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THE SIX YACHTSMEN.
INTRODUCES SOME NAUTICAL HEROES AND MARINE HEROINES.
The platform of the Waterloo Bridge railway station presented a scene of considerable animation and excitement. A train was on the point of starting. Gentlemen, with railway-ticket and gloves and purse clutched in one hand, and carpet-bag and cloak and umbrella in the other, with a parcel or two under their arms, were hurrying in, eagerly searching for their luggage, from which they had been unwillingly separated ; ladies, trailing shawls or hugging poodles, or frantically looking out for lost friends, were rushing about; porters, shouting“By your leave," with trucks full of trunks and portmanteaus, were moving towards the luggage-van; and policemen, and ticket-takers, and lamplighters, and wheel-greasers, and passengers of every rank and age and every variety of costume, were to be seensoldiers, and sailors, and ploughboys, all more or less active and eager, as if something very important was about to take place. Amid all the excitement and bustle, which has been but partially described, a young man of slight small figure and military air, with a light thin moustache on his lip and a well-bronzed countenance, which showed that he was no carpet knight, was walking deliberately along the platform.
“ Hillo, Charley—hillo, Charley Chesterton, where are you bound for, scudding along at such a rate ?” he suddenly exclaimed, his nonchalant air vanishing in a moment, as a broad-shouldered man with a well-knit figure, a fine open expression of countenance, and thoroughly gentlemanly in appearance, was hurrying along past him.
What, Peppercorne! Ned Peppercorne, I am delighted to see you! I am bound for Southampton. Where are you going ?”
“To the same place,” said Peppercorne.
“ All right, then,” answered Chesterton. “Secure a couple of seats. We'll spin our yarns then. I have some things to look after, and will be with you in a minute."
The friends were soon seated vis-à-vis, and rattling southward at the rate of forty miles an hour.
“ And what takes you down this way ?” asked Peppercorne, after they had exchanged accounts of their late movements.
« Love or matrimony, eh? Not going to sea again, I hope ?"
“As to matrimony, that is in prospect; but I propose going to sea, though in a craft of my own, and I don't mind telling an old friend like you I am in love-desperately in love—with a charming girl. Couldn't help it—met her at a flower-show-was asked to take charge of her-lost our way-couldn't find our friends—spent the whole day in her company ; it was all up with me before evening.'
“ What a misfortune!" drawled out Peppercorne, twirling his moustache. He was, by-the-by, a captain of heavy dragoons—one who made the charge at Balaklava, and had fought in a dozen pitched battles besides. “What a misfortune! Love among the roses, eh ? Never thought of that sort of thing before. I'll go to a flower-show some day. Do gentlemen always lose themselves with the ladies put under their charge ?"
"Not of necessity. It depends much on the age, amiability, good looks, and willingness of the lady, I should think," answered Chesterton, gravely, thinking probably of something else.
“ I shall try it some day, though, if the lady is all that is desirable," said Captain Peppercorne. “Well, did you leave your charmer in the garden among the roses, or what became of her ?"
“ You shall hear," answered Chesterton. “ Just as I was considering the propriety of chartering a cab and taking her home, who should we meet but a fine old gentleman accompanied by four young ladies, with two or three men dangling after them? My charmer—I haven't told you her name, it is Fanny–no sooner did she see the old gentleman, than, drawing her arm from mine, she ran up to him, and, having exchanged a few words, took me up and introduced me to her father, Sir Paul Pendergrast, and to her sisters, and to whom else do you think ?—why, to Gilbert Halliday, whom we used to think such an old fogo. He has come into a large fortune, and is wonderfully brushed up. The old gentleman--not Gilbert, but Sir Paul-was very polite, thanked me for the care I had taken of his daughter Fanny, and invited me to dine with him the next day in Gloucester-place. I went; everything substantial and in good style; no pretence about fashion. Heard Fanny sing; thought her more lovely in an evening dress than in morning costume ; was more smitten than ever. I went to the Opera, and
exhibitions, and more flower-shows with her and her sisters, Sir Paul always going too. I like him for that; keeps a sharp eye over his daughters, and still gives them liberty enough. I was evidently growing in his good graces, and at length, when he found that I was not only a naval officer but a yachtsman, he told me that he proposed yachting this year, in consequence of the wishes of his daughters, that White was building him a fine brig at Cowes, that he had very little time to attend to the matter, and that he should feel deeply obliged if I would superintend her fitting out, and find a master and crew for her. Of course I accepted the charge, for how could I, when looking at Fanny, refuse ? I also bought a new vessel last year, & schooner, the Maid of Saragossa (what do you think of her name?), and, as I was going down to fit her out, I could look after his brig at the same time."
Very curious. I have just bought a yacht, a fine wholesomelooking craft, a yawl,” said Peppercorne. “I've knocked about a good
deal already, and have learned to value comfort, and so bad no fancy for a mere racing vessel. As she is fitted out and ready for sea, i ordered her up to Southampton, so that we can go on board at once, and I will take you over to Cowes. I do not wish to go any distance for some days to come, so you must take up your quarters on board while you superintend the fitting out your own and the baronet's
“That will just suit me," answered Chesterton. The friends, who had been schoolfellows, and had lived in camp and been under fire together, knew each other too well to throw away any superfluous compliments or expression of thanks. “I say, old fellow, I hope, too, that Fou'll admire the Pendergrasts as much as I do. You'll have opportunities of seeing them, and really they arem-However, I will not say more about them, or you may be disappointed."
Captain Peppercorne twirled his moustaches and smiled.—a practice habitual with him to conceal his feelings whenever he was more than usually interested. He was, in reality, an impulsive, warm-hearted, enthusiastic fellow, but, as his impulsiveness had more than once in his younger days brought him into trouble, he endeavoured to conceal it under the supercilious, indifferent air of a cold-blooded man of the world. Chesterton well knew that this air was only assumed, and, though it would have been against his own nature even to have assumed it, there were few people he liked better than Ned Pepper corne.
“ Whatever people may say of the good old days gone by, or the middle ages, or the dark ages, or golden age of the world, I am thankful that I live in an age of railways and steamers, printing-presses, and yachts," exclaimed Chesterton, as the train, nearing the Southampton station, began to slacken its speed. “We live twice as long as our ancestors, calculating what we can do in a lifetime, see twice as much, and
“And are cleaner and more healthy, certainly," put in Peppercorne, They must have been desperately dirty fellows in their habits, those great-grandpapas of ours; and though honest, enlightened men shone out from among them, the mass were sadly ignorant and superstitious."
“Granted; but when I see the arrant nonsense believed in at the present day, I am out of conceit with the wisdom and enlightenment of our generation," exclaimed Chesterton. “I thought that fashionable folly had reached a climax when people put faith in table-rapping and spiritualism, but it has gone far beyond that. There are a set of fellows who have got more Greek and Latin into their skulls than common sense, who have taken to rigging out our churcbes with flowers, and pictures, and banners, and candlesticks, and altars with all sorts of gewgaws on them, till the whole place looks more like a temple of Flora or Diana than a decent English church, and they themselves decked in scarlet robes with tinsel and gold, marching through the building in procession, with other balf-witted fellowa, prostrating themselves like Japanese before the throne of their emperor, and sniffing up complacently the clouds of smoke rising out of censers swung backwards and forwards by wretched little boys
whom they designate acolytes. Then they elevate the host, and their dupes bow down and worship it."
“My dear fellow, you don't mean to say that these sort of things take place in Protestant churches in England ?” exclaimed Peppercorne, in a more serious tone than he had hitherto used.
“ You are talking of Roman Catholics !"
“Not a bit of it. I am talking of English churches. There are nearly two hundred in different parts of the country where these things are practised, and it is said that there are upwards of one thousand English clergymen who advocate them,” answered Chesterton. “ A little cousin of mine asked me to take charge of her to one of them last Sunday, and who should brush close to me but an old schoolfellow-Bobby Diddle we used to call him-rigged out as I have described, with a lot of other fellows chanting at the top of their voices, one holding up a cross, others banners, and others swinging censers. I was sorely tempted to sing out, Oh, Bobby! you arrant little humbug.' But I did not, and with equal self-restraint I sat out the whole of the blasphemous ceremony; but I made a vow never to enter one of them again, not even if Fanny was to declare that she would marry me nowhere else.”
“You are right. I should expect very little domestic bliss if my wife was a slave to such follies," said Captain Peppercorne. “Bah! it makes me sick to think of such things, and heartily ashamed of my countrywomen. Don't let's talk more of it. Here we are at the docks. I ordered my boat to be in waiting.”
The two friends were soon seated in the stern-sheets of a four-oared gig, skimming swiftly over the smooth surface of the Southampton Water towards Captain Peppercorne's yawl.
“She is called the Cleopatra, and I rather like the name," he observed. “At all events, the luxurious Queen of Egypt is the first yachting lady one reads of, though I doubt if her barge, with all its gilding and silken hangings, was half as comfortable as my craft, and would have certainly made but a poor figure in a sea way."
The Cleopatra herself was full worthy of all her owner's eulogiums. She was a most luxurious craft, and Chesterton, having pulled round her, gave it as his decided opinion that she would prove a good sea boat, and be very fast.
The commencement of the yachting season is like the early days of manhood; the bright future, with its promises of enjoyment and amusement, lies before one; all is fresh and new; the end seems far, far off. No bills are coming in; pleasant acquaintances are to be made, interesting places visited, adventures gone through. It would be folly to be troubled by thoughts of the winding up of the season. Chesterton and Peppercorne agreed that they amazingly enjoyed finding themselves once more on salt water, standing across the Solent; and bad not Charley been rather anxious to dine with the Pendergrasts, they would have run down to the Needles. The Cleopatra brought up as close into Cowes as she could, and Charley pointed out the house at which his friends the Pendergrasts were residing-a comfortable-looking mansion a little out of the town.
"I say, Chesterton, who are the Pendergrasts ?” asked Captain