The owl, for all his feathers, was acold.—KEATS.
WHEN Snap heard that
Mr. Smith meant to leave us, he melted also, and added a chorus of sobs to
my tears, while poor Mr. Smith, who perhaps longed for a little feminine
sympathy, and was really fond of my mother, begged her to come out and
walk on the grass with him.
They went out, and after some time I stole into my little
room, and from its window saw them moving slowly along over the short
grass, on the hillock behind the mill. The whole sky was flooded
with orange, though the sun was below the horizon; the mild evening star
shone, and a crescent moon was hanging just over the phantom-like sails,
which were going softly round in the early dusk. Wind was rising,
and I saw the miller's wife shut her door and begin to blow her fire, for
the evening was chill. It gave me a strange sense of restlessness
and yearning sympathy to see them pacing so long in the wind, where they
could only see the moving of the sails, the darkening landscape, and
I sobbed myself to sleep that night, but, oh how indignant
Snap and I were when we found the next morning that Mr. Smith had gone
away without taking leave of us.
Here I must make a highly unphilosophical reflection, which,
however, comes from experience, namely, that what happens to a person once
is likely to happen again. It has repeatedly happened to me that
people have been withdrawn from me without being able or finding
convenient occasion for saying any last words. Now those last words
very often set many things right. I have not been able to
say,—'Though we have often quarrelled, there is no friend whom I care for
more.' Nor has it been said to me,—'I may not have shown it much,
but I have, notwithstanding, a very sincere affection for you.'
So Mr. Smith went away, and during the following winter my
mother was our teacher in the morning, and we ran about over the common
during the short winter afternoons.
Those little houses were not comfortable in the winter; we
slept in one and breakfasted in the other, so that in all weathers we were
obliged to be often running in and out. The rain and the melted snow
also soaked in at the doors rather freely, and the casements, besides
being of a restless, noisy disposition, had a trick of bursting open in
Yet we were often indescribably happy in those cottages.
Their loneliness gave us the sense of having nobody to interfere with our
becoming more and more ourselves. The common was so wide, that we
had plenty of room to spread and grow in. At Christmas there was a
deep fall of snow, and it was not safe to go to church. Our nurse
could no longer bear the dullness of her lot, and went away, so we were
left with only one servant, and we spent some days in moving our mother's
books from the place in which they had been kept, to a dry place in the
mill. As we always chose to carry more at a time than we could
properly manage, a good many were dropped about and lost for a few days,
from being covered over; but no harm came to them, it was so cold that the
snow was perfectly dry.
Sometimes little Amy was carried to the mill to play with
Sampson's children, and sometimes Mrs. Sampson came and sat with us.
She did not like what she called 'the awful way the moon had,' and the
drifts were so deep that she never let her children stir a step beyond the
path between us and the mill.
How it snowed, and how keen the wind was! I remember to
this day the disgust with which we heard Sampson advising my mother by no
means to let us go out, lest we should be lost. 'Let them dig and
sweep out a path for themselves, ma'am,' said he; 'but if I were you, I
would not let them stir a step beyond it.' When it had gone on
snowing for eleven days, there was a consultation between the miller and
his wife, as to whether or not he should go in his cart to market the next
day; and I believe he would gladly have stayed at home, but that there was
no butcher's meat in either his house or ours, and we were falling short
There was a ridge about half a mile long, that rose a hundred
yards beyond the mill. It was level, and the wind had been so high
that the top of it was nearly bared of snow, and the drifts were laid up
in the hollow that cut us off from it.
Sampson and a man who came to help him, dug a lane in the
easiest part of the rise, and got the horse and cart up it. Once on
the rise, Sampson could easily get on, for by taking an extremely
circuitous path he could keep on high ground till he reached the turnpike
We had finished our supper, as I remember, that night, and
had been allowed to sit up till ten o'clock, because our little bedrooms
were so cold; when just as the candle burnt down into the socket, mamma
told us to read a chapter in the Bible to her before we went to bed.
'And, I suppose, we must begin to burn the last candle,' she observed.
So Snap was sent to ask for it (for I need not say we had no
bells), and he presently came back with rather a blank face.
'We're not to have it,' he exclaimed, 'Mrs. Sampson has come
Sarah, our maid, followed him, trembling.
'Sampson is not come home, ma'am,' she cried; I and, oh, if
you please, will you come to Mrs. Sampson's? for she thinks he is lost in
Mrs. Sampson was close behind her, standing with a dull,
white face; her hands were hanging at her side, and she said slowly, and
with a sort of passionless indifference: 'Yes, that's just what I do
think. He's lost in the snow, and by this time he's froze.'
My mother had started up, and taken hold of her. 'Where
have you been?' she exclaimed. 'Oh, Sarah, the poor thing is
'I've been sitting up a-top of the mill,' she replied; 'I
want your other candle to show a light to him; but he won't come, he's
Sampson's great white cat, that lived in the mill, had
accompanied her, and was mewing uneasily, and rubbing himself against my
'He knows as well as I do, poor beast,' said Mrs. Sampson;
and certainly the dumb creature showed every sign of distress. 'But
I must go back and snuff the candle,' she continued; 'I left it burning,
and there is but an inch of it left.'
'Do,' said my mother, 'come to the mill, and I will come with
you. It is late certainly for him to be away, but you must not be
'Oh no,' she replied, looking drearily about her, 'I am not
downhearted, why should I be?'
Sarah and my mother glanced at one another, but neither could
suggest the doing of anything more. They got Mrs. Sampson to drink
some wine made hot in a little saucepan, then a log was put on the fire,
and as it could not be expected of us that we should go to bed, we had
leave to sit by it, and they left us—my mother to sit with the poor wife,
and Sarah to make herself useful in case Sampson appeared. We sat by
that fire a long time. Our mother did not appear, so at last we
crept upstairs to my little bedroom and looked out. There was the
light burning in the upper window of the mill, there was the wide expanse
of snow with the great white moon hanging over it, and beyond on the ridge
there were the owls flitting about mousing and hooting. I never
liked the owl's call—it is but two notes of music tied together with a
We listened. No sound of wheels, no sign of our
mother's return. Our cuckoo-clock struck eleven, and with one accord
we put on our out-of-door clothing, and resolved to run across to the
mill, and beg her to let us stay with her there.
Running briskly along the path we got to the mill door and
opened it, letting in a broad ray of moonlight, which showed us the mice
running about, but we heard no voices above. We thought our mother
must be gone to the cottage.
Of course whatever my brother did I did. He shut the
door, and said he should get up by Sampson's path, on to the ridge.
I followed, and we both fell into a drift almost directly, and were up to
our necks without much chance of getting out again. There was snow
in our nostrils, and our sleeves and hats had snow in them; but I cannot
say I was afraid, because we were so close to the mill. Still I did
think it a pity Snap would insist on floundering up the path instead of
trying to get back again; but I followed, and in less time than could have
been hoped we came to a place where the drift had been carefully shovelled
away and beaten down, and got on the ridge, which was nearly bared by the
wind. It was so thinly covered with snow that the tops of the grass
peered through. It was also printed with the feet of rabbits, not a
few of whom were dancing about on it seeking a scanty meal, while an owl
here and there might be seen skimming about looking after the young ones.
I cannot describe the excitement that took possession of our
minds at that moment. There we were out in the snow in the middle of
the night, on the ridge that we had so long desired to reach. Nobody
knew of our absence. The tall white mill with its lanky skeleton
sails looked clear and large in the intense moonlight; the clean white
ridge was before us; the heavens, swept bare of clouds, and glittering
with stars, appeared wonderfully deep and remote; the rabbits darted by
close to our feet; the hooting owls almost brushed our clothes. We
stood a moment panting with joy at finding ourselves in such a novel
situation, and then Snap tossed back his head like a young colt that has
regained his liberty, and set off running along the ridge at his utmost
Of course I followed, and we both utterly forgot poor Sampson
in the bliss of that midnight enterprise. The wild flight of those
clear shadows of ourselves that sped on before, the strange silence,
broken by noises yet more strange, such as the hooting of an owl as she
stood on the snow picking the bones of some hairy little victim, or the
forlorn squeal of a rabbit when it felt the fanning wings of its fate
sailing over it in ghostlike stillness, and shutting out the light of the
moon. On we ran, wild with excitement and delight. We could
not be seen from the cottage, nor from the window in the mill, and we did
not stop till we came to the end of the ridge, which was about half a mile
long, and descended so abruptly that two or three steps too far brought
Snap up to his eyes in the drift again.
And now came the return; that was more thoughtful and slow.
What if we should be discovered? we were tired, too, and were in twenty
minds whether to hasten or linger. To linger was to prolong the time
before discovery should overtake us; but if we hastened we might not be
found out at all.
Sometimes running, sometimes loitering, we had perhaps
traversed half the ridge, were very cross, rather cold, and in exceedingly
low spirits, when suddenly Snap exclaimed, with a vehement shout of joy,
'Hurrah! there's the horse—there's the cart;' and before I could see them
his voice dropped, and he said, 'I don't see Sampson.'
I looked, and at the side of the ridge a very little way down
the shallow slope I saw the horse and cart, and something in the cart.
The horse was standing stock still. He had evidently been guided up
to the foot of the ridge, but perhaps it had proved too steep for him, and
he either would not or could not climb it. We ran hastily on, well
aware that Sampson must have lost his way, or he would not have gone into
that hollow at all; and when we drew near we saw that he was lying in the
bottom of the cart, and appeared to be dozing.
Snap was again in an ecstasy. At the harvest home,
Sampson, usually the most sober of men, had been reported to have come
home 'a little fresh;' Snap thought this was the case again, and shouted
to me to come down the slope and get into the cart, for he meant to drive
it to the mill himself. His joy and pride were great, and mine, I
suppose, must have helped me to flounder through the snow. My hat
was full of it when he helped me to climb into the clumsy thing, and I
sobbed for want of breath, but as he said it was all right, I was ashamed
to cry, and he picked up the whip and began to use all his efforts to
induce the horse to back. The poor beast was very stiff and weary;
but blows, shouts, and vigorous pulls at the bridle roused him at last,
and Snap mounted and began his triumphant progress.
But Snap, child as he was, soon perceived that though he
could make the horse go, he could not make him take the direction he had
The creature woke up more and more, and tried the ridge in
two or three different places, backing when he found he could not drag the
cart up, and making for an easier slope. At last, with incredible
efforts, and kickings and stumblings most lamentable, he got up. All
this time poor Sampson slumbered, while we in our ignorance did not
attempt to wake him, lest he should take the reins from us; all we did for
him was to clear the snow from his face, and shake it from his garments,
when it flew into the cart, while the horse struggled in the deep drift.
And now we were on the top of the ridge; and that accomplished the horse
stood stock still again. I remember that this time it was very hard
to make him move, but by dint of shouts, stamping, and use of the whip, we
got him in the end to set forth on a tolerably quick trot; and we had
nearly reached the path we had ascended, when out of the will issued Mrs.
Sampson, my mother, and Sarah, running as if for their lives. The
happy sound of the wheels had reached them, and at the same time the
exceeding noise and disturbance in the cart, together with grievous
jolting and rattling, roused poor Sampson a little, and just as we stopped
and Mrs. Sampson sprang into the cart, he lifted his head from his breast
'Oh, my blessed, blessed husband,' exclaimed the poor woman,
bursting into tears, and taking his head on her capacious bosom, 'are you
froze, John? How do you feel?'
Sampson looked about him and raised himself. She shook
him, repeating, 'How do you feel, John?' Whereupon he exerted
himself sufficiently to answer very slowly, 'I feel as if all my bones
Never was the wisest speech received with greater applause.
Mrs. Sampson and Sarah each took a foot, and began to rub unmercifully,
but the process of jolting and bruising that he had just gone through were
probably the best part of the discipline that brought him to his senses,
for he was soon able to get down and slowly express his surprise at
finding it so late. He must have been dozing there some time when we
had rushed along the ridge, for in our joy and hurry, we had passed
without noticing him. No one took any notice of us. The moon
was just setting, and I remember seeing mother stand with a pitched faggot
held high to light us into the cottage by the mill. I remember also,
that when first they wished Sampson to try and walk down to his door, he
looked forlornly at us, and said slowly, with a deep sigh, 'Women and
children,—women and children,'—but he was obliged to yield himself to our
help, and we all four pushed, pulled, and supported him till he got into
his house, and then he said to my mother, 'Well, ma'am, I could humbly
wish to know whatever all this means.'
That one word 'humbly' expressed all his manly displeasure
and pride at finding himself under personal thraldom to the 'women and
Soon after this I curled myself up in a corner of the warm
kitchen, and fell asleep, when no doubt I was carried home to bed, for
when I woke there I was none the worse.
The next morning Snap was alternately penitent and exultant,
and while we were waiting till my mother came down to breakfast, he made
one of those speeches which, because I could not make out its meaning, I
could not forget.
'I'll tell you what,' said this puny philosopher, 'I used
always to hate the morals,—but it's no good! They're in everything.
It's my belief they're a part of the world. Yes, they're ingrain.'
I had generally disliked the morals too; what child takes
kindly to 'hence we may learn?' but I by no means troubled myself as to
Snap's general meaning; and my mother shortly coming down, he gave her a
fair and faithful account of our midnight adventure, adding, 'It is a
wonder how Missy ever scrambled out of that drift; it was over her head!
I thought for a minute she was lost when she rolled plump into it, and the
snow fell together and covered her,—and so,' he added, in a tone of deep
reflection,—'and so, mother, I've made up my mind to give it up.'
'Yes,' she answered, 'you had better'
'For,' he continued, 'of course we had no business to go out
at night and get into danger, and it would be fair if you were to say that
'I certainly do say so,' she replied, 'though I have no
intention of punishing you. I cannot even pretend that I am
displeased! I am very thankful.'
'Yes,' said Snap, 'for we saved Sampson's life.'
'So now,' replied my mother, 'I hope I shall hear no more of
this morbid fancy of yours. Here you have an easy example of how
good can come out of evil, so don't lie awake again to puzzle about it.
The case of Joseph is not a solitary one. It may be said a thousand
times every day on earth, as it is in heaven, "As for you, your thoughts
were for evil, but God meant it unto good"—God looked on this evil, you
see, and caused it to bring forth good.'
'Does Snap lie awake when it's dark?' I exclaimed. 'I
have often tried, but I never could.'
Thereupon my mother said if I would promise never to try
again she would give me a bright new shilling; so I did promise, and got
Amy lost it the very next day down a crack; but a shilling
was of no particular use in those days, excepting to play with, so we did
not very much care; a penny would spin just as well, and was a great deal
'Who shall decide when doctors disagree?'
got slowly better, and when the snow had thawed two doctors came to see
him; one said one thing, and one another, and neither could decide on
'If it was not a very low temperature in which he had sat,
why had he been overcome by sleep?' said the one.
But the other answered, 'If it had been cold enough to make
him sleep, how was it that on awaking his limbs were not frost-bitten?'
However, they gave him medicine, which did him good, and he got quite well
And now followed two years, during which we were governed by
a succession of tutors, some of whom were very inefficient, and most of
whom were very young. The last but one ran away, like the first,
previously borrowing of my mother a small sum of money which she had by
her. In the reign of the tutor who followed him, our absent father
began again to become an important personage in our estimation. I
used to hear of his letters,—how he sent his love to us; and how mamma
might now be able to go out to him to Australia, but that she could not
take us with her, and could not afford to put us to school and leave us
We also learnt that we owed our food and education entirely
to our mother's exertions, and that the 'Mathewmatics,' as nurse had long
ago called her different scientific investigations and studies, had proved
profitable, for that though papa had prospered since he left England, he
had not yet been able to pay the debts contracted before he left us.
Towards the end of these years prospects brightened.
Many new clothes were made for us. Our mother, though she seemed
happy, would sometimes look at us with a tender regret, and treat us with
outward demonstrations of affection which were not usual with her.
She also conversed with us much more than usual. A sort
of instinct told me the reason: and one day, in the dusk of a summer
evening, I put my arms round her neck and whispered, 'Mamma, are you going
In the same tone she answered, 'Yes, my dearest child, yes.'
She wept and I wept for a few minutes.
'Are we going to school, mamma, and won't you let us come out
to you soon?' I inquired, sobbing quietly.
She seemed unable to talk, but told me that my brother knew
everything, and I might ask him.
So when we had kissed each other a great many times and cried
together, I went to find Tom, and he told me that in one week mamma was
going to sail, and that we were going to school.
This he told me in nearly as few words as I have here set
down, adding that Uncle Rollin was so very kind that he had promised to
take charge of us.
We knew this Uncle Rollin very well by reputation. My
mother often talked of him. He had brought her up, acted like a
father to her, and during her school holidays she had spent many a happy
week with him on board his yacht.
'But I thought he always lived in his yacht,' I observed,
'and had no house?'
So he did, Tom told me, and we were to go there also till it
suited him to put us to school.
The very next morning Uncle Rollin appeared, together with a
weather-beaten sailor. The first words we heard him say, after he
had kissed our mother, were in praise of this sailor, who had been some
years ago, he told us, steward of the 'Nancy,' of Havre.
We regarded Uncle Rollin with attention. He was ruddy,
hale, and, moreover, remarkably shy; while he ate his breakfast he
maintained silence, unless when he spoke to the steward, in whose presence
he seemed to find comfort, and who waited on him.
Uncle Rollin saw mamma shedding tears, and, in order to
comfort her, forthwith began to describe his yacht—by name the 'Curlew.'
He assured her that we should have many comforts while we were on board;
and that as for the boy, if his tutor could take to a sea life, he might
probably not send him away at all; that every fine Sunday, when he was in
port, he landed and went to church, and in foul weather he had a church
rigged in the chief cabin, so that there need be no fear lest we should
grow up like heathens.
He was a very remarkable person. Even at that early age
I was impressed by his peculiarities, his intense shyness, his dislike to
being looked at, and his silence.
He had been brought up to the sea, and when young had been a
lieutenant in the navy, but he had early left the service, and having come
into possession of a handsome independence, he had chosen a way of life
that developed his eccentricities more and more.
The 'Curlew,' as it appeared, was a handsome fore-and-aft
schooner of 300 tons, built upon the lines of a Bermuda clipper, and
manned by a picked crew.
These facts conveyed little to our minds, but the manner in
which they were said abundantly proved that the owner of the 'Curlew' was
proud of his yacht; accordingly, as we were about to sail in her, we
became proud of her too, and hearing what a fast sailer she was, we were
glad, for we supposed that would add to our dignity.
He talked for some time to our mother, and we gathered that
this said fore-and-aft vessel (mysterious expressions, meaningless, but
fascinating) was fitted up with unusually large cabins. There was
the chief cabin, whose size and convenience the captain greatly insisted
on; there were three charming state-rooms; and, moreover, there was an
after cabin, which had been fitted up expressly for his late sister, was
sometimes used as a sleeping apartment, and also as a drawing-room.
This cabin I learned that I was to have so long as I remained on board.
In one berth I was to sleep, and my clothes, my toys, and my books were to
be disposed in the lockers.
My mother's face brightened as these contemplated
arrangements were unfolded to her, and as for me, my heart danced with
'And what had he done with the old brig?' she inquired.
The old brig was dear to her heart as the occasional home of
her girlhood; and she and Uncle Rollin began to talk of the black hull as
if it were a sentient thing, and with as much affection as they might have
naturally felt if the said hull had been able to return the sentiment.
'I hope my boy and girl will be dutiful and good,' she
'Why, as to children,' he replied kindly, 'I never did mind
them; but this tutor, Mary Anne, he is a peaceable, quiet man, and will
not make trouble and mischief, eh, Mary Anne?'
'He is the most, passive of mortals.'
'He can have one of the state-rooms and your boy the other.
I say, that boy has a head! Is he like what you were at his age?'
'He is not very different,' said my mother, with a smile.
'Then I'll turn schoolmaster again, and teach him
Tom, upon this, was vehement in his thanks, and I, supposing
that navigation must be a delightful study, cried out,
'And me too, Uncle Rollin. I want to learn navigation.'
Tom began to explain that navigation was not at all a fit
study for a girl, but mamma checked him, perhaps because she knew that to
be willing to learn navigation was to take the shortest way to the old
Indeed, having thus favourably brought myself under his
notice, he patted me on the head, and remarked that my mother was about my
present height when she first began to sail in the old brig with him.
The old brig, as we afterwards learned, had been quite a
crack vessel in her day, a privateer, and even now she looked well at sea,
though she had suffered so much in a late gale that he had almost decided
not to let her move from her moorings any more. We understood that
several old mariners were pensioned off by him and allowed to find a
congenial home in her. 'And,' said he, 'the people had nothing to
do, so I am employing them in caulking her sides and overhauling her
'And yet she is never to go to sea again,' said our mother,
in a tone of absolute regret.
'Not she, but I could not bear to strip her like a wreck.'
After this Tom and I went out with our little sister Amy.
Dear little Amy was going with mamma, and in the mean time we could hardly
endure her out of our sight. We gave her the handsomest of our
possessions, and the most gaudy of the pictures painted with our own
hands, and she promised to learn to write running hand that she might
write letters to us.
When we came in we found poor mamma very nervous, and much
agitated. Uncle Rollin was gone out 'for a stretch' over the hills,
and had said that he positively must leave her in two days and take us
I will not attempt to describe the intervening two days.
The anguish that children cause under such circumstances by their delight
in the bustle and their excitement of joy in the prospect of a change, we
no doubt inflicted on our mother at intervals. We cried when we saw
her distress, but we felt little real oppression of heart; and our boxes
were packed, and they and our mother's great crates full of books were
travelling by a wagon across the country, and we were ten miles away from
our mother and our little sister and from the great green common by
breakfast time on the third day.
I was a strange little creature, as I gather from things that
I have heard said since by people who knew me then. But no less
strange was my new guardian: he was very silent, very ill at ease, the
land sights and pounds oppressed him, he longed for his yacht, yet be took
a curious interest in a bunch of wild flowers which some village children
gave me when we stopped to change horses.
These children were coming from school. Tom and I had
been allowed to get out of the chaise, and I was sitting on a mossy bank
crying for my lost mamma, when they came up, and stopping before me,
stared at me and my tears. At last the eldest girl among them asked
me confidentially why I was crying, and I told her; whereupon she took up
her small apron to wipe my cheeks, and these good little Samaritans
presented me with posies, and gave me such comfort as they could.
What they said was not much to the purpose, I dare say, but
it made me happier to talk. I remember one speech very well: it was
a strange one, but true. I had said to the eldest girl that I was
sure I should cry every day till I saw my mamma again.
'Oh no, you won't, Miss,' she answered. 'Why, my mother
died this spring, and I cried ever so at first, but now I never cry except
when I go through the churchyard.'
I said I did not wish to forget my mother. She answered
that I should not forget, only I should get used to it.
What is there indeed that we cannot get used to? In
manhood and womanhood we do not like to be reminded that such is the case,
but childhood is less sophisticated, and I was pleased to be assured by
this more experienced child that she had got used to the loss of her
mother. If she no longer cried whose mother was dead, I hoped I
should not cry long for mine who was only a long way off.
We drove away, and I began to like Uncle Rollin. He
shortly stopped the chaise as he drove through a small town and bought us
some plums. He produced a new half-crown of resplendent brightness,
and handed it to me to pay for them; and when I said what a pity it was to
spend anything so beautiful, and proposed to go without the plums that he
might keep it, he brought forward a shilling, paid the woman for her
fruit, and when I handed him back the half-crown, he said,' Keep it,
Small refections of cakes, buns, sandwiches, and fruit, were
very frequently bought for us during the morning, and these proofs of his
good will I thought more of than of all my mother had said to me of his
kindness in adopting us: yet she had taken great pains to make us
understand that we owed him all gratitude and obedience. She had
also told us that in Australia we could not have been educated without
almost as effectual a separation from her as had taken place under the
present arrangement. Brisbane, to which she was going, did not
appear to our young minds to be a very desirable locality, for papa's
letters described rivers and creeks full of water-snakes, which the
settlers sometimes made pies of, and sometimes blew up with gunpowder when
they found them knotted together, in unusual multitudes, in holes and
crevices. Besides, he described a kind of caterpillar or grub which
both natives and settlers roasted, and thought very delicate eating.
A place where snakes riddled the banks of rivers full of holes, and where
people ate caterpillars, could not be a nice place to live in. I
only hoped my mother might never fall into the evil fashion of partaking
of the roasts; and being now occupied with my flowers, I cried no more,
excepting when I remembered how dull she would be without us; and with all
my yearnings after her, I was quite unaware what a great loss she really
was to me.
Evening came on, the July sun set, then it grew dark, and I
fell sound asleep with weariness, but even in my dreams, little fool that
I was, I thought of my dear mamma with sympathy, and wished she could know
how comfortable we were.
At last somebody shook me. I woke, looked out of the
window, saw the stars and heard voices. Three sailors were standing
by the chaise, it had stopped, and they were taking down the boxes.
Uncle Rollin led me across a meadow. I was very sleepy,
and when we stopped, looking forward into the darkness, I saw numbers of
stars glittering and wavering in the path, and understood that we were
standing by the bank of a river; but I belonged to new people now, so
though I was afraid I did not dare to say a word.
We were shortly put into a boat. They had said that we
were going on board in the gig; Uncle Rollin himself had said that this
was his gig, but sleepy as I was I heard the splashing of oars, and
thought I knew better. There was quite light enough after a time to
show that we were alongside a black bull, and then there were lanthorns to
light us up a queer kind of ladder.
Every one has seen the cabin of a yacht, but how difficult it
would be to describe it. When I had been carried down the companion
into the chief cabin of the 'Curlew,' I became wide awake; and when I saw
the rich fittings, the low ceiling, the strange lamp and fixed tables, and
the general air of crowding and yet of order, I felt as if I was in fairy
land, and this was an enchanted palace.
As I ate my supper I however soon became sleepy again, and
nodded between each mouthful. But I must say that I was a little
surprised at the conduct of my brother, who having something very hot
given him to drink, became rather disrespectful, and insisted on singing a
song. The captain said that the grog had got into his head, and I
hoped it would soon come out, it made him look so red in the face; but I
had not much time for speculation, for a respectable-looking woman entered
shortly and received orders to take me to bed. She led me into a
beautiful and luxurious little room, told me it was to be mine, and
enlarged on its splendour and my fortunate position in being its sole
possessor. I was amazed at the velvet and the gilding, and enchanted
with my curious little bed, no less than with my new attendant, who told
me she had formerly been the stewardess of a passenger vessel at the same
time that her husband was steward, and that now she washed for my uncle,
and mended and made his linen, but she was very glad we were come, for she
had not half enough to do, and was often strangely dull. I might
tell my mamma that she meant to be good to me. I might say that she
was right glad to have me. 'Mrs. Brand sent her respects,' I could
say, 'and wished her to make her mind easy, for she should reckon it a
pleasure to attend to me.' I repeated this message to myself, till I
went to sleep, and in a vivid dream seemed to be telling my mother what a
beautiful and most extraordinary place the 'Curlew' was, and that she need
not be uncomfortable about us, for though Tom had been tipsy once Mrs.
Brand said it would not happen again.
The next morning I woke and looked about me bewildered, the
most wonderful thing I saw being the view through the tiny window close to
my face. Oh what a lovely sight!—a softly flowing river, with
orange rays lying on it, and making it glorious and golden; a great
precipice that went up and up and up so high, that though I pressed my
face against the glass I could not see the top of it; trees growing in the
rents; ivy in round bushes hanging from, or in long ribbands creeping up,
the face of the rock, and wavering reflections of the passing ripples
flowing all over my berth. The softest possible sound of water
washing by and lapping the vessel's side came to my enchanted ears, and I
climbed down from my berth and began to dress with all expedition.
Mrs. Brand came in shortly, told me it was late, but she thought I should
have been tired, and therefore had not called me. She then opened a
box, took out one of my new bonnets, a little cloak that mamma had made
for me, and a sunshade, and desired that in future I would not rise till
she came to me, for she should always wish to brush my hair herself.
'Young ladies,' she remarked rather crossly, 'had no call to wait on
themselves, and ought not to think of it;' then looking over the contents
of my boxes, she shook her head disconsolately, and said, 'Bless my heart,
everything's new, there's not a stitch wanted anywhere'
'Mamma gave me some cotton, and I am to mend my clothes when
they are torn,' I said, by way of showing that I meant to be a good child.
'You are to do no such thing, Miss,' she answered sharply.
'I have particular orders—most particular, to wait on you myself.'
She soon conducted me on deck, where I found Tom, and we
stood gazing about us in mute astonishment. Opposite to us towered a
grey rock, and here and there threw out fantastic masses of projection.
Its summit was fringed with wood, and the narrow river looked like a lane
of water, for the rock under which we lay was equally high; it was broken
and rent, frilled with shrubs, and dabbled with flashes of sunshine.
'I hope we shall stay here a long time,' said Tom, after a
pause of admiration.
'And I hope not,' answered Mrs. Brand, 'a dull place with not
a house to be seen—but I dare say you will get over your time very well.
I should not wonder if you see Tintern, and Chepstow castle, and you too,
Miss, if you behave yourself pretty, and sit still in the gig.'
'I know the ruins of Chepstow are very beautiful,' said Tom.
'Well,' replied Mrs. Brand, 'they would be if they were in
better repair. I don't think much of them myself, and the shops in
Chepstow are very bad, and remarkably dear.'
Oh! methinks how slow
This old moon wanes!
She lingers my desires,
Like to a step-dame or a dowager
Long withering out a young man's revenue.
Midsummer Night's Dream.
AND now followed a week
that I shall always think of with pleasure, because all things being so
new and strange, made deep impressions; and partly owing to the loveliness
of the scenery, partly to the perfect weather, and partly to the kindness
of Uncle Rollin, all these impressions were delightful.
He loved fishing, and he loved solitude, and every morning
while Brand waited at breakfast we used to hear orders given about
fishing-tackle, bread and meat, and fruit, a case-bottle of spirits, and
pea-coat, &c. These things followed in undeviating order; then he
would take out his watch and name the exact time at which the gig was to
be lowered; then he would sigh, and there would come a pause,—sometimes
this was a long pause, as if of doubt, but it generally ended by his
saying, to our infinite relief,
'Got any milk on board?'
'Got a quart, sir,' the steward would reply.
'Then put up a bottle for the boy, and I suppose the child
must go too.'
This last concession always seemed to be wrung out of him
after an internal struggle; and on hearing it we would murmur out our
delight, but only in the quietest fashion, for he hated a noise and seldom
talked to us, though it appeared that he liked to hear our chatter
together, for when we were talking with soft subdued voices he would
sometimes pat us on the head and look at us with an air of amusement and
We were expected, however, to be perfectly quiet in the boat,
and we seldom expressed our pleasure excepting by stealthy glances at one
another, till perhaps after a long pull he would steer for some level
field, and put us ashore for two or three hours to run about and make as
much noise as we pleased.
At the end of the week, as something had to be done to the
yacht, he took us to an hotel close to the Wyndcliffs. Something
almost always seems to want doing to a yacht, as far as I can see.
She wants painting six times as often as a house. When she is in
port, everything in her is overhauled, and any one would think that a day
or two of work, after she starts on her voyage, would get her into sea
trim; but no, from the day she leaves one port till she sails into
another, they are always scraping and scrubbing her, though she has no
chance of contracting any dirt or dust, excepting from the frequent
tarring, the endless painting and varnishing and the greasing that goes
on. People usually suppose that there must be rest and quiet at sea,
but I never saw any; sailors shout and sing so at their work, and what
with hauling and setting sail, with reefing and furling, and their
climbing about in every direction night and day, the noisiest town is more
quiet than the 'Curlew' was when I was on board her.
So, as I said, we were taken to an hotel, and there we did
not see much of our old uncle, but were generally under Mrs. Brand's care.
She was allowed to hire a fly for us and take us about, and under her
auspices we climbed over Banagar crags, and saw the green river beneath,
with the little white boat on her bosom. Sometimes we were 800 feet
high on the upland of the Wyndcliff, or ran stumbling along among the
ruins of Chepstow castle.
Once we had a delightful treat: Uncle Rollin brought us down
from Monmouth bridge, through a strait called Bigs-weir, where the current
is rapid, and the water eddies over slabs of green slippery rocks, leaving
only a narrow space for the passage of a boat.
I can imagine nothing more glorious than the view
here: the rent rocks, the aspiring ramparts, grey below, green above, ever
changing, but always fair.
When we reached Bigs-weir bridge, there was the pleasure of seeing the
little mast lowered, while we went under the arch and sped on to
Brook's-weir, where little schooners and sloops lay taking in their
cargoes. There were two small vessels on the stocks here, and we heard the
delightful tapping of the shipwright's hammers as we passed, but all eyes
were looking onward now, and when we had rounded the point of Lynweir, we
could see the glorious ruin of Tintern Abbey aspiring and roofless.
I remember thinking to myself, 'That old church does not look good, it
looks angry and forlorn;' and when we landed and walked about under the
dazzling green ivy, and beneath a deep blue sky, I felt as if I was taking
a great liberty. I was inclined to shrink away. It is like examining the
old and ragged gown
of some dead queen. What right had we, indeed, spying about in these old
people's places now they were
not there to see? I felt as if they perhaps did see, though, all the time,
and was very much relieved when we got to the river again.
Our tutor, Mr. Tolhurst, made his appearance while we were still at this
hotel, but as he was supposed to know his duties towards us, Uncle Rollin
never took the least notice of him beyond the first greeting, and never
asked any questions even then.
Not so Mrs. Brand; she regarded him with great disfavour, and because the
poor man made some remark tending to show that he meant to go out with us
after our lessons, she rose, trembling with indignation, and gave him a
piece of her mind. 'What did he think
she was there for? She would have him to know that she had particular
orders to take care of us excepting
at such times as we were at our learning with him. He had no call so much
as to think about us at other
times.' She was explaining this to him with great heat, and would have
gone into her qualifications for the task, if he had not cut her short by
entire satisfaction, and marching off to smoke with much alacrity.
'Interfering fellow,' she exclaimed when he was gone, ' if I wasn't sharp
enough to look after my rights there wouldn't be a thing left for me to do
in this blessed world.'
So she bore us off, and very happy we were with her, sometimes driving
out, sometimes scrambling over the cliffs, and often going to see the
lovely 'Curlew,' and fetch things out of her that might be wanted.
There was some talk of a cruise in the Mediterranean, and this she told us
would be delightful; so we were sure it would. And we listened with
the deepest interest to all her sea stories, though they abounded with
phrases which conveyed little meaning to us. When she discovered this, she
got books from the yacht and explained various matters to us, such as the
difference between a full-rigged ship and a barque, which, she remarked,
was so plain that she should have thought any child would have noticed it.
She also took a world of trouble to teach us the names of various sails,
but I do not remember that I took a special interest in any one but the
spanker, the after fore-and-aft sail. According to one of her stories the
boom of this alarming sail had knocked a man overboard. I did not doubt
the fact; Spanker seemed a name only suitable for people and things that
knew how to lay about them, and I was greatly delighted
when she said the yacht had no spanker. Tom seemed to be very quick at
understanding all she chose to tell
him about the yacht. I was very much the reverse, but he comforted me by
assurances that I should soon learn when we got on board.
This desirable event at last took place. We were charged by Mrs. Brand to
be 'as good as gold,' and we should see the anchor hove up. I did not
think much of this sight; but the river in a great state of commotion and
mud, and two little tug steamers backing and charging about like noisy,
quarrelsome duck's, were well worth looking at. And when it was high tide
busy every one was, and how grand it seemed to be towed out by one of
them, and come rocking and curtseying on till we saw the great ships and
the blue delightful sea.
But my pleasure in this sight was soon over. I became first very unhappy, and then very ill. I was carried down by Mrs.
Brand and laid in my berth, and night and day for nearly a week I endured
the misery of seasickness.
I wish it to be distinctly understood that I am sure Mrs. Brand was not
glad I was ill, though she had the nursing of me. But I am sure she
rejoiced to think that if I was to be ill she and no other woman had me in
Every morning Uncle Rollin came to the side of my berth and condoled with
me, and Tom used to sit by me and try to amuse me, but in vain. At last
all at once it became calm. I opened my eyes, and saw
the banks of a river. Tom ran down to congratulate.
I might now get up. We were in smooth water, and about to cast anchor.
Mrs. Brand dressed me and carried me on deck. This was the Orwell, I was
told. Those pretty banks led up to the village of Holbrook, and this red
and particularly ugly town that we were approaching was Ipswich.
I was so weak and ill that I sat on Uncle Rollin's knee, while Tom fed me
with some soup, Uncle Rollin then for the first time showing a great
liking for me, and seeming full of concern and self-reproach. However, he
told me by way of comfort that finding I did not take kindly to a sea life
he had resolved to put me to school for a time, and there, he said, I
should learn to play on the piano and do lambs wool work like other little
I was very much dejected on hearing this, but did not say anything, and
shortly after the gig was manned and we went on shore. I then asked
Tom, who seemed very low and dull, whether there was any help for this,
and he said 'No.' To my comfort and surprise he shed
a few tears of regret at this inevitable parting. No action of his since
my memory began had ever given me such pleasure, and to this day when I
think of it I am glad.
How soon this to me important affair was arranged. Uncle Rollin had called
on an old naval officer whom he knew, and asked if he could recommend a
'My granddaughter,' was the reply, 'is with Mrs. Bell.'
'Are they good to the girls there,' asked my uncle, 'and do they take 'em
to church, and see that they read their Bibles?'
'All right as to that,' replied the friend, 'and the girls must be well
cared for, they look ,so fresh and rosy.'
This conversation Uncle Rollin repeated to me when he came on board. He
had not inquired the terms or any further particulars, but he had nearly
decided to place me with this lady.
I cried when he told me so, and felt very desolate at the notion of
leaving him. When I expressed this he was greatly gratified, and said, 'Why, the child seems actually fond of me.'
The next day, dressed in my best, and holding Tom by the hand, I walked
with Uncle Rollin to call on and perhaps be left with the mistress of my
future lot. We went down many narrow streets, and came at last to an ugly
house, as I then thought it, but I was too much agitated to observe things
very keenly. We were shown into a parlour, and Uncle Rollin, made
excessively nervous by my tears and Tom's perturbed manner, wiped his
brow, groaned, and declared that he wished the business was well over.
A lady came in, a few hurried compliments were paid, and some kind
directions given; then some parting kisses from both, and a present of
five sovereigns from Uncle Rollin, and off they both went in urgent haste
to terminate the nervous business.
And now the old thought recurs: if I write this
truly, I am in fear of Mrs. Bell even in this my chamber. What if she or
the English teacher should ever
see this at some future time! On the other hand, what pleasure is it to me
to write it unless I represent things as they really were? I think I will
take a middle course, and avow that I was not happy, but I will not enter
much into particulars.
Some of the things that made me uncomfortable, so dull, and so lonely,
were no fault of Mrs. Bell's. Some were my fault.
One thing it was natural and inevitable that I should feel during those
nine long years. This was the
extreme youth of all the other pupils. I was the eldest when I entered; I
became increasingly the eldest, for during the whole time of my stay no
pupil left school
at a more advanced age than ten years. I was thus
utterly deprived of companionship. It was essentially a preparatory
school. I admit that in my education
this did not matter. My uncle paid most liberally, and Mrs. Bell procured
excellent masters for me—and for
me only. I took all my lessons alone, as far as fellow learners were
In some other matters, also, I had no just grounds for complaint. I had
excellent food, a nice little bedroom, and my dress, which was provided by
Mrs. Bell, was always in good taste, suitable, and ample.
One grievance there, was a sad disadvantage to a child whose mother was at
a distance: all the letters were read, not excepting those addressed to
her, and all the letters received were also read, before the girls saw
This was duly mentioned to Uncle Rollin, but he did not understand that it
would soon shut me off from real intercourse with my family, and make me,
as I grew up, a stranger to my own mother and brother. My over-looked
letters became short, stupid, and constrained, and in consequence the
replies suffered, and were increasingly vague and meagre.
All the strange and unusual things that I knew were useless, and ignorance
of music at first embittered my
days. I had to practise three hours a day, but with no taste, and a strong
yearning after other pursuits. I scarcely made any progress at first,
excepting in the theory.
No, certainly it is of no use my trying to persuade myself that those were
happy years. They were not. I had none to love but the little chubby
pupils; no one
ever talked to me but the masters. I had no means at first of satisfying
the cravings of my mind for information, for there were no books but school-books. Of course there were no
newspapers, and no walks out of doors, excepting in the regular routine. Moreover, I stayed at school during the holidays, and for three years I
never saw Uncle Rollin or my brother.
Then I saw them both for one half hour. Oh, shall I ever forget how I
looked at them, especially at Tom, and how my heart ached to see that
assuredly if I had met him in the street I should not have known him!
He was a great fellow of fifteen, browned by exposure to sea breezes, and
with a general air of a young naval officer about him. He was pleased to
see me, and when he spoke, I did not recognize his voice, it was so
'Should you know me, dear Tom?' I ventured to ask.
'Know you?' he answered, laughing; 'why, you are not at all altered, and
very little grown. What a little thing you are, Dorothy. I say,' he
continued, while Mrs. Bell talked to Uncle Rollin, 'how tame
you look, Missy. You used to be such a bold, daring little creature; don't
let them domineer too much; pluck up a little spirit'
My terror was very great lest Mrs. Bell should hear us whispering
together, an act which was considered highly ill-bred. I did not dare to
make any answer. 'You seem to have a nice view out of this window,' he
continued, walking up to it. I followed, surprised to hear him say so, and
I saw in his hand a large, a very large and bulky letter. I felt my heart
beat almost more with fear than with joy; and while I stood
motionless, he walked round me, found my pocket-hole, poked the great
letter in himself, and continued to talk to me with easy assurance till I
recovered my self-possession.
How soon that precious half hour was over. When Uncle Rollin rose to
depart, I forgot the presence of Mrs. Bell, and burst into tears,
imploring Tom not to forget me, and Uncle Rollin to let me come back soon.
Uncle Rollin was troubled, and began, 'If she was not such a puny little
thing, I would take her back now.' And he looked at Mrs. Bell, who, before
Tom could say a word, assured him calmly that it was quite essential I
should remain at school a few years longer.
Tom gave her an expressive look, and said, with a smiling assurance that
astonished me, 'Very few indeed, I hope; for my sister was by no means
ignorant when she came here.'
Then they took leave of me; and for many weeks after my little snatches of
leisure were cheered by Tom's long delightful letter. It roused my
courage, and nerved me to be indifferent to little discomforts, and bear
all with a brave heart. Moreover, it told me
of an arrangement which I soon felt the benefit of. I was to have a master
to read English literature with me, and under his auspices I might read
any books that the town library afforded. To this library my uncle had begun to subscribe for me, and when my dear master, a fresh, kind-hearted old
clergyman, had read with me a few times I was much happier. I had so much
more to think about. Moreover, I became fond of my master, liked to hear
his dear heavy foot shuffling to the door, and liked to do and learn as
much as I could, that he might be pleased with me. I was thirteen and a
half years old, and could now play the bass of duets as well as most
children of eight. As I sat wearily practising, I had now the English
master to expect, and Tom's letter to think about,—Tom's letter, which
told me of hunting bears in Norway, or sailing in summer-time into still
fiords, and seeing at the bottom of the clear water hundreds of blue
lobsters creeping about, and sea
anemones expanding like rows of prize chrysanthemums.
If the girls had been of my own age, and Mrs. Bell had been in the least
fond of me, the end of this would have been that I should have ceased to
care for my relations, and have attached myself entirely to the people
about me. As it was, I clung pertinaciously to the memory of my mother,
Uncle Rollin, and Tom, and longed for the day when school life would be
over. 'A force de forger on devient forgeur,' says the proverb. When I
was sixteen I had practised till I absolutely began rather to like music;
and this feeling gradually increased, till I found it quite pleasant to
take my lessons.
I never excelled, but I played very tolerably, and sung, as I was assured,
agreeably. When I was sixteen and a half I received a present of a gold
watch from Uncle Rollin, together with six sovereigns and the assurance
that he and Tom would come to see me very soon. Of course I expected them
joyously for a week; then I expected them anxiously for another week; then
I expected them with the sickness of hope deferred for a third week; and
then I became ill, for the first and only time while I was at school. I
believe nothing was
the matter with me but disappointment. It was during the Midsummer
holidays. I became very thin, very pale, and feverish; could not eat,
sleep, or sit up; and at last a doctor was sent for. He ordered that I
should be sent to Felixstowe, a charming little place, twelve miles from
I was sent with the English teacher for a month, and came home quite
cheerful, and almost strong. I had found shark's teeth in the cliff,
bought pieces of amber of the woman who polished them, and enjoyed the
sight of the sea.
I also saw lying at anchor, the brig, that famous brig in which my mother
had spent her girlhood. It lay not far from Landguard fort, and I could
see the old sailors on board, but of course they knew nothing about me;
and my timid proposal that we should take
a rowing boat and go out to her with some tobacco and tea, bought with my
money, was received with such horror that I never ventured to allude to it
After my return came the first real sorrow of my life, but it was broken
to me with a kindness and considerate indulgence which made me feel as if
I was among friends for the first and only time during those dull years.
Ah, well, I cannot describe this,—my hasty rush down-stairs, on hearing
that there was a letter for me, the sudden pause, the slow quiet with
which I was told to sit down, and the cold that seemed to drive in upon my
heart when still there was silence.
My mother was dead: her death had taken place sometime before my illness,
and one of the first thoughts that flashed into my mind was of bitter
regret that she would never read those letters that I had written to her
from Felixstowe—and which I had been allowed by the English teacher to
post unread. They were the only natural, unrestrained letters I had sent
her since our parting, but I hoped she did not want them now.
My precious mother! and her illness had been so short, but I knew she
would have mentioned her far-off children if she had been able. It was my
father who wrote, and he said very little,—even that was not all about my
mother, for he added his thankfulness at Uncle Rollin's goodness to us,
and his hope that I was grateful and content.
I was greatly grieved. I had so much indulged the hope of one day going
out to her, and being with her when she was old, and yet I was quite
aware, young as I was, that mine could not be a very intelligent estimate
of her character. I felt, even then, that she was doubtless far above what I knew of her. I had only lost
a child's mother, whom
I recollected as careful over me, indulgent, and kind—but as my own mind
and feelings had expanded, I had believed and known that I should find her
as different from what I had seemed to part from, as I was myself
different from the child daughter who had been so sorry for her on the
'She died as she had lived, in the fear of God, and in the peace and hope
of the gospel.'
Those were my father's words. Just at first I gave way to a passion of
sorrow, but after the day when those sorrowful tidings came to me I always
knew that my grief could be nothing compared with that of a child
who loses a present parent. The hope of something that I had craved for
was gone—the hope of her company; but the actual difference caused by
her removal was only the ceasing of those formal letters she had sent me,
knowing when she wrote that they would be read over before I saw them. Letters from Tom or from Uncle Rollin were of very rare occurrence now,
and all my life seemed to be narrowed into the books I was reading and the
languages I was learning.
When I was seventeen I had, however, a great pleasure, for Mrs. Bell,
having a sick friend who lived at Norwich, took lodgings there during the
Midsummer holidays in order to be near her, and took me with her.
So I saw the place where they know all about angels, and I was allowed to
be a good deal in the Cathedral. It was like a glimpse of Paradise to me,
and a renewal of babyhood.
After this—that is, in the spring of the next year—I was taken to
London, in obedience to a mandate of Uncle Rollin, who sent a handsome sum
of money to pay all the expenses. Accordingly Mrs. Bell went with me
herself, and left her little scholars under the care of her younger
sister. It was all so arranged as to be
a part of my education. The museums, the picture-galleries, the buildings,
were all to be studied in a conscientious and plodding way, with books in
her hand and in mine, that I might be quite sure I had learned all I
possibly could from them.
It was on the first of June during this same year, and I was between
eighteen and nineteen, when the next promise came from Uncle Rollin that
he would call and see me.
I was practising music when the letter was given me,
and oh, the tumult of my mind as I read! Tom was not with him, he
said; an old friend of his, a Mr. Mompesson, had asked him to come and
stay a few days at his parsonage.
Fully grown up and still at school. No talk of my leaving it yet.
How my heart sickened and fainted to be alone with him, if only for an
hour, that I might learn what he meant to do with me, something of Tom's
prospects, my father's circumstances, and a thousand other things that I was ignorant of. Could he be come to release me
and take me on board with him? That I scarcely dared to think of.
I heard a knock at the door, my music came to an end,
and my heart appeared to stop too. The visitor was ushered in, and
oh, happy chance, for several minutes I was alone with him. My delight was far too great
to be disguised. He and Tom were all I had to love in this hemisphere; and
though I ought to have remembered that his hatred of a scene was strong
enough to make him run away from me, I expressed it in no measured terms.
At first he was alarmed, then he held me from him with an air of great
surprise, and as I hung about him he put his hand on my head, and said
kindly, 'Why, you are but a little creature, my dear; you look like a
child still—shall we never make a woman of you?'
'Oh,' I thought, 'what a cruel chance that I look so young.' Tears choked
me, I could not beg him to take me with him; and Mrs. Bell now entering, I
felt my vehemence subside; habitual decorum prevailed; I dried my eyes,
and felt, with aching distress of mind, that he had not come to take me
They talked on commonplace themes, my growth, my progress, the crops, the
weather. Uncle Rollin looked shy, and so great was the agitation of
my mind that I could not summon courage to ask before Mrs. Bell whether I
might leave school; and I believe he would actually have gone away again
without hearing my voice any more if in stooping to kiss me he had not
'Well, my dear, is there anything you want?'
'Oh yes, uncle,' I
'My dear,' expostulated Mrs. Bell, 'I am surprised. Is this the decorum I
expect from Miss Graham?'
'There is something,' I repeated hardly knowing what I said, 'oh there
is something that I want so much.' He had told me in his letter that he
had put into Harwich because the 'Curlew' wanted something done to her,
and I supposed, erroneously as it appeared afterwards, that he was living
on board the other vessel; so when he repeated kindly, 'Well, you have
never asked a favour of me all these years, so Mrs. Bell will excuse you, I
hope—what is it?' I exclaimed as boldly as excessive agitation would
permit, 'I want to go and spend a day with you, uncle, on board the
'On board the brig!' repeated Mrs. Bell in a faint tone of ladylike alarm.
I was holding his hand, and rendered desperate by exceeding desire for
only one private conversation with him, repeated,
'Pray do, uncle—I have never been away, never been with you for years! I
want to hear about my brother.'
A ball seemed to rise in my throat, and a mist swam before my eyes when I
said these audacious words in the august presence of her to whom they
would, I knew, be so displeasing; but so much depended on them that I
forgot for once to be afraid, and burst into a passion of tears, while
Mrs. Bell looked at me with grave reproof.
Uncle Rollin meantime stood mute, overcome by shyness and surprise. But
determined, if possible, to gain my point, I dried my eyes, and vehemently
entreated that I might go with him, saying, 'Uncle, you said I had not
asked a favour all these years.'
'So I did,' he repeated.
'Then will you, oh will you grant me this one? May I put on my bonnet and
go with you for this one day ?'
'Well-yes' he answered slowly. And, without waiting to hear another
word, I flew up-stairs, snatched
my bonnet, gloves, and mantle from the drawer, and ran down equipped for
the day in less than two minutes.
Terror shook my limbs as, on reaching the foot of the stairs, I
encountered my uncle, looking very hot and shy, and Mrs. Bell in high
indignation, and with a peculiarly set expression of firmness about her
He seemed in a great hurry as well as in a great fright, and taking my
hand led me hastily to the door. Mrs. Bell was explaining that she could
not send for me in the evening; my uncle only replied that it was of no
consequence, wishing her good morning, and I heard the door shut after us
with a thrill of incredulous joy.
But after such a daring action as that I had committed, came the
inevitable consideration of what would become of me when I returned in the
evening, and had to bear the brunt of Mrs. Bell's anger all alone.
So much did this thought damp my joy that I could not say a word, but
hurried with my uncle through the town, down St. Matthew's street, and
even a little way along the Whitton road, before I remembered that we were
leaving the river behind us.
He was quite as much bewildered as I was; in fact, we were both, as it
were, running away.
'Uncle,' I ventured to say, 'we are not going the right way; we must turn
and go down St. Peter's street.'
'Ah, true, true,' he replied; and he came back with every appearance of
At last we reached the bridge; it was high-water I saw, to my joy, the
white boat that I remembered so well, and I recognized the steward, who
was evidently lingering about, looking for Uncle Rollin.
In three minutes we were in that boat. And now what good had my hardly-won
holiday done me? Of course I could not talk to my uncle before the
sailors. I was not at all sure that he was pleased with me, for he sat
very gravely and silently, with the tiller ropes in his hands, and without
giving me any look of kindness or encouragement.
We rowed past the wharves and reached the broader
portion of the river, then we put up a sail; but even with this advantage
I knew that we should not reach Landguard fort till two o'clock, and my
mind became distracted with anxiety as to how I was to get back again, and
what would be said and done to punish me and mortify me if I did not reach
home till the middle of the night?
Still, not a word did my uncle say; and aware that, bad as things were, I
had entirely brought them on myself, I sat gravely before him trying to
think of some plan by which I might return, and almost forgetting that
craving for information about my family which had lately absorbed my mind.
At last we approached not the brig, but the 'Curlew:' she was radiant
with fresh paint, and was lying in Downham Reach, evidently expecting us.
Nothing was said to me, but I went up her side when my uncle did, and
followed him into the chief cabin. Once at home in his yacht, his
constraint vanished, he first laughed with some exultation, then kissed me
kindly, and then taking a survey of me, said, but with some hesitation,
that I was welcome. Dinner was brought in, but I, still revolving my
return to Ipswich, sat with my bonnet on.
'Come, child,' said my uncle, 'have you forgotten your old berth? Go and
look at it.'
I went to my cabin. How pretty and fresh it was, newly fitted up with
green and gold, and how little I cared for that.
Mrs. Brand appeared, and seemed pleased; till, looking at my troubled
countenance, she guessed that something was wrong. Her old desire for
something to do, however, induced her to ask if she might arrange my hair,
and before it was finished, my uncle came to the door, and I made haste
and went with him to the chief cabin, where, when we had seated ourselves
at table, he again laughed exultingly, and proceeded to heap my plate with
meat and salad.
'What are you thinking of?' he inquired, when he found that I could
neither eat nor talk.
'Mrs. Bell,' I answered.
'I thought so, but she won't come on board. I've put three long reaches of
water between us.'
'But what will she say?'
'What do I care? I shall not go to hear it, I shall send Brand.'
'Will you send a message then, and beg her not to be displeased with me?'
'Why? it is no affair of yours.'
'If we are not at home till the middle of the night,' I
answered, 'Mrs. Bell will never forgive me.'
'Why,' exclaimed my uncle, sitting upright in his chair, and staring at
me, 'I do believe the child thinks she is going back again.'
Never shall I forget what I felt when I heard those remarkable words. I
looked at his kind face, to be sure that he was not joking; then I looked
about me with a curious notion that I could not really be on board the
'Curlew,' listening to the flow of the water, and watching the reflection
of those golden wavelets floating on the sides, that I had thought of and
dreamed of so long.
'Well,' said Uncle Rollin, 'can you eat your dinner now?'
'Let me have no hysterics—I hate scenes.'
'So do I.'
'You don't want to go back to school, do you?'
'Very well, and I don't want to take you back. I came on purpose to fetch
you away, but your mistress put me in such a fright that I could not tell
'I am going to stay here really and truly, and never going to see Mrs.
Bell any more?'
'Really and truly going to stay away, and never going to see Mrs. Bell any
more, with my consent,—that is the exact state of the case; and enough to
say about it. I am angry, I want, my dinner, and I want to see you eat
This sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are upgather'd now like sleeping flowers—
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us
I TOOK up my knife and fork and began to eat in a dream of delight and
gratitude that became sweeter every moment. My uncle had never looked so
kind and venerable, the cabin seemed a gorgeous place, the taste of the
meat was delicious—never had I eaten such salad! The rush of the water
was music, the voices of the sailors overhead, their footsteps, and all
the sounds in the vessel, came back to my recollection like the poetry of
life waking up after a long sleep, and my heart danced for joy at this
sudden return to home and freedom.
Brand, the steward, came in with a large jam roll, that favourite sea
'Brand,' said Uncle Rollin, 'Miss Graham has run away from school.'
The steward looked surprised, and answered gravely, 'Very well, sir.'
'She's come aboard with no outfit,' continued Uncle Rollin;
'you must go
and fetch her books, and clothes, and all her other stores.'
'Ay, ay, sir,' replied the steward.
'Man the jolly-boat, and set off as soon as may be.'
Uncle Rollin then began to eat his pudding, as if he intended to give no
further orders, but though Brand knew this was no time to ask questions,
he did not proceed to act , but stood quietly by till my uncle had
finished his pudding. I then said to him, 'Will you send a note,
uncle, or some directions?'
'I'll send a cheque,' he replied, 'the rest you must manage.
Fetch your wife, Brand.'
No sooner said than done—enter steward with his wife.
Uncle Rollin was cutting a piece of cheese, and without looking up he
said, 'Brand and Mrs. Brand.'
'Yes, sir,' said the wife, answering for both. 'Miss
Graham is come on board for good.'
'Glad to hear it, sir, I'm sure; and hope you find yourself
pretty well, Miss,' said Mrs. Brand, though she had seen me before.
'Miss Graham's orders in this vessel are to be obeyed like my
own,' he continued, 'in all matters that concern her. There now, for
goodness' sake, arrange the matter for yourself, Dorothea; and Brand, give
me a glass of stout.'
He evidently did not mean to say another word, and I,
blushing up to the eyes, could not make up my mind to give orders before
him, so I said to Mrs. Brand that after dinner I would come and consult
with her what had better be done, and she curtseyed and withdrew.
When dinner was over and we were alone, Uncle Rollin took out his purse,
and without a word of preparation said to me,
'I mean to allow you thirty pounds a year for your clothes,
as I did your mother before you.'
While I was trying to thank him with something like the
gratitude I felt, he counted out seven pounds ten shillings, rung the
money on the table as if to prove that it was good, and said, 'There is
your first quarter's allowance.'
I should like to have kissed him, and perhaps the expression
of my face when he rose from the table made him think I wished for
something more, for he stopped when he had nearly reached the door, and
said with a sigh and a little impatience of manner, 'You will have the
same accommodation as before, and no one is to enter your cabin without
your permission. Have you anything to say? because if so, I wish to
hear it at once and have done with it.'
Something in his manner pained me keenly: it was that of a
man who was yielding to what he considered a disagreeable necessity, the
nature of which was dawning on him and depressing his spirits.
He stood waiting for me to speak, with his head turned a
little over his shoulder, and sighed again; so I uttered my thought.
'Among other things, I wanted to ask, uncle, whether you had
always intended me to live on board with you, or whether you had been
surprised into consenting to it by what has happened to-day?'
'What put that into your head?' he asked.
'Mrs. Bell has often told me I could not expect it of you.'
'Ah, well, she has frequently written to me, when I have
hinted at taking you away, that this was not a fit place for a lady.
Quite right; and a trouble,—that's true; but trouble is the lot of man.'
So Mrs. Bell had been the cause of my staying away so long.
How that newly discovered fact altered all my feelings towards her and
towards my uncle! At that early stage of the discussion I had my
wits about me, and could be cautious; so I answered—
'It is natural that you should expect my being at sea with
you to be a trouble. I do not doubt that it will be; and if you do
not mind telling me whether you have always intended it, I should like to
'Well,' he said, and hummed and hesitated a little, 'I had
not intended it.'
Still he held the door-handle, and stood with his back to me.
'Then, uncle, why have you changed your mind?' Upon
this he turned towards me, as if trying to find the reason.
'Upon my word,' he said, 'I hardly know.'
'Then perhaps it is not permanently changed?' I
'I am not used to be questioned in this way.
Permanently,—permanently! How should I know whether I have changed
'Uncle, that is the same thing as saying that you have
yielded to circumstances, and changed it only for the time being, to save
trouble, and because you did not know what else to do with me.'
'Pooh, child, I don't mind you. I was always fond of
'I am a woman now,—a grown-up woman.'
'You will always be a very little one,' he answered with a
'Yes, but that will not interfere with my earning my own
'What do you mean?'
'Uncle, you have taken care that I should have an excellent
education, and, as a teacher, I can easily earn any living. So, if
that is to be my lot,—as Mrs. Bell often hinted as probable,—and if you
only take me on board for the present, knowing that it will interfere with
your comfort to retain me, and intending to place me in a situation, I
want to be prepared, and then when the time comes I shall not be so much
'Gratuitous—all gratuitous suppositions,' he answered.
'Women, I suppose, always have a great flow of words; but I wish you were
not in such a hurry to pour them all out at once. Let me see: you
want to know whether I intend you to earn your bread. I do not
intend it, while I live or after I am dead. Now, what else?
Oh, whether I meant you to live on board. "No" to that. I
meant to board you in some good family ashore where you could live like
other girls, go into society, and have some motherly woman to look after
you. There, my plan was a vast deal better for you than living here
with nobody to speak to but me and your brother, who does not want you, I
can tell you. You might live so with every comfort.'
'And never see Tom, and never see you?'
'What do you want to see me for? Do you mean to say
that you should be better pleased to stay here?'
'Pleased, uncle! Why, the hope of staying only
for a time makes me happier than I have ever been in my life.'
'Yes, I really believe it does.'
'Do you think I have no affection for you?' I exclaimed,
shocked at his surprise that I should want to be with him.
A sort of contentment and pleasure stole over his face that
was comforting to see, but he answered, 'I don't know why you should have.
People give love for love, and not for money.'
This was a very uncompromising way of letting me know he felt
no love for me.
It took me by surprise: in spite of myself I felt choked, and
tears would run down my checks. I forgot myself, and said, sobbing,
'People don't always give love for love,—sometimes they give it for
nothing.' Ridiculous speech! as if I had not seen the pleasure that
had stolen over his face a few minutes before; but I felt as if my
sheet-anchor had given way, and my chief reason for longing to be with him
He replied roughly, 'Don't you give it for nothing!' and I
'I must—I would much rather give it for nothing than not give
it at all.'
'You look too much like a child and you talk too much like a
woman,' he replied. 'I hate these discussions. What! did I think of
you all those years? not at all; but I like you well enough now. And
as to my money, I gave that to get rid of you when you were a puling
child. You are not wise. Take things as you find them.
Don't sob so. There.'
He came up to me as I stood trying to check my crying fit,
and gave me a kiss on the forehead. He seemed to have forgotten his
intention of going on deck; and when I had dried my eyes, and could look
at him, I saw that his kind, handsome old face looked pleased and glad,
till stopping short, he said, 'I was not alluding to myself, in
particular, when I advised you not to bestow your regard for nothing.'
'No, uncle,' I answered, forgetting myself, 'and what reason
is there that I should?'
'The child veers round like the wind.'
Still he looked at me, and his countenance seemed to show
dawning affection and pleasure. 'Come here,' he said; and encouraged
by his manner I came and put my arms round his neck.
'Well, well,' he said, as if speaking to himself; 'a man must
take things as he finds them. I bring up a girl at school, and she
comes on board and cries, and says she loves me. Women are strange
creatures; must not be hardly dealt with. And so, after all, you
don't mean to love me for nothing.'
What was the use of arguing with him, and proving that this
was impossible? because I already owed him all the love and duty in the
world. I answered instead, 'No, uncle, for you know you are going to
love me in return.'
'Well, that's one way of settling the matter, certainly,' he
said, surprised into a laugh.
'So you want to stop on board with me?' he continued, when he
had resumed his seat.
'Yes, if you please.'
'Well, I suppose I do please; and if you give a little
trouble I don't care, provided there are no scenes. This one is to
be the first and last. I hate demonstrations and speeches.'
'I may kiss you if you go away for a few days?'
'Yes, to be sure.'
'I don't want to make any other demonstrations nor any
speeches about your having provided for me, and how grateful I feel, and
how I hope to be a daughter to you in your old age. I shall keep all
that to myself. I know it will be undutiful to mention it, though of
course I shall feel it all the same.'
'You call this keeping it to yourself, do you? You are
the strangest creature I ever saw—not in the least to look at, like the
shrewd young woman you evidently are.'
'Yes, I know I am plain.
'Not at all; I don't see that you are plain, though certainly
you are no beauty. But you contrive to say and do what you please,
in spite of me, and even while telling me you don't intend it. Now,
I won't have any more of that; you have said your say once. Let me
have no more talk of gratitude.'
'Very well, uncle.'
'Very well, uncle!' he repeated. 'No; I never did see
anything so demure in my life! When I am in the humour for it, and
when we are alone,' was his next speech, 'I don't mind a little nonsense
now and then.'
By nonsense I knew he meant any sort of evidence by word or
act that affection was felt for him. For the rest, I saw he was
gratified at my audacity in daring to thank him for his long goodness; and
I did not say, 'How shall I find out when you are in the humour?' for
never was there a man whose character and whose wishes were more easily
The golden sunshine lay softly on the water, and the tide had
turned, when I remembered that I ought to go and give directions about my
Uncle Rollin wrote a cheque and a note, in which he enclosed
it. I asked, not without trepidation, whether I was to write also;
but the time was gone by, I found, when others would be responsible for my
actions, and I was told to do as I pleased. So I knew I ought to
write, and I did.
If the recollection of Uncle Rollin's words had not been
fresh in my heart, if he had not told me that Mrs. Bell had frequently
written to dissuade him from taking me away, I could have made it a
grateful letter, for I was so happy, and so much inclined to see even
school life in the best light. But now, in spite of the knowledge
that my long residence, and the liberal pay given with me, were very
important to her, providing her with one permanent pupil and good profit,
I could not write gratefully; so I wrote humbly, and only at the end
ventured to thank her for the excellent masters she had given me.
The letter was most polite, and very full of apology. I said,
truly enough, that I had not been aware in the morning of my uncle's
intentions respecting me, and I expressed regret that I had not been able
to take leave of her, and the masters, and my fellow pupils.
I went and found Mrs. Brand, gave her the letter and the
note, asked her to go in the boat to Ipswich, and offer to help in packing
my possessions, and also to buy me a railway wrapper, and a sunshade,
commonly called an ugly.
She was delighted with the commission, and to describe my
happiness when I came on deck and saw the polished expanse of water, the
green wooded banks, the distant sea, and all the loveliness of the sky,
would be impossible.
Uncle Rollin was slowly pacing the deck with his cigar.
I sat looking about me in all the bliss of newly-found freedom, till the
sun went down in a bank of ruddy cloud, and the white moon rose, and
shone, or was lost again behind the sails of brigs and schooners, as they
came slowly past us; then the 'Curlew' herself began to give forth light
from numberless little bits of glass, hardly noticed by day. From
the chief cabin, alias the saloon, streamed forth warm rays, while from
the cliffs on the right two light-houses continually gleamed and waned
At last clouds came over the moon, and it became so dark that
I only heard, not saw, the calm water washing against the vessel's side.
There is nothing more delightful than to sit, as I sat there,
on a balmy summer night, and hear the noises on the shore, see lighted
houses, hear cattle lowing, and feel the peaceful isolation of the vessel.
How strangely soon the heart accustoms itself to happiness! I did
not feel my new position at all a difficult one. I, who in the
morning was a humble school-girl, looking to the eye of Mrs. Bell for
direction, and dreading the least disapproval, sitting in the prescribed
attitude, and eating, contrary to my wish, the prescribed quantity of
bread and butter,—was now, in the evening, a young lady, with servants at
my command, my time at my disposal, an indulgent uncle, a brother coming
soon, a cheerful home, adventures before me; and yet my heart had expanded
in a moment, my spirit had sprung forth to meet these new hopes, and this
position, so that it seemed a natural one. All those years of
constraint had not depressed me, and as I sat listening and looking, I
repeated constantly to myself that now it would certainly be my own fault
if I was not happy. Ah, what did I mean by that word happy? not what
I mean now, or my thought was wrong; but assuredly, so far as that I meant
the reverse of wretched, discontented, listless, and incapable of
rejoicing, I was right.
This seemed a great event in my life. I prayed that God
would make it as much for my good as it certainly was for my pleasure, and
I thought long and earnestly about the subject of a sermon that,
singularly enough, I had heard the Sunday before: it was on discipline.
I had thought at the time of the long discipline of school that I was
subject to, and wished it was over; but now I felt for the first time some
meaning in that familiar phrase, 'The discipline of life.' The
outward discipline of school was indeed over, and the mystery hitherto
unknown, life in its fullest meaning, and the discipline of life, were to
I was so exultant, so exquisitely happy, that after awhile
came a reaction, and I was afraid—a sort of vague fear that such a
blissful hour would not often revisit me took possession of my mind, and I
listened to the far-off break of the waves, and the slipping of
river-water past me to swell them, with a consciousness that, literally as
well as metaphorically, my life had been passed with the quiet river, and
now I was to go forth upon the changeful sea.
At last my uncle paced by me, humming a tune; and I felt that
now my hardly-earned musical knowledge would be of some use. I could
at least sing correctly, though my voice was not at all powerful; so as be
passed near I took up the time rather in a low voice, to see whether it
would be agreeable to him. He stopped, evidently listening; I went
on, and he began to beat time softly. When I had done he said, but
not as if addressing me, 'Yes, yes, a piano must be got for her. The
girl will be lost without one.' And he went on with his walk,
singing more loudly than before.
After the labour and the money that had been expended on my
music, I was glad to find that he did not mean it never to be of use to
him, for he loved music, and it was the only thing he had made a point of
in my education, excepting religious instruction. Brand and Mrs.
Brand did not come that night, so at last I went to bed, went to my berth,
which I was surprised to find ready for me, and also to observe that the
other berths were made up with snow-white sheets and counterpanes.
I asked my uncle in the morning why this was. He
replied that Tom had intended to bring Mr. and Mrs. Mompesson on board,
with two of their children, but that they had persuaded him to spend a
short time with them first. And now they would not come for some
weeks. My heart leaped with joy. All sorts of delightful
things were happening together, and now also seemed to be a convenient
time for asking some questions respecting my father and Amy, things that I
had longed to know for years.
They were going on as usual, said Uncle Rollin; nothing
particular had happened.
'Then would they soon come home?'
'No, child, the debts are not half paid, though they live
with all economy.'
I asked, since my father was never extravagant, how he
happened to get into debt.
'Child, he was security for a rascal who made off with ten
thousand pounds. It is better you should know nothing about that, if
your mother did not tell you.'
'She never said a word about it.'
'She was a good woman. I have helped them; they gave up
everything, and what could they do more?'
'And is my father paying any of this money now?'
'Don't see how that is possible, but he seems contented.'
'I have often, particularly the last few months, been very
anxious to hear something more about mamma's death.'
'I should not have thought you would have remembered her; you
were young when she gave you to me. I hope hearing so little
has not weighed on your mind.'
'It never did till lately,—indeed, not till the last half
year. I am a woman now, and did not like to know nothing about my
'Well, well,' he said calmly and dispassionately, 'your
father will not get on there. I don't expect it. I have lent
him money which I never mean to ask for; but your mother was no manager.
As for your father, I respect him, but he has mistaken his vocation; he is
not fit for a bush life. However, he seems well enough pleased with
Australia—would not come back, he says, on any account. Amy is a
fine girl, I understand, and has had an offer.'
The first part of this speech pained me, but the latter part
was astounding! While I had been practising my music at school, my
little sister, my younger sister, had actually been sought in marriage.
Uncle Rollin was not in the humour to talk more, so I went to my peculiar
domain, shut the door, and sat down to think. I shall not record all
my thoughts: some I must. I looked at myself in the glass, and
wondered what Tom would think of me, and what other people would think,
and I dressed my hair several different ways, in order, if possible, to
add a year or two to my apparent age—but in any style I could not make
myself look more than fifteen, or at least, as I fondly hoped, sixteen.
Amy had had an offer; she clearly looked like a woman, then.
I did not yet. At school it had not seemed to matter what I was
like; now, it certainly did. My height was five feet three
inches—not so very short; but then, as Mrs. Bell had often said, I had the
effect of being small. I was considered to be a little creature, and
it is of no use to argue against people's impressions concerning one.
I was too slender and girlish in figure to pass for a woman. Still I
hoped Tom would think me tolerable. My large eyes I knew were not
handsome in colour; it was hard to say whether they were brown or a
greenish grey,—they looked black by candlelight. Then my hair, there
was plenty of it, but it wanted richness of colour; it was light, but not
yellow enough to please me. I felt, in fact, that I was
I had scarcely finished my scrutiny when Mrs. Brand appeared,
and presently my boxes were placed on the floor. Mrs. Brand had not
seen the lady, but had heard a voice by which she judged that the lady was
'in a way.' The voice had said, 'Oh dear, no—tell the woman
there is no message whatever.'
'So the next morning,' said Mrs. Brand, 'I called according
to orders, Brand and me with a cart. Some boxes stood in a front
court before the house, and a housemaid opened a window up-stairs, and
said we were to take them away.'
I had been dreading a letter; so this silence, which was
intended to intimate displeasure too great for words, proved a delightful
relief to me.
Mrs. Brand unpacked my boxes, lingering over them, as if to
have something to do was a treat not to be appreciated unless it was long
She said none of my gowns excepting the best would stand sea
air, and hinted that if I would go on shore the next day and buy material
for dresses, she could make them, for she had seen the fashion-book open
in a milliner's window at Ipswich.
She specified exactly what she wished me to have, namely, a
brown holland dress trimmed with broad braid. I said she might buy
it for me at Harwich, and joy thereupon lifted up her handsome features.
She said it was probable that Tom might come on board that
morning, and my spirits were thrown into a flutter at the news; my first
thought was to make myself look as well as I could, and I donned my best
dress, a neat dark blue silk. I also put on my lace collar and
sleeves, and my little gold brooch with Tom's hair in it, and while I was
considering whether an impartial stranger would pronounce me to be a young
woman or consider me a child, she was called away, and I sat down and felt
how foolish I was to have thought that appearance would influence one's
brother to care more or less for a sister; yet in spite of the reflection,
I took out a little ring that my brother had sent me, and added it to my
As I drew the ring on to my finger, suddenly I heard a voice
that thrilled me to my very heart. 'What is it that you call
leeway?' said the voice. I held my breath; two persons were
descending. The second answered, 'Oh, it is caused by the pressure
of the wind on the weather side of a vessel. In consequence of
which, though her head may be at a certain point of the compass, the true
course made will be half a point, or a point to leeward of that, according
I did not know the second voice, but the first was the
long-lost music of childhood awakened for me again.
'Ah, I see,' it answered; 'on the lee side she has only the
pressure of the water, but on the weather side there is the pressure both
of water and of wind.'
They had reached the last step, and I could not move from the
glass before which I was standing. I heard Uncle Rollin meet them;
my name was mentioned, and two gentlemen entered my open door.
In a whirl of confused joy and trepidation, I came to meet
them, and at the first glance both seemed to be strangers. One stood
back, the other smiled; this smile was all that was left of Mr. Mompesson.
I saw a stout man with grey hair, and a somewhat careworn
face. He actually introduced himself, as if he thought I had
forgotten his existence. 'I am glad to see you,' he said, kindly
taking my hand. 'You and I were great friends some years ago, but
you are grown out of my knowledge, as I have passed from your memory.'
I had not time to contradict him, a young man stood by who was looking at
me. Could It be Tom? Yes, it certainly was, for he kissed me,
and then we mutually drew back and looked at each other.
What he saw he told me frankly enough afterwards. I saw
a strongly-built young man with heavy features, a massive forehead, and a
peculiarly dark complexion, which made his grey eyes look altogether too
light to be in keeping with his general hue and his curly brown hair.
But these eyes were very strange ones; they were so piercing,
so bright, and so intellectual, that the words clear, sparkling,
brilliant, or any other words usually applied to eyes, would not describe
them at all: their lustre seemed to shoot out from within, and, in short,
they reminded me of a cat's eye seen in the dusk.
Mr. Mompesson was still holding my hand when Tom kissed me,
and I felt more at ease with him than with my brother, partly, no doubt,
because less depended on his being pleased with me, partly because Tom was
not in the least the kind of person whom I had expected to see. He
had plain features, but I admired the striking peculiarity of his eyes,
the air with which he held his head, and the sensitive changefulness of
He was no more at ease than myself, and soon took Mr.
Mompesson away to show him the vessel, at the same time inviting me to put
on my hat and follow them. Instead of that I sat down on the settee,
which, as of old, ran round the cabin in front of the berths, and covered
my eyes with my hands, listening in my heart to the old voice that I had
loved so much, and thinking over this new brother, who had scarcely a
trace about him of the well-remembered past.
We dined at four. The dinner was rather uncomfortable,
for Tom and I could not possibly help looking at one another, and Uncle
Rollin would talk to Mr. Mompesson about navigation, a subject that he
evidently did not in the least understand. I knew that he would
rather talk to Tom, so I tried to release him by directing my uncle's
learnèd remarks to myself.
Navigation was his hobby,—the only subject on which he was always willing
to discourse when he had been asked a question about it, and this Mr.
Mompesson had rashly done.
He happened to be saying that it was a very common thing to
load a vessel so that her keel was lower abaft. Mr. Mompesson looked
as if he did not know what this information meant; no more did I, but,
bent on releasing him, I boldly asked my uncle why?
He looked both surprised and gratified, and no doubt thought
I had been an intelligent listener to the previous remarks; so he
proceeded to tell me that this mode of loading, by raising part of the bow
out of the water, diminished the gripe of the ship forward.
Tom and Mr. Mompesson were now talking together, and as I did
not in the least understand what he meant by gripe, I only
answered, 'Oh,' as if satisfied, but he would go on, explaining that thus
it improved her steerage.
'I will give you a reason,' he continued, 'for trimming a
ship more by the stern:—suppose she carries too much weather helm, that
is, she comes up into the wind too much; in such a case you put more
I had a very hazy notion of what he meant, but no doubt he
thought he was making his meaning plain, for he presently went on to tell
me that thus by making the bows lighter, the headsails had increased power
of keeping her off the wind; 'also, as I might easily see, it
diminished the strain on the rudder.'
Easily see it indeed! I saw nothing of the kind.
'What is a headsail?' I next asked; and Uncle Rollin and
Brand, who was waiting at table, both looked at me with surprise.
Tom however came to the rescue by saying, 'We call all sails hoisted on
the bowsprit headsails.' Tom and Mr. Mompesson then began to
talk again, but Uncle Rollin sat gravely silent, and I am afraid matters
were made worse by my exclaiming, with ill-timed exultation, 'Well, now I
'Little enough,' he answered gruffly and almost with a surly
It was especially unlucky for me that this sea talk should
have come up during the first days of my sojourn on board; for, as a rule,
they did not indulge in it, and I have often been on board when for a week
together I should hardly have known by their conversation that we were not
After this bad beginning, however, I said that if he pleased
I should be very glad to learn something about the uses of different
sails, and, in short, to learn something of the elements of navigation;
whereupon his brow cleared, and he replied that he thought it highly
desirable. Still I could see that either my ignorance or my apparent
curiosity had offended him, and he did not quite recover his good humour
while I stayed at the table, which was not long after the cloth was
It was such a lovely evening that I put on my hat and took my
work-box on deck with me. I had not been sitting there long when
Uncle Rollin came and stood before me. It was about six o'clock, and
the tide was coming in.
'If you are so fond of navigation,' he observed rather
gruffly, it is a strange thing that you did not learn something of it at
school. I never denied you masters for anything you had a fancy
I was certain that he would find out the truth if I did not
forthwith tell it, so no particular courage was displayed in my reply—
'I am not at all fond of navigation. I can't bear it.'
'Then why do you want to learn it?'
'Why, uncle, partly to please you.'
'Humph! do you expect me to teach it you after telling me
'Oh yes, for I was obliged to tell you, because you asked
'So you think I take pleasure in making people do what they
"can't bear." '
'No, but I have no right to dislike navigation, and I am
certainly going to like it. I always do like things when I have
learned them a little while.'
'I shall not teach it you.'
'Then, uncle, will you be so kind as to show me the proper
books, that I may learn it by myself ?'
'Besides, there is another thing that I did not think of at
first. I see that learning navigation will be necessary for me, or
when Tom and you are talking together I shall not understand what you
'I don't see that it is so necessary, not so particularly
necessary, for a girl to learn navigation, but if you must learn
it—ahem—if you are bent on learning it —'
'Oh yes. I certainly shall.'
'Well, I will see about it. If you must learn you must
have a teacher, and in that case I should not mind instructing you.
I taught Tom—a very apt scholar he was; it seemed no trouble to him, and I
daresay you will learn as well as he did, for you are quite as queer.'
'Am I queer? do you really think so, uncle?'
'Yes, really and truly, I think you are the queerest little
girl I ever saw; but you need not look so grave, for you don't care about
'Yes, I care a little.'
'But you are very well dressed to-day. I should like to
see you always well dressed. Nonsense, child! never mind what I
'I don't mind your thinking me queer, uncle, because
you care for me.'
'Oh, I do, do I?'
'Of course; we agreed about that yesterday. But it will
be very awkward for me if people think so who do not like me.'
'What will happen then?'
'Oh, I suppose they will not wish for my acquaintance; not
choose to talk to me; overlook me, and forget me.'
Uncle Rollin had seemed amused and pleased during our
discourse; once or twice he had laughed, and though it was at me I liked
it: there was something cordial in it, and he said I was queer in a way
which showed that quality to be what he liked in me. But to this
last remark he made a reply which was so different from anything I should
have expected of him that I could hardly believe what I heard.
'You are very much mistaken,' were his words; there are some
little women that are insignificant, and nobody takes the least notice of
them. They are not big enough to be handsome; they are not witty nor
clever, and so they get overlooked. Nobody falls in love with them,
and nobody dislikes them. That sort of thing won't happen to you,
because, as I tell you, you are a queer little girl to talk to. You
say different things from other people, and you say them in an odd kind of
way. You will not be overlooked, child, but always either loved or
disliked. I don't consider you near so plain as Tom, though rather
like him about the eyes and eyebrows.'
Then my uncle ceased, and I was so much surprised, not so
much at what he said, as at his saying it, that I had no answer ready, and
kept reflecting on the singular way in which I had been mistaken about
him. I wondered whether he ever at long intervals made such speeches
to other people, and whether he would often talk thus to me. I
thought to myself that if a character in a book, which had been drawn like
my former notions of him, had suddenly been made to utter the above
thoughts I should have considered the said book to be out of keeping, and
false to nature; for nothing was more surprising to me than to perceive
that he speculated on human character, and noticed the effect of different
I did not see Mr. Mompesson again till it was nearly dusk,
when he came on deck with Tom, and began, as I had hoped he would, to talk
of old times.
But, alas! we were to sail at high tide, which was shortly
after eight o'clock. We had scarcely got under weigh when I began to
feel ill, and when we reached the 'rolling ground,' I was obliged to go
below and lie down in my berth. Mrs. Brand was sure I should be much
better on deck, but I instinctively hid myself and my miseries lest this
sickness should interfere with my prospects and induce my uncle and
brother to send me ashore again.
We were to put Mr. Mompesson on shore at Lulworth cove, and
after that we were bound for the west coast of Ireland. If the
weather promised well we should not leave the yacht, Mrs. Brand told me,
but if not, we should land, make the journey through England, crossing to
Dublin and going through Ireland at our leisure, while a man who was
called the captain of the yacht brought her round to Valencia.
'Then I hope it will blow a gale,' I said, for I sorely
longed to land.
'No, ma'am,' she answered, 'the best thing will be to get
used to wind and rough weather, at least, if you wish to sail with Mr.
So I endured as well as I could, and was right glad when we
reached our destination, but I only got on deck a few minutes before Mr.
'Is the weather likely to be fine?' I asked. 'Yes,' was
the reply, 'splendid.'
I could not forbear a sigh, but on the other hand, it was a
consolation to know that after our cruise on the west coast of Ireland,
the Mompessons with all the children were to come on board for a month.
They were all good sailors, and were to have my cabin, which was already
fitted up for them with six berths. I was to have a pretty little
state-room, and I thought I should surely be well by that time and enjoy