« НазадПродовжити »
then, as the wild scud which flew across the heavens admitted them to view. Vanslyperken walked fast--he started at the least soundhe hurried by every one whom he met, as if fearful to be recognised
- he felt relieved when he had gained the streets of Portsmouth, and he at last arrived at the point, but there was no cutter's boat, for he had given no orders. He was therefore obliged to hire one to go on board. The old man whom he engaged shoved into the stream ; the tide was running in rapidly.
“ A cold night, sir," observed the man.
“ And a strong tide, with the wind to back it. He'd have but a poor chance, who fell overboard such a night as this. The strongest swimmer, without help, would be soon in eternity."
Vanslyperken shuddered. Where was Smallbones at this moment? and then, the mention of eternity!
“ Silence, man, silence," said Vanslyperken.
“ Hope no offence, Mr. Lieutenant," replied the man, who knew who his fare was.
The boat pulled alongside of the Yungfrau, and Vanslyperken paid his unusual fare, and stepped on the deck. He went down below, and had the precaution to summon Smallbones to bring lights aft.
The word was passed along the lower deck, and Vanslyperken sat down in the dark, awaiting the report that Smallbones could not be found.
Snarleyyow went up to his master, and rubbed his cold nose against his hand, and then, for the first time, it occurred to Vanslyperken, that in his hurry to leave the vessel, he had left the dog to the mercy of his enemies. During the time that Vanslyperken waited for the report of the lights, he passed over in his mind the untoward events which had taken place, the loss of the widow's good will, the loss of Corporal Van Spitter, who was adrift in the Zuyder Zee, the loss of five thousand pounds through the dog, and, strange to say, what vexed him more, the loss of the dog's eye; and when he thought of all these things, his heart was elated, and he rejoiced in the death of Smallbones, and no longer felt any compunction. But a light is coming aft, and Vanslyperken is waiting the anticipated report. It is a solitary purser's dip, as they are termed at sea, emitting but feeble rays, and Vanslyperken's eyes are directed to the door of the cabin to see who it is who carries it. To his horror, his dismay, it is brought in by the drowned Smallbones, who, with a cadaverous, and, as he supposes, unearthly face and vacant look, drawls out, “ It's ablowed out twice, sir, with the wind."
Vanslyperken started up, with his eyes glaring and fixed. There could be no mistake. It was the apparition of the murdered lad, and he fell back in a state of unconsciousness. “ You've a-got it this time,” said Smallbones, chuckling as he bent over the body of the lieutenant with his purser's dip, and perceived that he was in a state of insensibility.
Had Mr. Vanslyperken had the courage to look over the stern of the cutter when he re-ascended on the deck, he would have discovered Smallbones hanging on by the rudder chains; for had the fog not been so thick, Mr. Vanslyperken would have perceived that at the time that he cut Smallbones adrift it was slack water, and the cutter was lying across the harbour. Smallbones was not, therefore, carried away by the tide, but being a very fair swimmer, had gained the rudder chains without difficulty; but at the time that Smallbones was climbing up again by the rope, he had perceived the blade of the carving knife working at the rope, and was assured that Vanslyperken was attempting his life. When he gained the rudder chains, he held on. At first he thought of calling for assistance; but hearing Vanslyperken order his boat to be manned, the lad then resolved to wait a little longer, and allow his master to think that he was drowned. The result was as Smallbones intended. As soon as the lad saw the boat was out of hearing he called out most lustily, and was heard by those on board, and rescued from his cold immersion. He answered no questions which were put to him till he had changed his clothing and recovered himself, and then with great prudence summoned a council, composed of Short, Coble, and Jemmy Ducks, to whom he narrated what had taken place. A long consultation succeeded, and at last it was agreed that Smallbones should make his appearance as he did, and future arrangements to be taken according to circumstances.
As soon as Smallbones had ascertained the situation of his master, he went forward and reported it to Dick Short, who with Coble came aft in the cabin. Short looked at Vanslyperken.
“ Conscience," said Short.
“ And a d- d ad un too,” replied Coble, hitching up his trousers. “ What's to be done, Short ?"
“ Nothing,” replied Short.
“ Just my idea,” replied Coble ; “let him come to if he pleases, or die and be d d. Who cares ?”
“ Nobody," replied Short.
“ My eyes, but he must have been frightened,” said Smallbones, “ for he has left the key in the cupboard. I'll see what's in it for once and away."
Snarleyyow, when Smallbones opened the cupboard, appeared to have an intuitive idea that he was trespassing, so he walked out growling from under the table; Short saluted him with a kick in the ribs, which tossed him under the feet of Coble, who gave him a second with his fisherman's boots, and the dog howled, and ran out of the cabin. O Mr. Vanslyperken! see what your favourite was brought to, because you did not come to.
At this time Smallbones had his nose into the stone jar of scheedam—the olfactory examination was favourable, so he put his mouth to it—the labial essay still more so, so he took down a wine glass, and without any ceremony filled a bumper, and handed it to Coble.
“ We'll drink to his recovery,” said Obadiah, tossing off the contents.
“ Yes," replied Short, who waited till the glass was refilled, and did the same.
“ Here's bad luck to him in his own good stuff,” said Smallbones tossing off a third glass, and filling it again he handed it to Coble.
“ Here s reformation to him," said Coble, draining the glass again. “ Yes," replied Short, taking the replenished vessel.
“ Here's d- n to him and his dog for ever and ever, Amen," cried Smallbones, tippling off his second allowance.
“ Who's there?” said Vanslyperken in a faint voice, opening his eyes with a vacant look.
Smallbones replaced the bottle in the cupboard, and replied, “ It's only Smallbones, sir, and the mates, come to help you."
• Smallbones!" said Vanslyperken, still wandering. “ Smallbones is drowned—and the whole pot of black paint.”
Conscience," said Short. “ Carving knife,” rejoined Coble.
“ Carving knife !” said Vanslyperken, raising himself up, “ I never said a word about a carving knife, did I? Who is it that I see? Short—and Coble—help me up. I've had a sad fall. Where's Smallbones ? Is he alive-really alive?”
“ I believe as how I bees,” replied Smallbones.
Mr. Vanslyperken had now recovered his perfect senses. He had been raised on a chair, and was anxious to be rid of intruders, so he told Short and Coble that he would now do very well, and they might go; upon which, without saying a word, they both quitted the cabin.
Mr. Vanslyperken collected himself-he wished to know how Smallbones had been saved, but still dared not broach the subject, as it would be admitting his own guilt.
“ What has happened, Smallbones ?" said Vanslyperken. “I still feel very faint."
“ Take a glass of this,” replied Smallbones, opening the cupboard, and bringing out the scheedam. He poured out a glass, which Vanslyperken drank, and then observed, “ How did you know what was in that cupboard, sirrah ?”.
“ Because you called for it when you were in your fits,” replied Smallbones.
“ Called for scheedam ?"
“ Did I ?” replied Vanslyperken, afraid that he had committed himself. “ I have been ill, very ill,” continued he, putting his hand up to his forehead. “ By-the-by, Smallbones, did you bring in that pot of paint ?" said Vanslyperken adroitly.
“ No, sir, I didn't, because I tumbled overboard, pot and all," replied Smallbones.
“ Tumbled overboard ! why, I did not leave the ship till afterwards, and I heard nothing about it.”
“ No, sir, how could you ?” replied Smallbones, who was all prepared for this explanation, “when the tide swept me past the saluting battery in a moment."
“ Past the saluting battery !” exclaimed Vanslyperken, “why, how were you saved ?"
“ Because, thanks to somebody, I be too light to sink. I went out to the Ower's light, and a mile ayond it.”
“ The Ower's light !” exclaimed Vanslyperken.
“ Yes, and ayond it, afore the tide turned, and then I were swept back again, and came into harbour again just half an hour afore you come aboard."
Mr. Vanslyperken looked aghast; the lad must have had a charmed life. Nine miles at least out to sea, and nine miles back again.
“ It's as true as I stand here, sir,” continued Smallbones; “ I never were so cold in all my life, a-floating about like a bit of duck-weed with the tide, this way and that way.”
“ As true as you stand here!” repeated Vanslyperkeń; “but do you stand here ?" and he made a desperate grasp at the lad's arm to ascertain whether he held substance or shadow.
“ Can I do any thing more, sir ?" continued Smallbones; “ for I should like to turn in- I'm as cold as ice even now.”.
“ You may go," replied Vanslyperken, whose mind was again becoming confused at what had passed. For some time the lieutenant sat in his chair, trying to recollect and reason; but it was in vain, the shocks of the day had been too great. He threw himself, dressed as he was, upon his bed-never perceived the absence of his favourite—the candle was allowed to burn itself to the socket, and Vanslyperken fell off into a trance-like sleep.
CHAPTER XX. In which Mr. Vanslyperken proves false to the Widow Vandersloosh, and many
strange things take place. Mr. Vanslyperken was awakened the next morning by the yelping of his dog, who, having been shut out of the cabin, had ventured up the ladder in the morning when the men were washing the deck, and had a bucket shied at him by Jemmy Ducks, with such excellent precision, that it knocked him over, and nearly broke his hind leg, which he now carried high up in the air as he howled upon the other three at the cabin door. Mr. Vanslyperken rose, and tried to recollect what had passed; but it was more than a minute before he could recall the circumstances of the day before. He then tried to call to mind how he had gone to bed, and by what means Snarley yow was left outside, but he could make nothing of it. He opened the cabin door, and let in the dog, whose lame leg instantly excited his indignation, and he then rang his bell for Smallbones, who soon made his appearance.
“ How came the dog out of the cabin, sir ?”.
Vanslyperken was about to vent his anger, when Smallbones said, “ If you please, I don't know what's a-going on. Why here, sir, the men washing the decks have found your carving knife abaft by the taffrail. Somebody must have taken it there, that's sartain.”
Vanslyperken turned pale.
“ That's what I said, sir. Who dare come in the cabin to take the knife ? and what could they have taken it for, but unless it was to cut summut ?" And Smallbones looked his master full in the face. And the lieutenant quailed before his boy. He could not meet his gaze, but turned away.
“Very odd,” continued Smallbones, perceiving the advantage he had gained.
“ Leave the cabin, sir,” cried Vanslyperken.
“ Sha'n't I make no inquiries how this ere knife came there, sir?" replied Smallbones.
“ No, sir, mind your own business. I've a great mind to flog you for its being found there-all your carelessness.'
“ That would be a pretty go," murmured Smallbones, as he shut the cabin door.
The feeling of vengeance against Smallbones was now redoubled in the breast of his master, and the only regret he felt at the transactions of the day before was, that the boy had not been drowned.
“ I'll have him yet,” muttered the lieutenant; but he forgot that he was shaving himself, and the involuntary movements of his lips caused him to cut a large gash on his right cheek, from which the blood trickled fast.
“ Curses on the-(razor he was going to say, but he changed it to-scoundrel !”
A slice with a razor is certainly a very annoying thing. After a certain time Mr. Vanslyperken finished his toilet, called for his breakfast, went on deck, and as the day was fine, ordered the paint to be renewed, and then went on shore to ascertain if there were any commands for him at the admiral's office.
As he walked up the street in a brown study, he at last observed that a very pretty woman dogged him, sometimes walking a-head and looking back, at others dropping astern, and then again ranging up alongside. He looked her in the face, and she smiled so sweetly, and then turned her head coquettishly, and then looked again with eyes full of meaning. Now, although Mr. Vanslyperken had always avoided amours on account of the expense entailed upon them, yet he was, like a dry chip, very inflammable, and the extreme beauty of the party made him feel unusual emotions. Her perseverance too and her whole appearance so very respectable-50 superior to the class of people who generally accosted him. He thought of the widow and her money bags, and thought, also, how infinitely more desirable the widow would be, if she possessed but the beauty of the present party.
“ I do believe I've lost my way,” exclaimed the young person. “ Pray, sir, can you tell me the way to Castle Street, for I'm almost a stranger? And” (added she, laughing) “ I really don't know my way back to my own house."
Castle Street was, at that time, one of the best streets in Portsmouth, as Mr. Vanslyperken well knew. This assured him of her respectability; he very gallantly offered his arm, which, after a little demur, was accepted, and Mr. Vanslyperken conveyed her to her house. Of course she could do no less than ask him to walk up, and Mr. Vanslyperken, who had never been in any thing approaching to good society, was in astonishment at the furniture. All appeared to