There, Sir George, turning about, made a speech to his old companions, in which he thanked and bade them farewell with a very manly spirit; and towards the end of which he fell on some expressions which I still remember. 'If any of you gentry lose your money,' he said, 'take care you do not come to me; for in the first place, I shall do my best to have you murdered; and if that fails, I hand you over to the law. Blackmail won't do for me. I'll rather risk all upon a cast, than be pulled to pieces by degrees. I'll rather be found out and hang, than give a doit to one man-jack of you.' That same night we got under way and crossed to the port of New Orleans, whence, as a sacred trust, I sent the pocket-book to Mr. Caulder's son. In a week's time, the men were all paid off; new hands were shipped; and the Nemorosa weighed her anchor for Old England.
A more delightful voyage it were hard to fancy. Sir George, of course, was not a conscientious man; but he had an unaffected gaiety of character that naturally endeared him to the young; and it was interesting to hear him lay out his projects for the future, when he should be returned to Parliament, and place at the service of the nation his experience of marine affairs. I asked him, if his notion of piracy upon a private yacht were not original. But he told me, no. 'A yacht, Miss Valdevia,' he observed, 'is a chartered nuisance. Who smuggles? Who robs the salmon rivers of the West of Scotland? Who cruelly beats the keepers if they dare to intervene? The crews and the proprietors of yachts. All I have done is to extend the line a trifle, and if you ask me for my unbiassed opinion, I do not suppose that I am in the least alone.'
In short, we were the best of friends, and lived like father and daughter; though I still withheld from him, of course, that respect which is only due to moral excellence.
We were still some days' sail from England, when Sir George obtained, from an outward-bound ship, a packet of newspapers; and from that fatal hour my misfortunes recommenced. He sat, the same evening, in the cabin, reading the news, and making savoury comments on the decline of England and the poor condition of the navy, when I suddenly observed him to change countenance.
'Hullo!' said he, 'this is bad; this is deuced bad, Miss Valdevia. You would not listen to sound sense, you would send that pocket- book to that man Caulder's son.'
'Sir George,' said I, 'it was my duty.'
'You are prettily paid for it, at least,' says he; 'and much as I regret it, I, for one, am done with you. This fellow Caulder demands your extradition.'
'But a slave,' I returned, 'is safe in England.'
'Yes, by George!' replied the baronet; 'but it's not a slave, Miss Valdevia, it's a thief that he demands. He has quietly destroyed the will; and now accuses you of robbing your father's bankrupt estate of jewels to the value of a hundred thousand pounds.'
I was so much overcome by indignation at this hateful charge and concern for my unhappy fate that the genial baronet made haste to put me more at ease.
'Do not be cast down,' said he. 'Of course, I wash my hands of you myself. A man in my position--baronet, old family, and all that-- cannot possibly be too particular about the company he keeps. But I am a deuced good-humoured old boy, let me tell you, when not ruffled; and I will do the best I can to put you right. I will lend you a trifle of ready money, give you the address of an excellent lawyer in London, and find a way to set you on shore unsuspected.'
He was in every particular as good as his word. Four days later, the Nemorosa sounded her way, under the cloak of a dark night, into a certain haven of the coast of England; and a boat, rowing with muffled oars, set me ashore upon the beach within a stone's throw of a railway station. Thither, guided by Sir George's directions, I groped a devious way; and finding a bench upon the platform, sat me down, wrapped in a man's fur great-coat, to await the coming of the day.