A few weeks after the receipt of that letter, Mr. Hamilton, his wife, and Ellen removed to a beautiful little villa in the neighbourhood of Richmond, where they intended to pass some of the winter months. A change was desirable, indeed requisite for all. But a short interval had passed since the death of their beloved Herbert, and there were many times when the parents’ hearts yet painfully bled, and each felt retirement, the society of each other, and sometimes of their most valued friends, the exercise of domestic and religious duties, would be the most efficient means of acquiring that peace of which even the greatest affliction cannot deprive the truly religious mind. At Christmas, St. Eval had promised his family should join them, and all looked forward to that period with pleasure.
Although we are as much averse to retrospection in a tale as our readers can be, yet to retrace our steps for a short interval is a necessity. Edward had written highly of Lieutenant Mordaunt, but as he happens to be a personage of rather more consequence to him than young Fortescue imagined, we must be allowed to introduce him more intimately to our readers.
It was the evening after that in which Lieutenant Fortescue had so rashly encountered the storm, that a Spanish vessel, of ill-shaped bulk and of some hundred tons, was slowly pursuing her course from the coast of Guinea towards Rio Janeiro. The sea was calm, almost motionless, compared with its previous fearful agitation. The sailors were gaily employed in their various avocations, declaring loudly that this respite of calm was entirely owing to the interposition of St. Jago in their favour, he being the saint to whom they had last appealed during the continuance of the tempest. Aloof from the crew, and leaning against a mast, stood one apparently very different to those by whom he was surrounded. It was an English countenance, but embrowned almost to a swarthy hue, from continued exposure to a tropical sun. Tall and remarkably well formed, he might well have been supposed of noble birth; there were, however, traces of long-continued suffering imprinted on his manly face and in his form, which sometimes was slightly bent, as if from weakness rather than from age. His dark brown hair was in many parts silvered with grey, which made him appear as if he had seen some fifty years at least; though at times, by the expression of his countenance, he might have been thought full ten years younger. Melancholy was the characteristic of his features; but his eye would kindle and that cheek flush, betraying that a high, warm spirit still lurked within, one which a keen observer might have fancied had been suppressed by injury and suffering. It was in truth a countenance on which a physiognomist or painter would have loved to dwell, for both would have found in it an interest they could scarcely have defined.