"Well, Thomas?" said she, as the footman entered.
"If you please, ma'am, Mr Feasible has got a conwersation—that's all."
"Got a what?"
"A conversazione he means, my dear. It's very strange that Doctor Feasible should pretend to give such a thing!"
"I think so too," replied the lady. "He keeps no carriage. What can be his inducement?"
"I perceive," replied Dr Plausible, "he wants to get practice. Depend upon it, that's his plan. A sprat to catch mackerel!"
Husband and wife were again silent, and resumed their occupations; but the Lancet was not read, and the knotting was all in knots, for they were both in a brown study. At last, Mrs Plausible commenced:—
"I really do not see, my dear, why we should not give a conversazione as well as Doctor Feasible."
"I was just thinking that we could give them much better; our acquaintance now is very numerous."
"And very respectable," replied the lady; "it will make us more known in the world."
"And add to my practice. I'll soon beat Doctor Feasible out of the field!"
The result of this conversation was a conversazione, which certainly was on a much better scale, and better attended than the one collected by Doctor Feasible. Doctor Plausible had pumped a mutual acquaintance as to the merits of his rival, and had set to work with great diligence.
He ordered his carriage, and for two or three days previous to the one fixed, went round to all his friends who had curiosities, foreign, indigenous, or continental, admired them, talked learnedly, expressed a wish to exhibit them to several gentlemen of talent at his next conversazione, pulled out a card for the party, and succeeded in returning home with his carriage stuffed with curiosities and monstrosities.
Negus and cherry-water were added to tea in the refreshment-room; and the conversazione of Doctor Plausible was pronounced by those who had been invited to both, infinitely superior to that of Doctor Feasible. A good-natured friend called upon Doctor and Mrs Feasible with the news. They pretended indifference, as they bit their lips to conceal their vexation. As soon as he took his leave—
"Well, my dear," said Mrs Feasible, "what do you think of this? Very unhandsome on the part of Doctor Plausible! I was told this morning that several of our acquaintances have expressed a wish to be introduced to him."
"We must not give up the point, my love. Doctor Plausible may make a splash once; but I suspect that his horses eat him out of house and home, and interfere very much with the butcher's bills. If so, we who keep no carriage can afford it better. But it's very annoying, as there will be an increase of expense."
"Very annoying, indeed!" replied the lady. "Look at his card, my dear, it is nearly twice as large as ours. I begged it of Mr Tomkins, on purpose to compare it."
"Well, then, my dear, we must order others, and mind that they measure an inch more than his. It shall cost him something before we have done, I'm determined."
"You heard what Mr Smithson said? They gave negus and cherry-water."
"We must do the same. I've a great mind to give ices."
"Oh! my love, remember the expense."
"Very true; but we can ice our negus and cherry-water. Rough ice is only twopence a pound, I believe."
"Well, that will be an improvement."
"And there shall be more, or I'll be in the Bench," replied the doctor, in his wrath.
The next conversazione for which cards were issued by Doctor Feasible, was on a superior scale. There was a considerable increase of company. He had persuaded a country baronet; secured the patronage of two ladies of rank (with a slight blot on their escutcheons), and collected, amongst others, a French count (or adventurer), a baron with mustachios, two German students in their costumes and long hair, and an actress of some reputation. He had also procured the head of a New Zealand chief; some red snow, or rather, red water (for it was melted), brought home by Captain Ross; a piece of granite from the Croker mountains; a kitten in spirits, with two heads and twelve legs; and half-a-dozen abortions of the feathered or creeping tribes. Everything went off well. The two last fees he had received were sacrificed to have the party announced in the Morning Post, and Doctor Feasible's triumph was complete.
But it was not to last long. In ten days Dr Plausible's cards were again issued, larger than Dr Feasible's, and with a handsome embossed border of lilies and roses. Male attendants, tea and coffee, ices and liqueurs were prepared; and Dr Feasible's heart failed him, when he witnessed the ingress and egress of the pastrycooks, with their boxes on their heads. Among his company he had already mustered up five celebrated blues; four ladies of quality, of better reputation than Dr Feasible's; seven or eight baronets and knights; a bishop of Fernando Po; three or four general officers; and a dozen French and German visitors to the country, who had not only titles, but wore orders at their button-holes. Thus far had he advanced, when he met Newton Forster, and added him to the list of the invited. In about two hours afterwards, Dr Plausible returned home to his wife, radiant with smiles.
"My dear, who do you think has promised to come to-morrow night?"
"Who, my love?"
"You don't say so?" screamed the lady with her delight.
"Yes, most faithfully promised."
"What will the Feasibles say?" cried the lady;—"but—is he a real prince?"
"A real prince! O yes, indeed is he! well known in Tartary."
"Well, Dr Plausible, I have good news for you. Here is a note from Mr H——, in answer to yours, in which he promises you the loan of the wax figure from Germany, of a female in the first stage of par—partu—I can't make out the word."
"Excellent! most excellent!" cried the doctor, rubbing his hand; "now we shall do."
Newton, who had some curiosity to see a conversazione, which to him was a terra incognita, did not fail to go at the appointed hour. He was ushered upstairs into the drawing-room, at the door of which he was received by Mrs Plausible, in blue and silver. The rooms not being very large, were extremely crowded, and Newton at one moment found himself jammed against some curiosity, and at another treading on the toes or heels of people, who accepted his apologies, looking daggers, and with a snarling "don't mention it."
But a thundering knock at the door was followed by the announcement of His Highness Prince Fizzybelli—Prince Fizzybelli at the door—Prince Fizzybelli coming up—Prince Fizzybelli (enters).
Had it been permitted, Dr Plausible would have received his guest with a flourish of trumpets, as great men are upon the stage, without which it is impossible now-a-days to know a great man from a little one. However, the hired attendants did their duty, and the name of Fizzybelli was fizzed about the room in every direction. Dr Plausible trod on the corns of old Lady G———, upset Miss Periwinkle, and nearly knocked down a French savant, in his struggle to obtain the door to receive his honoured guest, who made a bow, looked at the crowd—looked at the chandelier—looked at his watch, and looked very tired in the course of five minutes, when Prince Fizzybelli ordered his carriage, and was off.
Newton, who had examined several very strange things which occupied the tables about the room, at last made his way to the ante-room, where the crowd was much more dense than elsewhere. Taking it for granted that there was something interesting to be seen, he persevered until he had forced his way to the centre, when what was his astonishment when he beheld under a long glass-case a figure of a woman modelled in wax, of exact and certainly of beautiful proportion! It was as large as life, and in a state of perfect nudity. The face lifted up, and discovered the muscles beneath; in fact, every part of the image could be removed, and presented to the curious every part of the human frame, modelled exact, and coloured. Newton was indeed astonished: he had witnessed several articles in the other room, which he had considered more fitted for the museum of an institution than a drawing-room; but this was indeed a novelty; and when, to crown all, he witnessed certain little demireps of science, who fancied that not to be ashamed was now as much a proof of knowledge, as in our first parents it was of innocence, and who eyed the figure without turning away from it or blushing, he quitted the room with disgust, and returned home quite satisfied with one conversazione.
I am not partial to blues: generally speaking, ladies do not take up science until they find that the men will not take up them; and a remarkably clever woman by reputation is too often a remarkably unpleasant or a remarkably ugly one. But there are exceptions; exceptions that a nation may be proud of—women who can fulfil their duties to their husbands and their children, to their God and to their neighbour, although endowed with minds more powerful than is allotted to one man in tens of thousands. These are heavenly blues; and, among the few, no one shines more pre-eminent than my dear Mrs S——e.
However, whether Newton was satisfied or not, this conversazione was a finisher to Dr Feasible, who resigned the contest. Dr Plausible not only carried away the palm—but, what was still worse, he carried off the "practice!"
"Their only labour is to kill the time; And labour dire it is, and weary woe. They sit—they lounge—turn o'er some idle rhyme: Then rising sudden—to the glass they go, Or saunter forth with loitering step and slow."
Castle of Indolence.
Captain Oughton, who commanded the Windsor Castle, was an original. His figure was short and thick-set, his face broad, and deeply pitted with the small-pox; his nose, an apology for a nose, being a small tubercle arising midway between his eyes and mouth, the former of which were small, the latter wide, and displaying a magnificent row of white teeth. On the whole, it was impossible to look in his face without being immediately struck with his likeness to a bull-dog. His temperament and his pursuits were also analogous; he was a great pugilist, knew the merits of every man in the ring, and the precise date and circumstances attending every battle which had been fought for the previous thirty years. His conversation was at all times interlarded with the slang terms appropriated to the science to which he was so devoted. In other points he was a brave and trustworthy officer, although he valued the practical above the theoretical branches of his profession, and was better pleased when superintending the mousing of a stay or the strapping of a block than when "flooring" the sun, as he termed it, to ascertain the latitude, or "breaking his noddle against the old woman's," in taking a lunar observation. Newton had been strongly recommended to him, and Captain Oughton extended his hand as to an old acquaintance, when they met on the quarter-deck. Before they had taken a dozen turns up and down, Captain Oughton inquired if Newton could handle the mauleys; and on being assured in the negative, volunteered his instruction during their passage out.
"You heard the end of it, I suppose?" said Captain Oughton, in continuance.
"The end of what, sir?"
"What!—why the fight. Spring beat. I've cleared three hundred by him."
"Then, sir, I am very glad that Spring beat," replied Newton.
"I'll back him against a stone heavier any day in the week. I've got the newspaper in the cabin, with the fight—forty-seven rounds; but we can't read it now—we must see after these soldiers and their traps. Look at them," continued Captain Oughton, turning to a party of the troops ordered for a passage, who were standing on the gangway and booms; "every man Jack with his tin pot in his hand, and his greatcoat on. Twig the drum-boy, he has turned his coat—do you see?—with the lining outwards to keep it clean. By Jove, that's a wrinkle!"
"How many officers do you expect, Captain Oughton?"
"I hardly know—they make such alterations in their arrangements; five or six, I believe. The boat went on shore for them at nine o'clock. They have sent her back, with their compliments, seven times already, full of luggage. There's one lieutenant—I forget his name—whose chests alone would fill up the main-deck. There's six under the half-deck," said Captain Oughton, pointing to them.
"Lieutenant Winterbottom," observed Newton, reading the name.
"I wish to Heaven that he had remained the winter, or that his chests were all to the bottom! I don't know where the devil we are to stow them. Oh, here they come! Boatswain's mate, 'tend the side there.'"
In a minute, or thereabouts, the military gentlemen made their appearance one by one on the quarter-deck, scrutinising their gloves as they bade adieu to the side-ropes, to ascertain if they had in any degree been defiled by the adhesive properties of the pitch and tar.
Captain Oughton advanced to receive them, "Welcome, gentlemen," said he, "welcome on board. We trip our anchor in half an hour. I am afraid that I have not the pleasure of knowing your names, and must request the honour of being introduced."
"Major Clavering, sir," said the major, a tall, handsome man, gracefully taking off his hat: "the officers who accompany are (waving his hand towards them in succession), Lieutenant Winterbottom—"
Lieutenant Winterbottom bowed.
"I've had the pleasure of reading Lieutenant Winterbottom's name several times this forenoon," observed Captain Oughton, as he returned the salute.
"You refer to my luggage, I'm afraid, Captain Oughton."
"Why, if I must say it, I certainly think you have enough for a general."
"I can only reply that I wish my rank were equal to my luggage; but it is a general complaint every time I have the misfortune to embark. I trust, Captain Oughton, it will be the only one you will have to make of me during the passage."
Major Clavering, who had waited during this dialogue, continued—"Captain Majoribanks, whom I ought to apologise to for not having introduced first—"
"Not at all, major; you just heard the brevet rank which Winterbottom's baggage has procured him."
"Not the first time a man has obtained rank through his 'baggage,'" observed one of the officers, sotto voce.
"Mr Ansell, Mr Petres, Mr Irving."
The necessary bows were exchanged, and Mr Williams, the first mate, desired to show the officers to their respective accommodations, when he would be able to ascertain what part of their luggage was required, and be enabled to strike the remainder down into the after-hold.
As the officers followed the first mate down the companion-ladder, Captain Oughton looked at Mr Ansell, and observed to Newton, "That fellow would peel well."
The Windsor Castle sailed, and in a few days was clear of the channel. Newton, whose thoughts were of Isabel Revel, felt not that regret at quitting the country, usually attached to those who leave all dear to them behind. He knew that it was by following up his profession alone that he ever could have a chance of obtaining her; and this recollection, with the hopes of again beholding the object of his affections, lightened his heart to joy, as the ship scudded across the Bay of Biscay, before a N.E. gale. That he had little chance at present of possessing her, he knew; but hope leads us on, and no one more than the youth who is in love.
The table of Captain Oughton was liberally supplied, and the officers embarked proved (as they almost invariably do) to be pleasant, gentlemanlike companions. The boxing-gloves were soon produced by Captain Oughton, who soon ascertained that in the officer who "would peel so well" he had found his match. The mornings were passed away in sparring, fencing, reading, walking the deck, or lolling on the hen-coops upon the poop. The announcement of the dinner-hour was a signal for rejoicing; and they remained late at the table, doing ample justice to the captain's excellent claret. The evening was finished with cards, cigars, and brandy pawnee. Thus passed the time away for the first three weeks of the passage, during which period all parties had become upon intimate terms.
But the voyage is, in itself, most tedious; and more tedious to those who not only have no duty to perform, but have few resources. As soon as the younger officers thought they might take a liberty, they examined the hen-coops, and selecting the most promising-looking cocks, trimmed them for fighting; chose between themselves, as their own property, those which they most approved of, and for some days fed and sparred them, to get them into wind, and ascertain the proper way in which they should be spurred. In the meantime, two pairs of spurs were, by their directions, clandestinely made by the armourer of the ship, and, when ready, they took advantage of the time when Captain Oughton was every day employed with the ship's reckoning, and the poulterer was at his dinner (viz., from twelve to one), to fight a main. The cocks which were killed in these combats were returned to the hen-coops, and supposed by the poulterer, who had very often had a glass of grog, to have quarrelled within the bars.
"Steward," said Captain Oughton, "why the devil do you give us so many fowls for dinner? the stock will never last out the voyage: two roast fowls, two boiled fowls, curried fowl, and chicken pie! What can you be thinking of?"
"I spoke to the poulterer on the subject, sir; he constantly brings me down fowls, and he tells me that they kill each other fighting."
"Fighting! never heard of fowls fighting in a coop before. They must be all game fowls."
"That they are, most of them," said Mr Petres; "I have often seen them fighting when I have been on the poop."
"So have I," continued Ansell; "I have seen worse cocks in the pit."
"Well, it's very odd; I never lost a cock in this way in all my voyages. Send the poulterer here; I must inquire about it."
"Yes, sir," replied the steward; and he quitted the cabin.
With the exception of the major, who knew nothing of the circumstances, the officers thought it advisable to decamp, that they might not be present when the denouement took place. The poulterer made his appearance, was interrogated, and obliged, in his own defence, to criminate the parties, corroborating his assertions by producing a pair of spurs found upon a cock which had been killed, and thrown behind the coop in a hurry, at the appearance of Captain Oughton on deck.
"I am sorry that my officers should have taken such a liberty," observed the major, gravely.
"Oh, never mind, major, only allow me to be even with them; I shouldn't have minded if I had seen the fighting. I think you said that you would like to exercise your men a little this afternoon?"
"I did; that is, if not inconvenient."
"Not in the least, major; the quarter-deck is at your service. I presume you do not superintend yourself."
"Yes, I generally do."
"Well, don't this time; but let all the officers; and then I shall be able to play them a little trick that will make us all square."
Major Clavering consented. The officers were ordered up to drill their men. Captain Majoribanks and Mr Irving had one party at the platoon exercise.
"Third man, your hand a little higher on the barrel of your musket. As you were; support—the word support is only a caution—arms,—too—too."
"Two and two makes four," observed one of the seamen.
Lieutenant Winterbottom had another party on the leeside of the quarter-deck. "Ram down—cartridge—No. 12, slope your musket a little more—too—too—only two taps at the bottom of the barrel. Return—ramrods. No. 4, why don't you draw up the heel of your right leg level with the other? Recollect now, when you shoulder arms, to throw your muskets up smartly.—Shoulder—as you were—the word shoulder is only a caution; shoulder—arms. Dress up a little, No. 8, and don't stick your stomach out in that way."
Mr Ansell and Mr Petres had two fatigue parties on the poop, without muskets. "To the right—face—to the right face. To the right—face—to the right—face."
"It's a dead calm with them soldiers—head round the compass," said one of the seamen to another.
"To the left—face—quick march, to the left—turn—to the right—turn—close file—mark time—right—left—right—left—forward."
"Them 'ere chap's legs all going together put one in mind of a centipee—don't they, Tom?"
"Yes, but they don't get on quite so fast. Holloh, what pipe's that?—'All hands, air bedding.'"
The ship was hauled close to the wind, which was light. At the pipe, the sailors below ran up the hatchway, and those on deck threw down their work. In a minute every hammock was out of the netting, and every seaman busy at unlashing.
"Now, major, we had better go into the cabin," said Captain Oughton, laughing. "I shall, I can assure you."
Beds and blankets which are not aired or shook more than once a month, are apt to be very full of what is termed fluff and blanket hairs, and they have a close smell, by no means agreeable. The sailors, who had an idea that the order had not been given inconsiderately, were quite delighted, and commenced shaking their blankets on the forecastle and weather gangway, raising a cloud, which the wind carried aft upon the parties exercising upon the quarter-deck.
"What the devil is all this?" cried Captain Majoribanks, looking forward with dismay. "Order—arms."
Lieutenant Winterbottom and half of his party were now seized with a fit of coughing. "Confound it!—shut—pans—handle—upon my soul I'm choked."
"This is most excessively disagreeable," observed Mr Petres; "I made up my mind to be tarred when I came on board, but I had no idea that we should be feathered."
"Support—d—n it, there's no supporting this!" cried Captain Majoribanks. "Where's Major Clavering? I'll ask to dismiss the men."
"They are dismissing a great many little men, forward, I suspect," said the first mate, laughing. "I cannot imagine what induced Captain Oughton to give the order: we never shake bedding except when the ship's before the wind."
This last very consoling remark made it worse than all; the officers were in an agony. There was not one of them who would not have stood the chance of a volley from a French regiment rather than what they considered that they were exposed to. But without Major Clavering's permission they could not dismiss their men. Captain Majoribanks hastened to the cabin, to explain their very unpleasant situation, and received the major's permission to defer the exercise.
"Well, gentlemen," said Captain Oughton, "what is the matter?"
"The matter!" replied Ansell. "Why, my flesh creeps all over me. Of all the thoughtless acts, Captain Oughton, it really beats—"
"Cock-fighting," interrupted the captain, with a loud laugh. "Now we are quits."
The officers hastened below to wash and change their dress after this very annoying retaliation on the part of Captain Oughton. When they felt themselves again clean and comfortable, their good humour returned, although they voted their captain not to be very refined in his ideas, and agreed with him that his practical joke beat "cock-fighting."
I believe that there are no classes of people who embark with more regret, or quit a ship with more pleasure, than military men. Nor is it to be wondered at, if we consider the antithesis which is presented to their usual mode of life. Few military men are studious, or inclined to reading, which is almost the only resource which is to be found against the tedium of long confinement and daily monotony. I do not say this reproachfully, as I consider it arises from the peculiarity of their profession, and must be considered to be more their misfortune than their fault. They enter upon a military life just after they have left school,—the very period at which, from previous and forced application, they have been surfeited with books usque ad nauseam. The parade, dress; the attention paid to them, which demands civilities in return; society, and the preference shown by the fair sex; their happy and well-conducted mess; the collecting together of so many young men, with all their varied plans of amusement, into which the others are easily persuaded to enter, with just sufficient duty on guard, or otherwise, not to make the duty irksome; all delight too much at first, and eventually, from habit, too much occupy their minds, to afford time for study.
In making this observation, I must be considered to speak generally. There are many studious, many well-stored minds, many men of brilliant talents, who have improved the gift of nature by constant study and reflection, and whose conduct must be considered as the more meritorious, from having resisted or overcome the strong temptation to do otherwise which is offered by their profession.
"I wish," said Irving, who was stretched out his full length on one of the coops abaft, with the front of his cap drawn over his eyes—"I wish this cursed voyage was at an end. Every day the same thing; no variety—no amusement;—curry for breakfast—brandy pawnee as a finish. I really begin to detest the sight of a cigar or a pack of cards."
"Very true," replied Ansell, who was stretched upon an adjacent coop in all the listlessness of idleness personified—"very true, Irving; I begin to think it worse than being quartered in a country town inhabited by nobodies, where one has nothing to do but to loll and spit over the bridge all day, till the bugle sounds for dinner."
"Oh! that was infinitely better; at least, you could walk away when you were tired, or exchange a word or two with a girl as she passed over it, on her way to market."
"Why don't you take a book, Irving?" observed the major, laying down the one with which he had been occupied, to join the conservation.
"A book, major? Oh, I've read until I am tired."
"What have you read since you embarked ?" inquired his senior.
"Let me see—Ansell, what have I read?"
"Read!—nothing at all—you know that."
"Well, perhaps so; we have no mess-newspapers here: the fact is, major, I am not very partial to reading—I am not in the habit of it. When on shore I have too much to do; but I mean to read by-and-bye."
"And pray, when may that by-and-bye be supposed to arrive?"
"Oh! some day when I am wounded or taken prisoner, and cannot do anything else; then I shall read a good deal. Here's Captain Oughton—Captain Oughton, do you read much?"
"Yes, Mr Irving, I read a great deal."
"Pray, may I take the liberty to ask you what you read?"
"What I read! Why, I read Horsburgh's Directory:—and I read—I read all the fights."
"I think," observed Ansell, "that if a man gets through the newspaper and the novels of the day, he does a great deal."
"He reads a great deal, I grant you," replied the major; "but of what value is that description of reading?"
"There, major," replied Ansell, "we are at issue. I consider a knowledge of the passing events of the day, and a recollection of the facts which have occurred during the last twenty years, to be more valuable than all the ancient records in existence. Who talks of Caesar or Xenophon nowadays, except some Cambridge or Oxford prig? and of what value is that knowledge in society? The escape of a modern pickpocket will afford more matter of conversation than the famous retreat of the ten thousand."
"To be sure," replied Captain Oughton; "and a fair stand-up fight between Humphreys and Mendoza create more interest than the famous battles of—, I'm sure I forget."
"Of Marathon and Thermopylae; they will do," added Ansell.
"I grant," replied the major, "that it is not only unnecessary, but conceited in those who would show their reading; but this does not disprove the advantages which are obtained. The mind, well fed, becomes enlarged: and if I may use a simile, in the same way as your horse proves his good condition by his appearance, without people ascertaining the precise quantity of oats which has been given him; so the mind shows, by its general vigour and power of demonstration, that it has been well supplied with 'hard food.'"
"Very hard food indeed," replied Captain Oughton; "nuts that I never could crack when I was at school, and don't mean to break my teeth with now. I agree with Mr Ansell, 'that sufficient for the day is the knowledge thereof.'"
"Well, as the tree of knowledge was the tree of evil, perhaps that is the correct reading," replied Ansell, laughing; "Captain Oughton, you are a very sensible man; I hope we shall see you often at our mess, when we're again on shore."
"You may say so now," replied Captain Oughton, bluntly, "and so have many more said the same thing to me; but you soldiers have cursed short memories in that way after you have landed."
"I trust, Captain Oughton," replied Major Clavering, "that you will not have to make that accusation general."
"Oh! never mind, major; I never am affronted; the offer is made in kindness, and at the time sincere; but when people get on shore, and are so occupied with their own amusements, it is not to be wondered at if they are thoughtless and forget. At one time, it did annoy me, I confess; for when I say I should be happy to see a man, I mean it; and if I did not mean it, I never would ask him. I thought that other people did the same; but I have lived long enough to discover that a 'general invitation' means, 'don't come at all.'"
"Then I most certainly shall not say one word on the subject at present," replied the major. "How many bells was that?"
"Six; dinner will be on the table in a few minutes."
"Then, gentlemen, we had better go down and prepare. Why, Mr Irving, you have not shaved this morning!"
"No, major, I mean to do it after dinner."
"I should rather think that you intended to say before," replied Major Clavering.
This gentlemanlike hint was taken by the young ensign, who was aware that Major Clavering, although invariably polite, even in reproof, was not a commanding officer to be trifled with; and Mr Irving made his appearance at the dinner-table with his "chin new reaped," and smooth as if appertaining to one of the fairer sex.
"Come o'er the sea, Maiden, with me, Mine through sunshine, storm and snows; Seasons may roll, But the true soul Burns the same where'er it goes. Let fate frown on, so we love and part not, 'Tis life where thou art, 'tis death where thou'rt not."
The voyage was at last accomplished without adventure or interest, the Windsor Castle not having fallen in with more than two or three vessels during her passage. Happy were the military officers to hear the order given for the anchor to be let go upon their arrival in Madras Roads; more happy were they to find themselves again on shore; and most happy were Captain Oughton and his officers to witness the debarkation of the troops, who had so long crowded their decks and impeded their motions. Parting was indeed "sweet sorrow," as it always will be when there is short allowance of room, and still shorter allowance of water.
Newton Forster was in a state of anxiety during the quarter of an hour in which he was obliged to attend to his duty, furling the sails and squaring the yards; and the time appeared most insupportably long, until he could venture aft to make some inquiries from the dubashes, who were crowding alongside, as to the fate of Isabel Revel. Time and absence had but matured his passion, and it was seldom that Isabel was away from his thoughts. He had a faint idea formed by hope that she was partial to him; but this was almost smothered by the fears which opposed it, when he reflected upon what might be produced by absence, importunity, and her independent spirit, which might, if not well treated by her relation, reconcile her to a marriage, which, although not in every way eligible, secured to her a prospect of contentment and of peace.
At last the yards were squared to the satisfaction of the boatswain, the ropes were hauled taut, and coiled down, and the men sent below to their dinners. Newton walked aft, and the first person he met was the dubash who had attended the Bombay Castle. The cheeks of Newton flushed, and his heart throbbed quick, and his lips quivered, as he asked intelligence of the colonel and his family.
"Colonel Saib quite well, sir. Two ladies marry officer."
"Which two?" demanded Newton, eagerly.
"Not know how call Bibi Saib's names. But one not marry—she very handsome—more handsome than all."
The heart of Newton bounded at this intelligence, as he knew that it must be Isabel who was still a spinster. This was shortly after corroborated by an English gentleman who came on board. Their stay at Madras was intended to be short, and Newton resolved to ask immediate leave on shore. Apologising to Captain Oughton for making such an unusual request, which he was induced to do from intelligence he had just received relative to his friends, he expressed his anxious wish. Captain Oughton, who had reason to be highly satisfied with Newton, gave his consent in the kindest manner; "and, Forster, if you wish to remain, you have my permission. We will manage without you: only recollect, we sail on Thursday night." Newton was soon ready, and quitted the ship with Major Clavering; to whose credit it ought here to be observed, that a daily note was despatched to Captain Oughton, requesting the pleasure of his company at the mess, until he was satisfied that, in this instance, the general invitation was sincere.
As soon as he was clear of the surf and out of the masulah boat, Newton hired a conveyance, and drove out to the bungalow of the old colonel. He trembled as he announced his name to the butler, who ushered him halfway to the receiving-room; and, like most of the natives, finding some difficulty in pronouncing English, contented himself with calling out "burrah saib," and then walked off. Newton found himself in the presence of the old veteran and Isabel. The latter had been reading a new publication, which she laid down at the voice of the butler announcing a visitor. But "burrah saib" may be anybody; it implies a gentleman. What then was the surprise of Isabel, who had no intimation of his arrival, when Newton Forster made his appearance? Her exclamation of delight, as she ran to him and extended her hand, made Newton Forster but too happy; and, as for a few seconds he held the hand not withdrawn, and looked in her beaming eyes, he quite forgot the presence of the colonel. A glance from the eye of Isabel in the direction where the old gentleman was seated brought Newton to his recollection. He walked up to the colonel, who shook hands, and declared that he was most glad to see him.
"You take up your quarters here, of course, Mr Forster?"
"I shall have great pleasure in availing myself of your kind offer for a day or two," replied Newton. "I trust that you have been in good health since we parted."
"Not very; that is, latterly. I am thinking of a change of climate. I intend to go home in October. I suppose you have been informed that the two young women have married?"
"I was told so by some one who came on board."
"Yes. Isabel, my dear, order a chamber for Mr Forster." Isabel left the room. "Yes, both married—thought of nothing else—regularly came out on spec. In less than a month they knew the exact rank of every gentleman in the Presidency; ascertained their prospects, and the value of their appointments; turned the rupees into pounds sterling; broke off a conversation with an ensign at the sight of a lieutenant; cut the lieutenant for a captain; were all smiles for a major; and actually made love themselves to any body who was above that rank, and a bachelor. They made their decision at last; indeed pretty quick. They were only four months on my hands. Both up the country now."
"I trust they have married well, sir?"
"That depends upon circumstances. They have married young men not used to the climate. May be widows in half a year. If their husbands weather it, of course, they will come in for their share of the good things; but I'll warrant they will never be able to leave the country."
"Not leave the country, sir! May I ask why?"
"Because they have married foolish, extravagant wives, who will run them in debt; and when once in debt, it is no easy matter in this country to get out of it. They must insure their lives for the money which they borrow; and as the house of agency will be gainers by their demise, of course they will not be permitted to leave the country and their chance of the cholera morbus. Don't you think that my niece looks remarkably well?"
"I do; the climate does not appear to have affected her."
"Rather improved her," replied the colonel; "she is not so thin as when she came on shore. God bless her! I'm sure, Mr Forster, I am under great obligations to you for having persuaded me to go for the dear girl when she arrived. She has been a treasure to me! If she has had one, she has had twenty offers since you left; many unexceptionable; but she has refused them all. In some instances I have persuaded her—I thought it was my duty. But no; she has but one answer, and that is a decided one. She will not leave me. She has watched and attended me in my sickness as my own daughter. I say again, God bless her!"
It was with delight that Newton heard these encomiums upon Isabel, and her resolution not to marry. Whether it was wholly on account of not wishing to leave the colonel or not, still every delay gave him more chance of ultimate success. Isabel, who had stayed away that the colonel might have time to make any communications to Newton, now returned, and the conversation became general. Newton entered into a narrative of what had occurred during his passage home, and amused them with his anecdotes and conversation.
In about an hour the colonel rose from his chair that he might prepare for dinner; and then it was that Newton perceived the great change which had taken place. He was no longer upright, but bowed down; his step was no longer firm, it was almost tottering; and, as he left the room, Newton's eyes met those of Isabel.
"You think him ill?" said Isabel, inquiringly.
"Yes, I do, Miss Revel. He is very much changed; his stamina appears to have been exhausted by the climate. I trust he will go home as he proposes."
"He has been ill—very ill indeed. He talks constantly of home; he has done so for months; but when the time comes he puts it off. I wish you would persuade him."
"I will do all I can; but if you cannot prevail, I'm afraid that my persuasion will be of little use."
"Indeed, I think otherwise; you have power over him, Mr Forster. I have not forgotten how kindly you exercised it in my behalf. We—that is," continued Isabel, colouring up, "the colonel has often talked of you since you quitted us."
"I feel highly flattered by his remembrance," replied Newton; "but you are in mourning, Miss Revel. If not a liberty from one who feels an interest in all concerning you, may I inquire for whom?"
"It is for my father," replied Isabel, with emotion, sitting down, and passing her hand across her eyes.
"I never heard of his death, and must apologise for having been so indiscreet as to renew your sorrow. How long is it since? and what was his complaint?"
"He had no complaint—would to God that he had had! He was shot in a duel," replied Isabel, as the tears coursed down her cheeks. "Oh! Mr Forster, I trust I am resigned to the dispensations of Providence, but—that he should be summoned away at the moment when he was seeking the life of his fellow-creature, with all the worst passions in excitement—unprepared—for he was killed on the spot. These reflections will make his death a source of bitter regret, which can terminate but with existence."
"Your mother is still alive?" inquired Newton, to change the painful subject.
"Yes, but very ill; the last accounts were very distressing; they say that her complaint is incurable."
Newton regretted having brought up so painful a subject. A few words of condolence and sympathy were offered, and they separated to prepare for dinner.
Newton remained four days under the roof of the colonel, during which time he was constantly in the society of Isabel; and when the period of his departure arrived, he had just grounds to imagine that, were all obstacles in other points removed, Isabel Revel would not, on her part, have raised any against the accomplishment of his wishes; but their mutual dependent situations chased away all ideas of the kind for the present, and although they parted with unconcealed emotion, not a word which could be construed into a declaration of attachment was permitted to escape his lips.
The Windsor Castle sailed for Calcutta, and in a few days anchored at Kedgeree to wait for a pilot to come down the river. During their short stay at this anchorage, Mr Williams, the first mate, who was an old Indian voyager, went on shore every evening to follow up his darling amusement of shooting jackals, a description of game by no means scarce in that quarter of the world. Often remonstrated with for his imprudence in exposing himself to the heavy night-dew, he would listen to no advice. "It was very true," he acknowledged, "that his brother had died of a jungle fever in pursuing the same amusement, and what was more, the fowling-piece in his hand belonged to his brother, who had bequeathed it to him; but as he had never heard of two brothers dying from a jungle fever taken by shooting jackals, he considered that the odds were strongly in his favour." This argument, however specious, did not prove good. The third morning he returned on board, complaining of a headache and shivering. He was bled and put into his bed, which he never left again.
Before the Windsor Castle was ready to sail, the remains of Mr Williams were consigned to the burying-ground at Diamond Harbour, and Newton Forster was promoted to the rank of first mate of the Windsor Castle. This, as will hereafter be proved, was a most fortunate occurrence to Newton Forster. The Windsor Castle sailed with leave to call at Madras for letters or passengers, and in a few days was again at anchor in the roadstead. The first intelligence which they received upon their arrival was, that the cholera morbus had been very fatal, and that among others, the old colonel had fallen a victim to the disease. Newton again obtained permission to go on shore to Isabel. He found her in distress at the house of a Mrs Enderby, a lady who had lost her husband by the same ravaging epidemic, and who had long been the intimate friend of the colonel and of Isabel. Mrs Enderby was about to return to England by the first vessel, and had advised Isabel to take so favourable an opportunity of a chaperon. Isabel, who had many reasons for wishing to leave the country, particularly the declining state of her mother's health, had consented; and it was with great pleasure that she received from Newton the information of the best cabins of the Windsor Castle not having been hitherto engaged.
The colonel's will had been opened. He had bequeathed his property, the whole of which, with the exception of his establishment in India, was invested in the English funds, to his grand-niece Isabel Revel. It amounted to nearly seventy thousand pounds. It would be difficult to say whether Newton Forster felt glad or sorry at this intelligence. For Isabel's sake, he undoubtedly was glad; but he could not but feel that it increased the distance between them, and on that account, and on that alone, his reflections were painful. "Had it," thought he, "been five thousand, or even ten thousand pounds, it would have been different. In the course of a few years I might have been able to produce an equivalent to it, and—but this fortune has raised her above my hopes; even if she had a prepossession in my favour, it would be dishonest to take advantage of it."
Isabel Revel had very different feelings on the subject—she was her own mistress, and her manner to Newton was more cordial, more confidential than before. She had not forgotten that Newton had shown the same regard and partiality for her when she was going out to India, and afterwards, when in distress; he had been her friend and admirer when in adversity. She knew his feelings towards her, and she had appreciated his delicacy and forbearance. Lately she had seriously analysed her own, and her analysis was wound up by a mental acknowledgment that her wealth would be valueless, if she could not share it with Newton Forster.
At the request of Mrs Enderby, the poop cabins were engaged for Isabel and herself. Their time for preparation was short; but one day more having been obtained from Captain Oughton, through the influence of Newton, Mrs Enderby and Isabel embarked, and the Windsor Castle spread her canvas, sailing away from pestilence and death.
"Britannia needs no bulwark, No towers along the steep, Her march is o'er the mountain waves, Her home is on the deep."
The Windsor Castle ploughed through the vast ocean of waters before a propitious gale, laden with treasure, in the safe arrival of which so many were interested. But what were all the valuables stowed away in her frame, in the opinion of Newton Forster, in comparison with the lovely being who had entrusted them with her safe conduct to her native country! The extreme precautions adopted or suggested by Newton for security during the night—his nervous anxiety during the day—became a source of laughter and ridicule to Captain Oughton; who once observed to him,—"Newton, my boy, I see how the land lies, but depend upon it the old ship won't tumble overboard a bit sooner than before; so one reef in the top-sails will be quiet sufficient."
Indeed, although they "never mentioned it," it was impossible for either of them to disguise their feelings. Their very attempts at concealment only rendered them more palpable to everyone on board. Captain Oughton, who was very partial to Newton, rejoiced in his good fortune. He had no objection to young people falling or being in love on board of his ship, although he would not have sanctioned or permitted a marriage to take place during the period that a young lady was under his protection. Once landed on Deal beach, as he observed, they might "buckle to" as soon as they pleased.
The Windsor Castle was within two hundred miles of the Mauritius, when a strange vessel was discovered on the weather beam, bearing down to them with all the canvas she could spread. Her appearance was warlike; but what her force might be, it was impossible to ascertain at the distance she was off, and the position which she then offered, being nearly "end on."
"Can you make out her hull, Mr Forster?" cried Captain Oughton, hailing Newton, who was at the mast-head with a glass.
"No, sir; her fore-yard is but now clear of the water, but she rises very fast."
"What do you think of her spars, Forster?" said Captain Oughton to Newton, who had just descended to the last rattling of the main-rigging.
"She is very taut, sir, and her canvas appears to be foreign."
"I'll bet you what you please it's that d——d fellow Surcoeuf. This is just his cruising ground, if the report of that neutral vessel was correct."
"Another hour will decide the point, sir," replied Newton; "but I must say I think your surmise likely to prove correct. We may as well be ready for him: a cruiser she certainly is."
"The sooner the better, Mr Forster. He's but a 'rum customer,' and 'a hard hitter' by all accounts. Clear up the decks, and beat to quarters."
The strange vessel came down with such rapidity that, by the time the captain's orders were obeyed, she was not more than two miles distant.
"There's 'instudding-sails;'—and in devilish good style too!" observed Captain Oughton. "Now we shall see what he's made of."
The vessel rounded to the wind as soon as she had reduced her sails, on the same tack as the Windsor Castle, displaying her broadside, as the French would say, herissee de canons.
"A corvette, sir," said Newton, reconnoitring through his glass; "two-and-twenty guns besides her bridle ports. She is French rigged;—the rake of her stern is French;—in fact, she is French all over."
"All Lombard Street to a China orange, 'tis Surcoeuf," replied Captain Oughton, who, with the rest of his officers, had his glass upon the vessel. "There goes the tricoloured flag to prove I've won my bet. Answer the challenge. Toss my hat up.—Pshaw! I mean hoist the colours there abaft. Mr Thomas," continued Captain Oughton, addressing the boatswain, "send the ship's company aft.—Forster, you had better see the ladies down below."
At the summons of the boatswain, the men came aft, and stood in a body on the lee side of the quarter-deck, with their hats off, and impatience in their looks.
"Now, my lads," said Captain Oughton, "if I am not mistaken, that vessel is commanded by the very best seaman that ever left a French port, and to do him justice, he's a damnation fine fellow!—a severe punisher, and can take a mauling as well as give one."
"Yes, sir, so can we," replied several of the men together.
"I know you can, my lads; and give and take is fair play. All I say is, let it be a fair stand up fight, and 'may the best man win.' So now, my lads, if you're ready to come to the scratch, why, the sooner we peel the better—that's all."
"Hurrah!" cried the seamen, as they separated to their quarters; and, in compliance with the injunctions of the captain, threw off their jackets, and many of them their shirts, to prepare for the conflict.
The corvette, after she had rounded to, and exchanged colours, reduced her sails to precisely the same canvas as that carried by the Windsor Castle. This was to try her rate of sailing. In a quarter of an hour, her superiority was manifest. She then hauled up her courses, and dropped to her former position on the Windsor Castle's weather-beam.
"The fellow has the heels of us, at all events," observed Captain Oughton; "but, Forster, the ladies are not yet below. Mrs Enderby, I am sorry to be obliged to put you in confinement for a short time. Miss Revel, you must do me the favour to accept of Mr Forster's convoy below the water-line."
Newton offered his arm to Isabel, and followed Captain Oughton, who escorted Mrs Enderby. His heart was swelling with such variety of feeling that he could not at first trust himself to speak. When they had descended the ladder, and were picking their way, stepping over the rammers, sponges, and tackles, stretched across the main-deck, Newton observed—"This is not the first time I have been commissioned to place you in security. I trust I shall again have the pleasure of relieving you from your bondage."
Isabel's lips quivered as she replied, "I trust in God that you may, Mr Forster!—but—I feel more anxious now than I did on the former occasion. I—"
"I have a foreboding," interrupted Newton, "that this day's work is to make or mar me! Why, I cannot tell, but I feel more confident than the chances would warrant; but farewell, Isabel—God bless you!"—and Newton, pressing her hand, sprang up the ladder to his station on the quarter-deck.
I have before observed that a man's courage much depends upon his worldly means or prospects. A man who has much to lose, whatever the property may consist of, will be less inclined to fight than another whose whole capital consists of a "light heart and a thin pair of breeches." Upon the same reasoning, a man in love will not be inclined to fight as another. Death then cuts off the sweetest prospects in existence. Lord St Vincent used to say that a married man was d——d for the service. Now (bating the honeymoon), I do not agree with his lordship. A man in love may be inclined to play the Mark Antony; but a married man, "come what will, he has been blessed." Once fairly into action, it then is of little consequence whether a man is a bachelor, or married, or in love; the all-absorbing occupation of killing your fellow-creatures makes you for the time forget whether you are a beggar or a prince.
When Newton returned on deck, he found that the corvette had gradually edged down until nearly within point-blank range.
"Shall we lay the main-topsail to the mast, sir?" observed Newton. "We shall see his manoeuvres."
"Why, he hardly would be fool enough to bear down to us," replied Captain Oughton; "he is a determined fellow, I know; but I believe not a rash one. However, we can but try. Square the main-yard."
As soon as the Windsor Castle was hove-to, the courses of the enemy were seen to flutter a few moments in the breeze, and then the canvas was expanded. When the vessel had gathered sufficient way, she hove in stays, and crossed the Windsor Castle on the opposite tack.
"I thought so," observed Captain Oughton. "The fellow knows what he is about. He'll not 'put his head in chancery,' that's clear. How cautious the rascal is! It's very like the first round of a fight—much manoeuvring and wary sparring before they begin to make play."
The corvette stood on the opposite tack until well abaft the beam. She then wore round, and ranged up on the weather quarter of the Indiaman. When within two cables' length of the Windsor Castle, who had, a little before, filled her main-topsail to be in command, the Frenchman hauled up his foresail, and discovered his lower rigging manned by the ship's company, who gave a loud but hasty cheer, and then disappeared.
One cock crowing is a challenge, sure to be answered, if the antagonist is game. The English seamen sprang up to return the compliment, when Captain Oughton roared out, "To your guns, you fools! Hard down with the helm—fly the jib-sheet—check headbraces—look out now, my lads."
The corvette had already put her helm up and paid off to pass under the stern of the Windsor Castle, with the intention of raking her. The promptitude of Captain Oughton foiled the manoeuvre of the Frenchman; which would have been more fatal had the English seamen been in the rigging to have been swept off by his grape-shot. As the Windsor Castle was thrown up on the wind, an exchange of broadsides took place, which, according to the usual custom of all well regulated broadsides in close conflict, cut away a certain proportion of the spars and rigging, and cut up a proportion of the ships' companies. The Windsor Castle, worked by Newton, bracing round on the other tack, and the corvette rounding to on the same, the two vessels separated for a few minutes.
"Devilish well stopped, Newton, wasn't it?" said Captain Oughton, showing his white teeth. "Look out again—here she comes."
The corvette again attempted to rake as she ranged up after tacking, by throwing herself up in the wind; but Captain Oughton, watching the slightest variation of his adversary's career, gradually edging away, and then putting his helm up, manoeuvred that the broadsides should again be exchanged. This second exchange was more effectual than the first.
"A stomacher, and both down!" cried Captain Oughton, as he surveyed the deck. "Be quick, Newton, hand the men below. Don't bring her to the wind yet, he has lost his way by luffing up, and cannot make play again for a few minutes."
After the second broadside the vessels were much further apart, from the Windsor Castle running off the wind, while the corvette was too much crippled to work with her usual rapidity. This was convenient to both parties, as the last broadside had been very mischievous. The Frenchman, low in the water, had suffered less in her hull and ship's company, but more in her spars and rigging. The foremast was nearly cut in half by the carronade shot of her antagonist; her main-yard was badly wounded, and her wheel knocked to atoms, which obliged them to steer on the lower deck. The Windsor Castle had received five shots in her hull, three men killed, and six wounded; three of her main shrouds cut in two, and her mizen-mast badly wounded.
It was a quarter of an hour before the Frenchman returned to the attack. Captain Oughton had again hauled his wind, as if not wishing to decline the combat; which, indeed, the superior sailing of his antagonist prevented. The corvette appeared to have given up manoeuvring; whether from the crippled state of her spars and sails, or from perceiving that he had hitherto gained nothing by his attempts. He now ranged up to within two cables' lengths of the Windsor Castle, and recommenced the action, broadside to broadside.
The breeze was lulled by the concussion of the air; and both vessels continued in the same position, and at the same distance for upwards of an hour, pouring in their broadsides, every shot of which was effectual.
"Now, this is what I call a reg'lar set-to. Fire away, my lads," cried Captain Oughton, rubbing his hands. "A proper rally this. D—n it, but he's game!"
The wounded mizen-mast of the Windsor Castle received another shot in the heart of it, which threw it over the side. Every part of her hull proved the severe and well-directed fire of the enemy; her sails were as ragged as Jeremy Didler's pocket-handkerchief; her remaining masts pitted with shot; the bulwarks torn away in several places; the boats on the booms in shivers; rigging cut away fore and aft, and the ends swinging to and fro with the motion of the vessel; her decks in confusion; and some of her guns, from necessity, deserted. Captain Oughton, Newton, and the rest of the officers continued to encourage the men, giving them assistance in working the guns; and the ship's company appeared to have fully imbibed the bull-dog spirit of their commander.
The fire of the Windsor Castle had been equally destructive. The vessels had gradually neared each other in the calm; and the height of the Windsor Castle out of the water, in comparison with the corvette, had given her the advantage in sweeping the decks of the enemy. The contending vessels were in this situation, when, for a minute or two, a cessation of firing took place, in consequence of the accumulation of smoke, which had so completely enshrouded them both that they knew not where to direct their guns; and they waited until it should clear away, that the firing might recommence. A light air gradually swept the veil to leeward, and discovered both vessels to each other, at the distance of half a cable's length. Captain Oughton was with Newton on the poop, and the commander of the French corvette was standing on the hammock nettings of his own vessel. The latter took off his hat, and courteously saluted his adversary. Captain Oughton answered the salutation; and then waving his hat, pointed to the English colours, which had been hoisted at the main; as much as to say, "They never shall come down!" The Frenchman (it was Surcoeuf) did the same to the tricolour, and the action recommenced.
"Well done, my lads!" cried Captain Oughton; "well done! that broadside was a staggerer—right into his ribs. Hurrah now, my hearts of oak! this fellow's worth fighting. Aim at his foremast—another broadside will floor it. It's on the reel. Newton, jump forward, and—"
But the order was stopped by a grape-shot, which struck Captain Oughton on the breast. He staggered and fell off from the poop to the quarter-deck. Newton leapt down, and went to him. The torrents of blood from his breast at once told the tale: and Newton called to some of the men, that his commander might be taken below.
"Wait a moment, my dear lad," said Captain Oughton faintly, and catching his breath at every word; "it's a finisher—can't come to time—I die game." His head fell on his breast, and the blood poured out of his mouth.
Newton directed the body to be taken into the cuddy, that the men might not be dispirited by the sight. He then hastened to the poop, that he might reconnoitre the enemy. He perceived that the corvette had hauled on board his tattered courses, and was standing ahead of them.
"He's off, sir," cried one of the quarter-masters.
"I suspect not," replied Newton, who had his glass to his eye, looking upon the decks of the French vessel. "They are preparing to board, and will be round again in five minutes. Cutlasses and pikes ready—forward, my lads, all of us! We must beat them off!"
"And will, too," cried the seamen, as in obedience to their orders, they collected on the forecastle. But they mustered thin; nearly half of the ship's company were either lying dead or under the hands of the surgeon; and, as Newton surveyed his little force, fatigued as they were with their exertions, black with powder, stained with blood, and reeking with perspiration, he could not but acknowledge how heavy were the odds against the attack of a vessel so well manned as the corvette appeared to be. Newton said but a few words; but they were to the point; and he had the satisfaction to perceive, as they grasped their cutlasses, that if their numbers were few and their frames exhausted, their spirit was as unsubdued as ever.
The corvette had in the meantime run ahead on a wind, about a mile, when she wore round, and was now standing right on to the Windsor Castle, and had neared to within three cables' lengths. A few minutes were to decide the point. Her courses were again hauled up, and discovered her lee fore-rigging, bowsprit, cat-heads, and forecastle, crowded with men ready for the dash on board, as soon as the vessels should come in contact. Newton stood on one of the forecastle guns, surrounded by his men; not a word was spoken on board of the Windsor Castle, as they watched their advancing enemy. They were within a cable's length of each other, and Newton could plainly distinguish the features of the gallant Surcoeuf, who was in advance on the knight-heads, when a puff of wind, which at any other time would not have occasioned the starting of a royal sheet, took the sails of the corvette; and her wounded foremast, laden with men in the lee-rigging, unable to bear the pressure, fell over the side, carrying with it the maintop-mast and most of the crew who had been standing in the rigging, and leaving the corvette an encumbered wreck. A loud shout from the forecastle of the Windsor Castle announced that the English seamen were but too well aware of their desperate situation, and that they hailed the misfortune of the Frenchmen as their deliverance.
"Now, my lads, be smart," cried Newton, as he sprang aft to the wheel, and put up the helm; "man the flying jib-halyards (the jib was under the forefoot); let go the maintop bowling; square the main-yard. That will do; she's paying off. Man your guns; half-a-dozen broadsides, and it's all our own."
The sun had disappeared below the horizon, and the shades of evening had set in, before this manoeuvre had been accomplished. Several broadsides were poured into the corvette, which had the desired effect of crippling her still more, and her encumbered condition prevented any return. At last the night hid both vessels from each other; and the breeze freshening fast, it was necessary that the remaining masts of the Windsor Castle should be properly secured. The guns were therefore abandoned; and during the time the seamen were employed in knotting the rigging and bending the spare sails, Newton consulted with his brother officers, who were unanimous in agreeing that all had been done that could be expected, and that to wait till the ensuing day, when the corvette would have repaired her damages, would be attended with a risk of capture, which the valuable property entrusted to their charge would never authorise. It was not until past midnight that the Windsor Castle was in a condition to make sail; but long before this, Newton had contrived to leave the deck for a few minutes to communicate with Isabel. With most of the particulars, and with the death of Captain Oughton, she had already been made acquainted; and if there could be any reward to Newton for his gallantry and his prudence, more coveted than another, it was the affectionate greeting with which he was welcomed and congratulated by Isabel, her eyes beaming with tears of delight as they glanced from his face, and were shrouded on the deck.
Love and murder make a pretty mixture, although as antithetical as the sweet and acid in punch,—a composition which meets the approbation of all sensible, discriminating people. But I shall leave the reader to imagine all he pleases, and finish the chapter by informing him that, when the sun again made his appearance, the corvette was not to be discovered from the mast-head. The guns were therefore properly secured; the decks washed; a jury mizen-mast stuck up abaft; Captain Oughton, and the gallant fellows who had fallen in the combat, committed to the deep with the usual ceremonies; the wounded made as comfortable as possible in their hammocks; the carpenters busied with the necessary repairs; and the Windsor Castle, commanded by Newton Forster, running before a spanking breeze, at the rate of eight knots per hour.
"Ships are but boards, sailors but men; There be land rats, and water rats, water thieves, And land thieves; I mean pirates."
Most prophetical was the remark made by Newton Forster to Isabel, previous to the action: to wit, that it would make or mar him. The death of Captain Oughton, and the spirited defence of the Windsor Castle, were the making of Newton Forster. As a subordinate officer, he might have been obliged to toil many years before he could have ascended to the summit of the ladder of promotion; and during the time which he remained in that situation, what chance had he of making an independence, and proposing for the hand of Isabel Revel? But now that, by a chain of circumstances peculiarly fortuitous, he was in command of an East Indiaman, returning home after having beat off a vessel of equal if not superior force, and preserved a cargo of immense value, he felt confident that he not only would be confirmed to the rank which he was now called upon to assume, but that he had every prospect of being employed. As a captain of an Indiaman, he was aware that reception into society, wealth, and consideration awaited him; and what made his heart to swell with gratitude and exultation, was the feeling that soon he would be enabled to aspire to the hand of one to whom he had so long been ardently attached.
As the Windsor Castle plunged through the roaring and complaining seas, with all the impetus of weight in motion, Newton's eyes were radiant with hope, although his demeanour towards Isabel was, from the peculiar circumstances attending their situation, more delicately reserved than before.
When the Windsor Castle touched at St Helena, Newton had the good fortune to obtain a supply of able seamen, more than sufficient for the re-manning of his ship. They had been sent there in an empty brig by a French privateer, who had captured many vessels, and had been embarrassed with the number of her prisoners. Having obtained the stores which were required, Newton lost no time in prosecuting his voyage to England.
It was about a fortnight after they had quitted St Helena that a strange sail was reported on the starboard bow; and as they neared her, it was evident that her foremast was gone, and that she was otherwise in a disabled state. When the Indiaman was within a mile, the stranger threw out neutral colours, and hoisted a whiff, half-mast down, as a signal that she was in distress. Newton ordered the ship to be kept away, and when alongside of the vessel, lowered down a boat, and sent the third mate to ascertain what assistance could be afforded. With sailors, thank God! distress is sufficient to obtain assistance, and the nation or country are at once merged in that feeling of sympathy for those misfortunes which may perhaps but the next hour befall ourselves. The boat returned; and the officer informed Newton that the vessel was from the Island of Bourbon, bound to Hamburg; that she had been dismasted and severely injured in a gale off the Cape of Good Hope; and that when her mast went over the side, one-half of her crew, who were up at the time on the fore-yard, had been cast overboard and drowned; that from the want of men and material, they had been unable to rig an effective jury-mast, and had in consequence been so long on their passage that their provisions and water were nearly expended. The officer concluded by stating that there were a French lady and two gentlemen, with their attendants, who had taken their passage home in the vessel. Newton immediately went down the side, and pulled on board of the vessel to ascertain what assistance could be afforded. When he arrived on board, he was met by the Flemish captain, who commenced a statement of his misfortunes and his difficulties, when the French lady, who, unobserved by Newton, had come up the companion-ladder, screamed out as she ran into his arms—
"Ah! mon Dieu!—c'est Monsieur Nu-tong!"
Newton looked at the lady, who had burst into tears, as her face lay upon his shoulder, and immediately recognised his former kind and affectionate friend, Madame de Fontanges: close to him, with his hand extended, was her generous husband. The meeting was joyful, and Newton was delighted that circumstances had enabled him to render assistance to those who had been so kind to him in his former distress.
"Oh! Monsieur Nu-tong, nous avons tant soufferts! Ah! mon Dieu!—point de l'eau—rien a manger," cried Madame de Fontanges: then smiling through her tears, "mais ce rencontre est charmant;—n'est ce pas, mon ami?" continued the lady, appealing to her husband.
"You do not remember Monsieur le Marquis?" said M. de Fontanges to Newton. Newton turned his head, and recognised the governor of Guadaloupe, who had expressed such sympathy at his shipwreck, and had sent him away in the cartel instead of detaining him as a prisoner.
The vessel was indeed in a deplorable condition; and had she not received the timely assistance now afforded, would in all probability have soon been a scene of horror and of suffering. They had not more than three days' water remaining on board, and provisions barely sufficing for ten days. Newton hastened to send back the boat with orders for an immediate and ample supply of these necessaries, in case of bad weather coming on and preventing further communication. Satisfied that their immediate wants were relieved, Newton took leave of his friends for the present, and returned on board his own ship, despatching his carpenters and part of his crew to the immediate refit of the vessel; and then selecting a part of everything that the Windsor Castle contained in her store-rooms or on her decks, which he thought would administer to the comfort or the luxury of the passengers on board of the neutral.
In two hours they who were in a state bordering upon famine found themselves revelling in plenty. Before night the English seamen had a jury-mast up, and the sails set. The Hollanders on board would have given their assistance, but they were told to remain on deck and make up for lost time, which they acquiesced in very readily, eating and drinking as if they were determined to lay in a stock for the remainder of the voyage. Newton, who had returned on board of the neutral to superintend the repairs and enjoy the society of his old friends, received from them a long account of what had occurred since their separation. At nightfall he took his leave, promising to continue under easy sail and remain with them for a day or two, until they were satisfied that all was right, and that they no longer required his assistance.
The narrative obtained by Newton may be thus condensed for the information of the reader. The Marquis de Fontanges had been appointed from the government of Guadaloupe to that of the Island of Bourbon, which was considered of more importance. Monsieur and Madame de Fontanges accompanied him to his new command; and they had remained there for two years, when the ruling powers, without any ground, except that the marquis had received his appointment from the former government, thought proper to supersede him. Frigates were not so plentiful as to spare one for the return of an ex-governor; and the marquis, being permitted to find his way home how he could, had taken advantage of the sailing of the Hamburger, to return to Europe or to France, or as he might find it advisable.
For two days, during which the weather was so fine that Madame de Fontanges and the gentlemen went on board of the Windsor Castle, and were introduced to the ladies, Newton continued under easy sail, each day despatching to the neutral everything which his gratitude could suggest; but as Newton was most anxious to proceed on his voyage, it was agreed that the next morning they should part company. At the close of the evening a strange sail was observed on the weather-beam; but, as she carried no foretop-gallant sail, and appeared to be steering the same course as the Windsor Castle, she excited but a momentary observation, supposing that she was some homeward-bound neutral, or a merchant vessel which had separated from her convoy. During the night, which was dark, the moon being in her first quarter, the officer of the middle watch lost sight of their protegee; but this was to be expected, as she did not carry a light. Before morning the wind fell, and when the sun rose it was a perfect calm. The officer of the watch, as the day dawned, went on the poop, surveying the horizon for their companion, and discovered her six or seven miles astern, lying alongside of the strange vessel which they had seen the day before. Both vessels, as well as the Windsor Castle, were becalmed. He immediately went down to Newton, acquainting him with the circumstance, which bore a very suspicious appearance. Newton hastened on deck; with his glass he could plainly distinguish that the stranger was a vessel of a low, raking description, evidently no merchantman, but built for sailing fast, and in all probability a privateer. The man at the mast-head reported that boats were constantly passing between the two vessels. Newton, who felt very anxious for the safety of his friends, accepted the offer of the second mate to take the gig, and ascertain what was going on. In little more than an hour the gig was seen from the mast-head to arrive within half a mile of the vessels, and shortly afterwards the smoke from a gun, followed by a distant report. The gig then winded and pulled back towards the Windsor Castle. It was in a state of great excitement that Newton waited for her return, when the second mate informed him that on his approach he discovered that she was a flush vessel, pierced for fourteen guns, painted black, and apparently well manned; that she evidently, to use a nautical term, was "gutting" the neutral; and that, as they had witnessed, on their boat coming within range, the vessel had fired a round of grape, which fortunately fell short of them. She had shown no colours; and from her appearance and behaviour (as all privateers respect neutrals), he had no doubt that she was the pirate vessel stated, when they were at St Helena, to be cruising in these latitudes. Newton was of the same opinion; and it was with a heavy heart that he returned to the cabin, to communicate the unpleasant intelligence to Mrs Enderby and Isabel.
There is nothing more annoying in this world than the will without the power. At any time, a vessel becalmed is considered a very sufficing reason for swearing by those who are on board of her. What then must have been the feelings of Newton, lying on the water in a state of compelled inaction, while his friends were being plundered, and perhaps murdered by a gang of miscreants before his eyes! How eagerly and repeatedly did he scan the horizon for the coming breeze! How did Hope raise her head at the slightest cat's-paw that ruffled the surface of the glassy waters! Three successive gales of wind are bad enough; but three gales blowing hard enough to blow the devil's horns off are infinitely preferable to one idle, stagnant, motionless, confounded calm, oppressing you with the blue-devils and maddening you with the fidgets at one and the same time.
At last, as the sun descended, the breeze sprung up, first playing along the waters in capricious and tantalising airs, as if uncertain and indifferent in its infancy to which quarter of the compass it should direct its course. The ship again answered her helm; her head was put the right way, and the sails were trimmed to every shift which it made, to woo its utmost power. In a quarter of an hour it settled, blowing from a quarter which placed them to windward of, and they carried it down with them to within two miles of the stranger and the neutral, who still remained becalmed. But, as the wind freshened, it passed a-head of them, sweeping along the surface, and darkening the colours of the water, until it reached the vessels to leeward; one of which,—the one that Newton was so anxious to get alongside of,—immediately took advantage of it, and, spreading all her canvas, soon increased her distance. When the Windsor Castle arrived abreast of the neutral, the stranger was more than two miles to leeward. A little delay was then necessary to ascertain what had occurred. Newton, who perceived M. de Fontanges on the deck, shouting to them and wringing his hands, rounded to, lowered down a boat, and pulled on board of the neutral. The intelligence communicated was distressing. The strange vessel was a pirate, who had plundered them of everything, had taken away Madame de Fontanges, Mimi and Charlotte, her two female attendants. The captain of the pirates had wounded and severely beaten M. de Fontanges, who had resisted the "enlevement" of his wife; and after having cut away all the standing rigging, and nearly chopped through the masts with axes, they had finished their work by boring holes in the counter of the vessel; so that, had not Newton been able to come up with her, they must all have perished during the night.
There was no time to be lost; the Marquis de Fontanges, M. De Fontanges, and the crew, were hurried on board of the Windsor Castle (the pirate had taken care that they should not be delayed in packing up their baggage), and Newton, as soon as he returned on board, and hoisted up his boat, crowded every stitch of canvas in pursuit of the pirate, who was now more than four miles distant. But, although the wind gradually increased, and was thus far in their favour, as they first benefited by it, yet, as the sun went down, so did their hopes descend. At nightfall the pirate had increased her distance to seven miles. Newton pursued, watching her with a night-glass, until she could no longer be distinguished. Still, their anxiety was so great, that no one went to bed on board of the Windsor Castle. When the day broke, the pirate was not to be discovered in any quarter of the horizon from the mast-head of the Windsor Castle.
"She stood a moment as a Pythoness Stands on her tripod, agonised and full Of inspiration gather'd from distress, When all the heart-strings, like wild horses, pull The heart asunder; then, as more or less Their speed abated or their strength grew dull, She sunk down on her seat by slow degrees, And bow'd her throbbing head o'er trembling knees."
It was with deep regret that Newton gave directions for the ship's head to be again directed on her course to England; but the property under his charge was of too great value to warrant risking it by cruising after the pirates, the superior sailing of whose vessel afforded no hopes of success. The melancholy situation of Madame de Fontanges threw a gloom over the party, which was communicated even to the seamen; while the anguish of M. de Fontanges, expressed with all the theatrical violence characteristic of his nation, was a source of continual reminiscence and regret. They had been four days on their voyage, making little progress with the light and baffling winds, when they were shrouded in one of those thick fogs which prevail in the latitude of the Cape de Verds, and which was rendered more disagreeable by a mizzling rain.
On the sixth day, about twelve o'clock, the horizon cleared to the northward, and the fog in that quarter was rolled away by a strong breeze which rippled along the water. Newton, who was on deck, observed the direction of the wind to be precisely the reverse of the little breeze to which their sails had been trimmed; and the yards of the Windsor Castle were braced round to meet it. The gust was strong, and the ship, laden as she was, careened over to the sudden force of it, as the top-gallant sheets and halyards were let fly by the directions of the officer of the watch. The fog, which had still continued thick to leeward, now began to clear away; and, as the bank dispersed, the Marquis de Fontanges, who was standing on the poop by the side of Newton, cried out, "Voila un batiment!" Newton looked in the direction pointed out, and discovered the hull of a vessel looming through the fog, about a quarter of a mile to leeward of the Windsor Castle. One minute's scrutiny convinced him that it was the pirate, who, not having been expeditious in trimming his sails, laid in irons, as seamen term it, heeling over to the blast. The Windsor Castle was then running free, at the rate of four miles an hour.
"Starboard the helm—all hands to board—steady so. Be smart, my lads—it's the pirate—port a little. Hurrah! my lads—be quick, and she's all our own. Quartermaster, my sword—quick!"
The crew, who were all on deck, snatched their cutlasses from the capstern-head, in which they were inserted, and before three minutes elapsed, during which the pirate had not time to extricate himself from his difficulty, were all ready for the service. They were joined by the Flemish sailors belonging to the neutral vessel, who very deliberately put their hands in their breeches-pockets, and pulled out their knives, about as long as a carpenter's two-foot rule, preferring this weapon to anything else.
Monsieur de Fontanges, bursting with impatience, stood with Newton, at the head of the men. When the collision of the two vessels took place, the Windsor Castle, conned so as not to run down the pirate, but to sheer alongside, stove in the bulwarks of the other, and carried away her topmasts, which, drawn to windward by the pressure on the back-stays, fell over towards the Windsor Castle, and, entangling with her rigging, prevented the separation of the two vessels.
"No quarter, my friends!" cried Monsieur de Fontanges, who darted on board of the pirate vessel at the head of some men near the main-rigging, while Newton and the remainder, equally active, poured down upon his quarter.
Such had been the rapidity of the junction, and such the impetuosity of the attack, that most of the pirates had not had time to arm themselves, which, considering the superiority of their numbers rendered the contest more equal. A desperate struggle was the result;—the attacked party neither expecting, demanding, nor receiving quarter. It was blow for blow, wound for wound, death to one or both. Every inch of the deck was disputed, and not an inch obtained until it reeked with blood. The voices of Newton and Monsieur de Fontanges, encouraging their men, were answered by another voice,—that of the captain of the pirates,—which had its due effect upon the other party, which rallied at its sound. Newton, even in the hurry and excitement of battle, could not help thinking to himself that he had heard that voice before. The English seamen gained but little ground, so obstinate was the resistance. The pirates fell; but as they lay on the deck, they either raised their exhausted arms to strike one last blow of vengeance before their life's blood had been poured out, or seized upon their antagonists with their teeth in their expiring agonies. But a party, who, from the sedateness of their carriage, had hitherto been almost neutral, now forced their way into the conflict. These were the Flemish seamen, with their long snick-a-snee knives, which they used with as much imperturbability as a butcher professionally employed. They had gained the main-rigging of the vessel, and, ascending it, had passed over by the catharpins, and descended, with all the deliberation of bears, on the other side, by which tranquil manoeuvre the pirates were taken in flank; and huddled as they were together, the knives of the Flemings proved much more effective than the weapons opposed to them. The assistance of the Flemings was hailed with a shout from the English seamen, who rallied, and increased their efforts. Newton's sword had just been passed through the body of a tall, powerful man, who had remained uninjured in the front of the opposing party since the commencement of the action, when his fall discovered to Newton's view the captain of the vessel, whose voice had been so often heard, but who had hitherto been concealed from his sight by the athletic form which had just fallen by his hand. What was his astonishment and his indignation when he found himself confronted by one whom he had long imagined to have been summoned to answer for his crimes—his former inveterate enemy, Jackson!
Jackson appeared to be no less astonished at the recognition of Newton, whom he had supposed to have perished on the sand-bank. Both mechanically called each other by name, and both sprang forward. The blow of Newton's sword was warded off by the miscreant; but at the same moment that of Monsieur de Fontanges was passed through his body to the hilt. Newton had just time to witness the fall of Jackson, when a tomahawk descended on his head; his senses failed him, and he lay among the dead upon the deck.
There was a shriek, a piercing shriek, heard when Newton fell. It passed the lips of one who had watched, with an anxiety too intense to be pourtrayed, the issue of the conflict;—it was from Isabel, who had quitted the cabin at the crash occasioned by the collision of the two vessels, and had remained upon the poop "spectatress of the fight." There were no fire-arms used; no time for preparation had been allowed. There had been no smoke to conceal—all had been fairly presented to her aching sight. Yes! there she had remained, her eye fixed upon Newton Forster, as, at the head of his men, he slowly gained the deck of the contested vessel. Not one word did she utter; but, with her lips wide apart from intensity of feeling, she watched his progress through the strife, her eye fixed—immovably fixed upon the spot where his form was to be seen; hope buoyant, as she saw his arm raised and his victims fall—heart sinking, as the pirate sword aimed at a life so dear. There she stood like a statue—as white as beautiful—as motionless as if, indeed, she had been chiselled from the Parian marble; and had it not been for her bosom heaving with the agony of tumultuous feeling, you might have imagined that all was as cold within. Newton fell—all her hopes were wrecked—she uttered one wild shriek, and felt no more.
After the fall of Jackson, the pirates were disheartened, and their resistance became more feeble. M. de Fontanges carved his way to the taffrail, and then turned round to kill again. In a few minutes the most feeble-hearted escaped below, leaving the few remaining brave to be hacked to pieces, and the deck of the pirate vessel was in possession of the British crew. Not waiting to recover his breath, M. de Fontanges rushed below to seek his wife. The cabin door was locked, but yielded to his efforts; and he found her in the arms of her attendants in a state of insensibility. A scream of horror at the sight of his bloody sword, and another of joy at the recognition of their master, was followed up with the assurance that Madame had only fainted. M. de Fontanges took his wife in his arms, and carried her on deck, where, with the assistance of the seamen, he removed her on board of the Windsor Castle, and in a short time had the pleasure to witness her recovery. Their first endearments over, there was an awkward question to put to a wife. After responding to her caresses, M. de Fontanges inquired, with an air of anxiety very remarkable in a Frenchman, how she had been treated. "Il n'y a pas de mal, mon ami," replied Madame de Fontanges. This was a Jesuitical sort of answer, and M. de Fontanges required further particulars. "Elle avait temporise" with the ruffian, with the faint hope of that assistance which had so opportunely and unexpectedly arrived. M. de Fontanges was satisfied with his wife's explanation; and such being the case, what passed between Jackson and Madame de Fontanges can be no concern of the reader's. As for Mimi and Charlotte, they made no such assertion; but, when questioned, the poor girls burst into tears, and, calling the captain and first lieutenant of the pirate vessel barbarians and every epithet they could think of, complained bitterly of the usage which they had received.
We left Newton floored (as Captain Oughton would have said) on the deck of the pirate vessel, and Isabel in a swoon on the poop of the Windsor Castle. They were both taken up, and then taken down, and recovered according to the usual custom in romances and real life. Isabel was the first to come to, because, I presume, a blow on the heart is not quite so serious as a blow on the head. Fortunately for Newton, the tomahawk had only glanced along the temple, not injuring the skull, although it stunned him, and detached a very decent portion of his scalp, which had to be replaced. A lancet brought him to his senses, and the surgeon pronounced his wound not to be dangerous, provided that he remained quiet.
At first Newton acquiesced with the medical adviser, but an hour or two afterwards a circumstance occurred which had such a resuscitating effect, that, weak as he was with the loss of blood, he would not resign the command of the ship, but gave his orders relative to the captured vessel, and the securing of the prisoners, as if nothing had occurred. What had contributed so much to the recovery of Newton was simply this, that somehow or another Mrs Enderby left him for a few minutes, tete-a-tete with Isabel Revel: and, during those few minutes, somehow or another, a very interesting scene occurred, which I have no time just now to describe. It ended, however, somehow or another, in the parties plighting their troth. As I said before, love and murder are very good friends; and a chop from a tomahawk was but a prelude for the descent of Love, with "healing on his wings."
The Windsor Castle lost five men killed and eleven wounded in this hard contest. Three of the Flemings were also wounded. The pirate had suffered more severely. Out of a crew of seventy-five men, as no quarter had been given, there remained but twenty-six, who had escaped and secreted themselves below, in the hold of the vessel. These were put in irons under the half-deck of the Windsor Castle, to be tried upon their arrival in England. As I may as well dispose of them at once, they were all sentenced to death by Sir William Scott, who made a very impressive speech upon the occasion; and most of them were hanged on the bank of the Thames. The polite valet of the Marquis de Fontanges hired a wherry, and escorted Mademoiselles Mimi and Charlotte to witness the "barbares" dangling in their chains; and the sooty young ladies returned much gratified with their interesting excursion.
It will be necessary to account for the reappearance of Jackson. The reader may recollect that he made sail in the boat, leaving Newton on the island which they had gained after the brig had been run on shore and wrecked. When the boat came floating down with the tide, bottom up, Newton made sure that Jackson had been upset and drowned; instead of which, he had been picked up by a Providence schooner; and the boat having been allowed to go adrift with the main-sheet belayed to the pin, had been upset by a squall, and had floated down with the current to the sand-bank where Newton was standing in the water. Jackson did not return to England, but had entered on board of a Portuguese slave-vessel, and continued some time employed in this notorious traffic, which tends so much to demoralise and harden the heart. After several voyages, he headed a mutiny, murdered the captain and those who were not a party to the scheme, and commenced a career of piracy, which had been very successful, from the superior sailing of the vessel, and the courage of the hardened villains he had collected under his command.
"Hopes, of all passions, most befriend us here; Joy has her tears, and Transport has her death: Hope, like a cordial, innocent, tho' strong, Man's heart at once inspirits and serenes; Nor makes him pay his wisdom for his joys, 'Tis all our present state can safely bear: Health to the frame and vigour to the mind, And to the modest eye, chastised delight, Like the fair summer evening, mild and sweet, 'Tis man's full cup—his paradise below."
With what feelings of delight did Newton Forster walk the deck of the Windsor Castle, as she scudded before a fine breeze across the Bay of Biscay! His happiness in anticipation was so great, that at times he trembled lest the cup should be dashed from his lips; and at the same time that he thanked God for blessings received, he offered up his prayer that his prospects might not be blighted by disappointment. How happy did he feel when he escorted Isabel on deck, and walked with her during the fine summer evenings, communicating those hopes and fears, recurring to the past, or anticipating the future, till midnight warned them of the rapidity with which time had flown away! The pirate vessel, which had been manned by the crew of the neutral and part of the ship's company of the Windsor Castle, under charge of the fourth mate, sailed round and round them, until at last the Channel was entered, and favoured with a westerly breeze, the Windsor Castle and her prize anchored in the Downs. Here Mrs Enderby and Isabel quitted the ship, and Newton received orders to proceed round to the river. Before the Windsor Castle had anchored, the newspapers were put into his hands containing a report of the two actions, and he had the gratification of acknowledging that his countrymen were not niggardly in the encomiums upon his meritorious conduct.
Newton presented himself to the Court of Directors, who confirmed his rank, and promised him the command of the first ship which was brought forward, with flattering commendations for his gallantry in protecting property of so much value. Newton took his leave of the august Leaden-all board, and hastened to his uncle's house. The door was opened by a servant who did not know him: Newton passed him, and ran up to the drawing-room, where he found Amber in company with William Aveleyn, who was reading to her the despatch containing the account of the action with Surcoeuf.
Amber sprang into his arms. She had grown into a tall girl of nearly fifteen, budding into womanhood and beauty: promising perfection, although not yet attained to it. William Aveleyn was also nearly half a foot taller; and a blush which suffused his handsome face at being surprised alone with Amber, intimated that the feelings of a man were superseding those of boyhood.
"Where is my mother?" inquired Newton.
"She is not at home, dear Newton," replied Amber; "she walked out with your father. They are both well."
"And my uncle?"
"Quite well, and most anxious to see you. He talks of nobody but you, and of nothing but your actions, which we were just reading about when you came in. Pray, Captain Newton, may I inquire after your French friends? What has become of them?"
"They are at Sablonniere's hotel, Miss Amber; they have obtained their parole at the Alien-office."
The conversation was interrupted by the return of Newton's father and mother, and shortly afterwards Mr John Forster made his appearance. After the first greetings and congratulations were over—
"Well, Newton," observed Nicholas, "so you beat off a pirate, I hear."
"No, my dear father, we boarded one."
"Ah! very true; I recollect—and you killed Surcoeuf."
"No, father, only beat him off."
"So it was; I recollect now. Brother John, isn't it almost dinner time?"
"Yes, brother Nicholas, it is; and I'm not sorry for it. Mr William Aveleyn, perhaps you'd like to wash your hands? A lad's paws are never the worse for a little clean water."
William Aveleyn blushed: his dignity was hurt: but he had lately been very intimate at Mr Forster's, and he therefore walked out to comply with the recommendation.
"Well, brother Nicholas, what have you been doing all day?"
"Doing all day, brother? really, I don't exactly know. My dear," said Nicholas, turning to his wife, "what have I been doing all day?"
"To the best of my recollection," replied Mrs Forster, smiling, "you have been asking when dinner would be ready."
"Uncle Nicholas," said Amber, "you promised to buy me a skein of blue silk."
"Did I, my dear? Well, so I did, I declare. I'm very sorry—dear me, I forgot, I did buy it. I passed by a shop where the windows were full of it, and it brought it to my mind, and I did buy it. It cost—what was it, it cost?"
"Oh! I know what it cost," replied Amber. "I gave you threepence to pay for it. Where is it?"
"If I recollect, it cost seven shillings and sixpence," replied Nicholas, pulling out, not a skein of blue silk, but a yard of blue sarsenet.
"Now, papa, do look here! Uncle Nicholas, I never will give you a commission again. Is it not provoking? I have seven shillings and sixpence to pay for a yard of blue sarsenet, which I do not want. Uncle Nicholas, you really are very stupid."
"Well, my dear, I suppose I am. I heard William Aveleyn say the same, when I came into the room this morning, because—let me see—"
"You heard him say nothing, uncle," interrupted Amber, colouring.
"Yes, I recollect now—how stupid I was to come in when I was not wanted!"
"Humph!" said John Forster; and dinner was announced.
Since the recognition of Mrs Forster by her husband, she had presided at her brother-in-law's table. The dinner provided was excellent, and was done ample justice to by all parties, especially Nicholas, whose appetite appeared to increase from idleness. Since Newton had left England he had remained a pensioner upon his brother; and, by dint of constant exertion on the part of Mrs Forster, had been drilled out of his propensity of interfering with either the watch or the spectacles. This was all that was required by Mr John Forster; and Nicholas walked up and down the house, like a tame cat, minding nobody, and nobody paying any attention to him.