‘I am composed now,’ said he, ’and will be guided by you, for I am convinced you have been a true friend to me. But there must be no reservation—you must tell me all.’
’Or you will doubt me. It was never my intention to keep you in the dark or in leading strings longer than necessary. I am above the petty spirit which, to magnify its importance, keeps to itself half a secret, to be told at another time. You shall know all, and we will concert our measures together as man and man, for I can easily guess from this moment you have put off the boy for ever.’
It was true. Even in that short time a marked change had come upon him, and it was with the resolved air of a man prepared to hear, determine, and to act, if need be, with firmness and deliberation, that he pushed his chair from the table, and folding his arms upon his chest, sat waiting for the mariner to proceed in his tale. That burst of tears which followed the announcement of his rank was a last farewell to boyhood, and his firm attitude and handsome features looked worthy to uphold the proud motto of his house, “Nulli Secundi.”
The seaman’s story.
’I was little more than twelve years of age when I entered the British Navy as a midshipman, much against my good father’s will, for I was his only child, and my mother died the day I first saw the light. But I was a wayward, unruly boy, and he feared I might take to bad courses if restrained. It was a time of stirring action, and before I was twenty years of age I bore upon my shoulder the epaulette of a lieutenant, earned in many a bloody fight. The naval service was then in high favour, and many sprigs of nobility condescended to walk the quarter-deck as captains and commanders, though they seldom knew as much about a ship as the ship’s boys. One of these was the late Earl de Montford—He had the haughty courage of his race; few of them were deficient in that; but he had disdained to learn his profession, and when he was appointed to command a corvette, I was sent on board as first lieutenant, but in fact as what is called a nurse—to do the work, while my incapable but titled commander reaped the glory. We were anchored in the bay of Naples, having borne despatches to the fleet then stationed there, and were under orders to sail the next morning, when he sent for me into his cabin, and with more familiarity and kindness than he had ever used to me before, he confided to me that he was in love, and wanted my assistance to rescue her he loved from a convent. Fond of adventure, I consented, and we succeeded, so they were that very evening united by the chaplain on board the corvette. She was very beautiful, and he was both proud and fond of her. His father was alive, however, and as the old Earl had negotiated for him a marriage with the daughter of some proud Marquis in England, he did not dare to acquaint him of it—for though