That “parting for ever” was sufficient to drive all philosophy utterly away from our hero.
“For ever, did you say, Matilda?—no, not for ever; yet, how coldly do you allude to a separation, which, although I trust it will be only temporary, is to me a source of the deepest vexation. You did not manifest this indifference in the early part of our conversation this evening.”
“And if there be a change,” emphatically yet tenderly returned the beautiful American; “am I the only one changed. Is your manner now what it was then. Do you already forget at what a moment that conversation was interrupted?”
Gerald did not forget; and again, as they leaned over the vessel’s side, his arm was passed around the waist of his companion.
The hour, the scene, the very rippling of the water— all contributed to lend a character of excitement to the feelings of the youth. Filled with tenderness and admiration for the fascinating being who reposed thus confidingly on his shoulder, he scarcely dared to move, lest in so doing he should destroy the fabric of his happiness.
“First watch there, hilloa! rouse up, and be d—d to you, it’s two o’clock.”
Both Gerald and Matilda, although long and silently watching the progress of the vessel, had forgotten there was any such being as a steersman to direct her.
“Good Heaven, can it be so late?” whispered the American, gliding from her lover; “if my uncle be awake, he will certainly chide me for my imprudence. Good night, dear Gerald,” and drawing her cloak more closely around her shoulders, she quickly crossed the deck, and descended to the cabin.
“What the devil’s this?” said the relieving steersman, as, rubbing his heavy eyes with one hand, he stooped and raised with the other something from the deck against which he had kicked, in his advance to take the helm; “why, I’m blest if it arn’t the apron off old Sally here. Have you been fingering Sall’s apron, Bill?”
“Not I, faith,” growled the party addressed, I’ve enough to do to steer the craft without thinking o’ meddling with Sall’s apron at this time o’ night.”
“I should like to know who it is that has hexposed the old gal to the night hair in this here manner,” still muttered the other, holding up the object in question to his closer scrutiny; “it was only this morning I gave her a pair of bran new apron strings, and helped to dress her myself. If she doesn’t hang fire after this, I’m a Dutchman that’s all.”
“What signifies jawing, Tom Fluke. I suppose she got unkivered in the scurry after the Yankee; but bear a hand, and kiver her, unless you wish a fellow to stay here all night.”
Old Sal, our readers must know, was no other than the long twenty-four pounder, formerly belonging to Gerald’s gun-boat, which, now removed to his new command, lay a mid ships, and mounted on a pivot, constituted the whole battery of the schooner. The apron was the leaden covering protecting the touch-hole, which, having unaccountably fallen off, had encountered the heavy foot of Tom Fluke, in his advance along the deck.