As soon as he was clear of the surf, and out of the masulah boat, Newton hired a conveyance, and drove out to the bungalo of the old colonel. He trembled as he announced his name to the butler, who ushered him half way to the receiving room; and, like most of the natives, finding some difficulty in pronouncing English, contented himself with calling out "burrah saib," and then walked off. Newton found himself in the presence of the old veteran and Isabel. The latter had been reading a new publication, which she laid down at the voice of the butler announcing a visitor. But "burrah saib" may be any body; it implies a gentleman. What then was the surprise of Isabel, who had no intimation of his arrival, when Newton Forster made his appearance? Her exclamation of delight, as she ran to him and extended her hand, made Newton Forster but too happy; and, as for a few seconds he held the hand not withdrawn, and looked in her beaming eyes, he quite forgot the presence of the colonel. A glance from the eye of Isabel in the direction where the old gentleman was seated, brought Newton to his recollection. He walked up to the colonel, who shook hands, and declared that he was most glad to see him.
"You take up your quarters here, of course, Mr Forster?"
"I shall have great pleasure in availing myself of your kind offer for a day or two," replied Newton. "I trust that you have been in good health since we parted."
"Not very; that is, latterly. I am thinking of a change of climate. I intend to go home in October. I suppose you have been informed that the two young women have married?"
"I was told so by some one who came on board."
"Yes. Isabel, my dear, order a chamber for Mr Forster." Isabel left the room. "Yes, both married—thought of nothing else—regularly came out on spec. In less than a month they knew the exact rank of every gentleman in the presidency; ascertained their prospects, and the value of their appointments; turned the rupees into pounds sterling; broke off a conversation with an ensign at the sight of a lieutenant; cut the lieutenant for a captain; were all smiles for a major; and actually made love themselves to any body who was above that rank, and a bachelor. They made their decision at last; indeed pretty quick. They were only four months on my hands. Both up the country now."
"I trust they have married well, sir?"
"That depends upon circumstances. They have married young men not used to the climate. May be widows in half a year. If their husbands weather it, of course they will come in for their share of the good things; but I'll warrant they will never be able to leave the country."
"Not leave the country, sir! May I ask why?"
"Because they have married foolish, extravagant wives, who will run them in debt; and when once in debt, it is no easy matter in this country to get out of it. They must insure their lives for the money which they borrow; and as the house of agency will be gainers by their demise, of course they will not be permitted to leave the country and their chance of the cholera morbus. Don't you think that my niece looks remarkably well?"
"I do; the climate does not appear to have affected her."
"Rather improved her," replied the colonel; "she is not so thin as when she came on shore. God bless her! I'm sure, Mr Forster, I am under great obligations to you for having persuaded me to go for the dear girl when she arrived. She has been a treasure to me! If she has had one, she has had twenty offers since you left; many unexceptionable; but she has refused them all. In some instances I have persuaded her—I thought it was my duty. But no; she has but one answer, and that is a decided one. She will not leave me. She has watched and attended me in my sickness as my own daughter. I say again, God bless her!"
It was with delight that Newton heard these encomiums upon Isabel, and, her resolution not to marry. Whether it was wholly on account of not wishing to leave the colonel or not, still every delay gave him more chance of ultimate success. Isabel, who had stayed away that the colonel might have time to make any communications to Newton, now returned, and the conversation became general. Newton entered into a narrative of what had occurred during his passage home, and amused them with his anecdotes and conversation.
In about an hour the colonel rose from his chair that he might prepare for dinner; and then it was that Newton perceived the great change which had taken place. He was no longer upright but bowed down; his step was no longer firm, it was almost tottering; and, as he left the room, Newton's eyes met those of Isabel.
"You think him ill?" said Isabel, inquiringly.
"Yes, I do, Miss Revel. He is very much changed; his stamina appears to have been exhausted by the climate. I trust he will go home, as he proposes."
"He has been ill—very ill indeed. He talks constantly of going home; he has done so for months; but when the time comes he puts it off. I wish you would persuade him."
"I will do all I can; but if you cannot prevail, I'm afraid that my persuasion will be of little use."
"Indeed, I think otherwise; you have power over him, Mr Forster. I have not forgot how kindly you exercised it in my behalf. We—that is," continued Isabel, colouring up, "the colonel has often talked of you since you quitted us."
"I feel highly flattered by his remembrance," replied Newton; "but you are in mourning, Miss Revel. If not a liberty from one who feels an interest in all concerning you, may I inquire for whom?"
"It is for my father," replied Isabel, with emotion, sitting down and passing her hand across her eyes.
"I never heard of his death, and must apologise for having been so indiscreet as to renew your sorrow. How long is it since? and what was his complaint?"
"He had no complaint—would to God that he had had! He was shot in a duel," replied Isabel, as the tears coursed down her cheeks. "Oh! Mr Forster, I trust I am resigned to the dispensations of Providence, but— that he should be summoned away at the moment when he was seeking the life of his fellow-creature, with all the worst passions in excitement— unprepared—for he was killed on the spot. These reflections will make his death a source of bitter regret, which can terminate but with existence."
"Your mother is still alive?" inquired Newton, to change the painful subject.
"Yes, but very ill; the last accounts were very distressing; they say that her complaint is incurable."
Newton regretted having brought up so painful a subject. A few words of condolence and sympathy were offered, and they separated to prepare for dinner.
Newton remained four days under the roof of the colonel, during which time he was constantly in the society of Isabel; and when the period of his departure arrived, he had just grounds to imagine that were all obstacles in other points removed, Isabel Revel would not, on her part, have raised any against the accomplishment of his wishes; but their mutual dependent situations chased away all ideas of the kind for the present, and although they parted with unconcealed emotion, not a word which could be construed into a declaration of attachment was permitted to escape his lips.
The Windsor Castle sailed for Calcutta, and in a few days anchored at Kedgeree to wait for a pilot to come down the river. During their short stay at this anchorage, Mr Williams, the first-mate, who was an old Indian voyager, went on shore every evening to follow up his darling amusement of shooting jackals, a description of game by no means scarce in that quarter of the world. Often remonstrated with for his imprudence in exposing himself to the heavy night-dew he would listen to no advice. "It was very true," he acknowledged, "that his brother had died of a jungle fever in pursuing the same amusement, and what was more, the fowling-piece in his hand belonged to his brother, who had bequeathed it to him; but as he had never heard of two brothers dying from a jungle fever taken by shooting jackals, he considered that the odds were strongly in his favour." This argument, however specious, did not prove good. The third morning he returned on board, complaining of a head-ache and shivering. He was bled and put into his bed, which he never left again.
Before the Windsor Castle was ready to sail, the remains of Mr Williams were consigned to the burying-ground at Diamond Harbour, and Newton Forster was promoted to the rank of first-mate of the Windsor Castle. This, as will hereafter be proved, was a most fortunate occurrence to Newton Forster. The Windsor Castle sailed with leave to call at Madras for letters or passengers, and in a few days was again at anchor in the roadstead. The first intelligence which they received upon their arrival was, that the cholera morbus had been very fatal, and that among others, the old colonel had fallen a victim to the disease. Newton again obtained permission to go on shore to Isabel. He found her in distress at the house of a Mrs Enderby, a lady who had lost her husband by the same ravaging epidemic, and who had long been the intimate friend of the colonel and of Isabel. Mrs Enderby was about to return to England by the first vessel, and had advised Isabel to take so favourable an opportunity of a chaperone. Isabel, who had many reasons for wishing to leave the country, particularly the declining state of her mother's health, had consented; and it was with great pleasure that she received from Newton the information of the best cabins of the Windsor Castle not having been hitherto engaged.
The colonel's will had been opened. He had bequeathed his property, the whole of which, with the exception of his establishment in India, was invested in the English funds, to his grand-niece Isabel Revel. It amounted to nearly seventy thousand pounds. It would be difficult to say whether Newton Forster felt glad or sorry at this intelligence. For Isabel's sake, he undoubtedly was glad, but he could not but feel that it increased the distance between them, and on that account, and on that alone, his reflections were painful. "Had it," thought he, "been five thousand, or even ten thousand pounds, it would have been different. In the course of a few years I might have been able to produce an equivalent to it, and—but this fortune has raised her above my hopes; even if she had a prepossession in my favour, it would be dishonest to take advantage of it."
Isabel Revel had very different feelings on the subject;—she was her own mistress, and her manner to Newton was more cordial, more confidential than before. She had not forgotten that Newton had shown the same regard and partiality for her when she was going out to India; and afterwards, when in distress, he had been her friend and admirer when in adversity. She knew his feelings towards her, and she had appreciated his delicacy and forbearance. Lately she had seriously analysed her own, and her analysis was wound up by a mental acknowledgment, that her wealth would be valueless, if she could not share it with Newton Forster.
At the request of Mrs Enderby, the poop cabins were engaged for Isabel and herself. Their time for preparation was short; but one day more having been obtained from Captain Oughton, through the influence of Newton, Mrs Enderby and Isabel embarked, and the Windsor Castle spread her canvas, sailing away from pestilence and death.
Newton Forster—by Captain Marryat
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER TEN.
"Britannia needs no bulwark, No towers along the steep, Her march is o'er the mountain waves, Her home is on the deep." CAMPBELL.
The Windsor Castle ploughed through the vast ocean of waters before a propitious gale, laden with treasure, in the safe arrival of which so many were interested. But what were all the valuables stowed away in her frame, in the opinion of Newton Forster, in comparison with the lovely being who had intrusted them with her safe conduct to her native country! The extreme precautions adopted or suggested by Newton for security during the night—his nervous anxiety during the day—became a source of laughter and ridicule to Captain Oughton; who once observed to him,—"Newton, my boy, I see how the land lies, but depend upon it the old ship won't tumble overboard a bit sooner than before; so one reef in the top-sails will be quite sufficient."
Indeed, although they "never mentioned it," it was impossible for either of them to disguise their feelings. Their very attempts at concealment only rendered them more palpable to everyone on board. Captain Oughton, who was very partial to Newton, rejoiced in his good fortune. He had no objection to young people falling or being in love on board of his ship, although he would not have sanctioned or permitted a marriage to take place during the period that a young lady was under his protection. Once landed on Deal beach, as he observed, they might "buckle to" as soon as they pleased.
The Windsor Castle was within two hundred miles of the Mauritius, when a strange vessel was discovered on the weather beam, bearing down to them with all the canvas she could spread. Her appearance was warlike; but what her force might be, it was impossible to ascertain at the distance she was off, and the position which she then offered, being then nearly "end on."
"Can you make out her hull, Mr Forster?" cried Captain Oughton, hailing Newton, who was at the mast-head with a glass.
"No, sir; her fore-yard is but now clear of the water, but she rises very fast."
"What do you think of her spars, Forster?" said Captain Oughton to Newton, who had just descended to the last rattling of the main-rigging.
"She is very taut, sir, and her canvas appears to be foreign."
"I'll bet you what you please it's that damned fellow Surcoeuf. This is just his cruising-ground, if the report of that neutral vessel was correct."
"Another hour will decide the point, sir," replied Newton; "but I must say I think your surmise likely to prove correct. We may as well be ready for him: a cruiser she certainly is."
"The sooner the better, Mr Forster. He's but a 'rum customer,' and 'a hard hitter' by all accounts. Clear up the decks, and beat to quarters."
The strange vessel came down with such rapidity that, by the time the captain's orders were obeyed, she was not more than two miles distant.
"There's 'in studding-sails,'—and in devilish good style too!" observed Captain Oughton. "Now we shall see what he's made of."
The vessel rounded to the wind as soon as she had reduced her sails, on the same tack as the Windsor Castle, displaying her broadside, as the French would say, herisee des canons.
"A corvette, sir," said Newton, reconnoitring through his glass; "two-and-twenty guns besides her bridle ports. She is French rigged;— the rake of her stern is French;—in fact, she is French all over."
"All Lombard Street to a China orange, 'tis Surcoeuf," replied Captain Oughton, who, with the rest of his officers, had his glass upon the vessel. "There goes the tricoloured flag to prove I've won my bet. Answer the challenge. Toss my hat up.—Pshaw! I mean hoist the colours there abaft. Mr Thomas," continued Captain Oughton, addressing the boatswain, "send the ship's company aft.—Forster, you had better see the ladies down below."
At the summons of the boatswain, the men came aft, and stood in a body on the leeside of the quarterdeck, with their hats off, and impatience in their looks.
"Now, my lads," said Captain Oughton, "if I am not mistaken, that vessel is commanded by the very best seaman that ever left a French port, and to do him justice, he's a damnation fine fellow!—a severe punisher, and can take a mauling as well as give one."
"Yes, sir, so can we," replied several of the men together.
"I know you can, my lads; and give and take is fair play. All I say is, let it be a fair stand up fight, and 'may the best man win.' So now, my lads, if you're ready to come to the scratch, why, the sooner we peel the better—that's all."
"Hurrah!" cried the seamen, as they separated to their quarters; and, in compliance with the injunctions of the captain, threw off their jackets, and many of them their shirts, to prepare for the conflict.
The corvette, after she had rounded to, and exchanged colours, reduced her sails to precisely the same canvas as that carried by the Windsor Castle. This was to try her rate of sailing. In a quarter of an hour, her superiority was manifest. She then hauled up her courses, and dropped to her former position on the Windsor Castle's weather-beam.
"The fellow has the heels of us, at all events," observed Captain Oughton; "but, Forster, the ladies are not yet below. Mrs Enderby, I am sorry to be obliged to put you in confinement for a short time. Miss Revel, you must do me the favour to accept of Mr Forster's convoy below the water-line."
Newton offered his arm to Isabel, and followed Captain Oughton, who escorted Mrs Enderby. His heart was swelling with such variety of feeling that he could not at first trust himself to speak. When they had descended the ladder, and were picking their way, stepping over the rammers, sponges, and tackles, stretched across the main-deck, Newton observed—"This is not the first time I have been commissioned to place you in security. I trust I shall again have the pleasure of relieving you from your bondage."
Isabel's lips quivered as she replied, "I trust in God that you may, Mr Forster!—but—I feel more anxious now than I did on the former occasion. I—"
"I have a foreboding," interrupted Newton, "that this day's work is to make or mar me! Why, I cannot tell, but I feel more confident than the chances would warrant; but farewell, Isabel—God bless you!"—and Newton, pressing her hand, sprang up the ladder to his station on the quarter-deck.
I have before observed that a man's courage much depends upon his worldly means or prospects. A man who has much to lose, whatever the property may consist of, will be less inclined to fight than another whose whole capital consists of a "light heart and a thin pair of breeches." Upon the same reasoning, a man in love will not be inclined to fight as another. Death then cuts off the sweetest prospects in existence. Lord St. Vincent used to say that a married man was damned for the service. Now (bating the honeymoon), I do not agree with his lordship. A man in love may be inclined to play the Mark Antony; but a married man, "come what will, he has been blessed." Once fairly into action, it then is of little consequence whether a man is a bachelor, or married, or in love; the all-absorbing occupation of killing your fellow-creatures makes you for the time forget whether you are a beggar or a prince.
When Newton returned on deck, he found that the corvette had gradually edged down until nearly within point-blank range.
"Shall we lay the main-topsail to the mast?" observed Newton. "We shall see his manoeuvres."
"Why, he hardly would be fool enough to bear down to us," replied Captain Oughton; "he is a determined fellow, I know; but I believe not a rash one. However, we can but try. Square the main-yard."
As soon as the Windsor Castle was hove-to, the courses of the enemy were seen to flutter a few moments in the breeze, and then the canvas was expanded. When the vessel had gathered sufficient way, she hove in stays, and crossed the Windsor Castle on the opposite tack.
"I thought so," observed Captain Oughton. "The fellow knows what he is about. He'll not 'put his head in chancery,' that's clear. How cautious the rascal is! It's very like the first round of a fight—much manoeuvring and wary sparring before they begin to make play."
The corvette stood on the opposite tack until well abaft the beam. She then wore round, and ranged up on the weather quarter of the Indiaman. When within two cables' length of the Windsor Castle, who had, a little before, filled her main-topsail to be in command, the Frenchman hauled up his foresail, and discovered his lower rigging manned by the ship's company, who gave a loud but hasty cheer, and then disappeared.
One cock crowing is a challenge, sure to be answered, if the antagonist is game. The English seamen sprang up to return the compliment, when Captain Oughton roared out, "To your guns, you fools! Hard down with the helm—fly the jib-sheet—check headbraces—look out now, my lads."
The corvette had already put her helm up and paid off to pass under the stern of the Windsor Castle, with the intention, of raking her. The promptitude of Captain Oughton foiled the manoeuvre of the Frenchman; which would have been more fatal had the English seamen been in the rigging to have been swept off by his grape-shot. As the Windsor Castle was thrown upon the wind, an exchange of broadsides took place, which, according to the usual custom of all well regulated broadsides in close conflict, cut away a certain proportion of the spars and rigging, and cut up a proportion of the ships' companies. The Windsor castle, worked by Newton, bracing round on the other tack, and the corvette rounding to on the same, the two vessels separated for a few minutes.
"Devilish well stopped, Newton, wasn't it?" said Captain Oughton, showing his white teeth. "Look out again—here she comes."
The corvette again attempted to rake as she ranged up after tacking, by throwing herself up in the wind; but Captain Oughton, watching the slightest variation of his adversary's career, gradually edging away, and then putting his helm up, manoeuvred that the broadsides should again be exchanged. This second exchange was more effectual than the first.
"A stomacher, and both down!" cried Captain Oughton, as he surveyed the deck. "Be quick, Newton, hand the men below. Don't bring her to the wind yet, he has lost his way by luffing up, and cannot make play again for a few minutes."
After the second broadside, the vessels were much further apart, from the Windsor Castle running off the wind, while the corvette was too much crippled to work with her usual rapidity. This was convenient to both parties, as the last broadside had been very mischievous. The Frenchman, low in the water, had suffered less in her hull and ship's company, but more in her spars and rigging. The foremast was nearly cut in half by the carronade shot of her antagonist; her mainyard was badly wounded, and her wheel knocked to atoms, which obliged them to steer on the lower deck. The Windsor Castle had received five shots in her hull, three men killed, and six wounded; three of her main shrouds cut in two, and her mizzenmast badly wounded.
It was a quarter of an hour before the Frenchman returned to the attack. Captain Oughton had again hauled his wind, as if not wishing to decline the combat; which, indeed, the superior sailing of his antagonist prevented. The corvette appeared to have given up manoeuvring; whether from the crippled state of her spars and sails, or from perceiving that he had hitherto gained nothing by his attempts. He now ranged up to within two cables' lengths of the Windsor Castle, and recommenced the action, broadside to broadside.
The breeze was lulled by the concussion of the air; and both vessels continued in the same position, and at the same distance for upwards of an hour, pouring in their broadsides, every shot of which was effectual.
"Now, this is what I call a reg'lar set-to. Fire away, my lads," cried Captain Oughton, rubbing his hands. "A proper rally this. Damn it, but he's game!"
The wounded mizzen-mast of the Windsor Castle received another shot in the heart of it, which threw it over the side. Every part of her hull proved the severe and well directed fire of the enemy; her sails were as ragged as Jeremy Didler's pocket-handkerchief; her remaining masts pitted with shot; the bulwarks torn away in several places; the boats on the booms in shivers; rigging cut away fore and aft, and the ends swinging to and fro with the motion of the vessel; her decks in confusion; and some of her guns, from necessity, deserted. Captain Oughton, Newton, and the rest of the officers, continued to encourage the men, giving them assistance in working the guns; and the ship's company appeared to have fully imbibed the bull-dog spirit of their commander.
The fire of the Windsor Castle had been equally destructive. The vessels had gradually neared each other in the calm; and the height of the Windsor Castle out of the water, in comparison with the corvette, had given her the advantage in sweeping the decks of the enemy. The contending vessels were in this situation, when, for a minute or two, a cessation of firing took place, in consequence of the accumulation of smoke, which had so completely enshrouded them both that they knew not where to direct their guns; and they waited until it should clear away, that the firing might recommence. A light air gradually swept the veil to leeward, and discovered both vessels to each other, at the distance of half a cable's length. Captain Oughton was with Newton on the poop, and the commander of the French corvette was standing on the hammock nettings of his own vessel. The latter took off his hat, and courteously saluted his adversary. Captain Oughton answered the salutation; and then waving his hat, pointed to the English colours, which had been hoisted at the main; as much as to say, "They never shall come down!" The Frenchman (it was Surcoeuf) did the same to the tricolour, and the action recommenced.
"Well done, my lads!" cried Captain Oughton; "well done! that broadside was a staggerer—right into his ribs. Hurrah now, my hearts of oak! this fellow's worth fighting. Aim at his foremast—another broadside will floor it. It's on the reel. Newton, jump forward, and—"
But the order was stopped by a grape-shot, which struck Captain Oughton in the breast. He staggered and fell from the poop to the quarter-deck. Newton leapt down, and went to him. The torrents of blood from his breast at once told the tale: and Newton called to some of the men, that his commander might be taken below.
"Wait a moment, my dear lad," said Captain Oughton, faintly, and catching his breath at every word; "it's a finisher—can't come to time—I die game." His head fell on his breast, and the blood poured out of his mouth.
Newton directed the body to be taken into the cuddy, that the men might not be dispirited by the sight. He then hastened to the poop, that he might reconnoitre the enemy. He perceived that the corvette had hauled on board his tattered courses, and was standing ahead of them.
"He's off, sir," cried one of the quarter-masters.
"I suspect not," replied Newton, who had his glass to his eye, looking upon the decks of the French vessel. "They are preparing to board, and will be round again in five minutes. Cutlasses and pikes ready— forward, my lads, all of us! We must beat them off!"
"And will, too," cried the seamen, as in obedience to their orders, they collected on the forecastle. But they mustered thin; nearly half of the ship's company were either lying dead or under the hands of the surgeon; and, as Newton surveyed his little force, fatigued as they were with their exertions, black with powder, stained with blood, and reeking with perspiration, he could not but acknowledge how heavy were the odds against the attack of a vessel so well manned as the corvette appeared to be. Newton said but a few words; but they were to the point; and he had the satisfaction to perceive, as they grasped their cutlasses, that if their numbers were few and their frames exhausted, their spirit was as unsubdued as ever.
The corvette had in the meantime run ahead on a wind, about a mile, when she wore round, and was now standing right on to the Windsor Castle, and had neared to within three cables' lengths. A few minutes were to decide the point. Her courses were again hauled up, and discovered her lee fore-rigging, bowsprit, cat-heads, and forecastle, crowded with men ready for the dash on board, as soon as the vessels should come in contact Newton stood on one of the forecastle guns surrounded by his men; not a word was spoken on board of the Windsor Castle, as they watched their advancing enemy. They were within a cable's length of each other, and Newton could plainly distinguish the features of the gallant Surcoeuf, who was in advance on the knight-heads, when a puff of wind, which at any other time would not have occasioned the starting of a royal sheet, took the sails of the corvette; and her wounded foremast, laden with men in the lee-rigging, unable to bear the pressure, fell over the side, carrying with it the maintop-mast, and most of the crew, who had been standing in the rigging, and leaving the corvette an encumbered wreck. A loud shout from the forecastle of the Windsor Castle announced that the English seamen were but too well aware of their desperate situation, and that they hailed the misfortune of the Frenchmen as their deliverance.
"Now, my lads, be smart," cried Newton, as he sprang aft to the wheel, and put up the helm; "man the flying jib-halyards (the jib was under the forefoot); let go the main-top bowling; square the main-yard. That will do; she's paying off. Man your guns; half a dozen broadsides, and it's all our own."
The sun had disappeared below the horizon, and the shades of evening had set in, before this manoeuvre had been accomplished. Several broadsides were poured into the corvette, which had the desired effect of crippling her still more, and her encumbered condition prevented any return. At last the night hid both vessels from each other; and the breeze freshening fast, it was necessary that the remaining masts of the Windsor Castle should be properly secured. The guns were therefore abandoned; and during the time the seamen were employed in knotting the rigging and bending the spare sails, Newton consulted with his brother officers, who were unanimous in agreeing that all had been done that could be expected, and that to wait till the ensuing day, when the corvette would have repaired her damages, would be attended with a risk of capture, which the valuable property entrusted to their charge would never authorise. It was not until past midnight that the Windsor Castle was in a condition to make sail; but long before this, Newton had contrived to leave the deck for a few minutes to communicate with Isabel. With most of the particulars, and with the death of Captain Oughton, she had already been made acquainted; and if there could be any reward to Newton, for his gallantry and his prudence, more coveted than another, it was the affectionate greeting with which he was welcomed and congratulated by Isabel, her eyes beaming with tears of delight as they glanced from his face, and were shrouded on the deck.
Love and murder make a pretty mixture, although as antithetical as the sweet and acid in punch,—a composition which meets the approbation of all sensible, discriminating people. But I shall leave the reader to imagine all he pleases, and finish the chapter by informing him that, when the sun again made his appearance, the corvette was not to be discovered from the mast-head. The guns were therefore properly secured; the decks washed; a jury mizzen-mast stuck up abaft; Captain Oughton, and the gallant fellows who had fallen in the combat, committed to the deep with the usual ceremonies; the wounded made as comfortable as possible in their hammocks; the carpenters busied with the necessary repairs; and the Windsor Castle, commanded by Newton Forster, running before a spanking breeze, at the rate of eight knots per hour.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER ELEVEN.
Ships are but boards, sailors but men; There be land rats, and water rats, water thieves, And land thieves; I mean pirates. SHAKESPEARE.
Most prophetical was the remark made by Newton Forster to Isabel previous to the action; to wit, that it would make or mar him. The death of Captain Oughton, and the spirited defence of the Windsor Castle, were the making of Newton Forster. As a subordinate officer he might have been obliged to toil many years before he could have ascended to the summit of the ladder of promotion; and during the time which he remained in that situation, what chance had he of making an independence, and proposing for the hand of Isabel Revel? But now, that by a chain of circumstances peculiarly fortuitous, he was in command of an East Indiaman, returning home after having beat off a vessel of equal if not superior force, and preserved a cargo of immense value, he felt confident that he not only would be confirmed to his rank which he was now called upon to assume, but that he had every prospect of being employed. As a captain of an Indiaman, he was aware that reception into society, wealth, and consideration awaited him; and, what made his heart to swell with gratitude and exultation, was the feeling that soon he would be enabled to aspire to the hand of one to whom he had so long been ardently attached.
As the Windsor Castle plunged through the roaring and complaining seas, with all the impetus of weight in motion, Newton's eyes were radiant with hope, although his demeanour towards Isabel was, from the peculiar circumstances attending their situation, more delicately reserved than before.
When the Windsor Castle touched at St. Helena, Newton had the good fortune to obtain a supply of able seamen, more than sufficient for the remanning of his ship. They had been sent there in an empty brig by a French privateer, who had captured many vessels, and had been embarrassed with the number of her prisoners. Having obtained the stores which were required, Newton lost no time in prosecuting his voyage to England.
It was about a fortnight after they had quitted St. Helena that a strange sail was reported on the starboard bow; and, as they neared her, it was evident that her foremast was gone, and that she was otherwise in a disabled state.—When the Indiaman was within a mile, the stranger threw out neutral colours, and hoisted a whiff, half-mast down, as a signal that she was in distress. Newton ordered the ship to be kept away, and when alongside of the vessel, lowered down a boat, and sent the third mate to ascertain what assistance could be afforded. With sailors, thank God! distress, is sufficient to obtain assistance, and the nation or country are at once merged in that feeling of sympathy for those misfortunes, which may perhaps but the next hour befall ourselves. The boat returned, and the officer informed Newton that the vessel was from the Island of Bourbon, bound to Hamburgh;—that she had been dismasted and severely injured in a gale off the Cape of Good Hope; and that when her mast went over the side, one half of her crew, who were up at the time on the fore-yard had been cast overboard and drowned: that from the want of men and material, they had been unable to rig an effective jury-mast, and had in consequence been so long on their passage, that their provisions and water were nearly expended. The officer concluded by stating, that there were a French lady and two gentlemen, with their attendants, who had taken their passage home in the vessel. Newton immediately went down the side, and pulled on board of the vessel to ascertain what assistance could be afforded. When he arrived on board, he was met by the Flemish captain, who commenced a statement of his misfortunes and his difficulties, when the French lady, who, unobserved by Newton, had come up the companion-ladder, screamed out as she ran into his arms—
"Ah! mon Dieu!—c'est Monsieur Nu-tong!"
Newton looked at the lady, who had burst into tears, as her face laid upon his shoulder, and immediately recognised his former kind and affectionate friend, Madame de Fontanges: close to him, with his hand extended, was her generous husband. The meeting was joyful, and Newton was delighted that circumstances had enabled him to render assistance to those who had been so kind to him in his former distress.
"Oh! Monsieur Nu-tong, nous avons tant soufferts! Ah! mon Dieu!—point de l'eau—rien a manger," cried Madame de Fontanges; then smiling through her tears, "mais ce rencontre est charmant;—n'est ce pas mon ami?" continued the lady, appealing to her husband.
"You do not remember Monsieur le Marquis?" said Monsieur de Fontanges to Newton, Newton turned his head, and recognised the governor of Guadaloupe, who had expressed such sympathy at his shipwreck, and had sent him away in the cartel instead of detaining him as a prisoner.
The vessel was indeed in a deplorable condition, and had she not received the timely assistance now afforded, would in all probability have soon been a scene of horror and of suffering. They had not more than three days' water remaining on board, and provisions barely sufficing for three days. Newton hastened to send back the boat with orders for an immediate and ample supply of these necessaries, in case of bad weather coming on, and preventing further communication. Satisfied that their immediate wants were relieved, Newton took leave of his friends for the present, and returned on board of his own ship, despatching his carpenters and part of his crew to the immediate refit of the vessel, and then selecting a part of every thing that the Windsor Castle contained in her store-rooms or on her decks, which he thought would administer to the comfort or the luxury of the passengers on board of the neutral.
In two hours, they, who were in a state bordering upon famine, found themselves revelling in plenty. Before night, the English seamen had a jury-mast up, and the sails set. The Hollanders on board would have given their assistance, but they were told to remain on deck and make up for lost time, which they acquiesced in very readily, eating and drinking as if they were determined to lay in a stock for the remainder of the voyage. Newton, who had returned on-board of the neutral to superintend the repairs and enjoy the society of his old friends, received from them a long account of what had occurred since their separation. At nightfall he took his leave, promising to continue under easy sail and remain with them for a day or two, until they were satisfied that all was right, and that they no longer required his assistance.
The narrative obtained by Newton may be thus condensed for the information of the reader. The Marquis de Fontanges had been appointed from the government of Guadaloupe, to that of the Island of Bourbon, which was considered of more importance. Monsieur and Madame de Fontanges accompanied him to his new command; and they had remained there for two years, when the ruling powers, without any ground, except that the marquis had received his appointment from the former government, thought proper to supersede him. Frigates were not so plentiful as to spare one for the return of an ex-governor; and the marquis being permitted to find his way home how he could, had taken advantage of the sailing of the Hamburgher, to return to Europe or to France, or as he might find it advisable.
For two days, during which the weather was so fine that Madame de Fontanges and the gentlemen went on board of the Windsor Castle, and were introduced to the ladies, Newton continued under easy sail, each day despatching to the neutral every thing which his gratitude could suggest; but, as Newton was most anxious to proceed on his voyage, it was agreed that the next morning they should part company. At the close of the evening a strange sail was observed on the weather-beam; but, as she carried no foretop-gallant sail, and appeared to be steering the same course as the Windsor Castle, she excited but a momentary observation, supposing that she was some homeward-bound neutral, or a merchant vessel which had separated from her convoy. During the night, which was dark, the moon being in her first quarter, the officer of the middle-watch lost sight of their protegee; but this was to be expected, as she did not carry a light. Before morning the wind fell, and when the sun arose it was a perfect calm. The officer of the watch, as the day dawned, went on the poop, surveying the horizon for their companion, and discovered her six or seven miles astern, lying alongside of the strange vessel which they had seen the day before. Both vessels, as well as the Windsor Castle, were becalmed. He immediately went down to Newton, acquainting him with the circumstance, which bore a very suspicious appearance. Newton hastened on deck; with his glass he could plainly distinguish that the stranger was a vessel of a low, raking description, evidently no merchant-man, but built for sailing fast, and in all probability a privateer. The man at the mast-head reported that boats were constantly passing between the two vessels, Newton, who felt very anxious for the safety of his friends, accepted the offer of the second-mate to take the gig, and ascertain what was going on. In little more than an hour the gig was seen from the mast-head to arrive within half a mile of the vessels, and shortly afterwards the smoke from a gun, followed by a distant report. The gig then winded, and pulled back towards the Windsor Castle. It was in a state of great excitement that Newton waited for her return, when the second-mate informed him that on his approach he discovered that she was a flush vessel, pierced for fourteen guns, painted black, and apparently well manned; that she evidently, to use a nautical term, was "gutting the neutral;" and that, as they had witnessed, on their boat coming within range, the vessel had fired a round of grape, which fortunately fell short of them. She had shown no colours; and, from her appearance and behaviour (as all privateers respect neutrals), he had no doubt that she was the pirate vessel, stated, when they were at St. Helena, to be cruising in these latitudes. Newton was of the same opinion; and it was with a heavy heart that he returned to the cabin, to communicate the unpleasant intelligence to Mrs Enderby and Isabel.
There is nothing more annoying in this world than the will without the power. At any time, a vessel becalmed is considered a very sufficing reason for swearing by those who are on board of her. What then must have been the feelings of Newton, lying on the water in a state of compelled inaction, while his friends were being plundered, and perhaps murdered by a gang of miscreants before his eyes! How eagerly and repeatedly did he scan the horizon for the coming breeze! How did Hope raise her head at the slightest cat's paw that ruffled the surface of the glassy waters! Three successive gales of wind are bad enough; but three gales blowing hard enough to blow the devil's horns off are infinitely preferable to one idle, stagnant, motionless, confounded calm, oppressing you with the blue devils, and maddening you with the fidgets at one and the same time.
At last, as the sun descended, the breeze sprung up, first playing along the waters in capricious and tantalising airs, as if uncertain and indifferent in its infancy to which quarter of the compass it should direct its course. The ship again answered her helm; her head was put the right way, and the sails were trimmed to every shift which it made, to woo its utmost power. In a quarter of an hour it settled, blowing from a quarter which placed them to-windward of, and they carried it down with them to within two miles of the stranger and the neutral, who still remained becalmed. But, as the wind freshened, it passed a-head of them, sweeping along the surface, and darkening the colours of the water, until it reached the vessels to leeward; one of which, the one that Newton was so anxious to get along-side of, immediately took advantage of it, and, spreading all her canvas, soon increased her distance. When the Windsor Castle arrived abreast of the neutral, the stranger was more than two miles to leeward. A little delay was then necessary to ascertain what had occurred. Newton, who perceived Monsieur de Fontanges on the deck, shouting to them and wringing his hands, rounded to, lowered down a boat, and pulled on board of the neutral. The intelligence communicated was distressing. The strange vessel was a pirate, who had plundered them of every thing, had taken away Madame de Fontanges, Mimi and Charlotte, her two female attendants. The captain of the pirates had wounded, and severely beaten Monsieur de Fontanges, who had resisted the "enlevement" of his wife; and, after having cut away all the standing rigging, and nearly chopped through the masts with axes, they had finished their work by boring holes in the counter of the vessel; so that, had not Newton been able to come up with her, they must all have perished during the night.
There was no time to be lost; the Marquis de Fontanges, Monsieur de Fontanges, and the crew, were hurried on board of the Windsor Castle (the pirate had taken care that they should not be delayed in packing up their baggage,) and Newton, as soon as he returned on board, and hoisted up his boat, crowded every stitch of canvas in pursuit of the pirate, who was now more than four miles distant. But, although the wind gradually increased, and was thus far in their favour, as they first benefited by it, yet, as the sun went down, so did their hopes descend. At night-fall the pirate had, increased her distance to seven miles. Newton pursued, watching her with a night-glass until she could no longer be distinguished. Still, their anxiety was so great, that no one went to bed on board of the Windsor Castle. When the day broke, the pirate was not to be discovered in any quarter of the horizon from the mast-head of the Windsor Castle.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER TWELVE.
She stood a moment as a Pythoness Stands on her tripod, agonised and full Of inspiration gather'd from distress, When all the heart-strings, like wild horses, pull The heart asunder; then, as more or less Their speed abated or their strength grew dull, She sunk down on her seat by slow degrees, And bow'd her throbbing head o'er trembling knees. BYRON.
It was with deep regret that Newton gave directions for the ship's head to be again directed on her course to England; but the property under his charge was of too great value to warrant risking it by cruising after the pirates, the superior sailing of whose vessel afforded no hopes of success. The melancholy situation of Madame de Fontanges threw a gloom over the party, which was communicated even to the seamen; while the anguish of Monsieur de Fontanges, expressed with all the theatrical violence characteristic of his nation, was a source of continual reminiscence and regret. They had been four days on their voyage, making little progress with the light and baffling winds, when they were shrouded in one of those thick fogs which prevail in the latitude of the Cape de Verds, and which was rendered more disagreeable by a mizzling rain.
On the sixth day, about twelve o'clock, the horizon cleared to the northward, and the fog in that quarter was rolled away by a strong breeze which rippled along the water. Newton, who was on deck, observed the direction of the wind to be precisely the reverse of the little breeze to which their sails had been trimmed; and the yards of the Windsor Castle were braced round to meet it. The gust was strong, and the ship, laden as she was, careened over to the sudden force of it, as the top-gallant sheets and halyards were let fly by the directions of the officer of the watch. The fog, which had still continued thick to leeward, now began to clear away; and, as the bank dispersed, the Marquis de Fontanges, who was standing on the poop by the side of Newton, cried out "Voila un batiment!" Newton looked in the direction pointed out, and discovered the hull of a vessel looming through the fog, about a quarter of a mile to leeward of the Windsor Castle. One minute's scrutiny convinced him that it was the pirate, who, not having been expeditious in trimming his sails, laid in irons, as seamen term it, heeling over to the blast. The Windsor Castle was then running free, at the rate of four miles an hour.
"Starboard the helm—all hands to board—steady so. Be smart, my lads— it's the pirate—port a little. Hurrah! my lads—be quick, and she's all our own. Quartermaster, my sword—quick!"
The crew, who were all on deck, snatched their cutlasses from the capstern-head, in which they were inserted, and before three minutes elapsed, during which the pirate had not time to extricate himself from his difficulty, were all ready for the service. They were joined by the Flemish sailors belonging to the neutral vessel, who very deliberately put their hands in their breeches-pockets and pulled out their knives, about as long as a carpenter's two-foot rule, preferring this weapon to any thing else.
Monsieur de Fontanges, bursting with impatience, stood with Newton at the head of the men. When the collision of the two vessels took place, the Windsor Castle, conned so as not to run down the pirate, but to sheer alongside, stove in the bulwarks of the other, and carried away her top masts, which, drawn to windward by the pressure on the back-stays, fell over towards the Windsor Castle, and, entangling with her rigging, prevented the separation of the two vessels.
"No quarter, my friends!" cried Monsieur de Fontanges, who darted on board of the pirate vessel at the head of some men near the main-rigging, while Newton and the remainder, equally active, poured down upon his quarter.
Such had been the rapidity of the junction, and such the impetuosity of the attack, that most of the pirates had not had time to arm themselves, which, considering the superiority of their numbers, rendered the conquest more equal. A desperate struggle was the result; the attacked party neither expecting, demanding, nor receiving quarter. It was blow for blow, wound for wound, death to one or both. Every inch of the deck was disputed, and not an inch obtained until it reeked with blood. The voices of Newton and Monsieur de Fontanges, encouraging their men, were answered by another voice—that of the captain of the pirates, which had its due effect upon the other party, which rallied at its sound. Newton, even in the hurry and excitement of battle, could not help thinking to himself that he had heard that voice before. The English seamen gained but little ground, so obstinate was the resistance. The pirates fell; but, as they lay on the deck, they either raised their exhausted arms to strike one last blow of vengeance before their life's blood had been poured out, or seized upon their antagonists with their teeth in their expiring agonies. But a party, who, from the sedateness of their carriage, had hitherto been almost neutral, now forced their way into the conflict. These were the Flemish seamen, with their long snick-a-snee knives, which they used with as much imperturbability as a butcher professionally employed. They had gained the main rigging of the vessel, and, ascending it, had passed over by the catharpins, and descended with all the deliberation of hears on the other side, by which tranquil manoeuvre the pirates were taken in the flank; and, huddled as they were together, the knives of the Flemings proved much more effective than the weapons opposed to them. The assistance of the Flemings was hailed with a shout from the English seamen, who rallied, and increased their efforts. Newton's sword had just been passed through the body of a tall powerful man, who had remained uninjured in the front of the opposing party since the commencement of the action, when his fall discovered to Newton's view the captain of the vessel, whose voice had been so often heard, but who had hitherto been concealed from his sight by the athletic form which had just fallen by his hand. What was his astonishment and his indignation when he found himself confronted by one whom he had long imagined to have been summoned to answer for his crimes—his former inveterate enemy, Jackson!
Jackson appeared to be no less astonished at the recognition of Newton, whom he had supposed to have perished on the sand-bank. Both mechanically called each other by name, and both sprung forward. The blow of Newton's sword was warded off by the miscreant; but at the same moment that of Monsieur de Fontanges was passed through his body to the hilt. Newton had just time to witness the fall of Jackson, when a tomahawk descended on his head; his senses failed him, and he laid among the dead upon the deck.
There was a shriek, a piercing shriek heard when Newton fell. It passed the lips of one who had watched, with an anxiety too intense to be portrayed, the issue of the conflict;—it was from Isabel, who had quitted the cabin at the crash occasioned by the collision of the two vessels, and had remained upon the poop "spectatress of the fight." Where were no fire arms used; no time for preparation had been allowed. There had been no smoke to conceal—all had been fairly presented to her aching sight. Yes! there she had remained, her eye fixed upon Newton Forster, as, at the head of his men, he slowly gained the deck of the contested vessel. Not one word did she utter; but, with her lips wide apart from intensity of feeling, she watched his progress through the strife, her eye fixed—immoveably fixed upon the spot where his form was to be seen; hope buoyant, as she saw his arm raised and his victims fall—heart sinking, as the pirate sword aimed at a life so dear. There she stood like a statue—as white as beautiful—as motionless as if indeed she had been chiselled from the Parian marble; and, had it not been from her bosom heaving with the agony of tumultuous feeling, you might have imagined that all was as cold within. Newton fell—all her hopes were wrecked—she uttered one wild shriek, and felt no more.
After the fall of Jackson the pirates were disheartened, and their resistance became more feeble. Monsieur de Fontanges carved his way to the taffrail, and then turned round to kill again. In a few minutes the most feeble-hearted escaped below, leaving the few remaining brave to be hacked to pieces, and the deck of the pirate vessel was in possession of the British crew. Not waiting to recover his breath, Monsieur de Fontanges rushed below to secure his wife. The cabin-door was locked, but yielded to his efforts, and he found her in the arms of her attendants in a state of insensibility. A scream of horror at the sight of his bloody sword, and another of joy at the recognition of their master, was followed up with the assurance that Madame had only fainted, Monsieur de Fontanges took his wife in his arms, and carried her on deck, where, with the assistance of the seamen, he removed her on board of the Windsor Castle, and in a short time had the pleasure to witness her recovery. Their first endearments over, there was an awkward question to put to a wife. After responding to her caresses, Monsieur de Fontanges inquired, with an air of anxiety very remarkable in a Frenchman, how she had been treated. "Il n'y a pas de mal, mon ami," replied Madame de Fontanges. This was a jesuitical sort of answer, and Monsieur de Fontanges required further particulars. "Elle avoit temporisee" with the ruffian, with the faint hope of that assistance which had so opportunely and unexpectedly arrived. Monsieur de Fontanges was satisfied with his wife's explanation; and such being the case, what passed between Jackson and Madame de Fontanges can be no concern of the reader's. As for Mimi and Charlotte, they made no such assertion; but, when questioned, the poor girls burst into tears, and, calling the captain and first-lieutenant of the pirate barbarians, and every epithet they could think of, complained bitterly of the usage which they had received.
We left Newton floored (as Captain Oughton would have said) on the deck of the pirate vessel, and Isabel in a swoon on the poop of the Windsor Castle. They were both taken up, and then taken down, and recovered according to the usual custom in romances and real life. Isabel was the first to come to, because, I presume, a blow on the heart is not quite so serious as a blow on the head. Fortunately for Newton, the tomahawk had only glanced along the temple, not injuring the skull, although it stunned him, and detached a very decent portion of his scalp, which had to be replaced. A lancet brought him to his senses, and the surgeon pronounced his wound not to be dangerous, provided that he remained quiet.
At first Newton acquiesced with the medical adviser, but an hour or two afterwards a circumstance occurred, which had such a resuscitating effect, that, weak as he was with the loss of blood, he would not resign the command of the ship, but gave his orders relative to the captured vessel, and the securing of the prisoners, as if nothing had occurred. What had contributed so much to the recovery of Newton, was simply this, that somehow or another Mrs Enderby left him for a few minutes tete a tete with Isabel Revel; and, during those few minutes, somehow or another, a very interesting scene occurred, which I have no time just now to describe. It ended, however, somehow or another, in the parties plighting their troth. As I said before, love and murder are very good friends; and a chop from a tomahawk was but a prelude for the descent of Love, with "healing on his wings."
The Windsor Castle lost five men killed and eleven wounded in this hard contest. Three of the Flemings were also wounded. The pirate had suffered more severely. Out of a crew of seventy-five men, as no quarter had been given, there remained but twenty-six, who had escaped and secreted themselves below, in the hold of the vessel. These were put in irons under the half-deck of the Windsor Castle, to be tried upon their arrival in England. As I may as well dispose of them at once, they were all sentenced to death by Sir William Scott, who made a very impressive speech upon the occasion; and most of them were hanged on the bank of the Thames. The polite valet of the Marquis de Fontanges hired a wherry, and escorted Mademoiselles Mimi and Charlotte to witness the "barbares" dangling in their chains; and the sooty young ladies returned, much gratified with their interesting excursion.
It will be necessary to account for the re-appearance of Jackson. The reader may recollect that he made sail in the boat, leaving Newton on the island which they had gained after the brig had been run on shore and wrecked. When the boat came floating down with the tide, bottom up, Newton made sure that Jackson had been upset and drowned; instead of which, he had been picked up by a Providence schooner; and the boat having been allowed to go adrift with the main-sheet belayed to the pin, had been upset by a squall, and had floated down with the current to the sand-bank where Newton was standing in the water. Jackson did not return to England, but had entered on board of a Portuguese slave-vessel, and had continued some time employed in this notorious traffic, which tends so much to demoralise and harden the heart. After several voyages, he headed a mutiny, murdered the captain and those who were not a party to the scheme, and commenced a career of piracy, which had been very successful, from the superior sailing of the vessel, and the courage of the hardened villains he had collected under his command.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER THIRTEEN.
Hopes of all passions, most befriend us here; Joy has her tears and Transport has her death: Hope, like a cordial, innocent, tho' strong. Man's heart at once inspirits and serenes; Nor makes him pay his wisdom for his joys. 'Tis all our present state can safely bear: Health to the frame and vigor to the mind, And to the modest eye, chastised delight, Like the fair summer evening, mild and sweet, 'Tis man's full cup—his paradise below. YOUNG.
With what feelings of delight did Newton Forster walk the deck of the Windsor Castle, as she scudded before a fine breeze across the Bay of Biscay! His happiness in anticipation was so great, that at times he trembled lest the cup should be dashed from his lips; and at the same time that he thanked God for blessings received, he offered up his prayer that his prospects might not be blighted by disappointment. How happy did he feel when he escorted Isabel on deck, and walked with her during the fine summer evenings, communicating those hopes and fears, recurring to the past, or anticipating the future, till midnight warned them of the rapidity with which time had flown away! The pirate vessel, which had been manned by the crew of the neutral and part of the ship's company of the Windsor Castle, under charge of the fourth-mate, sailed round and round them, until at last the Channel was entered, and, favoured with a westerly breeze, the Windsor Castle and her prize anchored in the Downs. Here Mrs Enderby and Isabel quitted the ship, and Newton received orders to proceed round to the river. Before the Windsor Castle had anchored, the newspapers were put into his hands containing a report of the two actions, and he had the gratification of acknowledging that his countrymen were not niggardly in the encomiums upon his meritorious conduct.
Newton presented himself to the Court of Directors, who confirmed his rank, and promised him the command of the first ship which was brought forward, with flattering commendations for his gallantry in protecting property of so much value. Newton took his heave of the august Leaden-hall board, and hastened to his uncle's house. The door was opened by a servant who did not know him: Newton passed him, and ran up to the drawing-room, where he found Amber in company with William Aveleyn, who was reading to her the despatch containing the account of the action with Surcoeuf.
Amber sprung into his arms. She had grown into a tall girl of nearly fifteen, budding into womanhood and beauty; promising perfection, although not yet attained to it. William Aveleyn was also nearly half a foot taller; and a blush which suffused his handsome face at being surprised alone with Amber, intimated that the feelings of a man were superseding those of boyhood.
"Where is my mother?" inquired Newton.
"She is not at home, dear Newton," replied Amber; "she walked out with your father. They are both well."
"And my uncle?"
"Quite well, and most anxious to see you. He talks of nobody but you, and of nothing but your actions, which we were just reading about when you came in. Pray Captain Newton, may I inquire after your French friends? What has become of them?"
"They are at Sablonniere's hotel. Miss Amber; they have obtained their parole at the Alien-office."
The conversation was interrupted by the return of Newton's father and mother, and shortly afterward Mr John Forster made his appearance. After the first greeting and congratulations were over—
"Well, Newton," observed Nicholas, "so you beat off a pirate, I hear."
"No, my dear father, we boarded one."
"Ah! very true; I recollect—and you killed Surcoeuf."
"No, father, only beat him off."
"So it was; I recollect now.—Brother John, isn't it almost dinner-time?"
"Yes, brother Nicholas, it is; and I'm not sorry for it. Mr William Aveleyn, perhaps you'd like to wash your hands? A lad's paws are never the worse for a little clean water."
William Aveleyn blushed: his dignity was hurt: but he had lately been very intimate at Mr Forster's, and he therefore walked out to comply with the recommendation.
"Well, brother Nicholas, what have you been doing all day?"
"Doing all day, brother? really, I don't exactly know. My dear," said Nicholas, turning to his wife, "what have I been doing all day?"
"To the best of my recollection," replied Mrs Forster, smiling, "you have been asking when dinner would be ready."
"Uncle Nicholas," said Amber, "you promised to buy me a skein of blue silk."
"Did I, my dear? Well, so I did, I declare. I'm very sorry—dear me, I forgot, I did buy it. I passed by a shop where the windows were full of it, and it brought it to my mind, and I did buy it. It cost—what was it, it cost?"
"Oh! I know what it cost," replied Amber. "I gave you three-pence to pay for it. Where is it?"
"If I recollect, it cost seven shillings and six-pence," replied Nicholas, pulling out, not a skein of blue silk, but a yard of blue sarsenet.
"Now, papa, do look here! Uncle Nicholas, I never will give you a commission again. Is it not provoking? I have seven shillings and six-pence to pay for a yard of blue sarsenet, which I do not want. Uncle Nicholas, you really are very stupid."
"Well, my dear, I suppose I am. I heard William Aveleyn say the same, when I came into the room this morning, because—let me see—"
"You heard him say nothing, uncle," interrupted Amber, colouring.
"Yes, I recollect now—how stupid I was to come in when I was not wanted!"
"Humph!" said John Forster; and dinner was announced.
Since the recognition of Mrs Forster by her husband, she had presided at her brother-in-law's table. The dinner provided was excellent, and was done ample justice to by all parties, especially Nicholas, whose appetite appeared to increase from idleness. Since Newton had left England he had remained a pensioner upon his brother; and, by dint of constant exertion on the part of Mrs Forster, had been drilled out of his propensity of interfering with either the watch or the spectacles. This was all that was required by Mr John Forster; and Nicholas walked up and down the house, like a tame cat, minding nobody, and nobody paying any attention to him.
After dinner the ladies retired, and shortly afterwards William Aveleyn quitted the room.
Newton thought this to be a good opportunity to acquaint his uncle with his attachment to Miss Revel, and the favourable result. Mr John Forster heard him without interruption.
"Very nice girl, I dare say, nephew, but you are too young to marry. You can't marry and go to sea. Follow your profession, Newton; speculate in opium—I'll find the means."
"I trust, sir, that I never should speculate in marrying; but, had I acted on that plan, this would prove the best speculation of the two. Miss Revel has a very large fortune."
"So much the worse: a man should never be indebted to his wife for his money—they never forget it. I'd rather you had fallen in love with a girl without a shilling."
"Well, sir, when I first fell in love she had not a six-pence."
"Humph!—well, nephew, that may be very true; but, as I said before, follow your profession."
"Marriage will not prevent my so doing, uncle. Most captains of Indiamen are married, men."
"More fools they! leaving their wives at home, to be flattered and fooled by the Lord knows who. A wife, nephew—is a woman."
"I hope that mine will be one, sir," replied Newton,—laughing.
"Nephew, once for all, I don't approve of your marrying now—that's understood. It's my wish that you follow your profession. I'll be candid with you; I have left you the heir to most of my fortune; but—I can alter my will. If you marry this girl I shall do so."
"Alter your will, brother?" said Nicholas, who had been attentive to the conversation.—"Why, who have you to leave your money to, except to Newton?"
"To hospitals—to pay off the national debt—to any thing. Perhaps I may leave it all to that little girl, who already has come in for a slice."
"But, brother," replied Nicholas, "will that be just, to leave all your money away from the family?"
"Just, yes, brother Nicholas, quite just. A man's will is his will. If he makes it so as to satisfy the wishes or expectations of others, it is no longer his will, but theirs. Nephew, as I said before, if you marry against my consent, I shall alter my will."
"I am sorry, sir, very sorry, that you should be displeased with me; but I am affianced to this lady, and no worldly consideration will induce me not to fulfil an engagement upon which, indeed, my future happiness depends. I have no claim upon you, sir; on the contrary, I have incurred a large debt of gratitude, from your kind protection. Any thing else you would require of me—"
"Humph! that's always the case; any thing else except what is requested. Brother Nicholas, do me the favour to go up stairs; I wish to speak with my nephew alone."
"Well, brother John, certainly, if you wish it—if you and Newton have secrets;" and Nicholas rose from his chair.
"Surely, sir," observed Newton, not pleased at the abrupt dismissal of his father, "we can have no secrets to which my father may not be a party."
"Yes, but I have, nephew. Your father is my brother, and I take the liberty with my brother, if you like that better—not with your father."
In the mean time Nicholas had stalked out of the room.
"Nephew," continued Mr John Forster, as the door closed, "I have stated to you my wish that you should not marry this young woman; and I will now explain my reasons. The girl left in my charge by my brother Edward has become the same to me as a daughter. I intend that you shall make three or four voyages as captain of an India-man; then you shall marry her, and become the heir to my whole fortune. Now you understand me. May I ask, what are your objections?"
"None, sir, but what I have already stated—my attachment and engagement to another person."
"Is that all?"
"Is it not enough?"
"It appears that this young woman has entered into an engagement on board ship, without consulting her friends."
"She has no father, sir. She is of age, and independent."
"You have done the same."
"I grant it, sir; but even were I inclined, could I, in honour or honesty, retract?"
"Perhaps, sir, if you were acquainted with the young lady you might not be so averse to the match."
"Perhaps, if I saw with your eyes, I might not; but that is not likely to be the case. Old men are a little blind and a little obstinate. After toiling through life to amass a fortune, they wish to have their own way of disposing of it. It is the only return they can receive for their labour. However, nephew, you will act as you please. As I said before, if you marry against my consent, I shall alter my will. Now, empty the bottle, and we'll go up stairs."
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER FOURTEEN.
And, Betty, give this cheek a little red. POPE.
The departure of Isabel in the Windsor Castle, so immediately after the death of Colonel Revel, prevented her communicating to her mother the alteration which had taken place in her circumstances, and her intended return to England. The first intimation received by Mrs Revel was from a hurried note sent on shore by a pilot-boat off Falmouth, stating Isabel's arrival in the Channel, and her anticipation of soon embracing her mother, Isabel did not enter into any particulars, as she neither had time, nor did she feel assured that the letter would ever reach its destination.
The letter did however come to hand two days before Isabel and Mrs Enderby arrived at the metropolis, much to the chagrin of Mrs Revel, who imagined that her daughter had returned pennyless, to be a sharer of her limited income. She complained to Mr Heaviside, who as usual stepped in, not so much from any regard for Mrs Revel, but to while away the time of a far niente old bachelor.
"Only think, Mr Heaviside," said the lady, who was stretched on a sofa, supported on pillows, "Isabel has returned from India. Here is a letter I have just received, signed by her maiden name! Her sisters so well married too! Surely she might have stayed out with one of them! I wonder how she got the money to pay her passage home! Dear me! what shall I do with her?"
"If I may be allowed to see the letter, Mrs Revel," said the old gentleman—
"Oh, certainly, it's nothing but a note."
Mr Heaviside read the contents.
"There is very little in it indeed, Mrs Revel; not a word about the colonel, or why she left India. Perhaps the colonel may be dead."
"Then she might have gone to live with one of her sisters, Mr Heaviside!"
"But perhaps he may have left her some property."
"And do you, a sensible man, think that if such was the case, my daughter would not have mentioned it in her note? Impossible, Mr Heaviside!"
"She may intend to surprise you, Mrs Revel."
"She has surprised me," replied the lady, falling back upon the pillows.
"Well, Mrs Revel, you will soon ascertain the facts. I wish you a good morning, and will pay my devoirs in a day or two to inquire after your health, and hear what has taken place."
To defray the expenses attending the "consignment" of the three Miss Revel's to India, Mrs Revel had consented to borrow money, insuring her life as a security to the parties who provided it. Her unprincipled husband took this opportunity of obtaining a sum which amounted to more than half her marriage settlement, as Mrs Revel signed the papers laid before her without examining their purport. When her dividends were become due this treachery was discovered, and Mrs Revel found herself reduced to a very narrow income, and wholly deserted by her husband, who knew that he had no chance of obtaining further means of carrying on his profligate career. His death in a duel, which we have before mentioned, took place a few months after the transaction, and Mrs Revel was attacked with that painful disease, a cancer, so deeply seated as to be incurable. Still she was the same frivolous, heartless being; still she sighed for pleasure, and to move in those circles in which she had been received at the time of her marriage. But, as her income diminished, so did her acquaintances fall off, and at the period of Isabel's return, with the exception of Mr Heaviside, and one or two others, she was suffered to pine away in seclusion.
Isabel was greeted with querulous indifference until the explanation of the first ten minutes; then, as an heiress, with the means as well as the desire of contributing to her mother's comforts, all was joy and congratulation. Her incurable disease was for the time forgotten, and although pain would occasionally draw down the muscles of her face, as soon as the pang was over, so was the remembrance of her precarious situation. Wan and wasted as a spectre, she indulged in anticipation of again mixing with the fashionable world, and talked of chaperoning Isabel to private parties and public amusements, when she was standing at the brink of eternity. Isabel sighed as she listened to her mother, and observed her attenuated frame; occasionally she would refer to her mother's state of health, and attempt to bring her to that serious state of mind which her awful situation demanded; but in vain: Mrs Revel would evade the subject. Before a week had passed she had set up an equipage, and called upon many of her quondam friends to announce the important intelligence of her daughter's wealth. Most of them had long before given orders not to be "at home to Mrs Revel." The few to whom, from the remissness of their porters, she obtained admittance, were satisfied at their servants' negligence when they heard the intelligence which Mrs Revel had to communicate. They were so delighted; Isabel was always such a sweet girl; hoped that Mrs Revel would not be such a recluse as she had been, and that they should prevail upon her to come to their parties! An heiress is of no little consequence when there are so many younger brothers to provide for; and, before a short month had flown away, Mrs Revel, to her delight, found that the cards and invitations of no inconsiderable portion of the beau monde covered the table of her confined drawing-room. To Isabel, who perceived that her mother was sinking every day under the exertion she went through, all this was a source of deep regret. It occurred to her that to state her engagements with Newton Forster would have some effect in preventing this indirect suicide. She took an opportunity of confiding it to her mother, who listened to her with astonishment.
"Isabel! what do I hear? What! that young man who calls here so often? You, that can command a title, rank, and fashion, engage yourself to a captain of an Indiaman! Recollect, Isabel, that now your poor father is dead, I am your legal protector; and without my permission I trust you have too much sense of filial duty to think of marrying. How you could venture to form an engagement without consulting me is quite astonishing! Depend upon it, I shall not give my consent; therefore, think no more about it."
How often do we thus see people, who make no scruples of neglecting their duties, as eagerly assert their responsibility, when it suits their convenience.
Isabel might have retorted, but she did not. In few words, she gave her mother to understand that she was decided, and then retired to dress for a splendid ball, at which, more to please her mother than herself, she had consented to be present.
It was the first party of any consequence to which Mrs Revel had been invited. She considered it as her re-entree into the fashionable world, and the presentation of her daughter; she would not have missed it for any consideration. That morning she had felt more pain than usual, and had been obliged to have recourse to restoratives; but once more to join the gay and fashionable throng—the very idea braced her nerves, rendered her callous to suffering, and indifferent to disease.
"I think," said Mrs Revel to her maid—"I think," said she, panting, "you may lace me a little closer, Martyn."
"Indeed, madam, the holes nearly meet; it will hurt your side."
"No, no, I feel no pain this evening—there, that will do."
The lady's maid finished her task, and left the room. Mrs Revel rouged her wan cheeks, and, exhausted with fatigue and pain, tottered to an easy chair, that she might recover herself a little before she went down stairs.
In a quarter of an hour Isabel, who had waited for the services of Martyn, entered her mother's room, to announce that she was ready. Her mother, who was sitting in the chair, leaning backwards, answered her not. Isabel went up to her, and looked her in the face—she was dead!
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER FIFTEEN.
My dearest wife was like this maid, And such my daughter might have been. SHAKESPEARE.
The reader may be surprised at the positive and dictatorial language of Mr John Forster, relative to Newton's marriage, as detailed in a former chapter; but, as Mr John Forster truly observed, all the recompense which he had to expect for a life of exertion was to dispose of the fruits of his labour according to his own will. This he felt, and he considered it unreasonable that what he supposed a boyish attachment on the part of Newton was to overthrow all his preconcerted arrangements. Had Mr Forster been able to duly appreciate the feelings of his nephew, he probably would not have been so decided; but Love had never been able to establish himself as an inmate of his breast. His life had been a life of toil. Love associates with idleness and ease. Mr Forster was kind and cordial to his nephew as before, and the subject was not again renewed; nevertheless, he had made up his mind, and having stated that he would alter his will, such was his intention, provided that his nephew did not upon mature reflection accede to his wishes. Newton once more enjoyed the society of Isabel, to whom he imparted all that had occurred. "I do not wish to play the prude," answered Isabel, "by denying that I am distressed at your uncle's decision; to say that I will never enter into his family without having received his consent, is saying more than my feelings will bear out; but I must and will say, that I shall be most unwilling so to do. We must, therefore, as Madame de Fontanges did with the pirate captain, temporise, and I trust we shall be as successful." Newton, more rational than most young men in love, agreed with Isabel on the propriety of the measure, and, satisfied with each other's attachment, they were by no means in a hurry to precipitate their marriage.
It may be recollected that Newton Forster felt convinced that the contents of the trunk which he picked up at sea, when mate of the coasting vessel, was the property of the Marquis de Fontanges, during their passage home in the Windsor Castle, he had renewed the subject to Monsieur de Fontanges, and from the description which he gave from memory, the latter appeared to be of the same opinion. The conversation had not been revived until some time after their arrival in England, when Newton, anxious to restore the articles, desired Monsieur de Fontanges to communicate with the marquis, and request that he would appoint a day upon which he would call at his uncle's and identify the property. The marquis, who had never been informed by Monsieur de Fontanges, that any supposed relics of his lost wife remained, sighed at the memory of his buried happiness—buried in that vast grave, which defrauds the earth of its inherent rights—and consented to call upon the ensuing day. When the marquis arrived, accompanied by Monsieur and Madame de Fontanges, he was received in the drawing-room by Mr John Forster, who had brought from his chamber the packet in question, which had remained locked up in the iron safe ever since Newton had first committed it to his charge. After their introduction to each other, the marquis observed, in English—
"I am giving you a great deal of trouble; unavailing indeed; for, allowing that the articles should prove to be mine, the sight of them must be a source of renewed misery."
"Sir," replied Mr John Forster, "the property does not belong to my nephew, and he has very properly reserved it until he could find out the legal owner. If the property is yours, we are bound to deliver it into your hands. There is an inventory attached to it," continued the old lawyer, putting on his spectacles, and reading, "one diamond ring—but perhaps it would be better that I should open the packet."
"Will you permit me to look at the diamond ring, sir?" observed Monsieur de Fontanges. "The sight of that will identify the whole."
"There it is, sir," replied Mr John Forster.
"It is, indeed, that of my poor sister-in-law!" said Monsieur de Fontanges, taking it up to the marquis. "My brother, it is Louise's ring!"
"It is," cried the marquis, passionately, "the ring that I placed in the centre of her corbeille de mariage. Alas! where is the hand which graced it?" and the marquis retreated to the sofa, and covered his face.
"We have no occasion then to proceed further," observed Mr John Forster, with emotion. "The other articles you of course recognise?"
"I do," replied Monsieur de Fontanges. "My brother had taken his passage in the same vessel, but was countermanded. Before he had time to select all his own baggage, which was mixed with that of his wife, the ship was blown out to sea, and proceeded on her voyage. These orders of merit were left with her jewels."
"I observe," said the old lawyer, "which I did not when Newton entrusted the packet to my charge, that the linen has not all the same marks; that of the adult is marked L de M, while that which belonged to the child is marked J de F. Was it the marquis's child?"
"It was; the linen of the in other was some belonging to her previous to her marriage. The maiden name was Louise de Montmorenci; that of the child has the initials of its name, Julie de Fontanges."
"Humph! I have my reasons for asking that question," replied the old lawyer. "Newton, do me the favour to step to my chambers and open the safe. You will find in it, on the right hand side, another small bundle of linen: bring it here. Stop, Newton, blow the dust out of the pipe of the key before you put it in, and be careful that it is well inserted before you turn it, or you may strain the wards. In all other points, you may be as quick as you please. My Lord Marquis, will you allow me to offer you some refreshment?—a glass of wine will be of service. Brother Nicholas, do me the favour to call Amber." Newton and Nicholas both departed on their respective missions. Amber made her appearance.
"Papa," said Amber, "do you want me?"
"Yes, my dear," said Mr Forster, handing her the keys, "go down to the cellaret and bring up some wine. I do not wish the servants to come in just now."
Amber reappeared with a small tray. She first handed it to the marquis, who roused at her voice.
"Papa requests that you will take some wine, sir. It will be of service to you."
The marquis, who had looked earnestly in her face when she had spoken, took the wine, and drinking it off, bowed as he replaced the glass. He then sunk back on the sofa.
When the rap at the door announced the return of Newton, Mr John Forster requested Monsieur de Fontanges, in a low voice, to follow him, and directing Newton, whom they met on the stairs, to return, they proceeded to the dining-parlour.
"I have requested you to come down, sir," said Mr John Forster, "that I might not, without being certain, raise hopes in your brother the marquis, which, if not realised, would create bitter feelings of disappointment; but I remarked the initials on the linen of the child; and if my memory, which is not very bad, fails me not, we shall find corresponding ones in the packet now before us;" and the old lawyer opened the bundle and displayed the contents, which proved to be marked as he had surmised.
"Most true," replied Monsieur de Fontanges. "They are the same, and of course part of the property which was picked up."
"Yes; but not picked up at the same time, or at the same spot, or by the same person. Those above stairs were, as you know, picked up by my nephew; these by a brother, who is since dead; and in these clothes an infant was also washed upon the beach."
"His child!" exclaimed Monsieur de Fontanges. "Where was it buried?"
"The child was restored to life, and is still living."
"If it is," replied Monsieur de Fontanges, "it can be no other than the young lady who just now called you father. The likeness to Madame la Marquise is most astonishing."
"It is as you suppose, sir," replied Mr John Forster. "At my brother's death, he bequeathed the little girl to my protection; and I trust I have done justice to the deposit. Indeed, although an alien by blood, she is as dear to me as if she were my own daughter; and," continued the old lawyer, hesitating a little, "although I have the satisfaction of restoring her to her father's arms, it will be a heavy blow to part with her! When my brother spoke to me on the subject, I told him it was trouble and expense enough to bring up a child of one's own begetting. I little thought at the time how much more I should be vexed at parting with one of another's. However, with the bundle she must be returned to the lawful owner. I have one more remark to make, sir. Do me the favour to look at that drawing of my poor brother's, which hangs over the sideboard. Do you recognise the portrait?"
"Triton!" cried Monsieur de Fontanges; "the dog which I gave my poor sister-in-law!"
"You are indebted to that dog for the life of your niece. He brought her on shore, and laid her at my brother's feet; but I have all the documents, which I will send for your perusal. The facts I consider so well established as to warrant a verdict in any court of justice; and now, sir, I must leave you to make the communication as soon, and, at the same time, as cautiously as you please. Newton, send Amber down to me."
We will pass over the scenes which followed in the dining-parlour and drawing-room. The Marquis de Fontanges discovered that he was blessed with a daughter, at the same time that Amber learnt her own history. In a few minutes Amber was led up stairs to the arms of her father, whose tears of sorrow at the loss of his wife were now mingled with those of delight, as he clasped his daughter to his heart.
"What obligations do I owe to your whole family, my dear friend!" said the marquis to Newton.
"I will not deny it, sir," replied Newton; "but allow me to observe, that for the recovery of your daughter you are equally indebted to the generosity of your own relatives and your own feeling disposition. Had not Monsieur and Madame de Fontanges protected and assisted me in my distress; had not you, instead of throwing me into prison, set me at liberty, you never would have known where your daughter was to be found. Had not one of my uncles hastened to the relief of the vessel in distress, and the other protected your little girl after his death, she would not have been now in existence. My gratitude for your kindness induced me to remain by your ship, and subsequently to rescue you from the pirate, or you would not have now been a prisoner in this country— an evil which, under divine Providence, has been changed to a blessing, by restoring to you your daughter. We have all, I trust, done our duty, and this happy issue is our full reward."
"Humph!" observed the old lawyer.
VOLUME THREE, CHAPTER SIXTEEN.
Thus far our chronicle—and now we pause, Though not for want of matter, but 'tis time. BYRON.
Amber, or Julie de Fontanges, as we must now call her, quitted the abode of her kind protector, in such distress, that it was evident she regretted the discovery which had been made. She was too young to be aware of the advantages of high birth, and her removal was for some time a source of unfeigned regret. It appeared to her that nothing could compensate for the separation from her supposed father, who doated on her, from Mrs Forster, who had watched over her, from Nicholas, who amused her, and from Newton, whom she loved as a brother. But the idea of going to a foreign country, and never seeing them or William Aveleyn again, and, though last, not least, to find that she was not an Englishwoman, and in future must not rejoice at their victories over her own nation, occasioned many a burst of tears when left alone to her own meditations. It was long before the devotion of her father, and the fascinating attentions of Monsieur and Madame de Fontanges, could induce her to be resigned to her new condition. Mr John Forster felt his bereavement more deeply than could have been supposed. For many days after the departure of Julie, he seldom spoke, never made his appearance, except at dinner-time, and as soon as the meal was finished hastened to his chambers, where he remained very late. Intense application was the remedy which he had selected to dispel his care, and fill up the vacuum created by the absence of his darling child.
"Newton," said he, one evening, as they discussed a bottle of port, "have you considered what I proposed? I confess to you that I am more than ever anxious for the match; I cannot part with that dear child, and you can bring her back to me."
"I have reflected, sir; but the case must be viewed in a very different light. You might affiance your adopted daughter at her early age, but the Marquis de Fontanges may not be so inclined; nay, further, sir, it is not impossible that he may dislike the proposed match. He is of a very noble family."
"I have thought on that subject," replied Mr John Forster; "but our family is as well descended, and quite well enough for any Frenchman, let him be a marquis, or even a duke. Is that the only obstacle you intend to raise—or, if this is removed, will you again plead your attachment to another?"
"It is the only one which I mean to raise at present, sir. I acknowledge Julie de Fontanges to be a sweet girl, and, as a relation, I have long been much attached to her."
"Humph!" replied the old lawyer, "I always thought you a sensible lad— we shall see."
Now, be it observed, that there was a certain degree of the jesuitical on the part of our friend Newton on this occasion, excusable only from his wish that the mortification of his uncle at the disappointment of his hopes should not be occasioned by any further resistance on his part.
To Monsieur de Fontanges, who was aware of Newton's attachment to Isabel, he had, previous to the discovery which had taken place, communicated the obstacle to his union, raised by the pertinacity of his uncle. After the removal of Julie, Monsieur de Fontanges acquainted his brother with the wishes of Mr John Forster, and explained to him how much they were at variance with those of Newton.
The first time that Newton called upon the marquis, the latter shaking him warmly by the hand, said,—"I have been informed, my dear Newton, by my brother, of the awkward predicament in which you are placed by the wish of your uncle that you should marry my Julie when she grows up. Believe me, when I say it, there is no man to whom I would sooner confide the happiness of my daughter, and that no consideration would induce me to refuse you, if you really sought her hand; but I know your wishes, and your attachment to Miss Revel, therefore be quite easy on the subject. Your uncle made his proposition when Julie had no father to be consulted; the case is now different, and, for your sake, I intend, for a time, to injure myself in the opinion of your good relation. I shall assume, I trust, what, if ever I had it, would be immediately sacrificed to gratitude—I mean high aristocratical pride; and should your uncle make the proposal, refuse it upon the grounds that you are not noble by descent. No one will deny your nobility on any other point. Do you understand me, Newton? and will my so doing be conformable to your wishes?"
"It will, Monsieur le Marquis, and I thank you most sincerely."
"Then make no objection when he proposes the match a second time; leave all the obloquy on my shoulders," said the marquis, smiling.
This arrangement having been made, it was not surprising that Newton heard his uncle's renewal of the proposition with such calmness and apparent acquiescence.
"We dine with the marquis to-morrow, Newton," observed Mr John Forster; "I shall take an opportunity after dinner of requesting a few minutes' interview, when I shall put the question to him."
"Certainly, sir, if you think right," replied Newton.
"Well, I'm glad the dear girl has changed that foolish name of Amber. What could possess my brother! Julie is very fine, nevertheless; but then she was christened by French people."
The next day the parties met at dinner. Isabel Revel had been asked; and, having heard from Madame de Fontanges of the plan agreed upon, and anxious to see the old lawyer, she had consented to join the party. The dinner passed off as most dinners do when the viands and wines are good, and every body is inclined to be happy. Isabel was placed next to Mr Forster, who, without knowing who she was, felt much pleased with the deference and attention of so beautiful a young woman.
"Newton," said his uncle, when the ladies retired, and the gentlemen packed up their chairs, "who was that young lady who sat next to me?"
"The young lady, my dear uncle, whom I did wish to introduce to you as my intended wife—Miss Isabel Revel."
"Humph!—why, you never spoke to her before dinner, or paid her any common civility!"
"You forget, sir, your injunctions, and—"
"That's no reason, nephew, why you should forget common civility. I requested that you would not marry the young lady; but I never desired you to commit an act of rudeness. She is a very nice young person; and politeness is but a trifle, although marriage is a very serious thing."
In pursuance of his plans, when the gentlemen rose, Mr John Forster requested a few minutes' conversation with the marquis, who, bowing politely, showed the way to a small study on the same floor.
Mr Forster immediately stated his wish that an engagement should be formed between his nephew and Julie de Fontanges.
"Mr Forster," replied the marquis, drawing up proudly, the obligations I am under to your family are so great, that there are but few points in which I could refuse you; and I therefore am quite distressed that, of this proposal, I am obliged to decline the honour. You may be ignorant, Mr Forster, that the family of the de Fontanges is one of the oldest in France; and, with every respect for you and your nephew, and all gratitude for your kindness, I cannot permit my daughter to form a mesalliance.
"A mesalliance!—humph! I presume, sir, in plain English, it means marrying beneath her rank in life?"
The marquis bowed.
"I beg to observe, sir," said Mr John Forster, "that our family is a very old one. I can show you our pedigree. It has lain for some years by the side of your daughter's bundle in the iron safe."
"I have no doubt of the excellence of your family, Mr Forster. I can only express my deep regret that it is not noble. Excuse me, Mr Forster; except you can prove that—"
"Why, I could prove it by purchasing a dozen marquisates, if I thought proper!"
"Granted, Mr Forster. In our country they are to be purchased; but we make a great difference between the parvenus of the present day and the ancienne noblesse."
"Well, Mr Marquis, just as you please; but I consider myself quite as good as a French marquis," replied Mr Forster, in a tone of irritation.
"Better than many, I have no doubt; but still, we draw the line. Noble blood, Mr Forster."
"Noble fiddlestick! Monsieur le Marquis, in this country, and the inhabitants are not fools, we allow money to weigh against rank. It purchases that as it does everything else, except heaven. Now, Monsieur le Marquis—"
"Excuse me, sir; no money will purchase the hand of Julie de Fontanges," replied the marquis.
"Well, then, Monsieur le Marquis, I should think that the obligations you are under in restoring your daughter to your arms—"