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now going to leave us, Tom, and I have been considering that you will require a number of articles for your long voyage.
You can procure these much better here than at Plymouth, where you will be occupied and hurried with necessary business on board ; among other things, you must have a sufficient stock of linen, and I am much better qualified to judge of these articles than you are. I mean to go a-shopping this morning for that purpose, and, with your permission, which I'm sure you'll grant, I will purchase some shirts, and mark them for you. It is but a small return, I confess, for the many obligations I owe you since you have been in this family; but it may at least serve to remind you now and then of those you have left behind you, and whom it is likely you will never again see.' As she falteringly pronounced
the last words, a tear had insensibly stolen down her cheek ; while Tom, equally affected, retired to the window, where for some minutes he continued, completely overpowered with his emotions. In a few minutes, however, he recovered himself, and in less than half an hour he and Susan understood the state of each other's heart perfectly. As an additional assurance of his attachment, and much to the satisfaction of Susan, Tom undeceived her with regard to her idea of his birth and parentage, and, although he mentioned not particularly his father's occupation, assured her that he was no more than the son of a plain, respectable tradesman, who had given him an education suitable to his prospects in life, to which he owed the success he had just met with.
There is, in the mixed emotions of sorrow and joy, that which many do not comprehend, and none but those who experience it can feel. Tom and Susan, while they foresaw and felt a separation which was to divide them far from each other for a considerable time, felt, however, what contributed powerfully to solace them—the assurance of mutual affection, of which formerly they were ignorant, and a mutual engagement of constancy, which gave them at least the prospect of happier days, should life continue. This counterpoise between sorrow and joy, although not exactly balanced, was, however, so nearly so, that when the family sat down to breakfast, our two lovers were not only the most composed, but the most cheerful of the four; a circumstance that failed not to surprise the old couple, who were really depressed with Tom's approaching departure.
We shall not attempt to describe the parting scene, because we are confident we could do it no manner of justice ; neither shall we describe the meeting between Tom and Andrew on their first interview, but shall leave everything to the conception and feelings of those who, experiencing the genuine emotions of love and friendship, can easily paint in their own minds what we are unable to paint in description.
AFLOAT-A CRITICAL SITUATION.
The situation of our two young men was now very different from what they experienced formerly. Tom, whom we must now designate Mr Drysdale, was not only a warrant-officer of considerable consequence and trust on board a flag-ship, destined for a long and precarious voyage, but, through the assistance of his friend the builder, was enabled to fit himself out in a manner that did credit to his station and appearance, and added to his consequence. On the other hand, Andrew, whom we must likewise call Mr Cochran, was the particular friend and assistant of the secretary, who upon all occasions treated him as such, and represented him to the commodore as one in whom he had the utmost confidence, and without whom he could not execute the important duties of his office. He had taken care, previous to their leaving London, to arrange matters so, that everything relative to personal appearance should not be wanting to procure him respect and do credit to his station on board, well knowing that externals in every situation, but particularly on board of a king's ship, have no small influence on general opinion.
Nothing material occurred during the voyage to Rio de Janeiro, and thence to the Cape of Good Hope. Our two messmates continued to rise in estimation in their respective stations. The carpenter's superior knowledge in his profession secured him the attention and regard of all on board, and as he naturally felt the consequence attached to his office, and the consciousness of acting with propriety, his air, manner, and address naturally acquired that ease of deportment which good sense and good feelings usually produce. On the other hand, Cochran, independently of the marked attention paid him by the secretary, felt the superiority of his station in the office, and naturally looked forward to future appointments and emoluments. Less steady and dignified than Drysdale, and greatly his inferior in judgment and genius, he was, however, extremely engaging in his manners, and particularly so in his conversation.
Excepting hard gales off the Cape, nothing material occurred till the fleet arrived in the Mozambique ; when one morning at the dawn of day, signal-guns of distress were heard from the north-east on board the commodore's ship, which was then considerably ahead. As the Mozambique passage, from a number of shoals and sandbanks, is but narrow in several places, navigation becomes not a little intricate and dangerous, and much attention and caution are requisite. Proceeding in this manner with a moderate gale under reefed topsails, and the lead constantly going, on a nearer approach, and better daylight, there was clearly perceived from the commodore's ship a large vessel at some distance evidently aground, with the sea breaking over her bows. Willing to afford all the assistance possible, and anxious to investigate matters critically, the cutter was immediately hoisted out, and the second-lieutenant and carpenter, with some stout hands, put into her, with instructions that, should more assistance be wanted, a certain signal should be made on board the strange ship. As the boat approached, Drysdale perceived, from the ship's position, that she was aground chiefly from the chest-tree forward ; and on coming alongside, he made the boat to be rowed round her, in order to be more perfectly assured of the fact. During this preliminary step, he observed a lady with some children on the poop, apparently in great terror and distress, which induced him to say to the lieutenant, that whatever might happen, he could wish they were conveyed to some other ship, out of danger and confusion : a wish in which the other cordially joined him. On coming aboard, they found every person in the utmost consternation and despair; the captain walking the quarter-deck with a hurried step, and a countenance highly expressive of affliction; the officers standing in a state of stupefaction ; the men spiritless and dejected; and the unhappy mother wringing her hands, and embracing her children by turns, repeatedly exclaiming : 'Oh that my dear infants were safely out of this ship!'
While the lieutenant proceeded to the quarter-deck to announce, with the usual naval air and consequence, the purport of the commodore's message, and the intention of the visit, Drysdale went forward to collect intelligence, and to investigate the immediate situation of the ship. Having found the carpenter, and been informed that the accident had happened but a few hours before, he begged to sound the well, and, to his astonishment, found that there were seven feet of water in the hold. “Why, your ship is completely water-logged,' said he, turning round to the carpenter.
“Yes,' said the other, with seeming indifference; 'we sprung a leak yesterday in a heavy squall, which no doubt by this time must have made a considerable quantity of water.'
And why are not your pumps going?'
' Both of our chain pumps,' answered the carpenter, with the same degree of unconcern, have gone wrong, and will not work without great labour: our men are already quite knocked up at them, without doing any good; and as our ship is now fast aground, and cannot sink, it is just as well that they should rest and recruit themselves, in case anything can be done to get the ship off; though, for my part, I see not the least likelihood of it.'
After staring at him, Drysdale shook his head, and went immediately to examine the pumps, when he found that the defect proceeded from a couple of joints broken in the chains, which could be very easily repaired, if an armourer was on board. During this time the captain and the lieutenant had discussed everything relative to the accident that had happened to the ship, which proved to be one of our homeward-bound East Indiamen, very richly laden. When the lieutenant informed the captain that the commodore had sent his carpenter to assist him with his advice, and pointed out Drysdale to him, while occupied about the pumps, the other remarked that he seemed to be quite a young lad, and could not have had much experience. 'However young he may be,' rejoined the lieutenant, ‘he has more experience and knowledge than any I ever met with in the line of his profession; for, independent of his being an excellent carpenter, and a thorough-paced seaman, he seems to know everything.
'I am blessed with a carpenter who knows nothing,' rejoined the other mournfully ; ‘and who, in addition to his ignorance, is one of the stupidest and most indolent fellows that ever was on board a ship. I should be glad to converse with this young man, and hear what he has to say on our melancholy situation.'
When Drysdale made his appearance on the quarter-deck, the captain said: “Well, Mr Drysdale, what is your real opinion of matters as they now stand ?'
My opinion is, that nothing can possibly be worse,' answered the other.
'I am sorry to hear that from one of your knowledge,' rejoined the captain ; 'but do you really think that there is no chance of the ship being saved ?'
'I shan't say that,' answered Drysdale; 'on the contrary, I think there is a chance of her being saved, but not while matters remain in the state they are in at present on board. Why, sir, there are seven feet of water in the hold.'
'I make no doubt of it,' said the other; 'for the pumps have not worked these last twenty-four hours, owing to some unfortunate derangement, which our carpenter cannot find out, during all which time there has been a leak.'
'If you have an armourer on board,' said Drysdale, 'the derangement may be rectified in about an hour;' and accordingly described the impediment already mentioned.
• But, admitting them to be repaired, how is that to save the ship?' asked the captain.
'First, by lightening her of a heavy weight of water, without which nothing else, in my opinion, will be effectual,' answered Drysdale.
And supposing this weight discharged, what is next to be done ?' By lightening her still more forwards,' answered the other. ‘But why do you conceive that lightening her forward would prove more effectual than anywhere else?'
Because it is evident to me, from her position in the water, that she hangs forward, and grounds particularly from the head to the chest-tree; and, if I may be allowed to form an opinion, after having rowed round her,' continued Drysdale, 'I have reason to think that all abaft is afloat. There are other circumstances that occur to me, which I shall not at present mention, as they must depend greatly on accident and favouring events. In the meantime, I humbly suggest that not a moment may be lost; for should it begin to blow, I'm afraid, sir, your ship and cargo are gone !'
"You shall have the sole direction, Mr Drysdale,' said the captain ardently. 'I delegate everything to you, and whatever you order, shall be complied with.'
Drysdale modestly thanked him for the honour he did him, in reposing so much confidence in his knowledge, adding that, having delegated such an important charge to him, he had to request that the forge might be lighted instantly, and that the lieutenant should return, without loss of time, on board the commodore, and beg that a signal might be made for all the boats of the fleet to repair alongside, in case additional assistance should be wanted. I likewise propose, sir,' said Drysdale, 'that one of my mates may be sent me, in the event of discovering the leak after the ship is completely pumped out, which I flatter myself I shall be able to accomplish. În addition to these requests, sir, may I take the liberty to propose that this lady and her children should embrace the present opportunity of being conveyed on board the commodore's ship, safe from danger, and from a situation distressing to her, and painful to every humane and benevolent mind ?'
'I have not the smallest objection,' said the captain, 'if you have none, madam ?' turning to the disconsolate mother, who instantly exclaimed:
Oh none ! none whatever !--let me but preserve the lives of my children I care not what becomes of mine!'
* Permit me, then, madam,' said the lieutenant, presenting his hand to her, 'to conduct you over the side. I shall take good care of you, so be under no apprehension or alarm.'
And I shall take good care of your children,' said Drysdale approaching them, when a lovely girl of about six years old rushed into his arms, anxious to escape from scenes which for several hours had involved them all in horror and despair. As Drysdale handed the last child into the boat, the fond mother addressed him in these words : 'Unable as I am to repay you for your goodness, may the Almighty reward you for snatching me and mine from destruction !'
When the boat pushed off, Drysdale felt the genuine glow which every well-constituted mind must experience in performing an act of true benevolence; and as the impressive words of his grateful addresser recalled the pious sentiments and admonitions he had received from his parents in his early youth, he could not, even in his hurried ascent up the ship's side, avoid ejaculating: 'Well, blessed be God for having made me the humble instrument of giving even temporary happiness and consolation to the afflicted this day!' Every attention was now directed to expedition.