A MAN OF DESTINY
I was picked up and thrown into the brigantine’s long-boat with a head and stomach full of salt water, and a heart as light as spray with the joy of it all. A big, red-bearded man lifted my heels to drain me.
“The mon’s deid,” said he.
“Dead!” cried I, from the bottom-board. “No more dead than you!”
I turned over so lustily that he dropped my feet, and I sat up, something to his consternation. And they had scarce hooked the ship’s side when I sprang up the sea-ladder, to the great gaping of the boat’s crew, and stood with the water running off me in rivulets before the captain himself. I shall never forget the look of his face as he regarded my sorry figure.
“Now by Saint Andrew,” exclaimed he, “are ye kelpie or pirate?”
“Neither, captain,” I replied, smiling as the comical end of it came up to me, “but a young gentleman in misfortune.”
“Hoots!” says he, frowning at the grinning half-circle about us, “it’s daft ye are—”
But there he paused, and took of me a second sizing. How he got at my birth behind my tangled mat of hair and wringing linsey-woolsey I know not to this day. But he dropped his Scotch and merchant-captain’s manner, and was suddenly a French courtier, making me a bow that had done credit to a Richelieu.
“Your servant, Mr.—”
“Richard Carvel, of Carvel Hall, in his Majesty’s province of Maryland.”
He seemed sufficiently impressed.
“Your very humble servant, Mr. Carvel. ’Tis in faith a privilege to be able to serve a gentleman.”
He bowed me toward his cabin, and then in sharp, quick tones he gave an order to his mate to get under way, and I saw the men turning to the braces with wonder in their eyes. My own astonishment was as great. And so, with my clothes sucking to my body and a trail of water behind me like that of a wet walrus, I accompanied the captain aft. His quarters were indeed a contrast to those of Griggs, being so neat that I paused at the door for fear of profaning them; but was so courteously bid to enter that I came on again. He summoned a boy from the round house.
“William,” said he, “a bottle of my French brandy. And my compliments to Mr. MacMuir, and ask him for a suit of clothes. You are a larger man than I, Mr. Carvel,” he said to me, “or I would fit you out according to your station.”
I was too overwhelmed to speak. He poured out a liberal three fingers of brandy, and pledged me as handsomely as I had been an admiral come thither in mine own barge, instead of a ragged lad picked off a piratical slaver, with nothing save my bare word and address. ’Twas then I had space to note him more particularly. His skin was the rich colour of a well-seasoned ship’s bell, and he was of the middle height, owned a slight, graceful figure, tapering down at the waist like a top, which