“That is not to be hoped for, Willis; there is, probably, only one skilful medical man in each colony, and he will be prevented leaving by Government engagements.”
“True; then we had better hoist sail for Europe direct, and trust to falling in with a ship now and then.”
“Alas!” sighed Becker, “in a path so wide as the ocean, it would be unwise to trust to such chances; you will have to rely, I fear, entirely upon the resources of the pinnace alone.”
“Well, I dare say, though we may have to put up with half rations, we shall not starve on the voyage, at all events.”
They had unmoored the pinnace, and were on their way to Shark’s Island.
“You are about to announce to your sons their departure?” said Willis, inquiringly.
“Yes; but my heart almost fails me.”
“The iron must be struck while it is hot. Will you commission me to whisper a few words in their ear?”
“Thanks, Willis; but what right have I to expect courage from them, if I exhibit weakness myself? No, my friend, I may shed tears in your presence, but not before them.”
“A man ought never to allow his feelings to get the better of his courage,” said Willis, in whose eyes, however, the dust was evidently playing sad havoc.
“These boys have almost never been absent from me. I have watched them grow up from infancy to adolescence, and from adolescence to manhood; they have always been dutiful and obedient, and with gratitude I have blessed them every night of their lives. But stern are the decrees of Fate; I must command them to depart from me—perhaps for ever!”
“There are evils that lead to good,” said Willis, “even though these evils be the Straits of Magellan or the storms of the Indian Ocean.”
Here the pinnace reached the offing of Shark’s Island, where Fritz and Jack, leaning on the battery, watched the progress of the boat.
“Do you observe how downcast my father looks?” said Fritz.
“Willis does not look much gayer,” remarked Jack.
“Do you believe in omens, Jack?”
“Now and then.”
“Well, mark me, there is a screw loose somewhere, or I am no oracle.”
BACON AND BISCUIT—LET SLEEPING DOGS LIE—THE PATERNAL BENEDICTION—AN APPARITION—A MOTHER NOT EASILY DECEIVED—THE ADIEU—THE EMPEROR CONSTANTINE—IN HOC SIGNO VINCES—THE SAILOR’S POSTSCRIPT—CAESAR AND HIS FORTUNES—RECOLLECTIONS—MRS. BECKER PLUCKS STOCKINGS AND KNITS ORTOLANS—HOW DELIGHTFUL IT IS TO BE SCOLDED—THE BODIES VANISH, BUT THE SOULS REMAIN.
On their return from Shark’s Island, Fritz and Jack were deeply affected, not by the dread of the perils they were destined to encounter—these never gave them a moment’s uneasiness—but by the knowledge that a merciless vulture was preying upon the vitals of their beloved mother.