I wonder whether I shall ever see it.
I said just now, let us think. I had better have said, let us not think; for thought is painful, even dangerous when carried to excess. Happy is he who thinks but little, whose ideas are so confined as not to cause the intellectual fever, wearing out the mind and body, and often threatening both with dissolution. There is a happy medium of intellect, sufficient to convince us that all is good—sufficient to enable us to comprehend that which is revealed, without a vain endeavour to pry into the hidden; to understand the one, and lend our faith unto the other; but when the mind would soar unto the heaven not opened to it, or dive into sealed and dark futurity, how does it return from its several expeditions? confused, alarmed, unhappy; willing to rest, yet restless; willing to believe, yet doubting; willing to end its futile travels, yet setting forth anew. Yet, how is a superior understanding envied! how coveted by all! a gift which always leads to danger, and often to perdition.
Thank Heaven! I have not been intrusted with one of those thorough-bred, snorting, champing, foaming sort of intellects, which run away with Common Sense, who is jerked from his saddle at the beginning of its wild career. Mine is a good, steady, useful hack, who trots along the high-road of life, keeping on his own side, and only stumbling a little now and then, when I happen to be careless,—ambitious only to arrive safely at the end of his journey, not to pass by others.
Why am I no longer ambitious? once I was, but 'twas when I was young and foolish. Then methought "It were an easy leap to pluck bright honour from the pale-faced moon;" but now I am old and fat, and there is something in fat which chokes or destroys ambition. It would appear that it is requisite for the body to be active and springing as the mind; and if it is not, it weighs the latter down to its own gravity. Who ever heard of a fat man being ambitious? Caesar was a spare man; Bonaparte was thin, as long as he climbed the ladder; Nelson was a shadow. The Duke of Wellington has not sufficient fat in his composition to grease his own Wellington-boots. In short, I think my hypothesis to be fairly borne out, that fat and ambition are incompatible.
It is very melancholy to be forced to acknowledge this, for I am convinced that it may be of serious injury to my works. An author with a genteel figure will always be more read than one who is corpulent. All his etherealness departs. Some young ladies may have fancied me an elegant young man, like Lytton Bulwer, full of fun and humour, concealing all my profound knowledge under the mask of levity, and have therefore read my books with as much delight as has been afforded by Pelham. But the truth must be told. I am a grave, heavy man, with my finger continually laid along my temple, seldom speaking unless spoken to—and when ladies talk, I never open my mouth; the consequence is, that sometimes, when there is a succession of company, I do not speak for a week. Moreover, I am married, with five small children; and now all I look forward to, and all I covet, is to live in peace, and die in my bed.
I wonder why I did not commence authorship before! How true it is that a man never knows what he can do until he tries! The fact is, I never thought that I could make a novel; and I was thirty years old before I stumbled on the fact. What a pity!
Writing a book reminds me very much of making a passage across the Atlantic. At one moment, when the ideas flow, you have the wind aft, and away you scud, with a flowing sheet, and a rapidity which delights you: at other times, when your spirit flags, and you gnaw your pen (I have lately used iron pens, for I'm a devil of a crib-biter), it is like unto a foul wind, tack and tack, requiring a long time to get on a short distance. But still you do go, although but slowly; and in both cases we must take the foul wind with the fair. If a ship were to furl her sails until the wind again was favourable, her voyage would be protracted to an indefinite time; and, if an author were to wait until he again felt in a humour, it would take a life to write a novel.
Whenever the wind is foul, which it now most certainly is, for I am writing any thing but "Newton Forster," and which will account for this rambling, stupid chapter, made up of odds and ends, strung together like what we call "skewer pieces" on board of a man-of-war; when the wind is foul, as I said before, I have, however, a way of going a-head, by getting up the steam which I am now about to resort to—and the fuel is brandy. All on this side of the world are asleep, except gamblers, house breakers, the new police, and authors. My wife is in the arms of Morpheus—an allegorical crim con, which we husbands are obliged to wink at; and I am making love to the brandy bottle, that I may stimulate my ideas, as unwilling to be roused from their dark cells of the brain as the spirit summoned by Lochiel, who implored at each response, "Leave me, oh! leave me to repose."
Now I'll invoke them, conjure them up, like little imps, to do my bidding:—
By this glass, which now I drain, By this spirit, which shall cheer you, As its fumes mount to my brain, From thy torpid slumbers rear you.
By this head, so tired with thinking, By this hand, no longer trembling, By these lips, so fond of drinking, Let me feel that you're assembling.
By the bottle placed before me, (Food for you, ere morrow's sun), By this second glass, I pour me, Come, you little beggars, route.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER FOUR.
"British sailors have a knack, Haul away, yo ho, boys, Of hauling down a Frenchman's jack 'Gainst any odds, you know, boys."—Old Song.
There was, I flatter myself, some little skill in the introduction of the foregoing chapter, which has played the part of chorus during the time that the Bombay Castle has proceeded on to Canton, has taken in her cargo, and is on her passage home, in company with fifteen other East Indiamen and several country ships, all laden with the riches of the East, and hastening to pour their treasures into the lap of their country. Millions were floating on the waters, intrusted to the skill of merchant-seamen to convey them home in safety, and to their courage to defend them from the enemy, which had long been lying in wait to intercept them. By a very unusual chance or oversight, there had been no men-of-war despatched to protect property of such enormous value.
The Indian fleet had just entered the Straits of Malacca, and were sailing in open order, with a fresh breeze and smooth water. The hammocks had been stowed, the decks washed, and the awnings spread. Shoals of albicore were darting across the bows of the different ships; and the seamen perched upon the cat-heads and spritsail-yard, had succeeded in piercing with their harpoons many, which were immediately cut up, and in the frying-pans for breakfast. But very soon they had "other fish to fry:" for one of the Indiamen, the Royal George, made the signal that there were four strange sail in the South West.
"A gun from the commodore, sir," reported Newton, who was officer of the watch. "The flags are up—they are not our pennants."
It was an order to four ships of the fleet to run down and examine the strange vessels.
Half an hour elapsed, during which time the glasses were at every mast-head. Captain Drawlock himself, although not much given to climbing, having probably had enough of it during his long career in the service, was to be seen in the main-top. Doubts, suspicions, declarations, surmises, and positive assertions were bandied about, until they were all dispelled by the reconnoitring ships telegraphing, "a French squadron, consisting of one line-of-battle ship, three frigates, and a brig." It was, in fact, the well-known squadron of Admiral Linois, who had scoured the Indian seas, ranging it up and down with the velocity as well as the appetite of a shark. His force consisted of the Marengo, of eighty guns; the famed Belle Poule, a forty-gun frigate, which outstripped the wind; the Semillante, of thirty-six guns; the Berceau, ship corvette, of twenty-two, and a brig of sixteen. They had sailed from Batavia on purpose to intercept the China fleet, having received intelligence that it was unprotected, and anticipating an easy conquest, if not an immediate surrender to their overpowering force.
"The recall is up on board of the commodore," said Mathews, the first-mate, to Captain Drawlock.
"Very well, keep a good look-out; he intends to fight, I'll answer for it. We must not surrender up millions to these French scoundrels without a tussle."
"I should hope not," replied Mathews; "but that big fellow will make a general average among our tea canisters, I expect when we do come to the scratch. There go the flags, sir," continued Mathews, repeating the number to Captain Drawlock, who had the signal-book in his hand.
"Form line of battle in close order, and prepare for action," read Captain Drawlock from the signal-book.
A cheer resounded through the fleet when the signal was made known. The ships were already near enough to each other to hear the shouting, and the confidence of others added to their own.
"If we only had all English seamen on board, instead of these Lascars and Chinamen, who look so blank," observed Newton to Mathews, "I think we should show them some play."
"Yes," growled Mathews; "John Company will some day find out the truth of the old proverb, 'Penny wise and pound foolish!'"
The French squadron, which had continued on the wind to leeward until they could fetch the India fleet, now tacked, and laid up directly for them. In the meantime, the English vessels were preparing for action: the clearing of their lumbered decks was the occasion of many a coop of fowls, or pig of the true China breed, exchanging their destiny for a watery grave. Fortunately, there were no passengers. Homeward-bound China ships are not encumbered in that way, unless to astonish the metropolis with such monstrosities as the mermaid, or as the Siamese twins, coupled by nature like two hounds (separated lately indeed by Lytton Bulwer, who has satisfactorily proved that "unity between brethren," so generally esteemed a blessing, on the contrary, is a bore). In a short time all was ready, and the India fleet continued their course under easy sail, neither courting nor avoiding the conflict.
At nightfall, the French squadron hauled to the wind; the conduct of the China fleet rendered them cautious, and the French admiral considered it advisable to ascertain, by broad daylight, whether a portion of the English ships were not men-of-war; their cool and determined behaviour certainly warranted the suspicion. It was now to be decided whether the Indiamen should take advantage of the darkness of the night to escape, or wait the result of the ensuing day. The force opposed to them was formidable and concentrated; their own, on the contrary, was weak from division, each ship not having more than sixty English seamen on board; the country ships none at all, the few belonging to them having volunteered on board the Indiamen. In this decision, Commodore Dance proved his judgment as well as his courage. In an attempt to escape, the fleet would separate; and, from the well-known superior sailing of the French squadron, most of them would be overtaken, and, being attacked single-handed, fall an easy prey to the enemy.
In this opinion the captains of the Indiamen, who had communicated during the night, were unanimous, and equally so in the resolution founded upon it, "to keep together and fight to the last." The India fleet lay to for the night, keeping their lights up and the men at their quarters; most of the English seamen sound asleep, the Lascars and Chinese sitting up in groups, expressing, in their own tongues, their fear of the approaching combat, in which, whether risked for national honour or individual property, they could have no interest.
The morning broke, and discovered the French squadron about three miles to windward. Admiral Linois had calculated that if the fleet consisted only of merchant vessels they would have profited by the darkness to have attempted to escape, and he had worked to windward during the night, that he might be all ready to pounce down upon his quarry. But when he perceived that the English ships did not attempt to increase their distance he was sadly puzzled.
The French tricolour hardly had time to blow clear from their taffrails, when the English unions waved aloft in defiance; and that Admiral Linois might be more perplexed by the arrangements of the night, three of the most warlike Indiamen displayed the red ensign, while the remainder of the ships hoisted up the blue. This ruse led the French admiral to suppose that these three vessels were men-of-war, composing the escort of the fleet.
At nine o'clock the commodore made the signal to fill; and the French squadron not bearing down, the India fleet continued its course under easy sail. The French admiral then edged away with his squadron, with the intention of cutting off the country ships, which had been stationed to leeward; but which, since the British fleet had hauled their wind, had been left in the rear. It was now requisite for the British commander to act decidedly and firmly. Captain Timmins, an officer for courage and conduct not surpassed by any in our naval service, who commanded the Royal George, edged to within hail of the commodore, and recommended that the order should be given to tack in succession, bear down in a line a-head, and engage the enemy. This spirited advice was acted upon; the Royal George leading into action, followed by the other ships in such close order that their flying jib-booms were often pointed over the taffrails of their predecessors.
In a quarter of an hour was to be witnessed the unusual spectacle of a fleet of merchant ships exchanging broadsides with the best equipped and highest disciplined squadron that ever sailed from France. In less than an hour was presented the more unusual sight of this squadron flying from the merchant ships, and the signal for a general chase answered with enthusiastic cheers.
That Admiral Linois might have supposed, previous to the engagement, that some of the British ships were men-of-war, is probable; but that he knew otherwise after they had commenced action, must also have been the case. The fact was, he was frightened at their determined courage and their decided conduct; and he fled, not from the guns, but from the men.
I do not know on record any greater instance of heroism on the part of British seamen; and I am delighted that Newton Forster was in the conflict, or of course I could not have introduced it in this work.
And now, those who read for amusement may, if they please, skip over the next chapter. There are points connected with the India service which I intend to comment upon; and as all the wisdom of the age is confined to novels, and nobody reads pamphlets, I introduce them here.
When one man is empowered to hold in check, and to insist upon the obedience of a large proportion of his fellows, it can only be by "opinion" that his authority can be supported.
By "opinion" I mean the knowledge that he is so empowered by the laws of the country to which they all belong, and by which laws they will be punished, if they act in opposition to his authority. The fiat of the individual commanding is in this case the fiat of the nation at large; to contend with this fiat is not contending with the individual, but with the nation, to whose laws they must submit, or to return to their country no more. A commander of a vessel, therefore, armed with martial law, is, in fact, representing and executing, not his own will, but that of the nation who have made the law; for he is amenable, as well as his inferiors, if he acts contrary to, or misuses it.
In the merchant service martial law is not permitted; the bye-laws relative to shipping, and the common law of the country, are supposed to be sufficient; and certainly the present system is more advisable than to vest such excessive power in the hands of men, who, generally speaking, neither require nor are fit to be entrusted with it. Where, as in the greater number of merchant vessels, the master and his subordinate officers compose one-third, if not one-half of the complement on board, nothing but the most flagrant conduct is likely to produce insubordination.
But in the East India service the case is different. The vessels themselves are of dimensions equal, if not superior, to our largest class of frigates, and they carry from thirty to forty guns; the property embarked in them is also of such an extent, that the loss almost becomes national: their commanders are men of superior attainments, as gentlemen and as officers; finally, the complement of seamen under their command is larger than on board of many of the king's ships.
The above considerations will at once establish that those bye-laws which afford protection to the well-governing of the merchant service in general, are not sufficient to maintain the necessary discipline on board of the East India ships. The greater the disproportion between the unit who commands and the numbers who obey, the greater the chance of mutiny. Sedition is the progeny of assembly. Even where grievances may be real, if there is no contact and no discussion, there will be no insubordination; but imaginary grievances, canvassed and discussed in assembly, swell into disaffection and mutiny. When, therefore, numbers are collected together, as in the vessels of the East India service, martial law becomes indispensable; and the proof of it is, that the commanders of these vessels have been forced to exercise it upon their own responsibility. A letter of marque should be granted to all vessels carrying a certain number of men, empowering the commanders, under certain sureties and penalties, to exercise this power. It would be a boon to the East India ships, and ultimately a benefit to the navy.
To proceed. The merchant ships of the Company are men-of-war; the men-of-war of the Company are—what shall I call them? By their right names—they are all Bombay Marine: but let me at once assert, in applying their own name to them as a reproach, that the officers commanding them are not included in the stigma. I have served with them, and have pleasure in stating that, taking the average, the vessels are as well officered as those in our own service; but let us describe the vessels and their crews. Most of the vessels are smaller in scantling than the run down (and constantly going down) ten-gun brigs in our own service, built for a light draft of water (as they were originally intended to act against the pirates, which occasionally infest the Indian seas), and unfit to contend with anything like a heavy sea. Many of them are pierced for, and actually carry fourteen or sixteen guns; but, as effective fighting vessels, ought not to have been pierced for more than eight I have no hesitation in asserting that an English cutter is a match for any of them, and a French privateer has, before now, proved that she was superior. The crews are composed of a small proportion of English seamen, a small proportion of Portuguese sea-cunnies, a proportion of Lascars, and a proportion of Hindoo Bombay marines. It requires two or three languages to carry on the duty; custom; religions, provisions, all different, and all living and messing separate. How is it possible that any officer can discipline a ship's company of this incongruous description, so as to make them "pull together?" In short, the vessels and the crews are equally contemptible, and the officers, in cases of difficulty, must be sacrificed to the pride and meanness of the Company. My reason for taking notice of the "Bombay Marine" arises from an order lately promulgated, in which the officers of this service were to take rank and precedence with those of the navy. Now, as far as the officers themselves are concerned, so far from having any objection to it, I wish, for their own merits and the good-will that I bear them, that they were incorporated into our navy-list; but as long as they command vessels of the above description, in the event of a war, I will put a case, to prove the absurdity and danger which may result. There is not one vessel at this present time in their service which would not be sunk by one well-directed broadside from a large frigate; yet, as many of their officers are of long standing, it is very probable that a squadron of English frigates may fall in with one of these vessels, the captain of which would be authorised by his seniority to take the command of the whole of them. We will suppose that this squadron falls in with the enemy, of equal or superior force; can the officer in command lead on the attack? If so, he will be sent down by the first broadside. If he does not, from whom are the orders to proceed during the action? The consequences would be as injurious as the arrangement is ridiculous.
The charter of the East India Company will soon expire; and if it is to be renewed, the country ought to have some indemnification for the three millions which this colony or conquest (which you please) annually draws from it. Now there is one point which deserves consideration: the constitutional protection of all property is by the nation, and as a naval force is required in India, that force should be supplied by the armaments of the nation, at the expense of the Company. I have already proved that the Bombay Marine is a useless and incompetent service: let it be abolished altogether, and men-of-war be sent out to supply their place. It is most important that our navy should be employed in time of peace, and our officers gain that practical knowledge without which the theoretical is useless. Was this insisted upon, a considerable force would be actively employed, at no expense to the country, and many officers become valuable, who now are remaining inactive, and forgetting what previous knowledge they may have acquired of their nautical duties.
At the same time, every East India ship should be compelled to take on board her whole complement of English seamen, and not be half manned by Lascars and Chinamen.
But I presume I must be careful how I attempt to legislate for that country, or I shall have two tame elephants sent after me by the man what puts his hair in papers!
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER FIVE.
"What singular emotions fill Their bosoms, who have been induced to roam, With flattering doubts, if all be well or ill, With love for many, and with fears for some!" BYRON.
The China fleet arrived without encountering any further danger; the commodore and commanders of the several ships composing the fleet received that praise from their countrymen to which their conduct had so fully entitled them. As soon as the Bombay Castle had entered the basin of the East India docks, Newton requested, and easily obtained, permission to leave the ship. He immediately directed his steps to Greenwich, that he might ascertain if his father was in existence; for he had received no letters since his departure, although he had taken several opportunities to write. It is true that he had not expected any; he knew that his father was too absent ever to think about writing to him, and his uncle much too busy to throw away any portion of his time in unnecessary correspondence.
When we approach the dwelling containing, or supposed to contain, an object of solicitude, of whose existence we are uncertain, what a thrill of anxiety pervades the frame! how quickened is the throbbing of the heart! how checked the respiration! Thus it was with Newton Forster as he raised his hand to the latch of the door. He opened it, and the first object which delighted his eyes was his father seated upon a high stool smoking his pipe, in the company of two veterans of the hospital, who had brought their old bones to an anchor upon a large trunk. They were in earnest conversation, and did not perceive the company of Newton, who waited a little while, holding the door ajar, as he contemplated the group.
One of the pensioners was speaking, and continued:—"May be, or may not be, Mr Forster, that's dubersome; but if so be as how he is alive, why you'll see him soon, that's sartain—take my word for it. A good son, as you say he was, as soon as he can get over the side of the ship, always bears up for his parent's house. With the help of your barnacles, I worked my way clean through the whole yarn, and I seed the report of killed and wounded; and I'll take my affidavy that there warn't an officer in the fleet as lost the number of his mess in that action, and a most clipping affair it was; only think of mounseer turning tail to marchant vessels! Damn my old buttons! what will our jolly fellows do next?"
"Next, Bill! why there be nothing to do, 'less they shave off the beard of the grand Turk to make a swab for the cabin of the king's yacht, and sarve out his seven hundred wives amongst the fleet. I say, I wonder how he keeps so many of them craft in good order?"
"I knows," replied the other, "for I axed the very question when I was up the Dardanelles. There be a big black fellow, a unique they calls him, with a large sword and a bag of sawdust, as always stands sentry at the door, and if so be a woman kirks up a bobbery, why plump her head goes into the bag."
"Well, that's one way to make a good woman on her; but as I was saying, Mr Forster, you mustn't be down in the mouth; a seaman as knows his duty, never cares for leave till all the work be done. I'd bet a yard of pigtail that Mr Newton—"
"Is here, my good fellow!" interrupted Newton. "My dear father!"
Nicholas sprang off his seat and embraced his son.
"My dear, dear boy! why did you not come to me before? I was afraid that you had been killed. Well, I'm glad to see you, Newton. How did you like the West Indies?"
"The East Hinges, you mean, Mr Forster.—Newton," continued the old pensioner, wiping both sides of his hand upon his blue breeches, and then extending it—"Tip us your daddle, my lad; I like to touch the flipper of one who has helped to shame the enemy, and it will be no disgrace for you to grapple with an old seaman, who did his duty as long as he had a pin to stand upon."
"With pleasure, my friend," replied Newton, taking the old man's hand, while the other veteran seized the one unoccupied, and, surveying Newton from top to toe, observed, "If your ship be manned with all such lads as you—why, she be damned well manned, that's all."
Newton laughed and turned to his father.
"Well, father, how are you?—have you been quite well? And how do you like your berth here?"
"Why, Newton, I get on much better than I did at Bristol."
"It be Liverpool he mean, Mr Newton; but your good father be a little damaged in his upper works; his memory-box is like a sieve.—Come, Bill, we be two too many. When father and son meet after a India voyage, there be much to say as wants no listeners.—Good-bye, Mr Forster; may you never want a son, and may he never want a ship!"
Newton smiled his thanks to the considerate old pensioners, as they stumped out of the door, and left him alone with his father. The communications of Nicholas were as concise as usual. He liked his situation, liked his company, had as much work as he wished for, and had enjoyed good health. When Newton entered upon pecuniary matters, which he was the sooner induced to do by observing that his father's coat and smallclothes were in a most ruinous condition, he discovered, that though the old gentleman had provided himself with money from the bankers, during the first year, to purchase a new suit of clothes, latterly he not only had quite forgotten that there were funds at his disposal, but even that he had procured the clothes, which had remained in the chest from the day they had been sent home without having been tried on.
"Dear me! now I recollect, so I did; and I put them upstairs somewhere. I was busy at the time with my improvement on the duplex."
"Have you seen much of my uncle, sir?" inquired Newton.
"Your uncle!—dear me, no! I don't know where he lives; so I waited until you came back. We'll go to-morrow, Newton, or he may think me unkind. I'll see if his watch goes well; I recollect he said it did. But, Newton, tell me all about your voyage, and the action with the French ships."
Newton entered into a detail, during which he perceived by his father's questions that his memory had become more impaired, and that he was more absent than ever. He arranged to call upon his uncle the ensuing day; and then it was his intention, without communicating it to his father, to make every inquiry and advertise to ascertain the fate of his mother. This was a duty which he had long wished to repeat; but his necessities and want of time had hitherto prevented the renewal of the task.
Early the next morning, Newton and his father went up to London by the Greenwich coach; and a walk of a few minutes after they were put down, brought them to the chambers of Mr John Forster.
"How do you do, Mr Scratton? Is my uncle at home?" inquired Mr Newton.
Mr Scratton immediately recognised him, and very graciously replied, that his uncle was at home and would be very glad to see him, having talked very often of him lately.
Newton and his father were ushered into the parlour, where he found his uncle precisely in the same position as when he last saw him;—it would almost have appeared that he had not quitted his seat during Newton's tedious voyage.
"Nephew," said Mr John Forster, without rising from his chair, "I am very glad to see you.—Brother Nicholas, I am very glad to see you too.—Chairs, Scratton," continued the old lawyer, taking his watch off the table, and placing it in his fob. "Well, nephew, I am very glad to hear such good accounts of you. I saw Mr Bosanquet yesterday, and he told me that you had for your good conduct been promoted to the rank of second-mate."
"It is more than I am aware of," replied Newton, much pleased with the information. "I am much obliged to you for the intelligence, as I am for your many other acts of kindness."
"Well, so you ought to be; it's no bad thing, as I told you before, to find out an uncle. By-the-bye, there has been some alteration in my establishment since we parted, nephew. I have a house in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and a spare bed, if you will accept of it. We dine at six; brother Nicholas, I shall be very happy to see you, if you can stay. It will be too late to go home after dinner, but you can share my nephew's bed."
"I shall be most happy to accept your kind offer for a few days, sir, if it does not incommode you," replied Newton.
"No; you will not incommode me there, but you do very much here, where I am always busy. So good-bye, my boy; I shall be at home at six. Brother Nicholas, you did not vouchsafe me an answer."
"About what, brother John?" replied Nicholas, who had been in the clouds.
"Oh, I'll tell you all about it, father," said Newton, laughing. "Come away now—my uncle is busy." And Nicholas rose up, with the observation—
"Brother John, you appear to me to read a great deal."
"Yes, I do, brother."
"How much do you read a day?"
"I really cannot say; much depends upon whether I am interrupted or not."
"It must be very bad for your eyes, brother John."
"It certainly does not improve them," replied the lawyer, impatiently.
"Come, father, my uncle is very busy," said Newton, touching Nicholas on the arm.
"Well, good-bye, brother John. I had something to say—oh! I hope you are not displeased at my not coming to see you before?"
"Humph! not in the least, I can assure you, brother Nicholas; so good-bye. Newton, you'll bring him with you at six," said Mr John Forster; and he resumed his brief before they had quitted the room.
Newton was much surprised to hear that his uncle had taken a house, and he surmised whether he had not also been induced to take a wife. He felt an inclination to put the question to Mr Scratton, as he passed through the office; but checked the wish, lest it should appear like prying into his uncle's affairs. Being the month of February, it was dark long before six o'clock, and Newton was puzzled what to do with his father until that time. He returned to the Salopian Coffee-house, opposite to which they had been put down by the Greenwich coach; and taking possession of a box, called for some biscuits and a pint of sherry; and requesting his father to stay there until his return, went out to purchase a sextant, and some other nautical luxuries, which his pay enabled him to procure without trespassing upon the funds supplied by the generosity of his uncle. He then returned to his father, who had finished the vine and biscuits, and had his eyes fixed upon the ceiling of the room; and calling a hackney coach, drove to the direction which his uncle had pointed out as his residence.
Mr John Forster had already come home, and they found him in the dining-room, decanting the wine for dinner, with Amber by his side. Newton was surprised at the appearance of a little girl; and, as he took her proffered hand, inquired her name.
"Amber. Papa says it's a very foolish name; don't you, papa?"
"Yes, my dear, I do; but now we are going to dinner, and you must go to Mrs Smith: so good-night."
Amber kissed the old lawyer, as he stooped to her; and wishing the company good-night, she left the room.
"Brother John," said Nicholas, "I really had no idea that you were a married man."
"Humph! I am not a married man, brother."
"Then pray, brother, how is it possible for that little girl to be your daughter?"
"I did not say she was my daughter: but now we will go upstairs into the drawing-room, while they put the dinner on the table."
The dinner was soon announced; the cookery was plain, but good, the wine excellent. When the dessert was placed on the table, Mr John Forster rose, and taking two bottles of port wine from the sideboard, placed them on the table, and addressed Newton.
"Nephew, I have no time to sip wine, although it is necessary that I drink it. Now, we must drink fast, as I have only ten minutes to spare; not that I wish you to drink more than you like, but I must push the bottle round, whether you fill or no, as I have an appointment, what we call a consultation, at my chambers. Pass the bottle, brother," continued the lawyer, helping himself, and shoving the decanter to Nicholas.
Nicholas, who had been little accustomed to wine, obeyed mechanically, swallowing down each glass a gorge deployee, as he was awoke from his meditations by the return of the bottle, and then filling up his glass again. Newton, who could take his allowance as well as most people, could not, however, venture to drink glass for glass with his uncle, and the bottle was passed several times without his filling. When the ten minutes had elapsed, Mr John Forster took his watch from the table, replaced it in his fob, and rose from his chair. Locking up the remainder of the wine, he quitted the house without apology, leaving his guests to entertain themselves, and order tea when they felt inclined.
"My brother seems to be very busy, Newton," observed Nicholas. "What wine was that we have been drinking? It was very strong; I declare my head turns round;" and in a few moments more Nicholas dropped his head upon the table, and was fast asleep.
Newton, who perceived that his father was affected by the wine which he had been drinking, which was, in the sum total, a pint of sherry at the coffee-house before dinner, and at least a bottle during and after his meal, thought it better that he should be allowed to take his nap. He therefore put out the candles, and went up into the drawing-room, where he amused himself with a book until the clock struck twelve. According to the regulations of the house, the servants had retired to bed, leaving a light in the passage for their master on his return, which sometimes was at a very late hour, or rather, it should be said, at a very early one. Newton lighted a chamber-candlestick, and went down into the parlour to rouse his father; but all his attempts were in vain. The wine had taken such an effect upon him, that he was in a state of lethargy. Newton observed that the servant had cleared the table, and that the fire was out: and, as there was no help for it, he removed the chairs to the end of the room, that his father might not tumble over them if he awoke in the dark, and then retired to his own bed.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER SIX.
Angels and ministers of grace defend us! ... Be thy intents wicked or charitable, Thou com'st in such a questionable shape That I will speak to thee. SHAKESPEARE.
It was past two o'clock when Mr John Forster returned from his chambers and let himself in with a pass-key. Having secured the street door, the old gentleman lighted his candle from the lamp, which he then blew out, and had his foot upon the first step of the stairs, when he was startled by a loud snore from Nicholas in the dining-room; he immediately proceeded there, and found his brother, with his heed still lying on the table.
"Humph!" ejaculated the lawyer. "Why brother Nicholas! brother Nicholas!"
Nicholas, who had nearly slept off the effects of the wine, answered with an unintelligible sort of growling.
"Brother Nicholas, I say—brother Nicholas—will you get up, or lie here all night?"
"They shall be cleaned and ready by to-morrow morning," replied Nicholas, dreaming.
"Humph! that's more than you will be, apparently.—I say, brother Nicholas."
"Yes brother," replied Nicholas, raising his head and staring at the candle. "Why, what's the matter?"
"The matter is, that I wish to go to bed, and wish to see you in bed before I go myself."
"Yes, brother John, if you please, certainly. Where's my bed? I do believe I have been asleep."
"Humph! I have no doubt upon the subject," replied John Forster, lighting another candle. "Come this way, brother Nicholas," and they both ascended the stairs.
When Mr John Forster arrived at the door of his own room, on the first story, he stopped. "Now, brother Nicholas, are you quite awake? Do you think that I may trust you with a candle?"
"I should hope so," replied Nicholas; "I see that it is silver, but I hope I'm honest, brother John."
"Humph! I mean, can I trust you to put it out?"
"Yes, I think that you may. Pray which is my room?"
"The first door on the left, when you are at the top of the stairs."
"The first door."
"Yes, the first on the left; do you understand?"
"Yes, brother, I do; the first door on the left."
"Very well; then I wish you a good-night."
"Good-night, brother," replied Nicholas, ascending the stairs as John Forster entered his room.
Nicholas arrived at the head of the stairs; but his brain was not very clear. He muttered to himself "I think I'm right—yes, I'm right—the first door—to the right—yes—that's it," and instead of the room to the left, where Newton was, he walked into the one to the right, which appertained to the housekeeper, Mrs Smith.
The old lady was fast asleep. Nicholas threw off his clothes, put out his candle, and stepped into bed without waking the old lady, whom he supposed to be his son, and in a few minutes they snored in concert.
The morning dawned. The watchmen (London nightingales) ceased their notes and retired to their beds. The chimney-sweeps (larks of the metropolis) raised their shrill cry as they paced along with chattering teeth. House-maids and kitchen-maids presented their back views to the early passengers, as they washed off the accumulation of the previous day from the steps of the front door. "Milk below," (certainly much below "proof"), was answered by the assent of the busy cooks, when a knock at the door of Mrs Smith's room from the red knuckles of the housemaid, awoke her to a sense of her equivocal situation.
At her first discovery that a man was in her bed, she uttered a scream of horror, throwing herself upon her knees, and extending her hands before her in her amazement. The scream awoke Nicholas, who, astonished at the sight, and his modesty equally outraged, also threw himself in the same posture, facing her, and recoiling. Each looked aghast at each: each considered the other as the lawless invader; but before a word of explanation could pass between them, their countenances changed from horror to surprise, from surprise to anxiety and doubt.
"Why!" screamed the housekeeper, losing her breath with astonishment.
"It is!" cried Nicholas, retreating further.
"Yes—yes—it is—my dear Nicholas!"
"No—it can't be," replied Nicholas, hearing the fond appellation.
"It is—oh yes—it is your poor unhappy wife, who begs your pardon, Nicholas," cried the housekeeper, bursting into tears, and falling into his arms.
"My dear—dear wife!" exclaimed Nicholas, as he threw his arms around her, and each sobbed upon the other's shoulder.
In this position they remained a minute, when Mr John Forster, who heard the scream and subsequent exclamations, and had taken it for granted that his brother had been guilty of some contre temps, first wiped the remaining lather from his half-shaved chin, and then ascended to the housekeeper's room from whence the noise had proceeded. When he opened the door, he found them in the position we have described, both kneeling in the centre of the bed embracing and sobbing. They were so wrapped in each other, that they did not perceive his entrance. Mr John Forster stared with amazement for a few seconds, and thus growled out:—
"Why, what are you two old fools about?"
"It's my husband, sir,"—"It's my wife, brother John," cried they, both at once, as the tears coursed down their cheeks.
"Humph!" ejaculated the lawyer, and he quitted the room.
We must let the reader imagine the various explanations which took place between Nicholas and his truly reformed wife, Newton and his uncle, Amber, and every body in the household, while we narrate the events which had brought about this singular denouement.
The reader may recollect that we left Mrs Forster in the lunatic asylum, slowly recovering from an attack of the brain-fever, which had been attended with a relapse. For many weeks she continued in a state of great feebleness, and during that time, when, in the garden, in company with other denizens of this melancholy abode (wishing to be usefully employed), she greatly assisted the keepers in restraining them, and, in a short time, established that superiority over them, which is invariably the result of a pane intellect. This was soon perceived by Doctor Beddington, who (aware of her destitute condition) offered her a situation as nurse in the establishment, until the inspecting magistrates should make their appearance, with the promise that she might continue in it afterwards, if she thought proper. This proposal was accepted by Mrs Forster, until she might resolve what course to take, and she soon! became a most invaluable person in the establishment, effecting more by lenient and kind treatment than the keepers were able to do by their violence. So completely changed was Mrs Forster in disposition, that so far from feeling any resentment against those who had been the means of her confinement, she acknowledged to herself that her own conduct had been the occasion of her misfortune, and that those who had contributed to open her eyes to her former insanity, were her best friends. She was humbled, and unhappy; but she kissed the rod. All that she now wished was to find out her husband, and by her future conduct to make reparation for the past. One of the gaolers, at her request, made every inquiry as to the part of England Nicholas had removed; but it was without success. All trace was lost, and Mrs Forster accepted the situation of nurse, until she might be enabled to prosecute her search, or obtain the intelligence which she desired.
For nine months Mrs Forster remained on the establishment, during which time she had saved a sum of money sufficient for her support and travelling expenses. She then resolved to search after her husband, whose pardon for her previous conduct seemed to be the sine qua non for which she continued to exist. She took leave of the doctor; and, strange to say, it was with feelings of regret that she quitted an abode, once the source of horror and disgust: but time reconciles us to every thing, and she made a half promise to Dr Beddington, that if she could not hear any tidings of her husband, or should discover that he was no more, that she would return to the situation.
Mrs Forster directed her course to London; why, or wherefore, she hardly knew; but she had imbibed the idea that the metropolis was the most likely place to meet with him. Her first inquiries were about any families of the name of Forster; but the Directory gave such an enormous list of Forsters, of all trades and callings, and in every situation in life, that she closed it with despair. She had a faint recollection that her husband (who was not very communicative, and least of all to her), had stated that he had a brother alive somewhere; but this was all that she knew. Nevertheless, she set about her task in good earnest, and called upon every one of the name in the middling classes of life, to ascertain if they were relations of her husband. There were many in high life whose names and addresses she had obtained from the Red-book; but to them she dared not apply. All she could do was to question the servants; but every answer was unsatisfactory; and Mrs Forster, whose money was nearly expended, had serious thoughts of returning to the lunatic establishment, when the advertisement in the newspapers of Mr Scratton, for a housekeeper, which Mr John Forster had desired him to procure, met her, eye. Unwilling to leave London, she applied for, and obtained the situation, having received an excellent character from Doctor Beddington, to whom she had written and explained her views.
Her heart leapt when she discovered that her master's name was Forster; and when she first saw him she could not but persuade herself that there was a family likeness. The germs of hope were, however, soon withered, when Amber, in answer to her inquiries, stated, that Mr Forster had a brother lately dead, who had never been married, and that she never heard of his having another. Her fellow-servants were all as strange as herself; and Mrs Forster (who had assumed the name of Smith) was obliged to have recourse to that patience and resignation which had been so severely inculcated. The charge of Amber soon proved a source of delight; the control which she had over the household a source of gratification (not as before, for the pleasure of domineering, but for the sake of exercising kindness and forbearance), and Mrs Forster was happy and resigned.
It may be surmised as strange, that during the period which she remained in this capacity, she had never heard mention made of her husband or her son; but it must be remembered that Nicholas had never called upon his brother, and that Newton was in the East Indies; and, moreover, that Mr John Forster was just as little inclined to be communicative as her husband. Indeed, he never came in contact with his housekeeper, except to pay the bills, which was regularly once a month, when he called her down after dinner, and after the accounts were settled, offered her a glass of wine, as a proof of his being satisfied with her conduct. When Newton and his father arrived at the chambers on the day before the discovery, and were invited to dinner, his note of communication was as laconic as usual.
"Mrs Smith—I have invited two gentlemen to dine with me to-day, six precisely."
"PS. Let the spare bed be ready."
Mrs Forster prepared every thing as directed, and having done her duties below, retired to her room, where she usually sat with Amber. She did not therefore see the parties when they entered; and Amber, who had run down to meet her protector, heard nothing during her short stay in the room, to suppose that they were relatives of Mr John Forster. All that she had to communicate was, that the parties were an elderly gentleman and a very handsome young man.
Yet, even this simple communication caused the pulse of Mrs Forster to accelerate. They might be her husband and her son. It was the first time the spare bed had been ordered. Reflection, however convinced her that her hopes were strung upon too slight a thread; and, musing on the improbability of not having ascertained during a year the fact of her master having so near a relative—moreover, her son was not in existence, she sighed, and dismissed the idea as ridiculous. Before the gentlemen had finished their wine, Amber was in bed, and Mrs Forster invariably sat at the side of it until her own hour of repose had arrived. A certain indefinable curiosity still remained lurking; yet, as she could not gratify it without intrusion (if the strangers were still up), she retired to bed, with the reflection, that all her doubts would be relieved in the morning; and, after lying awake for some hours in a state of suspense, she at last fell into that sound sleep, which is usually produced by previous excitement. How she was awakened from it, the reader has been already informed.
"It's rather awkward, Newton," said Mr John Forster, about ten days afterwards. "I cannot do without your mother, that's certain: but what am I to do with your father? Humph! Well, she must take charge of him as well as Amber. She must teach him—"
"Teach him what, sir?" replied Newton, laughing.
"Teach him what? Why to leave my watch and spectacles alone. I dare not lay them down for a moment."
"I think we may teach him that, sir, if it is all that you require."
"I ask no more: then he may go about the house like a tame rabbit. When will your ship be ready, boy?"
"In about a fortnight, sir. I called upon Captain Oughton the day before yesterday, but he was not at home. His steward gave me the information."
"What is the name of the ship?"
"The Windsor Castle, sir."
"Why all the India ships appear to be called Castles. Your last ship was the Bombay Castle I think?"
"Yes, sir: there are a great many of them so named:—they really are floating castles."
"And full of ladies. You 'castle your queens,' as they do at chess. Humph!"
A pun from Mr John Forster was a rarity: he never had been known to make one before: and Newton asserts that he never heard him guilty of it afterwards. It deserves, therefore, bad as it was, to be recorded.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER SEVEN.
But to stick to my route 'Twill be hard, if some novelty can't be struck out. Is there no Algerine, no Kamschatkan arrived? No plenipo-pacha, three tail'd and three wived? No Russian, whose dissonant, consonant name Almost rattles to fragments the trumpet of fame? POSTSCRIPT.
By the bye, have you found any friend who can construe That Latin account, t'other day, of a monster? If we can't get a Russian—and that story in Latin Be not too improper, I think I'll bring that in. MOORE.
A few mornings after this colloquy with his uncle, Newton was very busy perambulating the streets of London, in search of various requisites for his trip to India, when his hand was seized before he had time to call to mind the features of the party who shook it with such apparent warmth.
"My dear Mr Forster, I am so delighted to see you, so happy to hear of your gallant adventure with the French squadron. Mrs Plausible will be quite pleased at meeting her old shipmate; she often talks about you. I must make sure of you," continued the doctor, drawing from his pocket a large packet of cards, and inserting, at the top of one of them, Newton Forster's name with his pencil. "This is an invitation to our conversazione of to-morrow night, which you must do us the honour to accept. We shall have all the scientific men of the day, and a very pretty sprinkling of nobility, if not something more. However, you will see. Shall I tell Mrs Plausible that you will come, or will you disappoint her?"
"Why," replied Newton, "if I possibly can I will. I presume the hour is not very precise?"
"O no, from nine until two or three; but if you wish to see great people, about eleven is the exact time."
"Well, then," replied Newton, "the time which suits great people also suits me. I hope Mrs Plausible is quite well."
"Quite well, I thank you. Good-bye;" and Dr Plausible hurried off so quickly, that Newton was induced to look after him, to ascertain what could induce such precipitation. He perceived Dr Plausible shaking hands warmly with another gentleman, and after a few seconds, the packet of cards was again pulled out of his pocket, and the pencil in requisition. It will be necessary to go back a little, to acquaint the reader with what had occurred since the acceptation of Dr Plausible by Miss Tavistock, when they were on board of the Bombay Castle. On their arrival at Madras, Miss Tavistock's early and dearest friend, who resided in the up-country, had commissioned an acquaintance to receive Miss Tavistock until they could make arrangements for her journey to the interior. By this female acquaintance Miss Tavistock was kindly welcomed, and received into her house; but Miss Tavistock's prospects having altered, so had all her devoted attachments to the friend of her early years. She wrote, announcing her intended change of condition, and regretting that Dr Plausible's affairs, requiring his immediate presence in England, would prevent her having the delight of embracing one, who was so entwined round her heart. The letter was nevertheless very cold, and Miss Tavistock was very much abused by her dearest friend, who, disappointed in her expectations, did not even condescend an answer. In a week Miss Tavistock was united to Dr Plausible, and in less than a fortnight afterwards they were on their passage home. Dr Plausible found that his wife's report of her circumstances was correct, and that now he had the means of keeping his carriage and of seeing company in moderation. Shortly after their return Dr Plausible took the lease of a house in a betwixt and between fashionable street, and not wishing to remain idle, attempted to get into practice as an accoucheur; for although the fortune brought by his wife was considerable, still, to keep his carriage in London, he was obliged "to sail nearer to the wind," in other points than he found agreeable: moreover he was ambitious. A night-bell, with "night-bell" in capital letters over it, that people might be aware in the broad day that it was a night-bell, which of course they could not read in the dark, was attached to one side of the street door. It was as loud as an alarum-bell, and when rung, was to be heard from Number 12 to Number 44, in the street where Dr Plausible resided.
There are little secrets in all trades; and one is, how to obtain practice as a medical man, which whole mystery consists in making people believe that you have a great deal. When this is credited, practice immediately follows; and Dr Plausible was aware of the fact. At first setting off the carriage drew up to the door occasionally, and stood there for some time, when the doctor made his appearance, and stepped in. He then took a round of about three hours through every fashionable part of the town, sitting well forward, that every body might see him, apparently examining his visiting-book. At times he would pull up at some distinguished person's door, where were two or three carriages before him, and getting out, would go in to the porter to ask some frivolous question. Another ruse was, to hammer at some titled mansion, and inquire for another titled person, by mistake. This occupied the morning; after which Doctor Plausible returned home. During the first month the night-bell was rung two or three times a week by the watchman, who was fee'd for his trouble; but after that period it increased its duties, until it was in motion once, if not twice, every night, and his disturbed neighbours wished Doctor Plausible and his extensive practice at the devil. The carriage also was now rattled to the door in a hurry, and Doctor Plausible was seen to enter with his case of instruments, and drive off with rapidity, sometimes twice a day. In the mean time Mrs Plausible did her part, as she extended her acquaintance with her neighbours. She constantly railed against a medical husband; declared that Doctor Plausible was never at home, and it was impossible to say at what hour they might dine. The tables also were strewed with the cards of great and fashionable people, obtained by Doctor Plausible from a celebrated engraver's shop, by a douceur to the shopman, when the master was absent. At last Doctor Plausible's instruments were used in good earnest; and, although not known or even heard of in the fashionable world, he was sent for by the would-be fashionables, because they imagined that he was employed by their betters. Now it so happened that in the same street there lived another medical man, almost a prototype of Doctor Plausible, only not quite so well off in the world. His name was Doctor Feasible. His practice was not extensive, and he was incumbered with a wife and large family. He also very naturally wished to extend his practice and his reputation; and, after many fruitless attempts, he at last hit upon a scheme which he thought promised to be successful.
"My dear," said he, one morning to his wife, "I am thinking of getting up a conversazione."
"A conversazione, my love!—why, is not that a very expensive affair?"
"Why, not very. But if it brings me practice, it will be money well laid out."
"Yes, my love, if it does, and if we had the money to lay out."
"Something must be done. I have hardly a patient left. I have an idea that it will succeed. Go, my dear, and make up this prescription, and let the boy take it to Mrs Bluestone's. I wish I had a couple of dozen of patients like her.—I write her prescriptions, take my fee, and then, that I may be sure that it is properly made up, I volunteer to take it to the chemist's myself."
"Pray, what is the complaint of Mrs Bluestone, my love?"
"Nothing; she over-eats herself—that's all. Abernethy would cure her in twenty-four hours."
"Well, but, my love, about this conversazione?"
"Go, and make up the prescription, my dear, and we'll talk the matter over afterwards."
They did so. A list of the people they were acquainted with was drawn out, the expense calculated, and the affair settled.
The first point to be considered was the size of the cards.
"These, my love," said Mrs Feasible, who came in from a long walk with her bonnet still on, "these are three shillings and sixpence a hundred; and these, which are a size larger, are four-and-sixpence. Which do you think we ought to have?"
"Why, really, my dear, when one sends out so many, I do not see why we should incur unnecessary expense. The three-and-sixpenny ones are quite large enough."
"And the engraving will be fourteen shillings."
"Well, that will only be a first expense. Conversazione, in old English, of course."
"And here, my love, are the ribbons for the maid's caps and sashes; I bought them at Waterloo House, very cheap, and a very pretty candle-light colour."
"Did you speak to them about their gowns?"
"Yes, my love; Sally and Peggy have each a white gown, Betty I can lend one of my own."
The difference between a conversazione and a rout is simply this:—in the former you are expected to talk or listen; but to be too ethereal to eat. In the latter, to be squeezed in a crowd, and eat ices, etcetera, to cool yourself. A conversazione has, therefore, a great advantage over the latter, as far as the pocket is concerned, it being much cheaper to procure food for the mind than food for the body. It would appear that tea has been as completely established the beverage of modern scientific men, as nectar was formerly that of the gods. The Athenaeum gives tea; and I observed in a late newspaper, that Lord G—- has promised tea to the Geographical Society. Had his lordship been aware that there was a beverage invented on board a ship much more appropriate to the science over which he presides than tea, I feel convinced he would have substituted it immediately; and I therefore take this opportunity of informing him that sailors have long made use of a compound which actually goes by the name of geograffy, which is only a trifling corruption of the name of the science, arising from their laying the accent on the penultimate. I will now give his lordship the receipt, which is most simple.
Take a tin-pot, go to the scuttle-butt (having obtained permission from the quarter-deck), and draw off about half a pint of very offensive smelling water. To this add a gill of vinegar and a ship's biscuit broke up into small pieces. Stir it well up with the fore-finger; and then with the fore-finger and thumb you may pull out the pieces of biscuit, and eat them as fast as you please, drinking the liquor to wash all down.
Now this would be the very composition to hand round to the Geographical Society. It is not christened geography without a reason; the vinegar and water representing the green sea, and the pieces of biscuit floating in it, the continents and islands which are washed by it.
Now, my lord, do not you thank me for my communication?
But we must return to the conversazione of Doctor and Mrs Feasible.
The company arrived. There was rap after rap. The whole street was astonished with the noise of the wheels and the rattling of the iron steps of the hackney-coaches. Doctor Feasible had procured some portfolios of prints: some Indian idols from a shop in Wardour Street, duly labelled and christened, and several other odds and ends, to create matter of conversation. The company consisted of several medical gentlemen and their wives, the great Mr B—-, and the facetious Mr C—-. There were ten or twelve authors, or gentlemen suspected of authorship, fourteen or fifteen chemists, all scientific of course, one colonel, half-a-dozen captains, and, to crown all, a city knight and his lady, besides their general acquaintance, unscientific and unprofessional. For a beginning this was very well; and the company departed very hungry, but highly delighted with their evening's entertainment.
"What can all that noise be about?" said Mrs Plausible to her husband, who was sitting with her in the drawing-room, reading the Lancet, while she knotted, or did not.
"I am sure I cannot tell, Mrs Plausible."
"There, again! I'm sure if I have heard one, I have heard thirty raps at a door within this quarter of an hour. I'm determined I will know what it is," continued Mrs Plausible, getting up and ringing the bell.
"Thomas, do you know what all that noise is about?" said Mrs Plausible, when the servant answered the bell.
"No, ma'am, I doesn't."
"Well, then, go and see."
The impatience of Mrs Plausible, during the absence of Thomas, increased with the repetition of the knocks.
"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 Mr 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 a 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 Dr 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 two-pence 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. Every thing 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 Doctor 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 hands; "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 up stairs 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 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!"
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER EIGHT.
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 thickset, his face broad, and deeply pitted with the small-pox, his nose an apology for a nose, being a small tubercle arising mid-way 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 trust-worthy 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 quarterdeck. Before they had taken a dozen turns up and down, Captain Oughton inquired if Newton could handle the mauleys; and on being answered 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 the passage, who were standing on the gangway and booms; "every man Jack, with his tin pot in his hand, and his great-coat 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. O! 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 North East 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 mean time, two pair 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 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 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 de-camp, 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.
"O 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 make four," observed one of the seamen.
Lieutenant Winterbottom had another party on the lee-side of the quarter-deck. "Ram down—cartridge.—Number 12, slope your musket a little more—too—too—only two taps at the bottom of the barrel. Return—ramrods. Number 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 Number 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 files—mark time—right—left—right—left—forward."
"Them ere chaps 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 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 quarterdeck.
"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—damn 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 un-pleasant 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 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 conversation.
"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'm wounded or taken prisoner, and cannot do any thing 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 now-a-days, 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 un-necessary, 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 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 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.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER NINE.
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. MOORE.
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 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.