Love Me Little, Love Me Long by Charles Reade
The skipper of the ship, hearing a commotion on deck, came up, and, taking off his cap, made Lucy a bow in a style remote from an English sailor's. She courtesied to him, and, to his surprise, addressed him in Parisian French. When he learned she was from England, and had rounded that point in an open boat, he was astonished.
"Diables d'Anglais!" said he.
The good-natured Frenchman insisted on Lucy taking sole possession of his cabin, in which was a cheerful stove. His crew were just as kind to David, Jack, and Talboys. This latter now resumed his right place--at the head of mankind; being the only one who could talk French, he interpreted for his companions. He improved upon my narrative in one particular: he led the Frenchmen to suppose it was he who had sailed the boat from England, and weathered the point. Who can blame him?
Dry clothes were found them, and grog and beef.
While employed on the victuals, a little Anglo-Frank, aged ten, suddenly rolled out of a hammock and offered aid in the sweet accents of their native tongue. The sound of the knives and forks had woke the urchin out of a deep sleep. David filled the hybrid, and then sent him to Lucy's cabin to learn how she was getting on. He returned, and told them the lady was sitting on deck.
"Dear me," said David, "she ought to be in her bed." He rose and went on deck, followed by Mr. Talboys. "Had you not better rest yourself?" said David.
"No, thank you, Mr. Dodd; I had a delicious sleep in the boat."
Here Talboys put in his word, and made her a rueful apology for the turn his pleasure-excursion had taken.
She stopped him most graciously.
"On the contrary, I have to thank you, indirectly, for one of the pleasantest evenings I ever spent. I never was in danger before, and it is delightful. I was a little frightened at first, but it soon wore off, and I feel I should shortly revel in it; only I must have a brave man near just to look at, then I gather courage from his eye; do I not now, Mr. Dodd?"
"Indeed you do," said David, simply enough.
Lucy Fountain's appearance and manner bore out her words. Talboys was white; even David and Jack showed some signs of a night of watching and anxiety; but the young lady's cheek was red and fresh, her eye bright, and she shone with an inspired and sprightly ardor that was never seen, or never observed in her before. They had found the way to put her blood up, after all--the blood of the Funteyns. Such are thoroughbreds: they rise with the occasion; snobs descend as the situation rises. See that straight-necked, small-nosed mare stepping delicately on the turnpike: why, it is Languor in person, picking its way among eggs. Now the hounds cry and the horn rings. Put her at timber, stream, and plowed field in pleasing rotation, and see her now: up ears; open nostril; nerves steel; heart immovable; eye of fire; foot of wind. And ho! there! What stuck in that last arable, dead stiff as the Rosinantes in Trafalgar Square, all but one limb, which goes like a water-wagtail's? Why, by Jove! if it isn't the hero of the turnpike road: the gallant, impatient, foaming, champing, space-devouring, curveting cocktail.
Out of consideration for her male companions' infirmities, and observing that they were ashamed to take needful rest while she remained on deck, Lucy at length retired to her cabin.
She slept a good many hours, and was awakened at last by the rocking of the sloop. The wind had fallen gently, but it had also changed to due east, which brought a heavy ground-swell round the point into their little haven. Lucy made her toilet, and came on deck blooming like a rose. The first person she encountered was Mr. Talboys. She saluted him cordially, and then inquired for their companions.
"Oh, they are gone."
"Gone! What do you mean?"
"Sailed half an hour ago. Look, there is the boat coasting the island. No, not that way--westward; out there, just weathering that point Don't you see?"
"Are they making a tour of the island, then?"
Here the little Anglo-Frank put in his word. "No, ma'ainselle, gone to catch sheep bound for ze East Indeeze."
"Gone! gone! for good?" and Lucy turned very pale. The next moment offended pride sent the blood rushing to her brow. "That is just like Mr. Dodd; there is not another gentleman in the world would have had the ill-breeding to go off like that to India without even bidding us good-morning or good-by. Did he bid you good-by, Mr. Talboys?"
"There, now, it is insolent--it is barbarous." Her vexation at the affront David had put on Mr. Talboys soon passed into indignation. "This was done to insult--to humiliate us. A noble revenge. You know we used sometimes to quiz him a little ashore, especially you; so now, out of spite, he has saved our lives, and then turned his back arrogantly upon us before we could express our gratitude; that is as much as to say he values us as so many dogs or cats, flings us our lives haughtily, and then turned his back disdainfully on us. Life is not worth having when given so insultingly."
Talboys soothed the offended fair. "I really don't think he meant to insult us; but you know Dodd; he is a good-natured fellow, but he never had the slightest pretension to good-breeding."
"Don't you think," replied the lady, "it would be as well to leave off detracting from Mr. Dodd now that he has just saved your life?"
Talboys opened his eyes. "Why, you began it."
"Oh, Mr. Talboys, do not descend to evasion. What I say goes for nothing. Mr. Dodd and I are fast friends, and nobody will ever succeed in robbing me of my esteem for him. But you always hated him, and you seize every opportunity of showing your dislike. Poor Mr. Dodd! He has too many great virtues not to be envied--and hated."
Talboys stood puzzled, and was at a loss which way to steer his tongue, the wind being so shifty. At last he observed a little haughtily that "he never made Mr. Dodd of so much. importance as all this. He owned he had quizzed him, but it was not his intention to quiz him any more; for I do feel under considerable obligations to Mr. Dodd; he has brought us safe across the Channel; at the same time, I own I should have been more grateful if he had beat against the wind and landed us on our native coast; the lugger is there long before this, and our boat was the best of the two."
"Absurd!" replied Lucy, with cold hauteur. "The lugger had a sharp stern, but ours was a square stern, so we were obliged to run; if we had beat, we should all have been drowned directly."
Talboys was staggered by this sudden influx of science; but he held his ground. "There is something in that," said he; "but still, a--a----"
"There, Mr. Talboys," said the young lady suddenly, assuming extreme languor after delivering a facer, "pray do not engage me in an argument. I do not feel equal to one, especially on a subject that has lost its interest. Can you inform me when this vessel sails?"
"Not till to-morrow morning."
"Then will you be so kind as to borrow me that little boat? it is dangling from the ship, so it must belong to it. I wish to land, and see whether he has cast us upon an in- or an uninhabited island."
The sloop's boat speedily landed them on the island, and Lucy proposed to cross the narrow neck of land and view the sea they had crossed in the dark. This was soon done, and she took that opportunity of looking about for the lateen, for her mind had taken another turn, and she doubted the report that David had gone to intercept the East-Indiaman. A short glance convinced her it was true. About seven miles to leeward, her course west-northwest, her hull every now and then hidden by the waves, her white sails spread like a bird's, the lateen was flying through the foam at its fastest rate. Lucy gazed at her so long and steadfastly that Talboys took the huff, and strolled along the cliff.
When Lucy turned to go back, she found the French skipper coming toward her with a scrap of paper in his hand. He presented it with a low bow; she took it with a courtesy. It was neatly folded, though not as letters are folded ashore, and it bore her address. She opened it and read:
"It was not worth while disturbing your rest just to see us go off. God bless you, Miss Lucy! The Frenchman is bound for ----, and will take you safe; and mind you don't step ashore till the plank is fast.
That was all. She folded it back thoughtfully into the original folds, and turned away. When she had gone but a few steps she stopped and put her rejected lover's little note into her bosom, and went slowly back to the boat, hanging her sweet head, and crying as she went.