Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

him scarce kind enough; but though this gave him no little uneasiness, he doubted not when he returned, to find her everything he wished. Nothing could exceed the respect and admiration he felt for Sir Walter Raleigh, for he was of that disposition to be most sensible of Sir Walter's friendliness towards him; and his own intelligence which, for his years, was great indeed, enabled him the more correctly to appreciate the other's singular fine genius in all things.

One evening, as they were homeward bound, they were together in Sir Walter's cabin, which was pleasantly fitted up with all manner of charts, some few books on choice subjects, and divers instruments necessary for the voyage.

Master Francis sat writing at a table that was made fast to the flooring, and which was lighted by a lamp that swung from above; and his patron walked up and down the room with folded arms and grave aspect, occasionally stopping to dictate something to his secretary which the latter presently put to paper.

This had continued for some two hours or more, when Sir Walter stopped in his walk, and the other thinking that he was about to say something of moment, leaning his left arm on the table and holding his pen in readiness, in an attitude of profound attention did look up into his patron's face; but Sir Walter, at that time, thought of no

other thing than the pale and pensive countenance of the youth before him, for the light from the lamp falling on it as he sat in that position, gave to him an appearance so delicate that it clean put all other subjects out of his head.

“ So you know not your parentage ?” said he at last, in a very friendly tone of voice. Master Francis was taken by surprise as it were at this, as he looked for other sort of speech from him; and his features presently were clouded with a sudden melancholy.

“ Ought more than I have told you, honourable sir, know I not,” he replied. 66 'Tis a strange history,” observed the other.

In truth it is," said his secretary very dejectedly.

“ I have taxed my memory more than once," continued Sir Walter, 6 to see if among all mine acquaintances there was one whose name would answer to the initials you have on the miniature, but with small profit. Certain it is, that when I was seeking to advance the Protestant cause on the plains of Flanders under that experienced soldier, Sir John Norris, in my company there was one Holdfast, whose christian name, methinks, was Francis."

“ Ha!” exclaimed the youth, earnestly." Perchance it was my father.”

“ I doubt it, Master Francis,” said Sir Walter, kindly to him. “ He was but an indifferent fellow -a mere adventurer, and a sorry character, by all accounts. It was said of him he had left England to avoid a marriage with some person of poor origin, whom he had undone, and whose relations were like to make a stir upon the business."

“ 'Tis he!" cried his secretary, in very woeful fashion ; for his heart was cast down, and his aspiring thoughts utterly díscomfited.

“ Nay, I doubt it hugely,” replied his patron. “ This Holdfast was of so contrary a disposition to yourself. He was given to many dishonourable practices—a hanger-on of prodigal youth, whom he fleeced at play; and a doer of any mean thing by which he might get present profit. I held him in exceeding dislike, and was well pleased, upon proof being shewn that he had cheated a companion at the dice, that we got rid of him.”

6 Know you what became of him?” enquired the youth, anxiously.

66 I did hear he had turned Puritan,” answered Raleigh, “yet I cannot say whether upon sufficient authority.'

Master Francis was now in most comfortless case, for he did remember that his uncle, in his passions, oft had called him “ base-born,” and the like; which made him apt to believe that he was

the fruit of some low intrigue; whereof the thought, to one of his sensitive nature, was scarce to be endured. Seeing that his intelligence had been taken in such sorrowful part, Sir Walter did presently go up to the youth, and laying his hand, in a friendly manner, on the other's shoulder, said, kindly to him :

66 Be of better heart, Master Francis. If matters turn out so untoward as that your birth should be of such indifferent sort, mind it not, I pray you. Of your fortunes I will take good heed. But there exists no proof you are of such descent; and the evidence is not circumstantial enough for me to piace much reliance on it."

" I think it be but too true, honourable sir," replied his secretary.

6. For mine uncle". “What of your uncle, Master Francis ? enquired his patron, seeing that the other hesitated to say

more.

“ In his anger, hath often called me by such vile terms as

“ Fear nothing,” said Sir Walter, encouragingly, 56 'Tis a friend who listens."

66 Indeed I cannot say it,” exclaimed the youth, shaking his head, and looking as if it was too repugnant to his feelings to be named.

“ Well, well, as you list," answered Raleigh, raising himself up; for he had been leaning over

him, and seemed to understand and appreciate his feelings; "but whatever it be, regard it not; for a bad man-which, from what you have said, I take your kinsman to be, will say anything in his passion. It is a certain truth that, in these times, good birth is ever your best recommendation ; but let not this affect you, even if it be your mishap to want it; which, till I have better warrant for it, will I never believe. It sounds fine, doubtless, to claim kin with a long line of honourable ancestry; but men that have no other merit than this be like unto a growing crop of our new vegetable, the potatoall that is good of them be underground. How much better is it to be yourself the getter of your own greatness. If you continue to shew that commendable nature I have perceived in you, you shall not lack opportunity for honourable advancement, let your birth be what it may: therefore I would have you think no more of it, but the rather apply yourself to get perfect in such qualifications, as seem the most likely to stand you in good service at a fitting time.” Saying which, Sir Walter Raleigh made for the door; and left the cabin.

But Master Francis did think more of it: and the more he thought, the more he seemed inclined to think. His ambition had had a shock, from the which he was not like to recover speedily; for a notion had got fixed in him, that of all things, ill

« ZurückWeiter »