« ZurückWeiter »
nel interrupted himself, in the manner related, the topsails of the stranger had swelled, and he began to move through the water at the rate of some four or five knots the hour. The moment her people felt that they had complete command of their vessel, as if waiting only for that assurance, they altered her course, and made sail. Putting her helm a-starboard, the ship came close by the wind, with her head looking directly in for the promontory, while her tacks were hauled on board, and her light canvass aloft was loosened and spread to the breeze. Almost at the same instant, for everything seemed to be done at once, and as by instinct, the French flag was lowered, another went up in its place, and a gun was fired to leeward a signal of amity. As this second emblem of nationality blew out, and opened to the breeze, the glasses showed the white field and St. George's cross of the noble old ensign of England.
An exclamation of surprise and delight escaped the spectators on the promontory, as their doubts and apprehensions were thus dramatically relieved. No one thought of Raoul at that happy moment, though to him there was nothing of new interest in the affair, with the exception of the apparent intention of the stranger to enter the bay. As le Feu-Follet lay in plain view from the offing, he had his doubts, indeed, whether the warlike appearance of that craft was not the true reason of this sudden change in the frigate's course. Still, lying as he did, in a port hostile to France, there was a probability that he might yet escape without a very critical or close examination.
'Signor Smees, I felicitate you on this visit of a countryman," cried Andrea Barrofaldi, a pacific man by nature, and certainly no warrior, and who felt too happy at the prospects of passing a quiet day, to feel distrust at such a moment; "I shall do you honour in my communications with Florence, for the spirit and willingness which you have shown in the wish to aid us, on this trying occasion."
Signor Vice-governatore, do not trouble yourself to dwell on my poor services," answered Raoul, scarce caring to conceal the smile that struggled about his handsome mouth; "think rather of those of these gallant signori, who greatly regret that an opportunity for gaining distinction has been lost. But here are signals that must be meant for
us-I hope my stupid fellows will be able to answer them, in my absence."
It was fortunate for le Feu-Follet, perhaps, that her commander was not on board, when the stranger, the Proserpine, the very ship that Ithuel so well knew, made her number. The mystification that was to follow was in much better hands, while conducted by the New-Hampshire man, than it could possibly be in his own. Ithuel answered promptly, though what, he did not know himself; but he took good care that the flags he showed should become so entangled, as no! to be read by those in the frigate, while they had every appearance of being hoisted fearlessly, and in good faith.
"Are all prepared ?"
"They are- nay more embark'd; the latest boat
Waits but my chief-"
"My sword and my capote."
WHAT success attended the artifice of Ithuel, it was im possible to tell, so far as the frigate was concerned; though the appearance of mutual intelligence between the two vessels, had a very favourable tendency towards removing suspicion from the lugger, among those on shore. It seemed so utterly improbable that a French corsair could answer the signals of an English frigate, that even Vito Viti felt compelled to acknowledge to the vice-governatore, in a whisper, that, so far, the circumstance was much in favour of the lugger's loyalty. Then the calm exterior of Raoul counted for something, more especially as he remained, apparently, an unconcerned observer of the rapid approach of the ship.
"We shall not have occasion to use your gallant offer, Signor Smees," said Andrea, kindly, as he was about to
retire into the house, with one or two of his counsellors, "but we thank you none the less. It is a happiness to be honoured with the visit of two cruisers of your great nation on the same day, and I hope you will so far favour me as to accompany your brother commander, when he shall do me the honour to pay the customary visit, since it would seem to be his serious intention to pay Porto Ferrajo the compli ment of a call. Can you not guess at the name of the frigate ?"
"Now I see she is a countryman, I think I can, Signore," answered Raoul, carelessly; "I take her to be la Proser pine, a French-built ship, a circumstance that first deceived me as to her character."
"And the noble cavaliere, her commander-you doubtless know his name and rank?"
"Oh! perfectly; he is the son of an old admiral, under whom I was educated, though we happen ourselves never to have met. Sir Brown is the name and title of the gentle
"Ah! that is a truly English rank, and name, too, as one might say. Often have I met that honourable appellation in Shakspeare, and other of your eminent authors. Miltoni has a Sir Brown, if I am not mistaken, Signore ?"
"Several of them, Signor Vice-governatore," answered Raoul, without a moment's hesitation or the smallest remorse; though he had no idea whatever who Milton was; Milton, Shakspeare, Cicero, and all our great writers, often mention Signori of this family."
"Cicero !" repeated Andrea, in astonishment-" he was a Roman, and an ancient, Capitano, and died before Inghilterra was known to the civilized world."
Raoul perceived that he had reached too far, though he was not in absolute danger of losing his balance. Smiling, as in consideration of the other's provincial view of things, he rejoined, with an à-plomb that would have done credit to a politician, in an explanatory and half-apologetic tone.
"Quite true, Signor Vice-governatore, as respects him you mention," he said; " but not true as respects Sir Cicero, my illustrious compatriot. Let me see- -I do not think it is yet a century since our Cicero died. He was born in Devonshire"-this was the county in which Raoul had been
imprisoned— "and must have died in Dublin.
Si- now I
remember, it was in Dublin that this virtuous and distinguished author yielded up his breath."
To all this Andrea had nothing to say, for, half a century since, so great was the ignorance of civilized nations, as related to such things, that one might have engrafted a Homer on the literature of England, in particular, without much risk of having the imposition detected. Signor Barrofaldi was not pleased to find that the barbarians were seizing on the Italian names, it is true; but he was fain to set the circumstance down to those very traces of barbarism, which were the unavoidable fruits of their origin. As for supposing it possible that one who spoke with the ease and innocence of Raoul, was inventing as he went along, it was an idea he was himself much too unpractised to entertain; and the very first thing he did, on entering the palace, was to make a memorandum which might lead him, at a leisure moment, to inquire into the nature of the writings, and the general merits of Sir Cicero, the illustrious namesake of him of Rome. As soon as this little digression terminated, he entered the palace, after again expressing the hope that "Sir Smees" would not fail to accompany "Sir Brown," in the visit which the functionary fully expected to receive from the latter, in the course of the next hour or two. The company now began to disperse, and Raoul was soon left to his own meditations; which, just at that moment, were anything but agreeable.
The town of Porto Ferrajo is so shut in from the sea by the rock against which it is built, its fortifications, and the construction of its own little port, as to render the approach of a vessel invisible to its inhabitants, unless they choose to ascend to the heights, and the narrow promenade already mentioned. This circumstance had drawn a large crowd upon the hill, again; among which Raoul Yvard now threaded his way, wearing his sea cap, and his assumed naval uniform, in a smart, affected manner, for he was fully sensible of all the advantages he possessed on the score of personal appearance. His unsettled eye, however, wandered from one pretty face to another, in quest of Ghita, who alone was the object of his search, and the true cause of the awkward predicament in which he had brought not only himself,
but le Feu-Follet. In this manner, now thinking of her he sought, and then reverting to his situation in an enemy's port, he walked along the whole line of the cliff, scarce knowing whether to return, or to seek his boat, by doubling on the town, when he heard his own name pronounced in a sweet voice, which went directly to his heart. Turning on his heel, Ghita was within a few feet of him.
"Salute me distantly, and as a stranger," said the girl, in almost breathless haste, "and point to the different streets, as if inquiring your way through the town. This is the place where we met last evening; but, remember, it is no longer dark."
As Raoul complied with her desire, any distant spectator might well have fancied the meeting accidental, though he poured forth a flood of expressions of love and admiration.
"Enough, Raoul," said the girl blushing, and dropping her eyes, though no displeasure was visible on her serene and placid face, "another time I might indulge you. How much worse is your situation now, than it was last night! Then you had only the port to fear; now you have both the people of the port and this strange ship-an Inglese, as they tell me?"
"No doubt-la Proserpine, Etooell says, and he knows; you remember Etooell, dearest Ghita, the American who was with me at the tower—well, he has served in this very ship, and knows her to be la Proserpine, of forty-four." Raoul paused a moment; then he added, laughing in a way to surprise his companion—“Oui—la Proserpine, le Capitaine Sir Brown!"
"What you can find to amuse you in all this, Raoul, is more than I can discover. Sir Brown, or sir any-body-else, will send you again to those evil English prison-ships, of which you have so often told me; and there is surely nothing pleasant in that idea."
"Bah! my sweet Ghita, Sir Brown, or Sir White, or Sir Black, has not yet got me. I am not a child, to tumble into the fire because the leading-strings are off; and le FeuFollet shines, or goes out, exactly as it suits her purposes. The frigate, ten to one, will just run close in, and take a near look, and then square away and go to Livorno, where there is much more to amuse her officers, than here, in Porto