« PreviousContinue »
incare for our berthi a pack of cards and the middy.
“No sir, not all,” said the boy, "just a trifle beyond that.”
* Well then, out with it.”
" She said,” resumed the middy, with a most sagacious smile on his face, “ that she would be alone in her cabin this evening after dinner, as her sister was going into Mrs. Factor's cabin to learn some new fancy-work or other.”
“ Did she?” exclaimed Peregrine, “the very thing I want, by Jingo!"
" I'm very glad to hear it," said the middy. “ You haven't got a pack of cards, have you, to spare for our berth, Mr. Pultuney? We're shocking hard up, we are, sir.”
"So I saw,” observed Peregrine, " and accordingly I take compassion on you—here, these will do,” and he put into the middy's hands a new pack of Hunt and Co.'s best, gave the boy a pat on the head, and told him to go about his business.
Having displayed his generosity in this way, without much regard to its ulterior effects, he quitted his cabin, went again on the deck, and rejoined Mr. Doleton, who was indulging on a hencoop, in most delicious visions of love, kisses, and other things of that sort, interspersed now and then with a few pleasing variations in the way of pistols, razors, garters, and bedposts, after the most approved Werterian fashion.
“I've settled it for you," said Peregrine Pultuney; " it is even as I suspected.”
“Yes, yes," faltered the nervous youth, “I saw
her go down-you spoke to her. Well, well, what does she say?"
“She will be alone,” said Peregrine, “this evening a little before tea-time--you must take my cloak, nobody will see you, for it will be nearly dark. You may as well take my cap, too; I will lend it to you, and you must tap at the door-tap twice, remember, that is the signal. You must not say any thing on first entering, but throw your arms round her neck and kiss her-kiss her a dozen times: stifle her with kisses: she will have no objection, I assure you.”
"I-I-I,” stammered Doleton. “I don't know -I really don't know what to say to it. I may be found out, you see, and I don't know what-perhaps I had better not do it-better not do it, Pultuney."
“You can't retreat now," said Peregrine, " it is too late—the assignation is made. She will be furious if you disappoint her; besides if you are seen, people will think I am the person, if you put on my cloak.”
“Ah! true, I forgot that,” gasped Doleton, gradually recovering his breath, “so they will, I see that and you say it will be dark too."
"Quite dark below decks,” said Peregrine.
“Well then, I will do it I will indeed-she will be angry, you see, if I don't.”
“Of course she will,” rejoined Peregrine, " and VOL. I.
only think of those ripe, rosy lips-lucky fellow! I wish I were you."
“I will do it,” cried Doleton, with desperate resolution, in a most decisive tone of voice; “I will do it, yes, that I will."
The morning passed by slowly enough, and the dinner went off languidly both to Peregrine Pultuney, who was full of expectation, and to Cadet Doleton, who was full of fear. The latter drank a great deal of wine, having been repeatedly challenged by our hero and by Julian Jenks, who had been instigated thereto by that mischievously disposed young gentleman, so that by the time he rose from the cuddy-table, he had gained a considerable accession of courage, and felt himself well primed to go through the valorous achievement he had undertaken.
Often and often he repented of his rash promise, but he felt that it was too late to retract. He dreaded the consequences of proceeding and of turning back, but his amorous inclinations prompted him to adopt the former course of the two.
So a little before six o'clock, a message having been previously conveyed to Miss Lucretia Gowanspec, through that active little Mercury, Master Millikin, to the effect that Peregrine Pultuney intended to pay her a visit in the twilight hour, that young gentleman suggested to Cadet Doleton that it was time for him to commence operations, and the poor youth having wrapped himself up in the cloak, and donned the cap of our hero, skulked along the steerage like a midnight marauder, and having reached the larboard stern cabin, tapped twice at Miss Gowanspec's door. .
The signal was answered in person by Miss Lucretia, who opened the door gently, took Doleton by the hand, whispered to him to be silent, and led him into the middle of the cabin. There she pointed to a sofa, dropped the hand of the youth, and proceeded to lock the cabin-door, having done which, she returned to where Doleton was standing immoveable as a marble statue, in the very centre of the room.
The poor boy's energies were fairly paralyzed; he neither knew what to say or to do; his self-consciousness had almost deserted him: he had a sort of vague idea in his mind that he ought to be kissing and hugging the young lady, instead of standing like a fool or a rock in the middle of the room; but he felt utterly unable to act as he had intended to act in this emergency. It was almost dark, and he could see the outline of Miss Gowanspec's figure facing him as he stood with his back towards the port, whence the little light there was in the room proceeded; a struggling sense of the extreme singularity and danger of his position flashed across his mind, and he almost resolved to fall upon his knees, and beg the pardon of the lady he had offended by his absurd nervousness, when she took
him again by the hand, led him to the sofa, and whispered, " What's the matter, my dear?"
Now, to tell the truth, Miss Gowanspec felt at this time almost as much overwhelmed by the extreme singularity of her position as did the unfortunate youth, Doleton, who had been the unlucky cause of it. She had not expected from Peregrine Pultuney such palpable demonstrations of a faint heart, as those she saw presented before her. She had thought that our hero, as a lover, would only have been too bold, and she was not very wrong in her surmises; but to stand like a stock in the middle of the room, instead of enfolding her in his arms, she esteemed a very strange proceeding on the part of the young gentleman who had horsewhipped the long cornet.
“ What's the matter with you?" she asked; but the question elicited no answer.
“ Have you brought my album?” she began again, leaning her head against Doleton's shoulder.
And the force of love triumphed then-fear was beaten at all points thoroughly—he could not stand the pressure of this fair head against his shoulder without thawing—and thaw he did rapidly, completely. Away melted the thick ice that had bound him, and he-Doleton-the nervous youth of this history clasped the fair Lucretia in his arms and kissed her to her heart's content.
It was a delicious moment-a moment fraught with the bliss of centuries to this poor, unloved