Imagens das páginas

He did not distrust her word or even her motive, but her plea of offering him the freedom which was not hers to give, and of testing his love, did not touch him, as it might have appealed to his heart had there been more of true love than of mere kindness and pity for her in his heart. He fell back on the charge of deceit and falsehood which he had been forced to bring against her from the first. She had been reared in an atmosphere of lying in speech and action, and the propensity clung to her ineradicably. He had never knowingly and wilfully lied to her, though she might have deceived herself with regard to the quality of his regard for her. She had promised to do her best; she had been elated and filled with sanguine anticipations of the wilds of Western America, and what had her good intentions and extravagant hopes come to ? This undutiful step, with its complete overthrow of his plans and its cunning evasion of his authority. He predicted it would be always thus ; she would be wrong-headed, perverse and crafty, if not treacherous, to the close of the chapter.

But he would circumvent her, if possible. She was not fit to take care of herself. Abe was no proper protector for his daughter and another man's wife. She had taken away enough money for two steerage berths, which would throw her into the company the least capable of restraining and shielding her, while he did not believe she had sufficient means for the maintenance of herself and her father on landing.

Sir William set off within an hour of getting his wife's letter in pursuit of her. He hoped to arrive in Liverpool before the emigrant ship had sailed, to go on board of her the first thing, and intercept the fugitives. He would either induce his wife to return and wait for the vessel on which he had originally fixed, or he would insist on taking his passage in her ship, and sailing with her and her father.

When Sir William arrived, he found not only that the ship was out of the Mersey, but that the pilot had returned, and there was no hope of his overtaking her. Indeed, she had gone even before Lady Thwaite arrived; but her ladyship had been equal to the occasion, and was so resolute in her purpose that she had hired a boat and followed in time to be taken on board when the pilot was dismissed.

There was no good in rushing to Ireland, for the ship was not to touch there. Much displeased and disheartened, Sir William stayed on for a time at the first railway hotel he had entered. He made inquiries about the next vessel to sail for America, and settled to go with a screw steamer in the course of the following week, without returning to Whitehills to show ‘his diminished face' there. He would leave all the concluding arrangements, as to the letting of the house, and the supplying him from time to time with funds, to Mr. Miles, and he would write and summon Bill Rogers, who was to be his fellow-voyager.

The weather was now fine, even balmy for the season; the equinoctial gales had blown by Sir William had not so much as the sardonic satisfaction of reflecting that Honor in her first experience of sea-sickness might be ruing her wilfulness in giving him the slip

-she had hardly ever been ill in her life before—and that subdued by circumstances she might miss him, and repent of her rash separation from him.

The forsaken husband was loitering about the docks, when he became aware of a certain ferment and stir among the dockyard labourers.

He heard fragments of seafaring talk ; one old man said to another:

There a' been nothin' like it, Ben, sin' the last runnin' down off the Kent coast, or the sinkin' of the Princess Alice in the Thames.'

Took her right in the waist, Joe,' answered his mate, "and clipped her there so that her were not only stove in, but parted midship and went down in two bits, one after t’other like two stones. There weren't no time to sing out for help, even if t’other vessel hadn't sailed on, as fast as she could run, and never looked behind her. Not more than a couple of boats could be got down, and they do say nine-tenths of the whole lot of them poor people are in Davy's locker by this time.'

Right of sea-way, do you say ? That ain't a question will be tackled in our day, Joe-not till lords and ladies and princes and princesses ’ave had their turn of clustering like bees about the gangway with their screams horful as them that a' heerd do tell. Bless ee ! what do the sinking of an immigrant ship or two, 'cause of want of rule of right of sea-way, make to the Lords and Commons ?

Sir William stood as if nailed to the spot,

[ocr errors]

with his heart failing him for fear of what had befallen some unhappy voyagers. He could make out the talk to refer to a collision of ships at sea, with great loss of life. On inquiry, he learnt a few more details ; that right of way which may be even more fatally neglected or misunderstood on water than on land, had been disregarded or blundered over once again. Two vessels — the one foreign, the other an English emigrant shiphad run foul of each other in a fog off the Welsh coast. The foreigner had drawn off little injured, and sailed away like a cowardly depredator and wanton murderer. The emigrant ship had suddenly parted midships, settled, and sunk, before more than a couple of boats could be lowered and put off. Of a great living freight sailing along without a dream of danger--no storm in the sky, no heaving, tossing sea, neither rocks nor breakers ahead, the mother country still in sight—the mass had perished.

The words emigrant ship’ caused Sir William to clench his teeth to keep in a cry. The name? There was no doubt of it. The name was that of the vessel in which his wife and her father had sailed. But still there

« AnteriorContinuar »