“You do well to give thanks where thanks are due,” said the mate. “Now come into the cabin.”
Seeing me stagger, he took me by the arm, and kindly assisted me into the presence of the captain, saying, “Here is one of the noble army of martyrs.”
The captain gave me a most kind reception, made me dine with him, and asked me a great many questions. He then told me many moving stories of other Huguenots who had escaped or tried to escape to England; and he related such instances of the kindness of the English to the fugitives that my heart warmed towards them with gratitude and hope.
After this I suffered much from seasickness, and lay two or three days in my cot, where we were buffeted of the winds, and tossed. We were chased by a strange ship, and had to put on all the sail we could to escape being overhauled; and this led to our being driven out of our course; so that, what with one thing and another, we we did not reach Gravesend till the 8th of November. Then the captain went ashore with his ship’s papers, and, after transacting business, started for London, and took me with him.
What a day it was for forming one’s first impressions of that much-longed-for capital! There was a thick November fog, through which street-lamps sent an imperfect light; and shops were lighted up with candles. Vehicles ran against one another in the streets, in spite of link-boys darting between the horses, fearless of danger, and scattering sparks from their fiery torches. The noise, the unknown language, the strange streets and lanes bewildered me. The captain called a hackney-coach, and in this we made our way to Fenchurch street, where lived his shipping agent, Mr. Smith. We went upstairs to his counting-house, and found him talking to some one, who turned round as we entered.
I exclaimed “Oh, my father!” and precipitated myself into his arms. He embraced me with transport.
“Where is my mother? Where is Madeline?”
“Safe and well, at the country-house of our esteemed friend Mr. Smith. Thither I will speedily take you, my dear boy. I came here to gather tidings of you.”
“How long it seems since we lost sight of one another!”
“Long, indeed! And how much we have to tell each other! But we are in smooth water now. In this free, happy land people are no longer persecuted for their faith. We must begin the world again, my son; but what does that signify? You have youth and energy; I have experience and patience.”
The captain and Mr. Smith looked on with sympathy at our mutual felicitations. Soon I was with my father in a stage-coach on our way to Walthamstow. There, in an old-fashioned red-brick mansion, I found my mother, brothers and sisters, my Madeleine, and Gabrielle. What joy! What affection!