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The Admiral: A Romance of Nelson in the Year of the Nile (Part 1)

Douglas Sladen


NOTE.

The cover is an exact reproduction in the original colours of a rare old print. The dates have of course been added. The clouds, to which Nelson points with his sword, express the wars and rumours of wars, with which the year 1798 was overhung. The sword indicates the spirit with which he approached questions of national honour.

PREFACE.

Some years ago, Professor J. K. Laughton's admirable selection of "Letters and Dispatches of Horatio, Viscount Nelson," inspired me with such an interest in Nelson's wonderfully human and graphic correspondence that I studied the larger and earlier "Dispatches and Letters of Lord Nelson," collected by Sir Harris Nicolas. The present book is the outcome of a long and affectionate study of these two works, and the well-thumbed pages of Southey and Jeaffreson.

But since, at the time of my first visit to Sicily, a little more than two years ago, I had definitely before me the project of writing a Nelson novel for the one-hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Nile (August 1st, 1898), I have read most of the important works dealing with Lord Nelson's life, especially Captain Mahan's "Life of Nelson," which is a monument of impartiality, research, and the application of professional knowledge to literature. I have also, by the kindness of Lord Dundonald, Mr. Morrison, and others, had the opportunity of seeing a quantity of unpublished Nelsoniana, which have been of the utmost value to me in forming a final opinion of the character of my hero.

The main object of this book is to present to the reader, in the year of the centenary of the Nile, the real Nelson, without extenuation or malice. No doubt it would have been easier to ensure popularity by passing over the weaknesses in his character and representing him only as an ever-victorious warrior. But this did not seem to me the right course to pursue with a character like Nelson. Those who have studied his letters in the pages of Nicolas and Laughton, and those who have studied his life in the pages of Captain Mahan (who, it must be remembered, is a professional writer, the chief naval expert of the United States, writing upon the greatest English sea-strategist), cannot fail to have been impressed by the intensely human note which he struck in almost every letter.

People love to read about Nelson, not only because he was the greatest sea-commander who ever lived, but because his own personal character was so extraordinarily vehement and interesting. He was a law unto himself. As a commander he forced his way into recognition by detecting, and acting in defiance of, the errors of his superiors, even of men like St. Vincent. He continued to do so when he was an Admiral commanding fleets whose destruction would have meant almost national ruin. And he was as much a law unto himself in his private life. "A law unto himself" might have been his motto. It was the keynote of his force.

But even Nelson, absolutely fearless as he was of danger and responsibility, could hardly have extorted the liberty to assert this force of character if it had not been tempered by one of the most lovable dispositions recorded of a public man. Nearly all who were ever thrown into contact with him were his willing slaves, or affectionate friends--even the grim old St. Vincent and the austere Hood. He was the most considerate, the most sympathetic, the most generous of shipmates. His very simplicity was fascinating, and he was wonderfully simple where his affections were concerned, though he showed such intuition in gauging the character of a knave or an enemy, and in forecasting the movements of politicians, as well as of hostile commanders.

Nelson had the same faith in those he loved as he had in his own genius. In the hour of danger his spirit rose to the sublime, and the bodily ailments to which he was so constantly a prey, left him. In the hours of waiting, when anxieties were accumulating and action was impossible, his state of health sank very low. His passion for Lady Hamilton shows how infatuated he could become over a woman who appealed to his imagination. Few women in history have possessed her great qualities in a higher degree than Lady Hamilton at the time when Nelson first came under her influence, in 1798, after the Battle of the Nile. Her letters to Mr. Greville and Sir William Hamilton prove that she must have had a delightful disposition, and the part she took in the stirring events of 1798 and 1799 shows her imagination, her daring, and her ability.

I have endeavoured, at the risk of raising a stormy discussion, to present the character of Nelson exactly as it was in 1798 and the first half of 1799; and to present a general view of the historical events in which he formed the central figure, though I am aware that certain passages in the book, such as Chapter XVII., form rather heavy reading for a novel. But, to bring out the character of Nelson, it was necessary to detail the tangled political problems with which he was confronted. As Captain Mahan pointed out, Nelson was one of the most astute politicians of his day, as well as the greatest sea-commander.

A large part of the book is in Nelson's own words. Appreciating the importance, in treating a national hero, of keeping as close as possible to history, I have, wherever it was feasible, used, whether in dialogue or description, the actual words of Nelson and his contemporaries. These I have derived from his own published and unpublished correspondence and journals, from the narratives of his officers, and similar sources. Similarly, I have derived my chapter on his visit to Pompeii largely from an account of a visit to Pompeii written in 1802. The style of the narrator of the story, Captain Thomas Trinder, is founded upon unpublished journals and letters of the time, in the possession of my father. They were mostly written by his godfather, Mr. Henry Brooke, who lived at Walmer, and may be taken as fair specimens of the writing of the travelled and better-educated Kentish gentleman of his day. Mr. Brooke was one of the last heads of the now abolished Alien Office, and as such had much to do with the French princes exiled in England during the Napoleonic régime. He was also present at the restoration of the French monarchy. Some of the pieces of queer grammar, such as "I have wrote," were probably idiomatic at the time, others are mere loose writing.

The scene of the book is mostly laid in Naples and Sicily, and to acquire the requisite local knowledge I have paid two long visits to these places in 1896-8. The Mont' alto Palace and the Castle of the Favara, in fact nearly all the buildings described, actually exist, though in most cases they are much decayed or altered. The Hamiltons' Palace at Naples, though now divided into apartments, remains much as it was, except that, in Nelson's time, the sea came close up to it. The features of the sea-front of Naples are very much altered since then; but the Comte de la Ville, who is at the head of the Storia Patria, the excellent historical society of Naples, was kind enough to show me almost contemporary plans of the places described. And here I wish to take the opportunity of pointing out that the Neapolitans and Sicilians of to-day differ as much from the corrupt hangers-on of the Bourbons as the English public men of to-day differ from the venal followers of Sir Robert Walpole. I need hardly say that the denunciations of them, and above all of the French, are not my own, but always derived from Nelson's expressed sentiments, and nearly always given in his exact words.

In criticising the characters of my heroines it must be remembered that the morals of the Neapolitan court in the time of Maria Carolina are indescribable in an English novel; but this, as a matter of fact, is the one point in which I have shrunk from presenting things without extenuation. It will be noticed that at the period of which I write, the year of the Nile, I believe Lady Hamilton to have been a lovely and enchanting woman, and that I believe that the connection between Nelson and her began as a pure romance, each worshipping the other as the most splendid human being in the world. The beautiful letter of hero-worship which she wrote to him after the battle of the Nile I first saw in its entirety in Professor Laughton's sumptuous volume, "The Companions of Nelson."

Before I conclude I have to express my thanks to Mr. E. Neville-Rolfe, British Consul at Naples; to the Marquis A. de Gregorio, and the Messrs. Whitaker, of Palermo; and to Miss A. Mason, a great-niece of Nelson, besides those whom I have mentioned above. I am also indebted to the writings of Mr. Clark Russell; to the highly valuable and hitherto unpublished Nelson documents which have been appearing in Literature; to the accurate and splendidly illustrated Nelsoniana which have been appearing in the popular illustrated Service paper, The Army and Navy Illustrated, and in the English Illustrated Magazine; and to Lord Charles Beresford's and Mr. H. W. Wilson's "Nelson and his Times," which was published as a supplement to the Daily Mail. I have followed Lord Charles's view of Nelson himself more closely than any other, because it is so sympathetic, and is written by one who is at once a brilliant naval expert and the sea-commander to whom the nation looks for exploits like Nelson's.

I am prepared for much censure and acrimonious discussion, especially over the very point upon which I take my stand, that a novel dealing with the character of Nelson ought above all things to be a human document. He is, to me, the most intensely human figure in History.

                                             Douglas Sladen.

    Palazzo Monteleone, Palermo,

        April 6th, 1898.

CONTENTS.

    PROLOGUE.                                               PAGE

      INTRODUCING THE READER TO THE LADY KATHERINE

        FLEET                                                  1

    CHAPTER I.

      OF THE FINDING OF LORD NELSON'S JOURNAL                 11

    CHAPTER II.

      INTRODUCING THE ADMIRAL                                 19

    CHAPTER III.

      OF THE LETTERS OF A BOY AND A GIRL                      28

    CHAPTER IV.

      OF OUR ENTRY INTO SYRACUSE                              31

    CHAPTER V.

      IN WHICH WILL HAS HIS FIRST CHANCE, AND HIS FIRST

        ESCAPADE, AND HIS FIRST MEETING WITH THE PRINCESS

        OF FAVARA                                             37

    CHAPTER VI.

      AT THE FOUNTAIN OF CYANÉ AND THE PAPYRUS BEDS OF

        THE ANAPO                                             52

    CHAPTER VII.

      SATISFYING A PRINCE'S HONOUR                            63

    CHAPTER VIII.

      OF THE BATTLE OF THE NILE, ON THE FIRST OF AUGUST,

        1798                                                  76

    CHAPTER IX.

      HOW THE ADMIRAL BEGAN HIS FRIENDSHIP WITH LADY

        HAMILTON                                             101

    CHAPTER X.

      WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BALL GIVEN BY LADY HAMILTON

        IN HONOUR OF THE ADMIRAL                             112

    CHAPTER XI.

      HOW THE ADMIRAL ENTERED THE MAZE OF NEAPOLITAN

        POLITICS                                             127

    CHAPTER XII.

      OF A VISIT TO POMPEII IN 1798, IN WHICH THERE WERE

        LOVERS, AND OF THE SUPPER IN THE INN AT RESINA       139

    CHAPTER XIII.

      OF THE SUPPER AT THE PALACE THAT FOLLOWED              166

    CHAPTER XIV.

      WHAT THE ADMIRAL WROTE OF MY LADY IN HIS JOURNAL       181

    CHAPTER XV.

      OF THE VOYAGE TO MALTA, WITH THE ACCOUNT OF WHAT

        HAPPENED AT CASERTA                                  191

    CHAPTER XVI.

      WHAT THE ADMIRAL WROTE IN HIS JOURNAL ABOUT LOVE       213

    CHAPTER XVII.

      WHICH THE IDLE READER MAY SKIP, AS POLITICS. IT

        SETS FORTH THE COWARDICE AND UNRAVELS THE

        INTRIGUES WHICH LED TO THE FALL OF NAPLES            227

    CHAPTER XVIII.

      HOW THE NEAPOLITANS DECLARED WAR, AND HOW THEY

        WAGED IT                                             257

    CHAPTER XIX.

      HOW TWO MILLIONS AND A HALF OF TREASURE WERE

        SMUGGLED FROM THE PALACE TO THE BRITISH

        AMBASSADOR'S                                         265

    CHAPTER XX.

      HOW THE VANGUARD TOOK THE ROYAL FAMILY TO PALERMO

        IN THE GREATEST STORM THE ADMIRAL EVER KNEW          288

    CHAPTER XXI.

      HOW WILL WAS ENTERTAINED BY THE PRINCESS AT HER

        PALACE OF THE FAVARA                                 309

    CHAPTER XXII.

      HOW ALL EUROPE WAS AT SIXES AND SEVENS                 321

    CHAPTER XXIII.

      OF THE LOVE OF THE ADMIRAL AND MY LADY                 334

    CHAPTER XXIV.

      HOW THE ADMIRAL WENT TO THE FAVARA, AND THE

        PROPHECY BEGAN ITS FULFILMENT                        346

    CHAPTER XXV.

      HOW THE ADMIRAL TOOK NAPLES, AND OF THE HANGING

        OF CARACCIOLO                                        365

    CHAPTER XXVI.

      OF THE STRANGE PLIGHT IN WHICH WILL FOUND KATHERINE    386

    CHAPTER XXVII.

      OF THE DEATH OF DONNA RUSIDDA, THE RESURRECTION OF

        CARACCIOLO, AND THE HAPPY ENDING                     404

THE ADMIRAL

PROLOGUE.--Introducing the Reader to the Lady Katherine Fleet.

My Lord Eastry belonged to the grand old race of East Kent squires, who brought up their sons to fear nothing and hate the French, aye, and brought up their daughters to be the wives and mothers of men who should sail the salt seas till too stiff with age or wounds to climb to their quarter-decks. For how could their sons help going to sea when they saw the boatmen of Deal from their open beach defying the guns of the French and the might of the fiercest storms that blew?

My Lord Eastry began his bold life as younger son of a squire, who bore the old Kent name of Fleet. But of John Fleet, the eldest, there is only an empty memorial in Eastry Church, which records that "his body lies in the great South Seas in the hope of a joyful resurrection." His ship, full of honour and glory and prize-money, was spoken two days east of Trinidad in the great storm of 1759; and mariners maintain that fighting Jack Fleet's black frigate sails there still, whenever the cyclone is coming down, with canvas enough on her to overset a hundred-gun ship. And Dick had his call on the glorious 1st of June--had the van-ship and sailed into the French with the grand air of his family, as if he never could have his belly full of fighting--laid alongside half a dozen of them at one time and another, and had a chain-shot through his middle just as he sent the Vengeur to the bottom with her colours in the act of striking. Once he was hard pressed, though; and Harry, the Lord Eastry that, as he lay dying, drank Wellington's health when the news was brought of Waterloo, saw it and, leaving the line flat in neglect of signals, bore up to him. Lord! what a family they were to fight! When the tall Ramillies ran in between the Brunswick and the Achille to receive her fire, it was like an explosion of devils from hell. The men, men of the Cinque Ports that all had a dead father or a dead brother to charge to the French, would have followed Jack, Dick, or Harry into Nebuchadnezzar's fiery furnace.

Well, Harry Fleet--the Lord Harry, as they called him in the Channel--came safe out of the great battle; and not so many months afterwards fell upon a great convoy guarded by ships that should have blown his squadron of frigates out of the water, drove their escort under the guns of Martinique, and carried the convoy, with the army on board them that should have taken our Indies, safe into Antigua, from which he brought home more prize-money than ever. He was just too late to close the eyes of his father, the tough old squire of Eastry who lived his fourscore-and-odd years like his fathers before him, the few of them that did not die with their shoes on and the flag overhead.

They made him the Lord Eastry and a Knight of the Bath, but he had had so much lead through his leg by that time, that he could never fight a ship again, so he came to the old home at Eastry to find his fourteen-year old daughter the most wonderful bit of woman's flesh in all the halls of Kent. Captain Jack and Captain Dick were never married. What children they may have had fell not into any list of the landed gentry, and so it came that the long-descended lands of the Fleets, and Admiral my Lord Eastry's prodigious coffers of prize-money must all come to Katherine Fleet, now the Lady Katherine.

Now, no man that ever breathed was less of a coxcomb than Admiral Harry, but as the name of his ancient family was to pass out of the earth with his death, he looked to it that the son-in-law who succeeded to his honours and his great estate should be of such rank and fame that it might be no regret even for the Fleets of Eastry to be lost in their greater honours: some Duke it might be, or at least an Earl, whose belted ancestors had fought for the White or Red Rose; and Katherine Fleet, aged now eighteen, might have had any such an one as came within the magic of her moods.

There are some women who are not completely graceful, and yet give the onlooker a great sense of satisfaction. There is a sort of wild freedom, a declaration of strength and health, an evidence of courage and high spirits, which bespeak an animal perfection too intense for the gentle ease of grace. Katherine was one of those mettlesome women who make men's blood tingle, and whose own red blood never runs cold in the direst peril. I suppose she was tall. She would have looked it had she been more than common short. She was such a noble creature, and she had the same blue eyes that were worth a dozen pikes to the Lord Eastry, when, in his old frigate days, he had jumped aboard a Frenchman and a wave had checked half his boarding party--gay blue eyes withal, that could laugh like her dimples and white teeth--gay blue eyes that could be as loving or reckless as the mobile mouth. And she had the pure curves of cheek and eyebrow which are almost necessary to beauty absolute like hers.

What follows, I, Thomas Trinder, Captain retired on half-pay in His Majesty's Navy, and now of Beach Cottage, Walmer, who am writing this chronicle, had from Will the night before I led his sister to Ripple Church.

One March night of 1798 was Katherine's coming-out ball. And her father's hopes looked like fulfilment, for the greatest of Kentish peers, the young Marquis of Dover, had been spending week after week at his mansion of Pegwell, where never within the memory of the countryside, which noted all his doings, had he spent two days on end. And Katherine in a ball-room was a witch. She danced as such women do, light-footed and tireless, radiating health and high spirits, and with the unconscious smile of conquest on their lips, until the victor comes who makes them replace it with the most exquisite gentleness.

People looked to see that in Lady Katherine, before the night was dead, for Ralph, Marquis of Dover, Earl of River, Viscount Ripple, and Baron Waldershare, all in the Peerage of England, and Lord Lieutenant of the County of Kent. For he was a fine man, who rode straight to hounds, and had already climbed high in the Government, and Katherine had shown herself well inclined to him.

       *       *       *       *       *

The great minuet was to be at midnight, and Katherine was promised to Lord Dover for it. In his fine scarlet uniform of Lord Lieutenant, he was already waiting for her in the door of the great barn with transepts like a church, which had been turned into a ball-room, decked with the trophies of Lord Eastry's wars.

For in another two or three minutes the first stroke would clang from the tower of Eastry's little Norman church. Katherine had been up to her room,--she had girlish vanity enough to wish to look her best in the great minuet,--and now she was stepping down the stairway with an eloquent hesitancy, her left hand clearing from her lovely feet the heavy shimmery satin, which, young as she was, it seemed natural for such an imperial woman to wear. Dividing the line between her beautiful throat and her shoulders, were the famous pearls that were the trophy of Lord Eastry's wildest exploit.

Who could doubt but that when she went out from that minuet, it would be to have the greatest name in all the kingdom of Kent offered for her keeping?

But suddenly, through the open, ivy-shrouded Elizabethan pane at the turn of the stair, came a low voice,--a young voice, with the low distinctness which I shall never forget,--"Kitty Fleet, Kitty Fleet, is it you, Kitty Fleet?"

A light came over the girl's face, which, I am prepared to swear, the great Marquess of Dover had never seen, as she replied,

"Hush, Will! keep in the shadow, and I'll come--but only for a minute."

But, instead of doing as she bade him, he came right into the door,--into the full blaze of light. He was then a fair boy of eighteen, and I can tell you that his charming figure was shown off to great advantage by the quaint dress of our day,--the tight-fitting Nankeen hose and short dark blue jacket. And when he bared his head he showed fair hair, as glossy and golden as Katherine's own, in a very long queue. I can picture him fidgeting with his sugar-loaf beaver, for he had something great on his mind.

"Oh, Will," she whispered, "we shall be discovered."

"No matter."

"But why?" began Kitty; and suddenly prepared to fly, as the first stroke of twelve rang out painfully clear to her anxious ear.

"I'm going with the Admiral, Kitty, and you know what that means."

"Yes,--that is, what does it mean?"

"It means,--well, it's Admiral Nelson: and it means that I shall never come back at all, or come back a man."

"When do you start, Will?" asked Katherine, forgetting all about the minuet and her marquess, and coming forward to take his hands and look into his face. At eighteen it was a beautiful face, but even then so proud that its natural frankness was almost obscured. And yet you forgave its haughtiness, for you felt that such pride would not stoop to anything cowardly or mean, anything that would prevent its keeping itself aloof and aloft. As she took his hands in hers I know how the stern, clean-cut mouth melted into one of the irresistible smiles that such mouths mostly have once in a way.

"Oh, Will!" she said, "I was wondering why did you not come to my coming-out ball--you, Will, my best friend."

"To see my Lord Dover's triumph when he had won you, Kitty?" he asked almost bitterly: "I could not bear it. No, I should not have come at all if I had not been going by the morning coach with my mother to Portsmouth."

"Why, Will, what is Lord Dover to me?" she asked.

"He means to marry you."

"I don't mean to marry him."

"But what will your father say?"

"My father will say nothing. I have no need to marry the first lover with a title who presents himself. I am a lord's daughter, passing rich--and passably good-looking, Will?"

"Be serious, Kitty."

"Indeed I must, and say good-bye, Will," she cried, as the strokes had ceased ringing out from Eastry Tower some two or three minutes, "for the minuet was for twelve o'clock, and I am engaged to Lord Dover--for that only. Good-bye, dear Will."

With a sudden impulse she sprang forward, and laying her hands on his shoulders kissed him.

Hardly had she finished, when--

"What's this, what's this?" cried a bluff voice, with an accompanying thud of a lame man's stick on the polished oak floor--"Will Hardres off to fight the French! Nay, lad, not so sudden! the coach does not start till six, and Cissy's at school, and your mother going with you. This way, this way!"

He led Will into the ball-room and up to the Marquess.

"I have a favour to ask you, my Lord Dover. I wish Will Hardres here," the nobleman bowed, "to lead the minuet with my daughter. We Fleets think it the greatest honour in the world to fight the French in a King's ship; and Will is to have the special honour of sailing with Admiral Nelson--a greater man, to my mind, than St. Vincent, or Hood, or Howe."

"As you please," said the Marquess, in such a chilling way that Will, as he said, could have killed him, and I know the kind of light which came into Katherine's eyes.

"I cannot take my Lord Marquess's place," said Will.

"Then, by G--d, you shall take my daughter herself, if she'll have you," said Lord Eastry, more thoroughly roused and vexed with himself for the slight he had put upon the Marquess.

"By G--d, he shall, if he'll have me," said Katherine, also roused, and using her father's not very elegant language.

Poor Will, the very pattern of good manners, which were well nigh all that his widowed mother had to bestow upon him, was dumfounded. In a moment of pique Katherine and her father had bestowed her hand upon him--that which he coveted more than anything else in the world, and dared not covet; and the bestowal had been made in a manner and language so extraordinary that he was at a loss how to effect the acceptance.

For the moment the Marquess came to the rescue.

"I think I am to have the honour--for the minuet."

It was not natural to Katherine not to be gracious; and she had months of remembered kindnesses to this man's credit. Indeed she had come within an ace of thinking of him as her husband. So she accepted the situation with womanly tact, she afterwards maintaining that she spoke as little as she might.

She danced the minuet with grave sweetness and gentleness, which, in a mischievous girl like Katherine, who was little more than a child, was, in itself, an ominous sign for the Marquess.

She also cast from time to time a tender glance, a speaking smile, to Will.

"It seems to me," said his lordship, bitterly--he could not be chilling to Katherine, who had his heart--"that you are stepping with me, and dancing with that boy."

"I am but lately affianced to him, my lord," retorted Katherine, this time with mischief in her eyes.

"You don't mean to say that you're taking this tomfoolery seriously, Lady Katherine--Kitty?"

"It is no tomfoolery to me, my lord," she said, with a flash of rising anger that warned him. "I had kissed him my love, before you nettled my father into giving me the leave he might never have given otherwise."

By this time the minuet was over, and Katherine had suffered herself to be led into one of the aisles of the barn which had been rigged into a ball-room.

"Oh, Kitty," cried the Marquess, with a change of tone, which made her woman's heart gentle to him, "I won't call it that name again, because it makes you angry; but tell me that you did not mean it seriously, for you know I have loved you three months past, and been waiting for the opportunity you have always fenced off with some jest or piece of mischief."

"And could you not guess why, my lord?"

"Why?" he echoed, sadly.

"Because I knew I did not love you honestly, and, warmly as I liked you, I was waiting to see if I could love you. You may rely on it, that when I felt myself conquered, I should have thrown down my weapons and surrendered at discretion."

"And can you not love me yet?"

"Never now, my lord, more than a friend."

"Why so suddenly?"

"Why? Because events have been like runaway horses to-night. They have taken the bits between their teeth and dashed us over a precipice."

"Against your will?"

"Nay, not against my will; but it was a leap I might never have dared to take."

"And you mean to marry him, Kitty?"

"Yes, my lord; when he is a man."

"And when will that be?"

"I know not; but manhood comes quickly in these piping times, and lives are short," she added, with a little break in her voice.

"And he goes to sea to-morrow?"

"It is to-day," she answered, with a bigger break.

"Then I am an ill friend to be keeping you from him," he said, his better nature asserting itself at the sight of the sorrow of the woman he loved so well. "Good-bye, Kitty," he said gravely, bowing to kiss her hand.

"Good-bye, my lord. You are not angry with me?"

"No; not with you. Not angry, but hurt, and heart-sick. You will be my friend still, little Lady Kitty?"

"I am five feet six, Lord Dover. Is that tall enough to be the friend of a Marquess and the Lord Lieutenant of Kent?"

"It is tall enough for my heart, Kitty."

"You must not talk of your heart any more, or I shall not let you come and see me."

"But I may come and see you still, and walk and ride with you still. How often may I come and see you?"

"As often as you can bring me news of the fleet--Admiral Nelson's fleet."

This account of the leave-taking from Lord Dover I had from Katherine, the day I had the honour of becoming her brother-in-law, through Will's sister Cecilia. But what took place at her leave-taking from her boy-lover I never had, for that is sacred to the girl and boy, who have the honour of being lovers still.

CHAPTER I.--Of the finding of Lord Nelson's Journal.

I was sitting with Will in the morning-room of his mansion of Eastry, which he had with Katherine, when one of his footmen came in to announce that a lady wished to speak to him very particularly. She refused to give her name, but she came on a matter of great importance connected with Lord Nelson, whose confidence Captain Hardres had enjoyed. It was, she told the footman, a very intimate personal matter in connection with his late Lordship.

Now, Will was not ordinarily what is called an approachable person; but she had hit upon the password to which he never could turn a deaf ear, and he directed that she should be shown in.

No sooner had she entered the door, carrying a bundle, which, to the footman's evident distress, she had refused to trust out of her own hands, than, seeing me, she stopped. But Will said, in cold tones that would have frightened any one not sure of her mission, "This gentleman also had the honour of serving under the Admiral." To all who had served under that immortal man he was always "the Admiral."

She looked at us both, and I am vain enough to think that she felt my presence would make what she had come to say easier, rather than more difficult, though Will's face had softened when he saw that she was a gentlewoman of reduced circumstances.

The bundle she had brought with her, tied up in a piece of faded green silk, contained something hard and square. When she unknotted it and produced three leather-bound volumes of the kind used for journals, and opened one at random, Will might have seen a ghost.

This was in the year 1819, you must remember,--long years after the Admiral had seen his work finished, and had passed away like Moses in sight of the fulfilled promise. And Will, who had been in constant personal attendance nearer and more confidential than a secretary, saw before him, as plainly as his eyes could show him, three volumes of the identical kind always employed by the Admiral for his private affairs, and written, as it seemed to Will, by the Admiral's very own hand. And Will, though he was not wise in book-learning, nor had given much attention to such matters, had had the very best opportunities for observing the Admiral's writing. He knew every turn in the clear but shaky characters, written with the left hand by one accustomed till he was more than thirty-five years old to penning with his right. The binding, the paper, and the ink, as well as the handwriting, were the counterparts of what Will had seen so often before the Admiral on his desk.

The old lady did not offer a word of explanation until we had examined them for some minutes, and, looking up, had laid them down, and then she told us a likely story enough.

It came out that she was Mrs. Hunter, and the good soul who had taken my Lady Hamilton, then like to die, and in great destitution, into her house at Boulogne, and had sheltered her and maintained and nursed her free of charge until her death.

"These three volumes," she said, "were her Ladyship's last and greatest treasure, which she never would have far away from her, and which, when she was alone, she read to her great comfort."

When Lady Hamilton, some hours before her death, felt that the end was surely coming, not having (after all the fortune which had poured through her hands) the wherewithal to pay a lawyer's fee for drawing up a will, she had given her these books, bidding her to sell them, and take what they brought to recompense her for her kindness and the expense to which she had been put. They were, her Ladyship said, journals of the years 1798, 1799 and 1800; the happiest years of her life, which she had spent in his Lordship's friendship on the shores of their beloved Mediterranean, and presented by him to her as a memorial of them. Had the ungrateful nation not neglected his last charge that it should maintain her, she would have bequeathed these volumes to it; but seeing that Mrs. Hunter had proved herself her best friend since Lord Nelson's glorious death, it was right that she should have them to sell and recompense herself.

Accordingly, having been given by My Lady Captain Hardres's name, among others of his Lordship's dearest friends,--Will bowed gravely,--and the sailing packet which had brought her from Boulogne having landed her at Dover, she had come to him first, as being the nearest of the gentlemen mentioned (Eastry is but a few miles from Dover); and then she came direct to the point--would Will purchase these journals of the Admiral?

She named a very great price; but then Will, living in such a mansion-house as Eastry, in the style that he affected, was clearly a man of great means.

As I expected, he would not promise her at once, and inquired where she would sleep for the night; and, I think, he was about to require her to leave them with him until the morning, which I am sure to the simple soul would have seemed like leaving her purse in a strange house, when Katherine came in, looking like her own daughter, with the added gentleness of years of happy wifehood, though she was a mettlesome creature, and not to be frightened by Will or the devil.

Will put his arm round her youthful waist, and led her into the oriel to repeat everything, she glancing from time to time at Mrs. Hunter. When he had finished they came back again, and Will began, with some hesitation, "Mrs. ----," when Katherine, reading what was in his eyes, said, "You are never going to let her who performed the last offices for the woman the Admiral loved with all the wealth of his great heart--you are never going to let the lady sleep in a poor village inn, when there are two of the Admiral's officers in this very house?"

To which Will replied gallantly, "You are the mistress of this house, Kitty, and such an invitation should come from a lady."

I think he was glad of the proposal, for it gave him the opportunity of judging the woman that would sell the books, as well as the books she would sell. Though no talker, Will was, as silent men are apt to be, an observer of character, and I could tell that he was not wholly satisfied.

And so it was settled that a groom or a gardener should bring her box from the inn, and she dined and slept and breakfasted the following morning at Eastry Place. Will had her on his right hand at meals, and talked with her while we were in the ladies' company after dinner; though I own we joined them late, for we had the journals at the table while we sat over Madeira wine that had laid in the Goodwin Sands for many a year in a wreck that was bared by their shifting--as fine a wine as ever came into East Kent, duty or no duty.

Katherine, of course, saw much more of her than we, and had the more opportunity of judging her. Katherine was no mean judge, though ever inclined to condone those whom her judgment condemned. To Katherine's eye, as well as our own, the creature had certain faults. As she felt the more at home her garrulity and vanity ran away with her, till she almost claimed her share of credit for the Admiral's victories by some retrospective process of merit. In fact, like other garrulous persons, she was inclined to fire without loading. But there did not seem any reason to doubt that she was the Mrs. Hunter who had befriended Lady Hamilton, which was, after all, the chief query.

Well, Will and I turned those journals over and over, at first while we were sitting over our Madeira, and afterwards far into the night over our pipes and grog; and, try where we would, we could find nothing that seemed in the penmanship of another hand, or that the Admiral, knowing him as we did, might not have put down in a journal; for he was ever fond of his pen, and in the wont of writing down what he felt strongly, and more especially is it true that when he was out of health, which was so often the case, he would examine himself and discuss from every point what he had done or should do.

In a matter like that of his affection for my Lady Hamilton, it was of course impossible for him, by reason of his position in the Service, as well as of his greatness, to talk with any on the ship; and what he could not say in words it was quite in keeping with his habits for him to commit carefully to paper, it may be, all along with the idea of presenting them for My Lady's reading as another proof of his sincere esteem, but more likely at first, at any rate, to ease his soul. And therefore, when the morning came and we had risen from breakfast, after a short absence with Katherine, Will came to Mrs. Hunter, whom he had left with me in the gentle sunshine on the terrace, and said that he should give her the price she asked. Which he did, by order on Mr. Laurie's bank at Dover.

I think we were all glad to be rid of Mrs. Hunter, even Katherine, who made excuses for her as being old, and a woman, though I know of few men worthy to be compared with such a woman as Katherine. It was Katherine who decided him, for she had read her Roman history and knew the story about the Sybil bringing nine precious books to the Roman King, and, when he would not have them at her price, destroying three of them, and offering him the six for the same price, and when he would not have the six, destroying three more, until he gave her for the last three the money for which he might have had the whole nine.

She did not, she confessed, expect Mrs. Hunter to burn her books; but, remembering the regret of the King when he found the value of the three remaining books which he had bought, thought that Will might feel just such a regret if he lost for ever the opportunity of buying what seemed to be the journals of the Admiral, to whom England and he owed everything. The story of the Sybilline books was new to Will, and impressed him mightily. I daresay it did not lose anything in the telling. Katherine was, after all, a woman, and she had read it in her childhood.

This was, as I have said, in the year 1819, four years after the death of her Ladyship. If Mrs. Hunter had brought them to us at once, upon the death of her Ladyship, while the country was ringing with the announcement of it, ten days after she died, in the Morning Post, and with the talk of the Admiral's brother, the Earl, going over to Calais to see what papers she might have left behind her, I think Will might have done something about them there and then. The Earl's visit in search of papers would be taken by some as sufficient evidence that he knew of the existence of these journals, though I would not dare to say so much.

But, as it was, he bought them rather for our private reading, to recall our adored Admiral; and it was not until he had had them in his possession for years, that the thought came to him of giving them to the public to counteract the false and erroneous statements and judgments, which seemed to be for ever on the increase.

Now Will, living inland at Eastry, with the affairs of a great estate to administer, had little leisure or inclination for writing, even if he had had the power, but he was a man of action only, one of the kind that make history and leave it for smaller men, like myself, to chronicle it; while I, living at Walmer, on the sea-shore, in the midst of many retired naval men, and much discussion of naval affairs, had fallen into a pernicious habit of writing letters to the Post, giving an old salt's plain condemnations of this and the other shortcomings, and writing over the signature of 'Cinque Ports' indignant refutations of anything that was said against the memory of the Admiral. So Will had come to look upon me for as great a writer as the mysterious Scotchman, who wrote, the year before we had the journals, "The Heart of Midlothian" and "The Bride of Lammermoor," and who, if you could believe the reviewers, was the only writer in the three kingdoms worthy of any consideration for any writing but poetry. Having married Will's sister, and having nothing to do but to make the best living I could on my stored-up prize money and my half-pay, I often took her to Eastry. It was on one of these visits, while we were keeping the fire warm before we went to bed, that Will took the pipe from between his lips, and said to me,--

"Thomas, I have been thinking."

Unless his mind lay fallow, he must have thought a good deal in his long, frequent silences. However, Will was not a man to jest with, so I made no comment of this kind, but waited to hear, understanding that he had a decision to communicate to me.

"Thomas, I have been thinking that we are getting on in years."

This seemed indisputable, but I did not know that I wished to be reminded of it. I again waited, until he came to the point that we, from our close personal attendance on him, knew much about the Admiral which perhaps ought not to be lost to the world, and that he thought that I should write it down, and give with it such portions of the Admiral's journals as seemed necessary for letting the public know how sincerely that immortal man always endeavoured to do the right.

CHAPTER II.--Introducing the Admiral.

And now it is time for me to tell you how first I met Will.

I was the jest of the ship. The mids in the gun-room hit off the keynote of my personal appearance when they christened me Tubby the very first day I went on shipboard; and Tubby I remained till I was given a command on the captured sloop St. Malo, in the year 18--. It was recognised at once that I could stand a good deal more than my share of gun-room wit without quarrelling, though I showed no deficiency in pluck when it came to going aloft in heavy weather, or steering a boat under heavy fire; and I was popular, I believe, though no one thought me worth considering. I was not born to be considered: I was born to attach myself to a strong nature, to subordinate myself to its will and enjoy its glory as if it were my own. My friendship with Will has filled my life. For all the years during which we were shipmates, my thoughts were hardly ever off Will Hardres; and now that we are both of us laid on the shelf on this windy coast of Kent, because Europe is so exhausted that there will never be any wars again, my little crib is within an old pony's amble of his mansion-house of Eastry, and my wife, his sister, leads me the same dance as Will led me--God bless her!

I am not like to forget the first day we met. The wind was roaring; the sky was a feather-bed of clouds; the ships were forging up and down at their anchors; their cables and timbers were cracking rather than creaking, even under the lee of the land; and the waves looked like sweeping away the narrow spit of shore which shuts out the sea and makes Brading Harbour.

We had a noble fleet. A few men-of-war on their way out to join my Lord St. Vincent, Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, and with them the Portugal, Gibraltar, and Mediterranean convoy, lay in the roads between St. Helen's, in the Isle of Wight, and Spithead, on the morning of that 8th of April, 1798, waiting for the gale to drop or shift from the south-west, till when they were wind-bound,--for the Mediterranean.

Our ship, the Vanguard, a fine seventy-four, was one of the nearest in-shore, for we had the Admiral aboard.

Walking up and down the slippery deck with Berry, our Captain, was a most remarkable-looking little man. His shoulders were made to appear narrower than they really were by the loss of his right arm and the way he pulled his coat round it. A certain peculiarity in his gait was probably due to the same cause. The flowing hair which almost concealed his ears, the ruddy skin and bright blue eyes would alone have attracted attention. It was a small face, with certain very marked features. The forehead was lofty, though narrow; the nose was long, and almost straight; the chin, though very strong, was not broad; and his mouth, which was noticeably large, was the most extraordinarily sensitive mouth I have ever seen. In remarking its size, it was not the length that you noted, but the range and flexibility of the lips. This contributed largely to the wonderful expressiveness of the face.

His eyebrows, too, were very marked; they were bent rather than curved, and had a curious little upward curl at the end. But his eyes, with his mouth, were the features of his face. For being of the bright blue which is hardly ever dissociated from courage and resoluteness, they gave the face its strength; and they were the most remarkable I have ever seen in this way,--that while cruelty, or at the least callousness, and insensibility to any emotions but animal passions and anger, are frequently the other characteristics of eyes of this particular bright blue, his eyes had instead the tenderness, the sensibility, the imaginativeness of large eyes which sometimes look greyish-brown and sometimes brownish-grey.

And herein lay the index to his whole character. For once in the world, dark-eyed genius was found in the same body as blue-eyed recklessness. He had at once head and heart and backbone. And sometimes his poor little weakling body was wrung almost dry of blood by the mighty soul which struggled within it. But as Will's eyes first fell on him that day he was a little thin man, crooked with the loss of his arm, and with wild hair tumbling over a small weather-ruddied face with petulant eyes and mouth.

That was his expression when worried with forced inaction, or being chained to mere routine with no prospect of an occasion which demanded ability to meet it. But when such an occasion arose this expression was replaced by the smiling serenity and confidence of the portrait painted in the year of the Nile.

The narrowness of chin and forehead, and the general smallness of the face, I have always considered as the physiognomical expression of the concentration and intenseness of his character.

This little man was the great Admiral who was one day to be Lord Nelson, and leave such a name behind him as no sailor who ever sailed the sea left before him, or is ever like to leave. I was standing to take orders, when suddenly the Admiral cried out, "The devil take this wind, Berry! If the Boadicea's news be true, the French in Brest will be ready for sea before it blows out, and I shall have to fight them with my hands tied by the convoy. I hate this convoying,--I don't mind what the odds are in a fair fight. But they shall sink every King's ship among us before they get away with any of my convoy. Sink, I say!--there shall be no question of capturing any fighting ship in my fleet. I hope that trial of Williamson's will have its effect on officers going into action. I was sorry for him: I do not grudge him getting off with his life; I daresay that there were some favourable circumstances, and it is ever a virtue to lean to the side of mercy. But as to myself, upon the general question that if a man does not do his utmost in time of action, I think but one punishment ought to be inflicted. Not that I take a man's merit from his list of killed and wounded, for but little may be in his power; and if he does his utmost in the station he is placed, he has equal merit to the man who may have his ship beat to pieces, but not his good fortune. I would have every man believe I shall only take my chance of being shot by the enemy, but if I do not take that chance I am certain of being shot by my friends."

"I am sure, sir, that there is no captain in this fleet but thinks the same."

"I am glad of that, Berry. I'm glad of that. But I say, the devil take this wind!--I shall never be quit of the sea-sickness till we are out of this. Why, this very morning ... but no matter. We want some luck, Berry."

"I fear we cannot command that, sir; though Nelson's luck is a proverb in the service. I know of no charm for luck except to whistle for the wind. I do not know how to unwhistle it."

"Is it a proverb, Berry, my luck?"

"You may take my word for that, sir."

The great little Admiral stroked his firm chin, and a glad light broke into his eyes.

"Strange!" he said, "that they talk of men being born under a lucky star. That is not the way I look at it, but I have always believed that I was born to do the work of Providence, which is perhaps what they mean. And I think that Providence gives its little signs to those whom it chooses for its instruments. But I have had no signs here--everything is as thick as St. Helen's Church. It is not a church now, you know, Berry, only a tower--only the shell of a tower, I think, kept standing and washed with white as a beacon to mariners. And, even lying in-shore like this, we cannot see the beacon, it is so thick. However long is it since we were able to communicate with shore, Berry?"

"More than a week, sir."

"And we have to take that draft on board to fill the places of those sick and missing men?"

"Yes, sir, thirty of them."

"Thirty-one: at fewest there were twenty-five in hospital and either five or six missing, when I wrote to their Lordships; but since then I find that William O'Brien is missing, and that he boasted to his watch that he always meant to desert when he got the opportunity."

"He was not a Norfolk man, sir."

"No, Berry; I would not lose him so lightly if he were a Norfolk man. There is the greatest difference between a forced man and a man who voluntarily offers his life to preserve his country. These Norfolk lads are all volunteers, come for the honour of the country, because their Admiral is a Burnham man."

"A hundred and more of them."

They were silent for a bit, but presently the Admiral began again.

"I am sorry that young Hardres could not get to us--him that Lord Eastry wrote to me to have Thomas Irwine's place, 'the finest and bravest boy Lord Eastry knew.' He was the sort we want. I met Harry Fleet when he was captain of the Ramillies, and a finer captain never sailed, of the old bull-dog sort, who did not know as much as I like my captains to know, but who always laid their ships alongside of the enemy. They were wonderful men to fight, those three Fleets! And this young Hardres was the finest and bravest boy Harry Fleet ever knew. What's that coming along from the west'ard, youngster? You take my glass: I can't use it yet without feeling dizzy. I can't quite shake off that miserable sea-sickness, while we are lying-to doing nothing."

"Looks like a Portsmouth smack, sir," I said, after peeping for a bit; "but she's only carrying such a rag of sail that I cannot quite make her out."

"It takes a bold man," said the Admiral, "to carry that on a day like this. He must have despatches on board from the Admiralty, or he'd never have put out."

"There are two passengers, I make out now, sir."

"Very important despatches, Berry. The French must have got out of Brest."

"They'll be alongside in a minute, sir, with this wind."

As she came alongside and caught the rope I flung to her, the man at the tiller sang out to lower the gangway. "Lady on board, sir."

The Captain looked at the Admiral. The weather was too rough for lowering a gangway.

"Lower away," said the Admiral, with that little smile he wore after he had prayed, when going into battle: "please God nothing shall ever frighten me--not even a lady."

The gangway was lowered, and strong arms, using all their dexterity, flung the larger bundle of oilskins into the arms of the sailor standing on the bottom step; they were going to follow with the thinner, taller bundle, but it shook them off with indignation. The larger bundle was passed up; the other scrambled up and stood on the deck bareheaded in front of the Admiral and the Captain. The Admiral conducted them along the slippery and unsteady deck to his state-room under the quarter-deck, and with his own hands peeled the oilskins from the lady, while the Captain gave orders for cordials, and the other bundle slipped back to the door of the state-room and began to lay off its oilskins there.

It was a little, slim, fair woman who stood before the hero, quite thinly clad when she removed the cloak under the oilskins, and evidently a widow, but of some years' standing. She was the gentlest-looking creature imaginable, except for a certain firmness about the pathetic little mouth. The Admiral had signed to me to follow; he gave me the oilskins to hold. It was just like him: not until he had made the most solicitous inquiries and had offered her everything in the ship, did he ask whom he had the honour of addressing.

She took a sip of the cordial, and put her hand up to her silky fair hair, and finding how wet it was, gave it a little shake, as if she expected to dry herself like a dog. And after the shake she looked at the Admiral, who was re-beginning his inquiry with a considerable amount of trepidation, when she cut him short with:

"I am Mrs. Hardres: is it too late? We have been waiting in Portsmouth since the beginning of the storm, and this is the first day we have been able to get a boat to bring us off."

"My missing midshipman," he cried gaily. "Madam, it is never too late to get a good officer; but where is he?"

"Will!" called his mother. But there was no Will to be found. The Admiral, with the smile for which any man in his fleet was ready to die, flew to the door of the state-room in front of Mrs. Hardres. She knew where to look for her son. He was standing just outside the door in his new midshipman's rig. His oilskins were lying folded in a neat pile on the deck beside him, though it had come on to rain in torrents.

"Come in, Will," said the Admiral, in his best-pleased manner; and his satisfaction as he scanned him, face and figure, was evident, though he expressed it indirectly.

"He's a big fellow for a midshipman, Mrs. Hardres. I was a post captain at twenty-one."

"The only son of a widow, Sir Horatio. But the time has come when the widow must give her mite."

Tears came into the Admiral's eyes. I never knew a man of such delicate sensibilities: though he did not know what fear meant, he could weep like a child.

"How old are you, Will?"

"Eighteen, sir," said Will.

"You must make haste and be a lieutenant."

Our Admiral would not hear of Mrs. Hardres going off until the storm abated. In those days regulations were not so hard-and-fast about the presence of ladies on board a man-of-war, and the men who had brought her were willing enough to stay. They had run down to the ship before the wind, and they knew what it meant beating back against that wind and that sea. Towards evening the sea fell a good bit, and the thick weather cleared off, though it continued to blow; and shortly before dark we made out an Admiralty tender, which proved to have our thirty men aboard. The Admiral was delighted, and making his excuses to Mrs. Hardres, went off to write despatches.

When he had written them and paraded the new draft, he stepped up to Mrs. Hardres and said:--

"You shall go back, madam, in the state that befits a gallant officer's mother. Lieutenant Morris, of the tender, shall take charge of you," and at the same time he gave the men who had brought her their golden guinea apiece, for bringing him luck.

"We shall have a change in the wind now, Berry," he said, "within a day or two. I know that this lady's coming is the sign I was waiting for."

And dinner was then served, put forward for Mrs. Hardres. And then, after many protestations of the Admiral's kindness, and a grim, silent leave-taking, with hardly-kept-back tears, from her boy, the gangway was let down again. As she was leaving the ship, she said, "You will take care of him, Sir Horatio?"

The Admiral looked at her in his way.

"I do not mean in the face of the enemy," she said warmly, the pitiful mouth, for the moment, taking the proud curves of her son's; "but I have only a slender purse,--his father was killed when he was a lieutenant."

"As regards that last, my dear madam, you may be perfectly easy, for your son will be a very lucky fellow if he gets on shore twice in a year. And for the rest, I shall look after him as if he were my own son, and you know where I should wish my son to be in the moment of honour."

CHAPTER III.--Of the Letters of a Boy and a Girl.

Will duly wrote to Katherine from every port we touched at: one on April 23rd, when we arrived at Lisbon--one on April 30th, when we joined the Earl of St. Vincent's fleet off Cadiz--one on May 7th, from Gibraltar, the day before we sailed with a small squadron of observation up the Mediterranean--one on May 25th, when we put into S. Pierre's in Sardinia to repair damages after we had been disabled and partly dismasted in the great storm off Toulon--and one on June 17th, when we were in the Bay of Naples after Captain Troubridge's squadron had joined us. The only one I saw of them was the last, he not knowing whether it was Trowbridge or Troubridge--a point I daresay Katherine would have waived for a message that came a little straighter from his heart.

                            "From His Majesty's ship Vanguard.

                                "Off Naples, June 17th, 1798.

    "Dear Kitty,--I am no letter writer, besides all the news there

    is of our being in pursuit of the French fleet and the Admiral

    being joined by Ten of the Line under Captain Thomas Trowbridge,

    making Thirteen in all, besides the Leander, 50 guns, I doubt

    not you will see in the Gazette. For the rest, I have not been

    on shore once, and the Admiral treats me with so much goodness

    as his own--that is Lady Nelson's, son--Lieut. Nisbet. You may

    know how often I think of you, because sailors have watches

    every day of four hours at a time when they may do nothing. I

    read your letter which I had by the Squadron before I go on

    watch.

                                        "Yours affectly,

                                            "WILL HARDRES.

    "To the Lady Katherine Fleet,

      "At the House of my Lord Eastry,

        "Near Dover."

But it was not till we were joined by Captain Troubridge's Squadron off Toulon, on June 7th, that Katherine's first letter reached him, having missed us at Gibraltar. We were by this time fast friends, though I was rather what a schoolboy would call his fag, and he had such pride in his letter that he showed it to me. It was not dated.

                                                  "Eastry Place,

                                                      "Near Dover.

    "To my dearest Will,--As I am to marry you, I may have the

    writing, and am wishing to say not to lose your heart to the

    black-browed dames I have read of in the Beauty's Garland. The

    Marquess has shown me much goodness; although he often comes to

    walk or ride with me he brings his aide-de-camp (he is Lord

    Lieutenant, you know) or, when he has one at Pegwell with him,

    his sister. They are very proud. The Ladies St. Radigunde all

    made great matches, but I never was frightened, as I let his

    sister the Dutchess know, and then wished I had not, for she

    paid me compliments that vexed me--'splendid creature,' and

    such, and vowed that I was the very woman to be his Marchioness,

    and that I should be his Marchioness, to which I replied setting

    her in her place, which alas! only increased her devotion.

    "Will, dear, I miss you always, but the many times I thought of

    marrying you before we were promised on that night, I never

    doubted but that you would be much away on the seas. The wives

    of our family love their husbands dearly, and are content with a

    little. Indeed, Will, though I think I should not write it, they

    are most of their lives but mothers, and many is the Fleet who

    never saw his father. But I have no fear that I shall not see

    you for the marrying of me, and with you to be on the sea, as

    Admiral Nelson told your mother, save perhaps for two days in

    the year, it is only I who have to promise not to wander.

                                        "Your loving

                                            "KATHERINE.

    "P.S.--My father says not to go on a frigate; there is treasure

    in plenty here, and though frigates are good for prize-money, an

    Admiral's ship is the path to promotion.

    "To Mr. Will Hardres,

      "On His Majesty's ship Vanguard, etc., etc.,

        "Mediterranean."

At Naples, when we lay off on June 17th, and again at Syracuse, we missed our letters; and it was not till after the Nile that we had them, when Will had at one time three from Katherine, writ by different ships.

CHAPTER IV.--Of our Entry into Syracuse.

The Admiral bettered his promise to Mrs. Hardres. He was not only a father to Will, but attached him to his person as a sort of supernumerary member of his staff. And Will wanted a good friend, for there is no denying that he was none too popular with those who should have been his mates. With the Admiral and the high officers he was a great favourite. His manner to them was a marvel--so dignified, as well as respectful. Give Will a chance of shining, and he always shone, and I loved him from the day he came on board. Will Hardres always seemed to me to be the grandest man I ever knew. I am sure I expected him to be a greater man than the Admiral himself some day. His mother brought him up in certain principles. He was too proud to be tempted from them, too courageous to be daunted from them. I do not think he was much above the average in strength or activity but I never saw such courage in any man except the Admiral. With the other mids, some of them little boys, he was not likely to have much in sympathy. He was a good deal older than most midshipmen, and big for his age, and, so far as habits were concerned, the difference was still greater.

The junior lieutenants, on the other hand, disliked his haughtiness and self-assurance, though they all of them saw that he had corresponding courage. By all rights they should have patronised him, but he could much more properly patronise them. The climax, of course, was the Admiral's very marked favour. But this signified less by the fact that he dined at the Admiral's table, and was in almost constant attendance on his person.

I shall let you know how Will first made his mark. One summer morning, July 19th, 1798, as I remember it, we found ourselves off Syracuse. It was not the first time, either, during our long chase after the French, so we all knew the place well by sight.

We could make out the old castle of Maniace, eight hundred years old, they say, standing at the end of the island of Ortygia; if it had not been for the great high walls stopping there, we should never have known where this island left off. And we could make out the opposite shore with its low cliffs, where the Athenians would have been safe if they could have reached it, as the chaplain explained to us mids last time we sighted the place. The Admiral was very busy with his glass, and Captain Berry was standing by him with some reports, which seemed to trouble him.

"It seems to me, Berry," he said, "that we are short of nearly everything. But this question of running out of water is a serious one. We must see to that. There are polacres in the Little Port, I see, and we could hire or even impress them to bring off water and supplies; but could we tranship with this sea on?"

"You can do anything, sir; but I think it will be very difficult and dangerous."

"But the Great Port, Berry, I read in the Mirror, that though it was one of the most famous ports of antiquity, it has been too silted up for large ships of the last few centuries to be able to enter it, though the water inside is in places too deep for the best anchorage. There is a footnote which says the passage is so well known to be impossible, that it is never attempted. Now, Berry, it is equally well known that in the course of centuries channels change, and I shall try it. Of course, we shall take the utmost care, and at the worst only one vessel can strike; and we have force enough to haul her off. I shall lead myself."

"I know it is useless to ask if there is any need for this, sir; but it would be so bad for the fleet if anything should happen to your ship."

"Our ship, Berry?"

"Captain Troubridge, sir, every captain in the fleet, would volunteer."

"It is my post where there is risk: I shall try it. Head the ship for the opening, and signal to the fleet to prepare to follow."

The Captain stepped away to give the necessary orders. I felt rooted to the spot, where I had been standing, just within earshot.

"Here, youngster," called the Admiral, "come and see a bit of navigation that may go down in the annals of the Navy."

It is a matter of ancient history now, how the Vanguard sailed in without a check. We did not have one anxious sounding as we swept round and brought up abreast of the Marina, just opposite the cathedral, which used to be the Temple of somebody, and has half its columns outside and the other half inside, doing duty as the pillars of an aisle. The Marina is a sort of carriage drive dividing the landing quays from the ancient wall, which in other parts is washed by the sea itself. It is handsomely laid out with shade-trees and flowers, and at one end terminated by the natural rocks from which rushes the famous Fountain of Arethusa. This pleased the Admiral extravagantly. He said several times: "I shall water my ships at the Fountain of Arethusa, and then Fortune cannot fail to smile upon me."

We brought up in beautiful order, with our larboard resting on a shore with ruins all along the horizon, which the chaplain told us formed four-fifths of the city in the ancient times. The island of Ortygia, which is occupied by the present city, was the smallest of the five quarters. On the sky-line was the Castle of Euryalus, which might have been a mediæval fortress, with its fine square towers and high curtain wall, though it was built by the Athenians in the famous siege. Our starboard ran up to the entrance of the port, under the Castle of Maniace.

As we were running in, the flag was hoisted on the Castle, to which we replied by showing English colours. Almost at the same time a boat came aboard with the Captain of the Port and an Adjutant of the town to offer us any refreshments of which we might be in need, and to point out that it would not be necessary for us to lose the wind by entering the harbour, for that they could be brought to us as we lay off. But since the Admiral would not listen to him, and held straight on, a second boat boarded us soon after, this time with the Town Major and the Second Commandant of Artillery to confer with the Admiral, repeating the compliments and offers of assistance, and at the same time acquainting him that the Governor's orders and instructions prevented his admitting into the harbour more than three or four ships at one time, even though they should belong to an allied and friendly power, as the English nation was. But the Admiral having a Royal letter with orders that the whole squadron should be admitted, proceeded to enter the harbour without waiting, and anchored, as I have said.

No sooner had we let go the anchor than the Admiral hailed Will.

"Will," he said (he always called him Will), "ask Mr. Comyn to come to me. I believe he knows a little Italian, and I take it that the Governor will be able to speak Italian as well as Sicilian, though one never knows. These Sicilian magnificoes, though their language is no better than a dialect of Italian, make it a point of honour not to know the mother-language, and hate the people on the mainland better than any one in Europe. However, Comyn can talk a little French too."

"If I may interrupt, sir," said Will, "I can speak both languages very well. My mother"--here he blushed--"could not afford me any better schooling than I could have at the village school and of the Rector. But she did her best to make up for it by teaching me these languages. She was brought up in these countries; my father married her while he was serving in the Mediterranean."

"Bravo!" said the Admiral. "I do not like employing a black coat on these occasions, especially in a priest-ridden country like this, where the bare sight of a Protestant clergyman fills them with envy, hatred, and malice, because they are no longer able to Inquisition him and burn him. Will, I must promote you lieutenant; we can rig you out from Vassall's sea-chest--he's about your build: we could hardly send a midshipman on an affair of this sort. And you shall go ashore in my barge, so as to observe ceremony. When you get there, demand to be taken with your guard to the Governor, and when you see him----" He turned round to me with more coldness than I thought necessary, and said, "You can leave us, Trinder, and ask the Captain, with my compliments, if he will order my barge to be lowered and manned, with a guard of marines for the officer carrying despatches. And ask Mr. Vassall to come to me."

I shall never forget Will as he was rowed away from the flagship, sitting in the stern-sheets of the Admiral's barge. Vassall's uniform--it was his best full-dress parade uniform, and he was richer than most of us, being the son of a wealthy Jamaica planter and careful of his appearance--well, his uniform fitted Will almost as trimly as if it had been made for him; and there Will sat, with that fair, proud face of his, which I would back against the Apollo Belvedere, though I have never seen it, set as stern as a statue's.

The Admiral himself could not have had it written in his features more plainly that he had the guns of the squadron behind him--a fine squadron, with which we hoped to break up the French fleet and capture the convoy with "Bony" and all his army on board. There Will sat, as if there were no one in the barge with him--no sea, no land, no walls between him and the Governor of Syracuse. And as the barge sheered off I caught the Admiral's eye looking at him. What would not Sir Horatio have given to have had such a son?

CHAPTER V.--In which Will has his first Chance, and his first Escapade, and his first Meeting with the Princess of Favara.

I should have said that ten minutes before the barge left, the Admiral hailed me.

"Go and make yourself ready, Trinder. Mr. Hardres must not steer the barge now."

And so I went with him. But though I was his particular mate, and never away from him for five minutes when he was not with the Admiral, he took no more account of me than any common seaman. He seemed wrapt up in his mission, and I saw that he had the Admiral's great quality of not letting an opportunity pass.

When we reached the long landing steps under the Marina, we were met by a ragged rabble of a guard under an officer who spoke French. Now, I knew a very little of French, and could make out that Will demanded to be taken at once into the presence of the Governor, with myself and his guard.

"Oui, Monsieur the Vice-Admiral," said the officer with the greatest possible alacrity.

Like every one else in the city, he was bursting to know the reason of the advent of this formidable fleet. England was at peace with the Two Sicilies, he knew. So, for the matter of that, was France; though all the time his King, and, what was more to the point, his Queen, were dying to cut the throat of every Frenchman, and ready to declare war the moment they could get sufficient protection from the Allies. In the state of confusion Europe was then in no one would have been surprised at any of the belligerents seizing any point of vantage they happened to require, in the territories of the feeble principalities of Italy. The townspeople, mad with delight, imagined that this fine fleet had come to occupy Syracuse, and defend it against the dreaded operations of the French. So delighted were they to see us, that the Governor wrote afterwards to Sir John Acton, that they would have carried the ships one by one to their houses, if it had been possible. And in any case resistance would have been impossible. For centuries it had been the cardinal belief that no large ship could cross the bar at the entrance to the Great Port. Consequently, the inner face of the city all along the Marina was hardly fortified; certainly not in a state to resist any kind of naval attack more formidable than an assault by boats. A frigate could have defied the landward guns of the Castle, and laid the town in ashes. If the Syracusans had not been too ignorant to know anything about the political questions with which Europe was boiling, they might have thought that the English had come there to seize the town, because the Two Sicilies had not declared war upon the French. That the town was about to be seized upon some pretext or other, they felt certain; else why this imposing force--the greatest expedition which had ever come to the city since the famous siege by the Athenians? And the Athenians, God bless them, came before the days of gunpowder.

The officer, forming his ragged troops in some sort of order, led the way to the ancient castello, built by the Greek, Georgio Maniace, when he reconquered Syracuse from the Arabs, before the Norman conquest. A lovely, but rather tumbledown black-and-white marble gateway had been built by him to support the two famous bronze rams, made by ancient Greeks in classical times. Seven hundred and seventy years afterwards the gate and its rams were still there to give our entry becoming state. The rams were really very comical, and I had it just on my lips, when I caught Will's hard blue eye, and brought my face to attention. Nor was that the only comical thing about the castle, which was so little used that a fine crop of dwarf stocks were growing right up to the guns.

The Governor, Don Giuseppe delle Torre, had chosen rather an al fresco scene for the reception.

To be brief, he had had a space cleared among the powder and shot and flour barrels in the deep bomb-proof vaults, which are a feature of fortresses in these parts. There was hardly any light, and there were only three chairs, two of which he hastily assigned to us. I noticed that a bed, with very fine but much-worn Spanish hangings, was being erected in one corner; and I wondered if, as the next move, he would not have the powder taken out and thrown into the sea. In which he would have shown his wisdom, as the castle could not possibly have made any resistance to our fleet, and it might have blown up if a chance shot had found its way into the magazine.

Also, I wondered if Will was noticing all these comical details, and looked at him. The icy contempt on his face showed that he had taken the Governor's measure.

When we had been bowed into our seats, the Governor bowed again and waited for Will to begin.

Generally the stronger waits for the weaker, but in this case the explanation could only come from us. Will began by inquiring, could his Excellency speak Italian? His Excellency, for a wonder, knew what was nominally his native language. Will came to the point at once. He presented the Royal despatch, written in the name of His Majesty, and signed by the Captain-General, the Chevalier Acton, enjoining the Governor in the most pressing manner to welcome and admit the English squadron, going beyond what is usual, and mentioning many novel and unexpected possibilities by reason of His Majesty's good-will and friendship towards the English nation.

Would his Excellency, then, give the proper orders for the fleet of his High and Mighty Majesty, the King of Great Britain and Ireland, to be supplied at a proper price with such water and other stores as it might need?

His Excellency's face fell. Then, noticing Will's youth, he began a long and specious apology. His High and Mighty Majesty, the King of Great Britain and Ireland, was, he admitted, a very good friend of his August Majesty the King of the Two Sicilies; but in order to prevent a French fleet being quartered upon him, his August Majesty the King of the Two Sicilies had been compelled to enter into a compact not to admit more than three or four ships of any nation into any of his ports at one time. At the same time the French declared that they would treat it as an act of war if any nation at war with them (meaning, of course, us) was allowed to take in supplies in his August Majesty's ports. He would therefore be unable to accede to the request, much as he desired to do anything for the great Admiral Nelson, the good friend of his country. Would the Illustrissimo Vice-Admiral convey to the Admiral his most profound and heartfelt apologies for not being able to comply? For himself, he must again say that, if only he were able, it would give him the deepest gratification, and so on and so on.

There was a look of unmitigated scorn on Will's fine face. He did not believe one word that the Don was saying, and waited with diplomatic impatience, formally restrained but clearly hinted, until the Governor had finished; when he replied in cold, calm tones that the Governor had here orders from his Sovereign, countersigned by the Chevalier Acton, superseding all general orders, and directing him to act as Admiral Nelson might wish. The Governor stoutly maintained that the despatch gave no instructions about the admission of the entire squadron; whereas we, through the good Lady Hamilton, by whose influence they had been procured for us, knew positively that this was intended. And here, perhaps, Will's diplomacy failed him, for he had such a contempt for the whole nation, that he could not but consider the possibility of further secret orders having been issued that the Royal despatch, overriding the general policy of the country, should itself be ignored. He did not know then--in fact none of us, from the Admiral downward, did know--how completely Ferdinand gave over politics to his imperious spouse in order to be allowed to devote himself to the pleasures of the chase, the pleasures of the table, and intrigues of a non-political kind.

In brief, the Governor refused to allow us to take in water or stores of any kind until we withdrew our squadron.

"Then," said Will, looking positively majestic as he felt himself the mouthpiece of his country, "I have the honour to present your Excellency with the schedule of the Admiral's requirements." This with a deep bow. And, with another deep bow, "I have the honour to inform your Excellency that if permission for their supply is not sent on board within twelve hours, the Admiral is prepared to enforce his requirements with the guns of his ships. I have the honour to wish your Excellency," this with a still deeper bow, "a very good morning."

"Stay! stay! not so fast, Illustrissimo. Would you graciously write down this cartel, so that I may make no mistake? Ah, you have been reading it!" he said, catching sight of a second scroll.

"I am afraid this will not do. It is in English--the Admiral's note of the words I should use for the manifesto."

"And you assure me that what you have said is the exact translation of this?"

"Put into the roundabout and compliment-paying phrases which your language demands--yes."

"Then it is quite sufficient, Illustrissimo. Tell your terrible Admiral that he will not have to fire his guns into us; that I shall be rejoiced from the bottom of my heart to supply him with whatever he requires, water, provisions, powder even, at the most reasonable prices. With this piece of paper in my hands, I have only yielded to force. His August Majesty will not declare war upon his High and Mighty Majesty for this breach of the peace."

But he added to himself, as we learned from the ladies of his party on the next evening, that he did not feel so certain that France would not regard it as an act of war.

This whole affair of Syracuse has not even yet been cleared up, and it must be remembered that I am writing a good many years after the event. To this day the Admiralty is in the dark as to whether the Governor did receive secret orders, overriding the Royal despatch, and supposing he did, if it formed part of those orders that he was to yield, but only to yield to a pretence of force. One thing is quite certain--that, as soon as force was mentioned, he showed the greatest good-will; and the Admiral wrote in two separate letters to Sir William and Lady Hamilton, both written the day before he left: "I have no complaint to make of private attention. Every body of persons have been on board to offer me civilities." And in the other letter: "My dear friends, thanks to your exertions we have victualled and watered; and surely, watering at the fountain of Arethusa, we must have victory. We shall sail with the first breeze; and, be assured, I will return either crowned with laurel or covered with cypress."

A day or two afterwards the breeze did come in the afternoon, as it always does at Syracuse. In the morning the Admiral wrote:

"The fleet is unmoored, and the moment the wind comes off the land, we shall go out of the delightful harbour, where our present wants have been most amply supplied, and where every attention had been paid to us."

But I am anticipating. The Governor was as good as his word, and we were soon in the thick of taking in stores and water; and as there was no hope of going out in less than two days at the earliest, the inhabitants began to organise a round of hospitalities.

The very next evening, the Governor, who had recovered so far from his fright of our cannon as to have his state bed moved back from the subterranean magazine of the castle, gave a ball in our honour at his palace. The Admiral had in the afternoon paid him a state visit, accompanied by his staff.

To the English it might sound a formidable undertaking to ask the officers of a whole fleet to a ball at a few hours' notice, but in Sicily it is very different. The palaces of the nobles were built, many of them, in the Middle Ages, when it was necessary to house the retainers, who were, in fact, the nobleman's army, within the walls of his town palace when he happened to be there, as much as it was necessary to house them within the walls of his castle when he was in the country on his estates. When the custom of each noble maintaining a private army died out, their palaces were naturally a great deal larger than they required for their diminished establishments, and each palace could afford to have noble suites of entertaining rooms not used at ordinary times, but ready, with a little taking off of covers, for any fêtes, like a ball at carnival time. As most nobles grew their own wine, they had an unlimited supply maturing in their cellars, and fruit in Sicily is as a drug in the market. There remained nothing, therefore, but for the ladies to bring out their gala dresses from their chests, and to summon all the banquet-cooks in Syracuse to the Governor's kitchen.

I must say that we were received with very great ceremony, for though they were of an old-fashioned style and sadly needed freshening up, a plentiful supply of private coaches met us at the landing steps, and drove us along the Marina, and up through the sea-gate to the Governor's palace, which was situated in the main street near the centre of the town. It was quite light when we drove in through the lofty gateway, under the great Spanish balcony of heavy ironwork bulging out like the bows of a first-rate, and ornamented at the ends with splendid hammered-iron roses. Once through the gateway we found ourselves in a courtyard, round which the palace was built. At the far end was a wide sweeping stone outside-stairway, with a heavy stone parapet, which went almost round two sides of the court. On the post at the bottom end of the parapet was seated a queer lion, carved out of the post itself at some time during the Middle Ages. This stairway, and the terrace which led from it into the principal apartments, were strewn with rich carpets of very ancient date, but more out of repair than any gentleman would use in England. The rooms inside, too, reminded me more of an English nobleman's seat which was never used by its owner, but maintained in its ancient condition as a show place; for the silk hangings of the walls were broken or threadbare in places, and the carpets, likewise ancient, were in the like state. And though chandeliers of rock-crystal hung in all the state rooms, and we saw fine old cabinets here and there, there did not seem to be a good new piece in the whole establishment, and the servants, whose name was legion, were as dilapidated as the hangings.

The dresses of the ladies, too, were not such as we saw at Palermo, when the King and Queen were holding their Court there after the flight from Naples; but, while made of most valuable brocades, they had the appearance of being used for a lifetime on the rare occasions on which they were required. The ball consisted largely of eating the fine fruits and drinking the good Sicilian wines, both of which were very welcome in a Sicilian July, after a long spell at sea. For but few of the English officers and the Sicilian ladies were able to dance sufficiently well together, and it seemed not to be etiquette for the Sicilian gentlemen to be dancing while any English officers were without partners.

The few officers who spoke the language of the country conversed with the younger ladies, who never moved from the sides of their mothers, except to dance; and as the music was of the poorest order, the proceedings were sufficiently doleful. But I must say that Will, as I afterwards found was his invariable fortune, fell upon his feet.

He was attending the Admiral, who was, of course, conversing with the Governor, who even in the midst of the festivities would from time to time try and extract a promise from the Admiral to withdraw his ships. The conversation was through the interpretations of Will and the chaplain; and by the Governor was standing a young girl attended by a brother in place of a mother. I may say at once that she was of extraordinary beauty: somewhat tall and slender, distinguished to an unusual degree by the singular grace of figure and carriage characteristic of young Sicilian women. Her hair, which waved beautifully, was dusky rather than dark; and a dusky complexion, almost transparent in its purity, was thrown up by the wonderful Sicilian eyes, which are not brown, but of a very dark grey, looking blue in some lights and black in others; while the note of delicate refinement suggested by the slight, beautifully carried figure, was maintained by the delicacy of the thin nose of classical straightness, and the thin mouth.

Thin mouths are ordinarily taken to be typical of cruelty, but this by no means exhausts the category. There is another kind of thin lips typical of sensibility, and yet another typical of passion, to some degree of animal passion, but more of an intense ardour of devotion. Donna Rusidda's lips had both these last two elements in them. Devotion and extreme sensibility mingled curiously with the archness of her face.

Donna Rosalia[1] (or Rusidda) di Mardolce and her brother Don Ruggiero, who was the Prince of Favara, were Palermitans. They lived in the old half-Arabic palace of the Favara, which was the great Emperor Frederick II.'s favourite summer residence, and which had come down to them through many generations. But they were connected with Syracuse through their mother, who belonged to the ancient family of the Mont' alti. The palace of the Mont' alti, which we saw the next day, must, when it was built, four hundred years ago, have been one of the most beautiful in Syracuse. The Gothic windows, rather in the Venetian style, of its upper storey have an Arabic delicacy and airiness. But in our day quite a mean street had grown up about it, and the last of the Mont' alti, the widower uncle with whom the young Prince and his sister were staying, lived in a mere corner of his palace, only able to maintain his rusty equipages by practising the strictest economy in every other way. People prophesied that these, too, would go soon, and the last of the Mont' alti of Milocca, the proudest barons of Syracuse in the Middle Ages, seek death by his own hand, when he could no longer afford the last poor appurtenances of his rank.

    [1] Rosalia is pronounced Rōsă-lēă. Rusidda is a pet abbreviation

    of it.

However, I shall have little more to say of him: he only comes into my chronicle because "Rusidda Favara," as she was generally called, was staying under his roof when she and Will met.

How far Will admired her I could not tell. There were only certain moods which were easily reflected in his face, such as anger and scorn. He had more than the ordinary English resolution to conceal his gentler moods. Except when he was annoyed, his hard, handsome face was almost inscrutable. He certainly talked to her and her brother a good deal; they had been at the Neapolitan Court much in their richer days, and spoke Italian fluently. During the conversation she seems to have told Will about the windows of her room, the beautiful Arab-Gothic windows which I was mentioning--a conversation which was shortly to show my young sir in a new light. The function did not last late; indeed, it dragged along somewhat too mournfully for that, and we rowed back to our respective ships.

I had not been asleep a great while--I cannot say for certain how long--when I heard my door open, and some one came in with a subdued "H'sh!"

I recognised Will.

"Tubby," he whispered, coming up to my bunk, "will you come with me?"

I would have gone with Will to the devil, so I made no conditions, but rose and began to put my things on. I only whispered one word--"Ashore?" I felt certain that it was so, because there was nothing else to rise for in this secret fashion, except a practical jest, and Will was the last man in the world to play a practical jest on a brother officer. His aloofness was their principal complaint against him, and but for his fierce temper and remarkable courage he might have been thought young-ladyish, so unlike was he to the ordinary roystering young naval officer of that piping time.

I did not even ask how we were to get ashore, I concluded that Will had seen to that; and I knew that our getting away depended on our not being overheard, so kept silence. Will crept stealthily, I following, to the starboard shrouds of the mizzen. Then he slipped over the side into the mizzen chains, whispering as he went, "Stop in the chains."

He had, I observed, a coil of rope with him. Nothing happened for a little while. I supposed that there was some boat that he was looking for, and kept as still as a mouse. Apparently he saw nothing, but presently he took a piece of phosphorus out of his pocket and rubbed the sole of his foot. So he told me afterwards, for I only saw a bit of something shining. He chose this part because if the watch came along and peeped over he had only to set his foot down. Directly afterwards I heard a low, muffled sound, and a boat slid almost noiselessly beneath us. Will made fast one end of his rope to the shrouds, and knotted a loop in the rope at a distance as far as he could judge of about five feet from the water, whispering to me to follow if he made a certain signal. The loop was, of course, to enable him to stop if the boat was not all right. We both had our shoes hung round our necks so that we could walk the more silently. I found myself in the high-peaked bow of one of the little boats which all Italians call a barca. The boatmen pulled us to the landing steps very quickly and very quietly. There was a sentry there, but fortunately he was one of the guard who had escorted us to the Governor in the morning. He challenged, Will said something to him, and the man recognised him as the "Vice-Admiral" who had arrived in the Admiral's barge in the morning. And as his countrymen seldom did important business without some passing of secret messages, he took it that Will bore some such secret communication between the Admiral and the Governor.

The boatman, I observed by the light of the sentry's wretched lamp--a little flat earthenware vessel with a hole in the top, through which some strands of cotton found their way into the oil--had left his barca and was accompanying us, carrying a mysterious bundle.

We had, of course, put on our shoes in the boat. The man led the way. As soon as we were out of sight of the sentry Will followed close at his heels, and I, who had not the smallest knowledge of what we were to do, unless it were to have a knife put into us in this evil-looking, cut-throat city, kept close to Will, you may be sure. First he led us to a place where we had to climb the city wall, which was not kept too well mended or guarded, on the side towards the Great Harbour. The man went first and drew his bundle up after him by a line which he seemed to have brought for the purpose. We followed, and then went through a very network of narrow, black, winding streets, with great doors every few yards, out of every one of which I expected some one to spring upon us, not very much caring, because after all, I remembered that it was my profession to be killed. At last we crossed a big, open space, and, taking one or two turns more through narrow lanes, came to a great house standing up gaunt and black against the sky, which was clear and starlit, though there was no moon.

As we went along, having no longer any necessity for silence, Will had unfolded his intention to me, and it fairly took away my breath. Indeed, I did not believe that he would put it into execution. But when he came to the great house which was our destination, taking the bundle from the boatman, he unwrapped a stringed instrument, a sort of lute or zither it seemed to me. I waited to see him assemble the passers-by. In Sicily people seem hardly to go to bed all night in the summer. And even more I expected the fortress-like gates of the palace to open and some one to rush out. But nothing of the kind happened. The passers-by smiled, and the gates of the palace remained as sealed as if they never would open until the day of judgment.

Will had, in the meantime, struck up a tinkly little tune--he was evidently familiar with the instrument--with some Italian words which I did not understand, but took to be a serenade. He had a fair voice and played well enough. After a while I let go of the handle of my dirk which I had brought with me and gripped ready to strike. Will went on singing.

As my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness, I made out that the palace under which we stood had the beautiful moresco windows high up on its front which identified it as the palace of the Mont' alti, concerning which Will had told me--the palace where Donna Rusidda was visiting with her uncle.

Will sang on, and presently the shutter of one of these windows was opened just a chink, and a ray of light stabbed the darkness.

Will sang on, and the opening widened gradually, revealing first a hand and then the graceful head of Donna Rusidda; and finally she flung the shutters right back and stood in full view at the window, inclining graciously. Will sang one or two more songs, and then, making a very fine salute, and bowing, put his lute or zither under his arm and joined me where I was standing in the shadow. The zither was duly wrapped up again by the light of a flickering oil lamp which hung under a much venerated image of the Virgin and Child let into the wall of the Piazza, the open space which I have mentioned as being close to the palace. The boatman then led the way back to his barca, and rowed us swiftly and silently out to the flagship, under the starboard mizzen chains, where we found our rope still hanging. We then took our shoes off and tied them together and hung them round our necks, and Will made the boatman a liberal present, which I dare swear took a month's money from his pocket.

Creeping very cautiously, we reached our bunks without detection, and I turned round and went to sleep, thinking that Master Will had had monstrous little play for his money.

CHAPTER VI.--At the Fountain of Cyané and the Papyrus Beds of the Anapo.

On the next day, having taken in all manner of supplies to our complete satisfaction, and there not being wind enough to take us out, as was too obvious even for the Governor to protest, the Admiral expressed his desire to see the remains of ancient Syracuse, more particularly those parts connected with the siege, and the surrender of the Athenians, which last shocked him very much. "To surrender," he said, "is to lose all your men and none of the enemy's, to give him much larger stores of arms and ammunition. To surrender is shameful; to die fighting against insuperable odds is the finest kind of death. If those Athenians had gone on fighting their way, though it might have cost the Syracusans only one man for their two, or one man for their three, depend upon it some of them would have got through to the friendly city of Catania."[2]

    [2] Catana was the ancient name.

In the morning the Governor had arranged that we were to visit the river Anapo, the only place, it is said, where the papyrus used for the books of antiquity continues to grow in a natural state, taking on our way the few stones which mark the position near which the Athenians met their last defeat.

We had to rise betimes to do this, but the Governor explained that at Syracuse there was always what he called a little storm in the afternoon. The Admiral replied that he did not imagine that any storm which they could have in that bay would be like to frighten his Majesty's sailors, but if it came he should be glad to oblige the Governor by sailing out on it to get a day nearer to those rascally French.

Quite early in the morning, before one breakfasts in England, we rowed across the Great Port in the Admiral's barge to the low-lying mouth of the river. The Admiral made me coxswain for the day, out of the goodness of his heart, I know, that Will should have a companion. We could not enter the river for a bar with only a few inches of water on it; but we were met by a very comical sight, for no sooner had we grounded a few feet off the land than a mounted orderly came on board. He had on enormous top boots and spurs, and a kind of sabre a great deal too large for him, and he was all belts, and had on his head the most wonderful kind of ancient Roman helmet, with a huge brass cockscomb and the most extravagant plumes of horsehair I have ever seen, calling to mind the pictures of Sir William Johnson's Indian braves during the late war in America. But for all this he was mounted, not on his horse, which he might very well have ridden out to us, but sitting a-straddle on the left shoulder of a tall fisherman, who threw him aboard with so little ceremony that, if he had not been caught by our men, he would surely have fallen over his sabre and broken it.

He pointed out on the shore a number of lumbering coaches, the upper parts of which were mostly all glass. Some of these, he told us, were empty, and for us, because the part of the river below the ancient bridge (which the chaplain said was built by the Athenians) had become too choked even for the river boats, which were to meet us at that point. It being summer, he assured us that the coaches would not become quagmired in doing this journey, which was only so many hundred yards. The Governor, it appeared, did not like salt water well enough to adventure the row across the bay, but had driven round in his coach. There were fishermen ready, he said in conclusion, to carry the English officers ashore.

After asking the Admiral's leave, he then made signs, and one of the inarticulate noises with which the Italians express much; and a number of fishermen, pretty well naked except for their short shirts and hanging red caps, rushed into the water to the side of the barge. But our English seamen were too quick for them, and, leaping overboard, carried the Admiral and the captains who were with him in true English humper-back style, though Will obtained the Admiral's permission for him and me to try this queer shoulder-riding, which is not to be commended above once.

We noticed that the officer who had come out to the Admiral from the Governor, remounted with trepidation. No sooner were we ashore than the Governor, with his principal officers, stepping down from their coaches, advanced to meet us with bows which took us some trouble to return with sufficient stooping. We feared to heel over. They had a party of ladies with them, as we could see, though we were not presented to them until we reached the boats which were to take us up the river.

Before we started, the Governor asked us if we would make a slight detour now to see the Temple of Jupiter, which the Admiral had mentioned as one of the spots he desired most to investigate. The Admiral said that he was in the Governor's hands, and the coaches therefore turned off along what they call a road in Sicily, but which is no better than a ploughed field. Our officer with the plumes, who seemed a good fellow, assured Will and myself, who were with him of the party in the first coach, that this was a good country road, and that we were fortunate in not having to bump over broken rock.

When we came up with the ladies, I must say we were most agreeably astonished, for the boats, which had the same high noses as the barca in which Will and I had adventured the night before, only were in every way lighter and longer, were spread with rich cloths, and had fine silken canopies. The ladies, too, being no longer in their ancestral state dresses, but in robes of thin silk, mostly the thin white which the Italians know so well how to wear, were a most beautiful sight, for they were all young, and might have been chosen for their appearance.

Among the number was Donna Rusidda, and it was arranged, with evident design, that Will should have a place by her.

Seldom have I seen so gracious a sight as that procession presented.

I took particular note of this when we reached the first bed of the Egyptian papyrus, which grows somewhat after the manner of the palmetto, with branching stems, tufted at the tops. But there is this difference between it and the palmetto--that its leaves, instead of being papery, are like horses' tails, made of the greenest grass, each blade being as round as twine. They make a pleasant whispering noise, if there is a wind ever so light, and they are five, ten, and fifteen feet high. There is a bend in the river where the bed begins, so I caught sight of the next barca almost broadside, as she swung round; and the effect was, I say, very beautiful, for their deck cloths and their silk canopies were of the Governor's colours, crimson edged with silver and very rich facings, and these contrasted with the green of the papyrus on the banks, which almost arched over our heads, so narrow was the waterway. And I am sure that, to those in the other barcas, the contrast of the white dresses of the ladies and the bright blue uniforms of His Majesty's officers, made a splendid bouquet of colour.

The Admiral sat with the Governor on a kind of little dais raised on the stern, the like of which the other boats had not. Mr. Comyn was no longer with him for interpreting, since Thucydides tells us nothing about fêtes on the Anapo with court ladies. He was learned in the classics, Mr. Comyn, and the Admiral was always much interested to hear what the classics had to say about this or the other spot, famous in Greek or Roman history, when we came to it. The Admiral and the Governor were surrounded by the most beautiful of the ladies, Will sitting close to the Admiral's right hand to interpret, as occasion arose, and with Donna Rusidda on his right hand. She looked as beautiful as an angel in her filmy white robes, which brought out the marvellous clearness of her cheeks and the soulfulness of her eyes. Moreover, leaning against the cushioned side of a boat is a test whether a lady have grace or not, in which she came out uncommon well.

The Admiral was in high spirits, leaning out of the boat to try and gather a papyrus stalk (it was from the stalk that the ancients got their paper), and laughing like a boy when his arm, in its best State uniform, was dragged under water. Presently he spied with that eye of his, which took in every object of a view at a single glance, a fine green and blue lizard sitting on a papyrus stalk outlined against the sky. The chaplain, who was in the middle of the boat, would have it--I know not if he was right--that this was the famous chameleon.

"Catch him, Trinder," said the Admiral, and I made up my mind to have him if I had to tumble into the water for it (it was good weather for dipping in); but the boatman, seeing what I was going to do, knocked the stalk away with his oar, jabbering like a monkey, and my lizard was gone. The Governor spoke to him sharply in Sicilian, and turning to Will, made a long apology in Italian for him to translate to the Admiral, which was to the effect that this lizard had the evil eye, or something of the sort, and it was most unlucky to anger it. The Admiral gave one of his hearty laughs, and the incident passed off; but presently, as we were passing right through a thick tuft, Will said to me, "There is another: you catch him. I'll stop the boatman."

The long barca glided swishing under the overhanging papyrus to where the great lizard lay shamming sleep against the stalk. The boatman saw us looking, and raised his oar again. Quick as lightning, Will caught it, and was ready to strike the man or seize him by the throat as occasion was; but another person had seen it, and a stern voice came from the dais--"Mr. Hardres!"

Will looked back, still holding the oar. The Admiral did not use this name in ordinary.

"We don't want to carry any ill fortune with us while we are trying to fight the French."

Will dropped the oar and saluted; and the Admiral, smiling again, said we might not be able to get enough wind even to frighten the Governor, with the chaplain's chameleon on board. But Donna Rusidda arched her eyebrows and said to Will,--

"We of the Favara have lasted six centuries, and we have always defied Fate."

To which Will replied, "Don Comyn there, our padre, as you would call him, says he believes the Admiral is like the Roman Sylla--that there is no name by which he would so gladly be called as Faustus, the favourite of the Gods."

We were not over long in the river Anapo, I believe, because the Governor would have us see the fountain of Cyané, from which the river named after it, the Cyano, derives its clear, plentiful water. The tributary was decidedly deeper than the river, and here and there the overarching clumps--I might almost speak of them as an avenue, for they sometimes met above our heads--broke off for a while, and the banks would be bordered with sedges of the leaves of the yellow iris, which blossoms here in great abundance in the spring. So Donna Rusidda informed Will. We quite missed the rustle of the papyrus against our canopy when we came to these open spots, though I daresay the boatmen were glad enough, for they must have impeded the way of the boat very much.

The fountain was no great distance up--perhaps a mile or so, and it certainly was a natural curiosity. It was the shape of the bowl of an egg-cup, and the Governor claimed that it was fifty feet deep; and I dare swear it was over thirty, though one could see every pebble on the bottom, and see great mullet, looking quite blue, at what they considered a safe depth from the attentions of man. It was curious to see these sea fish running up to half a dozen pounds' weight so far from the sea, in water fresh from the fountain head, and icy cold. I was rather thankful that Will had his Donna Rusidda beside him, for he would have been itching to slip out of his clothes somehow, and dive for the stones, which looked like turquoises, at the bottom of the spring. The prospect of groping about with his eyes open under thirty or forty feet of water, clearer than glass, would have been irresistible.

As it was, he did nothing worse to shock the Governor than attempt to drink some of the same water during the al fresco banquet held, while the barcas were moored to the low papyrus bushes round the fountain or, as I should call it, the spring, which was the only place on the whole river where there was room for two or three boats together.

Whether his Excellency considered all water unwholesome, or that Will's rushing to drink it in place of wine was a reflection on his hospitality, did not appear. I do not know when I have seen such a scene, which in a different way reminded me of the pictures of a certain Watteau captured by my Lord Eastry in one of his prizes, and now hanging in Will's gallery; though I do not maintain that the Governor's ladies, beautiful and appropriate as their light summer robes were, approached the Watteau ladies in elegance of costume. But, on the other hand, the prim fountain with Diana in the centre, supported by two dolphins, with their lips curled and their tails plaited, certainly did not come up to our clear pool, as deep as many a house is high, carrying on its bosom three or four great barcas, hanging with crimson and silver, and ringed all round by overhanging palmetto-like clumps of the feathery papyrus of old Egypt. Nor, I confess, do the men in Monsieur Watteau's pictures, who are generally dancing, come up to men like Captain Troubridge and Captain Berry, in the uniform of His Majesty's Navy. And every little detail, each feather in the plumes of the papyrus, each jewel, every burnished nail within reflecting distance of the water, was mirrored as clearly as the bright blue uniforms and shining epaulettes of His Majesty's officers, and the great masses of crimson in the boat-hangings. We had music, too, from the Governor's--well, I call them lute-players--especially brought over from Naples, wearing the old doublet and hose, crimson and silver liveries of the Governor's family, which their forerunners had worn when Tommaso de Vigilia painted them three centuries before in the pictures hanging in the Governor's palace. I could believe that these were the same liveries, for in Sicily servants' fête-liveries are not made for them, but made for the household, and handed on from one servant to another, as a saddle from horse to horse.

I don't know how long the banquet may have lasted, there was such profusion of pastrycooks' viands and fruits and wines. The Governor looked as if he expected Will to die when he took an empty goblet and, dipping it into the clear water, drank it off two or three times filled; though, as we had put into his port for the purpose of getting water for our ships, it did not appear why we should consider it unfit for drink. Had I been enjoying Will's place beside Donna Rusidda, and able to converse with her elegantly, as he was, I think I should have been content for our barca to have swayed gently on the bubbling waters of the spring--to give you some idea of the size of the spring there were four of these barcas floating on it at one time--for the rest of that summer day. But I could see that Will was fidgeting to be off, and presently he asked the Admiral if he and I might leap ashore off the high beak of our barca, which was overhanging some part of the bank. He made the excuse of some strange flower or the like. The boatman, seeing our intent, uttered some swift warning in Sicilian, which the Governor very politely translated to Will to tell the Admiral; but Master Will only used general terms of its not being safe, and the Admiral said, "My Lord, a jump like that would not frighten my officers."

But, jumping together, we got more than we bargained for: we shot through the bank like a couple of bullets. We were almost up to our middles in thick black slime, of which you could not have dreamed the possibility so near that transparent water. Luckily for us, or I verily believe we might have been swallowed up, the good-natured boatman had unshipped the oars and held them out to us, and we were able to pull ourselves up on to the barca, where we sat on the end to dry our blackened legs in the sun, and presently the barcas swung round and dropped down stream.

The sun was now so powerful that long before we were back at the mouth of the river we were dry enough to have accepted the invitation of the courteous Sicilians and gone back among them to sit without fear of soiling them, more especially since we had removed our shoes and stockings--there was much naked-foot work on board ship in those days--but Will said that he could not sit beside ladies in such a plight, and I had never any say but Will's say, though I did not know what was in his mind.

The town of Syracuse looks as I could imagine the cities of the Bible would have looked, when one sees it from the mouth of the Anapo at the opposite side of the great port on a July noon. Not a film of smoke rises from the low flat roofs of the mellow white-and-yellow houses, which, in their turn, seem to be crouching down within the shadow of the city walls. There is even a temple, for the cathedral is but the Temple of Minerva, with the columns still protruding from the northern face.

I should have said that only Will and I went to the mouth of the river, walking from where the water became too shallow for the barcas; the rest of the Admiral's party rumbled off in the coaches to see the ruins of Epipolæ and Achradina, and the Greek castle of Euryalus and the street of tombs, the theatre, amphitheatre, and much more that I cannot remember of ancient Syracuse, though the Admiral had had Mr. Comyn to tell the younger officers about them most carefully. Will and I had been dismissed, as not being in fit condition to ride in gilt coaches with crimson velvet hangings, and had orders to have the barge at the landing-stairs under the Marina at such a time. I know that I was glad to be excused from parading in state round miles of old stones. The Admiral would not willingly miss a stone that had any ancient history hanging about it; and with a guide telling the story first in Sicilian, and the Governor, who was slow at taking the drift, putting it into Italian for Mr. Comyn, and Mr. Comyn, who was slow with his Italian, putting it into English for the Admiral, and the Admiral, not being satisfied, putting his questions and persisting with them till he understood his point, it would be a long day. The roads, too, were such that the coaches went slower than a walk. Will had more in his mind, but this I did not know then.

You may be sure that the Admiral had not embarked on this inland voyage of discovery before he had made certain that the wind would be lacking to carry the fleet, which had now everything on board, out. Seeing that the day was one of those days without enough air to blow a candle out, he said to Will:

"I am afraid that we have offended his Chameleonship after all." And somehow I believe that Will's translation of this to the Governor was a very lame affair.

CHAPTER VII.--Satisfying a Prince's Honour.

Coming to where the road into the city and the road to the ruins divided, at a spot where a few almost-buried columns marked the site of the ancient market-place--the Agora is the Greek term, I believe--the Prince of Favara and his sister made their excuses and bade their servants drive home to the Mont' alti palace; and here they waited till sunset, within their palace, in the best poor state that the Marchese's reduced circumstances permitted.

Not having received the expected communication--either while Will was in his company on the Anapo, nor in the hours which elapsed in the interval--at sunset, the Prince, with two gentlemen of his acquaintance, rowed out in a private barca to the Vanguard, there to demand to see Will. Now Will, as it chanced, was the officer on watch, so they found their man easily.

"You will understand why I have come," said the Prince, adding a great many roundabout and studiedly ceremonious phrases.

"Not I," said Will, with equally studied carelessness, having noticed something in the Prince's manner.

I was present, and had some inkling that a storm was brewing; though otherwise I knew nothing of what it was about, until I had it from Will afterwards.

"Last night you did my sister, the Princess of Favara, the honour of paying her your addresses in the recognised Sicilian fashion of appealing to the lady herself in the first instance, to know if your attentions would be acceptable. I may tell you that the ladies of a house like ours, if our possessions are diminished, do not make their decision in so brief a period--though this is nothing unusual for people of no family. But though courtships in Sicily are not of long duration, as far as the lady's decision to accept or reject the addresses is concerned, the accepted suitor goes immediately to the father or guardian, states that he has the lady's consent, gives an account of his position and property, and, if everything is satisfactory, arrangements are then made. You have not done this. As you did my sister the honour of offering her your attentions, and as she did you the honour of accepting them, I have come here to know why you have not called upon me."

As Will maintained an air of indifference and silence, the Prince went on to say: "I should have mentioned that there are two circumstances which made my sister accept the suit of a stranger upon so brief an acquaintance. She was aware that your ship will sail as soon as the wind springs up, and it was in defiance of the prophecy that the last of our house will come to an evil end by reason of love for a fair-haired stranger from the north. It is the motto of our family that we fear neither man nor fate, and it has been our pride to live up to our motto. It seemed to both my sister and myself that you were the man indicated by the prophecy, and it was our duty to defy it. When you came below her window last night, she consulted me as to whether you were the man indicated, and as it seemed to us both that you were, she accepted you."

"But, my good sir," said Will, speaking very rapidly in his excellent Italian, "I am already engaged to another lady in England. I only understood that serenading was the custom of the country. I was not in the least aware that it constituted an offer of marriage, which I was not in a position to make. However, though I cannot marry your sister, I am perfectly willing to offer you the satisfaction which a gentleman expects; and at four bells--that is, at eight o'clock--till when it is my watch, I shall be at your service. I must trust to you to find a place where we shall not be disturbed."

"The Latomia dei Cappucini beside the ancient wheel-well will do excellently, and a carriage shall be waiting at the landing-stage to convey yourself and your seconds at eight o'clock. Will you give me the names of two of your brother officers who may confer with my seconds after you have decided your choice of weapons. It is your choice. I am the challenger, although you anticipated me in expressing your readiness to give me satisfaction."

"The sword is the only weapon for gentlemen," says Will, as fine as you please; though he was but eighteen years old and young in the art of fence, while his adversary, being a Sicilian gentleman and nearer thirty, was like to be an expert swordsman. And then, though they had been so mighty civil to each other as to who was the challenger, I heard the Prince whisper to Will as I went down to the ward-room to see who would act for Will--for, mind you, there was not one of them that liked him--I heard him whisper, "A l'outrance," and Will replied, with the most contemptuous indifference, "If you wish it."

Now Will, being the officer on duty, had no time to waste in talking on what I have just writ down, though he must perforce attend to the Sicilian Prince who was come on board about a matter so serious. All he said to me was--"Tell them I am going to fight this Italian at eight o'clock, and ask if any of them will act for me. There is not one of them upon whom I have any personal claim."

It was with some trepidation that I knocked at the door of the ward-room. I knew that most of them were not on terms with him, and had a sinking feeling at my heart that I should have to go back and confess that he had not a friend to serve him in this pinch, in which case the matter would have to remain until the Captain came on board and told off two officers to do it. But when I went in and told my errand, every officer in the room got up and laid his sword on the table. So it fell, of course, to the two seniors present, one of whom was the First Lieutenant, Mr. Galwey; and they spoke in the highest terms of Will; and all present then went on deck.

When the two chosen to act as Will's seconds went forward to meet the Prince's seconds, a most curious thing happened, for, the chaplain being ashore with the Admiral, there was not a man on board save Will who could speak their lingo. So here we had the strange spectacle of the principal in a duel acting as the interpreter between his own and his adversary's seconds.

And, the matter being settled in this fashion, the Prince and his seconds went presently ashore. As soon as he was off watch, Will and his seconds followed, and Will wrote in the boat a line to his mother in the very probable event of his death, though I had no fear but that he would give a good account of himself. Will's seconds had asked that I should be allowed to accompany him as being his nearest friend; and it was granted willingly.

We did not go through the town when we landed, but skirted along the sea front to where the road from the drawbridge conducts to the ruins of ancient Syracuse; and no sooner were we on the mainland, than we turned up to the right and drove for about a mile till we came to the Capuchin nunnery which stands on the brink of one of the most remarkable monuments in the world, the vast Latomia or quarry in which the unfortunate Athenians, captured at the siege of Syracuse, were confined. The singularity of the Latomia is that the quarries cut into enormous natural caverns, which had existed, probably unknown, beneath a thin shell of stone and earth. They went on quarrying until all the roof of the cavern had been cut away and its sides were as perpendicular as cliffs down to a few feet from the bottom, where fresh caverns, and shallower in depth, begin and stretch away into the bowels of the earth. This Latomia, so vividly described by Thucydides, as Mr. Comyn afterwards told us, seemed about a mile in length, varying in breadth from a few yards to a hundred yards, and was, in depth, of perhaps a hundred feet. It was largely covered with undergrowth, though there were some fine orange and lemon groves, valued, I was told, because, being somewhat sheltered from the sun, they came on when other crops were over. In the centre of one of these lemon groves, near the antique well, was an open glade and a lawn, used I do not know for what purpose. And here the duel was to take place.

No sooner had the fight begun than my worst fears were realised, for I saw by the Prince's pose and the first few passes, that he was a practised swordsman. But he was fighting with a demon rather than with a man. I never saw a human being with such a fighting fury as Will, who sprang at him like a leopard. I do not see, however, how this should have prevailed, with Will's ignorance of fence, had not the mossy ground on which the Prince was standing proved rotten, as mossy ground will at times, the surface rubbing off and leaving a slippery mud. The Prince's foot slipped, and Will struck his sword out of his hand. The Prince called out to him to despatch him; but Will said, with his air, "My honour is satisfied--I am not one to kill a fallen man."

The Prince protested that he should send fresh seconds the next morning, when the seconds on both sides decided that the duel could not proceed. And so the matter was left.

You can imagine what shakings of the hand we gave Will as we took him back to the landing-place for having defended in such a way the honour of the ship; and I believe that our two lieutenants were settled in their own minds that there should be no second duel, considering the handsome way in which Will had given the Prince his life, though, with one of Will's temper, it was not easy to see how the duel was to be prevented, if the Prince sent fresh seconds, save by the authority of the Captain, who could confine him to the ship, or the Admiral.

Considering that Will was one of the Admiral's staff, the First Lieutenant, his senior second, concluded to lay the whole matter before the Admiral when he came on board. And he came on board very soon afterwards in the highest of spirits, for he always loved a good day ashore as well as any A.B. in his fleet.

"God bless my soul!" cried the Admiral, when he had heard the First Lieutenant's story, which, of course, was told in whispers that I did not overhear, "I'll go and see the young man--His Highness, I suppose I ought to call him--myself. I can't afford to delay the fleet if a breeze springs up to let us get at the French, and I hope that none of my officers will ever shirk a situation."

The barge was still at the gangway, the Lieutenant had hailed them to await orders, and the Admiral prepared to descend.

"Have you supped, sir?" asked the Lieutenant; and the Admiral without pausing replied, "I shall have a better appetite if I wait till this matter is finished."

When he landed a few minutes afterwards, he hired a coach--there are always two or three hackneys at the landing-place with such a large fleet in port--and bade the man drive to the Prince of Favara's. The Prince was well known in Syracuse, though he had no palace of his own there, but was visiting with his uncle; and the man drove the Admiral without delay to the Palazzo Mont' alti.

The Admiral, who had taken the chaplain with him as interpreter, in the enforced absence of Will, asked if the Prince were in; and the porter replied in the affirmative, not knowing that the Prince, who had entered the palace with his seconds immediately after the duel, had left by the garden door and gone to sup in a favourite tavern near the Marina. Three or four servants passed the English officers from the great gate across the courtyard, up the staircase which wound round it, terminating in an arcade, and through a succession of fine chambers into the principal salon, which had a large mirror at each end with a kind of sofa arranged under it, facing about a dozen chairs arranged in a horseshoe. Along the sides of the room were more couches interrupted by mirrors with wide marble shelves in front of them, supported by gilded lions' legs. Lustres hung on each side of the mirrors, and they supported tall Chinese vases on French stands of gilded bronze. The floor was tiled and covered with patterns, a good many tiles going to form each pattern, and there was a small carpet at each end of the room where the chairs were arranged. The Admiral commented on all these to his chaplain, for there was a goodish delay. In fact, they were so busy taking in the details in order to pass the time, that it was only when they heard the light tapping of a woman's heels on the tiles close beside them, that they perceived that some one had entered the room.

The Admiral, as his wont was even over trifles, had been full of animation when he was speaking, which changed to an air of grave respectfulness when he perceived that it was Donna Rusidda herself who had entered. She was alone, out of compliment to the Admiral, or because she did not wish the ancient lady, whom she maintained as a kind of duenna, to hear what passed between them. The Admiral had brought me with him, saying, "You keep the conscience of our young scapegrace, Trinder: you had best come along and answer for him."

Donna Rusidda naturally did not know the whole of the affair, though she had had it from her maid already that a duel had been fought on her account, which had been terminated by the disarmament of her brother, who had announced his intention of finding fresh seconds to renew it on the following day, as his late seconds would not consent to its being proceeded with. It was, indeed, for this purpose that he had gone to the albergo by the Marina, where, that being a resort of the young bloods, he was likely to meet with friends to accommodate him.

I thought I had never seen any one look more lovely than this girl, whose clear dusky cheeks were flushed till the blood showed rosily through them with the treble excitement. For she had come alone into the presence of strangers, and the strangers were so famous, and come upon a mission which concerned her so closely. And though the Admiral had not then won the victory with which he was shortly to astonish the world, the connection between the noble families of the Two Sicilies and Spain was very strong, their kings being of the same family; and his achievements of taking the two Spanish three-deckers one after the other, with a handful of boarders from his seventy-four, was fresh in their memories. It was this little one-armed man, with the sensitive mouth, who had led the boarders in that heroic fight at St. Vincent.

She was glad she had come in without his noticing her and seen his animation as he was discussing the unfamiliar aspects of the Mont' alti salon with his chaplain. She had seen his natural energy instead of the quiet air of dignity and respect which he put on for her. She had come, she explained, to tell them that her brother was out; she had despatched a messenger for him, and begged that they would remain and give her the honour of receiving them until her brother arrived. "Meanwhile, might she offer them some slight refreshment?" Servants were entering with fruit and wine and cakes. The Admiral begged her to excuse them. He had come like the Roman Senator of old, who went to Carthage with peace and war in his robe, and he would not break bread in the house of the Mont' alti until he knew whether he should leave them as a friend or an enemy. In fact, now that one of the squadron that he was engaging, to use his metaphor, was in range, he was nothing but a commander. The Admiral, as is well known, was never held to be indifferent to the charm of women; and the slender girl, with her dark beauty thrown up by the white and pearls of her evening attire, was remarkable even among Italian women in their heyday for her exquisite grace. She had, too, the kind of face which might be called, with equal truth, haunting and haunted,--it haunts my memory still,--and she had in her eyes, or perhaps it was in her expression, the look of one born to be the victim of a great misfortune.

The Admiral received her with dignity as well as profound respect, and as the interview proceeded without either side caring to commit itself until the Prince of Favara arrived, this dignity settled into an air of dignified resolution. He looked as I have seen him look when he was going into action, before he had quite settled some detail in the attack. When all was plain fighting, he smiled. As the small, slender figure, braced with the air of a commander's expectancy, stood before her, she had some opportunity of knowing what manner of man this Nelson was, when he was about to hurl a fleet of England on a fleet of France.

I can see it all before me, as distinctly as on the night of that 21st of July, '98: the world's great Admiral, that was to be, in his attitude of "prepare for action," and the enemy represented by that gentle, half-terrified, half-mystified Southern beauty, with the background of the high, vaulted, half-furnished chamber in the mediæval Sicilian palace. It was now quite dusk, and the candles in the sconces on each side of the mirrors gave only a half light. There were no candles in the vast crystal chandelier which hung from the ceiling.

Presently we heard footsteps through the suite of reception-rooms leading to the salon, and the Prince of Favara entered with his uncle the Marchese, and two other Sicilian gentlemen. The Marchese had, it appeared, gone out with him to assist him in finding seconds. They did not seem so astonished as might have been expected at the presence of Donna Rusidda, for they had spoken with her duenna in the chamber leading immediately into ours. But they had the look of men who had come in full of some excitement, suddenly checked by an important piece of news, and greeted the Admiral with marked civility.

It was clearly for him to speak, and he began with his usual courage and directness. "I have come, your Highness, to express my regret that an officer of my fleet should have been guilty of a practical jest upon a lady; but I understand that he has already given you the satisfaction of a gentleman."

"Your Excellency is mistaken," said the Prince: "I am not satisfied. I have just arranged with these gentlemen, the Conte di Noto and the Conte di Spaccaforno, to seek his seconds and arrange for the completion of the duel à l'outrance."

"I understand that he has given you your life, your Highness, which is sufficient satisfaction for any gentleman that I have met in a profession which exists for the purpose of fighting."

"It may be sufficient by the English code, your Excellency," said the Prince firmly, but quite courteously; "but according to the code of our country such an insult can only be wiped out by the death of one of the combatants. I shall insist on the meeting being resumed, or brand Signor----"

"Hardres," said the Admiral.

"----as a coward who insulted a lady and then ran away in the great fleet of England."

"It seems to me a strange kind of cowardice for a boy of eighteen, just studying the art of fence, to meet a man of thirty, and an accomplished swordsman, and when he has--partly by accident, I will allow--disarmed his adversary, to suffer him to depart untouched, especially when he knows that that adversary had it in his heart to kill him without mercy, and indeed protested that a new duel must be fought."

But the Prince only replied, "I shall brand him as a coward."

"I think, your Highness," said the Admiral, with a wicked look upon his face, such as I think I never saw again in all the years that I had the honour of serving under him, "that you will need all the courage you have to-morrow morning, when the duello is resumed. You will take it up exactly where it ceased. You were lying on your back, I believe, with your sword a dozen yards away in a garlic bed or something of the kind, and Lieutenant Hardres was standing over you, sword in hand. No interference will be tolerated by the guard, which I shall land to see fair play, and the guns of the ships will be trained on Syracuse."

The Prince's face did blench as the chaplain translated the words delivered by the Admiral in a voice that was like a volley of grape shot; and after a few minutes' conference with the Marchese, he replied courteously, but with a quiet ring of sarcasm:--

"If you will allow me, your Excellency, I will go with you when you return to your ship, and have my throat cut by Signor Hardres at once. The solution you pronounce is, I see, the correct one. Unfortunately I had no precedent to go upon. A Sicilian, in Signor Hardres's place, would have killed me, as I would have killed him. I am at your service whenever you are ready to go."

The Admiral's face cleared of wrath like the sky after a thunderstorm: he was ever the most generous of men, but he had a look of mystification when Donna Rusidda, who had been present all the while, but had taken no part in the proceedings till this moment, said:

"Uncle Marchese, you have lived many years, and are referred to by every one on matters of manners and breeding." He bowed. "What happens when a lady, having begun by accepting the suit of a cavalier, sees something to make her change her mind and desire to be relieved of the suit?"

"Such a thing was never done in my time, Donna niece, by a lady of a family like ours, but tradition is clear upon the point: the quarrel then belongs to the rejected suitor, who would have the right to ask a gentleman's satisfaction from the kinsman to whom it fell to represent her. But he would also have the right to be indifferent."

"If, then, I say, and I swear by my patron, Santa Rosalia, that it is true, that I am no longer willing to receive the suit of Signor Hardres, the quarrel is, as you say, his, and it will be for him to demand the fresh duello, not for the Prince, my brother."

"It is so," said the Marchese.

"Then, Signor Admiral," said the girl, with a most beautiful expression on her face--which I, not knowing the Sicilians so well as I did afterwards, imagined to express a woman's holy joy in peace-making--"will you have it conveyed to Signor Hardres that I wish to withdraw my acceptance of his suit, and that the quarrel is now his own."

"I can answer for it that your brother will hear no more from him, madam," replied the Admiral, stooping very low to kiss her hand--for he, too, used the same interpretation as I. "And then, your Excellency," he said, bowing to the Marchese, "and your Highness," bowing to the Prince, "as I have full power to represent Lieutenant Hardres, we may regard this incident as at an end. And now, madam," he added, looking at Donna Rusidda straight in the face with his most gracious smile, "I shall, if you invite me again, partake of this excellent entertainment, for I have not yet supped."

The invitation was, of course, graciously repeated; and I was glad to see that the Prince had some of his sister's graciousness, for he took one of the trays--the servants had been sent from the room--and brought it, saying, "Hungry work, your Excellency!" And the smile with which he said this, and the smile with which the Admiral received it, laid the foundation of the friendship which, until its tragical termination, played so conspicuous a part in the Admiral's life.

CHAPTER VIII.--Of the Battle of the Nile, on the First of August, 1798.

A few days later, when a breeze, blowing right out of the Great Port, sprang up, as was its wont, in the afternoon, the fleet made all haste to stand out and away after the French, not before the Admiral had read Master Will a sharp lecture for his folly in getting into such a scrape, and suspended him from personal attendance for two weeks--a sentence which was never finished, for in the meantime events happened of such a magnitude that all everyday matters, except such as had regard to the ships being in their best fighting and sailing trim, were forgotten as completely as if they had been swallowed in the Deluge.

I don't believe that Will was half sorry at the prospect of having to spend the two weeks with his fellow-officers in the ward-room. In the case of friendship between a man of forty and a boy of eighteen, it is almost inevitable that the man must like the boy far more strongly than the boy likes him, and that the man should crave for the boy's society while the boy accepts or tolerates the man's. In the long chase after the French, from the time he left Syracuse on July 25th to the time that he sighted their tops in the afternoon of that memorable August 1st, there were tedious hours, when he felt an intense craving for the boy whom he had adopted more completely than his own stepson, Josiah Nisbet, who was also a lieutenant on the ship.

But for Will these were pleasant hours. He had up to that minute not only seen but little of his fellow-officers--he had hardly even been on speaking terms with them outside of professional duties. But they could not help feeling that he had done the ship and the service credit by the way in which he had maintained his quarrel against the Prince. And while they regarded the offence of serenading in jest as a very venial one, they regarded his fortnight's suspension as a purely formal punishment. Will might have been quite a hero if his pride had allowed him to be "hail fellow, well met." But it was as impossible for him to change it as it is for a leopard to change his spots or his skin (I forget how the phrase runs), and so he enjoyed a modified kind of popularity, and a much heightened respect from the ward-room at large, while some of the older men, like the First Lieutenant, Mr. Galwey, who had acted for him, made a friend of one who clearly had exceptional qualities. It produced a most unexpected and notable passage in my life; for the Admiral, having accustomed himself to the keeping of Will at his elbow, ready to perform whatever little duty might present itself, was lost without him, and being accustomed to the sight of me, whom he had often admitted as company for Will, used me as a kind of supernumerary until Will's offence should have been condoned.

I must not be taken to imply that he extended to me the strong personal interest which he felt in Will. I had the duties, not the confidence. But nevertheless I saw much of him during that very critical week of his life, and it was at this time that the change came over him--the black shadow of doubt which had kept him irritable and depressed giving way to one of his irresistible convictions.

Not that he had ever been in doubt as to his principles of action, for he had never had but one principle, and that was to have his cannon within pistol-shot of the French. But he was fearful of not getting there in time; for the French, in his opinion, had two objective points to strike at--the Neapolitan kingdom, which was defenceless without his fleet, and India which was also defenceless if the army in the French fleet should arrive in Egypt with ships of Tippoo Saib waiting at Suez to embark them for India, and no British ships at the mouth of the Nile to prevent their disembarking. I think the greatest ambition in all his life was to destroy Buonaparte and his army of 40,000 men, whom he knew to be in the convoy guarded by the French fleet. We had thirteen ships of the line, but none above seventy-fours--one fifty-gun ship and one brig. Had we had frigates we should have found the French long ere that; for frigates, as even landsmen know, are the eyes of a fleet, and had we possessed frigates they would have been of the highest service in capturing the transports of the convoy. But had we met them I am convinced that the absence of frigates would not have prevented the most terrible calamity which ever befel the French army. The convoy we knew to be immense, to convey such an army and its supplies for a distant expedition; and we knew it to be guarded by a fleet far superior, on paper, to ourselves. I say advisedly on paper, because the presence of our Admiral was of itself sufficient to neutralise the disparity, and because of the disadvantage at which any fleet fights which has not only to defeat an enemy, but also to save its helpless transports.

As far as we could judge from various sources of information, their fleet consisted of sixteen of the line, one of them the tremendous L'Orient of 120 guns, and three or four others of eighty, but three of them Venetian and not French, and therefore not likely to be so well served. Besides which they had frigates and a cloud of small armed vessels, gunboats and the like.

But their superiority of force hardly entered into the Admiral's calculations. His orders were the same for whatever force, and had we fallen in with the French the scene must have been appalling; for recognising the impossibility of rapidly taking possession of so many prizes, especially as they were crowded with armed men and we were without frigates, his orders were to destroy and not to capture.

He may, too, have been urged to this by the belief that the army was commanded by Buonaparte, whom he considered to be the arch-fiend, as he considered all French to be the enemies of the human race.

For the purpose of attacking the convoy, he divided our own fleet into three squadrons: the Vanguard, the Minotaur, the 50-gun ship Leander, the Audacious, the Defence, and the Zealous under himself; the Orion, Goliath, Majestic, and Bellerophon under Captain Saumarez; and the Culloden, Alexander, Swiftsure, and Theseus under Captain Troubridge. Two of these squadrons were to engage the ships of war, no matter what their force, while the third was to dash among the transports and sink and destroy as many as it could. The scene, even to a man-of-war's-man, is awful to picture. Transport after transport settling down by the head or stern, the water covered with their boats and black with struggling men; Buonaparte, if he were not already on the largest warship, fleeing to it; half the British war-ships engaging every French fighting-ship till they sank themselves or had sunk, taken or driven their antagonists to desert the convoy, and the others running in among the transports and thrashing them down like apples off a tree.

But it was not to be so: the Admiral's prophecy was literally fulfilled as far as that convoy, the most momentous which ever left the shores of France, was concerned--"no frigates; to which has been and may again be attributed the loss of the French fleet."

You may imagine how it weighed upon such a mind, to have the élite of my Lord St. Vincent's fleet under his command for some weeks, and with the enemy about to strike some vital blow--and yet no sign of him! He wrote to Troubridge--"Do not fret at anything: I wish I never had; but my return to Syracuse in 1798 broke my heart, which on any extraordinary anxiety now shows itself--be that feeling pain or pleasure"; and again, "On the 18th I had near died with the swellings of some of the vessels of the heart. More people, perhaps, die of broken hearts than we are aware of." And he wrote to his chief, Lord St. Vincent: "Every moment I have to regret the frigates having left me. Your lordship deprived yourself of frigates to make mine certainly the first squadron in the world, and I feel that I have zeal and activity to do credit to your appointment, and yet to be unsuccessful hurts me most sensibly. But if they are above water I will find them out, and if possible bring them to battle. You have done your part in giving me so fine a fleet, and I hope to do mine in making use of them." And added to this he had the mortification of seeing the Neapolitan Government, whose forces were hardly worthy a place in the line of battle, refusing supplies which was the one service they could perform for the allies without whose fleet they felt like children left in the dark to wolves. The loss of frigates by the pusillanimity of the commander, who returned to Gibraltar because he thought that Nelson must give up, being baffled as to the whereabouts of the French fleet, the ingratitude of the Neapolitans, the malignity of Admirals Parker and Orde, who had been passed over because the safety of Europe depended on the fleet's winning a decisive victory, weighed heavily on the Admiral's spirits, and brought on that irritability and sickness which so frequently followed inaction and disappointment in this extraordinary fighter. But for some reason, the fair wind which carried us out of the great harbour of Syracuse blew away these vapours from his brain. He augured that we were on the scent, and the confidence and cheerfulness borne of good omens returned to him. We had a fine stiff sailing breeze, and he crowded on every stitch of canvas we could use, although the flagship, which had never been properly repaired since the gale which had dismasted her off Toulon, was hardly in a condition to bear it. We stood straight for Cerigo, which is the island that lies at the foot of the Morea, as some island lies broken off at the foot of every peninsula. As we neared the Gulf of Koron, having no frigates, the Culloden was detailed to enter it for intelligence; and on her return the next day she brought with her a French brig, and information that the enemy's fleet had been seen steering south-east from Kandia about fourteen days before. And on the same day Captain Ball of the Alexander obtained the like intelligence from a vessel passing close to the fleet. The Admiral immediately bore up under all sail for Alexandria. We left Syracuse on July 25th, and made such an extraordinary passage that on the evening of the 31st the Admiral made the signal for the fleet to close, we being so near Alexandria. Early on the morning of the 1st, we having no frigates, the Alexander and the Swiftsure were sent ahead to look out; and "at ten a.m. the Alexander made a signal supposed for the land, all the fleet in company." At four o'clock the Pharos Tower was visible in that clear atmosphere, from where I was standing by the Admiral on the poop, though it was at the distance of four or five leagues to the south-south-west. The Admiral was by this time extraordinarily anxious in scanning every ship in the fleet, and the whole horizon with the eye of an eagle.

Suddenly I saw what I can only describe as a holy joy beam over his face. The Zealous was signalling, and almost before the signalling began he cried out, "My God! it's the French."

Sure enough it was the French. And as the signal blew out stiff on the north-west wind--"the French fleet, sixteen sail of the line"--a thrill of joy went through every soul in the ship, and, I can swear, in all the other ships. Men laughed and cried; their hearts were too full for them to cheer. There was but one thought in every breast, that the Lord had delivered the French into the hands of Gideon--Gideon, the little man with only one arm and one eye, and half a constitution, over whom I, the midshipman, standing by his side to take orders, towered.

His first order was a most characteristic one: "Send for Mr. Hardres--this is a moment at which no fighting man should be in disgrace." His next was to order dinner to be prepared. That we should fight, every one in the fleet took for granted. It was not the Admiral's habit to leave the enemy time to prepare. To force them to risk he would take any risk himself. In those latitudes, where there is no twilight, day drops dead into night, even on an August day, before seven of the clock. It would be as much as we could do to lay alongside of them before nightfall. We should have to fight them in absolute darkness. But the Admiral reckoned every difficulty in his favour. He had some opinion of French gunnery, but none of their courage as seamen; while of his own captains he had the highest opinion, and placed the firmest reliance on them for valour and conduct. It had been his practice during the whole of the cruise, whenever the weather and circumstances would permit, to have his captains on board the Vanguard, where he would fully develop to them his own ideas as to the different and best modes of attack, and such plans as he proposed to execute upon falling in with the enemy, whatever their position or situation might be, by day or by night. There was no possible position which could be found that he did not take into his calculation, and for the most advantageous attack of which he had not digested or arranged the best possible disposition of the force which he commanded. With the masterly ideas of the Admiral, therefore, on the subject of naval tactics every one of the captains was most thoroughly acquainted; and upon surveying the situation of the enemy they could ascertain with precision what were his ideas and intentions without the aid of any further instructions, by which means signals became almost unnecessary, much time was saved, and the attention of every captain could almost undistractedly be paid to the conduct of his particular ship--a circumstance from which upon this occasion the advantages to the general service were almost incalculable.

We found the enemy laying at anchor in line of battle in a bay upon the larboard, which we afterwards knew to be Aboukir Bay. Having given his orders about Will and the dinner with apparent unconcern, of which I doubt not, now, he had judged the moral effect, he turned to the Captain--"Haul on the wind, Berry!"

A top-gallant breeze was blowing, and the Captain gave orders to take in the royals as we hauled upon the wind. The whole squadron followed suit except the Alexander and Swiftsure, which were some miles to the eastward, scouting; and the Culloden, which was some miles to the westward, towing a prize of which the whole fleet had been talking till it saw the tall masts of the French--a vessel loaded with wine.

"Signal the Alexander and Swiftsure," said the Admiral; his quick eye had seen that Troubridge had already divined and cast off the wine brig. "Signal, 'Prepare for battle--attack the van and centre.'"

Every captain knew that the Admiral's idea was to crush the enemy's van and centre as they lay at anchor, according to the oft-discussed plan, and then make the best use he could of the victory. Each ship got a bower cable out abaft and bent it forward. We stood in close line of battle, every ship sounding all the time carefully. There was not a chart of the Bay in the whole fleet, except a rude sketch taken by Captain Hallowell in a prize. The French were lying under the shelter of the cape, and with the head of their van up to the island, which had a battery of guns and mortars, and they were flanked by numerous gunboats and four frigates.

"Stiff work, sir," said the Captain, eyeing the formidable array with its communications to the land secured at either end.

"Might be worse, Berry," replied the Admiral, looking at them with the eye of a seaman determined on attack. And as ideas began to chase through his eager and penetrating mind, he jerked out, "They can't get away anyhow, they're anchored,--and where there's room for an enemy's ship to swing there is room for one of ours to anchor."

"Are you going to force the passage, sir, and take them on the inside?"

"Of course: they're so strongly secured on the outside that the guns won't be manned on the inside. If I know the French they won't even be cleared for action, for they didn't expect us, Berry. You can wager that they felt sure of having till to-morrow, even after they saw us coming in. Who leads, Berry?"

"The Goliath."

"Foley won't want any telling. It was this plan which took his imagination so that night, in case we had an enemy supported by the shore. See, there he goes, brave fellow!" he shouted, as Foley, coming up to the leading French vessel, the Guerrier, and receiving her fire at considerable disadvantage while half her men were aloft preparing to furl sail, swung round her, and to the vast astonishment of her company tried to bring up on her inner side. In this he failed, in spite of all his precautions: the anchor hung, and he found himself on the inner quarter of the Conquérant, the second ship. The Zealous, which was close behind him, anchored abreast of the Guerrier; and the Orion, Theseus, and Audacious, the next three ships, followed them inside; the Audacious bringing up on the bow of the Conquérant; the Theseus abreast of the Spartiate, but dividing her fire between the hapless Conquérant and the Aquilon; and the Orion dividing hers between the Peuple Souverain and the Franklin.

While they were taking up their positions, and had the best part of their ships' companies engaged in navigating the ships, they should have been very severely handled by the French. But the Admiral's instinct was, as ever, correct: the larboard guns which trained on the land were neither manned nor ready. The French, of course, did all they could in the time to reply to the English fire; but their hurried attempts were unavailing, and in three minutes' time every mast of the Guerrier and Conquérant was overboard, though they were bare sticks without a sail set. We were the sixth ship--you must bear in mind that our fleet at this moment only consisted of ten ships, because the Alexander and Swiftsure were away to leeward, and the Culloden away to windward, and the Leander, which was but a fifty-gun ship, was a long way behind. I suppose the Admiral had chosen this place, sixth in the line, because it was doubtful whether the vessel in this place should follow the other five or lead on the outside. You can imagine that we, who had never seen a shot fired from the ship, were in a fine state of excitement. I suppose I must have winced as a round shot went through the mizzen-stay close to where I was in attendance on the Admiral, for he patted me on the shoulder and said to me, "How do you like that music?" he having on his own face his fighting smile of serene superiority. Indeed, he had not long since come up from his dinner, which was being served when we came into range of the French guns. We did not reply for some time: we had to pay so much attention to navigating; and I own that, though I became as indifferent to fire as becomes an English sailor, I was a little startled at finding the shot whizzing over us steadily when I followed the Admiral up on deck. He had been good-naturedly allowing me to eat at his table.

"Never you mind, youngster," he said, as he patted me. "D'ye know that Charles XII. ran away from the first shot he heard, though afterwards called the Great because of his bravery. I therefore hope much of you in future."

This put me on my mettle, especially as Will was there with his proud fair face flushed with the fighting fever, and helping to carry a man, who was pouring out blood, to the companion; for, mind you, it is one thing to have round shot coming close enough to hear them whistle, and another thing to see a man, who has been your shipmate for months, bleeding to death in your arms in the first quarter of an hour of your first battle.

"Where shall I lay the ship, sir?" asked the Captain.

"Alongside of the first ship that has any fight in her."

"There is no one engaged with number three, sir, though she is getting a few shot from the Goliath and the Theseus. She's in line with them, sir: I'm afraid some of our shot may hit them."

"Not if you lay her at the right distance, Berry. Half a pistol shot is a very good distance for fighting; you can be sure of your shot not going wild then."

"How would it do, sir, if we reduced our sail to working order and passed under her stern, and laid ourselves on the inside of the next? We shall be a bit awkwardly placed if we lay ourselves alongside of the third of their line, because we shall be raked by the fourth."

"No, Berry; it would never do for the Admiral to be afraid of a broadside."

This was very fine and completely in the spirit of our Admiral; but I can tell you that we had to pay for it, for while we had been coming up the Aquilon was double shotting her guns for us.

"Shorten sail," was the order, and "Back the main topsail." As we laid ourselves alongside of the third ship--that was the Spartiate, the fourth--that was the Aquilon, raked us with double-shotted guns. The concussion was awful; the crashing of masts and yards, and the yells and death groans which arose from our bows, attested the precision of their aim. The men in the forecastle would have been fairly staggered if it had not been for Will. I could see St. Vincent's men looking as if they had received their death-warrant; and I am sure I felt quite sick, as I was covered with human blood spouting from the quivering limbs and mangled bodies all round. But Will, who was scarce nineteen, with colour unchanged and eyes flashing brighter, exposed himself in the most reckless and daring manner, and this in spite not only of the cannonade but of a tremendous fire of musketry. Time after time our forward guns were cleared for a minute and re-manned.

There was the usual serio-comedy which creeps into the most awful moments of our lives; for there in the midst of it all was a marine lying, apparently dead, on the deck. Not being able to see how he came by his death, Will turned him over to examine, and found that he was not only alive but uninjured. Drawing his sword Will obliged the man to rise under pain of immediate death; and, you would not believe it, the poor wretch had scarcely stood upright, when a bar that connects grape shot passed through both thigh-bones and could not be extricated. After two days of torture death relieved his sufferings. While Will himself stood upright and uninjured, and while he was attending to this one, the marine who stood on his other side, waiting to take his order, had his head carried off by a thirty-two pounder, while a large splinter from the foremast stripped the right thigh-bone of the midshipman who was with him from the knee-pan to the hip. He lived to the next day, and then sank under his sufferings.

By this we were nearly unmanageable, and cracking masts and yards in close contact with the Spartiate.

Presently the Admiral came along, cool as an orange; and though I was getting a little accustomed now to the awful scene that was going on round me, I was not particularly sorry when he called to me:

"Youngster, get the number of wounded from the surgeon."

But when I entered the cockpit, stumbling over the wounded, and came to the surgeon's assistants, I own I was unnerved a little, for I found them busily employed taking our old Quartermaster's right arm out of the socket, whose only son, well known to me, I had just seen broken to pieces by a round shot which dashed him into the gun he was serving.

"Is my boy doing well, sir?" he gasped in a low agonised voice.

"I hope so," I answered reverently, and I felt fit to choke, and the old man groaned heavily. He suspected the truth from the tone of my voice.

"Pour a glass of Madeira down his throat," said the surgeon: "he is sinking fast."

The complication of noises in this den of misery, from the shrill cry from agonised youth to the deep and hollow groan of death, the imprecations of some and the prayers of others, the roaring of the guns, and the hopes and fears that pervaded the wounded, formed a very shocking scene, and is still deeply impressed on my memory. But nothing shocked me so much as the cold hard voice of the surgeon: "I am too busy to count the wounded--say the cockpit is full, and some bad cases."

I took this to the Admiral, who was back on the poop, with men and spars dropping all round him. He took no notice of me: all he said was, "I think their fire slackens, Mr. Vassall," addressing one of our lieutenants.

"I am sure of it, sir: many of the crew have deserted their guns."

He was not, it must be observed, talking of the Aquilon, the ship which had dealt us such awful mischief, but of the Spartiate, which we were engaging. He took no notice of the Aquilon: we hardly returned a gun to her.

"Louis will see to that," he said (Captain Louis was of the Minotaur, the next in our line): "I am engaging the Spartiate till she strikes."

Down came the tricoloured flag, and "Cease firing" resounded all along our decks.

Our Captain himself had but half a cocked hat, the other half having been carried off by a round shot that entered his cabin when he had gone to serve out something to a couple of seamen, and drenched it with their blood. Mr. Galwey, our First, and a party of marines, were sent to take possession.

Before this the fire of the Aquilon had slackened off, for the Minotaur, which had engaged her, gave her such a terrible yard-to-yard gruelling that the heart was taken out of her fighting. This was fortunate, for we had to send for her captain to receive a dying message from the Admiral, who wished to thank him for the way he had saved our ship by laying himself alongside of the Aquilon. We could not have stood that raking many minutes longer.

I have not described the mighty exploits of our captains who conquered the French centre as such should be chronicled, for we of the flagship were confronted with an event before which any other incident of the battle seemed but of small importance, for the Admiral was struck down, as we feared, mortally wounded.

He was walking on the deck, exposing himself like the commonest sailor, as was his wont, when a flying piece of iron from a charge of langridge struck him upon the upper part of the forehead, and cut a great piece of skin at right angles. This hung down over his face, covering his seeing eye, and further blinding him with the terrific stream of blood. He was at the time, though it may scarcely be credited in the midst of such a terrible cannonade, calmly examining the rough sketch map of the Bay which had been found in a French ship by Captain Hallowell; and he afterwards made a jest of the French taking a mean advantage of him, and hitting him when he was not looking. But he did not jest at the time; he just reeled and fell into the arms of the Captain. I was by him, of course, for I was still on this duty, and distinctly heard him say, "I am killed! Remember me to my wife!"--a circumstance which I always did remember, contrasting it with what he said at Trafalgar about Lady Hamilton.

I will not pretend to judge Lady Nelson: indeed, I have not seen her above once or twice, when she seemed to me the ordinary Admiral's wife, whom one would meet in such a place as this in which I live, in times of peace. What faults she had were just the faults such a woman would have, and they included the fault of being totally unable to satisfy such an intense, imaginative, romantic temperament as the Admiral's. I was in service under that great man for years, and I think that the whole episode of his unhappy marriage, and his much reprobated relation with Lady Hamilton, may be summed up in the fact that his was a nature that demanded to be monopolised by a woman. How to monopolise, Lady Nelson neither knew nor cared, and there was ready to step into her place one of the most remarkable and companionable women of history.

"I am killed! Remember me to my wife," cried our beloved Admiral; and instantly Will and I and two or three others--the hard, cold Will, with tears streaming down his face--ran to Captain Berry's assistance, and carried him down to the cockpit.

The surgeon, hearing who it was, flew to him; but he cried out, "No, I will take my turn with my brave fellows," and immediately afterwards he added--"Do not waste your time over me. I am a dying man. Tend those who can be saved, and call me the chaplain." And when the chaplain came he told him twice over to carry his dying remembrance to Lady Nelson, and to summon Captain Louis from the Minotaur, which was just ahead of us, and had saved us from the tremendous raking of the Aquilon. Captain Louis came very quickly, and the Admiral thanked him as the saviour of his ship. The captain could only hold out his hand in silent sorrow. The Admiral bade him an affectionate farewell. "And now," said he, "whatever may become of me, my mind is at peace."

The surgeon then insisted on examining his wound, which he found, except for the concussion, to be of a trifling nature, though it was some time before he could convince the Admiral of this. But as soon as he had done so, the Admiral sought for some means to allay the tremendous excitement under which he was naturally labouring, while winning so glorious a victory, so he began to write a despatch to the Admiralty. The secretary, who was himself wounded, was so affected by the Admiral's condition that he was unable to guide his pen, so the Admiral sent for the chaplain, and though he came almost immediately he grew so impatient of waiting for him that he commenced to write himself, with his trembling left hand:--

"My Lord,--Almighty God has blest His Majesty's arms----." He had written but little when Captain Berry came down to report that the French Admiral's flagship, the tremendous Orient of 120 guns, was on fire; and, severely wounded as he was, the Admiral instantly staggered up on deck, where the first consideration that struck his mind was concern for the danger of so many lives.

But now I must return to the progress of the battle. And here I may remark that in only one instance did a British ship fail to get a signal advantage of the Frenchman engaged, and that, oddly enough, was the Bellerophon, which afterwards became so historical. And she paid for her temerity in engaging a ship so tremendously her superior in number of guns as the Orient, which mounted 120 to her 74, the disparity in weight of metal being almost double as great. But she held on to the Orient like the British bull-dog that she was, till her masts and cables having been entirely shot away, she drifted out of line to the lee side of the Bay, and was saved in spite of herself.

The five ships which engaged the French on the outside, where they had concentrated their force, should naturally have suffered the most severely, as indeed the Bellerophon, the Majestic, our ship, and the Minotaur did; but the Defence, like the Zealous, bore charmed lives. She had but four men killed and eleven men wounded, though she laid herself alongside of the Peuple Souverain, almost as close as we lay to the Spartiate. Her immunity illustrated the value of the Admiral's theory of concentrating your force on part of the enemy and risking the rest. Instead of having the fire of a second Frenchman raking her bows, as we had, she was engaged with the Frenchman which had a second English ship, the Orion, pouring broadsides into her almost undefended larboard side. The Majestic, too, which was the only ship that lost her captain, owed her great loss to fouling the Heureux as she passed on to her duel with the Mercure, which resulted in the latter's capture.

The Zealous was wonderful. She had but one man killed and seven wounded, and preserved even her rigging so uninjured that she alone of all the fleet was in a position to chase the two unengaged French ships of the line, and the two frigates which made their escape the next morning, and yet she had been in the first of the fight.

The battle was practically won in the first few minutes. The action did not begin till forty minutes past six, and by fifty minutes past the Guerrier had been dismasted and captured, and ten minutes after that the Spartiate and the Conquérant were almost dismasted and ready to be taken possession of, while the Aquilon and the Peuple Souverain were taken possession of at half-past eight.

By the overpowering of the first three ships the fleets were ten to ten when night closed in at seven o'clock. This was partly neutralised by the Bellerophon's drifting out of action, shortly before the Orient blew up, a good deal owing to her fire, though she was blown out of action herself.

But this in turn was neutralised by a fortunate accident. As I have mentioned, the Culloden, Alexander and Swiftsure were some miles from the rest of the fleet when the action commenced, but the former saw and at once abandoned her prize, and the latter, too, were signalled to return. The Culloden, running down the wind, naturally had the advantage of the others, which were beating up, but it was dark before any of them could approach. Now, there was not a man in all our fleet, saving the Admiral, with such a stomach for fighting as Captain Troubridge; and in his anxiety to support his chief, he did not proceed with quite the coolness of Captain Foley, of the Goliath, who led our van in rounding the shoal, and shared with the Admiral the credit of keeping such a steady and seamanlike course when every minute reduced our chance of taking up our anchorage by daylight. Captain Foley of course had daylight, and Captain Troubridge had not; but Troubridge was essentially a fighter, willing to take any number of risks in the face of an enemy. The result was that the Culloden stuck on the tail of the shoal, and lay there bumping heavily. The loss of such a formidable fighter as Captain Troubridge probably saved the Généreux and the Guillaume Tell, the two French ships of the line which got away on the following day; but he himself generously said that he believed it helped to win the battle, by letting such good men as Captain Ball and Captain Hallowell, who were certainly two of the finest captains in the fleet, sail straight on into the battle without having to feel their way--which they did, for the Culloden, hanging on the edge of the shoal and exhibiting lanterns and other signals, served as a kind of lighthouse.

It must not be supposed that men like Captain Ball and Captain Hallowell passed their stranded consort without the endeavour to tow her off, on which the little Leander of fifty guns had already been engaged for some time; but Captain Troubridge was soon convinced of the hopelessness of the task, and rightly judged that the instant arrival of three ships in the battle was of more consequence than trying to deliver his own ship. They therefore, though very unwillingly, cast off and proceeded to take their places in the line.

As I have said, the fortunate accident of their deferred arrival crushed the French centre. For when the Orient, although she had blown the Bellerophon out of action, discovered that her poop was on fire, up came two of the best ships and the stoutest captains of our Navy, not to mention the little Leander, which did yeoman's service on that day. The Swiftsure, Captain Hallowell, at once anchored on the Orient's starboard bow, while the Alexander, taking advantage of the defective ordering of Admiral Brueys which left five hundred yards between each pair of ships, passed under the stern of the Orient, and raking her with a terrific broadside, reserved after the English fashion till she was within a few feet, took up her position on the great ship's inner quarter. Both English captains noted the fire on the Frenc


TO BE CONTINUED...

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