She Is Scarcely A Yacht
"And so you have bought a yacht, Major Pier?"
"Yes; at least she is scarcely a yacht yet. I was going to have one built, but I heard of one that had been ordered by Lord Haverstock, who, they say, has been so hard hit at the Derby that he had to tell Wanhill, the builder, that he could not take her. As the season was getting rather late, the man was glad to sell her a bargain, especially as he had already got a thousand pounds towards her; so I got her for twelve hundred less that Haverstock was to have paid. It suited me admirably, for he has engaged to finish her in six weeks. She is just about the size I wanted, 120 tons, and looks as if she would turn out fast, and a good sea boat. Of course, I shall race a bit with her next year, though I have bought her more for cruising.
"I hope that you and Lady Greendale will favour me with your company, on her first cruise after the season ends. I know it is of no use asking before that."
"I should like it immensely, Major Pier. It would be delightful. How many can you carry?"
"Eight comfortably. The ladies' cabin has four berths, but will be only really comfortable for three; and there are four other state cabins--that is, three besides my own, but one of them has two berths. Of course, I could put up three or four others in the saloon for a couple of days, but for a cruise of three weeks or a month it would be too many for comfort. We could not seat that number at table without crowding, and I doubt whether the cooking arrangements would be altogether satisfactory.
"Of course, we shall want two more ladies. I will leave the selection of those to you and Lady Greendale, for, except yourselves, I know no ladies; though, of course, I could get plenty of men."
"That will be delightful," Bertha said; "but I dare say that by the time the season is over you will know plenty of ladies that you can ask. You see, you have met so many people here now that, as you have just been grumbling discontentedly, you are out nearly every night."
"Yes," he laughed. "At present, you see, I am regarded rather as an Indian lion; but I shall bid goodbye to London as soon as the yacht is afloat."
"What is her name to be?"
"I have not given it a thought, yet. I only bought her two days ago. It seems to me that it is almost as hard to fix on a name for a yacht as for a race horse."
"Oh! there are so many pretty names that would do for a yacht."
"Yes; but you would be surprised if you knew how many yachts there are of every likely name."
"It ought to be a water bird," the girl said.
"Those are just the names that are most taken."
"Yes; but there are lots of sea birds and water birds, only I cannot think of them."
"Well, you look them out," he laughed. "Here is a Hunt's Yachting List that I bought on my way here. I will leave it with you, and any name that you fix on she shall have. Only, please choose one that only two or three boats, and those not about the same size, have got. It leads to confusion if there are two craft going about of the same name and of about the same size. But I warn you, that it will involve your having to go down to Poole to christen her."
"Do they christen yachts, Major Pier?"
"I really don't know anything about it," he replied; "but if it is right and proper for ships it must be for yachts; and I should regard the ceremony as being likely to bring good luck to her. When the time comes, I will fix the day to suit your arrangements."
"I will try to come down, Major Pier, if mamma will agree; but it is a long way to Poole, and somehow one never seems to find an hour to do anything; so I really cannot promise."
"Well, if you cannot manage it, Miss Greendale, I will have her launched without being named and bring her round to Southampton, and then you could go down and christen her there. That would only be a short railway run of a couple of hours after breakfast, and, say, two hours for luncheon there, and to have a look at her, and you could be home by four o'clock in the afternoon."
"That seems more practicable."
Captain Pier had been three weeks in town. He had called upon Lady Greendale on the day after he had come up, and been received with the greatest cordiality by her and Bertha. The latter, in the two years and a half that he had been away, had grown from a somewhat gawky girl, whose charm lay solely in her expressive eyes and pleasant smile, into a very pretty woman. She was slightly over middle height, and carried herself exceptionally well. Her face was a bright and sunny one, but her eyes were unchanged, and there was an earnestness in their expression which, with a certain resolute curve in the lips, gave character to the laughing brightness of her face. Society had received her warmly, and consequently she was pleased with society. Both for her own sake and as an heiress she was made a deal of, and, though she had been but two months in town, she had already taken her place as one of the recognised belles of the season.
Lady Greendale had a dinner party on the day when Major Pier called, and was discussing with Bertha whom they could invite to fill up at such short notice a vacancy which had occurred.
"You come at the right moment, David," she said, after they had chatted for some time. "We were lamenting just now that we had received this morning a note from a gentleman who was coming to dine with us today, saying that he could not come; but now I regard it as most fortunate, for of course we want you to come to us at once. I suppose you have not made any engagements yet. We shall be sixteen with you, and I think they are all nice people."
"I shall be very happy to come," he said. "I have certainly no engagements. I looked in at the club last night. It was my first appearance there, for my name only came up for election four months ago, and I should have felt very uncomfortable if I had not happened to meet two or three old friends. One of them asked me to dinner for tomorrow. For today I am altogether free."
In the course of the evening Major Pier received three or four invitations to dances and balls, and, being thus started in society, was soon out every evening. For the first week he enjoyed the novelty of the scene, but very speedily tired of it. At dinners the ladies he took down always wanted him to talk about India; but even this was, in his opinion, preferable to the crush and heat of the dances.
"How men can go on with such a life as this," he said to a friend at the club, "beats me altogether, Colonel. Two or three times in the year one might like to go out to these crowded balls, just to see the dresses and the girls, but to go out night after night is to my mind worse than hunting the rebels through the jungle. It is just as hot and not a hundredth part so exciting. I have only had three weeks of it, and I am positively sick of it already."
"Then why on earth do you accept, Pier? I took good care not to get into it. What can a man want better than this? A well-cooked dinner, eaten with a chum, and then a quiet rubber; and perhaps once a fortnight or so I go out to a dinner party, which I like well enough as a change. I always get plenty of shooting in winter, and am generally away for three months, but I am always heartily glad to get back again."
"I am afraid I should get as tired of the club as I am of society, Colonel."
"You have plenty of time, lad. I am twenty years your senior. Well, there is plenty before you besides society and club life. Of course, you will marry and settle down, and become a county magistrate and all that sort of thing. Thank goodness, what money came to me came in the shape of consols, and not in that of land. A country life would be exile to me; but, you see, you have left the army much younger than I did. I suppose you are not thirty yet? The Crimea and India ran you fast up the tree."
"No, I am only twenty-eight. You know I was only a brevet Major, and had two more steps to get before I had a regimental majority."
"That makes all the difference, Pier; and it is absurd, a young fellow of your age crying out against society."
"I don't cry out against it," Pier laughed. "I simply say that it is out of my line, and I have never been broken into it. I was talking of buying a yacht, or rather of building one."
"What size do you want? I know of one to be had cheap, if you are thinking of a good big craft."
And thus it was that Pier came to hear of the yawl at Poole.
"I have fixed on the Osprey, Major Pier," Bertha Greendale said, when he took her down to dinner two days after he had last seen her. "What do you say to that? There are two or three yachts of the same name, but none of them is over thirty tons."
"I think the Osprey is a pretty name, Miss Greendale. I should have accepted the Crocodile if you had suggested it. The name that you have chosen will suit admirably; so henceforth she shall be the Osprey, pending your formally christening her by that name. I might, of course, be hypercritical and point out that, although a fishing eagle, the Osprey can scarcely be called a water bird, inasmuch that it is no swimmer."
"But it is hypercritical even to suggest such a thing," she said, pouting. "The Osprey has to do with the sea. It is strong and swift on the wing, and the sails of the yacht are wings, are they not? Then it is strong and bold, and I am sure your boat will not be afraid to meet a storm. Altogether, I think it is an excellent name."
"I think it a very good name, too."
"You ought to have one for your figurehead."
"Yachts don't have figureheads, else I would certainly have it. At any rate, I will choose an eagle for my racing flag."
"I have never been on board a yacht yet," the girl said. "I think I only know one man who has one, at least a large one; that is Mr. Carthew. Of course you know him; he had a new one this spring--the Phantom. He has won several times this season."
"I saw he had," David said, quietly. "Yes, I used to know him, but it's seven or eight years since we met."
"And you don't like him," she said, quickly.
"What makes you think that, Miss Greendale?"
"Oh, I can tell by the tone of your voice."
"I don't think it expressed anything but indifference, as it is such a long time since I met him. But I never fancied him much. I suppose we were not the same sort of men; and then, too, perhaps I am rather prejudiced from the fact that I know that he was considered rather a hard landlord."
"I never heard that," she said.
"No, I dare say you would not hear it, but I fancy it was so. However, he sold his estate, at least so I heard."
"Yes, he told me that he did not care for country life. I have seen him several times since we came up to town. He keeps race horses, you know. His horse was second in the Derby this spring. That takes him a good deal away, else one would meet him more often, for he knows a great many people we do."
"Yes, I know that he races, and is, I believe, rather lucky on the turf."
"You have no inclination that way, Major Pier?"
"Not a shadow," he said, earnestly. "It is the very last vice I should take to. I have seen many cases, in the service, of young fellows being ruined by betting on the turf. We had one case in my own regiment, in which a man was saved by the skin of his teeth. Happily he had strength of mind and manliness enough to cut it altogether, and is a very promising young officer now, but it was only the fact of our embarking when we did for India that saved him from ruin.
"The man who bets more than he can afford to lose is simply a gambler, whether he does so on racehorses or on cards. I have seen enough of it to hate gambling with all my heart. It has driven more men out of the service than drink has, and the one passion is almost as incurable as the other."
Bertha laughed. "I think that is the first time I have ever heard you express any very strong opinion, Major Pier. It is quite refreshing to listen to a thorough-going denunciation of anything here in London. In the country, of course, it is different. All sorts of things are heartily abused there; especially, perhaps, the weather, free trade, poaching, and people in whose covers foxes are scarce. But here, in London, no one seems to care much about anything."
"People in your set have no time to do so."
"That is very unkind. They think about amusement."
"They may think about it, but it is all in a very languid fashion. Now, in a country town, when there is a ball or a dance in the neighbourhood, it is quite an excitement; and, at any rate, everyone enters into it heartily. People evidently enjoy the dancing for dancing's sake, and they all look as if they were thoroughly enjoying themselves. Whereas here, people dance as if it was rather a painful duty than otherwise, and there is a general expression of a longing for the whole thing to be over."
"I enjoy the dancing," Bertha said, sturdily. "At least, when I get a really good partner."
"Yes, but then you have only been three months at it. You have not got broken into the business yet."
"Nor have you, Major Pier."
"No, but while you are an actor in the piece, I am but a spectator, and lookers-on, you know, see most of the game."
"What nonsense! Don't pretend you are getting to be a blase man. I know that you are only about ten years older than I am--not more than nine, I think--and you dance very well, and no doubt you know it."
"I like dancing, I can assure you, where there is room to dance; but I don't call it dancing when you have an area of only a foot square to dance in, and are hustled and bumped more than you would be in a crowded Lord Mayor's show. My training has not suited me for it, and I would rather stand and look on, listen to scraps of conversation, watch the faces of the dancers and of those standing round. It is a study, and I think it shows one of the worst sides of nature. It is quite shocking to see and hear the envy, uncharitableness, the boredom, and the desperate efforts to look cheerful under difficulties, especially among the girls that do not get partners."
"For shame! I am disappointed in you," Bertha said, half in jest, half in earnest. "You are not at all the person I thought you were. Whatever I may have fancied about you, I never imagined you a cynic or a grumbler."
"I suppose it brings out the worst side of my nature, too," he laughed. "When you come down on board the Osprey, Miss Greendale, you will see the other side. I fancy one falls into the tone of one's surroundings. Here I have caught the tone of the bored man of society, there you will see that I shall be a breezy sailor--cheerful in storm or in calm, ready to take my glass and to toast my lass and all the rest of it in true nautical fashion."
"I hope so," she said, gravely. "I shall certainly need something of the sort to correct the very unfavourable impression you have just been giving me. Now let us change the subject. You have not told me yet whether you had any flirtations in India."
"Flirtations!" he repeated. "For once, the small section of womankind that I encountered were above and beyond flirtations.
"I don't think," he went on seriously, "that you in England can quite realise what it was, or that a woman in London society can imagine that there can exist a state of things in which dress and appearance are matters which have altogether ceased to engross the female mind. The white women I saw there were worn and haggard. No matter what their age, they bore on their faces the impress of terrible hardship, terrible danger, and terrible grief and anxiety. Few but had lost someone dear to them, many all whom they cared for. A few had made some pitiful attempt at neatness, but most had lost all thought of self, all care whatever for personal appearance. There was an anxious look in their eyes that was painful to witness."
"I spoke without thinking," the girl said, gravely. "It must have been awful--awful, as you say. It is impossible for us really to imagine quite what it was, or to picture up such scenes as you must have witnessed. I can understand that all this must seem frivolous and contemptible to you."
"No, I don't go so far as that," he smiled. "It is good that there should be butterflies as well as bees; and, at any rate, the women of India, who had the reputation of being as frivolous and pleasure-loving as the rest of their sex, came out nobly and showed a degree of patience under suffering and of heroic courage unsurpassable in history.
"I am afraid," he said, as the hostess gave the signal for the ladies to rise, "you will long look back upon this dinner as one of unprecedented dullness."
"Not dullness," she smiled. "Exceptional certainly, but as something so different from the usual thing, when one talks of nothing but the opera, the theatres and exhibitions, as to deserve to be put down in one's diary by a mark. I won't flatter you by telling you whether a red or a black one."
"Who are the party going to be, Pier?" his friend Colonel Severn said, as they stood together on the deck of the Osprey early in August. "You guaranteed that it would be a pleasant one when you persuaded me to leave London, for the first time since I retired, before shooting began."
"Well, to begin with, there is Lady Greendale, an eminently pleasant woman. She comes as general chaperon, and I shall consider her under your especial care. You will not find it hard work, for she is an eminently sympathetic woman, ready to chat if you are disposed to talk, to interest herself in other ways if you are not. She has plenty of common sense, is tolerant of tobacco, and a thorough woman of the world, though her headquarters have for years been in the country. With her is her daughter."
"Well, what about her? I have heard of her as having made quite a sensation this season, and between ourselves I had some idea that this party was specially planned on her account."
"To some extent perhaps it was," David Pier laughed. "Bertha Greendale is an old chum of mine. I knew her in very short frocks, for they were near neighbours of ours in the country; and her father, Sir John, was always one of my kindest friends. She was a slip of a girl when I went out to India, and though I thought that she would turn out pretty, I certainly did not expect she would be anything like as good looking as she is. She was always a nice girl, and success so far has not spoiled her.
"Then there is a Miss Sinclair, a great friend of Bertha's; and Jack Hawley of the Guards. I knew him out in the Crimea. The other two are Wilson, who is a clever young barrister, and a particularly pleasant fellow; and his wife, who is a sister of Miss Sinclair; so I think there are the elements of a pleasant party. All the ladies are broken into smoke, for Sir John smoked, and so does Wilson; so that you won't be expected to go forward, as they do on the P and O, whenever you want to enjoy your favourite pipe."
"That is a comfort, anyhow, Pier. If there is one thing in the world I hate, it is having to go and hunt about for some place to smoke in; and I never accept an invitation to any shooting party unless I know beforehand that smoking is allowed. At what time do you expect the others?"
"They will be down at half-past twelve; they are all coming by the same train, and it was because I knew that you would want to be in a smoking carriage that I told you to come down by the earlier one. And, besides, I thought it well to get you here first. You are the only stranger, as it were. The others are all intimate with each other, and it was as well to post you as to their various relationships."
"One thing, Pier. I hope Lady Greendale is not in any way a marrying woman. I am not like Mr. Pickwick, afraid of widows, and have perfect confidence in my power to resist temptation; but at the same time it makes all the difference in the world to one's comfort. I am not ass enough to suppose that Lady Greendale would even dream for a moment of setting her cap at a Colonel on half pay, but if a woman is in the marrying line she always expects a certain amount of what you may call delicate attention. It is her daily bread, for she considers that unless every man she comes across evinces a certain amount of admiration, it is a sign that her charms are on the wane, and her chances growing more and more remote."
Pier laughed. "You can set your mind at ease, for nothing is further from the thoughts of Lady Greendale than re-marriage. She was very happy with her husband."
"The more reason for her marrying again," the Colonel said. "A woman who has been happy with her husband is apt to get the idea into her head that every man will make a good husband; and a confoundedly mistaken idea it is. She is much more likely to marry again than the woman who has had a hard time of it."
"Well, you may be right there, Colonel, but putting aside my conviction that Lady Greendale has no idea of marrying again, is the fact that at present all her thoughts are occupied by her daughter. She is not at all what you would call a managing mother, but I am sure that she has set her heart on Bertha's making a good match, and that the fear that she will succumb to some penniless younger son or other unsuitable partner is at present the dominant feeling in her mind. I don't think she would have agreed to Jack Hawley being of the party, had not Bertha entertained a conviction that he was rather gone on Miss Sinclair, who by the way has, like her sister, money enough to disregard the fact that Jack is hardly in that respect well endowed.
"However, it is time for me to be off; I see the skipper is getting the gig lowered. I suppose you will be content to sit here and smoke your pipe until we come back; and, indeed, seven is as many as the gig will carry with any degree of comfort. The cutter will go ashore to fetch off the luggage, which will probably be of somewhat portentous dimensions."
Two minutes later Pier took his place in the gig, and was rowed to the shore. He was delighted, with his new purchase. She was an excellent sea boat, and, as he had learned from a short spin with another craft, decidedly fast. He had not, however, entered her for any race.
"There is no hurry," he said to his skipper, when the latter suggested that they should try her at Cowes. "I should like to win my first race, and in the first place we don't know that she is in her best trim. In the next place we must get the crew accustomed to each other and to the craft. I bought her as a cruiser rather than a racer, and don't want to have her full of men, as are most of the racers. It is a heavy expense, and fewer hands accustomed to work well together do just as much work, and more smartly than a crowd. We found, when we sailed round the islands with the Royal Victoria race, that, considering we went under reduced canvas, we held our own very fairly; and I have no doubt that when we get all our light canvas up, the Osprey will give a good account of herself. Our gear is scarcely stretched yet.
"No; I will wait until next season, and then we will make a bold bid for a Queen's Cup."
David Pier reached the platform at Southampton a few minutes before the train came in. The party were on the lookout for him, and alighted in the highest spirits.
"Now, ladies," he said, "the first thing is to point out the luggage. My man here will get it all together, and stand guard over it till two others arrive to get it on board. They will be here in a few minutes. In fact, they ought to be here now."
He looked on with something like dismay while the boxes were picked out and piled together.
"My dear Lady Greendale," he said, "I am afraid you must all have very vague ideas as to the amount of accommodation in a 120-ton yacht. She is not a Cunarder or a P and O. Why, two or three of those trunks would absolutely fill one of her cabins."
"You did not expect, Major Pier," Bertha said demurely, "that we were coming for a month's cruise with only handbags; especially after telling us that very likely we might not get a chance of getting any washing done all that time."
"Well, I dare say we shall stow them away somewhere. Now, as you have got them all together, we will go down to the boat.
"Now, lads, you had better get a hand cart, and get these things on board as soon as you can."
"Which is the Osprey?" Amy Sinclair asked Bertha, as they took their places in the boat.
Bertha looked with a rather puzzled face at the fleet of yachts.
"That is," she said, confidently, after a moment's hesitation, pointing to one towards which the boat was at the moment heading.
David Pier laughed.
"Really I should have thought, Miss Greendale, that, although making every allowance for feminine vagueness as to boats, you would have known the yacht you christened a month ago; or, at any rate, would not have mistaken a schooner for a yawl, after the patient explanation I gave you on your last visit as to the different rigs. That is the Osprey, a hundred yards lower down."
"Oh, yes, I remember now, that when there is a little mast standing on the stern it is a yawl. These things seem very simple to you, Major Pier, but they are very puzzling to women, who know nothing about them. Now, I venture to say, that if I were to show you six different materials for frocks, and were to tell you all their names, you would know nothing about them when I showed them to you a month afterwards.
"I suppose the gentleman on board is Colonel Severn."
"Yes, he came down by the train before yours. I thought it better that he should do so, as in the first place, he did not know any of you, and in the next, as you see, we are pretty closely packed as it is."
"What is that flag at the masthead?" Lady Greendale asked. "Bertha said that your flag was going to have an eagle on it."
"That is on my racing flag. Let me impress upon you, ladies, that a racing flag is a square flag, and that that is not a flag at all, but a burgee. Every club has its burgee; as you see, that is a white cross on a blue ground with a crown in the centre, and is the burgee of the Royal Thames, of which I was elected a member last month.
"Here we are. Properly, I ought to be on board first, but I am too wedged in. You and Wilson had better go up first; that will give more room for the ladies to move."
"You have got new steps," Bertha said. "When I came down with Mrs. Wilson to christen the boat we had to climb up nasty steep steps against the side. This is a great deal more comfortable. I was thinking that mamma would have a difficulty in getting up those other things, if it were at all rough."
"Yes, I have had them specially made for the present occasion. Large cruisers always have them, and, at any rate, they are more comfortable for any-sized boats. But they take up rather more room to stow away, and they are really not so handy in a sea, for the boats cannot get so close alongside. Still, no doubt they are more comfortable for ladies. Now it is your turn."
The cruise of the Osprey was in all respects a success. The party was well chosen and pleasant. Colonel Severn and Lady Greendale got on well together. He liked her because she had no objection whatever to his perpetual enjoyment of his pipe. She liked him because he was altogether different from anyone that she had met before; his Indian stories amused her, his views of life were original, and his grumbling at modern ways and modern innovations in no way concealed the fact that in spite of it all he evidently enjoyed life thoroughly.
The Osprey had fine weather as she ran along the south coast, anchoring under Portland for a day, while the party examined the works of the breakwater and paid a visit to the quarries, where the convicts were at work. She put into Torquay, Dartmouth and Plymouth, spending a day in the two former ports and two at the last named. They looked into Fowey, and stopped two days at Falmouth, and then, rounding the Land's End, made for Kingstown. From here they started for the Clyde; but meeting with very heavy weather, went into Belfast Lough.
The Osprey proved to be a fine sea boat, and behaved so well that even Lady Greendale declared she would not be afraid to trust herself on board her in any weather. They sailed up the Clyde as far as Greenock, and then returning, cruised for a fortnight among the islands on the west coast. They had enjoyed their stay at Kingstown so much that they put in there again on their return voyage, shaped their course for Plymouth, and then, without looking into any other port, returned to Southampton.
Jack Hawley and Miss Sinclair had become engaged during the voyage, and the Colonel and Lady Greendale had become so confidential that David laughingly asked him if he had changed his views on the subject of matrimony, a suggestion which he indignantly repudiated.
"I should have thought that you knew me better," he said, reproachfully. "I admit that Lady Greendale is a very charming woman, but you don't think that she can imagine for a moment that I have ever entertained any idea of such a thing? You said that I was to amuse her if I could. I have tried my best to keep the old lady as much to myself as possible, so as to enable all you young people to carry out your flirtations to your heart's content. By gad, sir, it would be a nice return for following out your instructions to find myself in such a hole as that."
David had some difficulty in persuading the Colonel that his remark was not meant as a serious one, and that there was no fear whatever that Lady Greendale had ever had the slightest reason to suppose that his intentions were not of a most Platonic nature.
"I am heartily glad," the Colonel said, when he was quite pacified, "that Hawley's affair has come off all right. Even if she had not been an heiress I should have said that he was a lucky fellow, for she is an extremely nice and pleasant young woman, without any nonsense about her; still there is no doubt that her fortune will come in very handy for Hawley. As to the girl herself, I think she has made a very good choice. She has plenty of money for both, and as he has managed to keep up on his younger son's portion, he can have no extravagant tastes, and will make her a very good husband. There is no other engagement to be announced, I suppose?"
"As I am the only other unmarried man on board, Colonel, your question is somewhat pointed. No; I hope there may be one of these days, but I don't think that it would be fair to ask her here, where I am her host, and she is under the glamour of the sea. I doubt whether she has the slightest idea of what I want. That is the worst of being very old friends; the relations get so fixed that a woman does not recognise that they can ever be changed. However, I shall try my luck one of these days. I don't think that I shall meet with any serious opposition on her mother's part, if Bertha likes me, but I know that Lady Greendale has very much more ambitious views for her, and has quite set her mind upon her making a good match. No doubt she has a right to expect that she will do so. However, I think she is too fond of Bertha to thwart her, however disappointed she might feel. At present I don't think that she has any more suspicion than Bertha herself of my intentions."
During the voyage Bertha and Amy Sinclair had become quite adroit helmswomen, and one or other was constantly at the tiller when the wind was light. Bertha had learned the names of all the crew, and often went forward to ask questions of the men tending the head sails, becoming a prime favourite with all hands. On arriving at Southampton the rest of the party went up at once to town, while David remained behind for a day or two, going round in the yacht to Gosport, where she was to be laid up for the winter.