"One of the kings of Scotland," remarked Willis, "was placed in a similar position. The Scottish army had been cut to pieces at the battle of Flodden, the king was captured in his harness, conveyed to London, and the people had to pay a great deal more to obtain his freedom than he was worth. But, before that, the Scotch nearly caught one of the Edwards. This time the English army had been cut to pieces; but the king did not wait to be captured, he took to his heels, or rather to his horse's hoofs. He was beautifully mounted, and followed by half a dozen Scottish troopers; away he went, over hill and dale, ditch and river. Dick Turpin's ride from London to York was nothing to it. The king proved himself to be a first-rate horseman, for, after being chased this way over half the country, he succeeded in baffling his pursuers. All these escapades between England and Scotland are, however, forgotten now, or at least ought to be; there are, doubtless, a few thick-headed persons in both sections of the empire who delight in keeping alive old prejudices, but they will die out in time."
"It seems, however, they have not died away yet," said Fritz, "in so far as regards France and England, since the two countries are at war again. But, as I observed before, had it not been for the ambition of William and the anti-connubial propensities of John, the English would never have been masters of Paris, and a great part of France under Charles VI."
"Still, in that case," persisted Jack, "Charles VII. would not have had the opportunity of liberating his country."
"Then," continued Fritz, "history would not have had to record the shameless deeds of Isabella of Bavaria."
"Nor chronicle the brilliant achievements of Joan of Arc," added Jack.
"Any how," observed Willis, "the mounseers are a curious people. I have heard it remarked that they are occupied all day long in getting themselves into scrapes, and that Providence busies herself all night in getting them out again."
By chatting in this way, Fritz, his brother, and the Pilot contrived to relieve the monotony of the voyage, and to pass away the time pleasantly enough. Each contributed his quota to the common fund; Fritz his judgment, Jack his humor, and Willis his practical experience, strong good sense, and vigorous, though untutored understanding. A portion of Jack's time was passed with the surgeon, between whom a great intimacy had sprung up. Time did not, therefore, hang heavily on the hands of the young men; for even during the night their thoughts were busy forming projects, or in embroidering the canvas of the future with those fairy designs which youth alone can create.
One morning Willis arrived on deck, pale, and with an air of fatigue and lassitude altogether unusual. He gazed anxiously into every nook and cranny of the ship.
"Whatever is the matter, Willis?" inquired Jack. "Have you seen the Flying Dutchman?"
"No, Master Jack," said he in a forlorn tone; "but I have either seen the captain or his ghost."
"What! the captain of the Hoboken?"
"No; the captain of the Nelson."
"In a dream?"
"No, my eyes were as wide open as they are now; he looked into my cabin, and spoke to me."
"I assure you it is the case though, impossible or not."
"Where is he then?" exclaimed both the young men, starting.
"That I know not; I have looked for him everywhere."
"What did he say to you?"
"At first he said, How d'ye do, Willis?"
"Naturally; and what then?"
"He asked me what I thought of the cloud that was gathering in the south-west."
"But look there, you can see a storm is gathering in that quarter."
"The nightmare, Willis. But what did you say to him?"
"I could not answer at the moment; my tongue clove to the roof of my mouth, and I rose to take hold of his hand."
"Then he disappeared, did he not?"
"Yes, Master Jack."
"I thought so."
"But I heard the door of my cabin shut behind him, as distinctly as I now hear the waves breaking on the sides of the corvette at this moment."
"You ought to have run after him."
"I did so."
"Well, did you catch him?"
"No; I was stopped by the watch, for I had nothing on me but my shirt; the officers stared, the sailors laughed, and the doctor felt my pulse. But, for all that, I am satisfied there is a mystery somewhere."
"But, Willis, the thing is altogether improbable."
"Well, look here; Captain Littlestone is either dead or alive, is he not?"
"Yes," replied Jack, "there can be no medium between these hypotheses."
"Then all I can say is this, that as sure as I am a living sinner, I have seen him if he is alive, and, if he is dead, I have seen his ghost."
"You believe in visitations from the other world then, Willis?"
"I cannot discredit the evidences of my own senses, can I?"
"No, certainly not."
"Besides, this brings to my recollection a similar circumstance that happened to an old comrade of mine. Sam Walker is as fine a fellow as ever lived, he sailed with me on board the Norfolk, and I know him to be incapable of telling a falsehood. Though his name is Sam Walker, we used to call him 'Hot Codlins.'"
"Because he had an old woman with a child tatooed on his arm, instead of an anchor, as is usual in the navy."
"A portrait of Notre Dame de Bon Lecours, I shouldn't wonder," said Jack; "but what had that to do with hot codlins: a codlin is a fish, is it not?"
"I will explain that another time," said Willis, the shadow of a smile passing over his pale features. "The short and the long of the story is, that Sam once saw a ghost."
"Well, tell us all about it, Willis."
"But I am afraid you will not believe the story if I do."
"On the contrary, I promise to believe it in advance."
"Very well, Master Jack. Did you ever see a windmill?"
"No, but I know what sort of things they are from description."
"There are none in Scotland," continued Willis; "at least I never saw one there."
"How do they manage to grind their corn then? There should be oats in the land o' cakes, at all events," said Jack, with a smile.
"Well, in countries that have plenty of water, they can dispense with mills on land. Though there are no wind-mills in Scotland, there are some in the county of Durham, on the borders of England, for it appears my mate Sam was born in one of them. His father and mother died when he was very young, and he, conjointly with the rats, was left sole owner and occupant of the mill. Some of the neighboring villagers, seeing the poor boy left in this forlorn condition, got him into a charity school, whence he was bound apprentice to a shipmaster engaged in the coal trade, by whom he was sent to sea. The ship young Sam sailed in was wrecked on the coast of France, and he fell into the hands of a fisherman, who put the mark on his arm we used to joke him about."
"I thought so," said Jack; "the mark in question represents the patron saint of French sailors."
"After a variety of ups and downs, Sam found himself rated as a first-class seaman on board a British man-of-war. He served with myself on board the Norfolk, and was wounded at the battle of Trafalgar , which, I dare say, you have heard of."
"Yes, Willis, it was there that your Admiral Nelson covered himself with immortal renown."
"There and elsewhere, Master Fritz."
"It cost him his life, however, Willis, and likewise shortened those of the French Admiral Villeneuve and the Spanish Admiral Gravina; that, you must admit, is too many eggs for one omelet."
"As you once said yourself, great victories are not won without loss, and the battle of Trafalgar was no exception to the rule. Sam, having been wounded, was sent to the hospital, and when his wound was healed, he was allowed leave of absence to recruit his strength, so he thought he would take a run to Durham and see how it fared with the paternal windmill. Time had, of course, wrought many changes both outside and in, but it still remained perched grimly on its pedestal, but now entirely abandoned to the bats and owls. The sails were gone, and the woodwork was slowly crumbling away; but the basement being of hewn granite, it was still in a tolerable state of preservation. The place, however, was said to be haunted; exactly at twelve o'clock at night dismal howls were heard by the villagers to issue from the mill. According to the blacksmith, who was a great authority in such matters, Sam's father was a very avaricious old fellow, and had hid his money somewhere about the building; and you know, Master Jack, that when a man dies and leaves his money concealed, there is no rest for him in his grave till it is discovered."
"I really was not aware of it before," replied Jack; "but I am delighted to hear it."
"When Sam arrived, nobody disputed his title to the property, except the ghost; but Sam had seen a good deal of hard service, and declared that he would not be choused out of his patrimony for all the ghosts in the parish; and, in spite of the persuasions of the villagers, resolved to take up his abode there forthwith. Sam accordingly laid in a supply of stores, including a month's supply of tobacco and rum. He first made the place water-tight, then made a fire sufficient to roast an ox, and when night arrived made a jorum of grog, a little stiff, to keep away the damp. This done, he lit his pipe, and began to cook a steak for his supper. The old mill, for the first time since the decease of the former proprietor, was filled with the savory odor of roast beef."
"And there are worse odors than that," remarked Jack. "Whilst the steak was frizzling, he took a swig at the grog; and, thinking one side was done, he gave the gridiron a twist, which sent the steak a little way up the chimney, and, strange to say, it never came down again.
"'Ten thousand What's-a-names,' cried Sam, 'where's my steak?'
"No answer was vouchsafed to this query; he looked up the chimney, and could see no one."
"The steak had really disappeared then?" said Jack, inquiringly.
"Yes, not a fragment remained; but he had more beef, so he cut off another; and, as his head had got a little middled with the grog, he thought it just possible that he might have capsized the gridiron into the fire, so he quietly recommenced the operation."
"And the second steak disappeared like the first?" "Yes, Master Fritz, with this difference—there was a dead man's thigh-bone in its place."
"An awkward transformation for a hungry man," said Jack.
"'Here's a go!' cried Sam, like to burst his sides with laughing, 'they expect to frighten me with bones, do they? they've got the wrong man—been played too many tricks of that kind at sea to be scared by that sort of thing. Ha, ha, ha! capital joke though.'"
"Your friend Sam must have been a merry fellow, Willis."
"Yes, but he was hungry, and wanted his supper; so he continued supplying the gridiron with steaks as long as the beef lasted, but only obtained human shin-bones, clavicles and tibias.
"'Never mind,' said Sam to himself, 'they will tire of this game in course of time.'
"When the beef was done, he kept up a supply of rashers of bacon, and threw the bones as they appeared in a corner, consoling himself in the meantime with his pipe and his grog."
"He must have been both patient and persevering," remarked Jack.
"This went on till a skull appeared on the gridiron."
"A singular object to sup upon," observed Jack.
"'I wonder what the deuce will come next,' said Sam to himself, throwing the skull amongst the rest of the bones.
"The next time, however, he took the gridiron off the fire, there was his last rasher done to a turn.
"'Now,' said Sam, 'I am going to have peace and quietness at last.'
"He sat down then very comfortably, and kept eating and drinking, and drinking and smoking, till the village clock struck twelve."
"Good!" cried Jack. "You may come in now, ladies and gentlemen; the performance is just a-going to begin."
"Sam heard a succession of crack cracks amongst the bones, and turning round he beheld a frightful-looking spectre, pointing with its finger to the door."
"Was it wrapped up in a white sheet?" inquired Jack.
"Yes, I rather think it was."
"Very well, then, I believe the story; for spectres are invariably wrapped up in white sheets."
"The bones, instead of remaining quietly piled up in the corner, had joined themselves together—the leg bones to the feet, the ribs to the back-bone—and the skull had stuck itself on the top. Where the flesh came from, Sam could not tell; but he strongly suspected that his own steaks and bacon had something to do with it. But, be that as it may, there was not half enough of fat to cover the bones, and the figure was dreadfully thin. Sam stared at first in astonishment, and began to doubt whether he saw aright. When, however, he beheld the figure move, there could be no mistake, and he knew at once that it was a ghost. Anybody else would have been frightened out of their senses, but Sam took the matter philososophically and went on with his supper.
"'How d'ye do, old fellow?' he said to the spectre. 'Will you have a mouthful of grog to warm your inside? Sit down, and be sociable.'
"The spectre did not make any reply, but continued making a sign for Sam to follow.
"'If you prefer to stand and keep beckoning there till to-morrow you may, but, if I were in your place, I would come nearer the fire,' said Sam; 'you may catch cold standing there without your shirt, you know.'
"The same silence and the same gesture continued on the part of the ghost, and Sam, seeing that his words produced no effect, recommenced eating."
"There is one thing," remarked Jack, "more astonishing about your friend Sam than his coolness, and that is his appetite."
"The spectre did not appear satisfied with the state of affairs, for it assumed a threatening attitude and strode towards the fire-place.
"'Avast heaving, old fellow,' cried Sam, 'there is one thing I have got to say, which is this here: you may stand and hoist signals there as long as ever you like; but if you touch me, then look out for squalls, that's all.'
"The 'old fellow,' however, paid no attention to this caution. He strode right up to the fire-place, and, whilst pointing to the door with one hand, grasped Sam's arm with the other. Sam started up, shook off the hand that held him, and pitched into the spectre right and left. But, strange to say, his hands went right through its bones and all, just as if it had been made of the hydrogen gas you spoke of the other day. Sam saw that it was no use laying about him in this fashion, for the spectre stood grinning at him all the time, so he gave it up.
"'I wish,' said he, 'you would be off, and go to bed, and not keep bothering there.'
"Still the spectre maintained the same posture, and kept pertinaciously pointing to the door.
"'Well,' said Sam, 'since you insist upon it, let us see what there is outside. Go a-head, I will follow.'
"The spectre led him into what used to be the garden of the mill, but the enclosure was now overgrown with rank and poisonous weeds. There was a path running through it paved with flagstones; the spectre pointed with its finder to one of them. Sam stooped down, and, much to his astonishment, raised it with ease. Beneath there was an iron chest, the lid of which he also opened, and saw that it was filled with old spade guineas and Spanish dollars.
"'You behold that treasure!' said the spectre, in a hollow voice.
"'Ha, ha, old fellow! you can speak, can you? Now we shall understand each other. Yes, I see a box, filled with what looks very like gold and silver coins.'
"'I placed that treasure there before my death,' added the spectre.
"'Ah, so! than you are dead?' said Sam.
"'One half of that money I wish you to give to the poor, and the other half you may keep to yourself, if you choose.'
"'Golley!' said Sam, 'you are not much of a swab after all, though you look as thin as a purser's clerk. Give us a shake of your paw, my hearty.'
"Here Sam, somehow or other, stumbled over the lamp, and when he got up again the spectre had vanished. He laid hold of the chest, however, and groped his way back to the mill. When safe inside, he made a stiff jorum of grog, and then fell comfortably asleep. That night he dreamt that he was eating gold and silver, that he was his own captain, that the cat-o'-nine tails was entirely abolished in the navy, and that his ship, instead of sailing in salt water was floating in rum. When he awoke, the sun was steaming through all the nooks and crannies of the old mill. All the marks of the preceding night's adventures were there—the gridiron, the empty rum jar, the the table o'erturned in the melee with the ghost—but the chest of money was gone."
"And what did Sam conclude from that incident?" inquired Fritz.
"Well, he supposed that he had slept rather long, and that somebody had come in before he as up and had walked off with the box."
"If I had been in his place," continued Fritz, "I should have said to myself that the mind often gives birth to strange fancies, particularly after a heavy supper, and that I had muddled my brain with rum; consequently, that all the things I imagined I had seen were only the chimeras of a dream."
"But that could not be, Master Fritz, for two reasons; the first, that the mark of the ghost's hand remained on his arm."
"Very likely burnt it when he grilled the bacon."
"The second, that the ghost was no more seen or heard of in the mill."
"That proof is a poser for you, brother, I think," said Jack.
"Did you heave that sigh just now, Master Fritz?" inquired Willis, in a low tone.
"It was not I," said Fritz, looking at his brother.
"Nor I," said Jack, looking at Willis.
"Nor I," said Willis, looking behind him.
WILLIS FALLS IN WITH THE SLOOP ON TERRA FIRMA, INSTEAD OF AT THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, AS MIGHT HAVE BEEN EXPECTED—ADMIRAL CICERO—THE DEFUNCT NOT YET DEAD.
The corvette, notwithstanding the multitude of British cruisers scattered about the ocean, and the other dangers that beset her, held on the even tenor of her way. A gale sprung up now and then, but they only tended to give a filip to the common-place incidents recorded in the log. This quietude was not, however, enjoyed by all the persons on board. Willis was a prey to violent emotions; and so it often happens, in the midst of the profoundest calm, storms often rage in the heart of man.
Whether in reality or in a dream, Willis declared that Captain Littlestone paid him a visit every night, and invariably asked him precisely the same questions. On these occasions, Willis asserted that he distinctly heard the door open and shut whilst a shadow glided through. That he might once, or even twice, have been the dupe of his own imagination, is probable enough; but a healthy mind does not permit a delusion to be indefinitely prolonged—it struggles with the hallucination, and eventually shakes it off; providing always the mind has a shadow, and not a reality, to deal with, and that the patient is not a monomaniac. The dilemma was consequently reduced to this position—either Willis was mad, or Captain Littlestone was on board the Boudeuse.
In all other respects, Willis was perfectly sane. He himself searched every corner of the ship, but without other result than a confirmation of his own impression that there were no officers on board other than those of the corvette; and yet, notwithstanding his own conviction in daylight, he still continued to assert the reality of his interviews with Captain Littlestone during the night. The Italians say, La speranza e il sogno d'an uomo svegliato. Was Willis also dreaming with his eyes open? Might not the wish be father to the thought, and the thought produce the fancy? There is only one other supposition to be hazarded—could it be possible, in spite of all his researches, that Willis did see what he maintained with so much pertinacity he had seen?
These questions are too astute to admit of answers without due consideration and reflection; therefore, with the reader's permission, we shall leave the replies over for the present.
On the 12th June a voice from the mast-head called "Land ahoy!" much to the delight of the voyagers. The land in question was the island of St. Helena. This sea-girt rock had not at that time become classic ground. It had not yet become the prison and mausoleum of Napoleon the Great. The petulant squabbles between Sir Hudson Lowe and his illustrious prisoner had not been heard of. Little wotted then the proud ruler of France the fate that awaited him, for, when the Boudeuse touched at the island, all Europe, with the single exception of England, was kneeling at his feet.
On the 30th the Island of Ascension was reached. Here, in accordance with a usage peculiar to French sailors, a bottle, containing a short abstract of the ship's log, was committed to the deep. Willis thought this ceremony, under existing circumstances, would have been better observed in the breach than the observance, for, said he, if a British cruiser picked up that bottle within twenty-four hours, she stood a chance of picking up the Boudeuse as well.
On the 15th July the peak of Teneriffe hove in sight This remarkable basaltic rock rises to the extraordinary height of three thousand eight hundred yards above the level of the sea; it is consequently seen at a considerable distance, and constitutes a valuable landmark for navigators in these seas. Six weeks later the Boudeuse dropped anchor in the Havre roads.
Here the three adventurers had to encounter by far the greatest misfortune that had as yet befallen them. The continental system of Napoleon was then in force. The importation of everything English or Indian was strictly prohibited. The cargo the young men had brought with them from New Switzerland, which already had escaped so many perils, was, therefore, declared contraband, and seized by the French fisc—an institution that rarely permitted such a prize to quit its rapacious grasp.
Behold now our poor friends, Fritz and Jack, in a strange land, deprived at once of their fortune and their chance of returning home—the two beacons that had cheered them on their way! All their bright hopes of the future were thus annihilated at one fell swoop. Their fortitude almost gave way under the severity of this blow; the excess of their distress alone saved them. Grief requires leisure to give itself free vent; but when we are compelled, by absolute necessity, to earn our daily bread, we cannot find time for tears; and such was the case with Willis and his two friends; they were here without a friend and without resources of any kind whatever.
If they had only known Greek and Latin; if they had only been half doctors or three-quarter barristers, or if even they had been doctors and lawyers complete, it would have sorely puzzled their skill to have raised a single sous in hard cash. Fortunately, however, whilst cultivating their minds, they had acquired the art of handling a saw and wielding a hammer. The blouse of the workman, consequently, fitted them as well as the gown of the student, and they set themselves manfully to earn a living by the sweat of their brow. They were carpenters and blacksmiths by turns, regulating their occupations by the grand doctrines of supply and demand.
Jack alone of the three was defective in steadiness; he only joined Willis and his brother at mid-day. What he did with himself during the forenoon was a profound mystery. He rose before daybreak, and disappeared no one knew where, or for what purpose. His companions in adversity endeavored in vain to discover his secret; he was determined to conceal his movements, and succeeded in baffling their curiosity. To judge, however, by the ardor with which he worked, he was engaged in some one of those schemes that are termed follies before success, but which, after success, are universally acknowledged to be brilliant and praiseworthy instances of industrial enterprise.
If, after a hard day's work, when assembled together in the little room that served them for parlor, kitchen, and hall, the power of regret vanquished fatigue, and sadness drove away sleep, then Jack, who compared himself to Peter the Great, when a voluntary exile in the shipyards of Saardam, would endeavor to infuse a little mirth into the lugubrious party. If all his efforts to make them merry failed, all three would join together in a humble prayer to their Heavenly Father, who bestowed resignation upon them instead.
If Willis and his two friends were not accumulating wealth, at all events they were earning the bread they ate honestly and worthily. They had all three laid their shoulders vigorously to the wheel and kept it jogging along marvellously for a month. By that time, a detailed report of the seizure of their property had been placed before the director of the Domaine Extraordinaire, who was the sovereign authority in all matters pertaining to the exchequer of the empire. He saw at once that this capture was extremely harsh, and probably thought that, if it became known, it would raise a storm of indignation about the ears of his department. Here were two young men—Moseses, as it were, saved from the bulrushes. Lost in the desert from the period of their birth, and ignorant of the dissensions then raging in Europe, they were unquestionably beyond the ordinary operation of the law. This will never do, he probably said to himself; the civilization which these two young men have come through so many perils to seek ought not to appear to them, the moment they arrived in Europe, in the form of spoliation and barbarism.
The name of this extraordinary director of Domaine Extraordinaire was M. de la Boullerie, and, when we fall in with the name of a really good-hearted man, we delight to record it. He felt that the two young men had been hardly dealt with, but he had not the power to order a restitution of the property, now that the seizure had been made, and sundry perquisities, of course, deducted by the excise officials. Accordingly, he referred the matter to the Emperor, who commanded the goods to be immediately restored intact. Napoleon, at the same time, praised the functionary we have named for calling his attention to the merits of the case, and thanked him for such an opportunity of repairing an injustice.[I]
There are many such instances of generosity as the foregoing in the career of the great Emperor—mild rays of the sun in the midst of thunderstorms; sweet flowers blowing here and there, in the bosom of the gigantic projects of his life—which many will esteem more highly than his miracles of strategy and the renown of his battles. As nothing that tends to elevate the soul is out of place in this volume, we may be permitted to insert one or two of these anecdotes.
In 1806, Napoleon was at Potsdam. The Prussians were humbled to the dust, and the outrage of Rossbach had been fearfully avenged. A letter was intercepted, in which Prince Laatsfeld, civil governor of Berlin, secretly informed the enemy of all the dispositions of the French army. The crime was palpable, capital, and unpardonable. There was nothing between the life and death of the prince, except the time to load half a dozen muskets, point them to his breast, and cry—Fire. The princess flew to the palace, threw herself at the feet of the Emperor, beseeched, implored, and seemed almost heart-broken. "Madam," said Napoleon, "this letter is the only proof that exists of your husband's guilt. Throw it into the fire." The fatal paper blazed, crisped, passed from blue to yellow, and the treachery of Prince Laatsfeld was reduced to ashes.
Another time, a young man, named Von der Sulhn, journeyed from Dresden to Paris; unless you are told, you could scarcely imagine for what purpose. There are people who travel for amusement, for business, for a change of air, or merely to be able to say they have been at such and such a place. Some go abroad for instruction, others, perhaps, with no other object in view than to eat frogs in Paris, bouillabaisse at Marseilles, a polenta at Milan, macaroni at Naples, an olla podrida in Spain, or conscoussou in Africa. Von der Sulhn travelled to assassinate the Emperor. Like Scaevola and Brutus, he, no doubt, imagined the crime would hand down his name to posterity. In youth, all of us have erred in judgment more or less. Sulhn thought the Emperor ought to be slain. Unfortunately for him, the Duke of Rovigo, the then minister of police, entertained a different opinion. He thought, in point of fact, that the Emperor ought not to be killed: hence it was that the young Saxon found himself in chains, and that the Duke went to ask the Emperor what he should do with him. We ought, however, to mention that the young man, in his character of an enlightened German, testified his regret that he had not succeeded in carrying out his project, and protested that, in the event of regaining his liberty, he would renew the attempt. "Never mind," said the Emperor to the duke, "the young man's age is his excuse. Do not make the affair public, for, if it is bruited about, I must punish the headstrong youth, which I have no wish to do. I should be sorry to plunge a worthy family into grief by immolating such a scapegrace. Send him to Vincennes, give him some books to read, and write to his mother." In 1814, the young man obtained his liberty, his family, and his Germany, and it is to be hoped that he afterwards became a respectable pater-familias, a sort of Aulic councillor, and that, during the troublesome times in the land of Sauerkraut, he was before, and not behind, the barricades of his darling patria. If he be dead, it is to be supposed that, instead of lying a headless trunk ignominiously in a ditch, or in the unconsecrated cemetery of Clamort, he is reposing entire in the paternal tomb.
On the 15th of March, 1815, the Emperor landed at Cannes—he had returned from the island of Elba. On the beach he was joined by one man, at Antibes by a company, at Digne by a battalion, at Gap by a regiment (that of Labedoyer), at Grenoble by an army. The hearts of the soldiers of France went to him like steel to the loadstone—first a drop, and then a torrent; the Empire, like a snowball, increased as it progressed. At Lyons, the Count of Artois, the setting sun, is obliged to go out of one gate the moment that Napoleon, the rising sun, comes in at another. Smiles, orations, triumphal arches, and even the discourses that had been prepared to welcome the Bourbons, were used to congratulate their successor on his return. Cockades and flags were altered to suit the occasion, by inserting a stripe of red here and another of blue there. One national guard, but only one, remained faithful to the Bourbons; he would neither alter his cockade nor his colors, and remained true to his patrons in the hour of disaster. Everybody asked, what would the Emperor do with him? Would he be imprisoned or banished? Neither; the Emperor sent him a cross of the order of merit! It is, no doubt, grand to have overthrown the brilliant army of Murad Bey in Egypt; to have vanquished Melas, Wurmser, and Davidowich in Italy; Bragation, Kutusoff, and Barclay de Tolly in Russia; Mack in Germany; and thus to have reduced the entire continent of Europe to subjection. But it appears to us that a still greater feat was the victory he gained over himself, when, in the midst of the fever excited by his return, and the animosity of parties, he gave this cross to the solitary adherent of misfortune. Having made these slight digressions into the future, it is proper that we should return to our story.
The mysterious roads of Providence do not always lead to the places they seem to go; it often happens that, when we expect to be swallowed up by the breakers that surround us, we are wafted into a harbor, and that we encounter success where we only anticipated disappointment. The rigorous enactments of the continental system, that the other day had ruined the two brothers, became all at once the source of unlooked-for wealth; for, on account of the scarcity of colonial produce, a scarcity dating from the prohibitory laws promulgated in 1807, the merchandise of the young men had more than quadrupled in value.
From the grade of hard-working mechanics they were suddenly promoted to the rank of wealthy merchants. They consequently abandoned the laborious employments that for a month had enabled them to live, and to keep despair and misery at bay. Willis, greatly to his inconvenience, found himself transformed into a gentleman at large, which caused him to make some material alterations in the manipulation and quality of his pipes.
Fritz busied himself in collecting in, the by no means inconsiderable sums, which their property realised. He did not value the gold for its glitter or its sound, he valued it only as a means of enabling himself and his brother to return promptly to their ocean home. Jack undertook the task of finding a scalpel to save his mother—doubtless a difficult task; for how was he to induce a surgeon of standing to abandon his connexion, his family, and his fame, and to undertake a perilous voyage to the antipodes, for the purpose of performing an operation in a desert, where there were neither newspapers to proclaim it, academicians to discuss it, nor ribbons to reward it? As for the gentlemen of the dentist and barber school, like Drs. Sangrado and Fontanarose of Figaro, the remedy was even worse by a great deal than the disease. But, as we have said, Jack promised to find a surgeon, and the research was so arduous, that he was scarcely ever seen during the day by either Willis or his brother.
To Willis was confided the office of chartering a ship for the homeward voyage, and there were not a few obstacles to overcome in order to accomplish this. French ship-masters at that time engaged in very little legitimate business; they embarked their capital in privateering, prefering to capture the merchantmen of England to risking their own. One morning, Willis started as usual in search of a ship, but soon returned to the inn where they had established their head-quarters in a state of bewilderment; he threw himself into a chair, and, before he could utter a word, had to fill his pipe and light it.
"Well," said he, "I am completely and totally flabbergasted."
"What about?" inquired the two brothers.
"You could not guess, for the life of you, what has happened."
"Perhaps not, Willis, and would therefore prefer you to tell us at once what it is."
"After this," continued Willis, "no one need tell me that there are no miracles now-a-days."
"Then you have stumbled upon a miracle, have you, Willis?"
"I should think so. That they do not happen every day, I can admit; but I have a proof that they do come about sometimes."
"Very probably, Willis."
"It is my opinion that Providence often leads us about by the hands, just as little children are taken to school, lest they should be tempted to play truant by the way."
"Not unlikely, Willis; but the miracle!"
"I was going along quietly, not thinking I was being led anywhere in particular, when, all at once, I was hove up by—If a bullet had hit me right in the breast, I could not have been more staggered."
"Whatever hove you up then, Willis?"
"I was hove up by the sloop."
"Was it taking a walk, Willis?" inquired Jack.
"Have you been to sea since we saw you last?" asked Fritz.
"If I had fallen in with the craft at sea, Master Fritz, I should not have been half so much astonished. The sea is the natural element of ships; we do not find gudgeons in corn fields, nor shoot hares on the ocean. But it was on land that I hailed the Nelson."
"Was it going round the corner of a street that you stumbled upon it, Willis?" inquired Jack.
"Not exactly; but to make a long story short—"
"When you talk of cutting anything short, we are in for a yarn," said Jack.
"And you are sure to interrupt him in the middle of it," said Fritz.
"Well, in two words," said Willis, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, "I was cruising about the shipyards, looking if there was a condemned craft likely to suit us—some of them had gun-shot wounds in their timbers, others had been slewed up by a shoal—and, to cut the matter short—"
"Another yarn," suggested Jack.
"I luffed up beside the hull of a cutter-looking craft that had been completely gutted. But, changed and dilapidated as that hull is, I recognized it at once to be that of the Nelson. Now do you believe in miracles?"
"But are you sure, Willis?"
"Suppose you met Ernest or Frank in the street to-morrow, pale, meagre, and in rags, would you recognize them?"
"Well, by the same token, sailors can always recognize a ship they have sailed in. They know the form of every plank and the line of every bend. There are hundreds of marks that get spliced in the memory, and are never forgotten. But in the present case there is no room for any doubt, a portion of the figure head is still extant, and the word Nelson can be made out without spectacles."
"But how did it get there?"
"You know, Master Fritz, it could not have told me, even if I had taken the trouble to inquire."
"Very true, Willis."
"I was determined, however, to find it out some other way, so I steered for a cafe near the harbor, where the pilots and long-shore captains go to play at dominoes. I was in hopes of picking up some stray waif of information, and, sooth to say, I was not altogether disappointed."
"Another meeting, I'll be bound," said Jack.
"My falling in with the Nelson astonished you, did it not?"
"Then I'll bet my best pipe that this one will surprise you still more. You recollect my comrade, Bill, alias Bob, of the Hoboken?"
"Then I met him."
"What! the man who had both his legs shot off, and died in consequence of his wounds?" inquired Jack.
"And that was afterwards thrown overboard with a twenty-four pound shot tied to his feet!" exclaimed Fritz.
At this astonishing assertion the young men regarded Willis with an air of apprehension.
"You think I am mad, no doubt, do you not?"
"Whatever can we think, Willis?"
"I admit that my statement looks very like it at first sight, but still you are wrong, as you will see by-and-by. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I saw him. 'Is that you, Bill Stubbs,' says I, 'at last?'
"'Lor love ye!' says he, 'is that you, Pilot?'
"He then took hold of my hand, and gave it such a shake as almost wrenched it off.
"'Where in all the earth did you hail from?' he said. 'I thought you were dead and gone?'
"'And I thought you were the same,' said I, 'and no mistake.'
"'Alive and hearty though, as you see, Pilot; only a little at sea amongst the mounseers.'
"'But what about the Hoboken?' says I.
"'What Hoboken?' says he.
"'Were you not aboard a Yankee cruiser some months back?'
"'Never was aboard a Yankee in all my life,' says Bill.
"And no more he was, for he never left the Nelson till she was high and dry in Havre dockyard; so, the short and the long of it is, that I must have been wrong in that instance."
"So I should think," remarked Fritz.
"Yet the resemblance was very remarkable; the only difference was a carbuncle on the nose, which the real Bill has and the other has not, but which I had forgotten."
"Like Cicero," remarked Jack.
"Another Admiral?" inquired Willis, drily.
"No, he was only an orator."
"Bill soon satisfied me that he was the very identical William Stubbs, and that the other was only a very good imitation."
"He did not receive you with a punch in the ribs, at all events, like the apocryphal Bill," remarked Jack.
"No; but what is more to the purpose, he told me that, after having struggled with the terrible tempest off New Switzerland—which you recollect—the Nelson found herself at such a distance, that Captain Littlestone resolved to proceed on his voyage, and to return again as speedily as possible.
"'We arrived at the Cape all right,' added Bill, 'landed the New Switzerland cargo, and sailed again with the Rev. Mr. Wolston on board. A few days after leaving the Cape, we were pounced upon by a French frigate; the Nelson, with its crew, was sent off as a prize to Havre, and here I have been ever since,' said Bill, 'a prisoner at large, allowed to pick up a living as I can amongst the shipping.'"
"And the remainder of the crew?" inquired Fritz.
"Are all here prisoners of war."
"And the Rev. Mr. Wolston and the captain?"
"Are prisoners on parole."
"What! in Havre?"
"Yes, close at hand, in the Hotel d'Espagne."
"And we sitting here," cried Jack, snatching up his hat and rushing down stairs four steps at a time.
Willis and Fritz followed as fast as they could.
When they all three reached the bottom of the stairs.
"If Captain Littlestone is here, Willis," said Jack, "he could not have been on board the Boudeuse."
"That is true, Master Jack."
"In that case, Great Rono, you must have been dreaming in the corvette as well as in the Yankee."
"No," insisted Willis, "it was no dream, I am certain of that."
"Explain the riddle, then."
"I cannot do that just at present, but it may be cleared up by-and-by, like all the mysteries and miracles that surround us."
[I] This circumstance is historical, and will be found at length in the Memoirs of Napoleon, by Amedee Goubard.
CAPTAIN LITTLESTONE IS FOUND, AND THE REV. MR. WOLSTON IS SEEN FOR THE FIRST TIME.
Jack, on arriving at the hotel, ascertained the number of the room in which Captain Littlestone was located. In his hurry to see his old friend, the young man did not stop to knock at the door, but entered without ceremony, with Fritz and Willis at his heels. They found themselves in the presence of two gentlemen, one of whom sat with his face buried in his hands, the other was reading what appeared to be a small bible.
The latter was a young man seemingly of about twenty-four or twenty-five years of age. He had a mild but noble bearing, and his aspect denoted habitual meditation. His eyes were remarkably piercing and expressive; in short, he was one of those men at whom we are led involuntarily to cast a glance of respect, without very well knowing why; perhaps it might be owing to the gravity of his demeanour, perhaps to the peculiar decorum of his deportment, or perhaps to the scrupulous propriety of his dress. He raised his eyes from the book he held in his hand, and gazed tranquilly at the three figures who had so abruptly interrupted his reveries.
"May I inquire," said he, "to what we owe this intrusion on our privacy, gentlemen?"
"We have to apologise for our rudeness," said Fritz; "but are you not the Rev. Mr. Wolston?"
"My name is Charles Wolston, and I am a minister of the gospel, and missionary of the church."
"Then, sir," continued Fritz, "I am the bearer of a message from your father."
"From my father!" exclaimed the missionary, starting up; "you come then from the Pacific Ocean?"
Here the second gentleman raised his head, and looked as if he had just awakened from a dream. He gazed at the speakers with a puzzled air.
"Do you know me, captain?" said Willis.
Littlestone, for it was he, continued to gaze in mute astonishment, as if the events of the past had been defiling through his memory; and he probably thought that the figures before him were mere phantom creations of his brain.
"Willis! can it be possible?" he exclaimed, taking at the same time the Pilot's proffered hand.
"Yes, captain, as you see."
"And the two young Beckers, as I live!" cried Littlestone.
"Yes," said Jack, "and delighted to find you at last."
Littlestone then shook them all heartily by the hand.
"It is but a poor welcome that I, a prisoner in the enemy's country, can give you to Europe; still I am truly overjoyed to see you. But where have you all come from?"
"From New Switzerland," replied Jack.
"That, of course; and I presume another ship anchored in Safety Bay?"
"No, captain. Seeing you did not return to us, we embarked in the pinnace and came in search of you."
"Your pinnace was but indifferently calculated to weather a gale, keeping out of view the other dangers incidental to such a voyage."
"True, captain; but my brother and I, with Willis for a pilot and Providence for a guardian, ventured to brave these perils; and here we are, as you see."
"And your mother consented to such a dangerous proceeding, did she?"
"It was for her, and yet against her will, that we embarked on the voyage."
"I do not understand."
"For her, because, when we left, she was dying."
"Dying, say you?"
"Yes, and our object in coming to Europe was chiefly to obtain surgical aid."
"And have you found a surgeon?"
"Not yet, but we are in hopes of finding one."
"If money is wanted, besides the value of the cargo I landed for you at the Cape, you may command my purse."
"A thousand thanks, captain, but the merchandise we have here is likely to be sufficient for our purpose. Unfortunately, gold is not the only thing that is requisite."
"In the first place, a disinterested love of humanity is needful; there are few men of science and skill who would not risk more than they would gain by accepting any offer we can make. It is not easy to find the heart of a son in the body of a physician."
"What, then, will you do, my poor friend?"
"That is my secret, captain."
During this conversation, the missionary had put a thousand questions to Willis and Fritz relative to his father, mother, and sisters, and a smile now and then lit up his features as Fritz related some of the family mishaps.
"You must have undergone some hardships in your voyage from the antipodes to Havre de Grace," said Littlestone to Jack, "notwithstanding the skill of my friend the Pilot."
"Yes, captain, a few," replied Jack. "I myself made a narrow escape from being killed and eaten by a couple of savages."
"And how did you escape?"
"Providence interfered at the critical moment."
"Well, so I should imagine."
"Our friend the Pilot was more fortunate; he was abducted by the natives of Hawaii; but, instead of converting him into mincemeat, they transformed him into a divinity, bore him along in triumph to a temple, where he was perfumed with incense, and had sacrifices offered up to him."
"Willis must have felt himself highly honored," said the captain, smiling.
"These fine things did not, however, last long, for next day they were wound up with a cloud of arrows."
"And another interposition of Providence?"
"Yes, none of the arrows were winged with death."
"After that," remarked Willis, "we fell in with a Yankee cruiser, were taken on board, and carried into the latitude of the Bahamas, where we fell in with Old Flyblow, who, after a tough set-to, sent the Yankee a prize to Bermuda, and took us on board as passengers."
"And," added Jack, "whilst we were under protection of the American flag, Willis fell in with a certain Bill Stubbs, who was shot in the fight and died of his wounds. This trifling accident did not, however, prevent Willis falling in with him alive in Havre."
"You still seem to delight in paradoxes, Master Jack," said the captain.
"The English cruiser," continued Jack, "was afterwards captured by a French corvette, on which it appears you were on board incognito."
"What! I on board?"
"Yes; ask Willis."
"If you were not, captain, how could you come to my cabin every night and ask me questions?" inquired the latter.
At this point, a shade of anxiety crossed Littlestone's features; he turned and looked at the missionary—the missionary looked at Fritz—Fritz stared at his brother—Jack gazed at Willis—and Willis, with a puzzled air, regarded everybody in turn.
"At last," continued Jack, "after experiencing a variety of both good and bad fortune, sometimes vanquished and sometimes the victors, first wounded, then cured, we arrived here in Havre, where, for a time, we were plunged into the deepest poverty; we were blacksmiths and carpenters by turns, and thought ourselves fortunate when we had a chair to mend or a horse to shoe."
"The workings of Providence," said the missionary, "are very mysterious, and, perhaps, you will allow me to illustrate this fact by drawing a comparison. A ship is at the mercy of the waves; it sways, like a drunken man, sometimes one way and sometimes another. All on board are in commotion, some are hurrying down the hatchways, and others are hurrying up. The sailors are twisting the sails about in every possible direction. Some of the men are closing up the port-holes, others are working at the pumps. The officers are issuing a multiplicity of orders at once, the boatswain is constantly sounding his whistle. There is no appearance of order, confusion seems to reign triumphant, and there is every reason to believe that the commands are issued at random."
"I have often wondered," said Jack, "how so many directions issued on ship board in a gale at one and the same moment could possibly be obeyed."
"Let us descend, however, to the captain's cabin," continued the missionary. "He is alone, collected, thoughtful, and tranquil, his eye fixed upon a chart. Now he observes the position of the sun, and marks the meridian; then he examines the compass, and notes the polary deviation. On all sides are sextants, quadrants, and chronometers. He quietly issues an order, which is echoed and repeated above, and thus augments the babel on deck."
"A single order," remarked Willis, "often gives rise to changes in twenty different directions."
"On deck," continued the missionary, "the crew appear completely disorganized. In the captain's cabin, you find that all this apparent confusion is the result of calculation, and is essential to the safety of the ship."
"Still," said Jack, "it is difficult to see how this result is effected by disorder."
"True; and, therefore, we must rely upon the skill of the captain; we behold nothing but uproar, but we know that all is governed by the most perfect discipline. So it is with the world; society is a ship, men and their passions are the mast, sails, rigging, the anchors, quadrants, and sextants of Providence. We understand nothing of the combined action of these instruments; we tremble at every shock, and fear that every whirlwind is destined to sweep us away. But let us penetrate into the chamber of the Great Ruler. He issues his commands tranquilly; we see that He is watching over our safety; and whatever happens, our hearts beat with confidence, and our minds are at rest."
"Therefore," added Littlestone, "we are resigned to our fate as prisoners of war; but still we hope."
"And not without good reason," said Willis; "for it will go hard with me if I do not realize your hopes, and that very shortly too."
"I do not see very well how our hopes of liberty can be realized till peace is proclaimed."
"Peace!" exclaimed Willis. "Yes, in another twenty years or so, perhaps; to wail for such an unlikely event will never do; my young friend, Master Jack Becker, is in a hurry, and we must all leave this place within a month at latest."
"You mean us, then, to make our escape, Willis; but that is impossible."
"I have an idea that it is not impossible, captain; the cargo Masters Fritz and Jack have here will realize a large sum; the pearls, saffron, and cochineal, are bringing their weight in gold. I shall be able to charter or buy a ship with the proceeds, and some dark night we shall all embark; and if a surgeon is not willing to come of his own accord, I shall press the best one in the place: it won't be the first time I have done such a thing, with much less excuse."
"One will be willing," said Jack; "so you need not introduce One-eyed Dick's schooner here, Willis."
"So far so good, then; it only remains for us to smuggle the captain, the missionary, and the crew of the Nelson on board."
"But we are prisoners," said Littlestone.
"I know that well enough; if you were not prisoners, of course there would be no difficulty."
"Recollect, Willis, we are not only prisoners, but we are on parole."
"True," said Willis, scratching his ear, "I did not think of that."
"The situation," remarked Jack, "is something like that of Louis XIV. at the famous passage of the Rhine, of whom Boileau said: 'His grandeur tied him to the banks.' Had you been only a common sailor, captain, a parole would not have stood in the way of your escape."
"But," said Willis, "the parole can be given up, can it not?"
"Not without a reasonable excuse," replied the captain.
"Well," continued Willis, "you can go with the minister to the Maritime Prefect, and say: 'Sir, you know that everyone's country is dear to one's heart, and you will not be astonished to hear that myself and friend have an ardent desire to return to ours. This desire on our part is so great, that some day we may be tempted to fly, and, consequently, forfeit our honor; for, after all, there are only a few miles of sea between us and our homes. We ought not to trust to our strength when we know we are weak. Do us, therefore, the favor to withdraw our parole; we prefer to take up our abode in a prison, so that, if we can escape, we may do so with our honor intact."
"And suppose this favor granted, we shall be securely shut up in a dungeon. I scarcely think that would alter our position for the better, or render our escape practicable."
"You will, at all events, be free to try, will you not?"
"That is a self-evident proposition, Willis, and, so far as that goes, I have no objection to adopt the alternative of prison fare. What say you, minister?"
"As for myself," replied the missionary, "a little additional hardship may do me good, for the Scriptures say: Suffering purifieth the soul."
"We shall, therefore, resign our paroles, Willis; but bear in mind that it is much easier to get into prison than to get out."
"Leave the getting out to me, captain; where there's a will there's always a way."
"Do you think," whispered the captain to Fritz, "that Willis is all right in his upper story?"
Fritz shook his head, which, in the ordinary acceptation of the sign, means, I really do not know.
WILLIS PROVES THAT THE ONLY WAY TO BE FREE IS TO GET SENT TO PRISON—AN ESCAPE—A DISCOVERY—PROMOTIONS—SOMNAMBULISM.
Three weeks after the events narrated in the foregoing chapter, the thrice-rescued produce of Oceania had been converted into the current coin of the empire.
The greater portion of the proceeds was placed at the disposal of Willis, to facilitate him in procuring the means of returning to New Switzerland. He—like connoisseurs who buy up seemingly worthless pictures, because they have detected, or fancy they have detected, some masterly touches rarely found on modern canvas—had bought, not a ship, but the remains of what had once been one. This he obtained for almost nothing, but he knew the value of his purchase. The carcass was refitted under his own eye, and, when it left the ship-yard, looked as if it had been launched for the first time. The timbers were old; but the cabins and all the internal fittings were new; a few sheets of copper and the paint-brush accomplished the rest. When the mast was fitted in, and the new sails bent, the little sloop looked as jaunty as a nautilus, and, according to Willis himself, was the smartest little craft that ever hoisted a union-jack.
Whether the captain and the missionary still entertained the belief that the Pilot's wits had gone a wool-gathering or not, certain it is that they had followed his instructions, in so far as to relinquish their parole, and thus to lose their personal liberty. They were both securely locked up in one of the rooms or cells of the old palace or castle of Francois I., which was then, and perhaps is still, used as the state prison of Havre de Grace. This fortalice chiefly consists of a battlemented round tower, supported by strong bastions, and pierced, here and there, by small windows, strongly barred. The foot of the tower is bathed by the sea, which, as Willis afterwards remarked, was not only a favor granted to the tower, but likewise an obligation conferred upon themselves.
When the Pilot's purchase had been completely refitted, stores shipped, papers obtained, and every requisite made for the outward voyage, the departure of the three adventurers was announced, and a crowd assembled on shore to see their ship leave the harbor. She was towed out to the roads, where she lay tranquilly mirrored in the sea, ready to start the moment her commander stepped on board. Neither Fritz nor Jack, however, had yet completed their preparations. For the moment, therefore, the vessel was left in charge of some French seamen, whom Willis, however, had taken care to engage only for a short period.
Somewhere about a week after this, Fritz and Jack, in a small boat, painted perfectly black and manned by four stout rowers, with muffled oars, were lurking about the fortalice already mentioned. The night was pitch dark, and there was no moon. The waves beat sullenly on the foot of the tower and surged back upon themselves, like an enraged enemy making an abortive attempt to storm the walls of a town. Not a word was uttered, and the young men were intently listening, as if expecting to hear some preconcerted signal.
Meanwhile, in one of the rooms or cells of the round tower, about sixty feet above the level of the sea, Captain Littlestone, the missionary, and the Pilot were engaged in a whispered conversation, through which might be detected the dull sound of an oiled file working against iron. The cell was ample in size, but the stone walls were without covering of any kind. It was lighted during the day by one of the apertures we have already described; the thickness of the walls did not permit the rays of the sun to penetrate to the interior, and at the time of which we speak the apartment was perfectly dark.
"I should like to see the warder," whispered Willis, "when he comes, with his bundle of keys and his night-cap in his hand, to wish your honors good morning, but, in point of fact, to see whether your honors are in safe custody. How astonished the old rascal will be! Ho, ho, ho!"
"My good fellow," said the missionary, "it is scarcely time to laugh yet. It is just possible we may escape; but vain boasting is in no case deserving of approbation. It is, indeed, scarcely consistent with the dignity of my cloth to be engaged in breaking out of a prison; still, I am a man of peace, and not a man of war."
"No," said Willis, "you are not; but I wish to goodness you were a seventy-four—under the right colors, of course."
"I was going to remark," continued the missionary, "that I am a man of peace, and, consequently, do not think that I am justly entitled to be treated as a prisoner of war. Under these circumstances, I am, no doubt, justified in shaking off my bonds in any way that is open to me; the more particularly as the apostle Paul was once rescued from bondage in a similar way."
"He was let down from a window in a basket, was he not?"
"Yes; whilst journeying in the city of Damascus, the governor, whose name was Avetas resolved to arrest him and accordingly placed sentries at all the gates. Paul, however was permitted to pass through a house, the windows of which overhung the walls of the town, whence, as you say, he was let down in a basket, and escaped."[J]
"I trust your reverence will be in much the same position as the apostle, by-and-by—only you will have to dispense with the basket," said Willis.
"I have no wish to remain in bondage longer than is absolutely necessary," said the minister; "but there still seem difficulties in the way."
"Yes," said Willis, plying the file with redoubled energy, "this iron gives me more bother than I anticipated; but it is the nature of iron to be hard; however, it will not be long before we are all out of bondage, as your reverence calls it."
"May not the warder discover our escape, and raise an alarm in time to retake us?" inquired the missionary.
"No, I think not," replied the captain; "thanks to our habit of sleeping with our faces to the wall, he will be deceived by the dummies we have placed in the beds, for he always approaches on tip-toe not to awake us."
"That may be for the first round; but the second will assuredly disclose our absence."
"Very likely," remarked Willis; "he will then go right up to the beds, and shake the dummies by the shoulders, and say, Does your honor not know that it is ten o'clock, and that your breakfast is cooling? The dummies will, of course, not condescend to reply, and then—but what matters? By that time we shall have shaken out our top-sail, and pursuit will be out of the question. I should like to see the craft that will overtake us when once we are a couple of miles ahead."
"Poor man!" said the missionary, sighing; "our escape may, perhaps, cost him his place."
"No fear of that," said Willis; "perhaps, at first, he will make an attempt to tear his hair, but, as he wears a wig, that will not do much mischief."
"I shall, however, leave my purse on the table," said the missionary; "as it is tolerably well filled, that may afford the poor fellow some consolation."
"And I shall do the same," said the captain.
"If that does not console him for being deprived of the pleasure of our society, I do not know what will," observed Willis.
"It is now two o'clock," said the captain, feeling his watch, "and the warder goes his first rounds at three; we have therefore just one hour for our preparations."
"I have severed one bar," said Willis, "and the other is nearly through at one end, so keep your minds perfectly at ease."
"Your patience and equanimity, Willis, does you infinite credit," said the missionary. "Minister of the Gospel though I be, I fear that I do not possess these qualities to the same extent, for, to confess the truth, I feel an inward yearning to be free, and yet am restless and anxious."
"There is no great use in being in a hurry," said the Pilot; "the more haste the less speed, you know."
"True; but might not these bars have been sawn through before? If this had been done, our flight would have been, at least, less precipitate."
"You forget, Mr. Wolston," said the captain, "that we did not know till nine o'clock the affair was to come off to-night."
"And I could not come any sooner to tell you," remarked the Pilot; "I had the greatest difficulty in the world to get in here; the maritime commissary would not take me into custody."
"I forgot to ask you how you contrived to get incarcerated," observed the captain; "you were not a prisoner, and could not plead your parole."
"No; and consequently I had to plead something else."
"Willis," said the missionary, "the work you are engaged in must be very fatiguing, let me exercise my strength upon the bars for a short time."
"If you like, minister, but keep the file well oiled."
"What, motive, then, did you urge, Willis?" inquired Captain Littlestone.
"'Mr. Commissary,' said I, 'one of your frigates captured the English cutter Nelson some time ago, but the capture was not complete.'
"'How so?' inquired the commissary.
"'Because, Mr. Commissary,' said I, 'you did not capture the boatswain, and a British ship without a boatswain is no good; it is like a body without a soul.'
"'Is that all you have to tell me?' said the commissary, looking glum.
"'No,' said I, 'to make the capture complete, you have still to arrest the boatswain, and here he is standing before you—I am the man; but having been detained by family affairs in the Pacific Ocean, I could not surrender myself any sooner.'
"'And what do you want me to do with you?' said he.
"'Why, what you would have done with me had I been on board the Nelson, to be sure.'
"'What! take you prisoner?'
"'You wish me to do so?'
"'Is it possible?'
"'Then you refuse to take me into custody, Mr. Commissary?' said I.
"'Yes, positively,' said he; 'we take prisoners, but we do not accept them when offered.'
"'Then you will not allow me to join my captain in his adversity?'
"'Your captain is as great a fool as yourself,' said he; 'he need not have gone to prison unless he liked.'
"'That was a matter of taste on his part, Mr. Commissary, but is a matter of duty on mine,'"
"This bar is nearly through," whispered the missionary.
"There is no time to be lost," said the captain; "the warder will be round in a quarter of an hour."
"Well," continued Willis, "the commissary began to get angry, he rose up, and was about to leave the room, when I placed myself resolutely before him.
"'Sir,' said I, 'one word more—you know the French laws; be good enough to tell me what crime will most surely and most promptly send me to prison.'
"'Oh, there are plenty of them,' said he, laughing.
"'Well, commissary,' says I, 'suppose I knock you down here on the spot, will that do?"
"Was that not going a little too far, Willis?"
"What could I do? The ship was all ready, everybody on board but yourselves, circumstances were pressing, and you know I would have floored him as gently as possible."
At this moment the bar yielded. To the end of a piece of twine, which Willis had rolled round his body, a piece of stone was attached; this he let down till it touched the water, and then the caw of a crow rang through the air.
"That was a very good imitation, Willis," said the captain. "You did not break any of the commissary's bones, did you?"
"No; the threat was quite sufficient; he would not yield to my prayers, but he yielded to my impudence, and ordered me into custody. At first, however, I was thrust into an underground cell; but I obtained, or rather my louis obtained for me, permission to chum with you; and, by the way, what a frightful staircase I had to mount! that more than any thing else, obliges us to get down by the window."
Willis, who continued to hold one end of the cord, at the sound of a whistle drew it up, and found attached to the other end a stout rope ladder. This he made fast to the bars of the window that still remained intact. At the request of the minister, all three then fell upon their knees and uttered a short prayer. Immediately after, Wolston went out of the window and began to descend, the captain followed, and Willis brought up the rear. All three were cautiously progressing downwards, when the missionary called out he had forgotten to forget his purse.
"I have made the same omission," said the captain; "hand yours up, Wolston."
The missionary accordingly held up his with one hand whilst he held on the ladder with the other. The captain bent down to take it, but found he could not reach it without endangering his equilibrium. They both made some desperate efforts to accomplish the feat, but the thing was impossible.
"I see no help for it," said the missionary, "but to ascend all three again."
"That is awkward," said the captain.
"Gentlemen," said Willis, "three o'clock is striking on the prison clock; the warder will be round in two minutes."
"God sometimes permits good actions to go unrewarded," said the missionary; "but he never punishes them."
"Let us re-ascend, then," said the captain.
"So be it," said Willis, going upwards.
They had scarcely time to re-enter the cell before they heard the sound of steps and the clank of keys in the corridor. The steps discontinued at their door, and a key was thrust into the lock.
"What is the matter?" cried the captain from his bed, as the gaoler thrust his head inside the door.
"Why," said the warder, "I heard a noise, and thought that your honor might be ill."
"Thank you for your attention, Ambroise," replied the captain, in a half sleepy tone; "but you have been deceived, we are all quite well."
"Entirely so," added the missionary.
"All right old fellow!" cried Willis, with a yawn.
This triple affirmation, which assured him, not only of the health, but also of the custody of his prisoners, seemed satisfactory to the gaoler.
"I am sorry to have awoke your honors," said he, as he withdrew his head and relocked the door; "it must have been in the room overhead."
"Good?" said Willis, "the old rascal expects nothing."
Two well-lined purses were laid on the table, and in a few minutes more the three men resumed their position on the ladder in the same order as before. They arrived safely in the boat, where they were cordially welcomed by Fritz and Jack. The men were then ordered to pull for their lives to the ship, which they did with a hearty will. The instant they stepped on board the anchor was weighed, and when morning broke not a vestige of the old tower of Havre de Grace was anywhere to be seen.
"Why," exclaimed the captain, looking about him with an air of astonishment, "this is my own vessel!"
"Yes, captain," said Willis, touching his cap, "and I am its boatswain or pilot, whichever your honor chooses to call me."
"But how did you obtain possession of her?"
"By right of purchase she belongs to our friends, Masters Fritz and Jack, but they have agreed to waive their claim, providing you proceed with them to New Switzerland."
"I agree most willingly to these conditions," said Captain Littlestone, addressing the two brothers, "the more so that my destination was Sydney when the Nelson was captured."
"In the meantime, captain," said Fritz, "my brother and I have to request that you will resume the command, and treat us as passengers."
"Thank you, my friends, thank you. Willis, are all the old crew on board?"
"All that were in Havre, your honor; I commissioned Bill Stubbs to pick them up, and he managed to smuggle them all on board."
"Then pipe all hands on deck."
"Aye, aye, captain," said Willis, sounding his whistle.
When the men were mustered, Littlestone made a short speech to them, told them that they would receive pay for the time they had been in the enemy's power, and inquired whether they were all willing to continue the voyage under his command. This question was responded to by a general assent.
"Then," he continued, turning to Willis, "the share you have had in the rescue of the Nelson and its crew, conjointly with my interest at the Admiralty, will, I have not the slightest doubt, obtain for you the well-merited rank of lieutenant of his Majesty's navy. I have, therefore, to request that you will assume that position on board during the voyage, until confirmed by the arrival of your commission."
"Thank your honor," said Willis, bowing.
"And now, lieutenant, you will be kind enough to rate William Stubbs on the books as boatswain."
"Aye, aye, captain," said Willis, handing his whistle to Bill.
"Pipe to breakfast," said the captain.
"Aye, aye, sir," replied the new boatswain, sounding the whistle.
"By the way," said Littlestone, turning to Jack, "I do not see the surgeon you spoke of on board. How is this?"
"He is on board for all that," said Jack, drawing an official looking document out of his pocket; "be kind enough to read that."
The captain accordingly read as follows:—
"Havre, 15th October, 1812.
"This is to certify that Mr. Jack Becker has, for some time, been a student in the hospitals of this town, and that he has successfully passed through a stringent examination as to his acquaintance with the diagnosis and cure of various diseases; as also as to his knowledge of the practice of physic and surgery generally.
"He has specially directed his attention to the treatment of cancer, and has performed several operations for the eradication of that malady to the satisfaction of the surgeon in chief and my own.
(Signed) "GARAY DE NEVRES, M.D., Inspector of the Hospitals".
This document was countersigned, sealed, and stamped by the mayor, the prefect, and other authorities of the department.
"How have you contrived to obtain so satisfactory a certificate in so short a period?" inquired the captain.
"I was introduced to the chief surgeon by the medical man on board the Boudeuse. I stated my position to him, and, probably, he threw facilities in my way of obtaining the object I had in view that were, perhaps, rarely accorded to others. All the cases of cancer, for example, were placed under my care; I had, therefore, an opportunity of observing a great many phases and varieties of that disease."
"Are you determined to follow up the profession of surgery, then?"
"Yes, captain; I have shipped a medicine chest on board, a complete assortment of instruments, and a collection of English, French, and German medical works. It is my intention to make myself thoroughly familiar with the theory of the science, and trust to chance for practice."
"Then allow me, Mr. Becker, to rate you as surgeon of the Nelson for the outward voyage. Will you accept the office?"
"With pleasure, Captain; but, at the same time, I trust there will be no occasion to exercise my skill."
"No one can say what may happen; disease turns up where it is least expected. Lieutenant," he added, turning to Willis, "be kind enough to rate Mr. Becker on the ship's books as surgeon."
"Aye, Aye, sir."
Meantime the Nelson was making her way rapidly along the French coast, and had already crossed the Bay of Biscay. The Nelson behaved herself admirably, and took to her new gear with excellent grace. All was going merrily as a marriage bell. They did not now run very much risk of cruisers, as Fritz had French papers perfectly en regle, and Captain Littlestone would have had little difficulty to prove his identity; besides, the speed of the Nelson was sufficient to secure their safety in cases where danger was to be apprehended.
One night, about four bells (ten o'clock), when Willis was lazily lolling in his hammock, doubtless ruminating on his newly-acquired dignity, his cabin-door gradually opened, and the captain entered. Willis stared at first, thinking he might have something important to communicate, but he only muttered something about a cloud gathering in the west. This was too much for Willis; it resembled his former meditations so vividly, that he leaped out of his hammock, seized Littlestone by the collar, and called loudly for Fritz and Jack.
"It is not very respectfull, captain, to handle you in this way; but the case is urgent, and I should like to have the mystery cleared up."
The two brothers, when they entered the cabin, beheld Willis holding the captain tightly in his arms.
"I have caught him at last, you see," said the Pilot.
"So it would appear," observed Jack; "but are you not aware the captain is asleep?"
And so it was Littlestone had walked from his own cabin to that of Willis in a state of somnambulism.
"What is the matter?" inquired the latter, when he became conscious of his position.
"Nothing is the matter, captain," replied Jack, "only you have been walking in your sleep."
"Ah—yes—it must be so!" exclaimed Littlestone; gazing about him with a troubled air. "Have I not paid you a visit of this kind before, Willis?"
"On board the Boudeuse."
"That must have been the craft I was transferred to, then, after the capture of the Nelson. Just call Mr. Wolston, and let us have the matter explained."
On comparing notes, it appeared that the captain and the missionary had been on board the Boudeuse. Both had been ill, and both had been closely confined to their cabin during the entire voyage, partly on account of their being prisoners of war, and partly on account of their illness. On one occasion, but on one only, the captain had escaped from his cabin during the night. Willis might, therefore, have seen him once, but that he had seen him oftener was only a dream.
"It appears, then," said Littlestone, "that my illness has left this unfortunate tendency to sleep-walking. I shall, therefore, place myself in your hands, Master Jack; perhaps you may be able to chase it away."
"I will do my best, captain; and I think I may venture to promise a cure."
Willis was sorry for the captain's sleeplessness, but he was glad that the mystery hanging over them both had been so far cleared up. His visions and dreams had been a source of constant annoyance to him; but now that their origin had been discovered, he felt that henceforward he might sleep in peace.
After a rapid run, the sloop cast anchor off the Cape. Here Captain Littlestone reported himself to the commander on the station, and received fresh papers. He also sent off a despatch to the Lords of the Admiralty, in which he reported the capture and rescue of his ship. He informed them that his own escape and that of the crew was entirely owing to the tact and daring of Willis, the boatswain, whom, in consequence, he had nominated his second in command, vice Lieutenant Dunsford, deceased; the appointment subject, of course, to their lordship's approval.
Willis wrote a long letter to his wife, informing her of his expected promotion, adding that, in a year or so after the receipt of his commission, he should retire on half-pay, and then emigrate to a delightful country, where he had been promised a vast estate. He said that, probably, he should have an entire island to himself, and possibly have the command of the fleet; but he thought it as well to say nothing about tigers, sharks, and chimpanzees.
The missionary also wrote to England, relinquishing his charge in South Africa, and requesting a mission amongst the benighted inhabitants of the Pacific Ocean, where he stated he was desirous of settling for family reasons, and where besides, he said, he would have a wider and equally interesting field for his labors.
The two brothers found at the Cape a large sum of money at their disposal; this, however, they had now no immediate use for; they, consequently, left it to await the arrival of Frank and Ernest, who, in all probability, would return with the Nelson.
The arrangements made, the Nelson was fully armed and manned, an ample supply of stores and ammunition was shipped, the mails in Sydney were taken on board, and the sloop resumed her voyage.
[J] 2nd Cor., xi., 32.
Three months after leaving the Cape, the coast of New Switzerland was telegraphed from the mast head by Bill Stubbs. A gun was immediately fired, and towards evening the Nelson entered Safety Bay. Fritz, Jack, Captain Littlestone, the missionary, and Willis, were all standing on deck, eagerly scanning the shore.
"There is father!" cried Jack, "armed with a telescope; and now I see Frank and Mrs. Wolston."
"There comes Mr. Wolston and Master Ernest," cried Willis, "as usual, a little behind."
"But I see nothing of my mother and the young ladies!" said Fritz.
"Very odd," said Captain Littlestone, sweeping the horizon with his glass "I can see nothing of them either."
A horrible apprehension here glided into the hearts of the young men. They knew well that, had their mother been able, she would have been the first to welcome them home. Perhaps, under the inspiration of despair, their lips were opening to deny the mercy of that Providence which had hitherto so remarkably befriended them, when at a great distance, and scarcely perceptible to the naked eye, they descried three figures advancing slowly towards the shore.
One of these forms was Mrs. Becker, who was leaning upon the arms of Mary and Sophia Wolston.
"God be thanked, we are still in time," cried Fritz and Jack.
A loud cheer, led by Willis, then rent the air. Half an hour after, the two young men leaped on shore; they did not stay to shake hands with their father and brothers, but ran on to where their mother stood. It was a long time before they could utter a syllable; the greeting of the mother and her children was too affectionate to be expressed in words.
Next morning, at daybreak, preparations for a serious operation were made in Mrs. Becker's room. The entire colony was in a state of intense excitement, and an air of anxiety was imprinted on every countenance. In the room itself the wing of a fly could have been heard, so breathless was the silence that prevailed. The patient's eyes had been bandaged, under pretext of concealing from her sight the surgical instruments and preparations for the operation. The real design, however, was to hide the operator, whom Mrs. Becker supposed to be an expert practitioner from Europe; for it was not thought advisable that a mother's anxieties should be superadded to the patient's sufferings.
At the moment of trial the few persons present had sunk on their knees; Jack alone remained standing at the bedside of his mother. The Jack of the past had entirely disappeared; he was somewhat pale, very grave, but collected, firm, and resolute. It was, perhaps, the first instance on record of a son being called upon to lacerate the body of his mother. But the moment that God imposed such a task upon one of His creatures, it is God himself that becomes the operator.
When, some days after, Mrs. Becker—calm, radiant, and saved—requested to see and thank her deliverer, it was Jack who presented himself. If she had known this sooner, it would, most undoubtedly, have augmented her terror, and increased the fever. As it was, it redoubled her thankfulness, and hastened her recovery.
Frank and Ernest embarked on board the Nelson when she returned to New Switzerland on her way to Europe. Two years afterwards, the former returned in the capacity of a minister of the Church of England, bringing with him a sufficient number of men, women, and children to furnish a respectable congregation; and it was rumored, though with what degree of truth I will not venture to say, that one of the young lady passengers in the ship was his destined bride. Ernest remained some years in Europe, partly to consolidate relations between the colony and the mother country, and partly with a view to realize his pet project of establishing an observatory in New Switzerland.
Willis, instead of being suspended at the yard-arm as he had insisted on prognosticating, received his lieutenancy in due course, accompanied by a highly flattering letter from the Lords of the Admiralty, thanking him, in the name of the captain and crew of the Nelson, for his exertions in their behalf. As soon, however, as peace was proclaimed, he retired on half-pay, and, with his wife and daughter, emigrated to Oceania. He assumed his old post of admiral on Shark's Island, where a commodious house had been erected. We must premise, at the same time, that to his honorary duties as admiral, conjoined the humbler, but not less useful, offices of lighthouse keeper, manager of the fisheries, and harbor-master.
As a country grows rich, and advances in prosperity, it rarely, if ever, happens that the sum of human life becomes happier or better. It is, therefore, not without regret we learn that gold has been discovered in a land so highly favored by nature in other respects; for, if such be the case, then adieu to the peace and tranquillity its inhabitants have hitherto enjoyed. The colony will soon be overrun with Chinamen, American adventurers, and ticket-of-leave convicts. Farewell to the kindliness and hospitality of the community, for they will inevitably be deluged with the refuse of the old, and also, alas! of the new world.