THE FORREST-RACE ROMANCE.

(EXTRACTED FROM PAPERS DATED 1773.)

[MAGA. February 1833.]

I passed my examination with some credit, and was appointed assistant-surgeon to my ship, then lying at Portsmouth. As she was expected, however, to sail every tide to join the fleet off Cherbourg, I was not sent down at once, but received instructions to be on board the Gull tender, at Sheerness, in eight days. In the mean time, with my appointment, and twenty guineas in my pocket, a light heart and a tolerable figure, I went down into Surrey, to Bromley Hall, the seat of an excellent friend, from whom I had long had an invitation. I found the house fall of visitants, chiefly young people about my own age, all making merry, and had little difficulty in being admitted of their crew. I never saw so many happy, fair and handsome faces together, as were there assembled for the next week—but by far the loveliest of the fair faces was that of a young lady from the west, called Fane; and none, perhaps, was happier than my own, when beside her. She delighted in botany; and although I at that time knew little more of the science than would have enabled me to make a tolerable guess at the dried drug in a medicine-chest, yet the temptation was so great that I could not resist the opportunity of becoming her more constant companion, by undertaking the office of her tutor. My inadequacy must have been soon betrayed; nevertheless, we continued to pursue our studies, with as regular attendance as ever on my part, and as implicit attention on hers, till mutually we arrived at the tacit understanding that, provided we looked at the flower together, it mattered little whether I assigned it a right or a wrong place in our rare classification. We soon exchanged the garden for the fields and green lanes; and often before the others had risen to their daily vocations of riding or sailing, we would contrive a ramble in search of some unknown species of an unheard-of genus, to the romantic borders of Holmsdale, which lay within a half mile of Bromley, with the apology of the children for our guides, who rarely failed to find inducement enough in the rabbit-warren or rookery to leave us alone in our search through the glades and avenues of the old holm oak and the furze. It cannot be expected that, with these occasions constantly falling out, an ardent youth of nineteen, as I then was, should long conceal feelings fostered by such appliances of time and circumstance; nor need it be wondered at that, before even the week had elapsed, I had avowed my passion, and had not been altogether unsuccessful in eliciting a confession of its return. My exultation on that evening must have been very apparent, for next morning, as I came down stairs, having lain much later than usual, my host Mr Blundell met me, and took my arm as he bade me good morning, then led me into the library, and, “Harry, my fine fellow,” said he, in his good-natured way, “you must get the M.D. to your name, and make something handsome of your own, before you begin to run away with the hearts of our girls here in the country.”

“’Pon my soul, sir,” stammered I, while I felt myself blushing to the eyes, “I—I—we were only pulling flowers, sir.”

“Ah! my dear boy,” he sighed and went on, “take care that, while you pull the flowers, you do not plant thorns for both hereafter.” I had expected nothing short of thorns for my roses; but he surprised me a little when he proceeded: “Ellen is my ward: she is a good girl, and will be a rich girl; and you know very well I would not be acting as a guardian worthy such a trust, if I encouraged the addresses of one whose fortune is still to make, and whose attachments, Harry, have still to undergo the changes of the most fickle time in his life. Come, tell me candidly, now, how far has this business gone?”

Here was a pretty reckoning to be run up under a hedge. I was silent and sheepish for a while; but told him honestly all about it, so soon as I could speak without choking on every second word.

“Surely,” said he, when I had done, “you must have been aware of the great impropriety of trying to engage this young lady’s affections without my sanction—I am her guardian, you know.”

“I declare, my dear sir, I never knew that you were her guardian,” I exclaimed; “I never knew she had any fortune to guard.”

He smiled, and asked, “Were you ever in love before, Harry?”

“Never, sir, upon my honour—except once—but that was nothing.”

“Nothing to this, I suppose,” he replied; “and this, I daresay, will be nothing to the next. Tut, man! I was a young fellow once myself, and remember many a time when I would have given my eyes to have walked to church with one pretty girl, and my head, I suppose, if I could, to have walked home with another. I was just your age then—what age are you now, Harry?”

“Nineteen past, sir” (it was not a week since my birthday).

“Ay, ay, I was just about nineteen myself then—but no matter. You would see the propriety, my dear boy, of going up to London in the mean time, were it not that Ellen is obliged to leave us to-day; it is no arrangement of mine, I can assure you. If I thought it necessary to get either of you out of the other’s way, I certainly would pack you off, and keep Ellen with me; but the fact is, I am only joint trustee in this business: her other guardians insist on having her away to the house of one of them, to whose nomination I have been over-persuaded to consent. He is needy, and the allowance may be an object; but I would rather pay the money out of my own pocket twice told, than let her go down among them. However, it cannot be helped: she must leave us. Poor thing! with such a fortune and so many connections—keeping myself out of the question, without whose sanction, thank Heaven, they cannot marry her—there never was a more friendless dependent.”

“And has Miss Fane no brother, no father alive?” inquired I.

“Mother, sister, and brother, all the family are dead,” replied Mr Blundell, “excepting her father, who, I am sorry to say, is still alive to everything but a proper sense of his own respectability and his child’s happiness. His last instructions were dated London, but what he is doing there, or where, or how he lives, I cannot tell.”

He had now forgotten my misdemeanours in his own confidential regrets, and I had forgotten my confusion in eagerness to know something more of one who, I felt, for all the careful old gentleman’s prudent veto, was not yet quite out of my reach; although the mention of her fortune, while it made the prize (why should I be ashamed to confess it?) much more seriously valuable, had inspired me with a fear of failure proportionate to the enhanced advantages of success.

“What a pity, sir,” I said, going cunningly to work, “that testators do not attend more to the interests of their legatees in the appointment of equally careful guardians, if they think one not enough.”

“Ah, it was the doing of the law, not of her grandfather, else Fane would never have had the control of a penny of it; but had it not been for me, he would have had it all. I fought her battle stoutly though, and kept matters square enough till I was induced to consent to the admission of this other worthy, as a sort of balance-wheel to keep our ill-sorted motions from bringing everything to a stand.”

“And pray, sir,” I went on, elated with my success, “who may this vexatious umpire be?” I fairly overshot the mark.

“That’s no affair of yours, Harry, just now. Go on with your profession, get half-a-dozen years over your head, and a decent independence at least in your pocket, and then I shall be very happy indeed to put the son of an old friend in the way of a good match; but never, Harry, never let your wife have to say that she made a man of you, while you have head and hands and health to make a man of yourself.”

“Dear sir, you are quite right; and believe me, I would never dream of acting otherwise—only—had I not better see about Miss Fane’s hortus siccus, as you say she goes to-day?”

“I have saved you that trouble, Harry: she is gone before you were out of bed.”

I am afraid I proved but dull company during the few hours of my stay at Bromley Hall after this disappointment. I took my leave that evening, and, to tell the truth, came up to London in a fuming passion, for I could get no satisfaction whatever, notwithstanding my numerous inquiries; I could not even ascertain the boarding-school at which she had been in town. All I knew amounted to this, that I was in love, and likely to continue so; but with whom exactly, I could not tell, farther than that she was a lovely girl, an heiress, and the ward of my careful friend Mr Blundell, in conjunction with her father—a character, I feared, not too respectable—and some one else of much the same stamp, with whom she now was about to be placed, not less against her own and Mr Blundell’s will than mine. But I had little time to indulge in regrets or speculations; I found the Gull with her mainsail set at moorings in the Medway, and hurrying on board forgot everything for a while in the bustle of getting the little schooner under weigh. As we stretched out of the Nore, however, with a steady breeze and smooth water, in the summer evening, when the difficulties of crooked pilotage and frequent alterations in our course had been exchanged for the quiet relaxation of fair wind and open sea-room; and when the boat had begun to take her work into her own hand, like a strong and willing labourer, laying herself to the water, and sending the crew from her sloped deck to lounge about the companion, and lean into the sunset over her high weather-rail, with folded arms and half-shut eyes; then, as I looked across the glittering expanse, where the level sun danced upon every wave between us and the hazy shore, I insensibly began to people the filmy and golden-grained air with my old familiar images again; and long after the failing radiance had spent itself in the eastern gloom, and long after the waters had ceased to roll in even the reflected splendour of the upper sky, I continued sowing their dim and restless floor with waving visions of green fields, and flowery plats, and airy coppices, till the bright enchantress of them all seemed to be won back to my side, and I wandered with her again through the long day of sunshine, forgetful alike of sea, and ship, and sorrow, and the fast-falling shadows of night.

The chill breeze sent me below at last, and, wearied with a day of unusual fatigue, I turned into my berth; but was long kept awake by an angry altercation between the commander and his mate, who were drinking together in the main cabin. What they disputed about I could not understand, but I heard enough to convince me that the command had been intrusted to a person of no very amiable temper; in fact, I had hardly ever met a more disagreeable man than our petty captain, or one on whose countenance habitual violence and intoxication had contracted a more repulsive look.

In the morning we were off Dungeness, with a steady south-easterly breeze, that gave us a favourable run to Portsmouth that evening. Here we joined three others on the same destination, and, standing out again, made so much of it during the night, that when I came on deck next morning I found ourselves and consorts beating up with a light wind abreast of Cherbourg, the coast about which was just beginning to be distinguishable. There had been a good deal of disputing the day previous on board the Gull; and the captain’s tyrannical conduct had put every one on board in a state of angry excitement. For my own part, I avoided coming in contact with him, except at meals, when I could not help it, and then I had only to dread the want of social humanity which I never failed to meet; but it was far otherwise with the crew; he knocked them about with whatever came to hand without mercy, and openly kept up his mastery by exciting himself to a pitch of sufficient violence with quantities of brandy.

We could not yet distinguish any of the fleet; for the wind had come round to the south, and was still getting lighter; but at last we plainly heard the noise of a heavy cannonade. It was the first time in my life that I had heard a shot fired in anger; and as every deep explosion came through the air, my heart beat faster and faster, and, natural fear mingling with natural impatience, I stood engrossed in pleasingly fearful feelings, till I was roused by the voice of the mate, crying that there was a ship to windward. As our fleet lay between us and the shore, we had no fear of its proving an enemy, and farther than as an object of casual speculation, the sail attracted little notice, till at length, as we stood up Channel, with the ship, which seemed a large merchantman, going full before the wind, that had now freshened, under a heavy press of sail, about a mile to windward on our bow, the mate gave it as his opinion that we ought to speak him, and learn how the fleet lay. Now, about a quarter of an hour before this, one of the men having grumbled at a cuff, the Captain had taken me regularly to witness the mutiny; and, going to his arms’ chest, had stuck a pair of pistols in the breast of his jacket, with which he had paraded the deck for a few minutes, in tenfold truculence, and had then gone below again, where he now sat over his articles of war and brandy-bottle. The cabin light was partly open to admit air; and he made his inquiries, and gave his orders, without coming on deck. “What colours does the fellow show, sir?”

“He is canvass to the mast-head, sir, and I cannot see his flag; but I think I know the cut of his royals: he’s a merchant victualler, if I don’t mistake, belonging to the leeward division, standing across to Portsmouth—for stores, I suppose.”

“I don’t care what you suppose, sir—what is his name?”

“The Prince Frederick.”

“Ah—eh!—old Manson’s craft?”

“Yes, sir.”

“What course do you lie, sir?”

“Hard upon the wind: if he hold on, we will cross his wake close astern.”

“Well, do now as I desire you, sir. Let the boat away as many points as will run you under his bows—and hold on your course till I give you farther orders.” Then, in an under-growl to himself, “Ah, ha, he thought he had swamped me about that d——d business of his Son’s and the Phœnix; but I’ll show the old costermongering rogue that I can cross his bows, both on shore and at sea”—here he raised his voice again—“and, hilloa, sir! order him, as soon as he comes within hail, to run under my stern, and round to leeward, till your commander questions him on his Majesty’s service. And clear away that gun in the bows there, for, by ——, if he does not put his helm up, I’ll fire into him, as I would into a huxter’s stall!”

We accordingly fell away to leeward, and the vessels rapidly neared each other. The stranger had studding-sails set from the very top-gallant royals to the chain-plates; and a more splendid sight my eyes never beheld than he presented, spooming down, swift and steady through the fresh, green, sparkling seas that sheeted off round either bow in a continuous jet, glassy, unbroken, and in colour like the purest amethyst, till it foamed away down the broadside in white boiling eddies of froth. We were now within hail: the mate took the trumpet, and shouted his orders as he had received them: there was no answer. The stranger still held on his course, right before the wind.

“He won’t alter his course, sir,” said the mate to the captain. “What is to be done?”

“Hold on, as I ordered you, sir; bring up under his lee; and if he don’t slacken sail, fire your gun into him, and be d——d! Ah, is it luffing you are, you mutinous lubber? must I overhaul you?” And he laid hold of a handspike, and came up the companion, his eyes glaring, his teeth set, and a torrent of curses hissing through them, hot and horrible. He kicked the mate into the scuppers, and laid hold of the tiller, round which he lashed its lanyard with a second turn, before he had given more than one look at the stranger; and while knotting the lashings, reiterated his orders with double vehemence about the gun. If ever the devil had possession of any man, he was in him then. It all occurred in less time than a minute; but so inexperienced at sea was I, that I apprehended a fight more than anything else; although, as the tiller was lashed, I saw it was next to impossible for the vessels to escape running foul. The seamen were all in consternation, crowding from the bows, and clamouring advice, entreaties, and denunciations, without the slightest effect, on their captain. He held a pistol in his hand, and swore he would shoot the first mutineer who should dare to interfere. But, at the second look he took at the tower of canvass now stooping down upon us, within half a stone’s throw, he dropped the tiller, staggered back, and clapt both his hands over his eyes. When he withdrew them to grasp the tafferel, against which he had stumbled, one might have thought that he had been smearing his face with white paint, so deadly pale was he grown all on the sudden; but his eyes were fixed and glazed, his mouth wide open, his lips livid, and shaking like jelly, his hair on end, his limbs in a loose palsy, his knees going against and over one another. It was a moment of dreadful confusion. I was thrown down by the rushing about of the crew; and, as I looked up from among the trampling crowd, through whose feet I rolled like a log, I saw, all at once, between me and the blue sky, over our quarter, the jib-boom of the ship pushed through the serene air with a smooth and equable motion, but swift and irresistible in the whole wing of the wind. It caught us by the lifts of the mainsail, and we were gently pushed over for an almost imperceptible moment; then came a sharp crash, and the main-topmast toppled down, tearing and smashing everything in its descent, and making the started planks fly from stern to stern, as it drove right through the deck into the cabin. At the same moment the ship’s jib-boom sprung high into the air, and from among her pile of sails that were now bellying out almost overhead, there leaped down, like an eagle from his cloud, the whole broad-winged fore-top-gallant-mast, royals and all, with a swoop upon our deck. All the men round the tiller were struck down; some with broken limbs, and all dreadfully bruised, but none was killed save their miserable commander; he was killed where he stood still paralysed against the tafferel. I saw him struck by the jagged stump of the broken mast, as it fell; he dropped shrieking over the low bulwark, and sank with his face downwards. I saw no more, for the bows of the ship here caught us astern with a crushing shock, that drove the schooner right under water, up to the main hatchway, and I was floated off in the sea. The first thing I can remember after that catastrophe, was the roaring as if of a thousand cataracts about my ears, and a consciousness that I was hauled through the water like a fish in a net. This was indeed the case: I had been entangled in the loose wreck of rigging that fell on board the Gull; and when the ship, after grazing her stern, drew these masts and sails after her, by the numerous ropes that still remained unbroken, I was carried along, and would certainly have perished, had not the lightness of the wreck, and the rapidity with which it was dragged, kept me on the surface; yet even there I was never nearer anything than suffocation, from the overwhelming tumult of the broken water which was now sheeting over my head and shoulders, and falling in foam upon my feet like the very jets round the ship’s cutwater. I saw that I must perish if I did not get out of the rush; and having with infinite labour disentangled myself from the rope round my middle, by which I was held, made a desperate exertion, and succeeded in drawing myself forward, and climbing up the connecting rigging at the bows, till I got my head out of the spray. So soon as I was out of immediate peril I relaxed my exertions for a few minutes to take breath; and although I frequently cried for help, I could not make myself heard, for my voice, as well as my strength, was almost exhausted, and once or twice I was on the point of giving up the struggle, and dropping into my deep death-bed, through pure inability of longer hanging on. At last, finding my cries fruitless, and feeling that, without some extraordinary exertion, I must face the abhorred change without further preparation, I collected all the energies of my remaining strength, and with an effort that left me as weak as an infant, drew myself up by the sheer force of my arms, and grasped the fore-chains; then slowly clambered to the dead-eyes, gained the rail of the bulwark, doubled over it like a sack, and fell on deck insensible. When my senses began to collect, and before I had yet opened my eyes, I remember congratulating myself in my own mind on my escape, and dimly contrasting the oozy bed of the sea with the warm berth in which I either was, or was about to be placed. But it was cold—cold. I opened my eyes; I was lying in a dripping coil like a bundle of wet sea-weed, the deck flooded all round with the water still running from my clothes and hair. I dried the blinding spray from my eyes, and, raising myself upon my elbow, looked about. There was not a soul there but myself!

I swallowed a strange pang that arose from my heart, and looked out for something to make a noise with; there was nothing to be had—the decks were free from everything but tar and tallow. I had never seen such dirty decks before, yet there was nothing loose lying about. I had not yet risen—I was afraid to rise—so I pulled off my shoe, and began to hammer on the deck with the heel of it; then to call and to whistle. There was no answer! I started up with another pang that made the water gush to my eyes, and ran astern without looking either to the right or left. I stretched myself half over the tafferel, and looked for the schooner. I saw her lying far away astern, a water-logged wreck, with the other tenders bearing up to her, and signals flying from all their masts. I tossed my arms and shouted, in the wild hope that I might still be taken on board some of them. Alas! I felt the unmanned ship speeding on her dark errand beyond the hope of being overtaken. All the frightful stories of the Flying Dutchman came back with unnatural vividness upon my memory. I remembered the unaccountable terror of the wretched captain of the Gull, his horrible fate, and the invisible agency by which it seemed accomplished. I thought myself in superhuman hands, and my heart sank, and my breath failed, and I swooned for fear, as I had already fallen senseless from fatigue. Let it be remembered that I was a very young man; although I feel that apology need hardly be made for a fear so dreadful, and, in such circumstances, so natural, that not even at this day would the wealth of worlds induce me to spend another hour in the same ignorance of my situation that then afflicted me. I lifted my head from the deck with a bewildering recollection of all that had passed, but as my eye rested on the tall and shining sails overhead, I could not think that a fabric so beautiful was made to bear any but a human crew. Be her navigators who they might, I knew that it was the same whether I faced them fore or aft; so I leaped up, and forced myself forward, that I might put an end to my horrible suspense at once. From few, if any, do I apprehend contempt on account of this avowal. The awe of preternatural agency is part of this life’s natural religion; and sanctioned as it is in the revealed religion that has been vouchsafed to us, let no man scorn me for acknowledging its influence, while his own soul must tell him that he is a being existing he knows not how, among he knows not whom. I am not ashamed to confess, that I walked the deck of that deserted vessel in excessive fear; from companion and hatchway I expected every moment to see some inconceivable horror ascend; and although I held in my breath, and kept myself drawn up in rigid determination not to flinch from anything that a Christian man should confront, yet, with all the preparation I could muster, I felt that the twirling of a straw upon that bare deck would have upset me. My senses, however, were not so totally overwhelmed in awe and wonder as to prevent my perceiving that there really was something unusual in the appearance of things on deck. There were four wide funnels, one under each of the main and fore shrouds—things I had never seen in any ship before. The ports were larger than usual, and had, which seemed very strange, their hinges below. The decks were smeared and slippery, as I have before observed, with tar and tallow. I looked up with a lightened heart to the yard-arms;—there were the grappling-irons swinging from them one and all! I ran into the main-cabin without one hesitating pause—I was rushing desperately to be satisfied, and I was satisfied. The cabin was stripped of its furniture; troughs were laid along each side; they ran into the main-hold, and terminated in sally-ports at either quarter; they were stuffed with reeds in sheaves bound together with matches, and steeped in composition. It was evident—I was in a fire-ship; it accounted for everything. I ran to the sally-port; there was the black track of the gunpowder, and the spot plainly marked where the match had been extinguished. The ship had missed taking fire, and stood out to sea. I ran out on deck—threw off my clothes to dry—got a remnant of a sail, and rubbed myself into life and warmth once more; then wrapping myself in a canvass cloak very fairly cut from the fore stay-sail, I lay down in the sunny scuppers, and without a single thought of navigating the vessel—it never entered my head, once I had got the horrible deceit of my fear removed—gave myself up to the enjoyment of my security and rest so heartily, that at last, like a wearied child, I dropped involuntarily asleep. I could not have slept more than an hour when I was awakened by the snapping of a royal studding-sail boom, for the breeze had been freshening ever since I came on board, and was now straining spars and canvass at a pitch that threatened to carry away everything. The new dangers of my situation rose in fearful array before me, as I considered with myself the probable consequences. I was driving right on shore at a rate that must smash the vessel to pieces the moment she would take the ground; and how to shorten sail or lie to, I could not tell. Everything was fast, and my single strength could not suffice to slacken away anything of consequence. The vessel could never be put upon another course with all her yards braced square. There was little or no chance of my falling in with any sail in the Channel in such dangerous times. The wind was getting round to the east again, and I saw plainly that if it settled there, and still carried me before it, I must drift to the Atlantic, and die of hunger, unless I could subsist on tallow and brimstone (since nothing more eatable had been left on board) till the final catastrophe of going on shore, that sooner or later must befall me. Even if I should fall in with a sail, how were they to know that I was in distress? and if they did, how was I to bring the ship to? or (unless it fell a dead calm) how was a boat to be sent on board me driving at such a rate? I went to the wheel to try what I could do; not much caring though I should lay her fairly on her beam-ends; for, if she should not founder outright, I thought even such a state would be better than the rapid ruin she was then threatening me with. I brought her up till I shook the wind out of her canvass. She reeled and staggered for a moment like a drunken being, then all at once her lighter sails were taken aback with a slap that beat away booms, and tore down yards and tackling with a succession of crashes, flappings, and snaps like gun-shots, which threw me into such confusion, that I let go the wheel, and ran for the cabin, in dread of having my brains beaten out by a falling spar, like the luckless captain of the Gull. I sat down in despair among the tubs of composition and piles of oakum steeped in turpentine, with which the place was crammed, and listened to the effects of my rashness still sounding overhead, and making themselves known even below by the mad plunges of the vessel, that pitched me at length into a corner, where I lay till she righted, and went off dead before the wind once more. The rigging when I came on deck presented a strange sight. All the great sails had filled again, but the lighter ones were flying in lumbering streamers from every yard-arm like ribbands from a tattered cap; while booms and blocks went swinging through the confusion, knocking against the standing spars, and adding at every stroke some new disaster to the ruinous uproar. I would have almost changed places with Phæton. I would as soon have laid my hand upon the fiery mane of a courser of the sun, with all the zodiac reeling underfoot, as have touched a spoke of that fatal wheel during the next hour. I went below again, and got between decks by the communication from the cabin, where I saw the arrangement of the combustibles, which put the nature of the vessel beyond all doubt. The troughs crossed each other between four barrels of composition, placed one under each of the above-mentioned funnels. Chambers were loaded opposite all the ports, to blow them open and give the flame vent. Powdered resin and sulphur were scattered plentifully in all directions, and a mixture of combustibles like soft dry paste filled the bottoms of all the troughs, on top of which the reeds were tied with matches innumerable. The breeze now began to take off, and continued to lull away during all the afternoon, having settled at length at about south-east, so that my fears of drifting past the Land’s-end were now almost at rest. I dressed myself in my dried clothes, but dared not kindle a fire;—every spot was ready to start into flame with the merest spark; even in the after-cabin the berths were stowed full of old turpentine and oil jars, and dusted with meal of resin. I walked the deck till evening, and with departing light of day distinguished St Michael’s Mount, rising in a grey and purple haze high into the ruddy horizon. The night fell chilly and thick, and I went into the cabin and tried to make up my mind for the worst. But I could not long bear to stay there, it was so lonely and dismal. There was a sort of company in the wind and the struggling sails on deck, but below, everything was deadly dark and silent. So, chilly as it was, I wrapped my cloak of canvass once more about me, and sat down on the forecastle, shivering with cold and apprehension, and gazing, till my eyes grew strained and dizzy, into the monotonous gloom ahead. I could not see any star, but I think it must have been about one o’clock, when the heavy washing of the seas about our bows was broken by the distant murmur of breakers. Had I heard my death-bell tolling, it could not more surely have impressed me with the certainty of my immediate fate; and yet the very growling of that merciless band, into whose strangling tumult I so soon expected to be cast, came upon my numbed senses with a rousing and invigorating influence; for the dull uncertainty of my former state had been altogether stupifying. I rose and took my post once more by the wheel, determined to use my experience to the best advantage in counteracting or seconding the wind as I saw necessary, so far as its very limited command would go.

The tumult of broken water now became louder and louder, but instead of advancing on my ear as before, out of the darkness ahead, it growled away down the night on our starboard beam in an oblique direction, which I could not account for, till, looking over the stern, I saw, by the dim glimmer of the ship’s wake, that we were making more lee than head way; that, in fact, the ship was driving broadside on, in a powerful tide-race along a reef of rocks, through some opening in which, or past which altogether, I did not despair of being yet carried by the current, as I heard no surf loud enough to tell of its running anywhere against them, except beyond one breach in their line, comparatively smooth. The coast was now distinguishable ahead, black, high, and precipitous. It advanced higher and higher up the sky, till it almost seemed to overhang our forecastle, and I now felt the ship swing round in the sweep of the current, and saw the breakers running white astern as we swept clear of them, right through the reef. There rose presently a rustling sound about the bows; then a heavy grating all along the keel, a dull prolonged concussion, and the tide broke on her as she stuck—fast in a sand-bank. It was pitch dark. The breakers were on all sides; but the ship lay in smooth water among them. It would have been madness to attempt swimming on shore; where, even if I should escape the violence of the current and surf, I must spend the long morning on the bleak hill, weighed down by wet clothes, and ignorant of my road. Under these considerations, particularly as there was no fear of the ship yielding to any sea likely to run there, during the calm state of the weather, I determined to remain on deck till day; and now, considering my safety almost certain, I mingled my supplications with thanksgivings, and, falling on my knees, blessed God with tears of gratitude and delight; then wrapping myself up once more behind the shelter of the bulwark, went to sleep. I started up from a dream of home, for I distinctly heard the stroke of oars alongside. I was on the point of calling out when some one close under the quarter said, in a low but (to my morbidly sensitive ear) a clear whisper, “By —— I believe they have deserted her! But look sharp, my lads, for you may find plenty of them still, skulking behind the bulwarks.” I heard this with an accompaniment of cocking fire-arms and unsheathing cutlasses; and with the horrifying suspicion that they were a gang of Cornwall wreckers, I crept in renewed and redoubled terror into the cabin. Just as I concealed myself behind the door, which opened on the quarter-deck from under a high poop, the boat’s crew sprung on deck with lanterns and levelled weapons. Two tall and rather fine-looking men led the party, and so soon as they saw that there was no fighting for them on deck, drew their company together round the main-mast, and proceeded, to my inexpressible relief, to take possession of the ship in the name of his Majesty George the Third, by virtue of certain letters of marque and reprisal, empowering them, Adam and Hiram Forrest, of Forrest-Race, Esquires, to set upon by force of arms, subdue, and take all ships, vessels, goods, wares, munitions of war, &c. &c. of, or belonging to, the French nation. Now was my time to discover myself (and I confess I had a thought or two about my claim to a share of the prize-money).—One step I made from my position, but the noise arrested me with its immediate consequence—half-a-dozen muskets levelled at the door. “Keep together, men! they are barricaded in the cabin!—go aft, Hiram, with four hands, and break open the door, while I secure the forecastle and hatchways,” cried the elder leader. His associate sprung towards my place of concealment at the head of four fellows, brandishing their naked cutlasses; and bursting open the door with a drive of his foot, rushed in—a pistol in one hand, a drawn sword in the other. I thought it most prudent to keep clear of the first rush of their irruption, and so had retreated quietly to the after-cabin, where I concealed myself in one of the berths close by the stern-port. They soon found the cabin equally deserted with the deck; and as they went stumbling about with their one lantern through the lumber of combustibles, filled it with exclamations of amazement.

“Why, here’s no crew that I can see but a regiment of paint-pots—that must have been a rat that we heard, sir,” said one.

“D——n me, Tom, I say, what sort of a devil’s drawing-room have we here?” muttered another, as he stood turning over a mop of oakum with his toe; “and what sort of a damnable smell is this?” snuffing at a box of composition.

“The devil’s own smell—brimstone, by ——!” cried a fourth, shaking a cloud of sulphur from his fingers; and one fellow rummaging through the troughs pulled up a bundle of reeds and tossed them out on the floor, exclaiming, “Nothing but rush-lights in these here lockers, Master Hiram—rush-lights and mouldings of white biscuit, as I take it—light diet that, I may say, sir, for a ship’s company.” Just then some lumber getting loose, rolled out of an upper berth among them, and three or four smart cuts were made at it before they saw what it was. I had taken them as a hint to lie quiet a little longer, when their leader started suddenly, and, after standing for a moment at the heel of the mizen-mast, gave a strong shudder, and ordered the men out of the cabin. “Off, off to the forecastle every man of you!—off, I say, and send Captain Forrest here.” The men withdrew, muttering exclamations of amazement as he drove them out on deck, whence he presently returned, accompanied by the other. He locked and bolted the door after him, and led his companion up to the mast, then throwing the light full on it, asked in a whisper, that thrilled through me where I lay, “Do you know that?” “What?” “That splinter of steel buried in the wood.” The elder Forrest, without one word of reply, snatched up the lantern and ran round the cabin, holding the light over his head, and gazing at everything with a strong expression of astonishment; then stuck the lantern down upon a barrel-head, slapped his hands against his thighs, and exclaimed, “Hah!—Now may I be damned if it is not the old Phœnix come back again!—but Hiram, I say, by Heaven I cannot understand this—she is not the same boat, and yet she is—I thought I knew her deck although it is strangely altered—but what is the matter with you?” for the younger one stood pale and trembling, and here grasped him convulsively by the arm.

“What ails you, Hiram? I say,—I hope you are not afraid?”

“Yes, by ——” (with a slow and solemn asseveration), “I am afraid, Adam Forrest!” the other answered, gasping; “I am afraid, for I saw him there as plainly as I see you, clinging round the mast as he did that night, when he held on till you shore through his wrist with your cutlass, and snapped it an inch deep in the solid wood below! and if I go in there” (pointing to the after-cabin without even raising his averted face),—“if I go in there, I will see the others!—Come on deck—I am sick.”

“Stay where you are—you must not expose yourself to the men,—tut, tut!—What! after all we have seen together, to let a trick of your fancy get the better of your manhood in this disgraceful way!—Why,” and he mused for a moment, “it is odd enough too, that she should come here without hands, and all to give us a second crop off her old timbers; but egad, I have it! I’ll lay my life Tom has been overhauling her in the Channel, and has sent the old bird adrift, well knowing to whose door the Race would bring her!—Ah! poor Tom! many an ugly job he has brought me through; however, they say that Gull thing that I got him the command of is a switching fast sailer, and if he has but a stanch crew, he may make a good thing of it yet—that is, if he can only keep from getting more than moderately drunk. But come along till we see what this after-cabin has got for us. We have our letters of marque now, and need not be ashamed to show our faces under that authority to man or devil!—Come,” and he dragged his reluctant associate almost close to the spot where I lay, in another and still more dreadful relapse of horror. The young man leaned against a timber, with his head sunk upon his breast, and shuddered violently.

“Adam,” said he at length, “we have never thriven in anything since the night we had that business in this abominable den of blood. You and I then were, or ought to have been, country gentlemen, and he was no more than a careless sailor at worst; but with all the money we got in Bordeaux for the fruits of our villany, we are three miserable adventurers to-day, if the damning cargo she carries has not sunk the Gull already—Mother of God defend me! there is young Manson!” I can no more account for it now, than I could help it then, but the truth is, I had risen at this mention of the Gull in a sort of reckless frenzy, for I had no control over either my words or actions, and started out on the floor before them, a very ghastly and hideous spectacle; for I was pale and haggard with fear and desperation, and my face was bloody from a scratch I had got in the dark. The eyes of the repentant sinner fastened on me as I rose, and his terror was full as horribly depicted on his countenance, as that of his already punished associate had been on his; he fell flat on his face, and even the hardened ruffian at his side leaped back with a shout of horror as I rose before him with my hands held up, and a storm of denunciation that I could not control bursting from my lips. What I said I did not even then know, but it soon betrayed my mortal nature, and Forrest, with a blow of his fist, struck me back whence I had risen, then drew a pistol and came close up to me to make sure. I prayed for mercy now as wildly as I had before denounced vengeance, and in the extremity of my terror shut my eyes and clung to the very boards. A flash first came through my closed eyelids, and then a rushing and flapping burst of flame like interminable lightning. The pistol had burned priming, but even that had been enough to set fire to an open can of turpentine that was upset from a locker above by the thrust he had made after me with the weapon. The liquid starting into fire and smoke over the exploding gunpowder, flowed down in a waving river of flame, and spreading on the resined floors, and catching the loose combustibles all round, raised such a chaos of fire, smoke, hissing, sputtering, and suffocation, that I had only power to feel myself unwounded, and with my coat over my head, to pitch myself bodily against the port below me. I literally sank through a little pool of flame, but I burst open the port as I had expected, and found myself the next moment in the sea. It was now low water, and the stream that I had feared would sweep me among the breakers was totally subsided; but I could see nothing clearly for the first minute, only a dazzling and flashing of light through the spray, that swept over my head from the broken water on the rocks. The first thing I saw distinctly was a trail of flame writhing like a tail round the stern of the ship, as if the great black hulk had been lashing herself into the furious fit, that in another minute burst out from every vent and funnel in spouting and roaring jets of fire, that blazed up into the rigging as high as the lower masts, and pierced the night for miles round, with a splendour strong as the light of the sun at noonday. I got upon the nearest of the rocks (by the fall of the water they now rose much nearer than they had before seemed to do), and rising out of reach of the surf, contemplated a spectacle the grandest and most appalling I ever witnessed. The ship had run aground upon the landward side of a tongue of sand, that stretched (like half the string of a bent bow) partly across a curve of the coast, thus intercepting whatever the current from the opposite side might sweep into the bay; and there settling on a rapidly shelving bank, had fallen over as the water left her, till her masts and rigging lay almost across the narrow channel between. On shore an overhanging precipice rose right opposite, and close under her lee—so close that her rigging sloped up to within a stone’s-throw of the jutting rock. Between the base of this rock and the water’s edge, there was a stripe of greensward, evidently artificial, forming a platform of perhaps thirty yards across, which widened away at one side into a lawn with haycocks and shrubbery, while there was a good deal of planting visible up the back of the ravine. An old-fashioned straggling house stood almost under the precipice, facing the platform on one side, and the lawn on the other. Its steep roof of grey slate, and slender chimneys, made a gaunt and spectral show in the ruddy glare, contrasted with the black mass of rock behind, and the boiling flashes of the surf tossed up almost to its fantastic porch in front. I looked at the ship—the fore-hatchway had torn up with a tremendous burst, and the massy planks and bars of wrought-iron were scattered on either side; but the black tarpaulin rose like a canopy over the body of flame that followed, and was dissipated into smoke and ashes, without ever coming down. And now the breeze tossing that blaze about through the rigging in rolling and heavy volume, like a great tongue, it roared at every wallowing flap, and licked up square-sails, stay-sails, and studding-sails, as though they had been so much tinder, while the port-chambers successively exploding, thundered and flashed down either broadside, then vomited out their voluminous, flaring streamers of fire, that curled and climbed up into the conflagration till consumed amid the general flame. All the water out of the ship’s shadow blazed to the blazing pile; but wherever her hull momentarily intercepted its light, the sea seemed to heave more heavily, and with a lurid glow like blood. The boat’s crew had now pushed off from the quarter; I saw all on board save the two miserable beings I had left in the flames of the cabin: but the men had scarce pulled the boat’s length from the vessel’s side, when a figure leaped up on the quarter rail from deck—he looked as if he had risen out of hell; for his head was singed bald, and his face and hands were all livid, swollen, and bloody, from the scorching. It was the elder Forrest. He was tossing his arms and howling. The men pulled back, the boat shot into the shadow of the ship, and in the sudden difference of light I lost them for an instant; but the great flame of the forecastle took a sweep to windward, and showed them again, close under the quarter. All their faces glowed like copper, as they turned them up to the crimsoned figure wavering above, for Forrest had now seized a rope, that dangled still unconsumed from the mizen-yard arm, and was swinging to and fro, as the scorching flame behind him swayed forward or collapsed; but their faces fell, and a cry of horror burst from them all as it gave way, and the wretch, after balancing a moment on his narrow footing, fell back into the fire;—there was a puff of smoke and ashes, a long heaving roll of the flame, a shriek that rung shrilly over everything, and the seamen, silent and horrified, pushed off again, and made for the shore. And now the whole rigging was in a light flame, and the dance of sparks to leeward, where it eddied round the chimneys and gables of the old house, looked like a great spangled mantle shaken out in the sky. Beneath, smoke was curling in white eddies from every door and window, and the fate of the doomed dwelling seemed fixed, to burn first, while anything remained in it that would burn, and then to be swept from its foundations by the final explosion, out of reach of which I had all this time been painfully making my way, sometimes clambering over the rocks high and dry, and sometimes swimming. I gained the dry land at last, about three hundred yards astern of the vessel, and rounding the shoulder of a hill, lay down among the grass in the sudden pitchy darkness behind it, till my eyes had a little recovered from the effects of the excessive light, and I was able to see my way into the country. I was between two steep hills; that behind me was lurid in the dim reflection of the sky, but a ruddier haze than ever the sunset had thrown over it, glowed across the track of air above, and bore a crown of fire to the top of the higher hill opposite, on which every stock and stone showed like iron at a forging heat. Through this red region I had to pass to reach the inland. Pursuing a horse-track that led over it, I gained the limits of darkness again, without once turning to look at the scene behind—I had beheld enough. Suddenly I heard the sound of hoofs in the valley beyond, and turning, beheld a riderless horse toss up his mane like a fiery crest over the illuminated mountain, then plunge into the darkness between. I laid hold of the reins as he rushed past me, determined to use the opportunity of escape; and having checked him with some difficulty, threw myself into the saddle and gave him head. He bore me down the open hill like the wind; but when I got among the precipices below, through which the road was intricately carried, I was reluctantly obliged to draw up a little for fear of accidents. I was unwilling to do this, as well from the desire of making my escape to as great a distance as possible from the explosion, as from the conviction, growing every moment stronger, that I heard some one on horseback in pursuit. Now, I had no doubt that the animal I rode had thrown another rider immediately before being caught by me; and I thought it most probable, that whoever was now pursuing, had been in company with him when his horse had first run off. Be that as it might, I had had enough of Forrest-Race and its inhabitants, to make me determined, if I must be overtaken, to conceal myself by the road-side, and let my pursuer look after the runaway at his leisure. However, I tried to make the most of my chances in the mean time, and pushed on as rapidly as prudence would allow; but in ten minutes more, I found I had no prospect of escape; I heard the clatter of the horse, and once or twice the cries of the rider behind, and was just preparing to dismount, and looking back to try what I could see, when there shot up a column of fire, a hundred feet and more over the top of the highest mountain, and hill and valley, road, rock, and river, leaped out into astonishing splendour before me. Every object, for three or four seconds, was apparent in steady and intense light. I saw the perilous road down which I had come, and wondered how my horse had kept his footing at all; but my wonder was considerably greater when, about half a furlong behind, I saw my pursuer, as plainly as I ever saw my own mother, to be a woman—dressed, at least, in a female habit, and light as Diana, while she sat her rearing and plunging hunter through the wild tumult of his terror. But, before I could take a second look, down stooped the night again in tenfold power of darkness, while there burst through the shaken sky such a concussion, as with its tremendous and stunning violence beat the poor animal I bestrode, and myself along with him, flat down upon the ground, among the rebounding echoes and black darkness. I escaped from the fall unhurt, and the horse stood still and trembling, till I remounted, for I now was no longer desirous of escaping my pursuer. I was hardly in the saddle again, when I heard a sweet voice at my side—“Now, Heaven have mercy on us,—this is a fearful night!—How could you leave me in this way, George?—Ah! you could not help it, poor fellow—but did I not see you thrown after the grey ran off?—Why do you not answer, George—are you hurt?”

“In the name of God, Ellen Fane, what do you do here?” I exclaimed, in a voice that I could hardly think my own. She screamed aloud, for it was indeed she, and checked her horse till he almost went on his haunches; I seized him by the bridle to keep him from backing over the precipice.

“Keep off—keep off,” she cried. “Oh, have mercy on me if you are a man or a Christian, for I am a helpless girl, and in danger of my life!—Oh, only help me to get to Truro, and I will pray for you—indeed I will—as long as this miserable existence lasts!”

I was agitated by contending emotions—innumerable—indescribable; but I made a struggle to compose myself, and implored her not to be alarmed. “And, oh, Ellen, Ellen!” I cried, “do you not yet know me?”

“Henry!—Mr Jervas!” she exclaimed, and would have fallen to the ground had I not drawn our horses together, and supported her sinking frame upon my breast. There was not a sound in the air, that had so lately been torn with dreadful noises, except the low sobs of my companion, whose tears were flowing unrestrained upon my bosom, and the dreamy plashing of the river beside us, as it hastened to drown its murmurs in the moan of the sea, that came heavily at intervals on the wind like a lamentation. The wind that was now abroad was barely strong enough to lift a curl or two of the long and lovely tresses that lay clustering on my breast. All the light in the sky was insufficient to show more than the dim outline of the hills rising black around us against the paler gloom of the heavens. Everything was steeped in profound tranquillity, but the uproar that this quiet had succeeded was less confounding a thousand times, than the tumultuous feelings which agitated my heart in the midst of that solemn and oppressive calm.

“Tell me, Ellen, is it possible that you can have been under the same roof with this villain Forrest?”

“Alas, poor wretch!” she exclaimed, “he was burned to death—he and his cousin Hiram.”

“Murderous ruffians!—robbers, dogs, and pirates! what better fate did they merit?” I exclaimed, forgetting that she was ignorant of their piracy.

“Nay, indeed, Mr Jervas, they were only doing their duty. You know that they would have been obliged to fight with the crew, had not the ship been deserted. Oh, although Mr Forrest was a harsh and selfish man, and although I came here so much against my own wishes, yet, believe me, you wrong him with these horrid names; but tell me, I beseech you, how did you come here? Surely you cannot have come all the way from Bromley Hall?—Pray tell me.”

“Could I show you my dripping clothes, my bleeding hands, my scorched and smarting face,” cried I, “you might then guess where I come from—from the midst of breakers and fire, out of the hands of pirates and assassins, who would fain have stained with my blood that fatal ship that they once before polluted with the massacre of her crew, but which God in his justice has guided over the seas to be a destruction for them and theirs. I came in the French fire-ship!”

This was indignantly, bitterly, and thoughtlessly spoken; and I was well rebuked by her placid reply. “Let us pray to be protected in our distress, for, alas! I fear you are distracted, and I scarcely know, myself, whether I am awake or not.”

“I would give all I value in the world, except your good wishes, Ellen, that this were a dream; but it is too true—listen now (and I solemnly assure you there is no deception in what I say), and I will tell you all;” and so I related to her everything that had occurred from the time of our dancing the last rigadoon together in Bromley Hall, up to our present meeting among the Forrest-Race Hills.

“And now, Ellen, that these wretches themselves have been tossed out like burned cinders from the fire, and that their house has been blown stone from stone to the foundation, can you doubt that the hand of Providence has been put forth in their punishment, as plainly as in our reunion after so sudden a separation, and one which threatened to last for years, if not for life? and can you for a moment doubt that I have been brought here thus fearfully and strangely to be a protector to you now, and a cherisher and protector to you till death part us?”

“Oh, do not talk of happiness to me; I feel that I am doomed to be miserable and the cause of misery; the avenging hand lies heavy on us all. But let us hasten to Truro, and hurry up to Bromley, and get my dear guardian’s advice, before——” she burst into renewed tears, and then exclaimed, “Alas, alas, ill-fated Mary Forrest! you had little thought, when you went to sleep to-night, that you should be awakened by the light of your husband’s death-fire!”

“The miserable woman!” I cried, “what has become of her?”

“She will soon be with her brothers, I trust, in safety; they took her and her baby in the boat to Falmouth, but I was sent off with George the gardener, on horseback, as you see, for Truro. Poor George has suffered with the rest; his horse was frightened by the fire and threw him on the hill; let us go back and see if he is hurt.”

I with difficulty dissuaded her from delaying us by such a fruitless search, and represented my own miserable condition.

“Oh that the sky would clear,” she cried, “and show us how to go! there is a cottage somewhere near us where you can get dried. You will perish if you remain in wet clothes any longer—but can it be that you are all this time riding bare-headed?” and she drew up her horse, and pulling a handkerchief from her neck, tied it, yet warm from her bosom, round my cold temples and dank hair. Every touch of her fingers streamed a flood of warmth to my heart; my very brain derived new vigour from the comfortable cincture; and having kissed her gentle hands again and again, I recommenced to explore the road with indefatigable perseverance. At length, after a tedious ride over a bleak and almost impracticable track, we saw the low roof of the cottage rise between us and the sky. A feeble light struggled for a moment over the common as we approached, and then disappeared. Having with some searching found a stake to which to tie the horses, we advanced to the door; it opened, and we entered the cabin’s only apartment. In one corner, on a low truckle, lay an old man bedridden and doting. In the middle of the floor, a child of about eight years was lighting a candle at the embers of a wood fire; she screamed as we stood before her, and flew to the bedside of the cripple, who mumbled and moaned at the disturbance, but did not seem to comprehend its cause. The little girl’s large dark eyes bespoke terror and amazement till my companion addressed her, “My pretty Sally, do you not remember the lady who gave the gown to your mother, and the money?” The little thing then let go its hold of the old man’s quilt, and shading the candle from the open window, dropped a timid curtsy and said, “They are all gone down to see the burning at the Race, and they told me to keep the candle in the window till they would come back; but the draught blows it out, madam.”

“Lend me the candle, my dear, and we will kindle a nice fire which the draught will only make burn the brighter, and that will do far better,” said my companion, and began—beautiful being!—to pile up the wood and clean the hearthstone, with as prompt and housewife-like an alertness as though she had herself been a daughter of the carefullest cottager. The blaze soon crackled up through the grey smoke, and while I stretched myself along the earthen floor, and basked in the pleasant glow, she busied herself in the corner with the little girl—how, I could not imagine, till I heard a rustling of straw and the bleat of a goat. I looked round, and beheld her kneeling on the ground, and milking the poor ragged animal, with hands that took from their pious and charitable employment a loveliness far purer than ever the flowers of the green lane at Bromley had shed over them. She bore the milk warm in a wooden bowl to my lips as I lay; and the child brought me bread. I ate and drank, and blessed them, and tears gushed from my eyes.

“And now my pretty Sally,” said my sweet friend, patting the dark head of the little maiden, “does not your mother plait straw hats?”

“Oh!” cried the child, lifting up her tiny hands, “there is a beautiful one in the chest for Simon Jones, madam; but he has gone to be a soldier, and has got a hat now that shines like glass, and has lovely feathers in it.”

“Then give it to me for this gentleman, and I will give you all this money for your mother.” I had my own purse in my pocket, but felt that it would gratify her not to interfere, and did not. So, after a great deal of coaxing, she at length prevailed on the child to open the sacred box, and take out the hat with reverential hands, into which she put a sum that made the poor little creature hold them up even higher than at the mention of the admirable Simon Jones. I being thus refitted and refreshed, we prepared to take the road again, the less reluctantly, as we had already consumed the last log of wood in the house. So, after raking the embers together for fear of accident, and kissing our little benefactress, we remounted, and turned our horses’ heads along the road to Truro. Here we arrived before day, and having knocked up the people of an inn, got admitted with some difficulty. It was now my turn to take care of my companion, and I did my best to repay her kindness. I procured refreshments, saw to the horses, and bade her good-night, just as the morning dawn was breaking. I got two or three hours’ sleep, and had my clothes thoroughly cleansed and dried before the coach arrived in which we were to proceed, when I placed the horses at livery in the name of Mr Forrest’s executors, and took my seat beside all that was now dearest to me in the world. We were two days and a night on the road, for the proprietor of the coach would not permit it to run on the Sabbath, and we therefore spent all the second day, which was Sunday, in the little village where we stopped on the previous night. We went to church together, and after service wandered about the environs. That was the most delightful morning I had ever spent. It was then I persuaded her to promise that if Mr Blundell and her father refused to sanction our union, she would never marry another. I had little thought when exacting an engagement so important, of the heavy responsibility we both undertook. I thought only that the possession of so much goodness and beauty—I will not do injustice to my enthusiasm then, though I might add “riches” to the list, did this refer to any other day—would make me the happiest of living men; and I urged and entreated till I made as sure of the divine prize as ever man did in Courtship’s lottery, before the final certainty of marriage.

We arrived at Bromley Hall on the evening of Monday. I need not try to describe how my worthy friend stared when he saw us walk in together, whom he had sent little more than a week before, as widely asunder as east and west could separate. Nevertheless, he met his ward with open arms.

“Ellen, my darling child, welcome back to me!—but what the devil do you mean, sir?” cried he, with a ludicrous comminglement of anger and goodwill upon his face, while he seized my hand with the grasp of a thief-catcher, and held me at arm’s-length in the middle of the floor.

“I have the strangest story to tell you, sir,” I began——

“Some trumpery excuse,” cried he, “for thwarting my desires, and neglecting your own business, sir—Why have you not gone on board your vessel yet? Ah, I’ll warrant, you would rather be running after heiresses than facing the French cannon.”

“Indeed, my dear sir, you wrong Mr Jervas very much,” interrupted my fair friend in good time, for I was on the point of making a most indignant reply; but she stopped short, blushing and confused at the betrayal of any interest towards one in whom she took so much, till I broke the awkward silence which succeeded by requesting my host to grant me his private ear for a very few minutes.

“Very well, sir, very well; here is the same spot where you made all your fine promises to me not a week ago” (he had led me into the library); “so sit down, and let me hear what you have to say for yourself in this very suspicious business.” I surprised myself by the manliness and confidence with which I told my story, and avowed my determination never to forego a claim so sanctioned by Providence, and so fully recognised by the party most concerned.

“But trust me, sir, I have more pride than to act otherwise than you once so prudently advised me,” said I; “I will return immediately to my profession, and you shall not again see me in the character of a suitor till I can come in one that will be worthy such an errand.”

I stopped to hear what he would say to this; but he made no reply; indeed, he hardly seemed to have heard the latter part of my story at all, for he looked utterly bewildered and confounded.

“Henry,” at length, said he, after long rubbing his temples, and twice or thrice ejaculating, “God help us!” “you have brought yourself into a situation where you will have need for all the patience and resignation you possess—Sit down,”—for I had risen with a sudden apprehension of something dreadful. “Sit down, and bear this like the man you have shown yourself to be. You remember what I once told you of Ellen’s father—that he was living in a manner disgraceful to us all in London. Well, Henry, keep your seat. I wrote the other day to inquire about him from a friend in the Admiralty. You are unwell, Harry; let me ring for something for you.”

“For God’s sake, sir,” I gasped, “tell me the worst at once.”

“It is bad enough, Harry, but here it is:—I was informed in answer that Mr Fane had obtained the command of the tender, Gull, and had just sailed for Cherbourg.”

“By Heaven, it is not possible!—that wretch the father of my Ellen! Oh, sir, it is impossible! it is impossible,” I reiterated; “what was his christened name?”

“Harry, Harry!” he exclaimed, “be calm, I beseech you, and do not drive me more distracted than I am already. Mr Fane’s name was Thomas—Tom Fane. You see, my dear boy, that this is all too true. Bear it like a man, or you will make children of us both; and rather try to aid me in considering how it is to be revealed to her, than make yourself unfit to join in alleviating her misery. I say nothing now, Henry, about your proposals—be that as you may think fit hereafter, for such a calamity as this must alter everything; only this I conjure you to, let us not now desert the innocent girl in the time of her affliction.”

But I could not bear up against the agony of my feelings, as I was at length forced to admit the horrible conviction. I was utterly unable to take a part in the solicitous cares of my friend. In vain did he persuade—chide—denounce,—I wept, and groaned in the bitterest and deepest despair. After trying every means that prudence and humanity could suggest, he led me at last to my bedroom, where he left me, with the assurance that, in the mean time, nothing should be disclosed to Ellen (in whose presence I had not been trusted again even long enough to bid good-night—nor had I desired it), and promised, at parting, to make my apologies below, on the ground of sudden illness. I spent a night, if possible, more miserable than the evening. Not one minute’s sleep, not one minute’s respite from horrible thoughts—I tossed in bodily fever, and mental disorder still more insufferable, through all the long hours (although but few in number), till the grey dawn appeared around me. And now I am going to make a shameful confession. I rose with the first light, strong enough to show the shape of things, and stole like a thief out of my window. I could no longer bear the thought of being married to a murderer’s daughter, and had made up my mind to fly from Bromley Hall. I dropped safely to the court, and ran across the lawn, impelled by shame, and selfishness, and pride, and turned my steps with a dastardly speed along the road towards London. I ran on till broad daylight, when, after ascending a steep hill, I threw myself behind a clump of furze by the road side, being utterly exhausted by my impetuous speed and contending passions. The bright freshness of the sunrise glittered over wide and rich lowlands beneath me. The breeze came up, heavy with meadow sweet and new mown hay—a delicious bath for my hot forehead. The singing of birds was showered forth from every bush and blossoming hedgerow, and a milk-white heifer came lowing up a lane, and stood placid and ruminating in the warmth beside me. I could not help thinking of the Sunday, when I had sat with Ellen on just such a hill, and had overlooked just such a sweep of meadows and pastures—and could I think of that scene, and forget how I had then vowed to cherish and support her through good and evil report, and how she had promised that she would never marry man but me? Could I forget how she had bared her bosom to the bleak wind, that she might bind my brows when I was perishing with cold? Could I forget how she had stooped to menial occupations in a hovel, to get me fire, and meat, and drink, when I was wet, and hungry, and athirst? And could I now be the false, the base and recreant villain, to leave her in her premature widowhood alone, exposed to all the calamity of sudden abhorrence and bereavement? It was beyond the obstinacy of pride to resist the influence of such reflections. I found myself looking round at the white chimneys of Bromley, where they rose among the trees behind me: I burst into tears like a child, and, with a revulsion of feelings as complete as when I had first felt myself longing to escape from her, I turned my steps back again towards Ellen’s dwelling.

I had hardly descended the hill when I met the London coach—I would have given twenty fares for a seat on it half an hour before; and even now, when the driver checked his horses as he passed, and asked me, was I for London, I felt a renewal of the conflict almost as fierce as ever: But my better genius conquered. I continued on my way, and reached the house again before seven o’clock. I wished to get in unobserved, and appear at breakfast as if nothing had happened, but my host himself met me as I crossed the lawn. We exchanged a melancholy salute, and he turned with me, without even asking where I had been. We walked into the library together, and I took up a book, and turned away to avoid his eye, in which a tear was trembling as well as in my own. He sat down to read his letters, sighing as if his heart would break while he opened one after another, till suddenly he caught me by the arm, and drew me close to him. I had been standing in his light; but it was not that that made him grasp me so closely. “Harry, Harry, thank God, with me!” he cried, in a voice tremulous with joy, “she is safe! she is safe!—our dear girl is safe from even a shadow of disgrace!—But why do I talk of disgrace?—here, read that letter, and thank God!”

This is a copy of the letter, which he here put into my hands:—

My dear Blundell,—I have made a sad mistake about poor Fane. I was called on to visit him suddenly this morning, and found him in his last moments at a miserable lodging in the Barbican, where he expired to-day at four o’clock. Before his death, he told me the circumstances connected with the command of the Gull. It appears that, when the commission came, he was unable to move in its use from gout and the effects of long dissipation, and that the Forrests of the Race being in town, prevailed on him, for a trifling sum, to give up the papers to a vagabond namesake of his own (but no connection, as far as I can understand), who had been an old associate of theirs in Cornwall. This fellow went down to Sheerness, and took the command unquestioned, in the hurry of preparation for sea, and, as I mentioned in my note of yesterday, has set sail for the fleet. By the by, there are dark reports in the Admiralty about the Forrests and the old Phœnix (Manson, jun.), that was supposed to have gone down at sea two years ago. The story goes, that they and this fellow Fane (against whom an order is already issued, on the elder Manson’s application), made away with the crew at the Race, into which she had driven at night, and getting the ship off by the next tide, sailed her to Bordeaux, where they sold her to the Messrs Devereux, and fitted out their letter of marque with the money. Of course, this is in confidence. I have often warned poor Ellen’s father of Adam Forrest, and told him how improper the situation was for her (I know Forrest designed getting her for his cousin), but he was in the fellow’s debt, and therefore under his control; so that, although he disliked the thing as much as I, my representations had no effect. His death must be a relief to us all, yet I cannot but lament him—bold, generous, and honourable he always was, even to the last; and, now that he is gone, let us say nothing of the one deforming vice.—Believe me, most truly yours,” &c. &c.

For five days I had been torn from my former self by a continued series of disaster and passionate suffering, and so constantly and rapidly had each astonishment succeeded the other, that I was become, I thought, in great measure callous to the most surprising change that could now possibly take place. But here I was placed all at once, and that when least of all expected, on the same ground as when I had parted from Ellen on the night before our first separation; and all the intermediate ordeal of terror and despair was past, and from it I had come out a bolder, truer, and happier man. It may well be credited, then, that my thanks to the Providence, through whose inscrutable hands I had been thus kindly dealt with, were full and fervent; and it may well be supposed how Ellen wondered, with blushes and doubtful confusion, what the embrace, so sadly tender yet so ardent, might mean, when both her guardian and her lover congratulated her on the dispersion of her threatened calamities. Natural sorrow took its course; and grief for the parent, wretched as he was, claimed its indulgence of time and solitude. I had not forgotten the advice of my excellent friend, about making a man (worthy such a wife) of myself by my own exertions; and receiving official directions to join the fleet, after I had made the necessary depositions, I left Ellen with her tears scarce dried, on the understanding that I should return, so soon as of age, and claim her for my own.