The frigate bore down, and hove to. The commodore of the India squadron went on board, when he found that she was cruising for some large Dutch store-ships and vessels armed en flute, which were supposed to have sailed from Java. In a quarter of an hour, she again made sail and parted company, leaving the Indiamen to secure their guns, and pursue their course.
There are two parties whose proceedings we had overlooked; we refer to Miss Tavistock and Dr Plausible. The latter handed the lady to her cabin, eased her down upon her couch, and taking her hand gently, retained it in his own, while with his other he continued to watch her pulse.
“Do not alarm yourself, my dear Miss Tavistock; your sensibility is immense. I will not leave you. I cannot think what could have induced you to trust yourself on such a voyage of danger and excitement.”
“Oh! Dr Plausible, where my affections are centred there is nothing, weak creature that I am, but my soul would carry me through: indeed I am all soul. I have a dear friend in India.”
“He is most happy,” observed the doctor, with a sigh.
“He, Dr Plausible! you quite shock me! Do you imagine for a moment that I would go out to follow any gentleman? No, indeed, I am not going out on speculation, as some young ladies. I have enough of my own, thank God! I keep my carriage and corresponding establishment, I assure you.”—(The very thing that Dr Plausible required.)
“Indeed! my dear Miss Tavistock, is it then really a female friend?”
“Yes! the friend of my childhood. I have ventured this tedious, dangerous voyage, once more to fold her in my arms.”
“Disinterested affection! a heart like yours, miss, were indeed a treasure to be won. What a happy man would your husband be!”
“Husband! Oh, Dr Plausible, don’t mention it: I feel convinced,—positively convinced, that my constitution is not strong enough to bear matrimony.”
The doctor’s answer was too prolix for insertion; it was a curious compound dissertation upon love and physic, united. There was devoted attention, extreme gentle treatment, study of pathology, advantage of medical attendance always at hand, careful nursing, extreme solicitude, fragility of constitution restored, propriety of enlarging the circle of her innocent affections, ending at last in devoted love, and a proposal—to share her carriage and establishment.
Miss Tavistock assumed another faint—the shock was so great; but the doctor knelt by her, and kissed her hand, with well affected rapture. At last, she murmured out a low assent, and fell back, as if exhausted with the effort. The doctor removed his lips from her hand to her mouth, to seal the contract; and, as she yielded to his wishes, almost regretted that he had not adhered to his previous less assuming gallantry.