The Carousal: A Story of Thanet
THE CAROUSAL: A STORY OF THANET.
By MAX PEMBERTON.
THIS is the story of John Inglis, sometime Rector of the Church of St. Bartholomew at Broadstairs. I found it in an old library in the neighbouring parish of St. Peter's. That it is the work of the man it pretends to be I have no sort of doubt; but whether it was written in all sincerity, or as the imaginative relaxation of the parson, others must pronounce.
At the foot of the writing there is the signature, "John Inglis," and the further intimation that his labour was concluded upon the vigil of the Feast of St. Michael in the year 1823. But there is no heading that I could come upon; nor any betrayal of the purpose which led the clerk thus to unbosom himself. Nor have I put it upon myself to find for him those reasons which he himself does not disclose, holding that his story is sufficiently strange to bear both the lack of purpose and the light of print. And with this foreword, I call upon him to speak for himself.
This, being the night of which I write, and after eight of the clock, my man Percival came running up to the house from the Ramsgate Road, in such a condition of sweat and haste that I went from my study to meet him, and began to call to him while he was yet beyond the gate.
"Master, master!" said he; "for the love of God get down to Dumpton! There 's murder done upon the beach, and one dying."
"How say you?" asked I. "Murder done, and by whom? Is it Jack Peter and his lot?"
"Not a man of them, master," said he, "there 's neither keg nor chest been ashore these ten tides, and none expected. It 's strange folk and queersome; and God deliver me from their like! No sooner was I crossing the throttle of the Gap than they clapped hands upon me, a score of them, thick-bodied and dirty rogues, and bade me run. There 's one of them down in a scuffle with more sins on his back than the church of St. Paul's could stand under. I 've the mark of their knives behind me now."
"Get me my jack-boots and my stick, Percival," said I; "it 's the weapons of unrighteousness that I 'll want this very night. To bring their dirty tricks to my door, indeed! But I 'll teach them a lesson which they shall bear upon their backs a week and more. The Lord make my right arm strong! Have you the lantern tended?"
"Bide a moment and I 'll carry two," said he, "and the pistols, moreover. Your honour would never venture among them with no more protection than a pesty cudgel? Good Lord! I 'm that sore in the hams I could shed tears."
"Put up your wrath, Percival, until we return," said I, "and as for your pistols, a fig for them! Has it come to this, that my word should be mocked in my own parish? Never let it be said."
With no more ado, we went out upon the road, 1 wrapped in my great cloak, he in his shirt-sleeves as he was; and the night being already dark, for it was the month of May, with no promise of abiding summer, we carried each a lantern, and struck upon the path which is over against the sea. Save for the journey which carried me thus from my home, it was a pleasant night to be abroad. The light airs of evening were now warmed, so that I, who had been sick two winters with an affliction of my breathing and had let much blood, had no harm of them; and the soft sound of the waters as they rolled upon the beach fell very pleasantly upon my ears. I could see the lanterns of ships shining brightly over the surface of the broken sea; and down in our own little harbourage there were fishing-boats coming to their moorings. But the footpath across the cliffs was without the tread of foot, save of ours alone; and when we had come within sight of the Gap, which is a hand's-breadth of bight lying midway between our village and that of Ramsgate, I began to be not a little anxious for our venture, and to repent in some part of that spirit which had carried me out upon it.
"Percival," said I, standing of a sudden where the ground rose high and the mouth of the Gap was to be seen, "how many of them did you think you saw?"
"A good dozen and more, your honour; a round company of pretty rogues, that would swing from a rope's end like a dog from his tail; as d——ble a parcel of cutthroats as were ever had up by Bony himself—begging your honour's pardon."
"Percival," said I, "you are an incorrigible fellow, and the turn of an oath is still pleasant in your mouth. Some day you will commit the unpardonable sin."
"Well, master," said he, "what is to be is to be; but the Lord knows if ever I met such a company as yon; and one dying, too."
"For the sake of his soul about to appear before its Maker, I am going thither at this moment," said I; "and may Heaven protect us, Percival! Is your arm supple upon your stick?"
"Aye, for a surety! " cried he, "and it need be with that lot—a lousy crew as ever you may meet."
"Percival," said I, "you are no Christian"; and with this in my mouth I ran before him, swinging my lantern in my hand. The mouth of the Gap was now but a stone's-throw from us, yet I heard or saw no man until I had begun to go down from the cliff, and then, for the first time, I observed the men's ship, lying out, as it might be, east by one point south. She was carrying a light at her masthead; and though it had grown somewhat dark there was moon enough to see that she was what the fishermen call a raking schooner. Whether, at the same time, she had thrown out an anchor or lay merely in the wind with her foresail hauled I could not tell.
"Percival," said I, when I had seen the ship, "you made no mention of this; they have come in a vessel, then."
"Aye, surely! " cried he. "Would you have them cross the water on a horse?"
"This is no time for vanity and frowardness," replied I; "but when we are returned home you shall beg my pardon for that remark. In the meantime, be so good as to lead me to the men."
"It's this way, your honour, as straight as your nose should take you to the shore. I say 'should take you,' for it 's common talk that if you followed it always, you 'd be in Heaven before the rest of us. This is where they toused me—as I 'm not like to forget. Don't you hear them now? It 's a strange song they 're singing, with dead men for drums."
A great burst of noise came up from the beach even as he spoke—a riotous burthen such as fell ill upon my ears. I was moved almost to run back; but while I weighed the matter a man stepped of a sudden from the shore, where he had stood in shadow, and clapped his hand upon my shoulder.
"Ho, ho!" sang he, with merriment I had no heart for, "the parson and his kit, upon my life. Dick, Jack, ahoy there! it 's the parson of Broadstairs." And so he stood awhile to laugh, and then cried loud again for the others to come. But I was much angered at his way of speaking, and I struck his hand from my shoulder as he jested.
"Drunkard," said I, "have you called me here to witness your junketings? Where is he that I came to speak with?"
The fellow, who was dressed in no honest man's clothes, having a pair of white breeches above his boots, and a sword at his hip, with a belt full of pistols about his waist, now stood with his arms akimbo, and threw my rebuke in my teeth.
"Man of war," said he, "it 's likely that he 's dead; but not being dead, it may hap that he is drunk. In either case you shall minister to his needs. Hey, dost like the job. Master Cock-in-the-Eye?—nay, but you shall like it. Dick, ahoy there, and a pest on your musty throat!"
He slapped me upon the shoulder again at this; and the song which came from a creek of the cliff a little way from us was broken with much abruptness. Three men, dressed much as the ruffian who stood before me, now came running towards us and began to handle me so unceremoniously that I lifted my voice, hoping to quell them as I quelled my own people. Nay, I raised my cudgel and bade them beware.
"Stand near to me at your peril!" cried I, "for so surely as I am God's servant, I will make your bones as rotting branches. Who is your leader, and where do you come from?"
"We 'll tell thee that in the wink of a light, Master Parson," said the fellow who had first spoken; with which he tripped me suddenly upon my back, so that I lay in the sand calling for my man Percival; but him they had already dealt with; and I heard him upon the cliff above crying out most dismally that he was surely at his end. Then his voice died away, and I was hurried along between the rogues who had laid hands upon me; and so carried up to the creek whence had come the sound of the ribald singing.
Here for the first time I may be said to have been aware of the strange visitation which had fallen upon our Isle of Thanet, The company that I was now presented to was fine enough in some way for the King's palace, there being eight men at the least in gay-coloured coats and fine white breeches, the vests of many of them sparkling with cloth of gold and silver, and all wearing jewelled swords at their girdles. They sat in one of the alcoves which lay back a space from the shore; and they had hung a yacht's sail about the door of this for privacy while they feasted from many rare dishes, served in silver upon fine white napkins which they had spread upon the sand. For light, they had candles stuck upon the jutting ridges of chalk; and I saw with some sorrow that many among them were already drunken, and others in a state of dissolute insensibility. At the head of the company there was a youth of very pleasant face, though his eyes were now bright with wine; and him I addressed as the one who appeared to have command upon the others,
"Sir," said I, "your men have brought me here, with what purpose I cannot divine, unless it be to put insult upon that profession of the Christian faith I have the ho our to follow. Beware, Sir, for so surely as there is a King upon the throne, some of you shall hang at Canterbury."
"Master Parson," said the fellow, who sat squatting upon his haunches, and hiccoughed with the wine he had drunk, "I thank you for your discourse; a devilish orderly discourse, upon my life, I never heard a better from his Majesty's pulpit. You shall drink with me, my cockalorum, as good a stoup of French brandy as ever ran over your gills. Ho! Dick, a can for the parson."
"Sir," said!, "your hospitality I refuse, as I would, if it lay in my power, refuse the honour of your company. Tell me your business, I pray you, that I may have done with it, and see to my servant, who has been sore used by your men."
"Eh gad, little parson," said the fellow whom I had first met, "if it 's your man that you 're fretting for, you may be easy. He 's legs up in the ditch by the hayrick, and his mouth is so full of oaths that he 'll not want food for a month or more."
"You are an ill-bred fellow!" cried I at this, "and if I had my hands I would strike you upon the mouth."
"Peace, peace!" the leader now sang out, rocking to and fro with the+ vertigo of the strong liquor, "I 'll have no threats on my deck, be you parson or pedagogue, or any scoundrel you may name. Drink the King's health, little Cock-eye, and a spawn upon all your mouthings!"
"Sir," said I, "in the fit time and circumstance there are none more ready to do honour to his Majesty; but this is neither the hour nor the season. Explain to me your business and let me depart."
"Aye, that I will," said the youth. "You shall even learn it in a word. I sent for you to marry me."
"To marry you! exclaimed I. "How so?"
"As I say, my parson, and no otherwise. To bind me, Humphrey Nash, bachelor, to have and to hold from this day forward, henceforth and evermore, in sickness or in health, in drink or out of it, full up with guineas or as empty as a passed bottle, with Betty Matthew, spinster, in the parish of St. Peter's, in the county of Kent, to be my lawful wife in the holy estate of matrimony. God save the King."
"I know the wench you mean," said I. "She is the daughter of Geoffrey Matthew, the farmer. Young man, beware what you do, lest the pair of you stand in outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. It is not hid from me that you are a person of quality. What, then, in God's name, means this idle masquerade?"
"In my own good time that will I tell thee, parson; meanwhile, a word in your ear."
At this point he made an attempt to rise, but fell back in a besotted condition upon his couch of sand, and for some time he sat cracking his fingers and gabbling at a song, of whose profane meaning I could only guess by the tow-row and the din which the others came to at the chorus. When I was wearied of his "ri-tol-de-lol-lol," he took up what thread of his discourse he could, and went on again.
"A word in your ear, Master Parson—a word I say"—which he repeated many times—"a word, O man of peace, a sacred confidence. You shall come with me upon my ship—even so—and you shall marry me, or I will run my sword through your neck, and the sea shall swallow you up, and the sin shall be on your soul, and I will have none of it. Dost hear, bandy legs—dost hear? Then a can upon it, and one can more—
Let the toast pass,
Drink to the lass.
I 'll warrant she 'll go to a very good glass."
He continued to shout this for many minutes, and one of three left with him in the cave joined him in his frolic, for the others were now quite insensible with drink, and lay in fuddled carelessness, while the sputtering candles threw a waning yellow light upon their heated faces. For my own part, I began to fear exceedingly both for his threat and for the girl Betty Matthew, whose father was one of my parishioners. I was not so countrified or so ignorant of the ways of the wicked youth of London that I could be blind to his intention; and it appeared plain to me that I must remain to shield the girl, and to hinder him in his deeper purposes. These were in no way hidden from me. He had desired this mock of a marriage—which he would have performed somewhere in France, lest he should be in any way bound by it—that the girl might be the more willing to consent. Had I been alone with him, I would have used him with such an exhortation as he had not heard for many a day; but his ill-visaged seamen were at the entrance of the cave, and righteous anger promised no help. Nevertheless did I determine to frustrate him in his wickedness; and when I had thought upon it a little while there came to me an idea which seemed given to me from Heaven for the punishment of the man and for his salvation. But the time was not ripe to put it to the trial; and while I was yet thinking of it, we heard low voices upon the strand, and anon three or four rough fellows came pushing past the canvas at the door, and to my sorrow I saw the girl Matthew, dressed sprucely as for the Sabbath, in their midst. She was hysterical and much overwrought; and her first words—for she did not observe me—were to the youth who had brought her to the predicament.
"0h, Jack, Jack," she said, "I can't keep my promise; I daresn't go, Jack, I daresn't."
"That is quite right, Betty Matthew," said I, stepping forward from the shadow, "return to your father and to your home."
She screamed out at this, and dropped sobbing upon her knees; but the youth waxing wroth in his cups, cried suddenly—
"Master Parson, if you cannot put a hitch upon your tongue, I 'll even cut it at the roots. We are now going upon my ship, and there I warrant you that the treatment will be as you make it."
"Aye, so," intervened one of the fellows around, "leave him to me, Sir John, and I 'll wager his civility."
The others said nothing, for they were drinking again, and this I thought to be my opportunity.
"Mr. Humphrey," said I, speaking quite close to his ear, "you have twice deceived me this night—in the first place with your story of a man lying dead, in the second with your Christian name, which I find not to be Humphrey, but John. This being so, I insist, before leaving this place, that you declare to me your solemn intention of behaving honourably by this woman."
He answered me with a very wild look from his now flagging eyes.
"Is my honour at stake?" asked he.
"As you make it," cried I.
"Do you insinuate that I lie?"
"Show me the ring of marriage," said I suddenly, "and I will be convinced."
He fumbled with his clothes, and threw a thick gold ring upon the table.
"That 's well," said I. "And now wilt thou have this woman to be thy wedded wife?" And here, speaking very quickly, I repeated the words that are writ in our Book of Common Prayer. To which he made answer—
"Of course I will; what else am I here for?"
I paid no attention to him, but turned to the woman.
"Betty Matthew," said I, "wilt thou have this man to thy wedded husband?" And again I spoke from the written word.
"Answer me, '! will,' wench," said I again.
She spoke the word.
"Now," I cried, "let us see if I remember what to do, or else it were idle my going upon your ship." And with the cry, I bade him slip the ring upon the wench's finger, and speak after me. He hiccoughed a laugh, but obeyed with tipsy jeers upon his lips. The girl spake also; and then, raising my voice so that it rang through the cave, I cried: "Bear witness all. Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder."
In which moment I married Sir John Humphrey. His name came to my recollection in a flash of thought, I having heard of his wickedness in London the year that I paid visit to my kinsman the Dean; and as he, at the end of my performance, fell back intoxicated upon the floor, I turned to the woman and said—
"Wench, you may go upon the yacht. You are his wife in the sight of God and of the law."
The rogue was, as I have written, now insensible, and some of the seamen came to carry him and his companions to the long-boat, which was pushed up upon the beach; but hope of my own escape in the press was speedily put from me as one of the rougher sailors held to my arm and cried—
"Dick, help me with the parson, dost hear?"
Thus they carried me to the boat, and some singing, some drinking, some quite without speech, and the woman in exceeding fear, we rowed to the schooner; and, being come aboard, anchor was weighed and we stood towards Calais point. The noisier fellows were now all carried below and thrown into their bunks, but me they left upon the deck, with a sack for my head; and while there was a cabin for the girl, she preferred to be at my side, and I did what was in my power to give her comfort.
"Betty," said I, "it may even be for your punishment that you are thus come from your home and from your parents. It is a great sin that you have upon your soul."
"Indeed and it is, Mr. Inglis," said she; "and I never thought to see the day. But he spoke so fair; and oh, he has such ways with him!"
She was quite a child yet, and accounted a great beauty in all our parish. I had not until that time turned my eyes upon her; yet when I came to it she drew from me an exclamation, being ripe with that loveliness that is to be seen in many English maidens—an exceeding fair flower.
"Child," said 1, "did he tell you that you were pretty?"
"Indeed, a many times," said she, "and I do believe he has a great care for me, Sir; he speaks fine words, and there's no one like him all the country round."
"We shall hear the words he speaks in the morning," said I, "and now, Betty, get what sleep you can. There may be troubles yet, for man is very wicked and his heart is vile withal."
It did not seem good to me to trouble her with any further exhortation; and for the matter of that, I went to sleep almost immediately, and was not awakened until the sun had come up over the sea, and shone pleasantly upon the dunes and downs of France. We were then off the coast by Cape Grisnez, but the breeze was very mild and not such as sailors seek for; and the few men upon the deck were using mops upon the whitened boards. Betty Matthew still slept at my feet, with my own cape wrapped about her; but none of the youths who had been partakers of the riotous debauch of yesternight had come on deck; and were all, I was told, sleeping off the fumes of the wine. I waited for them with much satisfaction, knowing well that I had a weapon to whip the devil out of one of them at the least; and was he not commander of the others? With which thought I took a can of muddy coffee offered to me by the seamen, and gave another to the girl. She was a little blanched with the exposure to the raw night air; and she had no courage at all when she saw so near to her the green fields and white houses of a new country.
"Mr. Inglis, Sir, what have I done," she would cry frequently, "to leave my good father on such an errand? I am well punished, Sir."
"Which is, Betty," said I in return, "the sure sequence of any lapse from that strict path of duty which I have laid down for you in my sermons since you were come to years cf discretion. You are well punished, but you have more to bear from Sir John Humphrey, who is now, I do not doubt, your husband in the sight of the English law."
"Meaning that I am Lady Humphrey. Oh, Sir, that can't be his name!"
"It is his name, and an honoured name, too, though he carries it in strange company. But Nemesis has overtaken him at last, and I thank Heaven for the opportunity which has been given to me."
My discourse was broken at this point by the appearance of the man himself, who came up at the ladder which sailors call the companion, and looked all about the deck. When he saw me, he walked forward with humility, his eyes being bleared with the wine he had drunk, and his face very white and bloodless. Nor was there any more of that cavalierly frowardness I had rebuked overnight upon the shore.
"Mr. Inglis," said he, bowing low, "I fear to hear that we have handled you unkindly. It lays upon me now to make my apologies, and to set my business before you," with which saying he assumed a fine air of gallantry, and offered his pleasantries to the girl.
"Nay, Betty," cried he, "how shall I forgive myself for what has passed? Oh! my child, that you should be guest thus upon my ship, and I not able to say a word to you! Upon my life, there have been men less criminal hanged at Tyburn."
At this point I spoke to him, drawing myself up as I do at the "last word" in my pulpit.
"Sir John Humphrey," said I, at the which he turned upon his heel quickly to face me, "your business I know as I know your name. You compelled me with violence to this ship that I might be the instrument of your crime."
"How say you!" cried he. "What rant is this?"
"No rant," said I, "but the truth, which is the same in high word or whisper. You thought to make a mock of the solemn bonds of matrimony by deceiving this woman with a ceremony out of the Kingdom of England. Is that not so?"
The girl at this made answer for him, clinging to him with some warmth.
"Jack," said she, "I can't believe it. Tell him you meant fair by me."
"If he were not a dolt he would see that for himself!" cried Sir John Humphrey next, in anger. "I brought you aboard her to shelter you from your father's pursuit, and as evidence of my good faith, I carry the parson of your parish with you. What more does the man want?"
"I want the stupidity to be deceived by your words," said I, "and for the matter of that, Sir John, you waste your breath. I married you before witnesses last night upon the foreshore at Kent, and this woman is your wife in the sight of God and the law."
He had been holding to the girl when I began to speak; but now he let go of her and clung to some of the ropes near to him for support. The look upon his face was one very vindictive and unpleasant to see. When he spoke his voice was harsh and grating.
"Mr. Inglis," said he, "I should be sorry to think that your profession has made a liar of you."
"No less sorry than I," was my answer.
"You are pleased to joke with me," continued he.
"The Lord forbid that I should make a mock of His holy ordinances," said I.
"Then what is your tale of this marriage?" asked he.
"No tale," cried I, "as you will find! I married you in the cave at Dumpton, and Lady Humphrey stands at your side. If the need be, I doubt not to find witnesses."
"I have a great mind to throw you both into the sea!" exclaimed he when I said the thing; with which he turned upon his heel and left me standing with the girl.
"Look now," said I to her as he went, "you observe that he means fair towards you. Your punishment is like to be very hard, Betty."
"Oh, Mr. Inglis," cried she, sobbing bitterly, "don't speak to me, my heart is broken."
I was now her support where he should have been; and she laid her head upon my shoulder to my confusion. This was my fortieth year to which I had come without the touch of woman's cheek upon my own; and the devil, I doubt not, led me to feel a new and entrancing pleasure in the experience. But anon I remembered myself, and leading her to a seat I left her upon it to cry as she deserved to cry. The ship was now quite close to the coast of France; but the sea was still, and there was no wind but a capful which blew from the cliffs and flapped our sails. The seamen lay about idly coiling the ropes or knotting and splicing; but of the gallants I saw only two, who came upon deck to look at Betty or to rail at me. One of them was the impertinent coxcomb who had first seized me upon the beach; but him I dealt such a lusty box upon the ear that he went down headlong upon the deck; and after that we were left alone. When next I had news of Sir John it was about the hour of ten o'clock, four bells, as goes the sailors' speech. At that time, what should happen but that the whole crew of them came tumbling up upon the deck, laughing and talking as though they were at a playhouse. When they set eyes upon me, they seemed to find great joy of it, all crying and gabbling together like boys that have run out of a school.
"The top of the morning, little Parson," cried one.
"Benedicite, man of war," said a second.
"A cup of wine with you, cock-eye," said a third impudently.
"Here 's the other cheek, Barebones," said the fellow I had seen good to rebuke.
But Sir John Humphrey, coming forward, with a face flushed with anger, and a halt in his voice, so full of speech was he, said—
"Mr. Inglis, you saw fit to make merry with me last night. Whether you are only a very good liar or whether you believe that you married me to this slut is a question which I do not pretend to decide. Nor do I care a crack for all the ranting rogues in Kent. But I 'll have no mouthings upon my ship, and no maudling wenches either, for that matter. You may just get you gone, and a murrain on the pair of you!"
"Young man," said I, "now do I give thanks that you are brought to a sense of your shame. Let your ship be turned towards England at once, and I do not doubt that I shall be able, with the help of my kinsman, the Dean, to bring this marriage in as null and void before the law. But thank God that I am sent to save you from a greater sin."
They all laughed out at this, though I saw nothing in my discourse so to move them. Presently Sir John spoke again.
"Master Parson," said he, "as for turning my ship to England when I wish to go to France, I would not do it for a bench of bishops—let alone for such a one as you. But never let it be said that I was wanting in hospitality. That small boat yonder is at your service, and a pair of stout oars to boot. The shore there is not five miles distant, and the sea is smooth. Get you in, therefore, and let me hear no more of your prattle, for you are a pestilent fellow, and I would to Heaven I had never seen you."
"How! young man," cried I, much alarmed. "Would you commit me with this woman to the peril of the deep?"
"Even so," said he, "in the sure and certain hope that you may be drowned."
"Then the Lord send fire from heaven to punish you," cried I.
I spoke the words, but they were the last I ever said to Sir John Humphrey. I can remember, I think, that the girl tried to stay with him, sobbing in a most pitiful way, and that I was enabled to deal some blows to those who sought to lay hands upon me; but these were ineffectual to restrain the men from their purpose, and when no more than a minute had passed both Betty and I were afloat in the boat and the sides of the schooner seemed to rise infinitely high above us. After that, all the youth came to the taffrail to shout after us; but we were soon carried by the current out of hearing, and thus were set in that sore peril which is the sharpest memory of my life. I, indeed, commended my soul to its Maker; but the girl lay in an extremity of fear at my feet, and would, I thought, have died as she lay.
The wind had now somewhat increased, so that our poor barque rose upon the billows and dipped into the hollows with a rocking motion that speedily brought to me the trouble of vertigo. From the tops of the waves I could see the fields of France and the sparkle of the waters; but when the boat seemed to sink beneath us there was nothing but walls of green around and the blue sky of heaven above. At the same time the spray came into our ship abundantly, and I was speedily wet to the skin, for I had covered the girl with my cloak, and suffered much from the cold; while I thought sure that every minute must be my last. Then I fell to praying aloud, and after that to giving what consolation I could to the weaker creature who had brought this misfortune upon us.
"Betty," said I, "cease your weeping and speak to me. Do you know that we are going to die?"
"Oh, Mr. Inglis," said she, "I am only twenty years old, and so wicked!"
"You are very wicked,," answered I, "but may yet find salvation. Can you row, Betty?"
"I 've pulled a sweep sometimes with brother William," said she, "but my hands are that cold now, I could never hold one."
"Give me your hands, child, that I may rub them," said I, "for unless we row we shall surely be drowned."
I rubbed her hands at that, and she being exceeding cold, I drew her near to me, both of us sitting under the one cloak, at which we had much consolation.
"Do you forgive me, Mr. Inglis, Sir?" she asked me when we had drifted yet a while.
"Indeed I do, Betty," said I, "from my heart."
"If only I could think that my father would!"
"You had the best of fathers, and a comfortable home," said I, remembering that Matthew was a man of substance; "it was a sin to leave it for such a one as yon good-for-nothing."
"But I am punished, Sir, and now I am going to die."
"As the Lord wills, Betty," said I, "but let us not despair; when you are warmed a little you shall try to row."
"And you will speak for me at home, Sir?"
"That may even be, Betty."
"You do not think unkindly of me, Mr. Inglis?"
"I think most kindly, Betty."
Somehow at this, I felt that my cheeks were heated, and I drew away from her, so that we sat with a space between us, and did not speak. The boat was now drifting speedily, with little water coming upon us, and the sun was warming. There was a brightness in the girl's eyes, which was not of fear.
"Betty," said I presently, "do you love Sir John Humphrey now?"
"Oh, indeed no, Sir!" cried she bravely.
"And you would be glad if you were not married to him?"
"I would be truly thankful," said she, with a little shiver of the cold.
"I will write to my kinsman if ever Providence carries us to the land again, and see if this were a marriage or no," said I deeming it prudent to take her under the cloak again. After which we did not speak for a long while, but I felt her hands warmed anew. She was the next who spoke.
"If I come home again," she said, looking up to me with tears glistening through her eyelids, "they will wed me with Tom Kemble, the apothecary's son; who took up with the Preventative men last year."
"They shall do nothing of the sort," said I in anger. "What? wed with a lout like that! Shame on them for the thought! You have no pledge with him?"
"I would sooner die," said she; "but there's no one cares."
"Dry your tears, Betty," said 1, "and speak the truth."
"I 'll try to, Sir," said she.
"There is one who cares, Betty," said I.
"Indeed no, Sir! " cried she.
"Nay," said I, "he is sitting beside you."
We had now drifted into the loom of the land. The stones of the shingle were plain to our view, and a little white church set upon a hill. There was also a fisherman's boat coming in towards the shore, as if to overtake us——
The good Parson's narrative ends thus, I can only add this to it, that in the vestry of the Church of St. Bartholomew is a certificate of his marriage on Christmas Day in the year 1823 to Betty Matthew, of the neighbouring parish of St. Peter's.