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Mr. Midshipman Easy (part 3 chapter 2)

2006-08-22 18:30

  Chapter 2

  IN WHICH CAPTAIN WILSON IS REPAID WITH INTEREST FOR JACK‘S BORROWING HIS NAME; PROVING THAT A GOOD NAME IS AS GOOD AS A LEGACY

  “Well, Jack, my boy, have you any long story ready for me?” inquired the governor.

  “Yes, sir,” replied Jack, “I have one or two very good ones.”

  “Very well, we‘ll hear them after dinner,” replied old Tom. “In the meantime find out your room and take possession.”

  “That must not be for very long, governor,” observed Captain Wilson. “Mr. Easy must learn his duty, and there is a good opportunity now.”

  “If you please, sir,” replied Jack, “I‘m on the sick-list.”

  “Sick-list,” said Captain Wilson; “you were not in the report that Mr. Wilson gave me this morning.”

  “No, I‘m on Mr. Pottyfar’s list; and I‘m going through a course of the universal medicine.”

  “What‘s all this, Jack—what’s all this?—there‘s some story here—don’t be afraid of the captain—you‘ve me to back you,” said the governor.

  Jack was not at all afraid of the captain, so he told him how the first-lieutenant had refused him leave the evening before, and how he had now given him permission to remain, and try the universal medicine; at which the governor laughed heartily, nor could Captain Wilson refrain from joining.

  “But, Mr. Easy,” replied the captain, after a pause, “if Mr. Pottyfar will allow you to stay on shore, I cannot—you have your duty to learn. You must be aware that now is your time, and you must not lose opportunities that do not occur every day. You must acknowledge the truth of what I say.”

  “Yes, sir,” replied Jack, “I admit it all, provided I do intend to follow the profession;” and so saying, our hero bowed, and left the veranda where they had been talking.

  This hint of Jack‘s, thrown out by him, more with the intention of preventing his being sent on board than with any definite idea, was not lost upon either the captain or the governor.

  “Does he jib, then?” observed the governor.

  “On the contrary, I never knew him more attentive, and so entirely getting rid of his former notions. He has behaved most nobly in the gale, and there has not been one complaint against him—I never was more astonished—he must have meant something.”

  “I‘ll tell you what he means, Wilson—that he does not like to be sent on board, nothing more. He’s not to be cooped up—you may lead him, but not drive him.”

  “Yes, but the service will not admit of it. I never could allow it—he must do his duty like the rest, and conform to the rules.”

  “Exactly, so he must; but look ye, Wilson, you must not lose him: it‘s all easily settled—appoint him your orderly midshipman to and from the ship; that will be employment, and he can always remain here at night. I will tell him that I have asked, as a favour, what I now do, and leave me to find out what he is thinking about.”

  “It may be done that way, certainly,” replied Captain Wilson, musing; “and you are more likely to get his intentions from him than I am. I am afraid he has too great a command of money ever to be fond of the ship; it is the ruin of a junior officer to be so lavishly supplied.”

  “He‘s a long way from ruin yet, Wilson—he’s a very fine fellow, even by your own acknowledgment. You humoured him out of gratitude to his father, when he first came into the service; humour him a little now to keep him in it. Besides, if your first-lieutenant is such a fool with his universal medicine, can you wonder at a midshipman taking advantage of it?”

  “No, but I ought not to allow him to do so with my eyes open.”

  “He has made it known to you upon honour, and you ought not to take advantage of his confidence: but still what I proposed would, I think, be the best, for then he will be at his duty in a way that will suit all parties. You, because you employ him on service—the first-lieutenant, because Jack can take his medicine—and Jack, because he can dine with me every day.”

  “Well, I suppose it must be so,” replied Captain Wilson, laughing; “but still, I trust you will discover what is working in his mind to induce him to give me that answer, governor.”

  “Never fear, Jack shall confess, and lay his soul as bare as that of a Catholic bigot before his padre.”

  The party sat down to dinner, and what with the governor‘s aide-de-camp and those invited, it was pretty numerous. After the cloth had been removed, the governor called upon Jack for his stories; whereupon, much to the surprise of Captain Wilson, who had never heard one word of it, for the admiral had not mentioned anything about it to him during the short time the Aurora was with the Toulon fleet, our hero gave the governor and the company the narrative of all that happened in the Eliza Ann transport—the loves of Captain Hogg and Miss Hicks—the adventures of Gascoigne—and his plan, by which he baulked them all. The governor was delighted, and Captain Wilson not a little astonished.

  “You prevented a very foolish thing, Mr. Easy, and behaved very well,” observed the captain, laughing again at the idea; “but you never told me of all this.”

  “No, sir,” replied Jack, “I have always reserved my stories for the governor‘s table, where I am sure to meet you, and then telling once does for all.”

  Jack received his appointment as orderly midshipman, and everything went on well; for, of his own accord, he stayed on board the major part of the day to learn his duty, which very much pleased the captain and Mr. Pottyfar. In this Jack showed a great deal of good sense, and Captain Wilson did not repent of the indulgence he had shown him. Jack‘s health improved daily, much to Mr. Pottyfar’s satisfaction, who imagined that he took the universal medicine night and morning. Gascoigne also was a patient under the first-lieutenant‘s hands, and often on shore with our hero, who thought no more of quitting the service.

  For seven weeks they had now remained in harbour, for even the masts had to be made, when, one day, Captain Wilson opened a letter he received at breakfast-time, and having read it, laid it down with the greatest surprise depicted in his countenance. “Good heavens! what can this mean?” said he.

  “What‘s the matter, Wilson?” said the governor.

  “Just hear its contents, Sir Thomas.”

  Captain Wilson then read in Spanish as follows:—

  “Honourable Sir,

  “It is my duty to advise you that the Honourable Lady Signora Alforgas de Guzman, now deceased, has, in her testament, bequeathed to you the sum of one thousand doubloons in gold as a testimony of your kind services on the night of the 12th of August. If you will authorize any merchant here to receive the money, it shall be paid forthwith, or remitted in any way you please to appoint. May you live a thousand years.

  “Your most obedient servant,”Alfonzo Xerez.“

  Jack heard the letter read, rose quietly, whistled low, as if not attending to it, and then slipped out of the room, unperceived by the governor or Captain Wilson.

  The fact was, that although Jack had longed to tell the governor about his adventures after the masquerade, he did not like yet awhile, until he was sure that there were no consequences—because he had given the captain‘s name instead of his own. As soon as he heard the letter read, he at once perceived that it had been the old lady, and not the priests, who had made the inquiry, and that by giving Captain Wilson’s name, he had obtained for him this fine legacy. Jack was delighted, but still puzzled, so he walked out of the room to reflect a little.

  “What can it mean?” said Captain Wilson. “I never rendered any services to any one on the 12th of August or after it. It is some mistake—12th of August—that was the day of the grand masquerade.”

  “A lucky one for you, at all events; for you know, mistake or not, no one else can touch the legacy. It can only be paid to you.”

  “I never heard of anything taking place at the masquerade—I was there, but I left early, for I was not very well. Mr. Easy,” said Captain Wilson, turning round, but Jack was gone.

  “Was he at the masquerade?” asked the governor.

  “Yes, I know he was, for the first-lieutenant told me that he requested not to come on board till the next day.”

  “Depend upon it,” replied the governor, striking his fist upon the table, “that Jack‘s at the bottom of it.”

  “I should not be surprised at his being at the bottom of anything,” replied Captain Wilson, laughing.

  “Leave it to me, Wilson, I‘ll find it out.”

  After a little more conversation, Captain Wilson went on board, leaving Jack on purpose that the governor might pump him. But this Sir Thomas had no occasion to do, for Jack had made up his mind to make the governor his confidant, and he immediately told him the whole story. The governor held his sides at our hero‘s description, especially at his ruse of giving the captain’s name instead of his own.

  “You‘ll kill me, Jack, before you’ve done with me,” said old Tom, at last; “but now what is to be done?”

  Our hero now became grave; he pointed out to the governor that he himself had plenty of money, and would come into a large fortune, and that Captain Wilson was poor, with a large family. All Jack wished the governor to manage was, that Captain Wilson might consent to accept the legacy.

  “Right, boy, right! you‘re my own boy,” replied the governor; “but we must think of this, for Wilson is the very soul of honour, and there may be some difficulty about it. You have told nobody?”

  “Not a soul but you, Sir Thomas.”

  “It will never do to tell him all this, Jack, for he would insist that the legacy belonged to you.”

  “I have it, sir,” replied Jack. “When I was going into the masquerade, I offered to hand this very old lady, who was covered with diamonds, out of her carriage, and she was so frightened at my dress of a devil, that she would have fallen down had it not been for Captain Wilson, who supported her, and she was very thankful to him.”

  “You are right, Jack,” replied the governor, after a short pause; “that will, I think, do. I must tell him the story of the friars, because I swore you had something to do with it—but I‘ll tell him no more: leave it all to me.”

  Captain Wilson returned in the afternoon, and found the governor in the veranda.

  “I have had some talk with young Easy,” said the governor, “and he has told me a strange story about that night, which he was afraid to tell to everybody.”

  The governor then narrated the history of the friars and the will.

  “Well, but,” observed Captain Wilson, “the history of that will afford no clue to the legacy.”

  “No, it does not; but still, as I said, Jack had a hand in this. He frightened the old lady as a devil, and you caught her in your arms and saved her from falling, so he had a hand in it, you see.”

  “I do now remember that I did save a very dowager-like old personage from falling at the sight of a devil, who, of course, must have been our friend Easy.”

  “Well, and that accounts for the whole of it.”

  “A thousand doubloons for picking up an old lady!”

  “Yes, why not?—have you not heard of a man having a fortune left him for merely opening the pew door of a church to an old gentleman?”

  “Yes, but it appears so strange.”

  “There‘s nothing strange in this world, Wilson, nothing at all—we may slave for years and get no reward, and do a trifle out of politeness and become independent. In my opinion, this mystery is unravelled. The old lady, for I knew the family, must have died immensely rich: she knew you in your full uniform, and she asked your name; a heavy fall would have been to one so fat a most serious affair; you saved her, and she has rewarded you handsomely.”

  “Well,” replied Captain Wilson, “as I can give no other explanation, I suppose yours is the correct one; but it‘s hardly fair to take a thousand doubloons from her relations merely for an act of civility.”

  “You really are quite ridiculous; the old lady owned half Murcia, to my knowledge. It is no more to them than any one leaving you a suit of mourning in an English legacy. I wish you joy; it will help you with a large family, and in justice to them you are bound to take it. Everybody does as he pleases with his own money—depend upon it, you saved her from breaking her leg short off at the hip joint.”

  “Upon that supposition I presume I must accept of the legacy,” replied Captain Wilson, laughing.

  “Of course, send for it at once. The rate of exchange is now high. I will give you government bills, which will make it nearly four thousand pounds.”

  “Four thousand pounds for preventing an old woman from falling!” replied Captain Wilson.

  “Devilish well paid, Wilson, and I congratulate you.”

  “For how much am I indebted to the father of young Easy!” observed Captain Wilson, after a silence of some minutes; “if he had not assisted me when I was appointed to a ship, I should not have gained my promotion—nor three thousand pounds I have made in prize-money—the command of a fine frigate—and now four thousand pounds in a windfall.”

  The governor thought that he was more indebted to Jack than to his father for some of these advantages, but he was careful not to point them out.

  “It‘s very true,” observed the governor, “that Mr. Easy was of service to you when you were appointed; but allow me to observe, that for your ship, your prize-money, and for your windfall, you have been wholly indebted to your own gallantry in both senses of the word; still Mr. Easy is a fine generous fellow, and so is his son, I can tell you. By-the-bye, I had a long conversation with him the other day.”

  “About himself?”

  “Yes, all about himself. He appears to me to have come into the service without any particular motive, and will be just as likely to leave it in the same way. He appears to be very much in love with that Sicilian nobleman‘s daughter. I find that he has written to her, and to her brother, since he has been here.”

  “That he came into the service in search of what he never will find in this world, I know very well; and I presume that he has found that out—and that he will follow up the service is also very doubtful; but I do not wish that he should leave it yet; it is doing him great good,” replied Captain Wilson.

  “I agree with you there—I have great influence with him, and he shall stay yet awhile. He is heir to a very large fortune, is he not?”

  “A clear eight thousand pounds a year, if not more.”

  “If his father dies he must, of course, leave: a midshipman with eight thousand pounds a year would indeed be an anomaly.”

  “That the service could not permit. It would be as injurious to himself as it would to others about him. At present, he has almost, indeed I may say, quite an unlimited command of money.”

  “That‘s bad, very bad. I wonder he behaves so well as he does.”

  “And so do I: but he really is a very superior lad, with all his peculiarities, and a general favourite with those whose opinions and friendship are worth having.”

  “Well, don‘t curb him up too tight—for really he does not require it. He goes very well in a snaffle.”

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