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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesWe And The World: A Book For Boys - Part 2 - Chapter 16
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We And The World: A Book For Boys - Part 2 - Chapter 16 Post by :tinabarr4 Category :Long Stories Author :Juliana Horatia Ewing Date :May 2012 Read :2023

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We And The World: A Book For Boys - Part 2 - Chapter 16


"Das Haar trennt."--_German Proverb_.

We three were not able to be present at Alfonso's wedding, for the very good reason that we were no longer in British Guiana. But the day we sailed for Halifax, Alfonso and his Georgiana came down to see us on the stelling. "Georgiana" was as black as a coal, but Alfonso had not boasted without reason of the cut of her clothes. She had an upright pretty figure, and her dress fitted it to perfection. It was a white dress, and she had a very gorgeous parasol, deeply fringed, and she wore a kerchief of many colours round her shoulders, and an equally bright silk one cleverly twisted into a little cap on her woolly head. Her costume was, in short, very gay indeed.

"Out of all the bounds of nature and feminine modesty," said Alister.

"Of your grandmother's nature and modesty, maybe," retorted Dennis. "But she's no gayer than the birds of the neighbourhood, anyway, and she's as neat, which is more than ye can say for many a young lady that's not so black in the face."

In short, Dennis approved of Alfonso's bride, and I think the lady was conscious of it. She had a soft voice, and very gentle manners, and to Dennis she chatted away so briskly that I wondered what she could have found to talk about, till I discovered from what Dennis said to Alister afterwards, that the subject of her conversation was Alfonso's professional prospects.

"Look here, Alister dear," said Dennis; "don't be bothering yourself whether she employs your aunt's dressmaker or no, but when you're about half-way up that ladder of success that I'll never be climbing (or I'd do it myself), say a good word for Alfonso to some of these Scotch captains with big ships, that want a steward and stewardess. That's what she's got her eye on for Alfonso, and Alfonso has been a good friend to us."

"I'll mind," said Alister. And he did. For (to use his own expression) our Scotch comrade was "aye better than his word."

Dennis O'Moore's cousin behaved very kindly to us. He was not only willing to find Dennis the money which the squire had failed to send, but he would have advanced my passage-money to Halifax. I declined the offer for two reasons. In the first place, Uncle Henry had only spoken of paying my passage from Halifax to England, and I did not feel that I was entitled to spend any money that I could avoid spending; and, secondly, as Alister had to go north before the mast, I chose to stick by my comrade, and rough it with him. This decided Dennis. If Alister and I were going as seamen, he would not "sneak home as a passenger."

The elderly cousin did not quite approve of this, but the engineer officer warmly supported Dennis, and he was also upheld in a quarter where praise was still dearer to him, as I knew, for he took me into his confidence, when his feelings became more than he could comfortably keep to himself.

"Perhaps she won't like your being a common sailor, Dennis," I had said, "and you know Alister and I shall quite understand about it. We know well enough what a true mate you've been to us, and Alister was talking to me about it last night. He said he didn't like to say anything to you, as he wouldn't take the liberty of alluding to the young lady, but he's quite sure she won't like it, and I think so too."

I said more than I might otherwise have done, because I was very much impressed by Alister's unusual vehemence on the subject. He seldom indeed said a word that was less than a boast of Scotland in general, and Aberdeenshire in particular, but on this occasion it had burst forth that though he had been little "in society" in his native country, he had "seen enough to know that a man would easier live down a breach of a' the ten commandments than of any three of its customs." And when I remembered for my own part, how fatal in my own neighbourhood were any proceedings of an unusual nature, and how all his innocence, and his ten years of martyrdom, had not sufficed with many of Mr. Wood's neighbours to condone the "fact" that he had been a convict, I agreed with Alister that Dennis ought not to risk the possible ill effects of what, as he said, had a ne'er-do-weel, out-at-elbows, or, at last and least, an uncommon look about it; and that having resumed his proper social position, our Irish comrade would be wise to keep it in the eyes he cared most to please.

"Alister has a fine heart," said Dennis, "but you may tell him I told her," and he paused.

"What did she say?" I asked anxiously.

"She said," answered Dennis slowly, "that she'd small belief that a girl could tell if a man were true or no by what he seemed as a lover, but there was something to be done in the way of judging of his heart by seeing if he was kind with his kith and faithful to his friends."

It took me two or three revolutions of my brain to perceive how this answer bore upon the question, and when I repeated it to Alister, his comment was almost as enigmatical.

"A man," he said sententiously, "that has been blessed with a guid mother, and that gives the love of his heart to a guid woman, may aye gang through the ills o' this life like the children of Israel through the Red Sea, with a wall on's right hand and a wall on's left."

But it was plain to be seen that the young lady approved of Dennis O'Moore's resolve, when she made us three scarlet night-caps for deck-wear, with a tiny shamrock embroidered on the front of each.

Indeed, as to clothes and comforts of all sorts, we began our homeward voyage in a greatly renovated condition, thanks to our friends. The many kindnesses of the engineer officer were only matched by his brusque annoyance if we "made a fuss about nothing," and between these, and what the sugar-planter thought due to his relative, and what the sugar-planter's daughter did for the sake of Dennis, the only difficulty was to get our kits stowed within reasonable seamen's limits. The sugar-planter's influence was of course invaluable to us in the choice of a ship, and we were very fortunate. The evening we went on board I accompanied Dennis to his cousin's house to bid good-bye, and when we left, Miss Eileen came with us through the garden to let us out by a short cut and a wicket-gate. She looked prettier even than usual, in some sort of pale greenish-grey muslin, with knots of pink ribbon about it, and I felt very much for Dennis's deplorable condition, and did my best in the way of friendship by going well ahead among the oleanders and evergreens, with a bundle which contained the final gifts of our friends. Indeed I waited at the wicket-gate not only till I was thoroughly tired of waiting, but till I knew we dare wait no longer, and then I went back to look for Dennis.

About twenty yards back I saw him, as I thought, mixed up in some way with an oleander-bush in pink blossom, but, coming nearer, I found that it was Eileen's grey-green dress with the pink bows, which, like a slackened sail, was flapping against him in the evening breeze, as he knelt in front of her.

"Dennis," said I, not too loud; not loud enough in fact, for they did not hear me; and all that Dennis said was, "Take plenty, Darlin'!"

He was kneeling up, and holding back some of the muslin and ribbons with one hand, whilst with the other he held out a forelock of his black curls, and she cut it off with the scissors out of the sailor's housewife which she had made for him. I turned my back and called louder.

"I know, Jack. I'm coming this instant," said Dennis.

The night was noisy with the croaking of frogs, the whirring and whizzing of insects, the cheeping of bats, and the distant cries of birds, but Dennis and Eileen were silent. Then she called out, "Good-bye, Jack, GOD bless you."

"Good-bye, Miss Eileen, and GOD bless you," said I, feeling nearly as miserable as if I were in love myself. And then we ran all the rest of the way to the stelling.

Alister was already on board, and the young officer was there to bid us GOD speed, and Dennis was cheerful almost to noisiness.

But when the shores of British Guiana had become a muddy-looking horizon line, I found him, with his cropped forehead pressed to the open housewife, shedding bitter tears among the new needles and buttons.

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