They hadna sailed a league, a league,
A league, but barely three,
When the lift grew dark, and the wind grew loud,
And gurly grew the sea.
— SIR PATRICK SPENS. —(Old Ballad.)
Guy’s evening with the Ashfords threw down many of the barriers in the way of intimacy. He soon made friends with the children, beginning with the two years old baby, and ending with gaining even the shy and sturdy Robin, who could not hold out any longer, when it appeared that Sir Guy could tell him the best place for finding sea-urchins, the present objects of his affections.
‘But we should have to go through the park,’ said Edward, disconsolately, when Guy had described the locality.
‘Well, why not?’
‘We must not go into the park!’ cried the children, in chorus.
‘Not go into the park!’ exclaimed Guy, looking at Mrs. Ashford, in amazement; then, as it flashed on him that it was his part to give leave, he added — ‘I did not know I was such a dog in the manger. I thought all the parish walked naturally in the park. I don’t know what else it is good for. If Markham will lock it up, I must tell him to give you a key.’
The boys were to come the next day — to be shown the way to the bay of urchins, and thenceforth they became his constant followers to such a degree, that their parents feared they were very troublesome, but he assured them to the contrary; and no mother in the world could have found it in her heart to keep them away from so much happiness. There was continually a rushing home with a joyous outcry — ‘Mamma! Sir Guy gave me a ride on his horse!’ ‘Mamma! Sir Guy helped us to the top of that great rock!’ ‘Oh, papa! Sir Guy says we may come out shooting with him tomorrow, if you will let us!’ ‘Mamma! papa! look! Do you see? I shot this rabbit my own self with Sir Guy’s gun!’ ‘Papa! papa! Sir Guy showed us his boat, and he says he will take us out to the Shag Rock, if you will give us leave!’
This was beyond what papa, still further beyond what mamma, could like, since the sea was often very rough in parts near the Shag; there were a good many sunken rocks, and boys, water, and rocks, did not appear by any means a safe conjunction, so Mrs. Ashford put the matter off for the present by the unseasonableness of the weather; and Mr. Ashford asked one or two of the fishermen how far they thought landing on the Shag a prudent attempt.
They did not profess to have often tried, they always avoided those rocks; but it could hardly be very dangerous, they said, for when Sir Guy was a boy, he used to be about there for ever, at first with an old boatman, and afterwards alone in his little boat. They had often wondered he was trusted there; but if any one knew the rocks, he did.
Still, Mrs. Ashford could not make up her mind to like the idea, and the boys came to Sir Guy in a state of great discomposure.
‘Never mind’ he said, ‘perhaps we shall manage it in the summer. We will get your father to go out with us himself; and, in the meantime, who likes to come with me after the rabbits in Cliffstone Copse? Farmer Holt will thank Robin for killing a dozen or so, for he makes grievous complaints of them.’
Guy conducted the boys out of sight of the sea, and, to console them, gave them so much more use of the gun than usual, that it might be considered as a wonder that he escaped being shot. Yet it did not prevent a few sighs being spent on the boating.
‘Can’t you forget it?’ said Guy, smiling. ‘You have no loss, after all, for we are likely to have no boating weather this long time. Hark! don’t you hear the ground-swell?’
‘What’s that?’ said the boys, standing still to listen to the distant surge, like a continuous low moan, or roar, far, far away, though there was no wind, and the sea was calm.
‘It is the sound that comes before stormy weather,’ said Guy. ‘It is as if the sea was gathering up its forces for the tempest.’
‘But what? — how? Tell me what it really is,’ said Robin.
‘I suppose it is the wind on the sea before it has reached us,’ said Guy. ‘How solemn it is!’
Too solemn for the boys, who began all manner of antics and noises, by way of silencing the impression of awfulness. Guy laughed, and joined in their fun; but as soon as they were gone home, he stood in silence for a long time, listening to the sound, and recalling the mysterious dreams and fancies with which it was connected in his boyhood, and which he had never wished thus to drive away.
The storm he had predicted came on; and by the evening of the following day, sea and wind were thundering, in their might, against the foot of the crags. Guy looked from the window, the last thing at night, and saw the stars twinkling overhead, with that extreme brilliancy which is often seen in the intervals of fitful storms, and which suggested thoughts that sent him to sleep in a vague, soothing dream.
He was wakened by one tremendous continued roar of sea, wind, and thunder combined. Such was the darkness, that he could not see the form of the window, till a sheet of pale blue lightning brought it fully out for the moment. He sat up, and listened to the ‘glorious voice’ that followed it, thought what an awful night at sea, and remembered when he used to fancy it would be the height of felicity to have a shipwreck at Redclyffe, and shocked Mrs. Bernard by inhuman wishes that a ship would only come and be wrecked. How often had he watched, through sounds like these, for a minute gun! Nay, he had once actually called up poor Arnaud in the middle of the night for an imaginary signal. Redclyffe Bay was a very dangerous one; a fine place for a wreck, with its precipitous crags, its single safe landing-place, and the great Shag Stone, on the eastern side, with a whole progeny of nearly sunken rocks, dreaded in rough weather by the fishermen themselves; but it was out of the ordinary track of vessels, and there were only a few traditions of terrible wrecks long before his time.
It seemed as if he had worked up his fancy again, for the sound of a gun was for a moment in his ear. It was lost in the rush of hail against the window, and the moaning of the wind round the old house; but presently it returned too surely to be imaginary. He sprang to the window, and the broad, flickering glare of lightning revealed the black cliff and pale sea-line; then all was dark and still, while the storm was holding its breath for the thunder-burst which in a few more seconds rolled overhead, shaking door and window throughout the house. As the awful sound died away, in a moment’s lull, came the gun again. He threw up the window, and as the blast of wind and rain swept howling into the room, it brought another report.
To close the window, light his candle, throw on his clothes, and hasten down-stairs, was the work of a very few seconds. Luckily, the key of the boat-house was lying on the table in the hall, where he had left it, after showing the boat to the Ashford boys; he seized it, caught up the pocket telescope, put on a rough coat, and proceeded to undo the endless fastenings of the hall-door, a very patience-trying occupation; and, when completed, the gusts that were eddying round the house, ready to force their way in everywhere, took advantage of the first opening to blow out his candle.
However, they had in one way done good service, for the shower had been as brief as it was violent, and the inky cloud was drifting away furiously towards the east, leaving the moon visible, near her setting, and allowing her white cold light to shine forth, contrasting with the distant sheets of pale lightning, growing fainter and fainter.
Guy ran across the court, round to the west side of the house, and struggled up the slope in the face of the wind, which almost swept him down again; and when at length he had gained the summit, came rushing against him with such force that he could hardly stand. He did, however, keep his ground, and gazed out over the sea. The swell was fearful; marked by the silver light on one side, where it caught the moonbeams, and the black shade on the other, ever alternating, so that the eye could, not fix on them for a moment; the spray leapt high in its whiteness, and the Shag stood up hard, bold, and black. The waves thundered, bursting on the cliff and, high as he stood, the spray dashed almost blinding in his face, while the wind howled round him, as if gathering its might for the very purpose of wrenching him from the cliff; but he stood firm, and looked out again, to discern clearly what he thought he had seen. It was the mast of a vessel, seen plainly against the light silvery distance of sea on the reef west of the Shag. It was in a slanting direction, and did not move; he could not doubt that the ship had struck on the dangerous rocks at the entrance of the bay; and as his eyes became more accustomed to the unusual light, and made out what objects were or were not familiar, he could perceive the ship herself. He looked with the glass, but could see no one on board, nor were any boats in sight; but observing some of the lesser rocks, he beheld some moving figures on them. Help! — instant help! — was his thought; and he looked towards the Cove. Lights were in the cottage windows, and a few sounds came up to him, as if the fishing population were astir.
He hastened to the side of the cliff, which was partly clothed with brushwood. There was a descent — it could hardly be called a path — which no one ventured to attempt but himself and a few of the boldest birds’-nesting boys of the village; but he could lose no time, and scrambling, leaping, swinging himself by the branches, he reached the foot of the cliff in safety, and in five minutes more was on the little quay at the end of the steep street of the Cove.
The quay was crowded with the fisher-people, and there was a strange confusion of voices; some saying all was lost; some that the crew had got to the rock; others, that some one ought to put off and help them; others, that a boat would never live in such a sea; and an old telescope was in great requisition.
Ben Robinson, a tall, hardy young man, of five-and-twenty, wild, reckless, high-spirited and full of mischief and adventure, was standing on a pile at the extreme verge above the foaming water, daring the others to go with him to the rescue; and, though Jonas Ledbury, a feeble old man, was declaring, in a piteous tone, it was a sin and a shame to let so many poor creatures be lost in sight, without one man stirring to help them; yet all stood irresolute, watching the white breakers dashing on the Shag, and the high waves that swelled and rolled between.
‘Do you know where the crew are?’ exclaimed Guy, shouting as loud as he could, for the noise of the winds and waves was tremendous.
‘There, sir, on the flat black stone,’ said the fortunate possessor of the telescope. ‘Some ten or eleven of them, I fancy, all huddled together.’
‘Ay, ay!’ said old Ledbury. ‘Poor creatures! there they be; and what is to be done, I can’t say! I never saw a boat in such a sea, since the night poor Jack, my brother, was lost, and Will Ray with him.’
‘I see them,’ said Guy, who had in the meantime looked through his glass. ‘How soon is high water?’
It was an important question, for the rocks round the Shag were covered before full tide, even when the water was still. There was a looking up at the moon, and then Guy and the fishermen simultaneously exclaimed, that it would be in three hours; which gave scarcely an hour to spare.
Without another word, Guy sprang from the quay to the boat-house, unlocked it, and, by example, showed that the largest boat was to be brought out. The men helped him vigorously, and it stood on the narrow pebbly beach, the only safe landing-place in the whole bay; he threw into it a coil of rope, and called out in his clear commanding voice —‘Five to go with me!’
Hanging back was at an end. They were brave men, who had wanted nothing but a leader, and with Sir Guy at their head, were ready for anything. Not five, but five-and-twenty were at his command; and even in the hurry of the moment, a strong, affectionate feeling filled his eyes with tears as he saw these poor fellows ready to trust their lives in his hands.
‘Thank you — thank you!’ he exclaimed. ‘Not all, though; you, Ben Robinson, Harry Ray, Charles Ray, Ben Ledbury, Wat Green.’
They were all young men, without families, such as could best be spared; and each, as his name was called, answered, ‘Here, Sir Guy!’ and came forward with a resolute satisfied air.
‘It would be best to have a second boat,’ said Guy. ‘Mr. Brown,’ to the owner of the telescope, ‘will you lend yours? ’tis the strongest and lightest. Thank you. Martin had best steer it, he knows the rocks;’ and he went on to name the rest of the crew; but at the last there was a moment’s pause, as if he doubted.
A tall athletic young fisherman took advantage of it to press forward.
‘Please your honour, Sir Guy, may not I go?’
‘Better not, Jem,’ answered Guy. ‘Remember,’ in a lower voice, ‘your mother has no one but you. Here!’ he called, cheerfully, ‘Jack Horn, you pull a good oar! Now, then, are we ready?’
‘All ready — yes, sir!’
The boat was launched, not without great difficulty, in the face of such a sea. The men stoutly took their oars, casting a look forward at the rocks, then at the quay, and on the face of their young steersman. Little they guessed the intense emotion that swelled in his breast as he took the helm, to save life or to lose it; enjoying the enterprise, yet with the thought that his lot might be early death; glad it was right thus to venture, earnest to save those who had freely trusted to him, and rapidly, though most earnestly, recalling his own repentance. All this was in his mind, though nothing was on his face but cheerful resolution.
Night though it was, tidings of the wreck had reached the upper part of the village; and Mr. Ashford, putting his head out of his window to learn the cause of the sounds in the street, was informed by many voices that a ship was on the Shag reef, and that all were lost. To hasten to the Cove to learn the truth, and see if any assistance could yet be afforded, was his instant thought; and he had not taken many steps before he was overtaken by a square, sturdy figure, wrapped in an immense great-coat.
‘So, Mr. Markham, you are on your way to see about this wreck.’
‘Why, ay,’ said Markham, roughly, though not with the repellent manner usual with him towards Mr. Ashford, ‘I must be there, or that boy will be in the thickest of it. Wherever is mischief, there is he. I only wonder he has not broken his neck long ago.’
‘By mischief, you mean danger?’
‘Yes. I hope he has not heard of this wreck, for if he has, no power on earth would keep him back from it.’
Comparing the reports they had heard, the clergyman and steward walked on, Markham’s anxiety actually making him friendly. They reached the top of the steep street of the Cove; but though there was a good view of the sea from thence, they could distinguish nothing, for another cloud was rising, and had obscured the moon. They were soon on the quay, now still more crowded, and heard the exclamations of those who were striving to keep their eyes on the boats.
‘There’s one!’ ‘No!’ ‘Yes, ’tis!’ ‘That’s Sir Guy’s!’
‘Sir Guy!’ exclaimed Markham. ‘You don’t mean he is gone? Then I am too late! What could you be thinking of, you old fool, Jonas, to let that boy go? You’ll never see him again, I can tell you. Mercy! Here comes another squall! There’s an end of it, then!’
Markham seemed to derive some relief from railing at the fishermen, singly and collectively, while Mr. Ashford tried to learn the real facts, and gather opinions as to the chance of safety. The old fishermen held that there was frightful risk, though the attempt was far from hopeless; they said the young men were all good at their oars, Sir Guy knew the rocks very well, and the chief fear was, that he might not know how to steer in such a sea; but they had seen that, though daring, he was not rash. They listened submissively to Mr. Markham, but communicated in an under-tone to the vicar, how vain it would have been to attempt to restrain Sir Guy.
‘Why, sir,’ said old James Robinson, ‘he spoke just like the captain of a man-of-war, and for all Mr. Markham says, I don’t believe he’d have been able to gainsay him.’
‘Your son is gone with him?’
‘Ay, sir; and I would not say one word to stop him. I know Sir Guy won’t run him into risk for nothing; and I hope, please God, if Ben comes back safe, it may be the steadying of him.’
”Twas he that volunteered to go before Sir Guy came, they say?’
‘Yes, sir,’ said the old man, with a pleased yet melancholy look. ‘Ben’s brave enough; but there’s the difference. He’d have done it for the lark, and to dare the rest; but Sir Guy does it with thought, and because it is right. I wish it may be the steadying of Ben!’
The shower rushed over them again, shorter and less violent than the former one, but driving in most of the crowd, and only leaving on the quay the vicar, the steward, and a few of the most anxious fishermen. They could see nothing; for the dark slanting line of rain swept over the waves, joining together the sea and thick low cloud; and the roaring of the sea and moaning of the wind were fearful. No one spoke, till at last the black edges of the Shag loomed clearer, the moon began to glance through the skirts of the cloud, and the heaving and tossing of the sea, became more discernible.
‘There! — there!’ shouted young Jem, the widow’s son.
‘Where? — where? — for heaven’s sake! That’s nothing!’ cried Markham.
‘Yes — yes! I see both,’ said Jem. ‘The glass! Where’s Mr. Brown’s glass!’
Markham was trying to fix his own, but neither hand nor eye were steady enough; he muttered — ‘Hang the glass!’ and paced up and down in uncontrollable anxiety. Mr. Ashford turned with him, trying to speak consolingly, and entirely liking the old man. Markham was not ungrateful, but he was almost in despair.
‘It is the same over again!’ said he. ‘He is the age his father was, though Mr. Morville never was such as he — never — how should he? He is the last of them — the best — he would have been — he was. Would to heaven I were with him, that, if he is lost, we might all go together.’
‘There, sir,’ called Jem, who, being forbidden to do anything but watch, did so earnestly; ‘they be as far now as opposite West Cove. Don’t you see them, in that light place?’
The moon had by this time gone down, but the first great light of dawn was beginning to fall on the tall Shag, and show its fissures and dark shades, instead of leaving it one hard, unbroken mass. Now and then Jem thought he saw the boats; but never so distinctly as to convince the watchers that they had not been swamped among the huge waves that tumbled and foamed in that dangerous tract.
Mr. Ashford had borrowed Markham’s telescope, and was looking towards the rock, where the shipwrecked crew had taken refuge.
‘There is some one out of the boat, climbing on the rocks. Can you make him out, Jem?’
‘I see — I see,’ said Mr. Brown; ‘there are two of them. They are climbing along the lee-side of the long ridge of rocks.’
‘Ay, ay,’ said old Ledbury; ‘they can’t get in a boat close to the flat rocks, they must take out a line. Bold fellows!’
‘Where are the boats?’ asked Mr. Ashford.
‘I can tell that,’ said Ledbury; ‘they must have got under the lee of the lesser Shag. There’s a ring there that Sir Guy had put in to moor his boat to. They’ll be made fast there, and those two must be taking the rope along that ledge, so as for the poor fellows on the rock to have a hold of, as they creep along to where the boats are.’
‘Those broken rocks!’ said Mr. Ashford. ‘Can there be a footing, and in such a sea?’
‘Can you give a guess who they be, sir?’ asked Robinson, earnestly. ‘If you’d only let Jem have a look, maybe he could guess.’
Markham’s glass was at his service.
‘Hullo! what a sea! I see them now. That’s Ben going last — I know his red cap. And the first — why, ’tis Sir Guy himself!’
‘Don’t be such a fool, Jem’ cried Markham, angrily. ‘Sir Guy knows better. Give me the glass.’
But when it was restored, Markham went on spying in silence, while Brown, keeping fast possession of his own telescope, communicated his observations.
‘Ay, I see them. Where are they? He’s climbing now. There’s a breaker just there, will wash them off, as sure as they’re alive! I don’t see ’em. Yes, I do — there’s Redcap! There’s something stirring on the rock!’
So they watched till, after an interval, in which the boats disappeared behind the rocks, they were seen advancing over the waters again — one — yes — both, and loaded. They came fast, they were in sight of all, growing larger each moment, mounting on the crest of the huge rolling waves, then plunged in the trough so long as to seem as if they were lost, then rising — rising high as mountains. Over the roaring waters came at length the sound of voices, a cheer, pitched in a different key from the thunder of wind and wave; they almost fancied they knew the voice that led the shout. Such a cheer as rose in answer, from all the Redclyffe villagers, densely crowded on quay, and beach, and every corner of standing ground!
The sun was just up, his beams gilded the crests of the leaping waves, and the spray danced up, white and gay, round the tall rocks, whose shadow was reflected in deep green, broken by the ever-moving swell. The Shag and its attendant rocks, and the broken vessel, were bathed in the clear morning light; the sky was of a beautiful blue, with magnificent masses of dark cloud, the edges, where touched by the sunbeams, of a pearly white; and across the bay, tracing behind them glittering streams of light, came up the two boats with their freight of rescued lives. Martin’s boat was the first to touch the landing-place.
‘All saved,’ he said; ‘all owing to him,’ pointing back to Sir Guy.
There was no time for questions; the wan, drenched sailors had to be helped on shore, and the boat hauled up out of the way. In the meantime, Guy, as he steered in past the quay, smiled and nodded to Mr. Ashford and Markham, and renewed the call, ‘All safe!’ Mr. Ashford thought that he had never seen anything brighter than his face — the eyes radiant in the morning sun, the damp hair hanging round it, and life, energy, and promptitude in every feature and movement.
The boat came in, the sailors were assisted out, partly by their rescuers, partly by the spectators. Guy stood up, and, with one foot on the seat, supported on his knee and against his arm a little boy, round whom his great-coat was wrapped.
‘Here, Jem!’ he shouted, to his rejected volunteer, who had been very active in bringing in the boat, ‘here’s something for you to do. This poor little fellow has got a broken arm. Will you ask your mother to take him in? She’s the best nurse in the parish. And send up for Mr. Gregson.’
Jem received the boy as tenderly as he was given; and, with one bound, Guy was by the side of his two friends. Mr. Ashford shook hands with heartfelt gratulation; Markham exclaimed —
‘There, Sir Guy, after the old fashion! Never was man so mad in this world! I’ve done talking! You’ll never be content till you have got your death. As if no one could do anything without you.’
‘Was it you who carried out the line on the rock?’ said Mr. Ashford.
‘Ben Robinson and I. I had often been there, after sea anemones and weeds, and I had a rope round me, so don’t be angry, Markham.’
‘I have no more to say,’ answered Markham, almost surly. ‘I might as well talk to a sea-gull at once. As if you had any right to throw away your life!’
‘I enjoyed it too much to have anything to say for myself,’ said Guy; ‘besides, we must see after these poor men. There were two or three nearly drowned. Is no one gone for Mr. Gregson?’
Mr. Gregson, the doctor, was already present, and no one who had any authority could do anything but attend to the disposal of the shipwrecked crew. Mr. Ashford went one way, Markham another, Guy a third; but, between one cottage and another, Mr. Ashford learnt some particulars. The crew had been found on a flat rock and the fishermen had at first thought all their perils in vain, for it was impossible to bring the boats up, on account of the rocks, which ran out in a long reef. Sir Guy, who knew the place, steered to the sheltered spot where he had been used to make fast his own little boat, and undertook to make his way from thence to the rock where the crew had taken refuge, carrying a rope to serve as a kind of hand-rail, when fastened from one rock to the other. Ben insisted on sharing his peril, and they had crept along the slippery, broken reefs, lashed by the surge, for such a distance, that the fishermen shuddered as they spoke of the danger of being torn off by the force of the waves, and dashed against the rocks. Nothing else could have saved the crew. They had hardly accomplished the passage through the rising tide, even with the aid of the rope and the guidance of Sir Guy and Ben, and, before the boats had gone half a mile on their return, the surge was tumbling furiously over the stones where they had been found.
The sailors were safely disposed of, in bed, or by the fireside, the fishers vying in services to them. Mr. Ashford went to the cottage of Charity Ledbury, Jem’s mother, to inquire for the boy with the broken arm. As he entered the empty kitchen, the opposite door of the stairs was opened, and Guy appeared, stepping softly, and speaking low.
‘Poor little fellow!’ he said; ‘he is just going to sleep. He bore it famously!’
‘The setting his arm?’
‘Yes. He was quite sensible, and very patient, and that old Charity Ledbury is a capital old woman. She and Jem are delighted to have him, and will nurse him excellently. How are all the others? Has that poor man come to his senses?’
‘Yes. I saw him safe in bed at old Robinson’s. The captain is at the Browns’.’
‘I wonder what time of day it is?’
‘Past eight. Ah! there is the bell beginning. I was thinking of going to tell Master Ray we are not too much excited to remember church-going this morning; but I am glad he has found it out only ten minutes too late. I must make haste. Good-bye!’
‘May not I come, too, or am I too strange a figure?’ said Guy, looking at his dress, thrown on in haste, and saturated with sea-water.
‘May you?’ said Mr. Ashford, smiling. ‘Is it wise, with all your wet things?’
‘I am not given to colds,’ answered Guy, and they walked on quickly for some minutes; after which he said, in a low voice and hurried manner — ‘would you make some mention of it in the Thanksgiving?’
‘Of course I will’ said Mr. Ashford, with much emotion. ‘The danger must have been great.’
‘It was,’ said Guy, as if the strong feeling would show itself. ‘It was most merciful. That little boat felt like a toy at the will of the winds and waves, till one recollected who held the storm in His hand.’
He spoke very simply, as if he could not help it, with his eye fixed on the clear eastern sky, and with a tone of grave awe and thankfulness which greatly struck Mr. Ashford, from the complete absence of self-consciousness, or from any attempt either to magnify or depreciate his sense of the danger.
‘You thought the storm a more dangerous time than your expedition on the rock?’
‘It was not. The fishermen, who were used to such things, did not think much of it; but I am glad to have been out on such a night, if only for the magnificent sensation it gives to realize one’s own powerlessness and His might. As for the rock, there was something to do to look to one’s footing, and cling on; no time to think.’
‘It was a desperate thing!’
‘Not so bad as it looked. One step at a time is all one wants, you know, and that there always was. But what a fine fellow Ben Robinson is! He behaved like a regular hero — it was the thorough contempt and love of danger one reads of. There must be a great deal of good in him, if one only knew how to get hold of it.’
‘Look there!’ was Mr. Ashford’s answer, as he turned his head at the church wicket; and, at a short distance behind, Guy saw Ben himself walking up the path, with his thankful, happy father, a sight that had not been seen for months, nay, for years.
‘Ay,’ he said, ‘such a night as this, and such a good old man as the father, could not fail to bring out all the good in a man.’
‘Yes,’ thought Mr. Ashford, ‘such a night, under such a leader! The sight of so much courage based on that foundation is what may best touch and save that man.’
After church, Guy walked fast away; Mr. Ashford went home, made a long breakfast, having the whole story to tell, and was on to the scene of action again, where he found the master, quite restored, and was presently joined by Markham. Of Sir Guy, there was no news, except that Jem Ledbury said he had looked in after church to know how the cabin boy was going on, and the master, understanding that he had been the leader in the rescue, was very anxious to thank him, and walked up to the house with Markham and Mr. Ashford.
Markham conducted them straight to the library, the door of which was open. He crossed the room, smiled, and made a sign to Mr. Ashford, who looked in some surprise and amusement. It has been already said that the room was so spacious that the inhabited part looked like a little encampment by the fire, though the round table was large, and the green leather sofa and arm chair were cumbrous.
However, old Sir Guy’s arm-chair was never used by his grandson; Markham might sit there, and Bustle did sometimes, but Guy always used one of the unpretending, unluxurious chairs, which were the staple of the room. This, however, was vacant, and on the table before it stood the remains of breakfast, a loaf reduced to half its dimensions, an empty plate and coffee-cup. The fire was burnt down to a single log, and on the sofa, on all the various books with which it was strewed, lay Guy, in anything but a comfortable position, his head on a great dictionary, fairly overcome with sleep, his very thick, black eyelashes resting on his fresh, bright cheek, and the relaxation of the grave expression of his features making him look even younger than he really was. He was so sound asleep that it was not till some movement of Markham’s that he awoke, and started up, exclaiming —
‘What a horrid shame! I am very sorry!’
‘Sorry! what for?’ said Markham. ‘I am glad, at any rate, you have been wise enough to change your things, and eat some breakfast.’
‘I meant to have done so much,’ said Guy; ‘but sea-wind makes one so sleepy!’ Then, perceiving the captain, he came forward, hoping he was quite recovered.
The captain stood mystified, for he could not believe this slim youth could be the Sir Guy of whose name he had heard so much, and, after answering the inquiry, he began —
‘If I could have the honour of seeing Sir Guy —’
‘Well?’ said Guy.
‘I beg your pardon, sir!’ said the captain, while they all laughed, ‘I did not guess you could be so young a gentleman. I am sure, sir, ’tis what any man might be proud of having done, and — I never saw anything like it!’ he added, with a fresh start, ‘and it will do you honour everywhere. All our lives are owing to you, sir.’
Guy did not cut him short, though very glad when it was over. He felt he should not, in the captain’s place, like to have his thanks shortened, and besides, if ever there was happiness or exultation, it was in the glistening eyes of old Markham, the first time he had ever been able to be justly proud of one of the family, whom he loved with so much faithfulness and devotion.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:02