Part 7 out of 8
"Humph! that's more than you will be, apparently,--I say, brother
"Yes, brother," replied Nicholas, raising his head and staring at the
candle. "Why, what's the matter?"
"The matter is, that I wish to go to bed, and wish to see you in bed before
I go myself."
"Yes, brother John, if you please, certainly. Where's my bed? I do believe
I have been asleep."
"Humph! I have no doubt upon the subject," replied John Forster, lighting
another candle. "Come this way, brother Nicholas," and they both ascended
When Mr John Forster arrived at the door of his own room, on the first
storey, he stopped. "Now, brother Nicholas, are you quite awake? Do you
think that I may trust you with the candle?"
"I should hope so," replied Nicholas; "I see that it is silver, but I hope
I'm honest, brother John."
"Humph! I mean, can I trust you to put it out?"
"Yes, I think that you may. Pray, which is my room?"
"The first door on the left, when you are at the top of the stairs."
"The first door."
"Yes, the first on the left; do you understand?"
"Yes, brother, I do; the first door on the left."
"Very well; then I wish you a good-night."
"Good-night, brother," replied Nicholas, ascending the stairs as John
Forster entered his room.
Nicholas arrived at the head of the stairs; but his brain was not very
clear. He muttered to himself "I think I'm right--yes, I'm right--the first
door--to the right--yes--that's it;" and instead of the room to the left,
where Newton was, he walked into the one to the right, which appertained to
the housekeeper, Mrs Smith.
The old lady was fast asleep. Nicholas threw off his clothes, put out his
candle, and stepped into bed without waking the old lady, whom he supposed
to be his son, and in a few minutes they snored in concert.
The morning dawned. The watchmen (London nightingales) ceased their notes
and retired to their beds. The chimney-sweeps (larks of the metropolis)
raised their shrill cry as they paced along with chattering teeth.
Housemaids and kitchen-maids presented their back views to the early
passengers as they washed off the accumulation of the previous day from the
steps of the front-door.
"Milk below" (certainly much below "proof") was answered by the ascent of
the busy cooks, when a knock at the door of Mrs Smith's room from the red
knuckles of the housemaid, awoke her to a sense of her equivocal situation.
At her first discovery that a man was in her bed, she uttered a scream of
horror, throwing herself upon her knees, and extending her hands before her
in her amazement. The scream awoke Nicholas, who, astonished at the sight,
and his modesty equally outraged, also threw himself in the same posture,
facing her, and recoiling. Each looked aghast at each: each considered the
other as the lawless invader; but before a word of explanation could pass
between them, their countenances changed from horror to surprise, from
surprise to anxiety and doubt.
"Why!" screamed the housekeeper, losing her breath with astonishment.
"It is!" cried Nicholas, retreating further.
"Yes--yes--it is--my _dear_ Nicholas!"
"No--it can't be," replied Nicholas, hearing the fond appellation.
"It is--oh! yes--it is your poor unhappy wife, who begs your pardon,
Nicholas," cried the housekeeper, bursting into tears, and falling into his
"My dear--dear wife!" exclaimed Nicholas, as he threw his arms around her,
and each sobbed upon the other's shoulder.
In this position they remained a minute, when Mr John Forster, who heard
the scream and subsequent exclamations, and had taken it for granted that
his brother had been guilty of some _contretemps_, first wiped the
remaining lather from his half-shaved chin, and then ascended to the
housekeeper's room, from whence the noise had proceeded. When he opened the
door, he found them in the position we have described, both kneeling in the
centre of the bed embracing and sobbing. They were so wrapt in each other,
that they did not perceive his entrance. Mr John Forster stared with
amazement for a few seconds, and thus growled out:--
"Why, what are you two old fools about?"
"It's my husband, sir,"--"It's my wife, brother John," cried they, both at
once, as the tears coursed down their cheeks.
"Humph!" ejaculated the lawyer, and he quitted the room.
We must let the reader imagine the various explanations which took place
between Nicholas and his truly reformed wife, Newton and his uncle, Amber,
and everybody in the household, while we narrate the events which had
brought about this singular _denouement_.
The reader may recollect that we left Mrs Forster in the lunatic asylum,
slowly recovering from an attack of brain-fever, which had been attended
with a relapse. For many weeks she continued in a state of great
feebleness, and during that time, when in the garden, in company with other
denizens of this melancholy abode (wishing to be usefully employed), she
greatly assisted the keepers in restraining them, and, in a short time,
established that superiority over them which is invariably the result of a
sane intellect. This was soon perceived by Doctor Beddington, who (aware of
her destitute condition) offered her a situation as nurse in the
establishment, until the inspecting magistrates should make their
appearance, with the promise that she might continue in it afterwards, if
she thought proper. This proposal was accepted by Mrs Forster, until she
might resolve what course to take, and she soon became a most invaluable
person in the establishment, effecting more by lenient and kind treatment
than the keepers were able to do by their violence. So completely changed
was Mrs Forster in disposition, that so far from feeling any resentment
against those who had been the means of her confinement, she acknowledged
to herself that her own conduct had been the occasion of her misfortune,
and that those who had contributed to open her eyes to her former insanity,
were her best friends. She was humbled, and unhappy; but she kissed the
rod. All that she now wished was to find out her husband, and by her future
conduct to make reparation for the past. One of the gaolers, at her
request, made every inquiry as to the part of England to which Nicholas had
removed; but it was without success. All trace was lost; and Mrs Forster
accepted the situation of nurse, until she might be enabled to prosecute
her search, or obtain the intelligence which she desired.
For nine months Mrs Forster remained on the establishment, during which
time she had saved a sum of money sufficient for her support and travelling
expenses. She then resolved to search after her husband, whose pardon for
her previous conduct seemed to be the _sine qua non_ for which she
continued to exist. She took leave of the doctor; and, strange to say, it
was with feelings of regret that she quitted an abode, once the source of
horror and disgust: but time reconciles us to everything, and she made a
half promise to Dr Beddington, that if she could not hear any tidings of
her husband, or should discover that he was no more, she would return to
Mrs Forster directed her course to London; why, or wherefore, she hardly
knew; but she had imbibed the idea that the metropolis was the most likely
place to meet with him. Her first inquiries were about any families of the
name of Forster; but the Directory gave such an enormous list of Forsters,
of all trades and callings, and in every situation in life, that she closed
it with despair. She had a faint recollection that her husband (who was
never very communicative, and least of all to her) had stated that he had a
brother alive somewhere; but this was all that she knew. Nevertheless, she
set about her task in good earnest, and called upon every one of the name
in the middling classes of life, to ascertain if they were relations of her
husband. There were many in high life whose names and addresses she had
obtained from the Red-book; but to them she dared not apply. All she could
do was to question the servants; but every answer was unsatisfactory; and
Mrs Forster, whose money was nearly expended, had serious thoughts of
returning to the lunatic establishment, when the advertisement in the
newspapers, of Mr Scratton, for a housekeeper, which Mr John Forster had
desired him to procure, met her eye. Unwilling to leave London, she applied
for, and obtained the situation, having received an excellent character
from Doctor Beddington, to whom she had written and explained her views.
Her heart leapt when she discovered that her master's name was Forster: and
when she first saw him she could not but persuade herself that there was a
family likeness. The germs of hope were, however, soon withered, when
Amber, in answer to her inquiries, stated that Mr Forster had a brother
lately dead, who had never been married, and that she never heard of his
having another. Her fellow-servants were all as strange as herself, and Mrs
Forster (who had assumed the name of Smith) was obliged to have recourse to
that patience and resignation which had been so severely inculcated. The
charge of Amber soon proved a source of delight; the control which she had
over the household a source of gratification (not, as before, for the
pleasure of domineering, but for the sake of exercising kindness and
forbearance), and Mrs Forster was happy and resigned.
It may be surmised as strange, that during the period which she remained in
this capacity, she had never heard mention of her husband or her son; but
it must be remembered that Nicholas had never called upon his brother, and
that Newton was in the East Indies; and, moreover, that Mr John Forster was
just as little inclined to be communicative as her husband. Indeed, he
never came in contact with his housekeeper, except to pay the bills, which
was regularly once a month, when he called her down after dinner, and after
the accounts were settled, offered her a glass of wine, as a proof of his
being satisfied with her conduct. When Newton and his father arrived at the
chambers on the day before the discovery, and were invited to dinner, his
note of communication was as laconic as usual.
"Mrs Smith,--I have invited two gentlemen to dine with me to-day, six
"P.S.--Let the spare bed be ready."
Mrs Forster prepared everything as directed; and having done her duties
below, retired to her room, where she usually sat with Amber. She did not
therefore see the parties when they entered; and Amber, who had run down to
meet her protector, heard nothing during her short stay in the room, to
suppose that they were relatives of Mr John Forster. All that she had to
communicate was, that the parties were an elderly gentleman and a very
handsome young man.
Yet even this simple communication caused the pulse of Mrs Forster to
accelerate. They might be her husband and her son. It was the first time
that the spare bed had been ordered. Reflection, however, convinced her
that her hopes were strung upon too slight a thread; and, musing on the
improbability of not having ascertained during a year the fact of her
master having so near a relative--moreover, her son was not in
existence--she sighed, and dismissed the idea as ridiculous. Before the
gentlemen had finished their wine, Amber was in bed, and Mrs Forster
invariably sat at the side of it until her own hour of repose had arrived.
A certain indefinable curiosity still remained lurking; yet, as she could
not gratify it without intrusion (if the strangers were still up), she
retired to bed, with the reflection that all her doubts would be relieved
in the morning; and, after lying awake for some hours in a state of
suspense, she at last fell into that sound sleep which is usually produced
by previous excitement. How she was awakened from it, the reader has been
"It's rather awkward, Newton," said Mr John Forster, about ten days
afterwards. "I cannot do without your mother, that's certain; but what am I
to do with your father? Humph! Well, she must take charge of him as well as
Amber. She must teach him--"
"Teach him what, sir?" replied Newton, laughing.
"Teach him what? Why, to leave my watch and spectacles alone. I dare not
lay them down for a moment."
"I think we may teach him that, sir, if it is all that you require."
"I ask no more: then he may go about the house like a tame rabbit. When
will your ship be ready, boy?"
"In about a fortnight, sir. I called upon Captain Oughton the day before
yesterday, but he was not at home. His steward gave me the information."
"What is the name of the ship?"
"The _Windsor Castle_, sir."
"Why, all the India ships appear to be called Castles. Your last ship was
the _Bombay Castle_, I think?"
"Yes, sir: there are a great many of them so named--they really are
"And full of ladies. You 'castle your queens,' as they do at chess. Humph!"
A pun from Mr John Forster was a rarity: he never had been known to make
one before: and Newton asserts that he never heard him guilty of it
afterwards. It deserves, therefore, bad as it was, to be recorded.
"----but to stick to my route
'Twill be hard, if some novelty can't be struck out.
Is there no Algerine, no Kamschatkan arrived?
No plenipo-pacha, three-tail'd and three wived?
No Russian, whose dissonant, consonant name
Almost rattles to fragments the trumpet of fame?
By-the-bye, have you found any friend who can construe
That Latin account, t'other day, of a monster?
If we can't get a Russian--and that story in Latin
Be not _too_ improper, I think I'll bring that in."
A few mornings after this colloquy with his uncle, Newton was very busy
perambulating the streets of London, in search of various requisites for
his trip to India, when his hand was seized before he had time to call to
mind the features of the party who shook it with such apparent warmth.
"My dear Mr Forster, I am so delighted to see you, so happy to hear of your
gallant adventure with the French squadron. Mrs Plausible will be quite
pleased at meeting her old shipmate; she often talks about you. I must make
sure of you," continued the doctor, drawing from his pocket a large packet
of cards, and inserting at the top of one Newton Forster's name with his
pencil. "This is an invitation to our _conversazione_ of to-morrow night,
which you must do us the honour to accept. We shall have all the scientific
men of the day, and a very pretty sprinkling of nobility, if not something
more. However, you will see. Shall I tell Mrs Plausible that you will come,
or will you disappoint her?"
"Why," replied Newton, "if I possibly can I will. I presume the hour is not
"O no, from nine until two or three; but if you wish to see great people,
about eleven is the exact time."
"Well, then," replied Newton, "the time which suits great people also suits
me. I hope Mrs Plausible is quite well."
"Quite well, I thank you. Good-bye;" and Dr Plausible hurried off so
quickly, that Newton was induced to look after him, to ascertain what could
induce such precipitation. He perceived Dr Plausible shaking hands warmly
with another gentleman, and after a few seconds the packet of cards was
again pulled out of his pocket, and the pencil in requisition. It will be
necessary to go back a little, to acquaint the reader with what had
occurred since the acceptation of Dr Plausible by Miss Tavistock, when they
were on board of the _Bombay Castle_. On their arrival at Madras, Miss
Tavistock's early and dearest friend, who resided in the up-country, had
commissioned an acquaintance to receive Miss Tavistock until they could
make arrangements for her journey to the interior. By this female
acquaintance Miss Tavistock was kindly welcomed, and received into her
house; but Miss Tavistock's prospects having altered, so had all her
devoted attachment to the friend of her early years. She wrote, announcing
her intended change of condition, and regretting that Dr Plausible's
affairs, requiring his immediate presence in England, would prevent her
having the delight of embracing one, who was so entwined round her heart.
The letter was nevertheless very cold, and Miss Tavistock was very much
abused by her dearest friend, who, disappointed in her expectations, did
not even condescend an answer. In a week Miss Tavistock was united to Dr
Plausible; and in less than a fortnight afterwards they were on their
passage home. Dr Plausible found that his wife's report of her
circumstances was correct, and that now he had the means of keeping his
carriage and of seeing company, in moderation. Shortly after their return,
Dr Plausible took the lease of a house in a betwixt and between fashionable
street, and not wishing to remain idle, attempted to get into practice as
an accoucheur; for although the fortune brought by his wife was
considerable, still, to keep his carriage in London, he was obliged "to
sail nearer to the wind" in other points than he found agreeable: moreover
he was ambitious. A night-bell, with "night-bell" in capital letters over
it, that people might be aware in the broad day that it was a night-bell,
which of course they could not read in the dark, was attached to one side
of the street door. It was as loud as an alarum-bell, and when rung, was to
be heard from No. 12 to No. 44, in the street where Dr Plausible resided.
There are little secrets in all trades; and one is, how to obtain practice
as a medical man, which whole mystery consists in making people believe
that you have a great deal. When this is credited, practice immediately
follows; and Dr Plausible was aware of the fact. At first setting off, his
carriage drew up to the door occasionally, and stood there for some time,
when the doctor made his appearance, and stepped in. He then took a round
of about three hours through every fashionable part of the town, sitting
well forward, that everybody might see him, apparently examining his
visiting-book. At times he would pull up at some distinguished person's
door, when there were two or three carriages before him, and getting out,
would go in to the porter to ask some frivolous question. Another _ruse_
was, to hammer at some titled mansion, and inquire for another titled
person, by mistake. This occupied the morning; after which Doctor Plausible
returned home. During the first month the night-bell was rung two or three
times a week by the watchman, who was fee'd for his trouble; but after that
period it increased its duties, until it was in motion once, if not twice,
every night, and his disturbed neighbours wished Doctor Plausible and his
extensive practice at the devil. The carriage also was now rattled to the
door in a hurry, and Doctor Plausible was seen to enter it with his case of
instruments, and drive off with rapidity, sometimes twice a day. In the
meantime, Mrs Plausible did her part, as she extended her acquaintance with
her neighbours. She constantly railed against a medical husband; declared
that Doctor Plausible was never at home, and it was impossible to say at
what hour they might dine. The tables also were strewed with the cards of
great and fashionable people, obtained by Doctor Plausible from a
celebrated engraver's shop, by a douceur to the shopman, when the master
was absent. At last, Doctor Plausible's instruments were used in good
earnest; and, although not known or even heard of in the fashionable world,
he was sent for by the would-be-fashionables, because they imagined that he
was employed by their betters. Now it so happened that in the same street
there lived another medical man, almost a prototype of Doctor Plausible,
only not quite so well off in the world. His name was Doctor Feasible. His
practice was not extensive, and he was encumbered with a wife and large
family. He also very naturally wished to extend his practice and his
reputation; and, after many fruitless attempts, he at last hit upon a
scheme which he thought promised to be successful.
"My dear," said he, one morning to his wife, "I am thinking of getting up a
"A _conversazione_, my love!--why, is not that a very expensive affair?"
"Why, not very. But if it brings me practice, it will be money well laid
"Yes, my love, if it does, and if we had the money to lay out."
"Something must be done. I have hardly a patient left. I have an idea that
it will succeed. Go, my dear, and make up this prescription, and let the
boy take it to Mrs Bluestone's. I wish I had a couple of dozen patients
like her. I write her prescription, take my fee, and then, that I may be
sure that it is properly made up, I volunteer to take it to the chemist's
"Pray, what is the complaint of Mrs Bluestone, my love?"
"Nothing; she over-eats herself--that's all. Abernethy would cure her in
"Well, but, my love, about this _conversazione_?"
"Go and make up the prescription, my dear, and we'll talk the matter over
They did so. A list of the people they were acquainted with was drawn out,
the expense calculated, and the affair settled.
The first point to be considered was the size of the cards.
"These, my love," said Mrs Feasible, who came in from a long walk, with her
bonnet still on, "these are three shillings and sixpence a hundred; and
these, which are a size larger, are four-and-sixpence. Which do you think
we ought to have?"
"Why, really, my dear, when one sends out so many, I do not see why we
should incur unnecessary expense. The three-and-sixpenny ones are quite
"And the engraving will be fourteen shillings."
"Well, that will only be a first expense. _Conversazione_ in old English,
"And here, my love, are the ribbons for the maids' caps and sashes; I
bought them at Waterloo House, very cheap, and a very pretty candle-light
"Did you speak to them about their gowns?"
"Yes, my love; Sally and Peggy have each a white gown, Betty I can lend one
of my own."
The difference between a _conversazione_ and a rout is simply this:--in the
former you are expected to talk or listen, but to be too ethereal to eat.
In the latter, to be squeezed in a crowd, and eat ices, &c., to cool
yourselves. A _conversazione_ has, therefore, a great advantage over the
latter, as far as the pocket is concerned, it being much cheaper to procure
food for the mind than food for the body. It would appear that tea has been
as completely established the beverage of modern scientific men, as nectar
was formerly that of the gods. The Athenaeum gives tea; and I observed in a
late newspaper, that Lord G---- has promised tea to the Geographical
Society. Had his lordship been aware that there was a beverage invented on
board ship much more appropriate to the science over which he presides than
tea, I feel convinced he would have substituted it immediately; and I
therefore take this opportunity of informing him that sailors have long
made use of a compound which actually goes by the name of _geo-graffy_,
which is only a trifling corruption of the name of the science, arising
from their habit of laying the accent upon the penultimate. I will now give
his lordship the receipt, which is most simple.
Take a tin pot, go to the scuttle-butt (having obtained permission from the
quarter-deck), and draw off about half a pint of very offensive-smelling
water. To this add a gill of vinegar and a ship's buscuit broken up into
small pieces. Stir it well up with the fore-finger; and then, with the
fore-finger and thumb, you may pull out the pieces of buscuit, and eat them
as fast as you please, drinking the liquor to wash all down.
Now this would be the very composition to hand round to the Geographical
Society. It is not christened geography without a reason; the vinegar and
water representing the green sea, and the pieces of buscuit floating in it
the continents and islands which are washed by it.
Now, my lord, do not you thank me for my communication?
But we must return to the _conversazione_ of Doctor and Mrs Feasible.
The company arrived. There was rap after rap. The whole street was
astounded with the noise of the wheels and the rattling of the iron steps
of the hackney-coaches. Doctor Feasible had procured some portfolios of
prints; some Indian idols from a shop in Wardour Street, duly labelled and
christened, and several other odds and ends to create matter of
conversation. The company consisted of several medical gentlemen and their
wives, the great Mr B----, and the facetious Mr C----. There were ten or
twelve authors, or gentlemen suspected of authorship, fourteen or fifteen
chemists, all scientific of course, one colonel, half-a-dozen captains, and
to crown all, a city knight and his lady, besides their general
acquaintance, unscientific and unprofessional. For a beginning this was
very well; and the company departed very hungry, but highly delighted with
their evening's entertainment.
"What can all that noise be about?" said Mrs Plausible to her husband, who
was sitting with her in the drawing-room, reading the _Lancet_, while she
knotted, or _did not_.
"I am sure I cannot tell, Mrs Plausible."
"There, again! I'm sure if I have heard one, I have heard thirty raps at a
door within this quarter of an hour. I'm determined I will know what it
is," continued Mrs Plausible, getting up, and ringing the bell.
"Thomas, do you know what all that noise is about?" said Mrs Plausible,
when the servant answered the bell.
"No, ma'am, I doesn't."
"Well, then, go and see."
The impatience of Mrs Plausible, during the absence of Thomas, increased
with the repetition of the knocks.
"Well, Thomas?" said she, as the footman entered.
"If you please, ma'am, Mr Feasible has got a conwersation--that's all."
"Got a what?"
"A _conversazione_ he means, my dear. It's very strange that Doctor
Feasible should pretend to give such a thing!"
"I think so too," replied the lady. "He keeps no carriage. What can be his
"I perceive," replied Dr Plausible, "he wants to get practice. Depend upon
it, that's his plan. A sprat to catch mackerel!"
Husband and wife were again silent, and resumed their occupations; but the
_Lancet_ was not read, and the knotting was all in knots, for they were
both in a brown study. At last, Mrs Plausible commenced:--
"I really do not see, my dear, why we should not give a _conversazione_ as
well as Doctor Feasible."
"I was just thinking that we could give them much better; our acquaintance
now is very numerous."
"And very respectable," replied the lady; "it will make us more known in
"And add to my practice. I'll soon beat Doctor Feasible out of the field!"
The result of this conversation was a _conversazione_, which certainly was
on a much better scale, and better attended than the one collected by
Doctor Feasible. Doctor Plausible had pumped a mutual acquaintance as to
the merits of his rival, and had set to work with great diligence.
He ordered his carriage, and for two or three days previous to the one
fixed, went round to all his friends who had curiosities, foreign,
indigenous, or continental, admired them, talked learnedly, expressed a
wish to exhibit them to several gentlemen of talent at his next
_conversazione_, pulled out a card for the party, and succeeded in
returning home with his carriage stuffed with curiosities and
Negus and cherry-water were added to tea in the refreshment-room; and the
_conversazione_ of Doctor Plausible was pronounced by those who had been
invited to both, infinitely superior to that of Doctor Feasible. A
good-natured friend called upon Doctor and Mrs Feasible with the news. They
pretended indifference, as they bit their lips to conceal their vexation.
As soon as he took his leave--
"Well, my dear," said Mrs Feasible, "what do you think of this? Very
unhandsome on the part of Doctor Plausible! I was told this morning that
several of our acquaintances have expressed a wish to be introduced to
"We must not give up the point, my love. Doctor Plausible may make a splash
once; but I suspect that his horses eat him out of house and home, and
interfere very much with the butcher's bills. If so, we who keep no
carriage can afford it better. But it's very annoying, as there will be an
increase of expense."
"Very annoying, indeed!" replied the lady. "Look at his card, my dear, it
is nearly twice as large as ours. I begged it of Mr Tomkins, on purpose to
"Well, then, my dear, we must order others, and mind that they measure an
inch more than his. It shall cost him something before we have done, I'm
"You heard what Mr Smithson said? They gave negus and cherry-water."
"We must do the same. I've a great mind to give ices."
"Oh! my love, remember the expense."
"Very true; but we can ice our negus and cherry-water. Rough ice is only
twopence a pound, I believe."
"Well, that will be an improvement."
"And there shall be more, or I'll be in the Bench," replied the doctor, in
The next _conversazione_ for which cards were issued by Doctor Feasible,
was on a superior scale. There was a considerable increase of company. He
had persuaded a country baronet; secured the patronage of two ladies of
rank (with a slight blot on their escutcheons), and collected, amongst
others, a French count (or adventurer), a baron with mustachios, two German
students in their costumes and long hair, and an actress of some
reputation. He had also procured the head of a New Zealand chief; some red
snow, or rather, red water (for it was melted), brought home by Captain
Ross; a piece of granite from the Croker mountains; a kitten in spirits,
with two heads and twelve legs; and half-a-dozen abortions of the feathered
or creeping tribes. Everything went off well. The two last fees he had
received were sacrificed to have the party announced in the _Morning Post_,
and Doctor Feasible's triumph was complete.
But it was not to last long. In ten days Dr Plausible's cards were again
issued, larger than Dr Feasible's, and with a handsome embossed border of
lilies and roses. Male attendants, tea and coffee, ices and liqueurs were
prepared; and Dr Feasible's heart failed him, when he witnessed the ingress
and egress of the pastrycooks, with their boxes on their heads. Among his
company he had already mustered up five celebrated blues; four ladies of
quality, of better reputation than Dr Feasible's; seven or eight baronets
and knights; a bishop of Fernando Po; three or four general officers; and a
dozen French and German visitors to the country, who had not only titles,
but wore orders at their button-holes. Thus far had he advanced, when he
met Newton Forster, and added him to the list of the invited. In about two
hours afterwards, Dr Plausible returned home to his wife, radiant with
"My dear, who _do_ you think has promised to come to-morrow night?"
"Who, my love?"
"You don't say so?" screamed the lady with her delight.
"Yes, most faithfully promised."
"What _will_ the Feasibles say?" cried the lady;--"but--is he a real
"A real prince! O yes, indeed is he! well known in Tartary."
"Well, Dr Plausible, I have good news for you. Here is a note from Mr
H----, in answer to yours, in which he promises you the loan of the wax
figure from Germany, of a female in the first stage of par--partu--I can't
make out the word."
"Excellent! most excellent!" cried the doctor, rubbing his hand; "now we
Newton, who had some curiosity to see a _conversazione_, which to him was a
_terra incognita_, did not fail to go at the appointed hour. He was ushered
upstairs into the drawing-room, at the door of which he was received by Mrs
Plausible, in blue and silver. The rooms not being very large, were
extremely crowded, and Newton at one moment found himself jammed against
some curiosity, and at another treading on the toes or heels of people, who
accepted his apologies, looking daggers, and with a snarling "don't mention
But a thundering knock at the door was followed by the announcement of His
Highness Prince Fizzybelli--Prince Fizzybelli at the door--Prince
Fizzybelli coming up--Prince Fizzybelli (enters).
Had it been permitted, Dr Plausible would have received his guest with a
flourish of trumpets, as great men are upon the stage, without which it is
impossible now-a-days to know a great man from a little one. However, the
hired attendants did their duty, and the name of Fizzybelli was fizzed
about the room in every direction. Dr Plausible trod on the corns of old
Lady G------, upset Miss Periwinkle, and nearly knocked down a French
_savant_, in his struggle to obtain the door to receive his honoured guest,
who made a bow, looked at the crowd--looked at the chandelier--looked at
his watch, and looked very tired in the course of five minutes, when Prince
Fizzybelli ordered his carriage, and was off.
Newton, who had examined several very strange things which occupied the
tables about the room, at last made his way to the ante-room, where the
crowd was much more dense than elsewhere. Taking it for granted that there
was something interesting to be seen, he persevered until he had forced his
way to the centre, when what was his astonishment when he beheld under a
long glass-case a figure of a woman modelled in wax, of exact and certainly
of beautiful proportion! It was as large as life, and in a state of perfect
nudity. The face lifted up, and discovered the muscles beneath; in fact,
every part of the image could be removed, and presented to the curious
every part of the human frame, modelled exact, and coloured. Newton was
indeed astonished: he had witnessed several articles in the other room,
which he had considered more fitted for the museum of an institution than a
drawing-room; but this was indeed a novelty; and when, to crown all, he
witnessed certain little _demireps_ of science, who fancied that not to be
ashamed was now as much a proof of knowledge, as in our first parents it
was of innocence, and who eyed the figure without turning away from it or
blushing, he quitted the room with disgust, and returned home quite
satisfied with one _conversazione_.
I am not partial to blues: generally speaking, ladies do not take up
science until they find that the men will not take up them; and a
remarkably clever woman by reputation is too often a remarkably unpleasant
or a remarkably ugly one. But there are exceptions; exceptions that a
nation may be proud of--women who can fulfil their duties to their husbands
and their children, to their God and to their neighbour, although endowed
with minds more powerful than is allotted to one man in tens of thousands.
These are heavenly blues; and, among the few, no one shines more
pre-eminent than my dear Mrs S----e.
However, whether Newton was satisfied or not, this _conversazione_ was a
finisher to Dr Feasible, who resigned the contest. Dr Plausible not only
carried away the palm--but, what was still worse, he carried off the
"Their only labour is to kill the time;
And labour dire it is, and weary woe.
They sit--they lounge--turn o'er some idle rhyme:
Then rising sudden--to the glass they go,
Or saunter forth with loitering step and slow."
_Castle of Indolence_.
Captain Oughton, who commanded the _Windsor Castle_, was an original. His
figure was short and thick-set, his face broad, and deeply pitted with the
small-pox; his nose, an apology for a nose, being a small tubercle arising
midway between his eyes and mouth, the former of which were small, the
latter wide, and displaying a magnificent row of white teeth. On the whole,
it was impossible to look in his face without being immediately struck with
his likeness to a bull-dog. His temperament and his pursuits were also
analogous; he was a great pugilist, knew the merits of every man in the
ring, and the precise date and circumstances attending every battle which
had been fought for the previous thirty years. His conversation was at all
times interlarded with the slang terms appropriated to the science to which
he was so devoted. In other points he was a brave and trustworthy officer,
although he valued the practical above the theoretical branches of his
profession, and was better pleased when superintending the mousing of a
stay or the strapping of a block than when "flooring" the sun, as he termed
it, to ascertain the latitude, or "breaking his noddle against the old
woman's," in taking a lunar observation. Newton had been strongly
recommended to him, and Captain Oughton extended his hand as to an old
acquaintance, when they met on the quarter-deck. Before they had taken a
dozen turns up and down, Captain Oughton inquired if Newton could handle
the mauleys; and on being assured in the negative, volunteered his
instruction during their passage out.
"You heard the end of it, I suppose?" said Captain Oughton, in continuance.
"The end of what, sir?"
"What!--why the fight. Spring beat. I've cleared three hundred by him."
"Then, sir, I am very glad that Spring beat," replied Newton.
"I'll back him against a stone heavier any day in the week. I've got the
newspaper in the cabin, with the fight--forty-seven rounds; but we can't
read it now--we must see after these soldiers and their traps. Look at
them," continued Captain Oughton, turning to a party of the troops ordered
for a passage, who were standing on the gangway and booms; "every man Jack
with his tin pot in his hand, and his greatcoat on. Twig the drum-boy, he
has turned his coat--do you see?--with the lining outwards to keep it
clean. By Jove, that's a _wrinkle_!"
"How many officers do you expect, Captain Oughton?"
"I hardly know--they make such alterations in their arrangements; five or
six, I believe. The boat went on shore for them at nine o'clock. They have
sent her back, with their compliments, seven times already, full of
luggage. There's one lieutenant--I forget his name--whose chests alone
would fill up the main-deck. There's six under the half-deck," said Captain
Oughton, pointing to them.
"Lieutenant Winterbottom," observed Newton, reading the name.
"I wish to Heaven that he had remained the winter, or that his chests were
all to the bottom! I don't know where the devil we are to stow them. Oh,
here they come! Boatswain's mate, 'tend the side there.'"
In a minute, or thereabouts, the military gentlemen made their appearance
one by one on the quarter-deck, scrutinising their gloves as they bade
adieu to the side-ropes, to ascertain if they had in any degree been
defiled by the adhesive properties of the pitch and tar.
Captain Oughton advanced to receive them, "Welcome, gentlemen," said he,
"welcome on board. We trip our anchor in half an hour. I am afraid that I
have not the pleasure of knowing your names, and must request the honour of
"Major Clavering, sir," said the major, a tall, handsome man, gracefully
taking off his hat: "the officers who accompany are (waving his hand
towards them in succession), Lieutenant Winterbottom--"
Lieutenant Winterbottom bowed.
"I've had the pleasure of reading Lieutenant Winterbottom's name several
times this forenoon," observed Captain Oughton, as he returned the salute.
"You refer to my luggage, I'm afraid, Captain Oughton."
"Why, if I must say it, I certainly think you have enough for a general."
"I can only reply that I wish my rank were equal to my luggage; but it is a
_general_ complaint every time I have the misfortune to embark. I trust,
Captain Oughton, it will be the only one you will have to make of me during
Major Clavering, who had waited during this dialogue, continued--"Captain
Majoribanks, whom I ought to apologise to for not having introduced
"Not at all, major; you just heard the brevet rank which Winterbottom's
baggage has procured him."
"Not the first time a man has obtained rank through his 'baggage,'"
observed one of the officers, _sotto voce_.
"Mr Ansell, Mr Petres, Mr Irving."
The necessary bows were exchanged, and Mr Williams, the first mate, desired
to show the officers to their respective accommodations, when he would be
able to ascertain what part of their luggage was required, and be enabled
to strike the remainder down into the after-hold.
As the officers followed the first mate down the companion-ladder, Captain
Oughton looked at Mr Ansell, and observed to Newton, "That fellow would
The _Windsor Castle_ sailed, and in a few days was clear of the channel.
Newton, whose thoughts were of Isabel Revel, felt not that regret at
quitting the country, usually attached to those who leave all dear to them
behind. He knew that it was by following up his profession alone that he
ever could have a chance of obtaining her; and this recollection, with the
hopes of again beholding the object of his affections, lightened his heart
to joy, as the ship scudded across the Bay of Biscay, before a N.E. gale.
That he had little chance at present of possessing her, he knew; but hope
leads us on, and no one more than the youth who is in love.
The table of Captain Oughton was liberally supplied, and the officers
embarked proved (as they almost invariably do) to be pleasant,
gentlemanlike companions. The boxing-gloves were soon produced by Captain
Oughton, who soon ascertained that in the officer who "would peel so well"
he had found his match. The mornings were passed away in sparring, fencing,
reading, walking the deck, or lolling on the hen-coops upon the poop. The
announcement of the dinner-hour was a signal for rejoicing; and they
remained late at the table, doing ample justice to the captain's excellent
claret. The evening was finished with cards, cigars, and brandy _pawnee_.
Thus passed the time away for the first three weeks of the passage, during
which period all parties had become upon intimate terms.
But the voyage is, in itself, most tedious; and more tedious to those who
not only have no duty to perform, but have few resources. As soon as the
younger officers thought they might take a liberty, they examined the
hen-coops, and selecting the most promising-looking cocks, trimmed them for
fighting; chose between themselves, as their own property, those which they
most approved of, and for some days fed and sparred them, to get them into
wind, and ascertain the proper way in which they should be spurred. In the
meantime, two pairs of spurs were, by their directions, clandestinely made
by the armourer of the ship, and, when ready, they took advantage of the
time when Captain Oughton was every day employed with the ship's reckoning,
and the poulterer was at his dinner (viz., from twelve to one), to fight a
main. The cocks which were killed in these combats were returned to the
hen-coops, and supposed by the poulterer, who had very often had a glass of
grog, to have quarrelled within the bars.
"Steward," said Captain Oughton, "why the devil do you give us so many
fowls for dinner? the stock will never last out the voyage: two roast
fowls, two boiled fowls, curried fowl, and chicken pie! What can you be
"I spoke to the poulterer on the subject, sir; he constantly brings me down
fowls, and he tells me that they kill each other fighting."
"Fighting! never heard of fowls fighting in a coop before. They must be all
"That they are, most of them," said Mr Petres; "I have often seen them
fighting when I have been on the poop."
"So have I," continued Ansell; "I have seen worse cocks in the pit."
"Well, it's very odd; I never lost a cock in this way in all my voyages.
Send the poulterer here; I must inquire about it."
"Yes, sir," replied the steward; and he quitted the cabin.
With the exception of the major, who knew nothing of the circumstances, the
officers thought it advisable to decamp, that they might not be present
when the _denouement_ took place. The poulterer made his appearance, was
interrogated, and obliged, in his own defence, to criminate the parties,
corroborating his assertions by producing a pair of spurs found upon a cock
which had been killed, and thrown behind the coop in a hurry, at the
appearance of Captain Oughton on deck.
"I am sorry that my officers should have taken such a liberty," observed
the major, gravely.
"Oh, never mind, major, only allow me to be even with them; I shouldn't
have minded if I had seen the fighting. I think you said that you would
like to exercise your men a little this afternoon?"
"I did; that is, if not inconvenient."
"Not in the least, major; the quarter-deck is at your service. I presume
you do not superintend yourself."
"Yes, I generally do."
"Well, don't this time; but let all the officers; and then I shall be able
to play them a little trick that will make us all square."
Major Clavering consented. The officers were ordered up to drill their men.
Captain Majoribanks and Mr Irving had one party at the platoon exercise.
"Third man, your hand a little higher on the barrel of your musket. As you
were; support--the word support is only a caution--arms,--too--too."
"Two and two makes four," observed one of the seamen.
Lieutenant Winterbottom had another party on the leeside of the
quarter-deck. "Ram down--cartridge--No. 12, slope your musket a little
more--_too_--_too_--only two taps at the bottom of the barrel.
Return--ramrods. No. 4, why don't you draw up the heel of your right leg
level with the other? Recollect now, when you shoulder arms, to throw your
muskets up smartly.--Shoulder--as you were--the word shoulder is only a
caution; shoulder--arms. Dress up a little, No. 8, and don't stick your
stomach out in that way."
Mr Ansell and Mr Petres had two fatigue parties on the poop, without
muskets. "To the right--face--to the right face. To the right--face--to the
"It's a dead calm with them soldiers--head round the compass," said one of
the seamen to another.
"To the left--face--quick march, to the left--turn--to the
right--turn--close file--mark time--right--left--right--left--forward."
"Them 'ere chap's legs all going together put one in mind of a
centipee--don't they, Tom?"
"Yes, but they don't get on quite so fast. Holloh, what pipe's that?--'All
hands, air bedding.'"
The ship was hauled close to the wind, which was light. At the pipe, the
sailors below ran up the hatchway, and those on deck threw down their work.
In a minute every hammock was out of the netting, and every seaman busy at
"Now, major, we had better go into the cabin," said Captain Oughton,
laughing. "I shall, I can assure you."
Beds and blankets which are not aired or shook more than once a month, are
apt to be very full of what is termed _fluff_ and blanket _hairs_, and they
have a close smell, by no means agreeable. The sailors, who had an idea
that the order had not been given inconsiderately, were quite delighted,
and commenced shaking their blankets on the forecastle and weather gangway,
raising a cloud, which the wind carried aft upon the parties exercising
upon the quarter-deck.
"What the devil is all this?" cried Captain Majoribanks, looking forward
with dismay. "Order--arms."
Lieutenant Winterbottom and half of his party were now seized with a fit of
coughing. "Confound it!--shut--pans--handle--upon my soul I'm choked."
"This is most excessively disagreeable," observed Mr Petres; "I made up my
mind to be _tarred_ when I came on board, but I had no idea that we should
"Support--d--n it, there's no supporting this!" cried Captain Majoribanks.
"Where's Major Clavering? I'll ask to dismiss the men."
"They are dismissing a great many little men, forward, I suspect," said the
first mate, laughing. "I cannot imagine what induced Captain Oughton to
give the order: we never shake bedding except when the ship's before the
This last very consoling remark made it worse than all; the officers were
in an agony. There was not one of them who would not have stood the chance
of a volley from a French regiment rather than what they considered that
they were exposed to. But without Major Clavering's permission they could
not dismiss their men. Captain Majoribanks hastened to the cabin, to
explain their very unpleasant situation, and received the major's
permission to defer the exercise.
"Well, gentlemen," said Captain Oughton, "what is the matter?"
"The matter!" replied Ansell. "Why, my flesh creeps all over me. Of all the
thoughtless acts, Captain Oughton, it really beats--"
"Cock-fighting," interrupted the captain, with a loud laugh. "Now we are
The officers hastened below to wash and change their dress after this very
annoying retaliation on the part of Captain Oughton. When they felt
themselves again clean and comfortable, their good humour returned,
although they voted their captain not to be very refined in his ideas, and
agreed with him that his practical joke beat "cock-fighting."
I believe that there are no classes of people who embark with more regret,
or quit a ship with more pleasure, than military men. Nor is it to be
wondered at, if we consider the antithesis which is presented to their
usual mode of life. Few military men are studious, or inclined to reading,
which is almost the only resource which is to be found against the tedium
of long confinement and daily monotony. I do not say this reproachfully, as
I consider it arises from the peculiarity of their profession, and must be
considered to be more their misfortune than their fault. They enter upon a
military life just after they have left school,--the very period at which,
from previous and forced application, they have been surfeited with books
_usque ad nauseam_. The parade, dress; the attention paid to them, which
demands civilities in return; society, and the preference shown by the fair
sex; their happy and well-conducted mess; the collecting together of so
many young men, with all their varied plans of amusement, into which the
others are easily persuaded to enter, with just sufficient duty on guard,
or otherwise, not to make the duty irksome; all delight too much at first,
and eventually, from habit, too much occupy their minds, to afford time for
In making this observation, I must be considered to speak generally. There
are many studious, many well-stored minds, many men of brilliant talents,
who have improved the gift of nature by constant study and reflection, and
whose conduct must be considered as the more meritorious, from having
resisted or overcome the strong temptation to do otherwise which is offered
by their profession.
"I wish," said Irving, who was stretched out his full length on one of the
coops abaft, with the front of his cap drawn over his eyes--"I wish this
cursed voyage was at an end. Every day the same thing; no variety--no
amusement;--curry for breakfast--brandy _pawnee_ as a finish. I really
begin to detest the sight of a cigar or a pack of cards."
"Very true," replied Ansell, who was stretched upon an adjacent coop in all
the listlessness of idleness personified--"very true, Irving; I begin to
think it worse than being quartered in a country town inhabited by
nobodies, where one has nothing to do but to loll and spit over the bridge
all day, till the bugle sounds for dinner."
"Oh! that was infinitely better; at least, you could walk away when you
were tired, or exchange a word or two with a girl as she passed over it, on
her way to market."
"Why don't you take a book, Irving?" observed the major, laying down the
one with which he had been occupied, to join the conservation.
"A book, major? Oh, I've read until I am tired."
"What have you read since you embarked ?" inquired his senior.
"Let me see--Ansell, what have I read?"
"Read!--nothing at all--you know that."
"Well, perhaps so; we have no mess-newspapers here: the fact is, major, I
am not very partial to reading--I am not in the habit of it. When on shore
I have too much to do; but I mean to read by-and-bye."
"And pray, when may that by-and-bye be supposed to arrive?"
"Oh! some day when I am wounded or taken prisoner, and cannot do anything
else; then I shall read a good deal. Here's Captain Oughton--Captain
Oughton, do you read much?"
"Yes, Mr Irving, I read a great deal."
"Pray, may I take the liberty to ask you what you read?"
"What I read! Why, I read Horsburgh's Directory:--and I read--I read all
"I think," observed Ansell, "that if a man gets through the newspaper and
the novels of the day, he does a great deal."
"He reads a great deal, I grant you," replied the major; "but of what value
is that description of reading?"
"There, major," replied Ansell, "we are at issue. I consider a knowledge of
the passing events of the day, and a recollection of the facts which have
occurred during the last twenty years, to be more valuable than all the
ancient records in existence. Who talks of Caesar or Xenophon nowadays,
except some Cambridge or Oxford prig? and of what value is that knowledge
in society? The escape of a modern pickpocket will afford more matter of
conversation than the famous retreat of the ten thousand."
"To be sure," replied Captain Oughton; "and a fair stand-up fight between
Humphreys and Mendoza create more interest than the famous battles of--,
I'm sure I forget."
"Of Marathon and Thermopylae; they will do," added Ansell.
"I grant," replied the major, "that it is not only unnecessary, but
conceited in those who would show their reading; but this does not disprove
the advantages which are obtained. The mind, well fed, becomes enlarged:
and if I may use a simile, in the same way as your horse proves his good
condition by his appearance, without people ascertaining the precise
quantity of oats which has been given him; so the mind shows, by its
general vigour and power of demonstration, that it has been well supplied
with 'hard food.'"
"Very _hard food_ indeed," replied Captain Oughton; "nuts that I never
could crack when I was at school, and don't mean to break my teeth with
now. I agree with Mr Ansell, 'that sufficient for the day is the knowledge
"Well, as the tree of knowledge was the tree of evil, perhaps that is the
correct reading," replied Ansell, laughing; "Captain Oughton, you are a
very sensible man; I hope we shall see you often at our mess, when we're
again on shore."
"You may say so now," replied Captain Oughton, bluntly, "and so have many
more said the same thing to me; but you soldiers have cursed short memories
in that way after you have landed."
"I trust, Captain Oughton," replied Major Clavering, "that you will not
have to make that accusation general."
"Oh! never mind, major; I never am affronted; the offer is made in
kindness, and at the time sincere; but when people get on shore, and are so
occupied with their own amusements, it is not to be wondered at if they are
thoughtless and forget. At one time, it did annoy me, I confess; for when I
say I should be happy to see a man, I mean it; and if I did not mean it, I
never would ask him. I thought that other people did the same; but I have
lived long enough to discover that a 'general invitation' means, 'don't
come at all.'"
"Then I most certainly shall not say one word on the subject at present,"
replied the major. "How many bells was that?"
"Six; dinner will be on the table in a few minutes."
"Then, gentlemen, we had better go down and prepare. Why, Mr Irving, you
have not shaved this morning!"
"No, major, I mean to do it after dinner."
"I should rather think that you intended to say _before_," replied Major
This gentlemanlike hint was taken by the young ensign, who was aware that
Major Clavering, although invariably polite, even in reproof, was not a
commanding officer to be trifled with; and Mr Irving made his appearance at
the dinner-table with his "chin new reaped," and smooth as if appertaining
to one of the fairer sex.
"Come o'er the sea,
Maiden, with me,
Mine through sunshine, storm and snows;
Seasons may roll,
But the true soul
Burns the same where'er it goes.
Let fate frown on, so we love and part not,
'Tis life where thou art, 'tis death where thou'rt not."
The voyage was at last accomplished without adventure or interest, the
_Windsor Castle_ not having fallen in with more than two or three vessels
during her passage. Happy were the military officers to hear the order
given for the anchor to be let go upon their arrival in Madras Roads; more
happy were they to find themselves again on shore; and most happy were
Captain Oughton and his officers to witness the debarkation of the troops,
who had so long crowded their decks and impeded their motions. Parting was
indeed "sweet sorrow," as it always will be when there is short allowance
of room, and still shorter allowance of water.
Newton Forster was in a state of anxiety during the quarter of an hour in
which he was obliged to attend to his duty, furling the sails and squaring
the yards; and the time appeared most insupportably long, until he could
venture aft to make some inquiries from the dubashes, who were crowding
alongside, as to the fate of Isabel Revel. Time and absence had but matured
his passion, and it was seldom that Isabel was away from his thoughts. He
had a faint idea formed by hope that she was partial to him; but this was
almost smothered by the fears which opposed it, when he reflected upon what
might be produced by absence, importunity, and her independent spirit,
which might, if not well treated by her relation, reconcile her to a
marriage, which, although not in every way eligible, secured to her a
prospect of contentment and of peace.
At last the yards were squared to the satisfaction of the boatswain, the
ropes were hauled taut, and coiled down, and the men sent below to their
dinners. Newton walked aft, and the first person he met was the dubash who
had attended the _Bombay Castle_. The cheeks of Newton flushed, and his
heart throbbed quick, and his lips quivered, as he asked intelligence of
the colonel and his family.
"Colonel Saib quite well, sir. Two ladies marry officer."
"Which two?" demanded Newton, eagerly.
"Not know how call Bibi Saib's names. But one not marry--she very
handsome--more handsome than all."
The heart of Newton bounded at this intelligence, as he knew that it must
be Isabel who was still a spinster. This was shortly after corroborated by
an English gentleman who came on board. Their stay at Madras was intended
to be short, and Newton resolved to ask immediate leave on shore.
Apologising to Captain Oughton for making such an unusual request, which he
was induced to do from intelligence he had just received relative to his
friends, he expressed his anxious wish. Captain Oughton, who had reason to
be highly satisfied with Newton, gave his consent in the kindest manner;
"and, Forster, if you wish to remain, you have my permission. We will
manage without you: only recollect, we sail on Thursday night." Newton was
soon ready, and quitted the ship with Major Clavering; to whose credit it
ought here to be observed, that a _daily_ note was despatched to Captain
Oughton, requesting the pleasure of his company at the mess, until he was
satisfied that, in this instance, the general invitation was sincere.
As soon as he was clear of the surf and out of the masulah boat, Newton
hired a conveyance, and drove out to the bungalow of the old colonel. He
trembled as he announced his name to the butler, who ushered him halfway to
the receiving-room; and, like most of the natives, finding some difficulty
in pronouncing English, contented himself with calling out "burrah saib,"
and then walked off. Newton found himself in the presence of the old
veteran and Isabel. The latter had been reading a new publication, which
she laid down at the voice of the butler announcing a visitor. But "burrah
saib" may be anybody; it implies a gentleman. What then was the surprise of
Isabel, who had no intimation of his arrival, when Newton Forster made his
appearance? Her exclamation of delight, as she ran to him and extended her
hand, made Newton Forster but too happy; and, as for a few seconds he held
the hand not withdrawn, and looked in her beaming eyes, he quite forgot the
presence of the colonel. A glance from the eye of Isabel in the direction
where the old gentleman was seated brought Newton to his recollection. He
walked up to the colonel, who shook hands, and declared that he was most
glad to see him.
"You take up your quarters here, of course, Mr Forster?"
"I shall have great pleasure in availing myself of your kind offer for a
day or two," replied Newton. "I trust that you have been in good health
since we parted."
"Not very; that is, latterly. I am thinking of a change of climate. I
intend to go home in October. I suppose you have been informed that the two
young women have married?"
"I was told so by some one who came on board."
"Yes. Isabel, my dear, order a chamber for Mr Forster." Isabel left the
room. "Yes, both married--thought of nothing else--regularly came out on
spec. In less than a month they knew the exact rank of every gentleman in
the Presidency; ascertained their prospects, and the value of their
appointments; turned the rupees into pounds sterling; broke off a
conversation with an ensign at the sight of a lieutenant; cut the
lieutenant for a captain; were all smiles for a major; and actually made
love themselves to any body who was above that rank, and a bachelor. They
made their decision at last; indeed pretty quick. They were only four
months on my hands. Both up the country now."
"I trust they have married well, sir?"
"That depends upon circumstances. They have married young men not used to
the climate. May be widows in half a year. If their husbands weather it, of
course, they will come in for their share of the good things; but I'll
warrant they will never be able to leave the country."
"Not leave the country, sir! May I ask why?"
"Because they have married foolish, extravagant wives, who will run them in
debt; and when once in debt, it is no easy matter in this country to get
out of it. They must insure their lives for the money which they borrow;
and as the house of agency will be gainers by their demise, of course they
will not be permitted to leave the country and their chance of the _cholera
morbus_. Don't you think that my niece looks remarkably well?"
"I do; the climate does not appear to have affected her."
"Rather improved her," replied the colonel; "she is not so thin as when she
came on shore. God bless her! I'm sure, Mr Forster, I am under great
obligations to you for having persuaded me to go for the dear girl when she
arrived. She has been a treasure to me! If she has had one, she has had
twenty offers since you left; many unexceptionable; but she has refused
them all. In some instances I have persuaded her--I thought it was my duty.
But no; she has but one answer, and that is a decided one. She will not
leave me. She has watched and attended me in my sickness as my own
daughter. I say again, God bless her!"
It was with delight that Newton heard these encomiums upon Isabel, and her
resolution not to marry. Whether it was wholly on account of not wishing to
leave the colonel or not, still every delay gave him more chance of
ultimate success. Isabel, who had stayed away that the colonel might have
time to make any communications to Newton, now returned, and the
conversation became general. Newton entered into a narrative of what had
occurred during his passage home, and amused them with his anecdotes and
In about an hour the colonel rose from his chair that he might prepare for
dinner; and then it was that Newton perceived the great change which had
taken place. He was no longer upright, but bowed down; his step was no
longer firm, it was almost tottering; and, as he left the room, Newton's
eyes met those of Isabel.
"You think him ill?" said Isabel, inquiringly.
"Yes, I do, Miss Revel. He is very much changed; his stamina appears to
have been exhausted by the climate. I trust he will go home as he
"He has been ill--very ill indeed. He talks constantly of home; he has done
so for months; but when the time comes he puts it off. I wish you would
"I will do all I can; but if you cannot prevail, I'm afraid that my
persuasion will be of little use."
"Indeed, I think otherwise; you have power over him, Mr Forster. I have not
forgotten how kindly you exercised it in my behalf. We--that is," continued
Isabel, colouring up, "the colonel has often talked of you since you
"I feel highly flattered by his remembrance," replied Newton; "but you are
in mourning, Miss Revel. If not a liberty from one who feels an interest in
all concerning you, may I inquire for whom?"
"It is for my father," replied Isabel, with emotion, sitting down, and
passing her hand across her eyes.
"I never heard of his death, and must apologise for having been so
indiscreet as to renew your sorrow. How long is it since? and what was his
"He had no complaint--would to God that he had had! He was shot in a duel,"
replied Isabel, as the tears coursed down her cheeks. "Oh! Mr Forster, I
trust I am resigned to the dispensations of Providence, but--that he should
be summoned away at the moment when he was seeking the life of his
fellow-creature, with all the worst passions in excitement--unprepared--for
he was killed on the spot. These reflections will make his death a source
of bitter regret, which can terminate but with existence."
"Your mother is still alive?" inquired Newton, to change the painful
"Yes, but very ill; the last accounts were very distressing; they say that
her complaint is incurable."
Newton regretted having brought up so painful a subject. A few words of
condolence and sympathy were offered, and they separated to prepare for
Newton remained four days under the roof of the colonel, during which time
he was constantly in the society of Isabel; and when the period of his
departure arrived, he had just grounds to imagine that, were all obstacles
in other points removed, Isabel Revel would not, on her part, have raised
any against the accomplishment of his wishes; but their mutual dependent
situations chased away all ideas of the kind for the present, and although
they parted with unconcealed emotion, not a word which could be construed
into a declaration of attachment was permitted to escape his lips.
The _Windsor Castle_ sailed for Calcutta, and in a few days anchored at
Kedgeree to wait for a pilot to come down the river. During their short
stay at this anchorage, Mr Williams, the first mate, who was an old Indian
voyager, went on shore every evening to follow up his darling amusement of
shooting jackals, a description of game by no means scarce in that quarter
of the world. Often remonstrated with for his imprudence in exposing
himself to the heavy night-dew, he would listen to no advice. "It was very
true," he acknowledged, "that his brother had died of a jungle fever in
pursuing the same amusement, and what was more, the fowling-piece in his
hand belonged to his brother, who had bequeathed it to him; but as he had
never heard of two brothers dying from a jungle fever taken by shooting
jackals, he considered that the odds were strongly in his favour." This
argument, however specious, did not prove good. The third morning he
returned on board, complaining of a headache and shivering. He was bled and
put into his bed, which he never left again.
Before the _Windsor Castle_ was ready to sail, the remains of Mr Williams
were consigned to the burying-ground at Diamond Harbour, and Newton Forster
was promoted to the rank of first mate of the _Windsor Castle_. This, as
will hereafter be proved, was a most fortunate occurrence to Newton
Forster. The _Windsor Castle_ sailed with leave to call at Madras for
letters or passengers, and in a few days was again at anchor in the
roadstead. The first intelligence which they received upon their arrival
was, that the _cholera morbus_ had been very fatal, and that among others,
the old colonel had fallen a victim to the disease. Newton again obtained
permission to go on shore to Isabel. He found her in distress at the house
of a Mrs Enderby, a lady who had lost her husband by the same ravaging
epidemic, and who had long been the intimate friend of the colonel and of
Isabel. Mrs Enderby was about to return to England by the first vessel, and
had advised Isabel to take so favourable an opportunity of a _chaperon_.
Isabel, who had many reasons for wishing to leave the country, particularly
the declining state of her mother's health, had consented; and it was with
great pleasure that she received from Newton the information of the best
cabins of the _Windsor Castle_ not having been hitherto engaged.
The colonel's will had been opened. He had bequeathed his property, the
whole of which, with the exception of his establishment in India, was
invested in the English funds, to his grand-niece Isabel Revel. It amounted
to nearly seventy thousand pounds. It would be difficult to say whether
Newton Forster felt glad or sorry at this intelligence. For Isabel's sake,
he undoubtedly was glad; but he could not but feel that it increased the
distance between them, and on that account, and on that alone, his
reflections were painful. "Had it," thought he, "been five thousand, or
even ten thousand pounds, it would have been different. In the course of a
few years I might have been able to produce an equivalent to it, and--but
this fortune has raised her above my hopes; even if she had a prepossession
in my favour, it would be dishonest to take advantage of it."
Isabel Revel had very different feelings on the subject--she was her own
mistress, and her manner to Newton was more cordial, more confidential than
before. She had not forgotten that Newton had shown the same regard and
partiality for her when she was going out to India, and afterwards, when in
distress; he had been her friend and admirer when in adversity. She knew
his feelings towards her, and she had appreciated his delicacy and
forbearance. Lately she had seriously analysed her own, and her analysis
was wound up by a mental acknowledgment that her wealth would be valueless,
if she could not share it with Newton Forster.
At the request of Mrs Enderby, the poop cabins were engaged for Isabel and
herself. Their time for preparation was short; but one day more having been
obtained from Captain Oughton, through the influence of Newton, Mrs Enderby
and Isabel embarked, and the _Windsor Castle_ spread her canvas, sailing
away from pestilence and death.
"Britannia needs no bulwark,
No towers along the steep,
Her march is o'er the mountain waves,
Her home is on the deep."
The _Windsor Castle_ ploughed through the vast ocean of waters before a
propitious gale, laden with treasure, in the safe arrival of which so many
were interested. But what were all the valuables stowed away in her frame,
in the opinion of Newton Forster, in comparison with the lovely being who
had entrusted them with her safe conduct to her native country! The extreme
precautions adopted or suggested by Newton for security during the
night--his nervous anxiety during the day--became a source of laughter and
ridicule to Captain Oughton; who once observed to him,--"Newton, my boy, I
see how the land lies, but depend upon it the old ship won't tumble
overboard a bit sooner than before; so one reef in the top-sails will be
Indeed, although they "never mentioned it," it was impossible for either of
them to disguise their feelings. Their very attempts at concealment only
rendered them more palpable to everyone on board. Captain Oughton, who was
very partial to Newton, rejoiced in his good fortune. He had no objection
to young people falling or being in love on board of his ship, although he
would not have sanctioned or permitted a marriage to take place during the
period that a young lady was under his protection. Once landed on Deal
beach, as he observed, they might "buckle to" as soon as they pleased.
The _Windsor Castle_ was within two hundred miles of the Mauritius, when a
strange vessel was discovered on the weather beam, bearing down to them
with all the canvas she could spread. Her appearance was warlike; but what
her force might be, it was impossible to ascertain at the distance she was
off, and the position which she then offered, being nearly "end on."
"Can you make out her hull, Mr Forster?" cried Captain Oughton, hailing
Newton, who was at the mast-head with a glass.
"No, sir; her fore-yard is but now clear of the water, but she rises very
"What do you think of her spars, Forster?" said Captain Oughton to Newton,
who had just descended to the last rattling of the main-rigging.
"She is very taut, sir, and her canvas appears to be foreign."
"I'll bet you what you please it's that d----d fellow Surcoeuf. This is
just his cruising ground, if the report of that neutral vessel was
"Another hour will decide the point, sir," replied Newton; "but I must say
I think your surmise likely to prove correct. We may as well be ready for
him: a cruiser she certainly is."
"The sooner the better, Mr Forster. He's but a 'rum customer,' and 'a hard
hitter' by all accounts. Clear up the decks, and beat to quarters."
The strange vessel came down with such rapidity that, by the time the
captain's orders were obeyed, she was not more than two miles distant.
"There's 'instudding-sails;'--and in devilish good style too!" observed
Captain Oughton. "Now we shall see what he's made of."
The vessel rounded to the wind as soon as she had reduced her sails, on the
same tack as the _Windsor Castle_, displaying her broadside, as the French
would say, _herissee de canons_.
"A corvette, sir," said Newton, reconnoitring through his glass;
"two-and-twenty guns besides her bridle ports. She is French rigged;--the
rake of her stern is French;--in fact, she is French all over."
"All Lombard Street to a China orange, 'tis Surcoeuf," replied Captain
Oughton, who, with the rest of his officers, had his glass upon the vessel.
"There goes the tricoloured flag to prove I've won my bet. Answer the
challenge. Toss my hat up.--Pshaw! I mean hoist the colours there abaft. Mr
Thomas," continued Captain Oughton, addressing the boatswain, "send the
ship's company aft.--Forster, you had better see the ladies down below."
At the summons of the boatswain, the men came aft, and stood in a body on
the lee side of the quarter-deck, with their hats off, and impatience in
"Now, my lads," said Captain Oughton, "if I am not mistaken, that vessel is
commanded by the very best seaman that ever left a French port, and to do
him justice, he's a damnation fine fellow!--a severe punisher, and can take
a mauling as well as give one."
"Yes, sir, so can we," replied several of the men together.
"I know you can, my lads; and give and take is fair play. All I say is, let
it be a fair stand up fight, and 'may the best man win.' So now, my lads,
if you're ready to come to the scratch, why, the sooner we peel the
"Hurrah!" cried the seamen, as they separated to their quarters; and, in
compliance with the injunctions of the captain, threw off their jackets,
and many of them their shirts, to prepare for the conflict.
The corvette, after she had rounded to, and exchanged colours, reduced her
sails to precisely the same canvas as that carried by the _Windsor Castle_.
This was to try her rate of sailing. In a quarter of an hour, her
superiority was manifest. She then hauled up her courses, and dropped to
her former position on the _Windsor Castle's_ weather-beam.
"The fellow has the heels of us, at all events," observed Captain Oughton;
"but, Forster, the ladies are not yet below. Mrs Enderby, I am sorry to be
obliged to put you in confinement for a short time. Miss Revel, you must do
me the favour to accept of Mr Forster's convoy below the water-line."
Newton offered his arm to Isabel, and followed Captain Oughton, who
escorted Mrs Enderby. His heart was swelling with such variety of feeling
that he could not at first trust himself to speak. When they had descended
the ladder, and were picking their way, stepping over the rammers, sponges,
and tackles, stretched across the main-deck, Newton observed--"This is not
the first time I have been commissioned to place you in security. I trust I
shall again have the pleasure of relieving you from your bondage."
Isabel's lips quivered as she replied, "I trust in God that you may, Mr
Forster!--but--I feel more anxious now than I did on the former occasion.
"I have a foreboding," interrupted Newton, "that this day's work is to make
or mar me! Why, I cannot tell, but I feel more confident than the chances
would warrant; but farewell, Isabel--God bless you!"--and Newton, pressing
her hand, sprang up the ladder to his station on the quarter-deck.
I have before observed that a man's courage much depends upon his worldly
means or prospects. A man who has much to lose, whatever the property may
consist of, will be less inclined to fight than another whose whole capital
consists of a "light heart and a thin pair of breeches." Upon the same
reasoning, a man in love will not be inclined to fight as another. Death
then cuts off the sweetest prospects in existence. Lord St Vincent used to
say that a married man was d----d for the service. Now (bating the
honeymoon), I do not agree with his lordship. A man in love may be inclined
to play the Mark Antony; but a married man, "come what will, he has been
blessed." Once fairly into action, it then is of little consequence whether
a man is a bachelor, or married, or in love; the all-absorbing occupation
of killing your fellow-creatures makes you for the time forget whether you
are a beggar or a prince.
When Newton returned on deck, he found that the corvette had gradually
edged down until nearly within point-blank range.
"Shall we lay the main-topsail to the mast, sir?" observed Newton. "We
shall see his manoeuvres."
"Why, he hardly would be fool enough to bear down to us," replied Captain
Oughton; "he is a determined fellow, I know; but I believe not a rash one.
However, we can but try. Square the main-yard."
As soon as the _Windsor Castle_ was hove-to, the courses of the enemy were
seen to flutter a few moments in the breeze, and then the canvas was
expanded. When the vessel had gathered sufficient way, she hove in stays,
and crossed the _Windsor Castle_ on the opposite tack.
"I thought so," observed Captain Oughton. "The fellow knows what he is
about. He'll not 'put his head in chancery,' that's clear. How cautious the
rascal is! It's very like the first round of a fight--much manoeuvring and
wary sparring before they begin to make play."
The corvette stood on the opposite tack until well abaft the beam. She then
wore round, and ranged up on the weather quarter of the Indiaman. When
within two cables' length of the _Windsor Castle_, who had, a little
before, filled her main-topsail to be in command, the Frenchman hauled up
his foresail, and discovered his lower rigging manned by the ship's
company, who gave a loud but hasty cheer, and then disappeared.
One cock crowing is a challenge, sure to be answered, if the antagonist is
game. The English seamen sprang up to return the compliment, when Captain
Oughton roared out, "To your guns, you fools! Hard down with the helm--fly
the jib-sheet--check headbraces--look out now, my lads."
The corvette had already put her helm up and paid off to pass under the
stern of the _Windsor Castle_, with the intention of raking her. The
promptitude of Captain Oughton foiled the manoeuvre of the Frenchman; which
would have been more fatal had the English seamen been in the rigging to
have been swept off by his grape-shot. As the _Windsor Castle_ was thrown
up on the wind, an exchange of broadsides took place, which, according to
the usual custom of all well regulated broadsides in close conflict, cut
away a certain proportion of the spars and rigging, and cut up a proportion
of the ships' companies. The _Windsor Castle_, worked by Newton, bracing
round on the other tack, and the corvette rounding to on the same, the two
vessels separated for a few minutes.
"Devilish well stopped, Newton, wasn't it?" said Captain Oughton, showing
his white teeth. "Look out again--here she comes."
The corvette again attempted to rake as she ranged up after tacking, by
throwing herself up in the wind; but Captain Oughton, watching the
slightest variation of his adversary's career, gradually edging away, and
then putting his helm up, manoeuvred that the broadsides should again be
exchanged. This second exchange was more effectual than the first.
"A stomacher, and both down!" cried Captain Oughton, as he surveyed the
deck. "Be quick, Newton, hand the men below. Don't bring her to the wind
yet, he has lost his way by luffing up, and cannot make play again for a
After the second broadside the vessels were much further apart, from the
_Windsor Castle_ running off the wind, while the corvette was too much
crippled to work with her usual rapidity. This was convenient to both
parties, as the last broadside had been very mischievous. The Frenchman,
low in the water, had suffered less in her hull and ship's company, but
more in her spars and rigging. The foremast was nearly cut in half by the
carronade shot of her antagonist; her main-yard was badly wounded, and her
wheel knocked to atoms, which obliged them to steer on the lower deck. The
_Windsor Castle_ had received five shots in her hull, three men killed, and
six wounded; three of her main shrouds cut in two, and her mizen-mast badly
It was a quarter of an hour before the Frenchman returned to the attack.
Captain Oughton had again hauled his wind, as if not wishing to decline the
combat; which, indeed, the superior sailing of his antagonist prevented.
The corvette appeared to have given up manoeuvring; whether from the
crippled state of her spars and sails, or from perceiving that he had
hitherto gained nothing by his attempts. He now ranged up to within two
cables' lengths of the _Windsor Castle_, and recommenced the action,
broadside to broadside.
The breeze was lulled by the concussion of the air; and both vessels
continued in the same position, and at the same distance for upwards of an
hour, pouring in their broadsides, every shot of which was effectual.
"Now, this is what I call a reg'lar set-to. Fire away, my lads," cried
Captain Oughton, rubbing his hands. "A proper rally this. D--n it, but he's
The wounded mizen-mast of the _Windsor Castle_ received another shot in the
heart of it, which threw it over the side. Every part of her hull proved
the severe and well-directed fire of the enemy; her sails were as ragged as
Jeremy Didler's pocket-handkerchief; her remaining masts pitted with shot;
the bulwarks torn away in several places; the boats on the booms in
shivers; rigging cut away fore and aft, and the ends swinging to and fro
with the motion of the vessel; her decks in confusion; and some of her
guns, from necessity, deserted. Captain Oughton, Newton, and the rest of
the officers continued to encourage the men, giving them assistance in
working the guns; and the ship's company appeared to have fully imbibed the
bull-dog spirit of their commander.
The fire of the _Windsor Castle_ had been equally destructive. The vessels
had gradually neared each other in the calm; and the height of the _Windsor
Castle_ out of the water, in comparison with the corvette, had given her
the advantage in sweeping the decks of the enemy. The contending vessels
were in this situation, when, for a minute or two, a cessation of firing
took place, in consequence of the accumulation of smoke, which had so
completely enshrouded them both that they knew not where to direct their
guns; and they waited until it should clear away, that the firing might
recommence. A light air gradually swept the veil to leeward, and discovered
both vessels to each other, at the distance of half a cable's length.
Captain Oughton was with Newton on the poop, and the commander of the
French corvette was standing on the hammock nettings of his own vessel. The
latter took off his hat, and courteously saluted his adversary. Captain
Oughton answered the salutation; and then waving his hat, pointed to the
English colours, which had been hoisted at the main; as much as to say,
"They never shall come down!" The Frenchman (it was Surcoeuf) did the same
to the tricolour, and the action recommenced.
"Well done, my lads!" cried Captain Oughton; "well done! that broadside was
a staggerer--right into his ribs. Hurrah now, my hearts of oak! this
fellow's worth fighting. Aim at his foremast--another broadside will floor
it. It's on the reel. Newton, jump forward, and--"
But the order was stopped by a grape-shot, which struck Captain Oughton on
the breast. He staggered and fell off from the poop to the quarter-deck.
Newton leapt down, and went to him. The torrents of blood from his breast
at once told the tale: and Newton called to some of the men, that his
commander might be taken below.
"Wait a moment, my dear lad," said Captain Oughton faintly, and catching
his breath at every word; "it's a finisher--can't come to time--I die
game." His head fell on his breast, and the blood poured out of his mouth.
Newton directed the body to be taken into the cuddy, that the men might not
be dispirited by the sight. He then hastened to the poop, that he might
reconnoitre the enemy. He perceived that the corvette had hauled on board
his tattered courses, and was standing ahead of them.
"He's off, sir," cried one of the quarter-masters.
"I suspect not," replied Newton, who had his glass to his eye, looking upon
the decks of the French vessel. "They are preparing to board, and will be
round again in five minutes. Cutlasses and pikes ready--forward, my lads,
all of us! We must beat them off!"
"And will, too," cried the seamen, as in obedience to their orders, they
collected on the forecastle. But they mustered thin; nearly half of the
ship's company were either lying dead or under the hands of the surgeon;
and, as Newton surveyed his little force, fatigued as they were with their
exertions, black with powder, stained with blood, and reeking with
perspiration, he could not but acknowledge how heavy were the odds against
the attack of a vessel so well manned as the corvette appeared to be.
Newton said but a few words; but they were to the point; and he had the
satisfaction to perceive, as they grasped their cutlasses, that if their
numbers were few and their frames exhausted, their spirit was as unsubdued
The corvette had in the meantime run ahead on a wind, about a mile, when
she wore round, and was now standing right on to the _Windsor Castle_, and
had neared to within three cables' lengths. A few minutes were to decide
the point. Her courses were again hauled up, and discovered her lee
fore-rigging, bowsprit, cat-heads, and forecastle, crowded with men ready
for the dash on board, as soon as the vessels should come in contact.
Newton stood on one of the forecastle guns, surrounded by his men; not a
word was spoken on board of the _Windsor Castle_, as they watched their
advancing enemy. They were within a cable's length of each other, and
Newton could plainly distinguish the features of the gallant Surcoeuf, who
was in advance on the knight-heads, when a puff of wind, which at any other
time would not have occasioned the starting of a royal sheet, took the
sails of the corvette; and her wounded foremast, laden with men in the
lee-rigging, unable to bear the pressure, fell over the side, carrying with
it the maintop-mast and most of the crew who had been standing in the
rigging, and leaving the corvette an encumbered wreck. A loud shout from
the forecastle of the _Windsor Castle_ announced that the English seamen
were but too well aware of their desperate situation, and that they hailed
the misfortune of the Frenchmen as their deliverance.
"Now, my lads, be smart," cried Newton, as he sprang aft to the wheel, and
put up the helm; "man the flying jib-halyards (the jib was under the
forefoot); let go the maintop bowling; square the main-yard. That will do;
she's paying off. Man your guns; half-a-dozen broadsides, and it's all our
The sun had disappeared below the horizon, and the shades of evening had
set in, before this manoeuvre had been accomplished. Several broadsides
were poured into the corvette, which had the desired effect of crippling
her still more, and her encumbered condition prevented any return. At last
the night hid both vessels from each other; and the breeze freshening fast,
it was necessary that the remaining masts of the _Windsor Castle_ should be
properly secured. The guns were therefore abandoned; and during the time
the seamen were employed in knotting the rigging and bending the spare
sails, Newton consulted with his brother officers, who were unanimous in
agreeing that all had been done that could be expected, and that to wait
till the ensuing day, when the corvette would have repaired her damages,
would be attended with a risk of capture, which the valuable property
entrusted to their charge would never authorise. It was not until past
midnight that the _Windsor Castle_ was in a condition to make sail; but
long before this, Newton had contrived to leave the deck for a few minutes
to communicate with Isabel. With most of the particulars, and with the
death of Captain Oughton, she had already been made acquainted; and if
there could be any reward to Newton for his gallantry and his prudence,
more coveted than another, it was the affectionate greeting with which he
was welcomed and congratulated by Isabel, her eyes beaming with tears of
delight as they glanced from his face, and were shrouded on the deck.
Love and murder make a pretty mixture, although as antithetical as the
sweet and acid in punch,--a composition which meets the approbation of all
sensible, discriminating people. But I shall leave the reader to imagine
all he pleases, and finish the chapter by informing him that, when the sun
again made his appearance, the corvette was not to be discovered from the
mast-head. The guns were therefore properly secured; the decks washed; a
jury mizen-mast stuck up abaft; Captain Oughton, and the gallant fellows
who had fallen in the combat, committed to the deep with the usual
ceremonies; the wounded made as comfortable as possible in their hammocks;
the carpenters busied with the necessary repairs; and the _Windsor Castle_,
commanded by Newton Forster, running before a spanking breeze, at the rate
of eight knots per hour.
"Ships are but boards, sailors but men;
There be land rats, and water rats, water thieves,
And land thieves; I mean pirates."
Most prophetical was the remark made by Newton Forster to Isabel, previous
to the action: to wit, that it would make or mar him. The death of Captain
Oughton, and the spirited defence of the _Windsor Castle_, were the
_making_ of Newton Forster. As a subordinate officer, he might have been
obliged to toil many years before he could have ascended to the summit of
the ladder of promotion; and during the time which he remained in that
situation, what chance had he of making an independence, and proposing for
the hand of Isabel Revel? But now that, by a chain of circumstances
peculiarly fortuitous, he was in command of an East Indiaman, returning
home after having beat off a vessel of equal if not superior force, and
preserved a cargo of immense value, he felt confident that he not only
would be confirmed to the rank which he was now called upon to assume, but
that he had every prospect of being employed. As a captain of an Indiaman,
he was aware that reception into society, wealth, and consideration awaited
him; and what made his heart to swell with gratitude and exultation, was
the feeling that soon he would be enabled to aspire to the hand of one to
whom he had so long been ardently attached.
As the _Windsor Castle_ plunged through the roaring and complaining seas,
with all the impetus of weight in motion, Newton's eyes were radiant with
hope, although his demeanour towards Isabel was, from the peculiar
circumstances attending their situation, more delicately reserved than
When the _Windsor Castle_ touched at St Helena, Newton had the good fortune
to obtain a supply of able seamen, more than sufficient for the re-manning
of his ship. They had been sent there in an empty brig by a French
privateer, who had captured many vessels, and had been embarrassed with the
number of her prisoners. Having obtained the stores which were required,
Newton lost no time in prosecuting his voyage to England.
It was about a fortnight after they had quitted St Helena that a strange
sail was reported on the starboard bow; and as they neared her, it was
evident that her foremast was gone, and that she was otherwise in a
disabled state. When the Indiaman was within a mile, the stranger threw out
neutral colours, and hoisted a whiff, half-mast down, as a signal that she
was in distress. Newton ordered the ship to be kept away, and when
alongside of the vessel, lowered down a boat, and sent the third mate to
ascertain what assistance could be afforded. With sailors, thank God!
distress is sufficient to obtain assistance, and the nation or country are
at once merged in that feeling of sympathy for those misfortunes which may
perhaps but the next hour befall ourselves. The boat returned; and the
officer informed Newton that the vessel was from the Island of Bourbon,
bound to Hamburg; that she had been dismasted and severely injured in a
gale off the Cape of Good Hope; and that when her mast went over the side,
one-half of her crew, who were up at the time on the fore-yard, had been
cast overboard and drowned; that from the want of men and material, they
had been unable to rig an effective jury-mast, and had in consequence been
so long on their passage that their provisions and water were nearly
expended. The officer concluded by stating that there were a French lady
and two gentlemen, with their attendants, who had taken their passage home
in the vessel. Newton immediately went down the side, and pulled on board
of the vessel to ascertain what assistance could be afforded. When he
arrived on board, he was met by the Flemish captain, who commenced a
statement of his misfortunes and his difficulties, when the French lady,
who, unobserved by Newton, had come up the companion-ladder, screamed out
as she ran into his arms--
"Ah! mon Dieu!--c'est Monsieur Nu-tong!"
Newton looked at the lady, who had burst into tears, as her face lay upon
his shoulder, and immediately recognised his former kind and affectionate
friend, Madame de Fontanges: close to him, with his hand extended, was her
generous husband. The meeting was joyful, and Newton was delighted that
circumstances had enabled him to render assistance to those who had been so
kind to him in his former distress.
"Oh! Monsieur Nu-tong, nous avons tant soufferts! Ah! mon Dieu!--point de
l'eau--rien a manger," cried Madame de Fontanges: then smiling through her
tears, "mais ce rencontre est charmant;--n'est ce pas, mon ami?" continued
the lady, appealing to her husband.
"You do not remember Monsieur le Marquis?" said M. de Fontanges to Newton.
Newton turned his head, and recognised the governor of Guadaloupe, who had
expressed such sympathy at his shipwreck, and had sent him away in the
cartel instead of detaining him as a prisoner.
The vessel was indeed in a deplorable condition; and had she not received
the timely assistance now afforded, would in all probability have soon been
a scene of horror and of suffering. They had not more than three days'
water remaining on board, and provisions barely sufficing for ten days.
Newton hastened to send back the boat with orders for an immediate and
ample supply of these necessaries, in case of bad weather coming on and
preventing further communication. Satisfied that their immediate wants were
relieved, Newton took leave of his friends for the present, and returned on
board his own ship, despatching his carpenters and part of his crew to the
immediate refit of the vessel; and then selecting a part of everything that
the _Windsor Castle_ contained in her store-rooms or on her decks, which he
thought would administer to the comfort or the luxury of the passengers on
board of the neutral.
In two hours they who were in a state bordering upon famine found
themselves revelling in plenty. Before night the English seamen had a
jury-mast up, and the sails set. The Hollanders on board would have given
their assistance, but they were told to remain on deck and make up for lost
time, which they acquiesced in very readily, eating and drinking as if they
were determined to lay in a stock for the remainder of the voyage. Newton,
who had returned on board of the neutral to superintend the repairs and
enjoy the society of his old friends, received from them a long account of
what had occurred since their separation. At nightfall he took his leave,
promising to continue under easy sail and remain with them for a day or
two, until they were satisfied that all was right, and that they no longer
required his assistance.
The narrative obtained by Newton may be thus condensed for the information
of the reader. The Marquis de Fontanges had been appointed from the
government of Guadaloupe to that of the Island of Bourbon, which was
considered of more importance. Monsieur and Madame de Fontanges accompanied
him to his new command; and they had remained there for two years, when the
ruling powers, without any ground, except that the marquis had received his
appointment from the former government, thought proper to supersede him.
Frigates were not so plentiful as to spare one for the return of an
ex-governor; and the marquis, being permitted to find his way home how he
could, had taken advantage of the sailing of the Hamburger, to return to
Europe or to France, or as he might find it advisable.
For two days, during which the weather was so fine that Madame de Fontanges
and the gentlemen went on board of the Windsor Castle, and were introduced
to the ladies, Newton continued under easy sail, each day despatching to
the neutral everything which his gratitude could suggest; but as Newton was
most anxious to proceed on his voyage, it was agreed that the next morning
they should part company. At the close of the evening a strange sail was
observed on the weather-beam; but, as she carried no foretop-gallant sail,
and appeared to be steering the same course as the Windsor Castle, she
excited but a momentary observation, supposing that she was some
homeward-bound neutral, or a merchant vessel which had separated from her
convoy. During the night, which was dark, the moon being in her first
quarter, the officer of the middle watch lost sight of their _protegee;_
but this was to be expected, as she did not carry a light. Before morning
the wind fell, and when the sun rose it was a perfect calm. The officer of
the watch, as the day dawned, went on the poop, surveying the horizon for
their companion, and discovered her six or seven miles astern, lying
alongside of the strange vessel which they had seen the day before. Both
vessels, as well as the _Windsor Castle,_ were becalmed. He immediately
went down to Newton, acquainting him with the circumstance, which bore a
very suspicious appearance. Newton hastened on deck; with his glass he
could plainly distinguish that the stranger was a vessel of a low, raking
description, evidently no merchantman, but built for sailing fast, and in
all probability a privateer. The man at the mast-head reported that boats
were constantly passing between the two vessels. Newton, who felt very
anxious for the safety of his friends, accepted the offer of the second
mate to take the gig, and ascertain what was going on. In little more than
an hour the gig was seen from the mast-head to arrive within half a mile of
the vessels, and shortly afterwards the smoke from a gun, followed by a
distant report. The gig then winded and pulled back towards the _Windsor
Castle._ It was in a state of great excitement that Newton waited for her
return, when the second mate informed him that on his approach he
discovered that she was a flush vessel, pierced for fourteen guns, painted
black, and apparently well manned; that she evidently, to use a nautical
term, was "gutting" the neutral; and that, as they had witnessed, on their
boat coming within range, the vessel had fired a round of grape, which
fortunately fell short of them. She had shown no colours; and from her
appearance and behaviour (as all privateers respect neutrals), he had no
doubt that she was the pirate vessel stated, when they were at St Helena,
to be cruising in these latitudes. Newton was of the same opinion; and it
was with a heavy heart that he returned to the cabin, to communicate the
unpleasant intelligence to Mrs Enderby and Isabel.
There is nothing more annoying in this world than the will without the
power. At any time, a vessel becalmed is considered a very sufficing reason
for swearing by those who are on board of her. What then must have been the
feelings of Newton, lying on the water in a state of compelled inaction,
while his friends were being plundered, and perhaps murdered by a gang of
miscreants before his eyes! How eagerly and repeatedly did he scan the
horizon for the coming breeze! How did Hope raise her head at the slightest
cat's-paw that ruffled the surface of the glassy waters! Three successive
gales of wind are bad enough; but three gales blowing hard enough to blow
the devil's horns off are infinitely preferable to one idle, stagnant,
motionless, confounded calm, oppressing you with the blue-devils and
maddening you with the fidgets at one and the same time.
At last, as the sun descended, the breeze sprung up, first playing along
the waters in capricious and tantalising airs, as if uncertain and
indifferent in its infancy to which quarter of the compass it should direct
its course. The ship again answered her helm; her head was put the right
way, and the sails were trimmed to every shift which it made, to woo its
utmost power. In a quarter of an hour it settled, blowing from a quarter
which placed them to windward of, and they carried it down with them to
within two miles of the stranger and the neutral, who still remained
becalmed. But, as the wind freshened, it passed a-head of them, sweeping
along the surface, and darkening the colours of the water, until it reached
the vessels to leeward; one of which,--the one that Newton was so anxious
to get alongside of,--immediately took advantage of it, and, spreading all
her canvas, soon increased her distance. When the _Windsor Castle_ arrived
abreast of the neutral, the stranger was more than two miles to leeward. A
little delay was then necessary to ascertain what had occurred. Newton, who
perceived M. de Fontanges on the deck, shouting to them and wringing his
hands, rounded to, lowered down a boat, and pulled on board of the neutral.
The intelligence communicated was distressing. The strange vessel was a
pirate, who had plundered them of everything, had taken away Madame de
Fontanges, Mimi and Charlotte, her two female attendants. The captain of
the pirates had wounded and severely beaten M. de Fontanges, who had
resisted the "_enlevement_" of his wife; and after having cut away all the
standing rigging, and nearly chopped through the masts with axes, they had
finished their work by boring holes in the counter of the vessel; so that,
had not Newton been able to come up with her, they must all have perished
during the night.
There was no time to be lost; the Marquis de Fontanges, M. De Fontanges,
and the crew, were hurried on board of the _Windsor Castle_ (the pirate had
taken care that they should not be delayed in packing up their baggage),
and Newton, as soon as he returned on board, and hoisted up his boat,
crowded every stitch of canvas in pursuit of the pirate, who was now more
than four miles distant. But, although the wind gradually increased, and
was thus far in their favour, as they first benefited by it, yet, as the
sun went down, so did their hopes descend. At nightfall the pirate had
increased her distance to seven miles. Newton pursued, watching her with a
night-glass, until she could no longer be distinguished. Still, their
anxiety was so great, that no one went to bed on board of the _Windsor
Castle_. When the day broke, the pirate was not to be discovered in any
quarter of the horizon from the mast-head of the _Windsor Castle_.
"She stood a moment as a Pythoness
Stands on her tripod, agonised and full
Of inspiration gather'd from distress,
When all the heart-strings, like wild horses, pull
The heart asunder; then, as more or less
Their speed abated or their strength grew dull,
She sunk down on her seat by slow degrees,
And bow'd her throbbing head o'er trembling knees."