My grandfather procured me a berth as seaman on the barque Hirondelle of Peter Port, Nicolle master, and in her I made three voyages—to the West Indies, then on to Gaspe in the St. Lawrence, and thence to the Mediterranean. That was our usual round, and what with contrary winds, and detentions in various ports, and the necessity of waiting and dodging the enemy’s cruisers and privateers, the voyages were long ones, and not lacking in incident.
My story, however, is not concerned with them, except incidentally, and I will refer to them as little as possible.
My grandfather went across with me to Peter Port the first time. He had known George Nicolle many years, and felt me safe in his hands, and his confidence was well placed. The Hirondelle was a comfortable ship, and I never heard a real word of complaint aboard of her. Growling and grumbling there was occasionally, of course, or some of the older hands would never have been happy, but it amounted to nothing, and there was no real ground for it.
She was still only loading when we boarded her, and it was three days later before we cast off and headed up Little Russel for the open sea.
HOW I BEARDED LIONS IN THEIR DENS
That first night in Peter Port, when my grandfather had wrung my hand for the last time, looking at me with prayers in his eyes, and bidding me do my duty and keep clean, and had put off for home in his boat, and work was over for the day and I my own master, I decided on making a call which was much in my heart, and to which I had been looking forward for days past.
I cleaned myself up, and made myself as smart as possible, and set off for the Miss Maugers’ school in George Road.
It was not until I saw the house that doubts began to trouble me as to the fitness of my intention. It was a much larger house than any I had ever been in, and there was a straightness and primness about it which somehow did not suggest any very warm welcome to a young sailorman, whose pride in his first appointment and in the spreading of his wings for his first flight underwent sudden shrinkage.
It took me a good half-hour’s tramping to and fro, past the house and back again, eyeing it carefully each time as though I was trying to discover the best way to break into it, to screw my courage up to the point. There were two windows on each side of the door and two rows of five above, fourteen in all, and every window had its little curtains rigged up exactly alike to a hair’s-breadth. If any one of them had been an inch awry I should have known it, and would have felt less of an intruder.
I had not seen Carette for over six months, and the last time she was home most of my time, when we met, had been spent in discovering and puzzling over the changes that had come over her. These ran chiefly towards a sobriety of behaviour which was not natural to her, and which seemed to me assumed for my special benefit and tantalisation, and I was expecting every minute to see the sober cloak cast aside and the laughing Carette of earlier days dance out into the sunshine of our old camaraderie.