She said nothing of her strange sight, and Phil had a happy successful birthday, flying the kite with a propitious wind, and riding into Portsmouth on his new pony with grandpapa. But there was one strange event. The servants had a holiday, and some of them went into Portsmouth, black Hans, who never returned, being one. The others had lost sight of him, but had not been uneasy, knowing him to be perfectly well able to find his way home; but as he never appeared, the conclusion was that he must have been kidnapped by some ship’s crew to serve as a cook. He had not been very happy among the servants at Fareham, who laughed at his black face and Dutch English, and he would probably have gone willingly with Dutchmen; but Anne and her uncle were grieved, and felt as if they had failed in the trust that poor Sir Peregrine had left them.
CHAPTER XXV: TIDINGS FROM THE IRON GATES
“He has more cause to be proud. Where is he wounded?”
It was a wet autumn day, when the yellow leaves of the poplars in front of the house were floating down amid the misty rain; Dr. Woodford had gone two days before to consult a book in the Cathedral library, and was probably detained at Winchester by the weather; Lady Archfield was confined to her bed by a sharp attack of rheumatism. Sir Philip was taking his after-dinner doze in his arm-chair; and little Philip was standing by Anne, who was doing her best to keep him from awakening his grandfather, as she partly read, partly romanced, over the high-crowned hatted fishermen in the illustrations to Izaak Walton’s Complete Angler.
He had just, caught by the musical sound, made her read to him a second time Marlowe’s verses,
‘Come live with me and be my love,’
and informed her that his Nana was his love, and that she was to watch him fish in the summer rivers, when the servant who had been sent to meet His Majesty’s mail and extract the Weekly Gazette came in, bringing not only that, but a thick, sealed packet, the aspect of which made the boy dance and exclaim, “A packet from my papa! Oh! will he have written an answer to my own letter to him?”
But Sir Philip, who had started up at the opening of the door, had no sooner glanced at the packet than he cried out, “’Tis not his hand!” and when he tried to break the heavy seals and loosen the string, his hands shook so much that he pushed it over to Anne, saying, “You open it; tell me if my boy is dead.”
Anne’s alarm took the course of speed. She tore off the wrapper, and after one glance said, “No, no, it cannot be the worst; here is something from himself at the end. Here, sir.”
“I cannot! I cannot,” said the poor old man, as the tears dimmed his spectacles, and he could not adjust them. “Read it, my dear wench, and let me know what I am to tell his poor mother.”
And he sank into a chair, holding between his knees his little grandson, who stood gazing with widely-opened blue eyes.