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Here my mother entered into an explanation of how Virginia had been educated ; an education which she should not have dreamt of giving, only that her child bore her ladyship's name, &c. My mother employed her usual flattery and humility, so as to reconcile her ladyship to the idea ; who was the more inclined when she discovered that she was not likely to be put to any expense in her patronage of my sister. It was finally agreed that Virginia should be educated for the office of governess, and that when she was old enough Lady Hercules would take her under her august protection; but her ladyship did do her some service. Finding that Virginia was at a respectable school, she called there with a party of ladies, and informed the schoolmistress that the little girl was under her protection, and that she trusted that justice would be done to her education. In a school where the Miss Tippets were considered the aristocracy, the appearance of so great a woman as Lady Hercules was an event, and I do not know whether my little sister did not after that take precedence in the school; at all events, she was much more carefully instructed and looked after than she had been before. Sir Hercules was also pleased to find, upon inquiry, that there was every prospect of my entering the pilot service, without any trouble on his part. Both Sir Hercules and his lady informed their friends of what their intentions were to their young protégés, and were inundated with praises and commendations for their kindness, the full extent of which the reader will appreciate. But, as my mother pointed out as we walked home, if we did not require their assistance at present, there was no saying but that we eventually might; and if so, that Sir Hercules and Lady Hawkingtrefylyan could not well refuse to perform their promises. I must say that this was the first instance in my recollection in which my parents appeared to draw amicably together; and I believe that nothing except regard for their children could have produced the effect.
A MOST IMPORTANT PRESENT IS MADE TO ME; AND, AS IT WILL EVEN
TUALLY APPEAR, THE GENEROSITY OF THE GIVER IS REWARDED.
Sir Hercules and Lady Hawkingtrefylyan quitted Greenwich the day after the interview narrated in the preceding chapter, and by that day's post Anderson received a letter in reply to the one he had written, from his friend Philip Bramble, channel and river pilot, who had, as he said in his letter, put on shore at Deal, where he resided, but the day before, after knocking about in the Channel for three weeks. Bramble stated his willingness to receive and take charge of me, desiring that I would hold myself in readiness to be picked up at a minute's warning, and he would call for me the first time that he took a vessel up the river. A letter communicating this intelligence was forthwith despatched by my mot her to Sir Hercules, who sent a short reply, stating that if I conducted myself properly he would not lose sight of me. This letter, however, very much increased the family consequence in Fisher’s Alley, for my mother did not fail to show it to every body, and every body was anxious to see the handwriting of a real baronet. About a week afterwards I went to the shop of the widow St. Felix, to purchase some tobacco for my father, when she said to me,
“ So, Jack,- or Tom, as I hear you request to be called now, you are going to leave us ?”
- “Yes,” replied I; “and I shall be sorry to leave you,- you have been so kiud to me."
“ A little kindness goes a great way with some people, Tom, and that's the case with you, for you've a grateful heart. You're to be a pilot, I hear ; well, Tom, I've a present to make you,
you will find very useful in your profession, and which will make you think of me sometimes. Stop a moment till I come down again.”
The widow went up stairs, and when she came down, held in her hand a telescope, or spy-glass, as sailors generally call them. It
was about two feet long, covered with white leather, and apparently had been well preserved.
“ Now, Tom, this is what a pilot ought not to be without; and if what was said by the person to whom it belonged is true, it is an excellent spy-glass ; so now accept it from your loving friend, and long may you live to peep through it."
“ Thank you, thank you!” replied I, delighted, as Mrs. St. Felix put it into my hands. I surveyed it all over, pulled out the tube, and then said to her, “ Who did it belong to ?”
6. Tom,” replied the widow, “ that's a sad trick you have of asking questions; it's quite sufficient that it is mine, and that I give it to you, — is it not ?"
“ Yes," replied I; “but you're the only person who says that I ask too many questions. Why, here's a name! F.I."
The widow stretched herself over the counter with a sudden spring, and snatched the telescope out of my hand. When I looked at her, she stood pale and trembling.
“ Why, what is the matter?" inquired I.
She put her hand to her side, as if in great pain, and for some seconds could not speak.
“ Tom, I never knew that there was a name on the telescope ; the name must not be known, that's the truth ; you shall have it this evening, but you must go away now-do, that's a dear good boy."
The widow turned to walk into the back parlour, with the telescope in her hand, and I obeyed her injunctions in silence and wondering. That there was a mystery about her was certain ; and I felt very sorrowful, not that I did not know the secret, but that I could not be of service to her. That evening the telescope was brought to my mother's house by fat Jane. I perceived that the portion of the brass rim upon which the name had been cut with a knife, for it had not been engraved, as I thought, had been carefully filed down, so that not a vestige of the letters appeared.
The next morning I was down at the steps long before breakfast, that I might try my new present.
Bill Freeman was there, and he showed me how to adjust the focus. I amused myself looking at the vessels which were working up and down the Reach;
and so much was I delighted, that I quite forgot how time passed, and lost my breakfast. Every one asked to have a peep through the telescope, and every one declared that it was an excellent glass ; at last Spicer came up to where I stood.
“ Well, Jack," said he, “what-have you there, - a spy-glass ? Let's have a look; I'm a good judge of one, I can tell you.”
I handed the telescope over to him ; he looked through it for some time.
“A first-rate glass, Jack” (I was oftener called Jack than Tom at that time); “ I never knew but one equal to it. Where did you get it?"
I don't exactly know why, but perhaps the mystery evident in the widow, and the cautions I had received against Spicer, combined together, induced me not to answer the question.
“ It's odd,” observed Spicer, who was now examining the outside of the telescope ; “I could almost swear to it." He then looked at the small brass rim where the name had been, and perceived that it had been erased. “Now I'm positive! Jack, where did you get this glass ? "
" It was made a present to me,” replied I.
“Come here," said Spicer, leading me apart from the others standing by. “ Now tell me directly” — and Spicer spoke in an authoritative tone - “who gave you this glass ?”
I really was somewhat afraid of Spicer, who had gained much power over me. I dared not say that I would not tell him, and I did not like to tell a lie. I thought that if I told the truth I might somehow or another injure Mrs. St. Felix, and I therefore answered evasively.
“ It was sent to me as a present by a lady.”
“ Oh!” replied Spicer, who had heard of Sir Hercules and his lady, “so the lady sent it to you! It's very odd,” continued he; “I could take my oath that I've had that glass in my hand a hundred times.” “ Indeed !" replied I.
« Where?” But Spicer did not answer me; he had fallen into one of his dark moods, and appeared as if recalling former events to his
mind. He still kept possession of the glass, and I was afraid that he would not return it, for I tried to take it softly out of his hand, and he would not let go. He remained in this way about a minute, when I perceived my father and Ben the Whaler coming up, at which I was delighted.
“ Father,” said I, as they came near, come and try my new spy-glass.”
Spicer started, and released the telescope, when I laid hold of it and put it into my
father's hands. As neither my father would ever speak to him, Spicer, with a lowering brow, walked away. After my father had examined the glass and praised it, he very naturally asked me where I obtained it. After what had passed with Spicer, I was so fearful of his discovering, by other people, by whom the glass had been given to me, that I replied again, in the hearing of every body, “a lady; father, - you may easily guess who.”
“Well,” replied my father, “I never thought that her ladyship could have been so generous ; I take it very kindly of her."
I was delighted at my father falling so easily into the mistake. As for my mother and Virginia, they were neither of them present when Jane brought the telescope to me, or I certainly should have stated, without reservation, to whom I had been indebted. I hardly could decide whether I would go to the widow and tell her what had occurred; but, upon some reflection, as she had accused me of asking too many questions, and might suppose that I wished to obtain her secrets, I determined upon saying nothing about it.
For a week I occupied myself wholly with my telescope, and I became perfectly master of it, or rather quite used to it, which is of some importance. I avoided Spicer, always leaving the steps when I perceived him approaching, although once or twice he beckoned to me. At the expiration of the week, a message was brought by a waterman from Philip Bramble, stating that he should pass Greenwich in a day or two, being about to take down a West Indiaman then lying below London Bridge: my clothes were therefore then packed up in readiness, and I went to bid farewell to my limited acquaintance.