The Dissolved Pledge by Oliver Richardson

“Hold hard!” said the coachman, as he gathered up his reins, and flourished his whip—and away lumbered the heavy afternoon coach, for the South, from the door of the coach office. It was full inside, with only one outside passenger. After it was fairly out of the town, and the road had become comparatively clear of carts and carriages, the coachman, after two or three quiet, reconnoitering glances at the gentleman who occupied the box-seat, tucked the apron comfortably over his knees, and having settled himself to his own satisfaction, began to weary of so long a silence, and endeavoured to break the spell by the novel and interesting remark—“It’s a fine afternoon, sir.”


A long pause.

“Fine horses these, sir.”


Another long pause.

“Queer fish this,” muttered the coachman to himself. “I wonder if he can say No. I’ll try him once more. Take snuff, sir?” said he, thrusting the mull under the nose of his victim.

“No, I thank you,” followed by an impatient rustling of his cloak, and a restless movement on the seat.

The coachman gave up the matter in despair, and was obliged to content himself with holding agreeable converse with his cattle, in which he certainly had the best of it, as they bore all he chose to inflict, in silence.

The man of few words was a youth of one or two-and-twenty, of pleasing and gentlemanly exterior; and, although the coachman looked with great contempt upon one who would not take snuff, and who did not admire his favourite horses, we hope he will prove an object of greater interest to our readers, as he is to be the hero of our story. Poor fellow! no wonder that he wore such an air of sadness and abstraction, and that he shrank from the well-meant, though obtrusive advances of the knight of the whip. Most of us have experienced—and who that has experienced can ever forget?—the feelings of mingled sorrow and hope with which we have, for the first time in our lives, turned our backs upon the home of our childhood, and were fairly launched, on our own responsibility, into the untried ocean of life. How fondly did our thoughts rest upon the much-loved scenes we were leaving behind us! how vividly did we recall each look and action of those nearest and dearest to our hearts! and how perseveringly did we cling to our sorrowful yet pleasing recollections, shutting our eyes and ears to the vulgar sights and sounds of every-day life around us, and shrinking from communication with our fellow-men, as if our sorrow were “a thing apart,” too sacred to be unveiled to the eyes of others. Such were the feelings of young Edward Malcolmson, our silent friend. He was leaving, for the first time, a mother he tenderly loved, sisters who doted on him, and, last, though not least, he was leaving one who was dearer to him than them all—one whom he then thought, as most of us have thought once in our lives, he would never, never forget—the joy of his heart, the light of his eyes (as the poets word it), his first, his only love. No wonder, then, that he flapped his travelling cap down over his ears, folded his arms on his breast, and, fixing his eyes upon the footboard, sat the very image of determination—to be miserable. Night was closing around, but the darkness was congenial to his feelings; he could now indulge them unobserved, and he abandoned himself to them without control. He felt the same kind of listlessness and prostration of mental energy which those experience who suffer from sea-sickness; so much so, that when a sudden gust of wind whisked his cap off his head, he was too completely victimised even to mention his loss to the coachman.—“Let it go! What do I care? O Jessy!”

The latter part of this effusion he unconsciously uttered aloud.

“That’s the name of my near wheeler, sir,” said the coachman, glad to hear dummy speak at last, and still more delighted to have an opportunity of hearing himself. What a strange mixture of inconsistencies is the creature man! This ludicrous and unexpected appropriation of his beloved one’s name, tickled Edward Malcolmson’s fancy; and he who the moment before had thought himself the most miserable dog in existence, burst into an extravagant fit of laughter. The coachman was delighted with the success of his random remark; and it was with a chuckle of unaffected, kind-hearted pleasure, that he exclaimed—

“It does my heart guid to hear ye laugh. Naething like it, sir, for keeping a body gaucie an’ comfortable.”

The ice was broken; the conversation was kept up for some time—at first only in monosyllables, on Edward’s part; but he could not long resist the contagion of the man’s persevering merriment, and he gradually shook off the weight which had before almost overpowered his spirit. Sorrow gave way to hope for the future, and, with all the sanguine buoyancy of youth, he already, in fancy, began business for himself, in an extensive way, as a builder—of castles in the air. Those castles in the air, those bubbles of fancy, how soon do they crumble away, and burst amid the jostling realities of life! How soon are our eyes opened to their hollowness and vanity! The visions of early hope are like the rainbow—bright and beautiful it appears before us, spanning half the heavens with its brilliant arch, and fading even while we gaze upon it. Fleeting, yet delightful dreamings of fancy! whither have ye fled? Gone, with the buoyant spirits and unchilled affections of youth; and we, the seared and world-hardened, sigh when we look back to you, to think that ye have proved to be but delusions. But a truce to sentiment; it is time that we should introduce our hero to our readers, to do which satisfactorily, we must glance backwards to a period some thirty years anterior to the date of our story, and give some account of his parents.—Mrs Malcolmson was the widow of a substantial tradesman in Edinburgh, who had been dead for some years, having left her in tolerably comfortably circumstances, with two daughters and one son, the Edward of our story. She was a woman of manners and education far superior to her husband’s station in life—the only daughter of an Irish family of distinction, in the neighbourhood of Cork, and moving in the first circles there. She had been attracted by the personal appearance and agreeable manners of a young subaltern in a regiment quartered in that city. Philip Denby was a man well calculated to catch the fancy of a young and romantic girl. To great personal attractions, he united the most polished, yet unaffected manners; was highly accomplished, and was blessed, moreover, with an excellent disposition. But, with all these advantages, young Denby had one drawback—a drawback of no slight importance in the eyes of worldly-minded mammas, and of their prudent daughters—he was poor. They were all loud in his praise—so elegant, so delightful, so interesting! They all agreed in thinking that no man dressed better, made a more distingué figure in a ball-room, or a more agreeable one in general society; but then, poor fellow, what would all that do for him?—he had nothing but his pay to depend upon. The consequence was, that, though the “admired of all admirers,” the young subaltern was looked upon as a “detrimental;” and the mammas, while they were eager to have so handsome an officer to grace their parties, were unwearying in their warnings and admonitions to their daughters, to beware of any serious entanglement with so poor a man. In general, these hints were not thrown away; but there was one, and she was the best and loveliest of the circle, who turned a deaf ear to them all. She listened only to the whisperings of her own heart, which told her that Philip Denby, poor in purse, was rich in all the qualities which adorn a man. Philip had long admired Ellen O’Connor, but as he would have admired a star in the distant sky—so great was the disparity which, to his sensitive mind, there appeared to be between their respective stations in life. She was the beautiful and only child of rich and purse-proud parents, and entitled to look forward to an alliance with the rich and high-born; while he, though a gentleman by birth, and so far her equal, had nothing but his profession to depend upon. Hitherto he had escaped, “fancy free,” from all the dangers which surrounded him in the shape of bright eyes and beautiful forms; he felt flattered by the attentions which were everywhere paid him by the young and fair; but the very general popularity he enjoyed, was the best safeguard of his heart; all smiled upon him, and he in return smiled upon all, without feeling particular regard for any. He had come to the magnanimous resolution, that he was too poor to marry a poor woman, and too proud to marry a rich one—and he was in a fair way to become a regular male flirt, when he first met Ellen O’Connor. We will not attempt to enter into a description of Miss O’Connor’s beauty, particularly as it lay more in expression than in feature; such as it was, however, all Philip’s philosophy sank before it, like snow before a sunbeam. We shall merely remark, that she had eyes dark as her raven hair, with the light of a bright, and joyous, and confiding spirit flashing through them; the rest we leave to the imagination of our readers—for

“Who has not felt how feebly words essay
 To fix one spark of beauty’s heavenly ray?”

Our limits will not allow us to enter into particulars. If this were a novel, instead of a tale of real life, we might follow the course of their love, step by step, and expatiate upon the stolen glances, the tender tête-à-têtes, and all the sentimental etceteras which usually form the burden of a tale of love—fortunately for our readers, we must, perforce, spare them the infliction. Suffice it, that their mutual attachment soon became the subject of common remark and conversation; and, at last, those who were most interested, and, as usual, most blind, were enlightened by the hints and charitable warnings of sundry busy, good-natured friends. Dire was the wrath of old O’Connor, when his eyes were opened to the truth: he cursed his own blind folly, for having allowed matters to go so far; cursed (but not aloud, he was too prudent for that) the wife of his bosom, for having been as blind as himself; and cursed every red coat that ever was made, and every unfortunate wight who had ever worn one. At length he remembered the legitimate object of his wrath, and hastened out of the house in search of Denby. Fortunately for them both—for Philip was not a man to bear unmerited abuse with patience—he failed in his object; Philip was not to be found at his lodgings, at the reading rooms, or at the billiard-table, for the best of all reasons—that he was seated beside Ellen O’Connor, not five minutes after her father had left her. While the one was leaving the house in one direction, the other was arriving at it by another. Philip found her in tears; and, in answer to his impassioned and alarmed inquiries, she gave him an account of the scene she had just witnessed, and implored him, if he had any affection for her, to bear patiently the intemperance which, she feared, her father would indulge in if they should meet. He calmed her fears on that score, and they had a long and interesting conversation, the result of which was, the conviction that it was impossible for them to live without each other. What arguments the philosopher, Denby, made use of, we know not; but the result was, that, in three days, Ellen O’Connor eloped from her father’s house in his company. Some weeks passed gaily and happily over the heads of the young couple; but they were soon awakened from their dream of love and bliss, by the sterner realities of life. The story of old O’Connor’s aversion to the match, and his loud and angry invectives against his daughter, had gone abroad, and Philip’s creditors became pressing in their demands for payment. Ruin stared them in the face; and Ellen, whose fear of meeting her justly-incensed father had hitherto prevented her from seeking his forgiveness, was determined to brave the interview she dreaded. With a faltering step she sought her father’s dwelling; and her heart smote her, when she thought how happy that home had been, till she introduced sorrow and disappointment there. The house was shut up—the family had left it in charge of a single servant, who delivered to Ellen a letter that had been left for her by her father, in case of her return. It contained merely the following words:—“Ungrateful girl! As you have sown so must you reap: you are an outcast from my home and heart for ever! Never presume to approach this house again.” With eyes blinded with tears, and a heart swelling with anguish, she returned to her husband, who was anxiously awaiting the result of her visit.

“Well, dearest?” said he.

“He has rejected me for ever, Philip!” sobbed she, as she threw herself into his arms.

“Grieve not, my love!” said Denby, while his anxious look and heavy sigh betrayed how much he himself needed consolation—“are we not all in all to each other?” And, as he embraced his young and lovely wife, he forgot, for a moment, the world and all its cares. By the sale of his commission, he contrived to raise money enough to pay his trifling debts, and to support himself and his wife for some months in strict economy; but that temporary supply diminishing rapidly, he was obliged to apply to some of his numerous friends to exert their interest, or open their purses in his favour. Disappointment followed all his applications; and, harrassed in mind and wearied in body, he lay down on the bed of sickness and sorrow, from which he never rose again. He just lived long enough to see and bless his newly-born infant, leaving his wife to struggle with poverty and grief. Mrs Denby’s sorrow was at first excessive; and serious fears were, for some time, entertained by her medical man, for her life; but youth and a good constitution carried her through. She was a woman of warm and passionate feelings, and her grief soon exhausted itself by its violence. Besides, it is one of the blessings of poverty, that it allows no time for brooding over sorrow, but calls for active and constant exertion, to ward off the evils it entails. In her distress—for she was left almost destitute—she again applied to her father; but he continued inexorable, and sternly refused to see her. His example was followed by the rest of her family connections, all of whom were, or affected to be, indignant at her conduct. A maternal uncle, however, pitying her destitution, promised to settle a small annuity upon her, and to bring up and provide for her infant son, on condition that she would never interfere with his education, and would leave the country within six months.

Severe as these conditions were, she at last agreed to them, though to do so cost her many a bitter tear; but, when she thought of her own destitute condition, and of the brighter prospects which the proposed arrangement would open to her son, she struggled to suppress the fond yearnings of a mother’s affection, and to close with an offer which she hoped would be for her boy’s future benefit. It was with an agonised heart she tore herself from her little Philip, whose uncle received him with the greatest delight, and solemnly promised to be to him as a father. She then bade adieu for ever to her native land, after having again ineffectually endeavoured to obtain her father’s forgiveness. In two years’ time, she was again a wife and a mother. Mr Malcolmson, a respectable Scottish tradesman, when on a visit to some friends in Cork, had accidentally seen the young widow, at the time when her late bereavement, and her family’s cruel rejection of her, excited universal sympathy and commiseration; and when he afterwards met her in Edinburgh, where she was living in humble seclusion, he contrived to form her acquaintance; and, in a few months, made her a formal offer of his hand and fortune. Mrs Denby received his addresses with graceful and grateful acknowledgments; but told him that she had no heart to bestow, that her affections were buried in the grave with her husband, and that she could never love another. “If you cannot love me as your husband,” replied he, “you may respect and esteem me—you may look upon me as your friend, your guardian, your protector—as one whose pride and pleasure it will be to anticipate all your desires, and to shield you from all annoyances.” In her union with the worthy and amiable Malcolmson, Ellen Denby was blessed with a recompense for all her past distresses: for ten years he was to her the kindest of husbands, the most affectionate of friends; and the only unhappy moment she experienced during her union, was that on which it was about to be dissolved for ever. He left her comfortably provided for, with three children—two girls, and a boy, the hero of our tale. Edward Malcolmson, at the time of his father’s death, was a boy of excellent dispositions; and, as he grew up, he amply fulfilled the promise of his childhood. He was a young man of solid rather than brilliant talents; mild and gentlemanly in his manners; slow to form plans, but persevering and determined in following them out. He had received a medical education, and had distinguished himself by his close application to his studies, and by his rapid progress in professional acquirements. Through the interest of some of his late father’s friends, he had obtained an appointment on the Bengal establishment; and was, at the time of the commencement of our story, on his way to London, there to join the ship that was to convey him abroad. Mrs Malcolmson’s nearest neighbour in Edinburgh, was a widow lady, named Martin, who, like herself, was living in comfortable, though not affluent circumstances. Her only daughter, Jessie, was her mother’s darling, and well deserved the affection which was lavished upon her. She was about the same age as Edward Malcolmson, and, without being absolutely lovely, there was a charm in her simple, unaffected manners, and in the ingenuous expression of her countenance, which, added to an uncommonly fine figure and sweet voice, gave her the advantage over others who far excelled her in mere beauty of feature. Between her mother and Mrs Malcolmson, the closest intimacy had existed for several years; indeed, they had lived so secludedly, that they had hardly any acquaintances beyond the circle of their own families. The consequence was, that the young people were almost constantly in each other’s society; and their parents remarked, with pleasure, the mutual attachment which seemed to be springing up between them. They did, indeed, feel a warmer regard for each other than is often the result of such constant and close intimacy; for it is but too often the case with human character as it is with the face of nature—“’Tis distance lends enchantment to the view.” But it was not till the time of Edward’s departure approached, that they became mutually aware how dear they were to each other. The morning before leaving Edinburgh, young Malcolmson called to bid adieu to his friends. Mrs Martin happened to be out walking, and Jessie was sitting alone in the parlour, when Edward was ushered in. She turned pale when she saw him; for her heart sunk at the prospect of their approaching separation.

“Jessie,” said he, after they had sat in silence some minutes, “I have come to bid you farewell.”

“I feared so,” said she, striving in vain to repress her tears.

“Do not—do not cry, dear Jessie,” exclaimed he, starting up, and seizing her hand, while his own eyes were dimmed with tears—“I cannot bear to witness your distress.”

“Would you have me look happy and cheerful, when my old friend and companion is going to leave me, perhaps never to return?”

“Companion, Jessie! friend!—these are cold words to me, whose whole heart is yours; who live but in the light of your smile; who love you as I have never before loved human being, and never shall love again. Jessie! dear Jessie! tell me that I do not love in vain; give me one word of hope to cheer me during my painful absence. Will you not answer, dearest?”

She turned her tearful eye up to his face, and then, hiding her blushing cheek upon his arm, she murmured—

“What would you have me say, Edward? We have been dearer to each other than brother and sister; we have been dreaming a pleasant dream, and now we are awakening from it; we are about to part, perhaps never to meet again.”

“Oh, yes, dearest! we shall meet again. The world is all before me, and I have youth and energy to carry me through it. Only tell me that, if fortune favours my exertions, you will smile upon me; and the hope of one day calling you mine, will cheer me under misfortune, and encourage me to renewed efforts. Only tell me that you will not forget me, and I here vow, as soon as I have obtained a competency, to return and claim you for my bride.”

“Make no rash promises, Edward! We are both young, and have neither of us seen much of the world, or of others. You know what your favourite song says—

‘Change o’ fowk and change o’ scene
May gar thy fancy jee.’”

“Never, Jessie, never!”

But we will not weary our readers with any more of this easily imagined effusion. They parted under a mutual agreement of fidelity to each other: how well they adhered to it remains to be shewn.

We will not follow Edward Malcolmson on ship-board, nor attempt to describe that most uninteresting of all uninteresting things, a pleasant passage; but will merely state that he arrived in safety at Calcutta, where he soon rendered himself conspicuous by his active discharge of the duties imposed upon him. His zeal and talent attracted the notice of the ruling powers, and he obtained a lucrative appointment at the Presidency, the salary of which, added to the liberal fees he received in private practice, soon enabled him to clear off the debts he had unavoidably contracted at his outset, and to lay the foundation of a rapidly increasing fortune. The habits of his previous life rendered it an easy task for him to unite the most careful economy with a liberal and gentlemanly expenditure. He had been early taught that true economy consists in restraining our desire for the superfluities, not in debarring ourselves from the enjoyment of the comforts of life. His careful regulation of his expenses, and his indifference to show and parade enabled him, on proper occasions, to give greater scope to the natural generosity of his disposition than he otherwise could have done. Esteemed for the steadiness and consistency of his character, and beloved for his kind and amiable qualities, he soon became one of the most popular men of his class in Calcutta, besides having deservedly acquired the reputation of being one of the most skilful. Fortune had thus far favoured him beyond his most sanguine expectations; and, in so expressing ourselves, we do no injustice to his merits; for how often are the most splendid talents lost to the world, even when seconded by persevering energy, for want of opportunity for their display? At a comparatively early age, he had nearly attained the summit of his profession; he had far outstripped those who had started with him in the race for wealth and distinction; he was generally and deservedly beloved and respected—and yet he was not happy. “Change o’ fowk, and change o’ scene,” had made a great alteration in those feelings which, with the fond enthusiasm of youth, he had thought would remain unshaken for ever; and the recollection of his engagement to Jessie Martin, which was once his greatest solace, now hung like a cloud over his spirits. For two or three years, her image had been ever present to his thoughts, and had formed his principal incentive to exertion; but Time had been gradually dimming his memory of the past. He began almost unconsciously to regret having so inconsiderately shackled the freedom of his inclinations, and, when he gazed on the many lovely forms around him, he wished he had followed Jessie’s advice, not to bind himself by a formal promise, until he had seen more of the world and of the people in it. The engagement had been made, however, and true to his principles, he was determined to adhere to it, although, to do so, he was obliged resolutely and firmly to avoid the society of one who had begun to usurp Jessie’s place in his affections. He had written home from time to time, giving a full account at first of his flattering prospects, and of the hope that cheered him on in his path; and now, after a lapse of eight years since his arrival in India, he wrote to say that fortune had so far favoured him, that he considered himself justified in thinking of making a change in his condition. He told not of his cool and altered feelings—he considered it his duty to conceal them, and to adhere to his engagement, even at the sacrifice of his happiness; and he wrote to claim the fulfilment of Jessie’s promise, and to beg her, if her feelings remained the same towards him, to come out to him by the first opportunity. Time had been busy also with Jessie. Long separation had gradually weakened her affection for Edward; and a freer intercourse with the world and with society, had produced its natural effect—a love of change and variety. She had been much and generally admired, and, although very guarded in her behaviour, and cool and distant in her manners to the young men who flocked around her, had received several very advantageous offers, which she had instantly and decidedly rejected, as she considered herself in honour bound to adhere to her early engagement. Her feelings towards Edward had, however, lost their freshness and warmth, and had gradually acquired a tone of indifference; and although she had formed no other particular attachment, she grieved to think that she could not participate in the constancy of affection which seemed to pervade his letters to her. Thus were they mutually deceived, and each looked forward with anxiety and alarm to the period of their meeting, which was now not far distant, as Jessie had received Edward’s invitation, and had announced her intention of taking her passage in the Lady Flora which was shortly to sail for Calcutta. It was with but little of the joy of a bride-expectant, that she began her preparations for her voyage; for she was conscious that she had none of that feeling of devoted attachment to her betrothed which a woman ought to have towards the man whom she is to vow at the altar, to “love honour, and obey.”

We must leave her to complete her arrangements, and recall the readers’ attention to one who must, by this time, we fear, almost have escaped from their recollection—young Philip Denby, whom we left in Ireland, under the guardianship of his uncle. The lovely child had grown up a handsome and promising youth, and had endeared himself to his uncle by his grateful and affectionate disposition. He had received all the advantages which wealth and liberality could bestow, and, though avowedly the intended heir to his uncle’s handsome fortune, had been brought up in the strictest habits of business and regularity. His gay, light-hearted, joyousness of spirit, his frank and engaging manners—had made him a general favourite; but, fortunately for him, he had been taught to regulate his conduct by strict principle, and he always kept in mind that the best mode of retaining the good opinion of others, is by continuing to deserve it. He was not, as is too often the case, spoiled by the attention he met with; but it had, on the contrary, the good effect of stimulating him to persevere in the path of duty. He knew nothing of his mother but by the letters which she periodically wrote to inquire after his welfare, and often and deeply did he lament the family feud which separated them; but he had, from his earliest years, looked upon his uncle as a father, and was obliged, in duty, to conform to his prejudices. Old O’Connor never forgot nor forgave his daughter’s indiscretion. He had been proud of her—proud of her beauty and of her accomplishments—and had looked forward with delight to the prospect of one so favoured by nature and fortune forming a brilliant alliance; for, like most men with little minds and long purses, he sighed for what wealth alone could not bestow—good family connection. In this dearest hope of his heart, she had disappointed him; and his wounded pride had converted what little affection he once had had for her, into the bitterest enmity. This feeling extended even to his innocent grandson, whom he refused on all occasions to notice, remarking that an “ill bird must have an ill brood.” But we will say no more of him or his prejudices: such feelings are as monstrous and unnatural, as, fortunately, they are rare. Mr Morton, Philip’s uncle, had made his fortune in the East Indies, and had still an interest in a large mercantile house in Calcutta, which place he had twice visited during his protegé’s school days, and while he was pursuing his studies at college, under the surveillance of an old and esteemed friend. It was Mr Morton’s intention once more to visit the East; but a severe attack of illness had shattered his constitution, and obliged him to give up all hopes of prosecuting his intention. Philip had attained the age of two-and-thirty, when alarming accounts were received of the instability of several of the great commercial houses in India. This news excited old Morton’s fears; and his anxiety on the subject had a fatal effect upon his nerves, shaken and debilitated by previous illness. He felt that he had not long to live, and, in expectation of approaching dissolution, he made his will, by which he left all he was possessed of to Philip, on condition that he took the name of Morton. He earnestly enjoined Philip to hasten to Calcutta, and, as his representative, to assist, to the utmost of his ability, the house with which he was connected, in the distress which he foresaw was impending over it. Before Philip could prepare to comply with his wishes, however, the old man became so alarmingly ill that his life was despaired of, and, though he rallied wonderfully for a time, a relapse, brought on by incautious exposure to the air, proved fatal, and Philip was left a second time fatherless. Sadly and sincerely did he mourn the loss of his affectionate and liberal protector—his earliest, his kindest, his constant friend. As soon as circumstances would allow, he hastened to fulfil his deceased uncle’s wishes, and, crossing the Channel, after a rapid equipment for his voyage, he hurried down to Portsmouth to join a ship on the point of sailing for Calcutta. The passengers were all on board, and the vessel was only waiting for a fair wind to proceed to sea. Two days afterwards, they were dashing along down Channel, with a favourable wind, with a bright sky over their heads, and with the cheering hope of a good passage. The animated and novel scene excited Philip’s admiration, and cheered his spirits. The bright and beautiful face of Nature, under an aspect so new to him; the sunbeams glancing from the crested waves; the white foam breaking under the vessel’s bow; the exhilarating sense of rapid motion, as the water hissed and rustled alongside; the rapidly-receding landmarks on the shore; and the joyous faces of the crew—all conspired to distract his thoughts for a while from the grief which had weighed down his spirits. Several of the gentlemen passengers were on deck, enjoying the beauty of the scene; but none of the ladies, of whom he heard there were three or four on board, had yet made their appearance. At eight o’clock, the steward announced, “Spirits on the table, sir;” but Philip heeded him not. Now that the first excitement of novelty was over, his thoughts reverted to the home he had so lately left, and to the dear and valued benefactor he should never see again; and he leaned sorrowfully over the gangway, to indulge his mournful retrospections. From these reveries he was soon roused, by the sound of suppressed voices close to him; and, on turning round to see whence it proceeded, he perceived, through the dim light, the figures of two of the crew stretched at full length on the deck, close to the foremost quarter-deck carronade, and under the lee of the bulwark. Now that his attention was awakened, he could distinctly hear every word of their conversation, which amused and interested him greatly, and which he considered himself perfectly justified in benefiting by, as he had given them fair warning of his proximity, by observing to them, “It’s a fine night, lads.”—and receiving the answer, “Yes, sir, it is.”

“My eyes, Bill!” said one of the recumbents, “ain’t this here a fine breeze?”

“Wait till ye sees the end on’t, Jem,” replied the other; “it’s my notion ye’ll change your tune before long.”

“Mayhap I may, Bill; but I hates to be watching the weather-glass of evil. What makes you so down in the mouth?”

“I’ll tell ye what, Jem—I don’t like this here move at all. I never seed no good come of sailing on a Friday. Why couldn’t the skipper have kept her fast by the nose for another day, ’stead of running in the very teeth of mischief in this way? I wonders as how the Admiralty doesn’t give an order agin sailing on sich an unlucky day.”

“Why, sure, Bill, you don’t call sich a breeze as this unlucky? If this is what you call Friday’s luck, I hope I may always sail on a Friday.”

“Well, we’ll see, Jem; but, if so be as you doesn’t think that there’s bad luck in a Friday, you’re out of your latitude, that’s all.”

“Watch, man the royal cluelines!” interrupted the men in their confab, and startled all the watch to their feet. The breeze was gradually freshening, and the small masts were beginning to complain; but the night was clear, and cold, and beautiful—and Philip retired to his cot, laughing at the superstitious fears of the sailor, but, at the same time, unconsciously almost to himself, affected by them. The breeze continued steady till they had cleared the Channel, and were standing to the south, when it began gradually to die away and draw a-head; and, on the night of the third day from their departure, the scene was completely changed. Thick, heavy masses of cloud had been gathering to the southward all the afternoon; cloud after cloud rearing its dark head, and then remaining stationary, like an army assembling all its forces before being put in motion. Towards night, the breeze began to freshen from the southward, and the clouds to rise slowly and sullenly, as if compelled unwillingly to tear themselves from their resting-place on the horizon, while the light “scud” drove rapidly across, high up in the heavens. A large, dull halo surrounded the moon, and her light struggled dimly and ominously through the watery and angry-looking vapours that flitted across it. Everything portended a coming storm; the ship herself seemed to be aware of the approaching conflict, plunging and rolling as if in ineffectual efforts to make her escape; while her timbers groaned and creaked, as she tossed about in the confused sea, and seemed to utter mournful cries, as the wind moaned in hollow gusts through her rigging. All the small sails were taken in, and soon the loud order to “reef topsails” was heard, followed by the rattling of blocks, the flapping of sails, and the loud cheers of the sailors, as they plied their dangerous trade aloft. The double-reefed topsails were soon set, the yards braced sharp up, and the ship stood away to the westward, throwing thick sprays over her bow, and trembling from stem to stern, as she plunged heavily into the sea, and, rising again, poured whole torrents of water from her head. Philip felt an excitement he had never before experienced, as he gazed on the scene around him. The wild, threatening sky; the angry waves, like wild beasts lashing themselves into fury; the gradually-freshening gale, howling as if in search of its prey; and the moon herself—the mild, placid moon—scowling down upon the turmoil below, with a frown upon her brow—all united to form a picture of gloom and desolation, which accorded well with his own feelings. He stayed on deck till near the end of the first watch, and was just going down to his cabin, when the second mate, whose watch it was, said to him—

“You must be cold and wet, Mr Morton. If you will wait a few minutes, till I am relieved, I shall be glad of your company in my cabin, to smoke a cigar over a glass of grog, for it is of little use turning in. This night’s work is not over yet, or I’m much mistaken.”

“Thank you,” replied Morton; “I shall be happy to join you.”

As soon as the deck was relieved, they dived below, to the snugly fitted-up cabin of the second mate, where they soon forgot the clouds above, while enveloped in clouds of their own raising below.

“It is the fashion, Mr Morton,” said Hardy, the officer, “among many of the sticklers for propriety, to rail at the use of what they have no relish for themselves, and to denounce smoking as a low and ungentlemanly practice; but, in spite of all their squeamish objections, I know nothing more soothing and refreshing, after a night of toil and excitement like this, than a mild and genuine Havannah. Surely Nature would not be so lavish of her blessings, if it had not been intended that we were to enjoy them in moderation.

“Ah! I thought so—no rest for the wicked,” continued he, starting up, as the shrill pipe of the boatswain rose far above the noise of the storm; “there it is! ‘All hands down top-gallant masts and yards!’ Finish your cigar, Mr Morton, and douce the glim when you have done. I must be off.”

“I will go, too,” said Morton; “I am too much excited to sleep.”

The night was now pitch dark, the wind had increased to a strong gale, and the ship was rolling “gunnels to,” in the long heavy sea; bright flashes of lightning, every now and then, threw a momentary glare over the gloomy heavens, and the thunder rolled in loud and long-continued peals.

“Didn’t I tell you, Jem, what ’ud come of sailing on a Friday? and we haven’t seen the end on’t yet,” said Bill Halliday, one of the men we before mentioned, as he was running up the main rigging, and a flash of lightning shewed him his messmate beside him.

“Oh, never say ‘die,’ while there’s a shot in the locker, Bill; we’ll weather many a Friday’s sailing yet.”

Just then the ship gave a heavy lurch to windward; Jem heard a loud and startling cry close beside him, and, looking downwards through the darkness, a sudden flash shewed him his messmate struggling for life on the surface of the water; he had slipped his foot, poor fellow, and, amid the roar of the waters and the howling of the gale, the noise of his plunge was unheard by those on deck. His messmate, trembling with horror, raised the cry of “A man overboard!” but, alas! in vain; in such a night and such a sea, it would have been madness to risk the lives of the many for the one. The next flash lighted the sea far and near, and all eyes were anxiously bent upon the water; but nothing was visible but the dark heaving mass, with the white foam driving over its surface; the ravenous waves had done their work quickly and mercifully.

Soon after this, as if satisfied with this sacrifice to its fury, the gale began gradually to moderate; and, before next night, the ship was again “all a-taunto,” and standing to the southward, with a leading wind, under single-reefed topsails, and topgallantsails. The following day, the weather was so fine, and the water so smooth, that the ladies, who had not hitherto ventured out of their cabins, made their appearance at the cuddy table. At dinner, Morton was seated nearly opposite to a remarkably fine turkey, and his eyes were constantly wandering in that direction, but whether for the purpose of admiring its beauties, or those of a young lady seated behind it, it was difficult to distinguish. His contemplation however, either of the dead or the living beauty, seemed to have diverted his thoughts from the indulgence of his appetite.

“Mr Morton, a glass of wine?” said the captain; “you seem to be contented with looking at that fine turkey.”

“Beautiful creature!” replied he.

“Won’t you send your plate over for some of it?”

“With all my heart,” sighed he, looking most languishingly in the direction of the turkey.

“Why, Mr Morton,” said Hardy, “you said before dinner that you had an excellent appetite; you are not giving proof of it now—I am afraid you are not well.”

Morton coloured to the eyes, and gave a faint laugh. The fact was, that he was not well; he had just been seized with a violent attack of a rather uncommon complaint, called “love at first sight.” He felt confused, he scarcely knew why, and he fancied everybody was noticing his confusion, which made him ten times worse. He laughed when he ought to have looked grave, and looked grave when he ought to have laughed, and was guilty of a thousand awkwardnesses, which attracted towards him the observation he wished to avoid. He strove manfully to look up the table, and down the table, and in every direction but that in which he wished to look; but his eyes would, somehow or another, have their own way in spite of him, and always contrived, at last, as naturally as possible, to direct their glances towards the neighbourhood of the turkey. It was with a feeling of positive relief he saw the ladies retire from the table; and no sooner were they gone than he became a rational man again, though rather more abstracted and silent than he had been before dinner.

“That was rather a nice-looking girl sitting opposite to me at dinner,” remarked he, hesitatingly and inquiringly, to his friend Hardy, after they rose from table. “Do you know who she is?”

“I have heard her name, but I forget it just now,” said the sailor; “but she is a devilish fine woman; I wonder the captain did not introduce you to her.”

“Why, so he did; but he spoke so indistinctly that I could not catch the name.”

At one bell in the second dog-watch (half-past six), the band made their appearance on deck; and no sooner were the lively strains of the music heard, than the ship’s company, always ready for “a lark,” came swarming up the hatchways, and the decks soon resounded with the sounds of the “fantastic,” but anything but “light” toe.

“Come, gentlemen,” said Captain Dickens to his passengers, “won’t you follow the good example the men are setting you? Can’t you persuade the ladies to dance? Mr Morton, here is a fair lady for you to try your powers of persuasion upon,” looking at one who was walking beside him, and who made a movement of assent in reply to Morton’s bow.

It was the fair one who had attracted so much of his attention at dinner. As the captain resigned her to his charge, Morton blushed, and stammered, and wished himself a hundred miles off, although he was in the very situation which, a few minutes before, he thought he could give worlds to occupy. What fools does love make of wise men! At last, the preliminaries were satisfactorily arranged, and the dance commenced; and, before its conclusion, the partners were mutually pleased with each other.

“Well, Mr Morton,” said the captain, “I hope you enjoyed your dance?”

“Very much indeed,” replied he; “I hope you do not feel fatigued, Miss Martyr.”

“Miss who?” said the captain, laughing; “you are surely not going to make a martyr of your partner.”

“If I have made a mistake, Captain Dickens, you ought to make the amende honorable for me, for you spoke so indistinctly that I misunderstood you.”

“I shall be happy to make the only reparation in my power, by re-introducing you clearly and distinctly to Miss Martin.”

Yes, Miss Martin—our old, and we hope not uninteresting friend, Jessie Martin; and the scene of the introduction was the quarter-deck of the Lady Flora. At eight o’clock, the band struck up “God save the King,” and the party separated for the night—the ladies retiring to their cabins, and the gentlemen adjourning to the cuddy, to discuss their grog. For several successive nights, however, by some strange coincidence, Morton always happened to be just making his appearance at the top of the companion ladder, as Miss Martin was emerging from the cuddy-door, to take her evening promenade. Of course, common politeness required that he should offer his arm to support her, because the ship had a good deal of motion, or because, if there were none just then, there might be by and by. Jessie was much pleased with her new acquaintance, when the first embarrassment of his manner wore off. This she attributed to that kind of mauvaise honte which a man acquires from a life of seclusion, or from a limited intercourse with society. Perfectly free from personal vanity, she had not the most remote idea that it had any connection with her own attractions; but she soon had cause to alter her opinion. She was surprised at his varied and extensive store of knowledge, and delighted with his lively and animated manner of imparting it. He had evidently mixed a great deal in society, and his conversation abounded in amusing and interesting anecdotes of celebrated characters whom it had been his good fortune to have associated with. There was something particularly gratifying to a mind like Jessie’s, in being selected as the friend of one who appeared in every way so estimable; and his silent, yet constant and brother-like attention to her comfort and wishes, excited her feelings of grateful regard. Thus they went on for some time together, he becoming day after day more and more deeply enamoured, and she unconsciously increasing his love for her, by the frank and natural confidence of her manner towards him. At last, a hint from Mrs Jameson, the lady under whose charge she had been placed, opened her eyes to the danger and impropriety of so close an intimacy with one who, she felt, was daily making rapid advances in her good opinion, and whose increasing admiration of her was beginning to be but too evident. She called to mind, what she blamed herself for having so long kept out of view—her delicate position as the affianced bride of another, and saw, in its true colours, the double treachery she would be guilty of in further encouraging, or rather in not repelling, the attentions of a new admirer. It was doing great violence to her feelings gradually to withdraw from her companionship with Morton, particularly as she must have been blind indeed not to remark the pain which her apparent coldness inflicted upon him; but, when she had once made up her mind as to the propriety of the course she had adopted, she steadily and firmly persevered in it. Philip, surprised at the change in her manner, wearied himself with conjectures as to its cause, and feared that some inadvertent act or expression of his might have given her offence; but it was in vain he taxed his memory; he could not recall any instance in which his conscience could reproach him for having overstepped the bounds of respectful and polite attention.

At last, no longer able to bear the pain of uncertainty, he resolved at once boldly to venture on a step, upon the result of which he felt that his future happiness depended. Mrs Jameson had long noticed Morton’s growing love for Jessie, and, knowing the peculiar situation in which her young protegé was placed, had, as we before remarked, advised her to adopt a more distant carriage towards him; but, at the same time, charmed with Morton’s amiable and estimable character, and feeling for the disappointment which awaited him, she herself redoubled her attentions towards him. Emboldened by the kind interest of her manner, Morton resolved on making her his confidante, and accordingly revealed to her, that which she had, with woman’s quickness, long since discovered—the secret of his love.

“I have long feared this, Mr Morton,” replied she; “feared it, because I feel the greatest interest in you, and because I know that there exists an insuperable obstacle to the fulfilment of your hopes.”

“Insuperable! do not say insuperable, Mrs Jameson! I know that the shortness of my acquaintance with Miss Martin hardly warrants my presuming to address her; but will not time and the most devoted attachment work a change in my favour? Oh, let me see her! let me plead my own cause before her, and, if unsuccessfully, let me at least have the melancholy satisfaction of hearing my sentence from her own lips?”

“An interview would only be distressing to you both, Mr Morton. I am not at liberty to say more; but I know that the result will be unfavourable to your wishes.”

Morton’s importunity, however, prevailed; the kind-hearted friend, melted by the sight of his distress, promised to procure him a private interview with Miss Martin. Great was Jessie’s agitation when she received Mrs Jameson’s communication. She had resolutely and firmly avoided meeting Morton, ever since her eyes had been opened to the nature of her feelings towards him, which she considered it her bounden duty to repress, as a proper sacrifice to principle; but the struggle was a severe one—the arrow rankled deeper than she suspected. She was sitting alone, when Morton, by Mrs Jameson’s invitation, entered the cabin. A crimson flush overspread her cheek, which as quickly left it again. She was looking very pale, and received him with visible agitation. It was in a tremulous and low tone of voice, that Morton first began to address her; but, as he proceeded, his countenance glowed, and his words followed each other in such a rapid and fervent torrent, that she in vain attempted to interrupt him. He described the impression her first appearance had made upon his heart, the charm he had experienced in her society, and the gradual, yet rapid growth of his admiration and esteem upon a closer acquaintance with her character. He dwelt long and deeply upon the grief her apparent estrangement had occasioned him, begged her to forgive him if he had in any way given her cause of offence, explained to her his circumstances and views in life, and ended by laying his heart and fortune at her feet.

“Mr Morton,” replied she, “I would fain have spared myself and you the pain of this meeting; but I owed it to you, to make some reparation for the error into which I have unfortunately led you; otherwise, I would have deputed my friend to take upon her a duty so distressing to my own feelings. Severely do I now blame myself for having so inconsiderately indulged in the pleasure which your society afforded me. I mistook your feelings. I looked upon you as a friend, and I forgot how near akin friendship is to love. Forgive me, Mr Morton!—I never can be yours—I am the affianced bride of another.”

“Affianced!” exclaimed Morton, pressing his hand upon his brow, and absolutely gasping with oppression of feelings. “O heaven! I did not expect this, Miss Martin. But is your heart in the engagement?”

Jessie burst into tears. “Urge me no farther, Mr Morton—my fate is in the hands of another. Henceforth, we must be as strangers to each other—Adieu!” And she glided into an inner apartment. Morton gazed after her for a moment, and then with a heavy heart left the cabin. His friend Hardy found him sitting, with his face buried in his hands upon the table, and eagerly and affectionately inquired the cause of his distress. Morton related to him all that had passed, and ended with saying—“And now, there is no more happiness for me in this world.”

“My dear fellow,” said his friend, “I give you joy.”

“Give me joy, Hardy! I did not expect this from you! Instead of sympathising with me, you rejoice in my disappointment!”

“I rejoice, but not in your disappointment. Mark my words, Morton! The girl loves you, and, though at present, appearances are against you, do not be downcast—many a more broken boat has reached the land. If my suspicions are correct, depend upon it, a girl of Miss Martin’s principles will not be guilty of the treachery of deceiving the man who claims her hand, into the belief that he possesses her heart.”

During the remainder of the voyage, Jessie strictly adhered to her resolution, and Philip had too much respect for the woman he loved, to endeavour to shake it. It was soon evident to Mrs Jameson, who sincerely sympathised with him, that he was not the only sufferer; but that it was a grievous trial to them both; and, while she truly pitied them both, she could not but admire and respect the high sense of principle by which they were mutually actuated. The thought of the approaching termination of the voyage, which was by all else on board looked forward to with delight, was to them like the haunting recollection of a frightful dream, which they strove to drive from their minds; for, unhappy as they now were, it was bliss compared to the thought of being separated for ever. At length, the high land about Ganjam was seen from the masthead, and, two days afterwards, a strange sail hove in sight, which, on a nearer approach, proved to be a brig, with the pilot flag fluttering aloft. “All hands shorten sail!” was soon the cry, and “Up there, topmen!” In a few minutes, the lofty canvass was taken in, and the active topmen were busily employed in rolling it up; while the Lady Flora, with her maintopsail to the mast, scarcely moved through the water, as she gracefully rose and fell, or, as a popular authoress expresses it, “curtseyed,” as if saluting the approaching stranger, which shortened sail as she came near, and rounded to on the opposite tack. A double-banked boat, manned with Lascars, shoved off from the brig, and the pilot soon made his appearance on board. The purser of the Flora, with letters and despatches for Calcutta, returned in the boat to the brig, which immediately made all sail for Kedgeree; and the Lady Flora, under easy canvass, followed at a distance in her wake. In the evening, the ship was brought to an anchor, at which time the brig was, lower masts down, a-head. Next morning, the Flora got under way, and was soon snug at anchor off Kedgeree, where she was to discharge some of her cargo, before proceeding up the river. In the meantime, her letters had been forwarded by “dawk” to Calcutta. In three days’ time, a schooner-rigged budgerow was seen coming down the river, which anchored inshore of the Flora, and hailed her for a boat. A cutter was immediately despatched to her, which soon returned with a stranger sitting in the stern sheets. Jessie Martin had been sadly and listlessly employed, all the morning, in making preparations for landing, arranging, and directing her trunks; but her work proceeded slowly; for, in spite of her better reason, her thoughts dwelt mournfully on her approaching separation from Morton, when a knock was heard at the cabin door, and, as if to reproach her with her inconstancy, the lover of her youth stood before her. Jessie had, for months, been anticipating with dread, her meeting with Edward Malcolmson, and had, as she thought, nerved herself to go through the trial with firmness; but, now it had come upon her, she was taken unawares. The surprise was too great for her; she felt a mortal sickness creeping over her, and, turning deadly-pale, fell fainting into her chair. Malcolmson ran to her assistance, and, sprinkling some water on her forehead, restored her to consciousness, when she hid her face in her hands, and burst into tears.

“Jessie,” said Malcolmson, surprised at her agitation, “this is an unexpected reception. Am I an object of dread to you? I came here, ready and willing to fulfil my promise, and to claim you as my bride, and you seem to shrink from me, as if I were hateful in your sight.”

“Oh, no!—not hateful, Edward. My heart owns you as an old and dear friend. There,” said she, putting her hand into his, “there is the hand I promised you! But, as it is to be so, would that we had never parted!”

“What do I hear?” said he, in a tone which surprised her; “you say, here is my hand! Is your heart not with it, Jessie?”

“Edward,” answered she, “this is no time for dissimulation. We are about to take a step on which our happiness or misery for life depends. You will despise me, Edward, but I dare not deceive you. My hand is yours, if you desire it; but my heart is another’s.” And, thus saying, she looked fearfully in his face, to see what effect her confession would have upon him. To her great surprise, a flush of gratification spread over his countenance, and he exclaimed—

“Heaven be praised! O Jessie, what a load of unhappiness you have removed from my heart! But why did you not write to me? Why did you not tell me of the change in your sentiments? And you have been dreading to meet me! and I have been equally alarmed at the thoughts of meeting you! How ridiculous! Two old lovers acting bugbear to each other! There is one comfort, however, Jessie, the one cannot rail at the other for inconstancy; for I have been playing truant as well as yourself. But who is the happy man who has supplanted me in your affections? I sincerely trust that he is worthy of you.”

“You may have an opportunity of judging for yourself, ere long,” replied she, smiling; “but I will call my friend Mrs Jameson, to you—she will explain all.”

She then sent for Mrs Jameson, and, having introduced her to Malcolmson, and briefly stated how matters stood between them, left them alone together.

Mrs Jameson gave Malcolmson a full account of all that had taken place on board, spoke with enthusiastic admiration of the struggle, in both the lovers, between “passion and principle,” and ended with saying that she considered Jessie a fortunate woman to have gained the affection of so amiable and estimable a man.

“But where is he? You must introduce me to him. I will go and bring him to you. I daresay I shall find him somewhere on deck.” And away he went in search of him. The deck was strewed with passengers’ luggage, and a young and handsome man was moving about among it, apparently selecting his own.

“I think this be one of your trunks, Mr Morton,” said one of the men to him.

“Ah, there’s my man!” said Malcolmson. “Pray, sir, is your name Morton?”

“Yes, sir, it is. May I beg, in return, to know whom I have the pleasure of addressing?”

My name, sir, is Malcolmson; yours is familiar to my ear, as that of the guardian of a near relative whom I have never had the pleasure of meeting. Pray, Mr Morton, are you Irish?”

“Yes; but Morton is an adopted name—that of a kind relative and benefactor. My own name is Denby, Philip Denby.”

“Gracious Powers! my brother! I am Edward Malcolmson, the son of your mother. But come with me into Miss Martin’s cabin.”

And Philip followed him, dreading that in his brother he had met his happy rival.

“Philip,” said his brother, “how shall we commemorate this happy meeting? I must give you some memento to recall it to your recollection. Here,” said he, taking Jessie’s hand in his own, “this little hand is mine. I know you will prize it; so I make over my claim to you, if you can prevail upon Jessie to consent to the change of owners.”

Need we say that that consent was granted? The lovers were united; and their example was soon followed by Edward Malcolmson and the fair object of his affections, who afterwards accompanied Morton and his bride home, to cheer their mother with the sight of the happy reunion of her family.