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Jim Woolgar's boat, if Jim could be found. Search was made for Jim Woolgar, and at last it was discovered that he was away ; but his son, a boy of thirteen, tempted by Everheart's magnificent offer of a guinea, undertook to let the boat and to go in her. Everheart promised on this to send one of his men back in the boat, if no one could be found to accompany them. Search was made, but not a seaman was found at liberty to go in Jim Woolgar's boat.
“Will you trust yourself to my seamanship?” asked Everheart of Ada. “I have been accustomed to boats since my boyhood, and I do not expect with this breeze that there will be any great trial of my skill."
Of course Ada was perfectly ready to entrust herself to his care. The boat was only eighteen feet long, but in his younger days he had been accustomed to sail inside the
Isle of Wight in a much smaller boat, often in blowing weather. Young Jim, with the assistance of a man, soon got the Little Gull ready, and Everheart and his lady-love stepped into her, and, with the good wishes of the spectators, shoved off from the shore. The Gull had only three sails-a mainsail, foresail, and mizen. Jim asserted that she sailed like a witch, and that it must blow very hard before she required a reef in her mainsail
. As the tide was in their favour, and the wind abeam, it seemed a pity not to attempt to get to Ryde, as it might be of the greatest importance for Ada to be there that evening.
“ Oh yes, I am perfectly ready to make the passage in the Little Gull," said Ada; “ though I confess that I should have preferred the Dora."
“ Then we will keep well over on the north shore, so that, should the wind get more to the eastward, we may still weather Cowes.”
The wind enabled the boat to lay up well for Jack in the Basket at the mouth of Lymington Creek; but the wind was freshening, and Everheart observed with concern that it had drawn a point more to the eastward than when they started. The yachts were still in sight ahead. There was the possibility of its being discovered that Miss Broadhurst and Mr. Everheart had been left behind, and of their returning to look for them. Still they stood on, and gradually ran the Little Gull out of sight.
“I had forgotten how slow these sort of boats are," said Everheart. “ The Little Gull may be a clipper among her equals, but she seems to me to sail like a tortoise."
The boat, however, did very well, considering her size and rig. Jim had been very careful to provide a bailer, and not without reason, as Everheart soon observed, for he was constantly employed in getting rid of the water which made its way through sundry leaks into the boat, yet not in sufficient quantities to be dangerous.
“She always lets the water in on this tack more than on t'other," observed little Jim, looking up from his occupation. “Last winter, to be sure, she went down at her moorings in the creek, but then I was ill, and not able to get aboard her, and father was away in a pilot vessel.”
“ Pleasant,” observed Everheart, laughing, that his companion might not be alarmed. “She will not go down just now, I hope.”
"Not if I keeps at it,” answered Jim, again bailing away with all
his might. “You see we're used to it, and don't think anything about the matter."
As Ada was of course sitting to windward, her feet were clear of the water, which, indeed, Jim's exertions kept very well under. Neither did she, from seeing Everheart look so calm and confident, feel any alarm. He had bad the forethought to borrow a cloak from a relation of Jim's, which he had thrown over her shoulders, and also a coat, which he professed to require for himself, but which he had also devoted to her service, so that she was tolerably protected from
and the occasional crest of a sea which came flying over the bows. The Little Gull had got as far as midway between Spit's Deep and Leep, at the mouth of the Beaulieu River, when a heavy squall struck the boat. Jim sung out “Luff, sir, luff.” Everheart quickly put down the helm and eased off the main-sheets, or she would have been well-nigh over. Ada uttered no cry, though she turned pale, and instinctively held on by the gunwale.
“We must take a reef or two in the mainsail, Jim,” said Everheart. " Haul the foresail up to windward; settle the throat. That will do.".
“ We will quickly have the sail reefed,” he said to Ada. “ There is not the slightest cause for alarm. Indeed, it is more for comfort than safety that we take in so many reefs."
While he was speaking, he and Jim were busily employed in taking in the reefs. The operation was soon performed, and the boat put on her course.
Still, with the reduced sail, she heeled over very much, and the wind, as they got more to the eastward, came somewhat ahead, and compelled Everheart to keep farther from the north shore towards mid-channel, where the sea ran considerably higher. Still Cowes harbour could without difficulty be reached; but there was a stormy foam-covered sea to be first crossed. Jim, as he continued bailing, looked up every now and then anxiously in the face of the stranger, and probably wished that he had not come. Then he saw that the boat was properly handled, and his confidence returned. Ada did not speak much; but what she said was cheerful, though it was an effort to her. As the boat stood more off the land, and was exposed to a heavier sea, the foam and spray came flying more and more thickly over her. Had it not been for the two coats, Ada would have been wet through and through. Everheart was already so; but for himself he did not care.
“If we get round Old Castle Point, we shall have the wind free, and do very well. But will it not be better to put into Cowes ?” he asked.
“I feel perfectly safe under your charge,” she answered. “And the more I think of it, the more important do I feel it that I should be at Ryde this evening, and there must be much delay if we land at Cowes.'
Everheart thought that the weather looked better just then, and agreed to continue on, though not without some misgivings. Once more the wind shifted back, so as to enable the Little Guil to keep outside Cowes Roads, where a number of vessels were brought up. There was certainly more sea, but Everheart was able to keep away, and he hoped that the wind was dropping. Still he did not like the
look of the sky; the clouds flew by rapidly overbead, and those bank. ing up in the horizon looked wild and stormy. He began to regret having passed the sheltering haven which Cowes afforded. Osborne could still be seen rising proudly over the quarter. Even now they might run back, and still reach Ryde before dark. Just then the evening gun from the men-of-war in the Roads reminded him how quickly time had sped. He held on his course. The sea was getting every moment heavier; now the boat rose on the foaming crest of a wave, now sunk into a hollow. The wind again freshened. Even yachts were standing in for their moorings with two and three reefs down. A blast stronger than ever laid the boat over, till the water rushed over her gunwale to leeward, but Everheart quickly luffed up, and she rose again. He thought of lowering the mainsail altogether, but the rapidly increasing gloom reminded him that it might be altogether dark before they got to the pier, and, in all probability, the night would be very dark indeed. This made him wish to carry sail as long as he could with any degree of safety. On went the Little Gull, careering over the waves. Again and again she heeled over gunwale-to, and Jim had to exert himself to get rid of the water, which she took in over her bows as well as to leeward. Ada sat silent and pale; well might she be alarmed, although she had perfect confidence in Everheart's seamanship. He too, and with reason, felt more anxious than he had hitherto done; a slight error in judgment, should he be too slow in letting go the main-sheet or lusting up, the boat might be upset, and she whom he loved best on earth be lost. Still, as he glanced at her pale face, so usually blooming and wreathed with smiles, he tried to cheer her.
" In less than half an hour I trust that our voyage may be over," he said, in his usual quiet voice. “The boat has hitherto behaved well, and the water she takes in is of no consequence. Jim, you see, can easily bail it out again. The wind has not increased lately, and, if it does, we must run in under our mizen and foresail.”'
“She did once capsize with father and me,” said Jim, looking up from his occupation; “ but she had water-ballast aboard, so we swam about and righted her, and warn't much the worse, except the loss of a baccy-box and a knife. You must luff a little sooner next time she heels over as much as she did just now, or maybe she'll be playing us the same trick."
This was not a very assuring piece of information, but Everheart told Jim that he would take his advice, and be more careful in future. Jim nodded, to show that he heard the promise. That half hour was to be one full of peril. It was already blowing half a gale of wind; the tide and wind met also, and created a heavy, chopping sea, through which it was difficult to steer. A large vessel had come in from the eastward, bound apparently for Cowes or Southampton. In the thickening gloom of evening the boat did not appear to be seen, and the barque bore directly down upon her. Everheart and Jim shouted at the utmost stretch of their voices. Ada, in her terror, joined in the cry. Her voice penetrated farther than Everheart's rougher voice. The vessel got still closer; in another moment they would bave been sent to the bottom, when suddenly she altered her course, her side
almost touching that of the Little Gull as they passed. Everheart drew his breath more freely when he saw that the Little Gull had escaped the threatened danger. On she flew, bending down before the fast increasing gale. Ryde Pier could be dimly seen ahead, with a number of yachts at anchor off it. Everheart pointed it out to Ada.
“Yes, I shall be thankful, I own, when we get there," she answered.
“It's coming on heavier than ever, sir,” said Jim.
“ Yes. Let go the peak halliards-now the throat-haul down on the sail. That will do. Now go on bailing."
These orders were rapidly given by Everheart, and quickly executed by the lad. The sail was lowered not a moment too soon; as it was, Everheart dreaded that the boat would be swamped. The pier was neared. He shouted for assistance as he approached. There was barely light remaining to make out the steps on the west side. Fortunately he was heard, and a couple of men were standing ready to assist him as he got alongside. His heart beat with thankfulness as, Ada trusting herself to his arms, he sprang with her safely up the steps. The men, who knew him, undertook to look after Jim and the Little Gull. A steamer had just come in, and the tram-road car was ready to carry up her passengers. Thankfully he placed Ada in it, and took his seat by her side. Those who know what it is to have gone through danger with others, will understand how this voyage united Everheart and Ada Broadhurst more closely than ever. Their absence had caused Ada's friends great anxiety. Old Griggs had just before got home.
Very fortunate that you came back, Miss Ada,” he said. “I want your signature to send off by to-night's post. If you agree to the offer that has been made, the matter will be settled, and you
will be mistress of three thousand a year, which is, I suppose,
sufficient for your wants ; if not, we will fight it out, and you may come in for an income of five or six thousand, or it is just possible that you may lose it all.”
Ada said that she would consult Mr. Everheart, on which Griggs gave a slight whistle and a comical look bebind the young lady's back. Everheart begged her to compromise the matter, as Griggs evidently considered it her wisest course. The next day Trounsell appeared, and announced the arrival of the Dora, in which he had come up from Cowes.
“You must congratulate me, my dear Everheart,” he said. “I am the happiest of fellows ! Phæbe Ripple has accepted me, and ber father gives her five thousand pounds, and, what with my two hundred a year, and what I can make, we shall do admirably. It's fortune sufficient for any one, in my opinion.”.
“People have different notions of what is sufficient," thought Everheart, as he told his friend that he had won the Fair Unknown, and that she had, moreover, a very pretty fortune to pay for extra luxuries.
My mother died when I was very young, and after her death, my father having no settled home, I was sent to receive my education in a convent, where I remained almost entirely till I was seventeen. My life there was, on the whole, a very happy one, for, if I knew little of the pleasures of the outside world, I knew also little of its sorrows. I was very fond of the sisters, and had several bosom friends, "girl like,” among the pupils. It was rather dull during the holidays, as very often I was the only one who had no home to which I might go, and I was left entirely alone with the sisters; but they were so kind, that, although years have elapsed since then, I always recal with pleasure that period of my life.
My father died unexpectedly when I was about seventeen, and, as my education was then considered finished, I went to live with my aunt, Mrs. Verecroft, who was my father's sister. My Aunt Verecroft was a widow, and she had only one child, my Cousin Estelle. Estelle was then, I fancy, about five or six-and-twenty, very beautiful, with large flashing dark
eyes, dark hair, tall and well developed, with the air and carriage of a princess.
I felt very lonely the first night I arrived at Gundringham, a large old-fashioned house, situated in one of the midland counties. It was built in red brick with deep mullioned windows, and was surrounded by a richly wooded park, with a river winding away in the distance, forming altogether a pretty landscape. My aunt, who seemed to be a very gentle, quiet woman, received me most kindly, but my Cousin Estelle, after the first salutations were over, scarcely noticed me at all. I think she looked upon me as a child, and I dare say I appeared to be one to her, and being quite fair, with blue eyes, and altogether petite, I fancy I looked younger than I really was ; at all events, I overheard her saying that I might, perhaps, be considered pretty, but I seemed more babyish in looks and manners than even my years warranted, which she supposed was the result of my convent education.
There was one other person whom I must not omit to mention, as he made up the family party at Gundringham, although he was not there when I arrived, and this was Cousin Geoffrey. He was no relation to me really, being a cousin of my aunt's husband, Mr. Verecroft, but he was always called Cousin Geoffrey, so I fell into that way of addressing him quite naturally with the rest. He was not supposed to live with them, my aunt told me, but that he was constantly there, and that at her death the property would become his, as it was strictly entailed, and he was the next heir.
I was very glad when Cousin Geoffrey did come, for Estelle hardly took any notice of me,
and my aunt was a great deal in her own room, and even when she was not, she sat quite quietly in an arm-chair, working or reading a book. The real management of everything seemed to fall to Estelle, and I think in her heart my aunt would have been afraid to interfere. Cousin Geoffrey took quite a load off me the first day he ar