“The King has a service of his own, and it is open to all his subjects alike.”
“I could be a subject of a King; but to be the subject of a subject, Wilder, exceeds the bounds of my poor patience. I was educated, I might almost have said born, in one of his vessels; and how often have I been made to feel, in bitterness, that an ocean separated my birth-place from the footstool of his throne! Would you think it, sir? one of his Commanders dared to couple the name of my country with an epithet I will not wound your ear by repeating!”
“I hope you taught the scoundrel manners.”
The Rover faced his companion, and there was a ghastly smile on his speaking features, as he answered—
“He never repeated the offence! ’Twas his blood or mine; and dearly did he pay the forfeit of his brutality!”
“You fought like men, and fortune favoured the injured party?”
“We fought, sir.—But I had dared to raise my hand against a native of the holy isle!—It is enough, Mr Wilder; the King rendered a faithful subject desperate, and he has had reason to repent it. Enough for the present; another time I may say more.—Good night.”
Wilder saw the figure of his companion descend the ladder to the quarter-deck; and then was he left to pursue the current of his thoughts, alone, during the remainder of a watch which to his impatience seemed without an end.
“She made good view of me; indeed
That sure, methought, her eyes had lost her tongue,
For she did speak in starts, distractedly.”
Though most of the crew of the “Dolphin” slept, either in their hammocks or among the guns, there were bright and anxious eyes still open in a different part of the vessel. The Rover had relinquished his cabin to Mrs Wyllys and Gertrude, from the moment they entered the ship; and we shall shift the scene to that apartment, (already sufficiently described to render the reader familiar with the objects it contained), resuming the action of the tale at an early part of the discourse just related in the preceding chapter.
It will not be necessary to dwell upon the feelings with which the female inmates of the vessel had witnessed the disturbances of that day; the conjectures and suspicions to which they gave rise may be apparent in what is about to follow. A mild, soft light fell from the lamp of wrought and massive silver that was suspended from the upper deck, obliquely upon the painfully pensive countenance of the governess, while a few of its strongest rays lighted the youthful bloom, though less expressive because less meditative lineaments, of her companion. The background was occupied, like a dark shadow in a picture, by the dusky form of the slumbering Cassandra. At the moment when we see fit to lift the curtain on this quiet scene of our drama, the pupil was speaking, seeking, in the averted eyes of her instructress, that answer to her question which the tongue of the latter appeared reluctant to accord.