Part 3 out of 15
step to him?"
Alfred looked a little confused, and said, "No: he left for London two
days ago, as it happens."
"That is unfortunate," said Mrs. Dodd. "Your best plan would be to write
to him at once. I need hardly tell you that we shall enter no family
without an invitation from its head."
Alfred replied that he was well aware of that, and that he knew his
father, and could answer for him. "No doubt," said Mrs. Dodd, "but, as a
matter of reasonable form, I prefer he should answer for himself." Alfred
would write by this post. "It is a mere form," said he, "for my father
has but one answer to his children, 'Please yourselves.' He sometimes
adds, 'and how much money shall you want?' These are his two formulae."
He then delivered a glowing eulogy on his father; and Mrs. Dodd, to whom
the boy's character was now a grave and anxious study, saw with no common
satisfaction his cheek flush and his eyes moisten as he dwelt on the
calm, sober, unvarying affection, and reasonable indulgence he and his
sister had met with all their lives from the best of parents. Returning
to the topic of topics, he proposed an engagement. "I have a ring in my
pocket," said this brisk wooer, looking down. But this Mrs. Dodd thought
premature and unnecessary. "You are nearly of age," said she, "and then
you will be able to marry, if you are in the same mind." But, upon being
warmly pressed, she half conceded even this. "Well," said she, "on
receiving your father's consent, you can _propose_ an engagement to
Julia, and she shall use her own judgment; but, until then, you will not
even mention such a thing to her. May I count on so much forbearance from
"Dear Mrs. Dodd," said Alfred, "of course you may. I should indeed be
ungrateful if I could not wait a post for that. May I write to my father
here?" added he, naively.
Mrs. Dodd smiled, furnished him with writing materials, and left him,
with a polite excuse.
"ALBION VILLA, _September 29._
"MY DEAR FATHER,--You are too thorough a man of the world, and too well
versed in human nature, to be surprised at hearing that I, so long
invulnerable, have at last formed a devoted attachment to one whose
beauty, goodness, and accomplishments I will not now enlarge upon; they
are indescribable, and you will very soon see them and judge for
yourself. The attachment, though short in weeks and months, has been a
very long one in hopes, and fears, and devotion. I should have told you
of it before you left, but in truth I had no idea I was so near the goal
of all my earthly hopes; there were many difficulties: but these have
just cleared away almost miraculously, and nothing now is wanting to my
happiness but your consent. It would be affectation, or worse, in me to
doubt that you will grant it. But, in a matter so delicate, I venture to
ask you for something more: the mother of my ever and only beloved Julia
is a lady of high breeding and sentiments: she will not let her daughter
enter any family without a cordial invitation from its head. Indeed she
has just told me so. I ask, therefore, not your bare consent, of which I
am sure, since my happiness for life depends on it, but a consent so
gracefully worded--and who can do this better than you?--as to gratify
the just pride and sensibilities of the high-minded family about to
confide its brightest ornament to my care.
"My dear father, in the midst of felicity almost more than mortal, the
thought has come that this letter is my first step towards leaving the
paternal roof under which I have been so happy all my life, thanks to
you. I should indeed be unworthy of all your goodness if this thought
caused me no emotion.
"Yet I do but yield to Nature's universal law. And, should I be master of
my own destiny, I will not go far from you. I have been unjust to
Barkington: or rather I have echoed, without thought, Oxonian prejudices
and affectation. On mature reflection, I know no better residence for a
"Do you remember about a year ago you mentioned a Miss Lucy Fountain to
us as 'the most perfect gentlewoman you had ever met?' Well, strange to
say, it is that very lady's daughter; and I think when you see her you
will say the breed has anything but declined, in spite of Horace mind his
_'damnosa quid non.'_ Her brother is my dearest friend, and she is
Jenny's; so a more happy alliance for all parties was never projected.
"Write to me by return, dear father, and believe me, ever your dutiful
and grateful son,
As he concluded, Julia came in, and he insisted on her reading this
masterpiece. She hesitated. Then he told her with juvenile severity that
a good husband always shares his letters with his wife.
"His wife! Alfred!" and she coloured all over. "Don't call me _names,_"
said she, turning it off after her fashion. "I can't bear it: it makes me
tremble. With fury."
"This will never do, sweet one," said Alfred gravely. "You and I are to
have no separate existence now; you are to be I, and I am to be you.
"No; you read me so much of it as is proper for me to hear. I shall not
like it so well from your lips: but never mind."
When he came to read it, he appreciated the delicacy that had tempered
her curiosity. He did not read it all to her, but nearly.
"It is a beautiful letter," said she; "a little pomposer than mamma and I
write. 'The paternal roof!' But all that becomes you; you are a scholar:
and, dear Alfred, if I should separate you from your papa, I will never
estrange you from him; oh, never, never. May I go for my work? For
methinks, O most erudite, the 'maternal dame,' on domestic cares intent,
hath confided to her offspring the recreation of your highness." The gay
creature dropt him a curtsey, and fled to tell Mrs. Dodd the substance of
"the sweet letter the dear high-flown Thing had written."
By then he had folded and addressed it, she returned and brought her
work: charity children's great cloaks: her mother had cut them, and in
the height of the fashion, to Jane Hardie's dismay; and Julia was
binding, hooding, etcetering them.
How demurely she bent her lovely head over her charitable work, while
Alfred poured his tale into her ears! How careful she was not to speak,
when there was a chance of his speaking! How often she said one thing so
as to express its opposite, a process for which she might have taken out
a patent! How she and Alfred compared heart-notes, and their feelings at
each stage of their passion! Their hearts put forth tendril after
tendril, and so curled, and clung, round each other.
In the afternoon of the second blissful day, Julia suddenly remembered
that this was dull for her mother. To have such a thought was to fly to
her; and she flew so swiftly that she caught Mrs. Dodd in tears, and
trying adroitly and vainly to hide them.
"What is the matter? I am a wretch. I have left you alone."
Do not think me so peevish, love! you have but surprised the natural
regrets of a mother at the loss of her child."
"Oh, mamma," said Julia, warmly, "and do you think all the marriage in
the world can ever divide you and me--can make me lukewarm to my own
sweet, darling, beautiful, blessed, angel mother? Look at me: I am as
much your Julia as ever; and shall be while I live. Your son is your son
till he gets him a wife: but your daughter's your daughter,
ALL--THE----DAYS--OF HER LIFE.
Divine power of native eloquence: with this trite distich you made
hexameters tame; it gushed from that great young heart with a sweet
infantine ardour, that even virtue can only pour when young, and youth
when virtuous; and, at the words I have emphasised by the poor device of
capitals, two lovely, supple arms flew wide out like a soaring
albatross's wings, and then went all round the sad mother, and gathered
every bit of her up to the generous young bosom.
"I know it, I know it!" cried Mrs. Dodd, kissing her; I shall never lose
my daughter while she breathes. But I am losing my child. You are turning
to a woman visibly: and you were such a happy child. Hence my misgivings,
and these weak tears, which you have dried with a word: see!" And she
contrived to smile. "And now go down, dearest: he may be impatient; men's
love is so fiery."
The next day Mrs. Dodd took Julia apart and asked her whether there was
an answer from Mr. Hardie. Julia replied, from Alfred, that Jane had
received a letter last night, and, to judge by the contents, Mr. Hardie
must have left London before Alfred's letter got there. "He is gone to
see poor Uncle Thomas."
"Why do you call him 'poor?'"
"Oh, he is not very clever; has not much mind, Alfred says; indeed,
"You alarm me, Julia!" cried Mrs. Dodd. "What? madness in the family you
propose to marry into?"
"Oh no, mamma," said Julia, in a great hurry; "no madness; only a little
Mrs. Dodd's lip curved at this Julian answer; but just then her mind was
more drawn to another topic. A serious doubt passed through her, whether,
if Mr. Hardie did not write soon, she ought not to limit his son's
attendance on her daughter. "He follows her about like a little dog,"
said she half fretfully.
Next day, by previous invitation, Dr. Sampson made Albion Villa his
head-quarters. Darting in from London, he found Alfred sitting very close
to Julia over a book.
"Lordsake!" cried he, "here's 'my puppy,' and 'm' enthusiast,' cheek by
chowl." Julia turned scarlet, and Alfred ejaculated so loudly, that
Sampson inquired "what on airth was the matter now?"
"Oh, nothing; only here have I been jealous of my own shadow, and
pestering her who 'your puppy' was: and she never would tell me. All I
could get from her," added he, turning suddenly from gratitude to
revenge, "was that he was no greater a puppy than yourself, doctor."
"Oh, Alfred, no; I only said no vainer," cried Julia in dismay.
"Well, it is true," said Sampson contentedly, and proceeded to dissect
himself just as he would a stranger. "I am a vain man; a remarkably vain
man. But then I'm a man of great mirit."
"All vain people are that," suggested Alfred dryly.
"Who should know better than you, young Oxford? Y' have got a hidache."
"Don't tell lies now. Ye can't deceive me; man, I've an eye like a hawk.
And what's that ye're studying with her? Ovid, for a pound."
"No; medicine; a treatise on your favourite organ, the brain, by one Dr.
"He is chaffing you, doctor," said Edward; "it is logic. He is coaching
her; and then she will coach me."
"Then I forbid the chaff-cutting, young Pidant. Logic is an ill plaster
to a sore head."
"Oh, 'the labour we delight in, physics pain.'"
Take care o' your carkuss,"
retorted the master of doggrel. "And that is a profounder remark than you
seem to think, by your grinning, all of ye."
Julia settled the question by putting away the book. And she murmured to
Alfred, "I wish I could steal your poor dear headaches: you might give me
half of them at least; you would, too, if you really loved me."
This sound remonstrance escaped criticism by being nearly inaudible, and
by Mrs. Dodd entering at the same moment.
After the first greeting, Sampson asked her with merry arrogance, how his
prescription had worked? "Is her sleep broken still, ma'am? Are her
spirits up and down? Shall we have to go back t' old Short and his black
draught? How's her mookis membrin? And her biliary ducks? an'-- she's off
like a flash."
"And no wonder," said Mrs. Dodd reproachfully.
Thus splashed Sampson among the ducks: one of them did not show her face
again till dinner.
Jane Hardie accompanied her brother by invitation. The general amity was
diversified and the mirth nowise lessened by constant passages of arms
between Messrs. Sampson and Alfred Hardie.
After tea came the first _contretemps._ Sampson liked a game of cards: he
could play, yet talk chronothermalism, as the fair can knit babies' shoes
and imbibe the poetasters of the day.
Mrs. Dodd had asked Edward to bring a fresh pack. He was seen by his
guardian angel to take them out of his pocket and undo them; presently
Sampson, in his rapid way, clutched hold of them; and found a slip of
paper curled round the ace of spades, with this written very clear in
"REMEMBER THY CREATOR IN THE DAYS OF THY YOUTH!"
"What is this?" cried Sampson, and read it out aloud. Jane Hardie
coloured, and so betrayed herself. Her "word in season" had strayed. It
was the young and comely Edward she wished to save from the diabolical
literature, the painted perdition, and not the uninteresting old sinner
Sampson, who proceeded to justify her preference by remarking that
"Remember not to trump your partner's best card, ladies," would be more
to the point.
Everybody, except this hardened personage, was thoroughly uncomfortable.
As for Alfred, his face betrayed a degree of youthful mortification
little short of agony. Mrs. Dodd was profoundly disgusted, but
fortunately for the Hardies, caught sight of his burning cheeks and
compressed lips. "Dr. Sampson," said she, with cold dignity, "you will, I
am sure, oblige me by making no more comments; sincerity is not always
discreet; but it is always respectable: it is one of your own titles to
esteem. I dare say," added she with great sweetness, "our resources are
not so narrow that we need shock anybody's prejudices, and, as it
happens, I was just going to ask Julia to sing: open the piano, love, and
try if you can persuade Miss Hardie to join you in a duet."
At this, Jane and Julia had an earnest conversation at the piano, and
their words, uttered in a low voice, were covered by a contemporaneous
discussion between Sampson and Mrs. Dodd.
_Jane._ No, you must not ask me: I have forsworn these vanities. I have
not opened my piano this two years.
_Julia._ Oh, what a pity; music is so beautiful; and surely we can choose
our songs, as easily as our words; ah, how much more easily.
_Jane._ Oh, I don't go so far as to call music wicked: but music in
society is _such_ a snare. At least I found it so; my playing was highly
praised, and that stirred up vanity: and so did my singing, with which I
had even more reason to be satisfied. Snares! snares!
_Julia._ Goodness me! I don't find them so. Now you mention it, gentlemen
do praise one; but, dear me, they praise every lady, even when we have
been singing every other note out of tune. The little unmeaning
compliments of society, can they catch anything so great as a soul?
_Jane._ I pray daily not to be led into temptation, and shall I go into
it of my own accord?
_Julia._ Not if you find it a temptation. At that rate I ought to
_Jane._ That doesn't follow. My conscience is not a law to yours.
Besides, your mamma said "sing:" and a parent is not to be disobeyed upon
a doubt. If papa were to insist on my going to a ball even, or reading a
novel, I think I should obey; and lay the whole case before Him.
_Mrs. Dodd_ (from a distance). Come, my dears, Dr. Sampson is getting
_so_ impatient for your song.
_Sampson._ Hum! for all that, young ladies' singing is a poor substitute
for cards, and even for conversation.
_Mrs. Dodd._ That depends upon the singer, I presume.
_Sampson._ Mai-- dear--madam, they all sing alike; just as they all write
alike. I can hardly tell one fashionable tune from another; and nobody
can tell one word from another, when they cut out all the consonants. N'
listen me. This is what I heard sung by a lady last night.
Eu un Da' ei u aa an oo.
By oo eeeeyee aa
Vaullee, Vaullee, Vaullee, Vaullee,
Vaullee om is igh eeaa
An ellin in is ud.
_Mrs. Dodd._ That sounds like gibberish.
_Sampson._ It is gibberish, but it's Drydenish in articulating mouths. It
He sung Darius great and good,
By too severe a fate
Fallen, fallen, fallen, fallen,
Fallen from his high estate,
And wiltering in his blood.
_Mrs. Dodd._ I think you exaggerate. I will answer for Julia that she
shall speak as distinctly to music as you do in conversation.
_Sampson_ (all unconscious of the tap). Time will show, madam. At prisent
they seem to be in no hurry to spatter us with their word-jelly. Does
some spark of pity linger in their marble bos'ms? or do they prefer
inaud'ble chit-chat t' inarticulate mewing?
Julia, thus pressed, sang one of those songs that come and go every
season. She spoke the words clearly, and with such variety and
intelligence, that Sampson recanted, and broke in upon the--" very pretty
"--"how sweet"--and "who is it by?" of the others, by shouting, "Very
weak trash very cleanly sung. Now give us something worth the wear and
tear of your orgins. Immortal vairse widded t' immortal sounds; that is
what I understand b' a song."
Alfred whispered, "No, no, dearest; sing something suitable to you and
"Out of the question. Then go farther away, dear; I shall have more
He obeyed, and she turned over two or three music-books, and finally sung
from memory. She cultivated musical memory, having observed the contempt
with which men of sense visit the sorry pretenders to music, who are
tuneless and songless among the nightingales, and anywhere else away from
their books. How will they manage to sing in heaven? Answer me that.
The song Julia Dodd sang on this happy occasion, to meet the humble but
heterogeneous views of Messrs. Sampson and Hardie, was a simple eloquent
Irish song called Aileen Aroon. Whose history, by-the-bye, was a curious
one. Early in this century it occurred to somebody to hymn a son of
George the Third for his double merit in having been born, and going to a
ball. People who thus apply the fine arts in modern days are seldom
artists; accordingly, this parasite could not invent a melody; so he
coolly stole Aileen Aroon, soiled it by inserting sordid and incongruous
jerks into the refrain, and called the stolen and adulterated article
Robin Adair. An artisan of the same kidney was soon found to write words
down to the degraded ditty: and, so strong is Flunkeyism, and so weak is
Criticism, in these islands, that the polluted tune actually superseded
the clean melody; and this sort of thing--
Who was in uniform at the ball?
smothered the immortal lines.
But Mrs. Dodd's severe taste in music rejected those ignoble jerks, and
her enthusiastic daughter having the option to hymn immortal Constancy or
mortal Fat, decided thus:--
When like the early rose,
Beauty in childhood glows,
When like a diadem,
Buds blush around the stem,
Which is the fairest gem?
Is it the laughing eye?
Is it the timid sigh?
Is it the tender tone?
Soft as the string'd harp's mean?
No; it is Truth alone,
I know a valley fair,
I know a cottage there,
Far in that valley's shade,
I know a gentle maid,
Flower of the hazel glade,
Who in the song so sweet?
Who in the dance so fleet?
Dear are her charms to me,
Dearer her laughter free,
Dearest her constancy.
Youth must with time decay,
Beauty must fade away,
Castles are sacked in war,
Chieftains are scattered far,
Truth is a fixed star,
The way the earnest singer sang these lines is beyond the conception of
ordinary singers, public or private. Here one of nature's orators spoke
poetry to music with an eloquence as fervid and delicate as ever rung in
the Forum. She gave each verse with the same just variety as if she had
been reciting, and, when she came to the last, where the thought rises
abruptly, and is truly noble, she sang it with the sudden pathos, the
weight, and the swelling majesty, of a truthful soul hymning truth with
all its powers.
All the hearers, even Sampson, were thrilled, astonished, spell-bound: so
can one wave of immortal music and immortal verse (alas! how seldom they
meet!) heave the inner man when genius interprets. Judge, then, what it
was to Alfred, to whom, with these great words and thrilling tones of her
rich, swelling, ringing voice, the darling of his own heart vowed
constancy, while her inspired face beamed on him like an angel's.
Even Mrs. Dodd, though acquainted with the song, and with her daughter's
rare powers, gazed at her now with some surprise, as well as admiration,
and kept a note Sarah had brought her, open, but unread, in her hand,
unable to take her eyes from the inspired songstress. However, just
before the song ended, she did just glance down, and saw it was signed
Richard Hardie. On this her eye devoured it; and in one moment she saw
that the writer declined, politely but peremptorily, the proposed
alliance between his son and her daughter.
The mother looked up from this paper at that living radiance and
incarnate melody in a sort of stupor: it seemed hardly possible to her
that a provincial banker could refuse an alliance with a creature so
peerless as that. But so it was; and despite her habitual
self-government, Mrs. Dodd's white hand clenched the note till her nails
dented it; and she reddened to the brow with anger and mortification.
Julia, whom she had trained never to monopolise attention in society, now
left the piano in spite of remonstrance, and soon noticed her mother's
face; for from red it had become paler than usual. "Are you unwell,
dear?" said she _sotto voce._
"Is there anything the matter, then?"
"Hush! We have guests: our first duty is to them." With this Mrs. Dodd
rose, and, endeavouring not to look at her daughter at all, went round
and drew each of her guests out in turn. It was the very heroism of
courtesy; for their presence was torture to her. At last, to her infinite
relief, they went, and she was left alone with her children. She sent the
servants to bed, saying she would undress Miss Dodd, and accompanied her
to her room. There the first thing she did was to lock the door; and the
next was to turn round and look at her full.
"I always thought you the most lovable child I ever saw; but I never
admired you as I have to-night, my noble, my beautiful daughter, who
would grace the highest family in England." With this Mrs. Dodd began to
choke, and kissed Julia eagerly with the tears in her eyes, and drew her
with tender, eloquent defiance to her bosom.
"My own mamma," said Julia softly, "what has happened?"
"My darling, said Mrs. Dodd, trembling a little, "have you pride? have
"I think I have."
"I hope so: for you will need them both. Read that!"
And she held out Mr. Hardie's letter, but turned her own head away, not
to see her girl's face under the insult.
JULIA took Mr. Hardie's note and read it:--
"MADAM,--I have received a very juvenile letter from my son, by which I
learn he has formed a sudden attachment to your daughter. He tells me,
however, at the same time, that you await my concurrence before giving
your consent. I appreciate your delicacy; and it is with considerable
regret I now write to inform you this match is out of the question. I
have thought it due to you to communicate this to yourself and without
delay, and feel sure that you will, under the circumstances,
discountenance my son's further visits at your house--I am, Madam, with
sincere respect, your faithful servant,
Julia read this letter, and re-read it in silence. It was an anxious
moment to the mother.
"Shall our pride be less than this _parvenu's?_" she faltered. "Tell me
yourself, what ought we to do?"
"What we ought to do is, never to let the name of Hardie be mentioned
again in this house."
This reply was very comforting to Mrs. Dodd.
"Shall I write to him, or do you feel strong enough?"
"I feel that, if I do, I may affront him. He had no right to pretend that
his father would consent. You write, and then we shall not lose our
dignity though we are insulted."
"I feel so weary, mamma. Life seems ended.
"I could have loved him well. And now show me how to tear him out of my
heart; or what will become of me?"
While Mrs. Dodd wrote to Alfred Hardie, Julia sank down and laid her head
on her mother's knees. The note was shown her; she approved it languidly.
A long and sad conversation followed; and, after kissing her mother and
clinging to her, she went to bed chilly and listless, but did not shed a
single tear. Her young heart was benumbed by the unexpected blow.
Next morning early, Alfred Hardie started gaily to spend the day at
Albion Villa. Not a hundred yards from the gate he met Sarah, with Mrs.
Dodd's letter, enclosing a copy of his father's to her. Mrs. Dodd here
reminded him that his visits had been encouraged only upon a
misapprehension of his father's sentiments; for which misapprehension he
was in some degree to blame: not that she meant to reproach him on that
score, especially at this unhappy moment: no, she rather blamed herself
for listening to the sanguine voice of youth; but the error must now be
repaired. She and Julia would always wish him well, and esteem him,
provided he made no further attempt to compromise a young lady who could
not be his wife. The note concluded thus--
"Individually I think I have some right to count on your honourable
feeling to hold no communication with my daughter, and not in any way to
attract her attention, under the present circumstances.--I am, dear Mr.
Alfred Hardie, with many regrets at the pain I fear I am giving you, your
sincere friend and well-wisher,
Alfred on reading this letter literally staggered: but proud and
sensitive, as well as loving, he manned himself to hide his wound from
Sarah, whose black eyes were bent on him in merciless scrutiny. He said
doggedly, though tremulously, "Very well!" then turned quickly on his
heel, and went slowly home. Mrs. Dodd, with well-feigned indifference,
questioned Sarah privately: the girl's account of the abrupt way in which
he had received the missive added to her anxiety. She warned the servants
that no one was at home to Mr. Alfred Hardie.
Two days elapsed, and then she received a letter from him. Poor fellow,
it was the eleventh. He had written and torn up ten.
"DEAR MRS. DODD,--I have gained some victories in my life; but not one
without two defeats to begin with; how then can I expect to obtain such a
prize as dear Julia without a check or two? You need not fear that I
shall intrude after your appeal to me as a gentleman: but I am not going
to give in because my father has written a hasty letter from Yorkshire.
He and I must have many a talk face to face before I consent to be
miserable for life. Dear Mrs. Dodd, at first receipt of your cruel
letter, so kindly worded, I was broken-hearted; but now I am myself
again: difficulties are made for ladies to yield to, and for men to
conquer. Only for pity's sake do not you be my enemy; do not set her
against me for my father's fault. Think, if you can, how my heart bleeds
at closing this letter without one word to her I love better, a thousand
times better, than my life--I am, dear Mrs. Dodd, yours sorrowfully, but
Mrs. Dodd kept this letter to herself. She could not read it quite
unmoved, and therefore she felt sure it would disturb her daughter's
heart the more.
Alfred had now a soft but dangerous antagonist in Mrs. Dodd. All the
mother was in arms to secure her daughter's happiness, _coute qu'il
coute!_ and the surest course seemed to be to detach her affections from
Alfred. What hope of a peaceful heart without this? and what real
happiness without peace? But, too wise and calm to interfere blindly, she
watched her daughter day and night, to find whether Love or Pride was the
stronger, and this is what she observed--
Julia never mentioned Alfred. She sought occupation eagerly: came oftener
than usual for money, saying, it was for "Luxury." She visited the poor
more constantly, taking one of the maids with her, at Mrs. Dodd's
request. She studied Logic with Edward. She went to bed rather early,
fatigued, it would appear, by her activity: and she gave the clue to her
own conduct one day: "Mamma," said she, nobody is downright unhappy who
Mrs. Dodd noticed also a certain wildness and almost violence, with which
she threw herself into her occupations, and a worn look about the eyes
that told of a hidden conflict. On the whole Mrs. Dodd was hopeful; for
she had never imagined the cure would be speedy or easy. To see her child
on the right road was much. Only the great healer Time could "medicine
her to that sweet peace which once she owned;" and even Time cannot give
her back her childhood, thought the mother, with a sigh.
One day came an invitation to an evening party at a house where they
always wound up with dancing. Mrs. Dodd was for declining as usual for
since that night Julia had shunned parties. "Give me the sorrows of the
poor and afflicted," was her cry; "the gaiety of the hollow world jars me
more than I can bear." But now she caught with a sort of eagerness at
this invitation. "Accept. They shall not say I am wearing the willow."
"My brave girl," said Mrs. Dodd joyfully, "I would not press it; but you
are right; we owe it to ourselves to outface scandal. Still, let there be
no precipitation; we must not undertake beyond our strength."
"Try me to-night," said Julia; "you don't know what I can do. I dare say
_he_ is not pining for _me._"
She was the life and soul of the party, and, indeed, so feverishly
brilliant, that Mrs. Dodd said softly to her, "Gently, love; moderate
your spirits, or they will deceive our friends as little as they do me."
Meantime it cost Alfred Hardie a severe struggle to keep altogether aloof
from Julia. In fact, it was a state of daily self-denial, to which he
would never have committed himself, but that he was quite sure he could
gradually win his father over. At his age we are apt to count without our
Mr. Richard Hardie was "a long-headed man." He knew the consequence of
giving one's reasons: eternal discussion ending in war. He had taken care
not to give any to Mrs. Dodd, and he was as guarded and reserved with
Alfred. The young man begged to know the why and the wherefore, and being
repulsed, employed all his art to elicit them by surprise, or get at them
by inference: but all in vain. Hardie senior was impenetrable; and
inquiry, petulance, tenderness, logic, were all shattered on him as the
waves break on Ailsa Craig.
Thus began dissension, decently conducted at first, between a father
indulgent hitherto and an affectionate son.
In this unfortunate collision of two strong and kindred natures, every
advantage was at present on the father's side: age, experience,
authority, resolution, hidden and powerful motives, to which my reader
even has no clue as yet; a purpose immutable and concealed. Add to these
a colder nature and a far colder affection; for Alfred loved his father
At last, one day, the impetuous one lost his self-command, and said he
was a son, not a slave, and had little respect for Authority when afraid
or ashamed to appeal to Reason. Hardie senior turned on him with a
gravity and dignity no man could wear more naturally. "Alfred, have I
been an unkind father to you all these years?"
"Oh no, father, no; I have said nothing that can be so construed. And
that is the mystery to me; you are acting quite out of character."
"Have I been one of those interfering, pragmatical fathers who cannot let
their children enjoy themselves their own way?"
"No, sir; you have never interfered, except to pay for anything I
"Then make the one return in your power, young man: have a little faith
in such a father, and believe that he does not interfere now but for your
good, and under a stern necessity; and that when he does interfere for
once, and say, 'This thing shall not be,' it shall not be--by Heaven!"
Alfred was overpowered by the weight and solemnity of this. Sorrow,
vexation, and despondency all rushed into his heart together, and
unmanned him for a moment; he buried his face in his hands, and something
very like a sob burst from his young heart. At this Hardie senior took up
the newspaper with imperturbable coldness, and wore a slight curl of the
lip. All this was hardly genuine, for he was not altogether unmoved; but
he was a man of rare self-command, and chose to impress on Alfred that he
was no more to be broken or melted than a mere rock.
It is always precarious to act a part; and this cynicism was rather able
than wise: Alfred looked up and watched him keenly as he read the
monetary article with tranquil interest; and then, for the first time in
his life, it flashed into the young man's mind that his father was not a
father. "I never knew him till now," thought he. "This man is [Greek
*Without bowels of affection.
Thus a gesture, so to speak, sowed the first seed of downright disunion
in Richard Hardie's house--disunion, a fast-growing plant, when men set
it in the soil of the passions.
Alfred, unlike Julia, had no panacea. Had any lips, except perhaps hers,
told him that "to be good is to be happy here below," he would have
replied: _"Negatur;_ contradicted by daily experience." It never occurred
to him, therefore, to go out of himself, and sympathise with the sordid
sorrows of the poor, and their bottomless egotism in contact with the
well-to-do. He brooded on his own love, and his own unhappiness, and his
own father's cruelty. His nights were sleepless and his days leaden. He
tried hard to read for his first class, but for once even ambition
failed: it ended in flinging books away in despair. He wandered about
dreaming and moping for some change, and bitterly regretting his
excessive delicacy, which had tied his own hands and brought him to a
stand-still. He lost his colour and what little flesh he had to lose; for
such young spirits as this are never plump. In a word, being now
strait-jacketed into feminine inactivity, while void of feminine
patience, his ardent heart was pining and fretting itself out. He was in
this condition, when one day Peterson, his Oxonian friend, burst in on
him open-mouthed with delight, and, as usual with bright spirits of this
calibre, did not even notice his friend's sadness. "Cupid had clapped him
on the shoulder," as Shakespeare hath it; and it was a deal nicer than
the bum-bailiff rheumatism.
"Oh, such a divine creature! Met her twice; you know her by sight; her
name is Dodd. But I don't care; it shall be Peterson; the rose by any
other name, &c." Then followed a rapturous description of the lady's
person, well worth omitting. "And such a jolly girl! brightens them all
up wherever she goes; and such a dancer; did the cachouka with a little
Spanish bloke Bosanquet has got hold of, and made his black bolus eyes
twinkle like midnight cigars: danced it with castanets, and smiles, and
such a what d'ye call 'em, my boy, you know; such a 'go.'"
"You mean such an 'abandon,'" groaned Alfred, turning sick at heart.
"That's the word. Twice the spirit of Duvernay, and ten times the beauty.
But just you hear her sing, that is all; Italian, French, German, English
"Oh, whatever they ask for. Make you laugh or make you cry to order;
never says no. Just smiles and sits down to the music-box. Only she won't
sing two running: they have to stick a duffer in between. I shall meet
her again next week; will you come? Any friend of mine is welcome. Wish
me joy, old fellow; I'm a gone coon."
This news put Alfred in a phrensy of indignation and fear. Julia dancing
the cachouka! Julia a jolly girl! Julia singing songs pathetic or merry,
whichever were asked for! The heartless one! He called to mind all he had
read in the classics, and elsewhere, about the fickleness of woman. But
this impression did not last long; he recalled Julia's character, and all
the signs of a love tender and true she had given him. He read her by
himself, and, lover-like, laid all the blame on another. It was all her
cold-blooded mother. "Fool that I have been. I see it all now. She
appeals to my delicacy to keep away; then she goes to Julia and says,
'See, he deserts you at a word from his father. Be proud, be gay! He
never loved you; marry another.' The shallow plotter forgets that whoever
she does marry I'll kill. How many unsuspicious girls have these
double-faced mothers deluded so? They do it in half the novels,
especially in those written by women; and why? because these know the
perfidy and mendacity of their sex better than we do; they see them
nearer, and with their souls undrest. War, Mrs. Dodd! war to the death!
From this moment I am alone in the world with her. I have no friend but
Alfred Hardie: and my bitterest enemies are my cold-blooded father and
her cold-blooded mother."
The above sentences, of course, were never uttered. But they represent
his thoughts accurately, though in a condensed form, and are, as it were,
a miniature of this young heart boiling over.
From that moment he lay in wait for her, and hovered about the house day
and night, determined to appeal to her personally, and undeceive her, and
baffle her mother's treachery. But at this game he was soon detected:
Mrs. Dodd lived on the watch now. Julia, dressed to go out, went to the
window one afternoon to look at the weather; but retreated somewhat
hastily and sat down on the sofa.
"You flutter, darling," said Mrs. Dodd. "Ah! he is there."
"You had better take off your things."
"Oh, yes. I tremble at the thoughts of meeting him. Mamma, he is changed,
sadly changed. Poor, poor Alfred!" She went to her own room and prayed
for him. She informed the Omniscient that, though much greater and better
in other respects than she was, he had not Patience. She prayed, with
tears, that he might have Christian patience granted Him from on high.
"Heart of stone! she shuns me," said Alfred, outside. He had seen her in
Mrs. Dodd waited several days to see whether this annoyance would not die
of itself: waiting was her plan in most things. Finding he was not to be
tired out, she sent Sarah out to him with a note carefully sealed.
"Mr. Alfred Hardie,--Is it generous to confine my daughter to the
A line came back instantly in pencil.
"Mrs. Dodd,--Is all the generosity and all the good faith to be on one
side?--Yours in despair,
Mrs. Dodd coloured faintly: the reproach pricked her, but did not move
her. She sat quietly down that moment, and wrote to a friend in London,
to look out for a furnished villa in a healthy part of the suburbs, with
immediate possession. "Circumstances," said she, "making it desirable we
should leave Barkington immediately, and for some months."
The Bosanquets gave a large party; Mrs. and Miss Dodd were there. The
latter was playing a part in a charade to the admiration of all present,
when in came Mr. Peterson, introducing his friend, Alfred Hardie.
Julia caught the name, and turned a look of alarm on her mother, but went
Presently she caught sight of him at some distance. He looked very pale,
and his glittering eye was fixed on her with a sort of stern wonder.
Such a glance from fiery eyes, that had always dwelt tenderly on her till
then, struck her like a weapon. She stopped short, and turned red and
pale by turns. "There, that is nonsense enough," said she bitterly, and
went and sat by Mrs. Dodd. The gentlemen thronged round her with
compliments, and begged her to sing. She excused herself. Presently she
heard an excited voice, towards which she dared not look; it was
inquiring whether any lady could sing Aileen Aroon. With every desire to
gratify the young millionaire, nobody knew Aileen Aroon, nor had ever
heard of it.
"Oh, impossible!" cried Alfred. "Why, it is in praise of Constancy, a
virtue ladies shine in: at least, they take credit for it."
"Mamma," whispered Julia terrified, "get me away, or there will be a
scene. He is reckless."
"Be calm, love," said Mrs. Dodd, "there shall be none." She rose and
glided up to Alfred Hardie, looked coldly in his face; then said with
external politeness and veiled contempt, "I will attempt the song, sir,
since you desire it." She waved her hand, and he followed her sulkily to
the piano. She sung Aileen Aroon, not with her daughter's eloquence, but
with a purity and mellowness that charmed the room: they had never heard
the genius sing it.
As spirits are said to overcome the man at whose behest they rise, so
this sweet air, and the gush of reminiscence it awakened, overpowered him
who had evoked them; Alfred put his Hand unconsciously to his swelling
heart, cast one look of anguish at Julia, and hurried away half choked.
Nobody but Julia noticed.
A fellow in a rough great-coat and tattered white hat opened the fly door
for Mrs. Dodd. As Julia followed her, he kissed her skirt unseen by Mrs.
Dodd, but her quick ears caught a heart-breaking sigh. She looked and
recognised Alfred in that disguise; the penitent fit had succeeded to the
angry one. Had Julia observed? To ascertain this without speaking of him,
Mrs. Dodd waited till they had got some little distance, then quietly put
out her hand and rested it for a moment on her daughter's; the girl was
trembling violently "Little wretch!" came to Mrs. Dodd's lips, but she
did not utter it. They were near home before she spoke at all, and then
she only said very kindly, "My love, you will not be subjected again to
these trials:" a remark intended quietly to cover the last occurrence as
well as Alfred's open persecution.
They had promised to go out the very next day; but Mrs. Dodd went alone,
and made excuses for Miss Dodd. On her return she found Julia sitting up
for her, and a letter come from her friend describing a pleasant cottage,
now vacant, near Maida Vale. Mrs. Dodd handed the open letter to Julia;
she read it without comment.
"We will go up to-morrow and take it for three months. Then the Oxford
vacation will terminate."
I am now about to relate a circumstance by no means without parallels,
but almost impossible to account for; and, as nothing is more common and
contemptible than inadequate solutions, I will offer none at all: but so
it was, that Mrs. Dodd awoke in the middle of that very night in a
mysterious state of mental tremor; trouble, veiled in obscurity, seemed
to sit heavy on her bosom. So strong, though vague, was this new and
mysterious oppression, that she started up in bed and cried aloud,
"David!--Julia!--Oh, what is the matter?" The sound of her own voice
dispelled the cloud in part, but not entirely. She lay awhile, and then
finding herself quite averse to sleep, rose and went to her window, and
eyed the weather anxiously. It was a fine night; soft fleecy clouds
drifted slowly across a silver moon. The sailor's wife was reassured on
her husband's behalf. Her next desire was to look at Julia sleeping; she
had no particular object: it was the instinctive impulse of an anxious
mother whom something had terrified. She put on her slippers and
dressing-gown, and, lighting a candle at her night-lamp, opened her door
softly and stepped into the little corridor. But she had not taken two
steps when she was arrested by a mysterious sound.
It came from Julia's room.
What was it?
Mrs. Dodd glided softly nearer and nearer, all her senses on the stretch.
The sound came again. It was a muffled sob.
The stifled sound, just audible in the dead stillness of the night, went
through and through her who stood there listening aghast. Her bowels
yearned over her child, and she hurried to the door, but recollected
herself, and knocked, very gently. "Don't be alarmed, love; it is only
me. May I come in?" She did not wait for the answer, but turned the
handle and entered. She found Julia sitting up in bed, looking wildly at
her, with cheeks flushed and wet. She sat on the bed and clasped her to
her breast in silence: but more than one warm tear ran down upon Julia's
bare neck; the girl felt them drop, and her own gushed in a shower.
"Oh, what have I done?" she sobbed. "Am I to make you wretched too?"
Mrs. Dodd did not immediately reply. She was there to console, and her
admirable good sense told her that to do that she must be calmer than her
patient; so even while she kissed and wept over Julia, she managed
gradually to recover her composure. "Tell me, my child," said she, "why
do you act a part with me? Why brave it out under my eye, and spend the
night secretly in tears? Are you still afraid to trust me?"
"Oh no, no; but I thought I was so strong, so proud: I undertook
miracles. I soon found my pride was a molehill and my love a mountain. I
could not hold out by day if I did not ease my breaking heart at night.
How unfortunate! I kept my head under the bed-clothes, too; but you have
such ears. I thought I would stifle my grief, or else perhaps you would
be as wretched as I am: forgive me pray forgive me!"
"On one condition," said Mrs. Dodd, struggling with the emotion these
simple words caused her.
"Anything to be forgiven," cried Julia, impetuously. "I'll go to London.
I'll go to Botany Bay. I deserve to be hanged."
"Then, from this hour, no half-confidences between us. Dear me, you carry
in your own bosom a much harsher judge, a much less indulgent friend,
than I am. Come! trust me with your heart. Do you love him very much?
Does your happiness depend on him?"
At this point-blank question Julia put her head over Mrs. Dodd's
shoulder, not to be seen; and, clasping her tight, murmured scarce above
a whisper, "I don't know how much I love him. When he came in at that
party I felt his slave--his unfaithful adoring slave; if he had ordered
me to sing Aileen Aroon, I should have obeyed; if he had commanded me to
take his hand and leave the room, I think I should have obeyed. His face
is always before me as plain as life; it used to come to me bright and
loving; now it is pale, and stern, and sad. I was not so wretched till I
saw he was pining for me, and thinks me inconstant--oh, mamma, so pale!
so shrunk I so reckless! He was sorry for misbehaving that night: he
changed clothes with a beggar to kiss my dress, poor thing! poor thing!
Who ever loved as he does me! I am dying for him; I am dying."
"There! there!" said Mrs. Dodd soothingly. "You have said enough. This
must be love. I am on your Alfred's side from this hour."
Julia opened her eyes, and was a good deal agitated as well as surprised.
"Pray do not raise my hopes," she gasped. "We are parted for ever. His
father refuses. Even you seemed averse; or have I been dreaming?"
"Me, dearest? How can I be averse to anything lawful on which I find your
heart is really set, and your happiness at stake? Of course I have
stopped the actual intercourse, under existing circumstances; but these
circumstances are not unalterable: your only obstacle is Mr. Richard
But what an obstacle!" sighed Julia. "His father! a man of iron! so
everybody says; for I have made inquiries--oh!" And she was abashed. She
resumed hastily, "And that letter, so cold, so cruel! I feel it was
written by one not open to gentle influences. He does not think me worthy
of his son so accomplished, so distinguished at the very university where
our poor Edward--has--you know----"
"Little simpleton!" said Mrs. Dodd, and kissed her tenderly; "your iron
man is the commonest clay, sordid, pliable; and your stem heroic Brutus
is a shopkeeper: he is open to the gentle influences which sway the
kindred souls of the men you and I buy our shoes, our tea, our gloves,
our fish-kettles of: and these influences I think I command, and am
prepared to use them to the utmost."
Julia lay silent, and wondering what she could mean.
But Mrs. Dodd hesitated now: it pained and revolted her to show her
enthusiastic girl the world as it is. She said as much, and added-- "I
seem to be going to aid all these people to take the bloom from my own
child's innocence. Heaven help me!"
"Oh, never mind that," cried Julia in her ardent way; "give me Truth
before Error, however pleasing."
Mrs. Dodd replied only by a sigh: grand general sentiments like that
never penetrated her mind: they glided off like water from a duck's back.
"We will begin with this mercantile Brutus, then," said she, with such a
curl of the lip. Brutus had rejected her daughter.
"Mr. Richard Hardie was born and bred in a bank; one where no wild thyme
blows, my poor enthusiast, nor cowslips nor the nodding violet grows; but
gold and silver chink, and Things are discounted, and men grow rich,
slowly but surely, by lawful use of other people's money. Breathed upon
by these 'gentle influences,' he was, from his youth, a remarkable man--
measured by Trade's standard. At five-and-twenty divine what he did! He
saved the bank. You have read of bubbles: the Mississippi Bubble and the
South Sea Bubble. Well, in the year 1825, it was not one bubble but a
thousand; mines by the score, and in distant lands; companies by the
hundred; loans to every nation or tribe; down to Guatemala, Patagonia,
and Greece; two hundred new ships were laid on the stocks in one year,
for your dear papa told me; in short, a fever of speculation, and the
whole nation raging with it: my dear, Princes, Dukes, Duchesses, Bishops,
Poets, Lawyers, Physicians, were seen struggling with their own footmen
for a place in the Exchange: and, at last, good, steady, old Mr. Hardie,
Alfred's grandfather, was drawn into the vortex. Now, to excuse him and
appreciate the precocious Richard, you must try and realise that these
bubbles, when they rise, are as alluring and reasonable as they are
ridiculous and incredible when one looks back on them; even soap bubbles,
you know, have rainbow hues till they burst: and, indeed, the blind
avarice of men does but resemble the blind vanity of women: look at our
grandmothers' hoops, and our mothers' short waists and monstrous heads!
Yet in their day what woman did not glory in these insanities? Well then,
Mr. Richard Hardie, at twenty-five, was the one to foresee the end of all
these bubbles; he came down from London and brought his people to their
senses by sober reason and 'sound commercial principles'--that means, I
believe, 'get other people's money, but do not risk your own.' His
superiority was so clear, that his father resigned the helm to him, and,
thanks to his ability, the bank weathered the storm, while all the other
ones in the town broke or suspended their trade. Now, you know, youth is
naturally ardent and speculative; but Richard Hardie's was colder and
wiser than other people's old age: and that is one trait. Some years
later, in the height of his prosperity--I reveal this only for your
comfort, and on your sacred promise as a person of delicacy, never to
repeat it to a soul--Richard Hardie was a suitor for my hand."
"Do not ejaculate, sweetest. It discomposes me. 'Nothing is
extraordinary,' as that good creature Dr. Sampson says. He must have
thought it would _answer,_ in one way or another, to have a gentlewoman
at the head of his table; and I was not penniless, _bien entendu._
Failing in this, he found a plain little Thing, with a gloomy temper, and
no accomplishments nor graces; but her father could settle twenty
thousand pounds. He married her directly: and that is a trait. He sold
his father's and grandfather's house and place of business, in spite of
all their associations, and obtained a lease of his present place from my
uncle Fountain: it seemed a more money-making situation. A trait. He
gives me no reason for rejecting my daughter. Why? because he is not
proud of his reasons: this walking Avarice has intelligence: a trait. Now
put all this together, and who more transparent than the profound Mr.
Hardie? He has declined our alliance because he takes for granted we are
poor. When I undeceive him on that head he will reopen _negotiations_ in
a letter--No. 2 of the correspondence; copied by one of his clerks--it
will be calm, plausible, flattering: in short, it will be done like a
gentleman: though he is nothing of the kind. And this brings me to what I
ought to have begun with: your dear father and I have always lived with
our income for our children's sake; he is bringing home the bulk of our
savings this very voyage, and it amounts to fourteen thousand pounds."
"Oh, what an enormous sum!"
"No, dearest, it is not a fortune in itself. But it is a considerable sum
to possess, independent of one's settlement and one's income. It is loose
cash, to speak _a la_ Hardie; that means I can do what I choose with it
and of course I choose--to make you happy. How I shall work on what you
call Iron and I venture to call Clay must be guided by circumstances. I
think of depositing three or four thousand pounds every month with Mr.
Hardie; he is our banker, you know. He will most likely open his eyes,
and make some move before the whole sum is in his hands. If he does not,
I shall perhaps call at his bank, and draw a cheque for fourteen thousand
pounds. The wealthiest provincial banker does not keep such a sum
floating in his shop-tills. His commercial honour, the one
semi-chivalrous sentiment in his soul, would be in peril. He would yield,
and with grace: none the less readily that his house and his bank, which
have been long heavily mortgaged to our trustees, were made virtually
theirs by agreement yesterday (I set this on foot with twelve hours of
Mr. Iron's impertinent letter), and he will say to himself, 'She
can--post me, I think these people call it--this afternoon for not
cashing her cheque,, and she can turn me and my bank into the street
to-morrow:' and then, of course, he shall see by my manner the velvet paw
is offered as well as the claw. He is pretty sure to ask himself which
will suit the _ledger_ best--this cat's friendship and her fourteen
thousand pounds, or--an insulted mother's enmity?" And Mrs. Placid's
teeth made a little click just audible in the silent night
"Oh, mamma! my heart is sick. Am I to be bought and sold like this?"
Mrs. Dodd sighed, but said calmly, "You must pay the penalty for loving a
_parvenu's_ son. Come, Julia, no peevishness, no more romance, no more
vacillation. You have tried Pride and failed pitiably: now I insist on
your trying Love! Child, it is the bane of our sex to carry nothing out:
from that weakness I will preserve you. And, by-the-bye, we are not going
to marry Mr. Richard Hardie, but Mr. Alfred. Now, Mr. Alfred, with all
his faults and defects--"
"Mamma! what faults? what defects?"
"--Is a gentleman; thanks to Oxford, and Harrow, and nature. My darling,
pray to Heaven night and day for your dear father's safe return; for on
him, and him alone, your happiness depends: as mine does."
"Mamma!" cried Julia, embracing her, "what do poor girls do who have lost
"Look abroad and see," was the grave reply.
Mrs. Dodd then begged her to go to sleep, like a good child, for her
health's sake; all would be well; and with this was about to return to
her own room; but a white hand and arm darted out of the bed and caught
her. "What! Hope has come to me by night in the form of an angel, and
shall I let her go back to her own room? Never! never! never! never!
never!" And she patted the bed expressively, and with the prettiest
"Well, let Hope take off her earrings first," suggested Mrs. Dodd.
"No, no, come here directly, earrings and all."
"No, thank you; or I shall have _them_ wounding you next."
Mrs. Hope quietly removed her earrings, and the tender pair passed the
rest of the night in one another's arms. The young girl's tears were
dried; and hope revived, and life bloomed again: only, henceforth her
longing eyes looked out to sea for her father, homeward bound.
Next day, as they were seated together in the drawing-room, Julia came
from the window with a rush, and kneeled at Mrs. Dodd's knees, with
bright imploring face upturned.
"He is there; and--I am to speak to him? Is that it?"
"Dear, dear, dear mamma!" was the somewhat oblique reply.
"Well, then, bring me my things."
She was ten minutes putting them on: Julia tried to expedite her and
retarded her. She had her pace, and could not go beyond it.
Now by this time Alfred Hardie was thoroughly miserable. Unable to move
his father, shunned by Julia, sickened by what he had heard, and indeed
seen, of her gaiety and indifference to their separation, stung by
jealousy and fretted by impatience, he was drinking nearly all the
bitters of that sweet passion, Love. But as you are aware, he ascribed
Julia's inconstancy, lightness, and cruelty all to Mrs. Dodd. He hated
her cordially, and dreaded her into the bargain; he played the sentinel
about her door all the more because she had asked him not to do it
"Always do what your enemy particularly objects to," said he, applying to
his own case the wisdom of a Greek philosopher, one of his teachers.
So, when the gate suddenly opened, and instead of Julia, this very Mrs.
Dodd walked towards him, his feelings were anything but enviable. He
wished himself away, heartily, but was too proud to retreat. He stood his
ground. She came up to him; a charming smile broke out over her features.
"Ah! Mr. Hardie," said she, "if you have nothing better to do, will you
give me a minute?" He assented with surprise and an ill grace.
"May I take your arm?"
He offered it with a worse.
She laid her hand lightly on it, and it shuddered at her touch. He felt
like walking with a velvet tigress.
By some instinct she divined his sentiment, and found her task more
difficult than she had thought; she took some steps in silence. At last,
as he was no dissembler, he burst out passionately, "Why are you my
"I am not your enemy," said she quietly.
"Not openly, but all the more dangerous. You keep us apart, you bid her
be gay and forget me; you are a cruel, hard-hearted lady."
"No, I am not, sir," said Mrs. Dodd simply.
"Oh! I believe you are good and kind to all the rest of the world; but
you know you have a heart of iron for me."
"I am my daughter's friend, but not your enemy; it is you who are too
inexperienced to know how delicate, how difficult, my duties are. It is
only since last night I see my way clear; and, look, I come at once to
you with friendly intentions. Suppose I were as impetuous as you are? I
should, perhaps, be calling you ungrateful."
He retorted bitterly. "Give me something to be grateful for, and you
shall see whether that baseness is in my nature."
"I have a great mind to put you to the proof," said she archly. "Let us
walk down this lane; then you can be as unjust to me _as you think
proper,_ without attracting public attention."
In the lane she told him quietly she knew the nature of his father's
objections to the alliance he had so much at heart, and they were
objections which her husband, on his return, would remove. On this he
changed his tone a little, and implored her piteously not to deceive him.
"I will not," said she, "upon my honour. If you are as constant as my
daughter is in her esteem for you--notwithstanding her threadbare gaiety
worn over loyal regret, and to check a parcel of idle ladies'
tongues--you have nothing to fear from me, and everything to expect.
Come, _Alfred_--may I take that liberty with you?--let us understand one
another. We only want that to be friends."
This was hard to resist and at his age. His lip trembled, he hesitated,
but at last gave her his hand. She walked two hours with him, and laid
herself out to enlighten, soothe, and comfort his sore heart His hopes
and happiness revived under her magic, as Julia's had. In the midst of it
all, the wise woman quietly made terms. He was not to come to the house
but on her invitation, unless indeed he had news of the _Agra_ to
communicate; but he might write once a week to her, and enclose a few
lines to Julia. On this concession he proceeded to mumble her white
wrist, and call her his best, dearest, loveliest friend; his mother. "Oh,
remember," said he, with a relic of distrust, "you are the only mother I
can ever hope to have."
That touched her. Hitherto, he had been to her but a thing her daughter
Her eyes filled. "My poor, warm-hearted, motherless boy," she said, "pray
for my husband's safe return. For on that your happiness depends, and
hers, and mine."
So now two more bright eyes looked longingly seaward for the _Agra_
NORTH latitude 23.5, longitude east 113; the time March of this same
year; the wind southerly; the port Whampoa, in the Canton river. Ships at
anchor reared their tall masts here and there, and the broad stream was
enlivened and coloured by junks and boats of all sizes and vivid hues,
propelled on the screw principle by a great scull at the stern, with
projecting handles, for the crew to work; and at times a gorgeous
mandarin boat, with two great glaring eyes set in the bows, came flying,
rowed with forty paddles by an armed crew, whose shields hung on the
gunwale and flashed fire in the sunbeams: the mandarin, in conical and
buttoned hat, sitting on the top of his cabin calmly smoking Paradise,
_alias_ opium, while his gong boomed and his boat flew fourteen miles an
hour, and all things scuttled out of his celestial way. And there,
looking majestically down on all these water-ants, the huge _Agra,_
cynosure of so many loving eyes and loving hearts in England, lay at her
moorings; homeward bound.
Her tea not being yet on board, the ship's hull floated high as a castle,
and to the subtle, intellectual, doll-faced, bolus-eyed people that
sculled to and fro busy as bees, though looking forked mushrooms, she
sounded like a vast musical shell: for a lusty harmony of many mellow
voices vibrated in her great cavities, and made the air ring cheerily
around her. The vocalists were the Cyclops, to judge by the tremendous
thumps that kept clean time to their sturdy tune. Yet it was but human
labour, so heavy and so knowing, that it had called in music to help. It
was the third mate and his gang completing his floor to receive the
coming tea-chests. Yesterday he had stowed his dunnage, many hundred
bundles of light flexible canes from Sumatra and Malacca; on these he had
laid tons of rough saltpetre, in 200 lb. gunny-bags: and was now mashing
it to music, bags and all. His gang of fifteen, naked to the waist, stood
in line, with huge wooden beetles called commanders, and lifted them high
and brought them down on the nitre in cadence with true nautical power
and unison, singing as follows, with a ponderous bump on the first note
in each bar.
And so up to fifteen, when the stave was concluded with a shrill "Spell,
oh!" and the gang relieved, streaming with perspiration. When the
saltpetre was well mashed, they rolled ton water-butts on it, till the
floor was like a billiard table. A fleet of chop boats then began to
arrive, so many per day, with the tea-chests. Mr. Grey proceeded to lay
the first tier on his saltpetre floor, and then built the chests, tier
upon tier, beginning at the sides, and leaving in the middle a lane
somewhat narrower than a tea-chest Then he applied a screw jack to the
chests on both sides, and so enlarged his central aperture, and forced
the remaining tea-chests in; and behold the enormous cargo packed as
tight as ever shopkeeper packed a box-- nineteen thousand eight hundred
and six chests, sixty half chests, fifty quarter chests.
While Mr. Grey was contemplating his work with singular satisfaction, a
small boat from Canton came alongside, and Mr. Tickell, midshipman, ran
up the side, skipped on the quarterdeck, saluted it first, and then the
first mate; and gave him a line from the captain, desiring him to take
the ship down to Second Bar--for her water--at the turn of the tide.
Two hours after receipt of this order the ship swung to the ebb.
Instantly Mr. Sharpe unmoored, and the _Agra_ began her famous voyage,
with her head at right angles to her course; for the wind being foul, all
Sharpe could do was to set his topsails, driver, and jib, and keep her in
the tide way, and clear of the numerous craft, by backing or filling as
the case required; which he did with considerable dexterity, making the
sails steer the helm for the nonce: he crossed the Bar at sunset, and
brought to with the best bower anchor in five fathoms and a half. Here
they began to take in their water, and on the fifth day the six-oared gig
was ordered up to Canton for the captain. The next afternoon he passed
the ship in her, going down the river to Lin-Tin, to board the Chinese
admiral for his chop, or permission to leave China. All night the _Agra_
showed three lights at her mizen peak for him, and kept a sharp look out.
But he did not come: he was having a very serious talk with the Chinese
admiral; at daybreak, however, the gig was reported in sight: Sharpe told
one of the midshipmen to call the boatswain and man the side. Soon the
gig ran alongside; two of the ship's boys jumped like monkeys over the
bulwarks, lighting, one on the main channels, the other on the midship
port, and put the side ropes assiduously in the captain's hands; he
bestowed a slight paternal smile on them, the first the imps had ever
received from an officer, and went lightly up the sides. The moment his
foot touched the deck, the boatswain gave a frightful shrill whistle; the
men at the sides uncovered; the captain saluted the quarter-deck, and all
the officers saluted him, which he returned, and stepping for a moment to
the weather side of his deck, gave the loud command, "All hands heave
anchor." He then directed Mr. Sharpe to get what sail he could on the
ship, the wind being now westerly, and dived into his cabin.
The boatswain piped three shrill pipes, and "All hands up anchor," was
thrice repeated forward, followed by private admonitions, "Rouse and
bitt!" "Show a leg!" &c., and up tumbled the crew with homeward bound
written on their tanned faces.
(Pipe.) "Up all hammocks."
In ten minutes the ninety and odd hammocks were all stowed neatly in the
netting, and covered with a snowy hammock-cloth; and the hands were
active, unbitting the cable, shipping the capstan bars, &c.
"All ready below, sir," cried a voice.
"Man the bars," returned Mr. Sharpe from the quarter-deck. "Play up,
fifer. Heave away."
Out broke the merry fife, with a rhythmical tune, and tramp, tramp, tramp
went a hundred and twenty feet round and round, and, with brawny chests
pressed tight against the capstan bars, sixty fine fellows walked the
ship up to her anchor, drowning the fife at intervals with their sturdy
song, as pat to their feet as an echo:--
Heave with a will, ye jolly boys,
We're off from Chainee, jolly boys,
"Short stay apeak, sir," roars the boatswain from forward.
"Unship the bars. Way aloft. Loose sails. Let fall."
The ship being now over her anchor, and the top-sails set, the capstan
bars were shipped again, the men all heaved with a will, the messenger
grinned, the anchor was torn out of China with a mighty heave, and then
ran up with a luff tackle and secured; the ship's head cast to port.
"Up with the jib--man the taupsle halliards--all hands make sail." Round
she came slow and majestically; the sails filled, and the good ship bore
away for England.
She made the Bogue forts in three or four tacks, and there she had to
come to again for another chop, China being a place as hard to get into
as Heaven, and to get out of as-- Chancery. At three P.M. she was at
Macao, and hove to four miles from the land to take in her passengers.
A gun was fired from the forecastle. No boats came off. Sharpe began to
fret; for the wind, though light, had now got to the N.W., and they were
wasting it. After a while the captain came on deck, and ordered all the
carronades to be scaled. The eight heavy reports bellowed the great
ship's impatience across the water and out pulled two boats with the
passengers. While they were coming, Dodd sent and ordered the gunner to
load the carronades with shot, and secure and apron them. The first boat
brought Colonel Kenealy, Mr. Fullalove, and a prodigious negro, who all
mounted by the side-ropes. But the whip was rigged for the next boat, and
the Honourable Mrs. Beresford and poodle hoisted on board, item her white
maid, item her black nurse, item her little boy and male Oriental in
charge thereof, the strangest compound of dignity and servility, and of
black and white, being clad in snowy cotton and japanned to the nine.
Mrs. Beresford was the wife of a member of council in India. She had been
to Macao for her boy's health, intending to return to Calcutta: but
meantime her husband was made a director, and went home: so she was going
to join him. A tall, handsome lady, with too curved a nose.
Like most aquiline women, she was born to domineer a bit; and, for the
last ten years, Orientals clinging at her knee and Europeans flattering
at her ear had nursed this quality highs and spoiled her with all their
might. A similar process had been applied to her boy Frederick from
infancy; he was now nearly six. Arrogance and caprice shone so in both
their sallow faces, and spoke so in every gesture, that as they came on
board, Sharpe, a reader of passengers, whispered the second mate:
"Bayliss, we have shipped the devil."
"And a cargo of his imps," grunted Mr. Bayliss.
Mr. Fullalove was a Methodist parson--to the naked eye: grave, sober,
lean, lank-haired. But some men are hidden fires. Fullalove was one of
the extraordinary products of an extraordinary nation, the United States
of America. He was an engineer for one thing, and an inventive and
practical mechanician; held two patents of his own creating, which
yielded him a good income both at home and in Great Britain. Such results
are seldom achieved without deep study and seclusion; and, accordingly,
Joshua Fullalove, when the inventive fit was on, would be buried deep as
Archimedes for a twelvemonth, burning the midnight oil: then, his active
element predominating, the pale student would dash into the forest or the
prairie, with a rifle and an Indian, and come out bronzed, and more or
less be-panthered or be-buffaloed; thence invariably to sea for a year or
two. There, Anglo-Saxon to the backbone, his romance had ever an eye to
business; he was always after foreign mechanical inventions--he was now
importing a excellent one from Japan--and ready to do lucrative feats of
knowledge: thus he bought a Turkish ship at the bottom of the Dardanelles
for twelve hundred dollars, raised her cargo (hardware), and sold it for
six thousand dollars; then weighed the empty ship, pumped her, repaired
he; and navigated her himself into Boston harbour, Massachusetts. On the
way he rescued, with his late drowned ship, a Swedish vessel, and
received salvage. He once fished eighty elephants' tusks out of a craft
foundered in the Firth of Forth, to the disgust of elder Anglo-Saxons
looking on from the shore. These unusual pursuits were varied by a
singular recreation: he played at elevating the African character to
European levels. With this view he had bought Vespasian for eighteen
hundred dollars; whereof anon. America is fertile in mixtures: what do we
not owe her? Sherry cobbler, gin sling, cocktail, mint julep, brandy
smash, sudden death, eye openers. Well, one day she outdid herself, and
mixed Fullalove: Quaker, Nimrod, Archimedes, Philanthropist, decorous Red
Rover, and What Not
The passenger boats cast loose.
"All hands make sail."
The boatswain piped, the light-heeled topsmen sped up the rathines and
lay out the yards, while all on deck looked up as usual to see them work.
Out bellied sail after sail aloft; the ship came curtseying round to the
southward, spread her snowy pinions high and wide, and went like a bird
over the wrinkled sea--homeward bound.
It was an exhilarating start, and all faces were bright--but one. The
captain looked somewhat grave and thoughtful, and often scanned the
horizon with his glass; he gave polite but very short answers to his
friend Colonel Kenealy, who was firing nothings in his ear, and sent for
While that personage, a crusty old Niler called Monk, is cleaning himself
to go on the quarter-deck, peep we into captain Dodd's troubled mind, and
into the circumstances which connect him with the heart of this story,
despite the twelve thousand miles of water between him and the lovers at
It had always been his pride to lay by money for his wife and children,
and, under advice of an Indian friend, he had, during the last few years,
placed considerable sums, at intervals, in a great Calcutta house, which
gave eight per cent for deposits: swelled by fresh capital and such high
interest, the hoard grew fast. When his old ship, sore battered off the
Cape, was condemned by the company's agents at Canton, he sailed to
Calcutta, intending to return thence to England as a passenger. But while
he was at Calcutta, the greatest firm there suspended payment carrying
astonishment and dismay into a hundred families. At such moments the
press and the fireside ring for a little while with the common-sense
cry,* "Good interest means bad security." As for Dodd, who till then had
revered all these great houses with nautical or childlike confidence, a
blind terror took the place of blind trust in him; he felt guilty towards
his children for risking their money (he had got to believe it was
theirs, not his), and vowed, if he could only get hold of it once more,
he would never trust a penny of it out of his own hands again, except,
perhaps, to the Bank of England. But should he ever get it? It was a
large sum. He went to Messrs. Anderson & Anderson, and drew for his
fourteen thousand pounds. To his dismay, but hardly to his surprise, the
clerks looked at one another, and sent the cheque into some inner
department. Dodd was kept waiting. His heart sank with him: there was a
*The Duke of Wellington (the iron one) is the author of this saying.
Meantime came a Government officer, and paid in an enormous sum in notes
and mercantile bills, principally the latter.
Presently Dodd was invited into the manager's room.
"Leaving the country, Captain Dodd?"
"You had better take some of your money in bills at sight on London."
"I would rather have notes, sir," faltered Dodd.
"Oh, bills by Oliveira upon Baring are just as good, even without our
endorsement. However, you can have half and half. Calcutta does but
little in English bank-notes, you know."
They gave him his money. The bills were all manifestly good. But he
recognised one of them as having just been paid in by the civilian. He
found himself somehow safe in the street clutching the cash, with one
half of his great paternal heart on fire, and the other half freezing. He
had rescued his children's fortune, but he had seen destruction graze it.
The natural chill at being scraped by peril soon passed, the triumphant
glow remained. The next sentiment was precaution: he filled with it to
the brim; he went and bought a great broad pocket-book with a key to it;
though he was on dry land,. he covered it with oiled silk against the
water; and sewed the whole thing to his flannel waistcoat, and felt for
it with his hand a hundred times a day: the fruit of his own toil, his
children's hoard, the rescued treasure he was to have the joy of bringing
home safe to the dear partner of all his joys.
Unexpectedly he was ordered out to Canton to sail the _Agra_ to the Cape.
Then a novel and strange feeling came over him like a cloud; that feeling
was, a sense of personal danger: not that the many perils of the deep
were new to him: he had faced them this five-and-twenty years: but till
now they were little present to his imagination: they used to come, be
encountered, be gone: but now, though absent, they darkened the way. It
was the pocket-book. The material treasure, the hard cash, which had
lately set him in a glow, seemed now to load his chest and hang heavy
round the neck of his heart. Sailors are more or less superstitious, and
men are creatures of habit, even in their courage. Now David had never
gone to sea with a lot of money on him before. As he was a stout-hearted
man, these vague forebodings would, perhaps, have cleared away with the
bustle, when the _Agra_ set her studding sails off Macao, but for a piece
of positive intelligence he had picked up at Lin-Tin. The Chinese admiral
had warned him of a pirate, a daring pirate, who had been lately cruising
in these waters: first heard of south the line, but had since taken a
Russian ship at the very mouth of the Canton river, murdered the crew in
sight of land, and sold the women for slaves, or worse. Dodd asked for
particulars: was he a Ladroner, a Malay, a Bornese? In what latitude was
he to be looked for? The admiral on this examined his memoranda: by these
it appeared little was known as yet about the miscreant, except that he
never cruised long on one ground; the crew was a mixed one: the captain
was believed to be a Portuguese, and to have a consort commanded by his
brother: but this was doubtful; at all events, the pair had never been
seen at work together.
The gunner arrived and saluted the quarter-deck; the captain on this
saluted him, and beckoned him to the weather side. On this the other
officers kept religiously to leeward.
"Mr. Monk," said Dodd, "you will clean and prepare all the small arms
"Ay, ay, sir," said the old Niler, with a gleam of satisfaction.
"How many of your deck-guns are serviceable?"
This simple question stirred up in one moment all the bile in the poor
old gentleman's nature.
"My deck-guns serviceable! how the ---- _can_ they when that son of a
sea-cook your third mate has been and lashed the water butts to their
breechings, and jammed his gear in between their nozzles, till they can't
breathe, poor things, far less bark. I wish _he_ was lashed between the
devil's hind-hocks with a red hot cable as tight as he has jammed my
"Be so good as not to swear, Mr. Monk," said Dodd. "At your age sir, I
look to you to set an example to the petty officers."
"Well, I won't swear no more, sir, d--d if I do!" He added very loudly,
and with a seeming access of ire, "And I ax your pardon, captain, and the
When a man has a deep anxiety, some human midge or mosquito buzzes at
him. It is a rule. To Dodd, heavy with responsibility, and a dark
misgiving he must not communicate, came delicately, and by degrees, and
with a semigenuflexion every three steps, one like a magpie; and, putting
his hands together, as our children do to approach the Almighty,
delivered himself thus, in modulated tones, and good Hindostanee. "The
Daughter of light, in whose beams I, Ramgolam, bask, glows with an
amicable desire to see the lord commander of the ship resembling a
mountain; and to make a communication."
Taught by sad experience how weighty are the communications the daughters
of light pour into nautical commanders at sea, Dodd hailed Mr. Tickell, a
midshipman, and sent him down to the lady's cabin. Mr. Tickell soon came
back reddish, but grinning, to say that nothing less than the captain
Dodd sighed, and dismissed Monk with a promise to inspect the gun-deck
himself; then went down to Mrs. Beresford and found her indignant. Why
had he stopped the ship miles and miles from Macao, and given her the
trouble and annoyance of a voyage in that nasty little boat? Dodd opened
his great brown eyes, "Why, madam, it is shoal water off Macao; we dare
not come in."
"No evasion, sir. What have I to do with your shoal water? It was
laziness, and want of consideration for a lady who has rented half your
"Nothing of the kind, madam, I assure you."
"Are you the person they call Gentleman Dodd?"
"Then don't contradict a lady, or I shall take the liberty to dispute
Dodd took no notice of this, and with a patience few nautical commanders
would have shown, endeavoured to make her see that he was obliged to give
Macao shoals a wide berth, or cast away the ship. She would not see it.
When Dodd saw she wanted, not an explanation, but a grievance, he ceased
to thwart her. "I am neglecting my duties to no purpose," said he, and
left her without ceremony. This was a fresh offence; and, as he went out,
she declared open war. And she made it too from that hour: a war of pins
Dodd went on the gun-deck and found that the defence of the ship had, as
usual in these peaceful days, been sacrificed to the cargo. Out of twenty
eighteen-pounders she carried on that deck, he cleared three, and that
with difficulty. To clear any more he must have sacrificed either
merchandise or water: and he was not the man to do either on the mere
chance of a danger so unusual as an encounter with a pirate. He was a
merchant captain, not a warrior.
Meantime the _Agra_ had already shown him great sailing qualities: the
log was hove at sundown and gave eleven knots; so that with a good breeze
abaft, few fore-and-aft rigged pirates could overhaul her. And this wind
carried her swiftly past one nest of them, at all events: the Ladrone
isles. At nine P.M., all the lights were ordered out. Mrs. Beresford had
brought a novel on board, and refused to comply; the master-at-arms
insisted; she threatened him with the vengeance of the Company, the
premier, and the nobility and gentry of the British realm. The
master-at-arms, finding he had no chance in argument, doused the
glim--pitiable resource of a weak disputant--then basely fled the
The northerly breeze died out, and light variable winds baffled the ship.
It was the 6th April ere she passed the Macclesfield Bank in latitude 16.
And now they sailed for many days out of sight of land. Dodd's chest
expanded: his main anxiety at this part of the voyage lay in the state
cabin; of all the perils of the sea, none shakes a sailor like fire. He
set a watch day and night on that spoiled child.
On the 1st May they passed the great Nantuna, and got among the Bornese
and Malay islands: at which the captain's glass began to sweep the
horizon again, and night and day at the dizzy foretop gallant mast-head
he perched an Eye.
They crossed the line in longitude 107, with a slight breeze, but soon
fell into the Doldrums. A dead calm, and nothing to do but kill time.
Dodd had put down Neptune: that old blackguard could no longer row out on
the ship's port side and board her on the starboard, pretending to come
from ocean's depths; and shave the novices with a rusty hoop and dab a
soapy brush in their mouths. But champagne popped, the sexes flirted, and
the sailors span fathomless yarns, and danced rattling hornpipes, fiddled
to by the grave Fullalove. " If there is a thing I _can_ dew, it's
fiddle," said he. He and his friend, as he systematically called
Vespasian, taught the crew Yankee steps, and were beloved. One honest
saltatory British tar offered that Western pair his grog for a week. Even
Mrs. Beresford emerged, and walked the deck, quenching her austere
regards with a familiar smile on Colonel Kenealy, her escort. This
gallant good-natured soldier flattered her to the nine, and, finding her
sweeten with his treacle, tried to reconcile her to his old friend Dodd.
Straight she soured, and forbade the topic imperiously.
By this time the mates and midshipmen of the _Agra_ had fathomed their
captain. Mr. Tickell delivered the mind of the united midshipmen when he
proposed Dodd's health in their mess-room, "as a navigator, a
mathematician, a seaman, a gentleman, and a brick, with three times
Dodd never spoke to his officers like a ruffian, nor yet palavered them,
but he had a very pleasant way of conveying appreciation of an officer's
zeal, by a knowing nod with a kindly smile on the heels of it. As for the
men, they seldom came in contact with the captain of a well-officered
ship: this crew only knew him at first as a good-tempered soul, who
didn't bother about nothing. But one day, as they lay becalmed south of
the line, a jolly foretopman came on the quarter-deck with a fid of soup,
and saluting and scraping, first to the deck, then to the captain, asked
him if he would taste that.
"Yes, my man. Smoked!"
"Like ---- and blazes, your honour, axing your pardon, and the deck's."
"Young gentleman," said Dodd to Mr. Meredith, a midshipman, "be so good
as to send the cook aft."
The cook came, and received, not an oath nor a threat but a remonstrance,
and a grim warning.
In the teeth of this he burnt the soup horribly the very next day. The
crew sent the lucky foretopman aft again. He made his scrape and
presented his fid. The captain tasted the soup, and sent Mr. Grey to bid
the boatswain's mate pipe the hands on deck and bring the cook aft.
"Quartermaster, unsling a fire-bucket and fill it from the men's kids:
Mr. Tickell, see the cook swallow his own mess. Bosen's mate, take a
bight of the flying jib sheet stand over him, and start him if he dailies
with it." With this the captain went below, and the cook, supping at the
bucket delivered himself as follows: "Well, ye lubbers, it is first--
rate. _There's_ no burn in it. It goes down like oil. Curse your ladylike
stomachs; you ain't fit for a ship; why don't ye go ashore and man a
gingerbread coach and feed off French frogs and Italian baccy-pipe stems?
(Whack.) What the ---- is that for?"
_Boatswain's mate._ "Sup more, and jaw less."
"Well, I am supping as fast as I can. (Whack, whack.) Bloody end to ye,
what are ye about? (Whack, whack, whack.) Oh, Joe, Lord bless you, I
_can't_ eat any more of it. (Whack.) I'll give you my grog for a week
only to let me fling the ---- stuff over the side. (Whack, whack, whack.)
Oh, good, kind, dear Mr. Tickell, do go down to the captain for me."
"Avast!" cried the captain, reappearing; and the uplifted rope fell
"Silence, fore and aft!"
"The cook has received a light punishment this time, for spoiling the
men's mess. My crew shall eat nothing I can't eat myself. My care is
heavier than theirs is; but not my work, nor my danger in time of danger.
Mind that, or you'll find I can be as severe as any master afloat.
"Double the men's grog: they have been cheated of their meal."
"Ay, ay, sir."
"And stop the cook's and his mate's for a week."
" Ay, ay, sir."
"Bosen, pipe down."
"Shipmates, listen to me," said the foretopman. "This old _Agra_ is a
d----d com--for--table ship."
The oracular sentence was hailed with a ringing cheer. Still, it is
unlucky the British seaman is so enamoured of theological terms; for he
constantly misapplies them.
After lying a week like a dead log on the calm but heaving waters, came a
few light puffs in the upper air and inflated the topsails only: the ship
crawled southward, the crew whistling for wind.
At last, one afternoon, it began to rain, and after the rain came a gale
from the eastward. The watchful skipper saw it purple the water to
windward, and ordered the topsails to be reefed and the lee ports closed.
This last order seemed an excess of precaution; but Dodd was not yet
thoroughly acquainted with his ship's qualities: and the hard cash round
his neck made him cautious. The lee ports were closed, all but one, and
that was lowered. Mr. Grey was working a problem in his cabin, and wanted
a little light and a little air, so he just drooped his port; but, not to
deviate from the spirit of his captain's instructions, he fastened a
tackle to it; that he might have mechanical force to close it with should
the ship lie over.
Down came the gale with a whoo, and made all crack. The ship lay over
pretty much, and the sea poured in at Mr. Grey's port. He applied his
purchase to close it. But though his tackle gave him the force of a dozen
hands, he might as well have tried to move a mountain; on the contrary,
the tremendous sea rushed in and burst the port wide open. Grey, after a
vain struggle with its might, shrieked for help; down tumbled the nearest
hands, and hauled on the tackle in vain. Destruction was rushing on the
ship, and on them first. But meantime the captain, with a shrewd guess at
the general nature of the danger he could not see, had roared out, "
Slack the main sheet." The ship righted, and the port came flying to, and
terror-stricken men breathed hard, up to their waists in water and
floating boxes. Grey barred the unlucky port and went aft, drenched in
body, and wretched in mind, to report his own fault. He found the captain
looking grim as death. He told him, almost crying, what he had done, and
how he had miscalculated the power of the water.
Dodd looked and saw his distress. "Let it be a lesson, sir," said he,
sternly. "How many ships have been lost by this in fair weather, and not
a man saved to tell how the craft was fooled away?"
"Captain, bid me fling myself over the side, and I'll do it."
"Hummph! I'm afraid I can't afford to lose a good officer for a fault
It blew hard all night and till twelve the next day. The _Agra_ showed
her weak point: she rolled abominably. A dirty night came on. At eight
bells Mr. Grey, touched by Dodd's clemency and brimful of zeal, reported
a light in Mrs. Beresford's cabin. It had been put out as usual by the
master-at-arms; but the refractory one had relighted it
"Go and take it away," said Dodd.
Soon screams were heard from the cabin. "Oh, mercy! mercy! I will not be
drowned in the dark."
Dodd, who had kept clear of her so long, went down and tried to reassure
"Oh, the tempest! the tempest!" she cried. "AND TO BE DROWNED IN THE
"Tempest? It is blowing half a gale of wind; that is all."
"Half a gale! Ah! that is the way you always talk to us ladies. Oh, pray
give me my light, and send me a clergyman."
Dodd took pity, and let her have her light, with a midshipman to watch
it. He even made her a hypocritical promise that should there be one
grain of danger, he would lie to; but said he must not make a foul wind
of a fair one for a few lee lurches. The _Agra_ broke plenty of glass and
crockery though, with her fair wind and her lee lurches.
Wind down at noon next day, and a dead calm.
At two P. M. the weather cleared; the sun came out high in heaven's
centre; and a balmy breeze from the west.
At six twenty-five, the grand orb set calm and red, and the sea was
gorgeous with miles and miles of great ruby dimples: it was the first
glowing smile of southern latitude. The night stole on so soft, so clear,
so balmy, all were loth to chose their eyes on it: the passengers
lingered long on deck, watching the Great Bear dip, and the Southern
Cross rise, and overhead a whole heaven of glorious stars most of us have
never seen, and never shall see in this world. No belching smoke
obscured, no plunging paddles deafened; all was musical; the soft air
sighing among the sails; the phosphorescent water bubbling from the
ship's bows; the murmurs from little knots of men on deck subdued by the
great calm: home seemed near, all danger far; Peace ruled the sea, the
sky, the heart: the ship, making a track of white fire on the deep,
glided gently yet swiftly homeward, urged by snowy sails piled up like
alabaster towers against a violet sky, out of which looked a thousand
eyes of holy tranquil fire. So melted the sweet night away.
Now carmine streaks tinged the eastern sky at the water's edge; and that
water blushed; now the streaks turned orange, and the waves below them
sparkled. Thence splashes of living gold flew and settled on the ship's
white sails, the deck, and the faces; and with no more prologue, being so
near the line, up came majestically a huge, fiery, golden sun, and set
the sea flaming liquid topaz.
Instantly the look-out at the foretop-gallant-mast-head hailed the deck
"STRANGE SAIL! RIGHT AHEAD!"
The strange sail was reported to Captain Dodd, then dressing in his
cabin. He came soon after on deck and hailed the lookout: "Which way is
"Can't say, sir. Can't see her move any."
Dodd ordered the boatswain to pipe to breakfast; and taking his deck
glass went lightly up to the fore-top-gallant-mast crosstrees. Thence,
through the light haze of a glorious morning, he espied a long low
schooner, lateen-rigged, lying close under Point Leat, a small island
about nine miles distant on the weather bow, and nearly in the _Agra's_
course, then approaching the Straits of Gaspar, 4 latitude S.
"She is hove-to," said Dodd very gravely.
At eight o'clock, the stranger lay about two miles to windward, and still
By this time all eyes were turned upon her, and half a dozen glasses.
Everybody, except the captain, delivered an opinion.
She was a Greek lying-to for water: she was a Malay coming north with
canes, and short of hands: she was a pirate watching the Straits.
The captain leaned silent and sombre with his arms on the bulwarks, and
watched the suspected craft.
Mr. Fullalove joined the group, and levelled a powerful glass, of his own
construction. His inspection was long and minute, and, while the glass
was at his eye, Sharpe asked him half in a whisper, could he make out
"Wal," said he, "the varmint looks considerable snaky." Then, without
removing his glass, he let drop a word at a time, as if the facts were
trickling into his telescope at the lens, and out at the sight
"One--two--four--seven, false ports."
There was a momentary murmur among the officers all round. But British
sailors are undemonstrative: Colonel Kenealy, strolling the deck with his
cigar, saw they were watching another ship with maritime curiosity, and
making comments but he discerned no particular emotion nor anxiety in
what they said, nor in the grave low tones they said it in. Perhaps a
brother seaman would though.
The next observation that trickled out of Fullalove's tube was this: "I
judge there are too few hands on deck, and too
many--white--eyeballs--glittering at the portholes."
"Confound it," muttered Bayliss, uneasily; "how can you see that?"
Fullalove replied only by quietly handing his glass to Dodd. The captain
thus appealed to, glued his eye to the tube.
"Well, sir; see the false ports, and the white eyebrows?" asked Sharpe
"I see this is the best glass I ever looked through," said Dodd doggedly,
without interrupting his inspection.
"I think he is a Malay pirate," said Mr. Grey.
Sharpe took him up very quickly, and indeed angrily: "Nonsense. And if he
is, he won't venture on a craft of this size."
"Says the whale to the swordfish," suggested Fullalove, with a little
The captain, with the American glass at his eye, turned half round to the
man at the wheel: "Starboard!"
"Starboard it is."
"Ay, ay, sir." And the ship's course was thus altered two points.
This order lowered Dodd fifty per cent. in Mr. Sharpe's estimation. He
held his tongue as long as he could: but at last his surprise and
dissatisfaction burst out of him, "Won't that bring him out on us!"
"Very likely, sir," replied Dodd.
"Begging your pardon, captain, would it not be wiser to keep our course,
and show the blackguard we don't fear him?"
"When we _do!_ Sharpe, he has made up his mind an hour ago whether to lie
still or bite; my changing my course two points won't change his mind,
but it may make him declare it; and _I_ must know what he does intend
before I run the ship into the narrows ahead."
"Oh, I see," said Sharpe, half convinced.
The alteration in the _Agra's_ course produced no movement on the part of
the mysterious schooner. She lay-to under the land still, and with only a
few hands on deck, while the _Agra_ edged away from her and entered the
Straits between Long Island and Point Leat, leaving the schooner about
two miles and a half distant to the N.W.
Ah! The stranger's deck swarms black with men.
His sham ports fell as if by magic, his gums grinned through the gaps
like black teeth; his huge foresail rose and filled, and out he came in
The breeze was a kiss from Heaven, the sky a vaulted sapphire, the sea a
million dimples of liquid, lucid gold.
AMONGST the curiosities of human reasoning is this: one forms a judgment
on certain statements; they turn out incorrect, yet the judgment sound.
This occurs oftenest when, to divine what any known person will do in a
case stated, we go boldly by his character, his habits, or his interest:
for these are great forces, towards which men gravitate through various
and even contrary circumstances.
Now women, sitting at home out of detail's way, are somewhat forced, as
well as naturally inclined, to rely on their insight into character; and,
by this broad clue, often pass through false or discoloured data to a
Thus it was Mrs. Dodd applied her native sagacity to divine why Richard
Hardie declined Julia for his son's wife, and how to make him withdraw
that dissent: and the fair diviner was much mistaken in detail but right
in her conclusion; for Richard Hardie _was_ at that moment the
unlikeliest man in Barkington to decline Julia Dodd--with Hard Cash in
five figures--for his daughter-in-law.
I am now about to make a revelation to the reader, that will incidentally
lead him to Mrs. Dodd's conclusion, but by a different path.
The outline she gave her daughter and my reader of Richard Hardie's cold
and prudent youth was substantially correct; but something had occurred
since then, unknown to her, unknown to all Barkington. The centuries had
blown a respectable bubble.