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- A SIMPLETON - 40/84 -
have to make fresh arrangements, and the money might be useful.
The money was forthcoming directly. Lady Cicely brought it to Dear Street, and handed it to Dr. Staines. His eyes sparkled at the sight of it.
"Give my love to Rosa," said she softly, and cut her visit very short.
Staines took the money to Rosa, and said, "See what our best friend has brought us. You shall have four hundred, and I hope, after the bitter lessons you have had, you will be able to do with that for some months. The two hundred I shall keep as a reserve fund for you to draw on."
"No, no!" said Rosa. "I shall go and live with my father, and never spend a penny. O Christie, if you knew how I hate myself for the folly that is parting us! Oh, why don't they teach girls sense and money, instead of music and the globes?"
But Christopher opened a banking account for her, and gave her a check-book, and entreated her to pay everything by check, and run no bills whatever; and she promised. He also advertised the Bijou, and put a bill in the window: "The lease of this house, and the furniture, to be sold."
Rosa cried bitterly at sight of it, thinking how high in hope they were, when they had their first dinner there, and also when she went to her first sale to buy the furniture cheap.
And now everything moved with terrible rapidity. The Amphitrite was to sail from Plymouth in five days; and, meantime, there was so much to be done, that the days seemed to gallop away.
Dr. Staines forgot nothing. He made his will in duplicate, leaving all to his wife; he left one copy at Doctors' Commons and another with his lawyer; inventoried all his furniture and effects in duplicate, too; wrote to Uncle Philip, and then called on him to seek a reconciliation. Unfortunately, Dr. Philip was in Scotland. At last this sad pair went down to Plymouth together, there to meet Lord Tadcaster and go on board H.M.S. Amphitrite, lying out at anchor, under orders for the Australian Station.
They met at the inn, as appointed; and sent word of their arrival on board the frigate, asking to remain on shore till the last minute.
Dr. Staines presented his patient to Rosa; and after a little while drew him apart and questioned him professionally. He then asked for a private room. Here he and Rosa really took leave; for what could the poor things say to each other on a crowded quay? He begged her forgiveness, on his knees, for having once spoken harshly to her, and she told him, with passionate sobs, he had never spoken harshly to her; her folly it was had parted them.
Poor wretches! they clung together with a thousand vows of love and constancy. They were to pray for each other at the same hours: to think of some kind word or loving act, at other stated hours; and so they tried to fight with their suffering minds against the cruel separation; and if either should die, the other was to live wedded to memory, and never listen to love from other lips; but no! God was pitiful; He would let them meet again ere long, to part no more. They rocked in each other's arms; they cried over each other--it was pitiful.
At last the cruel summons came; they shuddered, as if it was their death-blow. Christopher, with a face of agony, was yet himself, and would have parted then: and so best. But Rosa could not. She would see the last of him, and became almost wild and violent when he opposed it.
Then he let her come with him to Milbay Steps; but into the boat he would not let her step.
The ship's boat lay at the steps, manned by six sailors, all seated, with their oars tossed in two vertical rows. A smart middy in charge conducted them, and Dr. Staines and Lord Tadcaster got in, leaving Rosa, in charge of her maid, on the quay.
"Shove off"--"Down"--"Give way."
Each order was executed so swiftly and surely that, in as many seconds, the boat was clear, the oars struck the water with a loud splash, and the husband was shot away like an arrow, and the wife's despairing cry rang on the stony quay, as many a poor woman's cry had rung before.
In half a minute the boat shot under the stern of the frigate.
They were received on the quarter-deck by Captain Hamilton: he introduced them to the officers--a torture to poor Staines, to have his mind taken for a single instant from his wife--the first lieutenant came aft, and reported, "Ready for making sail, sir."
Staines seized the excuse, rushed to the other side of the vessel, leaned over the taffrail, as if he would fly ashore, and stretched out his hands to his beloved Rosa; and she stretched out her hands to him. They were so near, he could read the expression of her face. It was wild and troubled, as one who did not yet realize the terrible situation, but would not be long first.
"HANDS MAKE SAIL--AWAY, ALOFT--UP ANCHOR"--rang in Christopher's ear, as if in a dream. All his soul and senses were bent on that desolate young creature. How young and amazed her lovely face! Yet this bewildered child was about to become a mother. Even a stranger's heart might have yearned with pity for her: how much more her miserable husband's!
The capstan was manned, and worked to a merry tune that struck chill to the bereaved; yards were braced for casting, anchor hove, catted, and fished, sail was spread with amazing swiftness, the ship's head dipped, and slowly and gracefully paid off towards the breakwater, and she stood out to sea under swiftly-swelling canvas and a light north-westerly breeze.
Staines only felt the motion: his body was in the ship, his soul with his Rosa. He gazed, he strained his eyes to see her eyes, as the ship glided from England and her. While he was thus gazing and trembling all over, up came to him a smart second lieutenant, with a brilliant voice that struck him like a sword. "Captain's orders to show you berths; please choose for Lord Tadcaster and yourself."
The man's wild answer made the young officer stare. "Oh, sir! not now--try and do my duty when I have quite lost her--my poor wife--a child--a mother--there--sir--on the steps--there!--there!"
Now this officer always went to sea singing "Oh be joyful." But a strong man's agony, who can make light of it? It was a revelation to him; but he took it quickly. The first thing he did, being a man of action, was to dash into his cabin, and come back with a short, powerful double glass. "There!" said he roughly, but kindly, and shoved it into Staines's hand. He took it, stared at it stupidly, then used it, without a word of thanks, so wrapped was he in his anguish.
This glass prolonged the misery of that bitter hour. When Rosa could no longer tell her husband from another, she felt he was really gone, and she threw her hands aloft, and clasped them above her head, with the wild abandon of a woman who could never again be a child; and Staines saw it, and a sharp sigh burst from him, and he saw her maid and others gather round her. He saw the poor young thing led away, with her head all down, as he had never seen her before, and supported to the inn; and then he saw her no more.
His heart seemed to go out of his bosom in search of her, and leave nothing but a stone behind: he hung over the taffrail like a dead thing. A steady foot-fall slapped his ear. He raised his white face and filmy eyes, and saw Lieutenant Fitzroy marching to and fro like a sentinel, keeping everybody away from the mourner, with the steady, resolute, business-like face of a man in whom sentiment is confined to action; its phrases and its flourishes being literally terra incognita to the honest fellow.
Staines staggered towards him, holding out both hands, and gasped out, "God bless you. Hide me somewhere--must not be seen SO--got duty to do--Patient--can't do it yet--one hour to draw my breath-- oh, my God, my God!--one hour, sir. Then do my duty, if I die--as you would."
Fitzroy tore him down into his own cabin, shut him in and ran to the first lieutenant, with a tear in his eye. "Can I have a sentry, sir?"
"Sentry! What for?"
"The doctor--awfully cut up at leaving his wife: got him in my cabin. Wants to have his cry to himself."
"Fancy a fellow crying at going to sea!"
"It is not that, sir; it is leaving his wife."
"Well, is he the only man on board that has got a wife?"
"Why, no, sir. It is odd, now I think of it. Perhaps he has only got that ONE."
"Curious creatures, landsmen," said the first lieutenant. "However, you can stick a marine there."
"And I say, show the YOUNGSTER the berths, and let him choose, as the doctor's aground."
So Fitzoy planted his marine, and then went after Lord Tadcaster: he had drawn up alongside his cousin, Captain Hamilton. The captain, being an admirer of Lady Cicely, was mighty civil to his little lordship, and talked to him more than was his wont on the quarterdeck; for though he had a good flow of conversation, and dispensed with ceremony in his cabin, he was apt to be rather short on deck. However, he told little Tadcaster he was fortunate; they had a good start, and, if the wind held, might hope to be clear of the Channel in twenty-four hours. "You will see Eddystone lighthouse about four bells," said he.
"Shall we go out of sight of land altogether?" inquired his lordship.
"Of course we shall, and the sooner the better." He then explained
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