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a savage set of fellows they look—and the boat, Pultuney, look there-it will be upset—I'm sure it will."
“ I hope not,” fervently ejaculated Major Lackywell, “ I-hope-not."
“ The niggers can swim, I suppose,” said Julian Jenks; " it would be good fun to see them, I think.”
“ Fun to you, Jenks, but death to them, as the frogs said to the boys,” returned Peregrine.
“But who are they?--what are they?" asked Doleton, anxiously; " what are they coming here about?”
" What are they coming here about?" said the major; “ you may well ask that, Mr. Doletonyou see that man there with the belt and the brass plate-that's one of the Mysore princes."
" Mysore princes!” exclaimed Doleton, who had a vague recollection of having once read something about the storming of Seringapatam ; "Mysore princes, sir !-Indeed! not Tippo Sahib, is it, sir?"
“Let me see,” returned Major Lackywell, with an unaltered physiognomy, as he raised the telescope to his eye and took a leisurely survey of the boat; “no-not Tippo Sahib, certainly, but Hyder Ali.”
“ Bless me!" ejaculated Doleton; " Hyder Ali ! that horrid wretch-what has he come here for?''
" It's difficult to say," returned the major; “but perhaps—no matter—no matter, Mr. Doleton, I do not wish to alarm you.”
Nothing could have been more charitable than this, inasmuch as that if Major Lackywell had told the unfortunate youth, that Hyder Ali and Tippo Sahib together, were coming on board for the express purpose of making their tiffin off Doleton's carcass, it would not have filled him with so much dismay as this vague and awful hint of some coming danger, too terrible to be put into words-indistinctness, as all poets and rhetoricians know, being the true source of the terrible and sublime. But Doleton's fears were but short-lived, for Peregrine Pultuney had only just whispered in his ear the expressive word, “ gammon,” when the chief officer, who was a gentleman with a considerable reach of lung, bawled out to some of the men forward to get a rope ready for the dâk-boat, and presently ensued a great deal of scuffling and hallooing, and a rope was thrown overboard from the gangway, and the boat's crew, for the boat was by this time alongside of the vessel, all began jabbering together as fast as ever they could, and the rope's-end was caught by the serang, and the boat made fast to the Hastings, and then a gentleman of colour, in the Asiatic costume, made his appearance over the gangway, with a large leather bag, and the captain sallied out of the cabin, with very strong demonstrations of anxiety, and seized hold of the said leather bag, and in less than five minutes the cuddy was full of people, and the cuddy-table strewn all over with letters.
It is an anxious moment that, with very many, when the dâk-boat comes alongside of a vessel that is just entering port. How the heart beats ! how the hand trembles ! as the sable Mercury appears upon deck, with the richly freighted bag in hand. Months have passed by, since the voyager can have heard aught of his friends in the country he is voyaging to, and what mighty changes may be engendered in the womb of Time during such an interval. There is the wife, perhaps, returning to her husband—the children returning to their parents—the young damsel seeking her betrothed. How sick with excess of anxiety ! how oppressed with nameless forebodings of evil are they! as they open, or in their weakness cause another to open, the all important letter that is fraught with such an infinity of good or evil tidings -so much rapture, or so much woe. We have heard the hysterical burst of bitter disappointment that has followed the sudden prostration of a long-cherished hope attendant upon the opening of the dâkbag. We have seen the pale face grow palerthe clenched hand clenched still faster—the trembling frame still more tremulous, as the eye dimly wanders over the characters, every one of which is a very death-stab—the lover is, perhaps, absent or faithless—the parent or sole relative is no morethe beloved husband is on active service, struggling through the briary path of danger, and the betrothed, the child, the wife, are desolate—not a friend, perhaps, to receive them on their arrival at a strange port, fifteen thousand miles from the land of their nativity
But these are the darker features of the picturethere are others, doubtless, more sunny-indeed, if we leave off generalizing, and return to the dâk-bag of the Hastings, we shall see that the opening of these receptacles of thought is not always attended with disappointment, for there, as it happened, almost every body who got any intelligence at all, got precisely the kind of intelligence they wanted. The Miss Gowanspecs received a letter from their aunt, to say that she was very anxious to see them— hoped that they had brought out all the latest fashions, and lost none of their roses on the voyage
-hinted that young ladies were very scarce just then in Calcutta, and what there were very ordinary—trusted in her heart that neither of her nieces had encouraged an undue familiarity in any body on board ship, especially the young military men—and wound up by informing them, that her carriage should be waiting for them at Ghandpaul ghaut, whenever the ship was likely to arrive.
Major Lackywell received letters, but to his great astonishment, they did not say one word about his promotion. Colonel Coteloll was equally fortunate, but his letters were mainly on business, announcing that a house had been taken for him in Chowringhee, and rooms engaged for him, on first landing, at Spence's. Mr. Factor received an invitation from an old friend of his, resident in Calcutta; and the captain got a vast packet of advices, chiefly relating to the price of articles and the prospect that he had of making a good thing by his investments.
In the meantime Peregrine Pultuney, Julian Jenks, and poor Doleton, were gathered together at one end of the cuddy table, each of them reading a letter. There is one great advantage at all events in being a military griffin, that, come what may, he is sure to have lodgings provided for him by the tender mercies of the barrack department; and so it happens that cadets, of all people in the world, are least anxious about the arrival of the dâk-boat, they have no fears about finding a house, no anxiety about promotion, and in ninety-nine cases out of every hundred, they are wise enough to have no anxieties at all.
But it must be admitted, that Cadet Doleton was an exception to this general rule, as indeed he was to every other. He was full-chock-full of anxieties. His hand trembled, and his cheek blanched, and his heart beat almost audibly, as he opened the letter that was addressed to him, and read the commencement—" My dear son.” For some time he continued poring over the epistle, with his elbows on the cuddy table, his forehead pressed against his clenched hands, and his eyes fixed on the paper-it was difficult to say whether he was reading or not.
How long he might have remained in this position, we know not, if Julian Jenks, who had very soon made himself master of the contents of his letter, which was merely from an old Addiscombe fellow-student, had not applied the palm of his hand pretty smartly to the back of the nervous