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‘Sir, the Secretary of State, in introducing this measure,

time:2023-12-07 05:04:20 author:meat read:235次

One evening, Mr. Hale being absent, her mother began to talk to her about her brother Frederick, the very subject on which Margaret had longed to ask questions, and almost the only one on which her timidity overcame her natural openness. The more she wanted to hear about him, the less likely she was to speak.

‘Sir, the Secretary of State, in introducing this measure,

‘Oh, Margaret, it was so windy last night! It came howling down the chimney in our room! I could not sleep. I never can when there is such a terrible wind. I got into a wakeful habit when poor Frederick was at sea; and now, even if I don’t waken all at once, I dream of him in some stormy sea, with great, clear, glass-green walls of waves on either side his ship, but far higher than her very masts, curling over her with that cruel, terrible white foam, like some gigantic crested serpent. It is an old dream, but it always comes back on windy nights, till I am thankful to waken, sitting straight and stiff up in bed with my terror. Poor Frederick! He is on land now, so wind can do him no harm. Though I did think it might shake down some of those tall chimneys.’

‘Sir, the Secretary of State, in introducing this measure,

‘Where is Frederick now, mamma? Our letters are directed to the care of Messrs. Barbour, at Cadiz, I know; but where is he himself?’

‘Sir, the Secretary of State, in introducing this measure,

‘I can’t remember the name of the place, but he is not called Hale; you must remember that, Margaret. Notice the F. D. in every corner of the letters. He has taken the name of Dickenson. I wanted him to have been called Beresford, to which he had a kind of right, but your father thought he had better not. He might be recognised, you know, if he were called by my name.’

‘Mamma,’ said Margaret, ‘I was at Aunt Shaw’s when it all happened; and I suppose I was not old enough to be told plainly about it. But I should like to know now, if I may — if it does not give you too much pain to speak about it.’

‘Pain! No,’ replied Mrs. Hale, her cheek flushing. ‘Yet it is pain to think that perhaps I may never see my darling boy again. Or else he did right, Margaret. They may say what they like, but I have his own letters to show, and I’ll believe him, though he is my son, sooner than any court-martial on earth. Go to my little japan cabinet, dear, and in the second left-hand drawer you will find a packet of letters.’

Margaret went. There were the yellow, sea-stained letters, with the peculiar fragrance which ocean letters have: Margaret carried them back to her mother, who untied the silken string with trembling fingers, and, examining their dates, she gave them to Margaret to read, making her hurried, anxious remarks on their contents, almost before her daughter could have understood what they were.

‘You see, Margaret, how from the very first he disliked Captain Reid. He was second lieutenant in the ship — the Orion — in which Frederick sailed the very first time. Poor little fellow, how well he looked in his midshipman’s dress, with his dirk in his hand, cutting open all the newspapers with it as if it were a paper-knife! But this Mr. Reid, as he was then, seemed to take a dislike to Frederick from the very beginning. And then — stay! these are the letters he wrote on board the Russell. When he was appointed to her, and found his old enemy Captain Reid in command, he did mean to bear all his tyranny patiently. Look! this is the letter. Just read it, Margaret. Where is it he says — Stop —‘my father may rely upon me, that I will bear with all proper patience everything that one officer and gentleman can take from another. But from my former knowledge of my present captain, I confess I look forward with apprehension to a long course of tyranny on board the Russell.’ You see, he promises to bear patiently, and I am sure he did, for he was the sweetest-tempered boy, when he was not vexed, that could possibly be. Is that the letter in which he speaks of Captain Reid’s impatience with the men, for not going through the ship’s manoeuvres as quickly as the Avenger? You see, he says that they had many new hands on board the Russell, while the Avenger had been nearly three years on the station, with nothing to do but to keep slavers off, and work her men, till they ran up and down the rigging like rats or monkeys.’


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