the spot where we were all collected, rushed against the two just made one, destroying their centre of gravity, and upsetting them; and, indeed, destroying the gravity and upsetting the seriousness of myself and the whole of the ship's company. The lady recovered her legs, d—d the pigs, and, taking her husband's arm, hastened down the hatchway; so that I lost the kiss to which I was entitled for my services. I consoled myself by the reflection that, "please the pigs," I might be more fortunate the next time that I officiated in my clerical capacity. This is a digression, I grant, but I cannot help it; it is the nature of man to digress. Who can say that he has through life kept in the straight path? This is a world of digression; and I beg that critics will take no notice of mine, as I have an idea that my digressions in this work are as agreeable to my readers, as my digressions in life have been agreeable to myself.
When Captain Carrington anchored with his convoy in Funchal roads, immediate application was made by the parties for the ceremony to be performed on board of his ship. It is true that, as Mr Ferguson had arrived, it might have taken place on shore; but it was considered advisable, to avoid interruption and insult, that the parties should be under the sanctuary of a British man-of-war. On the fourth day after the Boadicea's arrival, the ceremony was performed on board of her by Mr Ferguson; and the passengers of the Bombay, residing at the house of Mr——-, who was an intimate friend of the bridegroom, received and accepted the invitation to the marriage-dinner. The feast was splendid, and after the Portuguese custom. The first course was boiled: it consisted of boiled beef, boiled mutton, boiled hams, boiled tongues, boiled bacon, boiled fowls, boiled turkeys, boiled sausages, boiled cabbages, boiled potatoes, and boiled carrots. Duplicates of each were ranged in opposition, until the table groaned with its superincumbent weight. All were cut up, placed in one dish, and handed round to the guests. When they drank wine, every glass was filled, and everybody who filled his glass was expected to drink the health of every guest separately and by name before he emptied it. The first course was removed, and the second made its appearance, all roasted. Roast beef, roast veal, roast mutton, roast lamb, roast joints of pork, roasted turkeys, roasted fowls, roasted sausages, roasted everything; the centre dish being a side of a large hog, rolled up like an enormous fillet of veal. This, too, was done ample justice to by the Portuguese part of the company, at least; and all was cleared away for the dessert, consisting of oranges, melons, pine-apples, guavas, citrons, bananas, peaches, strawberries, apples, pears, and, indeed, of almost every fruit which can be found in the whole world; all of which appear to naturalise themselves at Madeira. It was now supposed by the uninitiated that the dinner was over; but not so: the dessert was cleared away, and on came an husteron proteron medley of pies and puddings, in all their varieties, smoking hot, boiled and baked; custards and sweetmeats, cheese and olives, fruits of all kinds preserved, and a hundred other things, from which the gods preserve us! At last the feast was really over—the Portuguese picked their teeth with their forks, and the wine was circulated briskly. On such an occasion as the marriage of her daughter, the old lady had resolved to tap a pipe of Madeira, which was, at the very least, fifty years old, very fine in flavour, but, from having been so long in the wood, little inferior in strength to genuine Cognac. The consequence was that many of the gentlemen became noisy before the dinner was over; and their mirth was increased to positive uproar upon a message being sent by the bishop, ordering, upon pain of excommunication, that the ceremony should proceed no further. The ladies retired to the withdrawing-room: the gentlemen soon followed; but the effects of the wine were so apparent upon most of them that Captain Drawlock summoned Newton to his assistance, and was in a state of extreme anxiety until his "responsibilities" were safe at home. Shortly afterwards, Captain Carrington and those who were the least affected, by persuasion and force, removed the others from the house; and the bridal party were left to themselves, to deliberate whether they should or should not obey the preposterous demands of the reverend bishop.
Captain Carrington was excessively fond of a joke, and never lost the opportunity when it occurred: now, it happened that in the party invited there was a merchant of the name of Sullivan, who, upon his last visit to England, had returned with a very pretty, and at the same time, a very coquettish young lady as his wife. It happened, in the casualties of a large dinner party, that the old colonel (Ellice was his name, if I have not mentioned it before) was seated next to her, and, as usual, was remarkably attentive. Mr Sullivan, like many other gentlemen, was very inattentive to his wife, and, unlike most Irishmen, was very jealous of her. The very marked attention of the colonel had not escaped his notice; neither did his fidgeting upon this occasion escape the notice of those about him, who were aware of his disposition. The poor colonel was one of those upon whose brain the wine had taken the most effect; and it was not until after sundry falls, and being again placed upon his legs, that he had been conveyed home between Captain Carrington and Mr——, the merchant at whose house the party from the Bombay Castle were residing. The ensuing morning he did not make his appearance at breakfast; and the gentlemen residing on the island, commenting upon the events of the evening before, declared in a joking way that they should not be surprised at Mr Sullivan sending him a challenge in the course of the morning; that was, if he was up so soon, as he had quitted the house in a greater state of inebriety than even the colonel. It was upon this hint that Captain Carrington proposed to have some amusement; and having arranged it with one of the junior partners of the house, he went into the room of the colonel, whom he found still in bed.
"Well, colonel, how do you find yourself?" said Captain Carrington, when he had roused him.
"Oh! very bad, indeed: my head is ready to split; never felt such a sensation in my head before, except when I was struck with a spent ball at the battle of—"
"I am very sorry for your headache, colonel: but more sorry that the wine should have played you such a trick last night."
"Trick, indeed!" replied the colonel; "I was completely overcome. I do not recollect a word that passed after I quitted the dinner-table."
"Are you serious? Do you not recollect the scene with Mrs Sullivan?"
"Mrs Sullivan! My dear sir, what scene? I certainly paid every attention due to a very pretty woman; but I recollect no further."
"Not the scene in the drawing-room?"
"God bless me!—No—I do not even recollect ever going into the drawing-room! Pray tell me what I said or did: I hope nothing improper."
"Why, that depends very much whether the lady likes it or not; but in the presence of so many people—"
"Merciful powers! Captain Carrington, pray let me know at once what folly it was that I committed."
"Why, really, I am almost ashamed to enter into particulars: suffice to say, that you used most unwarrantable freedom towards her."
"Is it possible?" cried the colonel. "Now, Captain Carrington, are you not joking?"
"Ask this gentleman; he was present."
The assertion of the captain was immediately corroborated, and the colonel was quite aghast.
"Excuse me, gentlemen, I will run immediately—that abominable wine. I must go and make a most ample apology. I am bound to do it, as a gentleman, as an officer, and as a man of honour."
Captain Carrington and his confederate quitted the room, satisfied with the success of their plot. The colonel rose, and soon afterwards made his appearance. He swallowed a cup of coffee, and then proceeded on his visit, to make the amende honorable.
When Mr Sullivan awoke from the lethargy produced from the stupefying effects of the wine, he tried to recollect the circumstances of the preceding evening; but he could trace no further than to the end of the dinner, after which his senses had been overpowered. All that he could call to memory was, that somebody had paid great attention to his wife, and that what had passed afterwards was unknown. This occasioned him to rise in a very jealous humour; and he had not been up more than an hour, when the colonel sent up his card, requesting, as a particular favour, that the lady would admit him.
The card and message were taken by the servant to Mr Sullivan, whose jealousy was again roused by the circumstance; and wishing to know if the person who had now called was the same who had been so attentive to his wife on the preceding evening, and the motives of the call, he requested that the colonel might be shown in, without acquainting his wife, whom he had not yet seen, with his arrival. The colonel, who intended to have made an apology to the lady without the presence of a third person, least of all of her husband, ascended the stairs, adjusting his hair and cravat, and prepared with all the penitent assurance and complimentary excuses of a too ardent lover. The fact was, that, although the colonel had expressed to Captain Carrington his regret and distress at the circumstance, yet, as an old Adonis, he was rather proud of this instance of juvenile indiscretion. When, therefore, he entered the room, and perceived, instead of the lady, Mr Sullivan, raised up to his utmost height, and looking anything but good-humoured, he naturally started back, and stammered out something which was unintelligible. His behaviour did not allay the suspicions of Mr Sullivan, who requested, in a haughty tone, to be informed of the reason why he had been honoured with a visit. The colonel became more confused, and totally losing his presence of mind, replied:—
"I called, sir,—on Mrs Sullivan,—to offer an apology for my conduct last night; but as I perceive that she is not visible, I will take a more favourable opportunity."
"Any apology you may have to offer to my wife, sir," replied Mr Sullivan, "may be confided to me. May I inquire the circumstances which have occurred to render an apology necessary?" and Mr Sullivan walked to the door and closed it.
"Why, really, Mr Sullivan, you must be aware that circumstances may occur," replied the colonel, more confused: "the fact is, that I consider it my duty, as a gentleman and a man of honour, to express my regrets to your fair lady."
"My fair lady! for what, sir, may I ask?"
"Why, sir," stammered the colonel, "to state the truth, for, as a gentleman and a man of honour, I ought not to be ashamed to acknowledge my error—for—the very improper behaviour which I was guilty of last night."
"Improper behaviour, sir!—d—nation! with my wife?" roared Mr Sullivan, in his rage. "What behaviour, sir? and when, sir?"
"Really, sir, I was too much affected with the wine to know anything which passed. I did hope to have addressed the lady in person on the subject, and I came here with that intention."
"I daresay you did, sir."
"But," continued the colonel, "as it appears I am not to have that honour, I consider that I have done my duty in requesting that you will convey my sentiments of regret for what has passed;—and now, sir, I wish you a good morning."
"Good morning," retorted the husband, with a sneer, "and observe, sir, I will not trouble you to call again. William, show this gentleman outside the door."
The colonel, who was descending the stairs, turned round to Mr Sullivan at the latter part of his speech, and then, as if thinking better of it, he resumed his descent, and the door was immediately closed upon him.
Mr Sullivan, as soon as he was satisfied that the colonel was shut out, immediately repaired to his wife's dressing-room, where he found her reading.
"Madam," said he, fixing his eyes sternly on her, "I have been informed of what took place last night."
"I'm sure I do not know what that was," replied the lady, coolly, "except that you were very tipsy."
"Granted, madam; you took advantage of it; and your conduct—"
"My conduct, Mr Sullivan!" replied his wife, kindling with anger.
"Yes, Mrs Sullivan, your conduct. A married woman, madam, who allows gentlemen—"
"Gentlemen, Mr Sullivan! I allow no gentleman but yourself. Are you sure that you are quite sober?"
"Yes, madam, I am; but this affected coolness will not avail you: deny, if you can, that Colonel Ellice did not last night—"
"Well, then, I do deny it. Neither Colonel Ellice nor any other man ever did—"
"Did what, madam?" interrupted the husband in a rage.
"I was going to observe, if you had not interrupted me, that no one was wanting in proper respect towards me," replied the lady, who grew more cool as her husband increased in choler. "Pray, Mr Sullivan, may I inquire who is the author of this slander?"
"The author, madam! look at me—to your confusion look at me!"
"Well, I'm looking."
"'Twas, madam—the colonel himself."
"The colonel himself!"
"Yes, madam, the colonel himself, who called this morning to see you and renew the intimacy, I presume; but by mistake was shown up to me, and then made an apology for his conduct."
"It's excessively strange! first the colonel is rude, without my knowledge, and then apologises to you! Mr Sullivan, I'm afraid that your head is not right this morning."
"Indeed, madam, I only wish that your heart was as sound," replied the husband, with a sneer; "but, madam, I am not quite blind. An honest woman—a virtuous woman, Mrs Sullivan, would have immediately acquainted her husband with what had passed—not have concealed it; still less have had the effrontery to deny it, when acknowledged by her paramour."
"Paramour!" cried the lady, with an hysterical laugh; "Mr Sullivan, when I select a paramour, it shall be a handsome young man—not an old, yellow-faced—"
"Pshaw, madam! there's no accounting for taste; when a woman deviates from the right path—"
"Right path! if ever I deviated from the right path, as you call it, it was when I married such a wretch as you! Yes, sir," continued the lady, bursting into tears, "I tell it you now—my life has been a torment to me ever since I married (sobbing)—always suspected for nothing (sob, sob)—jealous, detestable temper (sob)—go to my friends (sob)—hereafter may repent (sob)—then know what you've lost" (sob, sob, sob).
"And, madam," replied Mr Sullivan, "so may you also know what you have lost, before a few hours have passed away; then, madam, the time may come when the veil of folly will be rent from your eyes, and your conduct appear in all its deformity. Farewell, madam—perhaps for ever!"
The lady made no reply; Mr Sullivan quitted the room, and, repairing to his counting-house, wrote a challenge to the colonel and confided the delivery of it to one of his friends, who unwillingly accepted the office of second.
"He's truly valiant, that can wisely suffer The worst that man can breathe, and make his wrongs His outsides: to wear them, like his raiment, carelessly, And ne'er prefer his injuries to his heart, To bring it into danger."
The colonel, in the meantime, had returned to the house where he was residing, when he was immediately accosted by Captain Carrington and the other gentlemen who had been let into the secret of the plot. During his walk home the colonel had been ruminating on his dismissal, and had not quite made up his mind whether he ought or ought not to resent the conduct of Mr Sullivan. Naturally more inclined for peace than war, by the time that he had arrived home he had resolved to pocket the affront, when Captain Carrington called him on one side, and obtained from him a recapitulation of what had passed; which probably never would have been given if the colonel had not considered the communication as confidential. This, however, did not suit the intentions of Captain Carrington, who felt inclined for more mischief; and, when the colonel had concluded his narrative, he replied, "Upon my word, colonel, as you observe, this conduct on the part of Mr Sullivan is not exactly what can be permitted by us military men. I hardly know how to advise; indeed, I would not take the responsibility; however, I will consult with Mr S—— and Mr G——, and if you will leave your honour in our hands, depend upon it we will do you strict justice:" and Captain Carrington quitted the colonel, who would have expostulated, and, walking up to the other gentlemen, entered into a recapitulation of the circumstances. A wink of his eye, as his back was turned to the colonel, fully expressed to the others the tenor of the advice which they were to offer.
"Well, gentlemen, what is your opinion?" said the captain, as he concluded his narrative.
"I think," replied Mr S——, with a serious face, "there can be but one—our gallant friend has been most grossly insulted. I think," continued he, addressing the colonel, who had quitted the sofa, in his anxiety to know the issue of their debate, "that I should most decidedly ask him what he meant."
"Or rather demand an apology," observed Mr G——.
"Which Mr Sullivan, as a man of honour, is bound to offer, and the colonel, as a gentleman and an officer, has a right to insist upon. Do you not think so, Captain Carrington?" said Mr S——.
"Why, I always have been more inclined to be a peacemaker than otherwise, if I can," replied Captain Carrington. "If our gallant friend the colonel is not sure that Mr Sullivan did use the words, 'I won't trouble you to call again,'—are you positive as to the exact words, colonel?"
"Why, to the best of my recollection," replied the colonel, "I rather think those were the words. I may be mistaken:—it was certainly—most certainly, something to that effect."
"Were they 'requesting you to call again?'" said Captain Carrington.
"No, no, that they were certainly not."
"Well, they could be but one or the other. Then, gentlemen, the case is clear—the words were uttered," said Mr S——. "Now Captain Carrington, what would you advise?"
"I really am vexed to say that I do not see how our friend, Colonel Ellice, can do otherwise than demand an apology, or a meeting."
"Could not I treat him with contempt, Captain Carrington?" demanded the colonel.
"Why, not exactly," replied Mr S——. "Sullivan is of good family—the Sullivans of Bally cum Poop. He was some time in the 48th Regiment, and was obliged to retire from it for challenging his colonel."
"Well, gentlemen," replied the colonel, "I suppose I must leave my honour in your hands, although it does appear to me that our time is very short for such arrangements. We sail early to-morrow morning, Captain Carrington; at daylight I think you said, and it will be too late to-night."
"My dear colonel, I will risk a rebuke from the Admiralty," replied the captain, "rather than not allow you to heal your wounded honour. I will stay till the day after tomorrow, should it be requisite for the arrangement of this business."
"Thank you, many thanks," replied the colonel, with an expression of disappointment. "Then I had better prepare the letter?"
"Carta por senhor commandante," interrupted a Portuguese, presenting a letter to the colonel; "O senhor embaixo; queir risposta."
The colonel opened the letter, which contained Mr Sullivan's challenge,—pistols—tomorrow morn, at daylight—one mile on the road to Machico.
The colonel's countenance changed two or three shades less yellow as he read the contents: recovering himself with a giggle, he handed the letter to Captain Carrington.
"You see, captain, the gentleman has saved me the trouble—He, he, he! these little affairs are common to gentlemen of our profession—He, he! and, since the gentleman wishes it, why, I presume—He, he! that we must not disappoint him."
"Since you are both of one mind, I think there will be some business done," observed Mr S——. "I perceive that he is in earnest by the place named for the meeting. We generally settle our affairs of honour in the Loo-fields; but I suppose he is afraid of interruption.—They want an answer, colonel."
"Oh! he shall have one," replied the colonel, tittering with excitement; "he shall have one. What hour does he say?"
"Oh, we will arrange all that. Come, colonel," said Captain Carrington, taking him familiarly by the arm, and leading him away.
The answer was despatched, and they sat down to dinner. Many were the friendly and encouraging glasses of wine drank with the colonel, who recovered his confidence, and was then most assiduous in his attentions to the ladies, to prove his perfect indifference. He retired at an early hour, nevertheless.
In the meantime Mr Sullivan had received the answer, and had retired to his counting-house, to arrange his affairs in case of accident. He had not seen his wife since the fracas. And now we will leave them both for a while, and make a few remarks upon duelling.
Most people lament, many abuse, the custom as barbarous; but barbarous it is not, or it would not be necessary in a state of high civilisation. It is true, that by the practice we offend laws human and divine; but, at the same time, it must be acknowledged, that neither law nor religion can keep society in such good order, or so restrain crime. The man who would defy the penalty of the law, and the commandments of his God against seduction will, however, pause in his career, when he finds that there are brothers to avenge an injured sister. And why so?—because in this world we live as if we were in a tavern, careless of what the bill is which we run up, but dreading the day of reckoning, which the pistol of our adversary may bring at once. Thus duelling may be considered as a necessary evil, arising out of our wickedness; a crime in itself rare in occurrence, but which prevents others of equal magnitude from occurring every day; and, until the world is reformed, nothing can prevent it. Men will ever be governed by the estimation of the world: and until the whole world decide against duelling—until it has become the usage to offer the other cheek upon the first having been smitten—then, and not till then, will the practice be discontinued. When a man refuses to fight a duel, he is stigmatised as a coward, his company is shunned, and unless he is a wretch without feeling, his life becomes a burden. Men have refused from purely conscientious motives, and have subsequently found themselves so miserable, from the neglect and contumely of the world, that they have backslided, and have fought to recover their place in society. There have been some few—very few—who, having refused from conscientious motives, have adhered to these resolutions, because they feared God and not man. There was more courage in their refusal than if they had run the gauntlet of a hundred duels; a moral courage which is most rare,—preferring the contempt of man to the wrath of God. It is, however, the most trying situation on this side of the grave. To refuse to fight a duel, is in fact to obey the stern injunction, "Leave all, and follow me."
For my part, I never have and never will fight a duel, if I can help it. I have a double motive for my refusal; in the first place, I am afraid to offend the Deity; and in the next, I am afraid of being shot. I have, therefore, made up my mind never to meet a man except upon what I consider fair terms; for when a man stakes his life, the gambling becomes rather serious, and an equal value should be laid down by each party. If, then, a man is not so big—not of equal consequence in the consideration of his fellow-mites—not married, with five small children, as I am—not having so much to lose,—why, it is clear that I risk more than he does; the stake is not equal, and I therefore shall not meet him. If, on the contrary, he presents a broader target—if he is my superior in rank, more patriarchal at home, or has so many hundreds per annum more—why, then the disadvantages will be on his side; and I trust I am too much of a gentleman, even if he offers to waive all these considerations, to permit him to fight. It would be swindling the man out of his life.
The best advice I can offer to my friends under these unpleasant circumstances is, first to try if they cannot persuade their adversaries to make an apology: and if they will not, why, then, let them make one themselves; for although the making an apology creates a very uneasy sensation, and goes very much against the stomach, yet, depend upon it, a well-directed bullet creates a much more uneasy feeling, and, what is worse, goes directly into it.
We left Mrs Sullivan sobbing in her anger, when her husband bounded out of the room in his heroics. At the time that he made the threat she was in no humour to regard it; but as her anger gradually subsided, so did her alarm increase. Notwithstanding that she was a coquette, she was as warmly attached to her husband as he was to her; if she trifled, it was only for her amusement, and to attract that meed of admiration to which she had been accustomed previous to her marriage, and which no woman can renounce on her first entry into that state. Men cannot easily pardon jealousy in their wives; but women are more lenient towards their husbands. Love, hand-in-hand with confidence, is the more endearing; yet, when confidence happens to be out of the way, Love will sometimes associate with Jealousy; still, as this disagreeable companion proves that Love is present, and as his presence is what a woman and all a woman asks, she suffers Jealousy, nay, sometimes even becomes partial to him, for the sake of Love.
Now, that Mrs Sullivan had been most unjustly accused, the reader must know, and, moreover, that she had great reason to feel irritated. When her tears had subsided, for some time she continued in her chair, awaiting, with predetermined dignity, the appearance and apology of Mr Sullivan. After some time had elapsed, she wondered why he did not come. Dinner was announced, and she certainly expected to meet him then, and she waited for some minutes to see if he would not take this opportunity of coming up to her;—but no. She then presumed that he was still in the sulks, and had sat down to table without her, and therefore, as he would not come—why, she went; but he was not at the table. Every minute she expected him:—Had he been told?—Where was he?—He was in the counting-house, was the reply. Mrs Sullivan swallowed a few mouthfuls, and then returned upstairs. Tea was made—announced to Mr Sullivan, yet he came not. It remained on the table; the cup poured out for him was cold. The urn had been sent down, with strict injunctions to keep the water boiling, and all was cleared away. Mrs Sullivan fidgeted and ruminated, and became uneasy. He never had been at variance for so many hours since their marriage, and all for nothing! At last the clock struck ten, and she rang the bell.—"Where is Mr Sullivan?"—"In the counting-house."—"Tell him that I wish to speak with him." Mr Sullivan had not answered him, and the door was locked inside. This intelligence created a little irritation, and checked the tide of affection. "Before all the servants—so inconsiderate—it was quite insulting!" With a heavy heart, Mrs Sullivan lighted the chamber candle, and went upstairs to bed. Once she turned down the stairs two or three steps, intending to go to the counting-house door; but her pride restrained her, and she reascended. In an hour Mrs Sullivan was in bed, expecting her husband every minute, listening at the slightest sound for his footsteps; but two o'clock came, and he was still away. She could bear up against her suspense and agitation no longer; she rose, threw on her robe de nuit, and descended the stairs. All the family had long retired, and everything was still: her light foot made no noise as she tripped along. As she neared the door she perceived the light gleaming through the key-hole. Whether to peep or to speak first—he might be fast asleep. Curiosity prevailed—she looked through the key-hole, and perceived her husband very busy writing. After he had finished his letter he threw down the pen, pressed his forehead with both hands, and groaned deeply. Mrs Sullivan could refrain no longer. "William! William!" cried she, in a soft, imploring voice: but she was not answered. Again and again did she repeat his name, until an answer, evidently wrung from him by impatience, was returned—"It is too late now."
"Too late, dear William! Yes, it is very late—it's almost three o'clock. Let me in, William—pray do!"
"Leave me alone: it's the last favour I shall probably ever request of you."
"The last favour! Oh, William! you frighten me so:—dear William—do—do let me in. I'm so cold—I shall die:—only for one moment, and I'll bless you. Pray do, William!"
It was not until after repeated and repeated entreaties of this kind that Mr Sullivan, worn out by importunity, at last opened the door.
"Mary, I am very busy; I have opened the door to tell you so, and to request that you will not interrupt me. Now oblige me by going to bed."
But getting in was everything; and a young and pretty wife, in dishabille and in tears, imploring, entreating, conjuring, promising, coaxing, and fondling, is not quite so easy to be detached when once she has gained access. In less than half an hour Mr Sullivan was obliged to confess that her conduct had been the occasion of a meeting being agreed upon for that morning, and that he was arranging his affairs in case of a melancholy termination.
"You now, Mary, must see the consequences of your conduct. By your imprudence, your husband's life is risked, probably sacrificed; but this is no time to be at variance. I forgive you, Mary—from my soul I do, as I hope for pardon myself."
Mrs Sullivan burst into a paroxysm of tears; and it was some time before she could answer. "William," cried she, energetically, "as you well say, this is no time to be at variance, neither is it a time for falsehood. What I stated to you this morning was true;—if not, may I never hope for pardon! and may heaven never be opened to me! You have been deceived—grossly deceived; for what purpose, I know not: but so it is. Do not, therefore, be rash. Send for all who were present, and examine them; and if I have told you a falsehood, put me away from you, to the shame and seclusion I shall so well deserve."
"It is too late, Mary; I have challenged him, and he has accepted it. I fain would believe you; but he told me so himself."
"Then he told a lie! a base, cowardly lie! which sinks him beneath the notice of a gentleman. Let me go with you and confront him. Only let him dare to say it to my face; 'tis all I ask, William, that I may clear my fame with you. Come to bed—nay, nay, don't refuse me," and poor Mrs Sullivan again burst into tears.
We must leave the couple to pass the remaining hours in misery, which, however, reclaimed them both from faults. Mrs Sullivan never coquetted more; and her husband was, after this, never jealous but on trifles.
The colonel was just as busy on his side in preparing for the chances of the morrow: these chances, however, were never tried; for Captain Carrington and his confederates had made their arrangements. Mr Sullivan was already dressed, his wife clinging to him in frantic despair, when a letter was left at his door, the purport of which was that Colonel Ellice had discovered that his companions had been joking with him, when they had asserted that during his state of inebriety he had offered any rudeness to Mrs Sullivan. As, therefore, no offence had been committed, Colonel Ellice took it for granted that Mr Suillivan would be satisfied with the explanation.
Mrs Sullivan, who devoured the writing over her husband's shoulder, sank down on her knees in gratitude, and was raised to her husband's arms, who, as he embraced her, acknowledged his injustice.
The same party who wrote this epistle also framed another in imitation of Mr Sullivan's handwriting, in which Mr Sullivan acquainted the colonel, that having been informed by a mutual friend that he had been in error relative to Colonel Ellice's behaviour of the night before, he begged to withdraw the challenge, and apologise for having suspected the colonel of incivility, &c. That having been informed that Colonel Ellice embarked at an early hour, he regretted that he would not be able to pay his respects to him, and assure him, &c.
The receipt of this letter, just as the colonel had finished a cup of coffee, preparatory to starting, made him, as a single man, quite as happy as the married couple: he hastened to put the letter into the hands of Captain Carrington, little thinking that he was handing it over to the writer.
"You observe, Captain Carrington, he won't come to the scratch. Perhaps as well for him that he does not," said the colonel, chuckling in his glee.
The breakfast was early; the colonel talked big, and explained the whole affair to the ladies, quite unconscious that everyone in the company knew that the hoax had been played upon him. Before noon, everyone had re-embarked on board of their respective ships, and their lofty sails were expanded to a light and favouring breeze.
"Isabel.—Anywhere to avoid matrimony: the thought of a husband is terrible to me.
Inis.—But if you might choose for yourself, I fancy matrimony would be no such frightful thing to you."
The Boadicea, with the Indiamen, proceeded on to their destination, Captain Carrington taking every opportunity which light winds and smooth water afforded him of paying his respects to the ladies on board of the Bombay Castle, or of inviting them on board of the frigate. The fact was that he had fallen most desperately in love with Isabel Revel, and paid her the most marked attention; but, although a pleasant, light-hearted companion, and a young man of good family and prospects, Isabel Revel had not fallen in love with him: she liked his company, but nothing more.
In a month the squadron had arrived at the island of St Helena, to which Captain Carrington had been ordered to convoy them: his directions were then to cruise in a certain latitude, and ultimately to proceed on to the East Indies, if he did not fall in with the vessels he expected. It was, therefore, but parting to meet again; but during the short time that they refitted and completed their water at St Helena, Captain Carrington proposed, and was politely refused by Isabel Revel. Impatient as a boy who has been denied his plaything, he ordered his stores immediately on board, and the next day quitted the island. It may appear strange that a young lady, obviously sent out on speculation, should have refused so advantageous an offer; for the speculation commences with the voyage. Some ladies are selected at Madeira. Since the Cape has been in our possession, several have been induced to stay in that colony; and very often ships arrive with only the refuse of their cargo for the intended market in the East. But Isabel Revel had consented to embark on the score of filial duty, not to obtain a husband, unless she liked the gentleman who proposed; and Captain Carrington did not happen to come up to her fanciful ideas of the person to be chosen for life. Captain Carrington did not impart the intelligence of his ill-success to anyone but Newton, who was employed to carry his farewell message. His secret was faithfully kept by both. Isabel Revel was not one of those young ladies who would make use of such an unworthy advantage to heighten her consequence in the eyes of others. But there was another reason, not exactly known to Isabel herself at the time, which prevented her from listening to the proposals of Captain Carrington. Had she questioned her own heart, she would have discovered that she was prepossessed in favour of one who as unconsciously had become attached to her. He knew his own feelings, but had checked them in the bud, aware that he had nothing to offer but himself. This person was Newton Forster. His intimacy with Captain Carrington, the attention shown him by Captain Drawlock (who entrusted him to work the chronometers!!), his own excellent character and handsome person, had raised him to more importance than his situation as a junior officer would have warranted; and his behaviour was such as to have secured him the good-will of everyone on board of the ship. Newton's unassuming, frank manner, added to a large stock of general information, occasioned his society to be courted, even by those who would otherwise have been inclined to keep at a distance one in his subordinate rank.
When they arrived at St Helena, the first mate, for a wonder, no longer made any difficulty of going on shore for an hour or two, if he knew that Newton would be the commanding officer during his absence; nay, so high did he stand in the opinion of his captain, that not only was he permitted to take charge of the chronometers, but if called away for a time below, Captain Drawlock would hand over to Newton's charge any one of the unmarried responsibilities who might happen to be leaning on his arm.
The India men being now left to protect themselves, the senior officer, Commodore Bottlecock, issued most elaborate memorandum, as to the order of sailing, exercise of the men at the great guns and small arms, and every other point which could tend to their security by due preparation. Nevertheless, the ladies continued to appear on deck. Mrs Ferguson sate in her majesty; the young ladies tittered, and were reprimanded; the young gentlemen were facetious, and were rebuked; the old colonel talked of his adventure at Madeira, and compared everything to the spent ball in the battle of——. Dr Plausible had become a most assiduous attendant upon Miss Tavistock, ever since he had satisfactorily ascertained that she had property of her own; everybody had become intimate: everyone was becoming tired, when the bearings and distance at noon placed them about two hundred miles from Point de Galle, the southernmost extremity of Ceylon. The wind was fresh and fair, and they congratulated each other upon a speedy termination to their tedious voyage.
Dinner was announced by the old tune of "Oh! the roast beef of Old England;" and during a long voyage the announcement of dinner is a very great relief every way. As had been the invariable rule throughout the whole of the voyage, Miss Charlotte and Miss Laura Revel were placed on the one side of Captain Drawlock, Miss Tavistock and Isabel Revel on the other. They were flanked on the other side by Mrs and Mr Ferguson, who thus separated them from any undue collision with the gentlemen passengers or officers of the ship. The colonel was placed next to Mrs Ferguson, the young writer next to her husband: then the two cadets, supported by the doctor and purser, the remainder of the table being filled up with the officers of the ship, with the first mate at the foot. Such was the order of Captain Drawlock's dinner-sailing; as strictly adhered to as the memorandum of Commodore Bottlecock: the only communication permitted with the young ladies under his charge (unless married men) being to "request the honour of drinking a glass of wine with them."
All this may appear very absurd; but a little reflection will convince the reader to the contrary. There is a serious responsibility on a captain of an India man, who takes charge of perhaps a dozen young women, who are to be cooped up for months in the same ship with as many young men. Love, powerful everywhere, has on the waters even more potent sway, hereditary, I presume, from his mother's nativity. Idleness is the friend of Love; and passengers have little or nothing to do to while away the tedium of a voyage. In another point, he has great advantage, from the limited number of the fair sex. In a ball or in general society, a man may see hundreds of women, admire many, yet fall in love with none. Numbers increase the difficulty of choice, and he remains delighted, but not enslaved. But on board of a ship, the continued presence of one whom he admires by comparison out of the few—one who, perhaps, if on shore, would in a short time be eclipsed by another, but who here shines without competition—gives her an advantage which, assisted by idleness and opportunity, magnifies her attractions, and sharpens the arrow of all conquering Love. Captain Drawlock perhaps knew this from experience; he knew also that the friends of one party, if not of both, might be displeased by any contract formed when under his surveillance, and that his character and the character of his ship (for ships nowadays have characters, and very much depend upon them for their well doing) might suffer in consequence. Strict as he might therefore appear, he was only doing his duty.
Grace being requested from Mr Ferguson, he indulged the company with one quite as long as usual; rather too long, considering that the ship was very unsteady, and the ladies had to cling to the table for support. But Mr Ferguson was not a sailor, or he would have known that it is the custom to reduce the grace in proportion with the canvas. When the royals are set, we submit to a homily; under double-reefed topsails, a blessing; but under storm stay-sails, an ejaculation is considered as orthodox.
"Mrs Ferguson, will you permit me to send you a little mulligatawny?" said Captain Drawlock: "If you prefer it, there is sheep's head broth at the other end of the table."
"Then I will take a little of the broth, if you please, Captain Drawlock."
"Mr Mathews, Mrs Ferguson will take some broth. I am sorry, Mrs Ferguson, that our table is so ill supplied; but a long voyage and bad weather has been very fatal to our hen-coops."
"Indeed, Captain Drawlock, you need not apologise." Nor was there any occasion, for the table was loaded.
"Perhaps Miss Laura Revel will permit me to send her a slice of this mutton?" said the obsequious colonel.
"No, I thank you; I have eaten nothing but mutton lately. I think I shall be a sheep myself soon," added the young lady, tittering.
"That would be very much against your inclination, I should think, Miss Laura," observed Mrs Ferguson, tartly.
"La! why so? how do you know, Mrs Ferguson?"
"Because a sheep never changes its name until after it is dead. I shrewdly suspect you would like to change yours before."—(This was a hard hit.)
"As you have yours, Mrs Ferguson," quietly answered Isabel, in support of her sister.
"Very fair on both sides," said the colonel, bowing to the ladies, who sat together. "Pray, Miss Laura, don't talk of being a sheep, we are all ready to devour you as it is."
"La! you don't say so?" replied the young lady, much pleased.
"Colonel Ellice," interrupted Captain Drawlock, with a serious air, "several of the company will thank you to carve that joint, when you have finished paying your compliments. Miss Tavistock, the honour of a glass of wine. We have not had the pleasure of your company on deck to-day."
"No, Captain Drawlock. I did intend to come, but my health is in such a delicate state, that by the advice of Dr Plausible I remained below."
"Miss Tavistock, will you allow me to send you some mutton?"
"If you please, colonel; a very small slice."
"Mr Forster, what have you in that dish before you?"
"A chicken, Captain Drawlock."
"Miss Isabel Revel, will you take some chicken?"
"No, I thank you, Captain Drawlock," replied Isabel.
"Did you say yes or no?" inquired Newton, who had caught her eye.
"I'll change my mind," said Isabel, smiling.
Now, I know it for a fact, although I shall not give up my authority, that Isabel Revel never wanted any chicken until she perceived that Newton was to help her. So, if Love occasionally takes away the appetite, let us do him justice—he sometimes creates one.
"Miss Tavistock, allow me to send you a little of this turkey," said Dr Plausible; "it is easy of digestion."
"If you please, doctor," replied Miss Tavistock, cramming the last mouthful of mutton into her mouth, and sending away her plate to be changed.
"Will you not take a little ham with it, Miss Tavistock?" said Captain Drawlock.
"If you please, sir."
"The honour of a glass of wine, Miss Tavistock," said the colonel.
"With pleasure, sir."
"Miss Charlotte Revel, you have really eaten nothing," said Captain Drawlock.
"That proves you have not paid me the least attention," replied the young lady. "Had you honoured me with a single glance during dinner, you could not but have observed that I have been dining very heartily."
"I really am quite shocked, Miss Charlotte, and bow to your reproof. Will you take a glass of wine with me, in reconciliation?"
"I consider a glass of Madeira a very poor bribe, sir."
"Well, then, Miss Charlotte, it shall be champagne," replied Captain Drawlock, in his gallantry. "Steward, champagne." A fortunate hit for the company; as champagne was in general only produced upon what sailors call "clean shirt days,"—viz., Sundays and Thursdays.
"We are highly indebted to Miss Revel," observed the colonel, bowing to her; "and I think we ought to drink her health in a bumper."
Agreed to, nem. con.
Champagne, thou darling of my heart! To stupefy oneself with other wines, is brutal; but to raise oneself to the seventh heaven with thee, is quite ethereal. The soul appears to spurn the body, and take a transient flight without its dull associate—the—the—broke down, by Jupiter! All I meant to say was, that champagne is very pretty tipple; and so thought the dinner party, who were proportionally enlivened.
"Is this orthodox, Mr Ferguson?" inquired the colonel, holding up his glass.
"So far orthodox, that it is very good; and what is orthodox is good," replied the divine, with good-humour.
"The Asia has made the signal for 'a strange sail—suspicious,'" said the second mate to Captain Drawlock, putting his head into the cabin.
"Very well, Mr Jones, keep a glass upon the commodore."
"Mrs Ferguson, will you take some of this tart! Damascene, I believe," said the first mate.
"If you please, Mr Mathews.—Did not Mr Jones say 'suspicious?'—What does that imply?"
"Imply, madam; why, that he don't like the cut of her jib!"
"And pray what does that mean?"
"Mean, madam: why, that for all he knows to the contrary, she may be a French frigate."
"A French frigate! a French frigate! O dear! O dear!" cried two or three ladies at a breath.
"Mr Mathews," said Captain Drawlock, "I am really surprised at your indiscretion. You have alarmed the ladies. A suspicious sail, Mrs Ferguson, merely implies—in fact, that they do not know what she is."
"Is that all it means?" replied Mrs Ferguson, with an incredulous look.
"Nothing more, madam; nothing more, I assure you."
"Commodore has made signal that the strange vessel is a man-of-war bearing down," said the second mate, again entering the cabin.
"Very well, Mr Jones," said Captain Drawlock, with assumed indifference, but at the same time fidgeting on his chair.
The first mate and Newton immediately quitted the cabin.
"Miss Tavistock, will you take a little of this pudding?"
"If you please, sir, a very little."
"A man-of-war! I'll go and have a look at her," said the colonel, who rose up, bowed to the ladies, and left the cuddy.
"Most probably one of our cruisers," observed Captain Drawlock.
"The commodore has made the signal to prepare for action, sir," said the second mate.
"Very well, Mr Jones," said Captain Drawlock, who could now restrain himself no longer. "You must excuse me, ladies, for a moment or two; but our commodore is so very prudent a man, and I am under his orders. In a short time I hope to return to the pleasure of your society."
Captain Drawlock's departure was followed by that of all the male party, with the exception of Dr Plausible and Mr Ferguson, both of whom, however, were anxious to go upon deck, and ascertain how matters stood.
"Mr Ferguson, where are you going?" said his wife, sharply. "Pray! sir, do us the favour to remain. Your profession, if I mistake not, is one of peace."
"Oh! Doctor Plausible, I feel very unwell," cried Miss Tavistock.
"I will stay with you, my dear madam," replied the doctor.
A gun from the commodore's ship, which was close to windward of them, burst upon their ears, rattling the cabin windows, and making every wine glass on the table to dance with the concussion.
"Oh! oh! oh!" screamed Miss Tavistock, throwing herself back in her chair, and expanding her arms and fingers.
Doctor Plausible flew to the lady's assistance.
"The extreme fineness of her organic structure,—a little water, if you please, Miss Charlotte Revel."
A tumbler of water was poured out, and Doctor Plausible, dipping the tip of his forefinger into it, passed it lightly over the lady's brows. "She will be better directly."
But the lady did not think proper to come to so soon as the doctor prophesied, and Mrs Ferguson, snatching up the tumbler, dashed the contents with violence in Miss Tavistock's face; at which Miss Tavistock not only revived, but jumped up from her chair, blowing and spluttering.
"Are you better now, Miss Tavistock?" said Mrs Ferguson, soothingly, at the same time glancing her eyes at the other ladies, who could not restrain their mirth.
"Oh! Doctor Plausible, that shock has so affected my nerves, I feel that I shall faint again, I do indeed—I'm going—"
"Lean upon me, Miss Tavistock, and permit me to conduct you to your cabin," replied the doctor; "the extreme delicacy of your constitution," continued he, whispering, as they left the cuddy, "is not equal to the boisterous remedies of Mrs Ferguson."
As they went out, Newton Forster came in.
"You must not be alarmed, ladies, when I state that I am commissioned by Captain Drawlock to inform you that the stranger's manoeuvres are so doubtful, that we think she is an enemy. He has desired me to request you will accept my convoy to the lower-deck, where you will be safe from accident, in the event of our coming to an engagement. Mr Ferguson, the captain entrusts the ladies to your charge, and requests that you will not leave them upon any consideration. Now, Mrs Ferguson, will you permit me to escort you to a place of security?"
At this intelligence Laura Revel stared, Charlotte burst into tears, and Isabel turned pale. Mrs Ferguson took the arm of Newton without saying a word, when the other was offered and accepted by Isabel. Mr Ferguson, with the two other sisters, brought up the rear. The ladies had to pass the quarter-deck, and when they saw the preparations—the guns cast loose, the shot lying on the deck, and all the various apparatus for destruction—their fears increased. When they had been conducted to their place of safety, Newton was about to return on deck, when he was seized by Miss Charlotte and Laura Revel, who entreated him not to leave them.
"Do stay with us, Mr Forster; pray, don't go," cried they both.
"I must, indeed, ladies; you are perfectly safe here."
"For God's sake, don't you go away, Mr Forster!" cried Laura, falling on her knees. "I shall die of fright.—You sha'n't go!" screamed Laura, as the two sisters clung on to the skirts of his jacket, and effectually prevented his escape, unless, like the patriarch, he had left his garment behind.
Newton cast an appealing glance at Isabel, who immediately interfered,—"Charlotte, for shame! you are preventing Mr Forster from going to his duty. My dear Laura, do not be so foolish; Mr Forster can be of no service to us: but he will be on deck. Let go, Laura."
Newton was released. "I am much obliged to you, Miss Isabel," said Newton, with his foot on the ladder; "but I have no time now to express my thanks—not to be on deck—"
"I know it, Mr Forster: go up, I beseech you; do not wait a moment:" and Newton sprang up the ladder; but not before he had exchanged with Isabel a glance which, had he been deficient in courage, would have nerved him for the approaching combat. We must leave the ladies with Mr Ferguson (who had no pleasant office), while we follow Newton on deck. The stranger had borne down with studding-sails, until within three miles of the Indiamen, when she rounded to. She then kept away a little, to close nearer, evidently examining the force opposed to her. The Indiamen had formed the line of battle in close order, the private signal between English men-of-war and East India ships flying at their mast-heads.
"Extremely strange, that she does not answer the private signal," said the colonel to the second mate.
"Not at all, if she don't know how."
"You are convinced, then, that she is a French frigate?"
"No, not positive; but I'll bet you ten to one she is:—bet off if either of us are killed, of course!"
"Thanky; I never bet," answered the colonel, turning away.
"What do you think of her, Mr Mathews?" said Captain Drawlock to the first mate, who had his eye on the ship.
"She is English built and English rigged, sir, that I'll swear; look at her lower yard-arms, the squaring of her topsails. She may be French now, but the oak in her timbers grew in Old England."
"I agree with you," said Newton: "look at the rake of her stern; she is English all over."
"Then, why don't she answer the private signal?" said Captain Drawlock.
"She's right in the wind's eye of us, sir, and our flags are blowing end on from her."
"There goes up her bunting, sir," cried the first mate.
"English, as I said. The commodore is answering, sir. Up with the ensign there abaft. All's right, tell the ladies."
"I will; I'll go and inform them," said the colonel; who immediately descended to impart the joyful intelligence.
The frigate bore down, and hove to. The commodore of the India squadron went on board, when he found that she was cruising for some large Dutch store-ships and vessels armed en flute, which were supposed to have sailed from Java. In a quarter of an hour, she again made sail and parted company, leaving the Indiamen to secure their guns, and pursue their course.
There are two parties whose proceedings we had overlooked; we refer to Miss Tavistock and Dr Plausible. The latter handed the lady to her cabin, eased her down upon her couch, and taking her hand gently, retained it in his own, while with his other he continued to watch her pulse.
"Do not alarm yourself, my dear Miss Tavistock; your sensibility is immense. I will not leave you. I cannot think what could have induced you to trust yourself on such a voyage of danger and excitement."
"Oh! Dr Plausible, where my affections are centred there is nothing, weak creature that I am, but my soul would carry me through: indeed I am all soul. I have a dear friend in India."
"He is most happy," observed the doctor, with a sigh.
"He, Dr Plausible! you quite shock me! Do you imagine for a moment that I would go out to follow any gentleman? No, indeed, I am not going out on speculation, as some young ladies. I have enough of my own, thank God! I keep my carriage and corresponding establishment, I assure you."—(The very thing that Dr Plausible required.)
"Indeed! my dear Miss Tavistock, is it then really a female friend?"
"Yes! the friend of my childhood. I have ventured this tedious, dangerous voyage, once more to fold her in my arms."
"Disinterested affection! a heart like yours, miss, were indeed a treasure to be won. What a happy man would your husband be!"
"Husband! Oh, Dr Plausible, don't mention it: I feel convinced,—positively convinced, that my constitution is not strong enough to bear matrimony."
The doctor's answer was too prolix for insertion; it was a curious compound dissertation upon love and physic, united. There was devoted attention, extreme gentle treatment, study of pathology, advantage of medical attendance always at hand, careful nursing, extreme solicitude, fragility of constitution restored, propriety of enlarging the circle of her innocent affections, ending at last in devoted love, and a proposal—to share her carriage and establishment.
Miss Tavistock assumed another faint—the shock was so great; but the doctor knelt by her, and kissed her hand, with well affected rapture. At last, she murmured out a low assent, and fell back, as if exhausted with the effort. The doctor removed his lips from her hand to her mouth, to seal the contract; and, as she yielded to his wishes, almost regretted that he had not adhered to his previous less assuming gallantry.
"'Tis sweet to hear the watch-dog's honest bark, Bay deep-mouth'd welcome as we draw near home; 'Tis sweet to know there is an eye will mark Our coming—and look brighter when we come."
Edward Forster returned home with his little protegee, his mind relieved from the weight which had oppressed it: he knew that the word of his brother was his bond, and that under a rough exterior he concealed a generous and sympathising heart. It was in the early part of the autumn that he again took possession of the cottage; and as he once more seated himself in his old arm-chair, he mentally exclaimed, "Here then am I again at anchor for a short time, until summoned to another world." His prophecy was correct; during the severe winter that followed, his wound opened again, and his constitution, worn out, gave way to repeated suffering. He had not been confined to his bed more than a fortnight when he felt that his end was approaching. He had long been prepared: nothing remained to be done but to write a letter to his brother, which he confided to Robertson, the fisherman, with directions that it should be put in the post-office immediately after his death; and a strict charge to watch over the little girl, until she should be sent for by his brother.
This last necessary act had been completed when Robertson, who was standing by the side of the bed, with the letter in his hand, informed him that the family at the Hall had returned from the Continent on the evening before, with their only son, who was now restored to health. This intelligence induced Forster to alter his plans; and trusting to the former friendship of Lord Aveleyn, he despatched Robertson to the Hall, stating his own condition, and requesting that his lordship would come to the cottage. Lord Aveleyn immediately obeyed the summons; and perceiving at the first glance that Forster's situation debarred all chance of recovery, took upon himself with willingness the charge of the letter, and promised to receive Amber into his house until it was convenient that she should be removed. It was dark when Lord Aveleyn, with melancholy foreboding, took his last farewell; for, ere the sun had risen again, the spirit of Edward Forster had regained its liberty, and soared to the empyrean, while the deserted Amber wept and prayed.
Edward Forster had not concealed from her the precarious tenure of his existence, and since their return from London had made her fully acquainted with all the particulars connected with her own history. The last few weeks, every interval of suffering had been devoted by him to enforce those principles which he ever had inculcated, and to prepare for the event which had now taken place.
Amber was kneeling by the side of the bed; she had been there so long that she was not aware that it was broad day. Her face, laid upon her hands, was completely hidden by her luxuriant hair, which had escaped from the confinement of the comb, when the door of the chamber of death was softly opened. Amber, who either did not hear the noise or thought it was the daughter of Robertson, who lived as servant in the cottage, raised not her head. The steps continued to approach, then the sound ceased, and Amber felt the arms of some one encircling her waist to raise her from her kneeling posture. She lifted up her head, and dividing the hair from her forehead, that she might see who it was, perceived that it was young Aveleyn who was hanging over her.
"My poor little girl!" said he in a tone of commiseration.
"Oh! William Aveleyn," cried Amber, bursting into a paroxysm of tears, as she was folded in his arms.
The sorrow of youth is sympathetic, and William Aveleyn, although seventeen years old, and fast advancing to manhood, did not disdain to mingle his tears with those of his former playmate. It was some time before he could persuade Amber, who clung to him in her grief, to any degree of serenity.
"Amber dear, you must come to us at the Hall; this is no place for you now."
"And why not, William? Why should I leave so soon? I'm not afraid of being here, or lying by his side alone: I've seen other people die. I saw Mrs Beazely die—I saw poor 'Faithful' die; and now, they all are dead," said Amber, bursting into tears, and burying her face in William Aveleyn's bosom. "I knew that he was to die," said she, raising her head, after a time—"he told me so; but, to think that I shall never hear him speak again—that very soon I shall never see him more—I must cry, William."
"But your father is happy, Amber."
"He is happy, I know; but he was not my father, William. I have no father—no friend on earth I know of. He told me all before he died; 'Faithful' brought me from the sea."
This intelligence roused the curiosity of William Aveleyn, who interrogated Amber, and obtained from her the whole of the particulars communicated by Edward Forster; and, as she answered to his many questions, she grew more composed.
The narrative had scarcely been finished, when Lord Aveleyn, who had been summoned by Robertson, drove to the door accompanied by Lady Aveleyn, who thought that her presence and persuasions would more readily induce Amber to leave the cottage. Convinced by her of the propriety of the proposal, Amber was put into the carriage without resistance, and conveyed to the Hall, where everything that kindness and sympathy could suggest was resorted to, to assuage her grief. There we must leave her, and repair to the metropolis.
"Scratton," said Mr John Forster to his clerk, who had answered the bell, "recollect I cannot see anyone today."
"You have several appointments, sir," replied the clerk.
"Then send, and put them all off."
"Yes, sir; and if anyone calls, I am to say that you are not at home?"
"No, I am at home; why tell a lie? but I cannot see anybody."
The clerk shut the door; John Forster put on his spectacles to re-peruse the letter which lay before him. It was the one from Edward, inclosed in a frank by Lord Aveleyn, with a few lines, announcing his brother's death, and stating that Amber was at the Hall, where they should be glad that she should remain until it was convenient to send for her. Edward's letter repeated his thanks to his brother for his kind promise, and took a last and affectionate farewell. John Forster struggled for a time with his feelings; but the more he attempted to repress them the more violent they became. He was alone, and he gave them vent. The legal documents before him, arising from the bitterness of strife, were thus unusually moistened with a tribute to a brother's memory. But in a few moments the old lawyer was himself again; all traces of emotion had disappeared, and no one who had seen him then would ever have imagined that John Forster could have been thus moved. The next day he was not as usual to be found at his chambers: the fact was, that he had set off immediately after breakfast, upon what is generally termed "house hunting." The apartments which he occupied in his chambers were not sufficient for the intended increase of his establishment; and when he had given his promise to Edward, he was fully aware of the expense which would be entailed by receiving Amber, and had made up his mind to incur it. He therefore fixed upon a convenient house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, which would not detach him far from his chambers. Having arranged for a lease of twelve years, John Forster returned to his chambers.
"Scratton," said he, "look out for a man-servant, a cook, housemaid, and a steady woman as housekeeper—good characters, and undeniable reference. The housekeeper must be a somewhat superior person, as she will have to take charge of a young miss, and I do not want her spoiled by keeping company with the general description of servants. Do you understand?"
Scratton did; and in less than a month, as everything is to be obtained for money in the city of London, the house was furnished by a city upholsterer in a plain way, and all the servants installed in their respective situations.
Mr John Forster took possession of his new house, and tried for a week if all worked well. Ascertaining that the furniture was complete, the under-servants well behaved, and the housekeeper a mild and very intelligent personage, fit to be intrusted with the charge of a little girl, he then wrote to Lord Aveleyn, reiterating the thanks conveyed in his former letter, and requesting that Amber might be delivered into the charge of the bearer. With this letter Mr Scratton was despatched, and, in due time, arrived at the Hall. Amber wept bitterly at the idea of parting with those who had been so kind to her, and passing into the hands of one who was a stranger. Having exacted a promise from William Aveleyn that he would call as he passed through on his way to Cambridge, she bade her kind friends farewell, entered the chaise in company with Mr Scratton, and was hurried off to London.
Mr Scratton was one of those personages who never spoke except on business; and, having no business to transact with a girl of twelve years old, he never spoke at all, except when necessity rendered it imperative. Amber was, therefore, left to her own reflections. What they all were, I cannot tell, but one certainly was, that travelling in a chaise for two days with Mr Scratton was not very agreeable. Most happy was she when they drove up to the door of Mr John Forster's new habitation. The old gentleman, who had calculated the hour of her arrival after the receipt of a letter from her companion, was there to receive her. Amber, who had been prepossessed in his favour by Edward Forster, who had told her that in his brother she would find a protector and indulgent parent, ran up to him when she entered the room, and burst into tears as the injunctions of Edward Forster returned to her memory. John Forster took her in his arms and kissed her. "My little girl," said he, "what my brother was, such will I be to you. Consider me as your father; for his memory, and I hope soon, for your own sake, I shall rejoice to be so."
After an hour, by which time Amber had recovered her serenity, and become almost cheerful, she was consigned to the charge of Mrs Smith, the housekeeper, and John Forster hastened back to his chambers and his clients, to make up for so much lost time.
It was not long before the old gentleman discovered that the trouble and expense which he had incurred to please his brother was the occasion of pleasure and gratification. He no longer felt isolated in the world: in short, he had a home, where a beaming eye met his return, and an affectionate heart ministered to his wishes; where his well known rap at the door was a source of delight, and his departure one of regret.
In a few months Amber had entwined herself round the old man's heart: the best masters were procured for her, and all the affection of a doting parent upon an only child was bestowed by him who, when the proposition was made, had declared that "it was bad enough to maintain children of one's own begetting."
Bless my soul! how poor authors are obliged to gallop about. Now I must be off again to India, and get on board of the Bombay Castle.
"A green and gilded snake had wreathed itself, Who, with her head, nimble in threats, approach'd The opening of his mouth."
The Bombay Castle arrived at Madras without further adventure. A few hours after she had anchored, all the passengers, receiving kind messages from, or escorted on shore by their relatives or consignees, had landed; all, with the exception of the three Miss Revels, whose anxiety to land was increased by the departure of the others, and the unpleasant situation in which they were placed, by remaining a clog upon Captain Drawlock, who would not quit his ship until he had surrendered up his charge. By inquiry of the dubashes, Captain Drawlock found out that old Colonel Revel was residing at his bungalow, about two miles distant from the fort; and supposing him not to be aware of the arrival of his grand-nieces, he despatched Newton Forster to acquaint him with the circumstance. It was late in the afternoon when Newton arrived at the residence of the colonel, when he perceived immediately that everything was on the establishment of an old Indian nabob. A double set of palanquin-bearers were stretched under the verandas; syces were fanning the horses with their chowries, tailors and various craftsmen were at work in the shade, while a herd of consumers, butlers, and other Indian domestics, were loitering about, or very busy doing nothing.
It will be necessary, before Newton is introduced to the colonel, that the colonel should be introduced to the reader. He was a man of nearly sixty years of age, forty-five of which, with the exception of occasional furlough, had been passed in the country. Having held several lucrative situations for many years, and, although not parsimonious, being very prudent in money concerns, he had amassed a very large fortune. More than once he had returned to England on leave, and with the full intention of remaining there, if he could be comfortable; but a few months in his native country only made him more anxious to return to India. His habits, his tastes, were all Eastern; the close hospitality, the cold winter of England, the loss of consequence, naturally resulting when a man mixes in the crowd of London, all disgusted him, and he invariably returned to India long before his furlough had expired. He was a bachelor from choice. When young, he had been very cruelly treated by the object of his admiration, who deserted him for a few lacs of rupees, which offered themselves with an old man as their appendage. This had raised his bile against the sex in general, whom he considered as mercenary and treacherous. His parties were numerous and expensive, but women were never to be seen in his house; and his confirmed dislike to them was the occasion of his seldom visiting, except with those who were like himself in a state of happy singleness. In other points, he was a liberal, worthy man, and a perfect gentleman, but extremely choleric in disposition.
Newton addressed himself to one of the butlers, requesting to be announced. The man led the way to a spacious hall, coated and floored with chunam, when Newton perceived the colonel, who presented rather a singular spectacle. "Burra Saib; Saib," said the Indian, and immediately retired.
The colonel was a tall, gaunt man, with high cheekbones, bushy eyebrows, and white hair. He was seated on a solitary chair in the centre of the hall; his dress consisting of a pair of white nankeen trousers and a white shirt, the sleeves of the latter tucked up to his shoulders, and exposing sinewy arms, covered with hair. By his side lay a basket of mangoes, and before his chair a large tub of water. As Newton entered, he had an opportunity of witnessing the most approved method of eating this exquisite fruit. The colonel had then one as large as a cassowary's egg, held in both hands, and applied to his mouth, while he held his head over the tub of water, to catch the superabundant juice which flowed over his face, hands and arms, and covered them with a yellow stain. The contents of the mango were soon exhausted; the stone and pulp were dropped into the tub of water, and the colonel's hand was extended to the basket for a repetition of his luxurious feast, when Newton was announced. Newton was sorry to interrupt him, and would have made an apology, had he not observed that the colonel, whose back was towards him, continued his pleasing avocation: the fact was that the colonel was so intent upon his occupation that he had neither heard the announcement nor could he perceive Newton, who thus had an opportunity of witnessing the demolition of at least two dozen more mangoes without the colonel having turned his eyes in that direction, or being aware that he was not alone. But something at length attracted the attention of Newton, and induced him to come forward, and put an end to the colonel's repast. The colonel had just taken another mango out of the basket, when Newton perceived a small snake wind itself over the rim, and curl up one of the feet of the colonel's chair, in such a position that the very next time that the colonel reached out his hand, he must have come in contact with the reptile. Newton hardly knew how to act; the slightest movement of the old gentleman might be fatal to him; he therefore walked up softly and was about to strike the reptile on the head with his stick, when the colonel, as he leant over the tub, half rose from the chair. In an instant, Newton snatched it from under him, and jerked it, with the snake, to the corner of the hall. The colonel, whose centre of gravity had not been thrown sufficiently forward to enable him to keep his feet, fell backward, when Newton and he both rolled on the floor together; and also both recovered their legs at the same time.
"You'll excuse me, sir," said Newton.
"I'll be d——d if I do, sir!" interrupted the colonel, in a rage. "Who the devil are you?—and how dare you presume to play off such impertinent jokes upon a stranger?—Where did you come from?—How did you get in, sir?"
"Is that a joke, sir?" replied Newton, calmly pointing to the snake, which was still hissing in its wrath at the corner of the room where the chair lay. Newton then briefly explained the circumstances.