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Peregrine Pultuney repeated his question, but the repetition elicited no answer direct. Miss Lucretia Gowanspec, said something in a low key, and our hero inclined his head to catch the words that she uttered. He could not do this distinctly, but he thought he heard something about a “box," and “making his escape."
He guessed that this had something or other to do with the interview between Doleton and the lady, but he did not exactly know in what manner. He had been thinking for the last half hour, that perhaps he had carried the joke a little too far, and had behaved unkindly to poor Doleton. His inherent good nature and kindness of heart had triumphed over his mischievous propensities, and he had resolved, as the best compensation he could make, to rescue the poor fellow, if possible, from the dangers that might result from the trick that had been played upon him by confessing the whole truth to Miss Gowanspec, and taking the onus of the offence upon himself. It was mainly with this object in view, that he had addressed Miss Lucretia Gowanspec, and invited her to play at écarté, as a preliminary step upon his part. He was utterly ignorant as to what had taken place in the cabin; but he thought that by a little generalship he might extract it all from the young lady, and devise his own plans of operation accordingly. Peregrine caught, as we have said, the word " box," and heard something about making his escape; but not know
ing exactly what it was, he determined that his answer should be as vague as his knowledge; so he said something in so low a tone of voice, that Miss Lucretia scarcely heard a word of it.
This was precisely what Peregrine wanted. He had not committed himself at the outset—so far so well. Miss Lucretia's lips' moved again, and this time he heard her say distinctly,
“ In mercy's name, tell me how you escaped ?"
“ I pushed it open with my head,” returned Peregrine.
“Impossible,” whispered the young lady. “I am quite sure that I locked it.”
“ You must have been mistaken, my love," observed Peregrine.
“ No-no-I have the key in my pocket-here it is,” and as Miss Lucretia said this, she put her arm under the table and placed the key in Peregrine's hand, taking care to give his fingers, as she did it, a most amatory squeeze.
This dialogue, carried on of course sotto voce, convinced Peregrine that Doleton was as yet undiscovered, but still in a most dangerous situation at the bottom of some box or other in Miss Gowanspec's cabin. He had the key in his hands too, and by the assistance of that key he knew that he could liberate the unfortunate cadet. Nor was he long in making up his mind to do so; he saw that Miss
Adela Gowanspec was in the cuddy, and fully engaged in an innocent flirtation with one of the young writers, over a picture-book-there could not be a better opportunity than the present to carry his designs into execution. So, pocketing the key of Miss Gowanspec's linen-chest, he rose suddenly from his chair, said to the young lady, “ I've got something to show you,” and vanished down the after hatchway.
The coast was all clear below decks, so he glided noiselessly into Miss Gowanspec's cabin, groped his way into the middle of the apartment, and stumbled against a large box—an accident which, though somewhat detrimental to his shins, was productive of the most desirable results; for he had no sooner run foul of the box, than he heard a low groan issuing from it, which pointed out the locality of Doleton's prison at once. As quick as thought he inserted the key, turned it, and threw open the box.
“ It's I–Pultuney—now don't say any thingit's all safe;" whispered the liberator, and as he said this, he took the unfortunate cadet by the collar, and pulled him up into a perpendicular position.
Having done this, he dragged him out of the box, for the poor youth was incapable of volition, hurried him along the steerage, deposited him safely in his cabin, told him to go to bed as fast as he could, and then, having taken from his own cabin a caricature of the skipper that he had made the day before, he
returned to the cuddy to show it to Miss Lucretia.
That poor Doleton was none the worse for his incarceration we do not take upon us to assert; but the worst of it was a slight attack of jaundice, an evil which most young men would undergo for the pleasure of kissing and being kissed by a pretty young lady-girl in her teens.
So, little harm came of the adventure; and, perhaps, Peregrine was the greatest sufferer by it of the whole party concerned; as this history may hereafter show.
And so things went on very well-remarkably well for the remainder of the voyage. As they spanked along the Bay of Bengal, with a strong south-west monsoon, there was the usual quantum of speculation and betting, and lottery-making, and looking at charts, and consulting of log-slates. Every body was talking about the pilot and the floating-light, and the soundings, and all that sort of thing. Land was seen a dozen times every day, and the young men went to the mast-head to look out for it again after every disappointment, whilst ladies were talking to one another about what dresses they were going to land in, and the ship's officers seemed very anxious to know whether such and such a vessel had arrived before them: and what with the lottery for “ the day," and the packing up, and the settling of card-accounts, every body was very busy and very anxious, and chock-full of delightful expectations.
And at last the floating light was seen; and on the following morning all the passengers were up on the poop to look at the pilot brig through the telescope, and there were signals sent aloft, and divers other things of that sort, but the pilot-brig would not move an inch for any body.
So, as the mountain would not come to Mahomet, Mahomet was obliged to go to the mountain, and after a good deal of tacking, the Hastings neared. the pilot-brig, a boat was lowered, and a sun-burnt gentleman, with a straw hat and a blue jacket, came on board, accompanied by a half-cast boy, called “ the leadsman,” and every body crowded round him to ask the news, and to borrow a Calcutta newspaper, Julian Jenks being particularly delighted at the idea of having won the lottery for “ the day.”
END OF VOL. I.
C. WHITING, BEAUFORT HOUSE, STRAND.