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In which an astounding Discovery is made, and our Hero finds
Himself in a different Position.
WHEN Peregrine Pultuney, on the following morning, was relieved off guard, he first of all made his way to the mess-house to look at the shipping reports in the papers. When he entered the library, fortunately for him, Julian Jenks had possession of the Hurkaru, and no sooner did that good-natured specimen of mortality perceive our hero at the table, than he handed over the broad sheet to his friend, without saying a word, though Peregrine thought that there was something in Mr. Jenk's manner which meant a great deal.
Peregrine Pultuney opened the paper, and his eyes were soon fixed upon the shipping report The Hastings, it appeared, had not yet procured steam, and had consequently not made much progress. She had passed Kedgeree at 2 P. M. on the day before; and was not likely, therefore, to have reached Diamond Harbour before nightfall. He
thought, indeed, that he would most probably meet the ship not much above the latter place if the tide were favourable to him; at all events he would meet her somewhere in the river, and would not, therefore, incur blame for being slow to fly into the arms of his betrothed, however much he may have deserved it.
But the " list of passengers"-was there one in the paper?-he read through the shipping report and saw none. But what was that to him? There could be no doubt about the embarkation of the Poggletons—they had written to him after their passage had been taken, and all their preparations made; and Peregrine had received, too, an overland letter from his father, which spoke of their actual departure. Why then was he anxious to read the passenger list? That was a question which he scarcely durst have answered—which he scarcely knew how to answer — for the feelings which prompted this anxiety were dim, unacknowledged, and scarcely developed—such as we cannot do more than hint at.
However, there was a list of passengers in the Hurkaru, and Peregrine's eye caught it accidentally, just as he was folding up the paper. It was at the head of the editorial columns, and Peregrine read the words “ We have been favoured with a list of passengers by the Hastings,” with a nervous sensation of sickness, which was not produced by the anxieties which ought to have produced it. But there it was—the list of passengers, which the agents of the vessel had received by a Saugor boat the evening before, and printed for general information.
And there was the name of Mrs. Poggleton. Peregrine read it, and read on, but there was no Miss Poggleton in the list. It was strange-he had expected to have read “Mrs. and Miss Poggleton" -but there was no announcement of the young lady's arrival. This was strange certainly, very strange; but when he remembered how frequently, how almost invariably, mistakes of some kind creep into the published passenger lists, he ceased to wonder at the circumstance, and, without making any observation to Mr. Jenks, who stood by anxiously watching the countenance of his friend, he walked out of the library, mounted his horse, and galloped to his own house.
There, having doffed his regimentals and put on a suit of plain clothes, he swallowed a hasty cup of tea, remounted his horse, and started at a brisk pace for Calcutta. It was then about half past eight o'clock, but it was a fresh, pleasant morning, and the ride had an invigorating effect upon our hero's spirits. He knew that it would be so, and had, therefore, determined to proceed on horseback to the ghaut. As he cantered on, along the Cossipore road, he felt lighter and happier than he had done for some time. Every thing around him looked so bright, so sunny, so serene, that Peregrine's better
nature, so long in abeyance, began to expand itself within him, and the old serenity of heart, to which he had long been a stranger, was once again re newed within him for a season, and he felt both happy and hopeful. And yet though happy and hopeful, with these blessed feelings were mingled a still more blessed one—a sense of repentance, which came upon him with a subduing and purifying influence, rather enhancing than marring the happiness of the moment, for he felt that it was only through the gate of repentance that he could pass again into his old state of blissful serenity_his old peace of mind and sunny-heartedness. He knew that he had done wrongly and unkindly—but it was not too late, he thought, to draw back from the edge of the precipice, on which he had been hovering. He might still be an ardent lover, an affectionate husband-ardent and affectionate too, without hypocrisy. Why not? He felt rushing back upon his heart all his old love for Julia Poggleton. Almost as it were by a miracle, she became, in the eye of his memory, arrayed in new garments of loveliness and beauty, and he yearned to fold her to his bosom. What though less dazzling -less gorgeous-less eccentric (perhaps that was the proper word) than Augusta Sweetenham-his syrenlike betrayer-now much softer, more woman-like, more trusting, more retiring, was his meek-eyed cousin, Julia Poggleton. How much more likely the latter to render home a scene of tranquil delight -a little serene Paradisaical bower-than the vain, eccentric, dashing Augusta, who was made to shine and to dazzle in a crowd-not to bless a little quiet nest of love.
It was a native holiday—and as Peregrine rode forward, he met crowds of festival-makers on the highway, with their clean white dresses, and with their contented aspects, trudging gaily along. He looked kindly at them all, and “ blessed them un. aware," reining in his horse every now and then, lest he might hurt or even frighten the holidaymakers, and reproaching himself for having on several occasions given way to his temper and spoken harshly to the natives. He had never struck one, but he had several times spoken abusively, when perhaps the fault was all on his side, and this he remembered regretfully, especially when he called to mind that Peer Khan, to whom he owed so much, had more than once been the victim of his irritability. But all these feelings, being pure and holy, conduced to the placidity of his mind, and by the time that he had struck into the Barrackpore road, he felt that he was another and a better man, and that his trials were nearly over.
An hour's ride took him to Chandpaul ghaut, where he found Peer Khan, and the syces, whom he had sent forward to take his horse. The boleax was waiting for him, and by a strange coincidence, as Peregrine thought, though in reality there was nothing strange about it, for Peer Khan had been