Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER LII.

THE YACHT.

How happy they,
Who from the toil and tumult of their lives,
Steal to look down where nought but ocean strives !– Byron.

T

He holidays are drawing to a close at Abbotscliff, and Tom

Strafford, is sufficiently well to be removed to the comfortable quarters provided for him at Sandy Frith. Great changes have been made there since old Mr. Strafford paid his first visit to the spot and made acquaintance with the shipyard. Building has been resumed with energy, and the future of the new wateringplace is supposed to be secure. Mr. Chaffin has already repented that he gave up his claim to the shipyard, for there is every prospect that the site will become valuable. For the present, however, it will remain as it is, or rather as it was ; for Mr. Chaffin's wooden office has been cleared away, and all Mr. Chaffin's store of timber and bricks and slates have been carted off to a spot at the other end of the town, and the garden has been set in order and restored as nearly as possible to its former neat and pleasant appearance. Workmen have been busy inside the house also, for Mr. Strafford has engaged all the rooms in it that could be spared, and has taken great liberties with them, not altering their appearance materially, but executing some necessary repairs and supplying various articles of furniture with a view to the comfort of his daughter and her convalescent son, A van of the “road and rail ” species has brought down from London in its capacious interior beds, couches, easy-chairs, and in short such a plentiful variety of goods, that it is difficult to know what to do with them.

Joshua Dean would have protested against Mr. Strafford's expenditure upon the premises, but he can do nothing himself, having exhausted his resources in repaying Mr. Chaffin; and when he ventures to say a word about it, Mr. Strafford stops his mouth by telling him it is not done for him, but chiefly for Tom's sake, with a reversion to his sister Lucy, and as a wedding gift to her. For Lucy is to be married in a fortnight to Captain Broad, who, instead of going to sea in a hurry as he had intended, is to have a long spell on shore this time, the Neptune being in dry dock and undergoing repairs. Very much annoyed the captain had been when he first heard that such repairs were necessary, for then he was in a great hurry to be off to sea ; but Joshua Dean found him out only two or three days later, after matters had been settled with Mr. Chaffin, and took him back with him to Sandy Frith, where Lucy welcomed him upon the threshold of the home which she was ready now to share with him.

Tom's journey from Abbotscliff, when all preparations were completed, was accomplished without much fatigue. He had been out two or three times for a drive already; and the trip by rail was a short one. Mr. Strafford would have had an invalid carriage for him, or a special train, or anything else that money could procure ; but the ordinary means of transport were quite sufficient, and the pleasure of the journey was so great that Tom thought it almost too quickly over.

"Are you very tired ?” his mother asked when she had led him to a couch in the parlour of the Shipyard Cottage, which Mr. Strafford had wheeled round towards the window, that he might lie there and look out upon the sea.

“No, mother; only a little. I should like to go out upon the sands."

* You must lie down and rest first," said his mother. " And eat a mutton chop," said his grandfather.

It was in vain that Tom protested against their over-carefulness and kindness; it was easier to submit than to resist, and Tom was glad now to take the easier course. Later in the evening they all walked down to the shore, and Tom sat there for an hour or more, with Mr. Strafford on one side and Mrs. Howard on the other, in a state of tranquil, dreamy happiness.

It was a calm and pleasant evening. The day had been warm, but the sun was near its setting, and the long quiet streaks of cloud near the horizon were striped with glorious tints of purple and red and yellow, the promise of a fine and bright to-morrow. A gentle breeze from the land was rising, and some sailing-boats, which had been creeping lazily along the margin of the bay, caught the wind, and, bending to it slightly, came running smoothly towards them, parting the water with a ripple at the bows, and leaving a long visible wake astern, which glittered in the sun's declining rays.

“How beautiful!” said Tom. “How I should love to be in one of those boats ! Would you not like it, mother ?”

“Yes, very much."
“ Shall we have a sail to-morrow?
“Yes, Tom; I hope so. It will do you good.”

Neither of them spoke again for some minutes. Tom could not help feeling that he was still very weak, for tears came into his eyes and rolled down his cheeks. He did not know why.

“What is it, Tom?” his mother asked, approaching her cheek to his. “Nothing; nothing but happiness," he said.

“ Such happiness! It seems like beginning life over again, with no cares or fears, no work, no books : nothing to do but sit here and enjoy this beautiful sea-view and sea-air !"

[ocr errors]

“ You are as fond of the sea as ever, Tom,” said his mother. “Yes; oh yes!” But you

will not want to be a sailor now ?” “I do not want anything; only to be always contented and thankful as I am at this moment, with you, dear mother, on one side, and you on the other, dear grandfather."

Tom had several times tried to school himself to give old Mr. Strafford that name, but he had never before been able to accomplish it. He had not the feeling of a grandson towards the old man. He was grateful to him, but felt always a little shyness in his presence, and could not love him as he thought that he was bound to do. Now, however, his heart warmed towards him, and he put out his hand to him and called him, on the impulse of the moment, by this title of affection and honour. It was the token which the old man had watched and waited for. He had given many a hint, hoping to draw it forth, but in vain. Now it came from the boy's lips and heart spontaneously, and Mr. Strafford blessed him in silence, being too full of joy and thankfulness to speak.

Presently Captain Broad was seen strolling along by the water's edge with Lucy Dean's arm locked in his own, too much absorbed with their own and each other's thoughts to know that they were observed, though it would not have made much difference to them if they had been aware of it. The happy couple stopped to look at the little group of sailing-boats as they approached, and some other men from the village went down to the water's edge, turning their eyes in the same direction. There was one boat larger than the rest and differently rigged, which had been gradually gaining upon the others since the breeze sprang up, and was now coming up with them and passing them. As she advanced more plainly into view Tom could not help being struck with her smart and handsome appearance. The graceful cut of the bow, the tall and slender mast, raking aft, the well-shaped jib and mainsail, and the set of the topsails, which were of duck, a fairer and lighter material than the usual sail-cloth, filled him with admiration. She was decked too, and her deck was white and well holystoned; her fittings of brass were well polished, and glittered as the rays of the sun fell obliquely on them. Altogether she had the appearance and character of a gentleman's yacht rather than of such boats as usually belonged to Sandy Frith.

While he was gazing upon this pleasing spectacle Mr. Strafford, placing his hand upon his shoulder, said to him in a low voice, rather more shaky than usual from suppressed emotion,

“Do you remember, Tom, what you said to me at Langdale about what you would do if that place were your own ?” “No," said Tom; "not very distinctly."

“ "You would repair old John Pollard's cottage, and all the other cottages on the estate, and make them comfortable; and you would put all the farms in order, and let them at moderate rents; and you would help Mr. Martin to enlarge the village schools; and you would repair the Hall, inside and out —and a few other things of the same kind.”

“Did I say so ?” said Tom. “I know I used to think so."

“Well; all that has been done, or is being done. Then if there was any money left what did you say you would do with it ?

Buy a yacht," said Tom, looking at his grandfather with wondering, inquiring eyes, as the truth-too strange and delightful to be at once resolved upon-flashed across his mind.

“ There is your yacht,” said his grandfather. “Only I have not bought it yet. I have hired it for you as long as we remain at Sandy Frith. To-morrow you shall go on board and take the command. Jim Bowley is to be your first-lieutenant."

It is needless to describe that first trip, or those which

« AnteriorContinuar »