The Annotated "Privateersman"/Chapter XIII
You may now behold me in a very different position, my dear Madam; instead of the laced hat and hanger at my side, imagine me in a plain suit of grey with black buttons, and a pen behind my ear; instead of walking the deck and balancing to the motion of the vessel, I am now perched immoveably upon a high stool; instead of sweeping the horizon with my telescope, or watching the straining and bending of the spars aloft, I am now with my eyes incessantly fixed upon the ledger or day-book, absorbed in calculation. You may inquire how I liked the change. At first, I must confess, not over-much, and, notwithstanding my dislike to the life of a privateersman, I often sighed heavily, and wished that I were an officer in the king’s service. The change from a life of activity to one of sedentary habits was too sudden, and I often found myself, with my eyes still fixed upon the figures before me, absorbed in a sort of castle-building reverie, in which I was boarding or chasing the enemy, handling my cutlass, and sometimes so moved by my imagination as to brandish my arm over my head, when an exclamation of surprise from one of the clerks would remind me of my folly, and, angry with myself; I would once more resume my pen. But after a time I had more command over myself; and could sit steadily at my work. Mr. Trevannion had often observed how absent I was, and it was a source of amusement to him; when we met at dinner, his daughter would say, “So I hear you had another sea-fight this morning, Mr. Elrington;” and her father would laugh heartily as he gave a description of my ridiculous conduct.
I very soon, with the kind assistance of Mr. Trevannion, became master of my work, and gave him satisfaction. My chief employment consisted in writing the letters to correspondents. At first I only copied Mr. Trevannion’s letters in his private letter-book; but as I became aware of the nature of the correspondence, and what was necessary to be detailed, I then made a rough copy of the letters, and submitted them to Mr. Trevannion for his approval. At first there were a few alterations made, afterwards I wrote them fairly out, and almost invariably they gave satisfaction, or, if anything was added, it was in a postscript. Mr. Trevannion’s affairs, I found, were much more extensive than I had imagined. He had the two privateers, two vessels on the coast of Africa trading for ivory and gold-dust and other articles, two or three vessels employed in trading to Virginia for tobacco and other produce, and some smaller vessels engaged in the Newfoundland fisheries, which, when they had taken in their cargo, ran to the Mediterranean to dispose of it, and returned with Mediterranean produce to Liverpool. That he was a very wealthy man, independent of his large stakes upon the seas, was certain. He had lent much money to the guild of Liverpool, and had some tenanted properties in the county; but of them I knew nothing, except from the payment of the rents. What surprised me much was, that a man of Mr. Trevannion’s wealth, having but one child to provide for, should not retire from business—and I once made the remark to his daughter. Her reply was: “I thought as you do once, but now I think differently. When I have been on a visit with my father, and he has stayed away for several weeks, you have no idea how restless and uneasy he has become from want of occupation. It has become his habit, and habit is second nature. It is not from a wish to accumulate that he continues at the counting-house, but because he cannot be happy without employment. I, therefore, do not any longer persuade him to leave off, as I am convinced that it would be persuading him to be unhappy. Until you came, I think the fatigue was too great for him; but you have, as he apprises me, relieved him of the heaviest portion of the labour, and I hardly need say that I am rejoiced that you have so done.”
“It certainly is not that he requires to make money, Miss Trevannion; and, as he is so liberal in everything, I must credit what you assert, that it is the dislike to having no employment which induces him to continue in business. It has not yet become such a habit in me,” continued I, smiling; “I think I could leave it off with great pleasure.”
“But is not that because you have not yet recovered from your former habits, which were so at variance with a quiet and a sedentary life?” replied she.
“I fear it is so,” said I, “and I believe, of all habits, those of a vagrant are the most difficult to overcome. You used to laugh at me the first few months that I was here. I presume that I am a little improved, as I have not?”
“My father says so, and is much pleased with you, Mr. Elrington, if my telling you so gives you any satisfaction.”
“Certainly it does, because I wish to please him.”
“And me, too, I hope?”
“Yes, most truly, Miss Trevannion; I only wish I had it in my power to show how much I study your good opinion.”
“Will you risk my father’s displeasure for it?” replied she, looking at me fixedly.
“Yes, I will, provided—”
“Oh! There is a proviso already.”
“I grant that there should not have been any, as I am sure that you would not ask me to do anything which is wrong. And my proviso was, that I did not undertake what my conscience did not approve.”
“Your proviso was good, Mr. Elrington, for when a woman would persuade, a man should be particularly guarded that he is not led into error by a rash promise. I think, however, that we are both agreed upon the point. I will therefore come at once to what I wish you to do. It is the intention of my father, in the course of a few days, when you shall have accomplished your year of service, to offer to take you into partnership; and I am certain it will be on liberal terms. Now I wish you to refuse his offer unless he gives up privateering.”
“I will do so at all risks, and I am truly glad that I have your encouragement for taking such a bold step.”
“I tell you frankly that he will be very indignant. There is an excitement about the privateering which has become almost necessary to him, and he cares little about the remainder of his speculations. He is so blind to the immorality to which it leads, that he does not think it is anpursuit; if he did, I am sure that he would abandon it. All my persuasion has been useless.”
“And if a favourite and only daughter cannot prevail, what chance have I, Miss Trevannion?”
“A better chance, Mr. Elrington; he is partial to me, but I am a woman, and he looks upon my observations as a woman’s weakness. The objections raised by a man, a young man, and one who has so long been actively engaged in the service, will, therefore, carry more weight; besides, he has now become so accustomed to you, and has had so much trouble taken off his hands, and, at the same time, has such implicit confidence in you, that I do not think, if he finds that he has to choose between your leaving him and his leaving off privateering, he will hesitate in relinquishing the latter. You have, moreover, great weight with him, Mr. Elrington; my father is fully aware of the deep obligation he is under to your courage and self-devotion in the affair of the Jacobite refugees. You will, therefore, succeed, if you are firm; and, if you do succeed, you will have my gratitude, if that is of any importance to you; my friendship you know you have already.”
The entrance of Mr. Trevannion prevented my reply. We had been waiting for his return from a walk, and dinner had been ready some time. “I have just seen some of the men of the Arrow,” said Mr. Trevannion, taking off his hat and spencer, “and that detained me.”
“Has Captain Levee arrived, then, Sir?” said I.
“No; but he has sent in a prize—of no great value—laden with light wares. The men in charge tell me he has had a rough affair with a vessel armed en flute, and that he has lost some men. Your brother Philip, as usual, is wounded.”
I should here observe, that during the year which had passed away the two privateers had been several times in port—they had met with moderate success, barely sufficient to pay their expenses; my brother Philip had always conducted himself very gallantly, and had been twice wounded in different engagements.
“Well, Sir,” replied I, “I do not think that the loss of a little blood will do any harm to such a hot-headed youth as Master Philip; but I hope in a short time to give him an opportunity of shedding it in the service of the king, instead of in the pursuit of money. Indeed,” continued I, as I sat down to table, “the enemy are now so cautious, or have so few vessels on the high seas, that I fear your privateering account current will not be very favourable, when balanced, as it will be in a few days, notwithstanding this cargo of wares just arrived.”
“Then we must hope better for next year,” replied Mr. Trevannion. “Amy, my dear, have you been out to-day?”
“Yes, Sir; I was riding for two hours.”
“Have they altered your pillion yet?”
“Yes, Sir; it came home last night, and it is now very comfortable.”
“I called at Mrs. Carleton’s, who is much better. What a fop that Mr. Carleton is—I don’t know what scented powder he uses, but it perfumed the whole room. Had not Mrs. Carleton been such an invalid, I should have opened the window.”
Mr. Trevannion then turned the conversation to some political intelligence which he had just received, and this engaged us till the dinner was over, and I returned to the counting-house, where I found the men who had brought in the prize, and who gave me a letter from Philip, stating that his wound was of no consequence.
The communication of Mr. Trevannion took place, as his daughter had assured me it would, on the anniversary of my entering into Mr. Trevannion’s counting-house. After dinner, as we, as usual, were smoking our pipes, Mr. Trevannion said: “Elrington, you have been with me now one year, and during that time you have made yourself fully master of your business;—much to my surprise, I acknowledge, but still more to my satisfaction. That I have every reason to be satisfied with you, you may imagine, when I tell you that it is now my intention to take you into partnership, and I trust by my so doing that you will soon be an independent man. You know the capital in the business as well as I do. I did say an eighth, but I now propose to make ever to you one-fourth, and to allow your profits of every year (deducting your necessary expenses) to be invested in the business, until you have acquired a right to one half. Of future arrangements we will speak hereafter.”
“Mr. Trevannion,” replied it, “that I am truly grateful for such unexpected liberality I hardly need say, and you have my best thanks for your noble offer; but I have scruples which, I must confess, I cannot get over.”
“Scruples!” exclaimed Mr. Trevannion, laying down his pipe on the table. “Oh! I see now,” continued he, after a pause; “you think I am robbing my daughter. No, no, the labourer is worthy of his hire, and she will have more than sufficient. You carry your conscientiousness too far, my dear fellow; I have more than enough for Amy, out of the business altogether.”
“I am aware of that, Sir,” added I, “and I did not, therefore, refer to your daughter when I said that I had scruples. I must be candid with you, Sir. How is it that I am now in your employ?”
“Why, because you had a dislike to privateering, and I had a debt of gratitude to pay.”
“Exactly, Sir; but whether you had been pleased to employ me or not, I had made up my mind, as you well know, from conscientious motives, not to continue on board of a privateer.”
“Well, I grant that.”
“The same motives, Sir, will not allow me to be a sharer in the profits arising from such sources. I should consider myself equally wrong if I did so, as if I remained on board. Do not be angry with me, Sir,” continued I; “if I, with many thanks, decline your offer of being your partner, I will faithfully serve you upon any salary which you may consider I may merit, and trust to your liberality in everything.”
Mr. Trevannion made no reply; he had resumed his pipe, and continued to smoke it, with his eyes fixed upon the mantel-piece. As soon as his pipe was out, he rose, put on his hat, and walked out of the room, without making any further observation. I waited a few minutes, and then went back to the counting-house.
That Mr. Trevannion was seriously offended I was convinced; but I valued the good opinion of his daughter more than I did that of Mr. Trevannion; indeed, my feelings towards her had, during the year that I had been in the house, gradually become of that nature that they threatened much my peace of mind. I cannot say that I loved her in the usual acceptation of the term,—adoration would better express what I felt. She was so pure, so perfect, such a model of female perfection, that I looked up to her with a reverence which almost quelled any feeling of love. I felt that she was above me, and that, with her wealth, it would be madness for one in my present position to aspire to her. Yet with this feeling I would have sacrificed all my hopes and present advantages to have obtained her approving smiles. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at that I risked Mr. Trevannion’s displeasure to gain her approbation; and when I resumed my seat at my desk, and thought of what had passed, I made up my mind to be once more an outcast in the world rather than swerve from the promise which I had made to her. I knew Mr. Trevannion to be a very decided man, and hasty when offended. That he was seriously offended with me there was no doubt. I found that he had quitted the house immediately after he had left the room. I had hoped that he had gone to his daughter’s apartments, and that a conversation with her might have produced a good effect; but such was not the case.
In about half an hour Mr. Trevannion returned, and as he walked into the back room adjoining the counting-house, he desired me to follow him. I did so. “Mr. Elrington,” said he, sitting down, and leaving me standing at the table, “I fear, after what has passed, that we shall not continue on good terms. You have reproached me, an old man, with carrying on an unlawful business; in short, in raising your own scruples and talking of your own conscience, you have implied that I am acting contrary to what conscience should dictate. In short, you have told me, by implication, that I am not an honest man. You have thrown back in my face my liberal offer. My wish to oblige you has been treated not only with indifference, but I may add with contumely;—and that merely because you have formed some absurd notions of right and wrong in which you will find no one to agree with you, except, perhaps, priests and women. I wish you well, Mr. Elrington, nevertheless. I am truly sorry for your infatuation, and wished to have served you, but you will not be assisted by me.”
Here Mr. Trevannion paused, but I made no reply. After a time, wiping the perspiration from his forehead with his handkerchief, for he evidently was in a state of great excitement, he continued:
“As you do not choose to join me from conscientious scruples, I cannot but imagine that you do not like to serve me from similar motives, for I see little difference between the two (and here, Madam, there was some force in his observation, but it never occurred to me before); at all events, without weighing your scruples so exactly as to know how far they may or may not extend, I feel that we are not likely to get on pleasantly together. I shall always think that I am reproached by you when anything is said connected with the privateers, and you may have twinges of conscience which may be disagreeable to you. Let us, therefore, part quietly. For your services up to the present, and to assist you in any other engagements you may enter on, take this—”
“I wish you well, Mr. Elrington, but I sincerely wish that we had never met.”
Mr. Trevannion then rose abruptly, and, before I could make my reply, brushed past me, went out at the door, and again walked away at a rapid pace down the street. I remained where I stood; my eyes had followed him as he went away. I was completely surprised. I anticipated much anger, much altercation; but I never had an idea that he would be so unjust as to throw off in this way one who for his sake had gone through a heavy trial and come out with honour. My heart was full of bitterness. I felt that Mr. Trevannion had treated me with harshness and ingratitude.
“Alas!” thought I, “such is the world, and such will ever be the case with such imperfect beings as we are. How vain to expect anything like consistency, much less perfection, in our erring natures! Hurt but the self-love of a man, wound his vanity, and all obligations are forgotten.”
I turned away from the bag of money, which I was resolved not to accept, although I had not at the time twenty guineas at my own disposal. It was now within half an hour of dark; I collected all my books, put some in the iron safe, others as usual in my desk, and having arranged everything as completely as I could, I locked the safe, and enclosed the keys in a parcel, which I sealed. Putting Mr. Trevannion’s name on the outside, I laid the parcel on the table in the room where we had had our conference, by the side of the bag of money.
It was now dark, or nearly so, and leaving the confidential porter, as usual, to shut up the house, I went up to the sitting-room with the expectation of seeing Miss Trevannion, and bidding her farewell. I was not disappointed; I found her at her netting, having just lighted the lamp which hung over the table.
“Miss Trevannion,” said I, advancing respectfully towards her, “I have fulfilled my promise, and I have received my reward,”—she looked up at me—“which is, I am dismissed from this house and your presence for ever.”
“I trust,” said she, after a pause, “that you have not exceeded my wishes. It appears to me so strange, that I must think that such is the case. My father never could have dismissed you in this way for merely expressing an opinion, Mr. Elrington. You must have gone too far.”
“Miss Trevannion, when you meet your father, you can then ascertain whether I have been guilty of intemperance or rudeness, or a proper want of respect in making the communication,—which I did in exactly the manner you yourself proposed, and my reward has been such as I state.”
“You have a better reward, Mr. Elrington, if what you assert is really correct; you have the reward of having done your duty; but I cannot imagine that your dismissal has arisen from the mere expression of an opinion. You’ll excuse me, Mr. Elrington, that, as a daughter, I cannot, in justice to a much-respected father, believe that such is the case.”
This was said in so cold a manner, that I was nettled to the highest degree. Miss Trevannion had promised me her gratitude, instead of which I felt that she was doubting my word, and, as it were, taking the side of her father against me. And this was the return from her. I could have upbraided her, and told her what I felt; namely, that she had taken advantage of my feelings towards her to make me a cat’s-paw to obtain her end with her father; and that now, having failed, I was left to my fate, without even commiseration; but she looked so calm, so grave, and so beautiful, that I could not do it. I commanded my wounded feelings, and replied:
“Since I have the misfortune to meet the displeasure of the daughter as well as of the father, Miss Trevannion, I have not another word to say, but farewell, and may you prosper.”
My voice faltered as I said the last words, and, bowing to her, I quitted the room. Miss Trevannion did not even say farewell to me, but I thought that her lips appeared to move, as quitting the room I took my last look upon her beautiful face. I shut the door after me, and, overpowered by my feelings, I sank upon a settee in the ante-room, in a state of giddy stupor. I know not how long I remained there, for my head turned and my senses reeled; but I was aroused from it by the heavy tread of Mr. Trevannion, who came along the corridor without a light, and not perceiving me opened the door of the sitting-room where his daughter still remained. He threw the door to after he had entered, but it did not quite close, leaving a narrow stream of light through the ante-room.
“Father,” said Miss Trevannion in my hearing, “you look warm and excited.”
“I have reason so to be,” replied Mr. Trevannion, abruptly.
“I have heard from Mr. Elrington the cause of it,” replied Miss Trevannion; “that is, I have heard his version of it. I am glad that you have come back, as I am most anxious to hear yours. What has Mr. Elrington said or done to cause such irritation and his dismissal?”
“He has behaved with insolence and ingratitude,” replied Mr. Trevannion; “I offered him partnership, and he refused, unless I would give up privateering.”
“So he stated; but in what manner was he insolent to you?”
“Insolent!—told me that he acted from conscientious motives, which was as much as to say that I did not.”
“Was his language very offensive?”
“No, not his language—that was respectful enough; but it was the very respect which made it insolent. So I told him that as he could not, from scruples of conscience, join me in privateering, of course his scruples of conscience could not allow him to keep the books, and I dismissed him.”
“Do you mean to say, my dear father, that he, in a respectful manner, declined entering into partnership from these scruples which you mention; that he gave you no other offence than expressing his opinion, and declining your offer?”
“And what would you have more?” replied Mr. Trevannion.
“I wish to know where was the insult, the ingratitude, on his part which you complain of?”
“Simply in refusing the offer. He ought to have felt grateful, and he was not; and he had no right to give such reasons as he did; for the reasons were condemning my actions. But you women cannot understand these things.”
“I rather think, my dear father, that we cannot; for I cannot perceive either the insult or the ingratitude which you complain of, and such I think will be your own opinion when you have had time to reflect, and are more cool. Mr. Elrington expressed nothing more to-day, when he stated his dislike to privateering from conscientious motives, than he did after his return from his confinement in the Tower, when he gave up the command of the privateer on those very grounds; and then, when still warm with gratitude to him for his self-devotion, you did not consider it an insult, but, on the contrary, took him still nearer to you into your own house. Why, then, should you consider it an insult now? Neither can I see any ingratitude. You made him an offer, the value of which, in a worldly point of view, he could not but appreciate, and he declined it from conscientious motives; declined it, as you acknowledge, respectfully; proving that he was ready to sacrifice his worldly interests to what he considered his duty as a Christian. When Mr. Elrington told me that you had dismissed him, I felt so certain that he must have been guilty of some unpardonable conduct towards you to have induced you to have resorted to such a step, that I did not credit him when he asserted the contrary. I could not believe, as a daughter, anything so much to the prejudice of my own father, and so much at variance with his general conduct. I now feel that I have been most unjust to Mr. Elrington, and conducted myself towards him in a way which I bitterly regret, and hope by some means to be able to express my contrition for—”
“Amy—Amy,” said Mr. Trevannion, severely, “are you blinded by regard for this young man, that you side against your own father? Am I to understand that you have given your affections without my sanction or approval?”
“No, Sir,” replied Miss Trevannion; “that I do respect and regard Mr. Elrington is true, and I cannot do otherwise for his many good qualities and his devotion towards you; but if you would ask me if I love him, I reply that such a thought has not yet entered my head. Without a knowledge of who he is, or his family, and without your approval, I should never think of yielding up my affections in so hasty a manner; but I may say more: these affections have never been solicited by Mr. Elrington. He has always behaved towards me with that respect, which, as the daughter of his patron, I have had a right to expect; but in no instance has he ever signified to me that he had any preference in my favour. Having assured you of this, my dear father, I cannot but say that I consider that he has, in this instance, not only been treated with injustice by you, but also by me.”
“Say no more,” replied Mr. Trevannion. As he said this, I heard footsteps in the passage, and was about to retreat to my own room; but, as the party came without a light, I remained. It was the porter, who knocked at the sitting-room door, and was requested to come in by Mr. Trevannion.
“If you please, Sir, Mr. Elrington is gone out, I believe, and I found this packet directed to you on the table of the inner room, and also this bag of money, which I suppose you forgot to put away before you left.”
“Very well, Humphrey, leave them on the table.”
The man did so, and quitted the room, not perceiving me in the dark as he passed through the ante-room.
“He has not taken the money,” observed Mr. Trevannion. “He might have done so, as he ought to be paid for his services.”
“I presume, my dear father, that his feelings were too much hurt by what passed,” said Miss Trevannion. “There are obligations which cannot be repaid with gold.”
“These, I perceive, are the keys of the safe; I did not think that he would have gone away this night.”
I now considered it high time to quit the ante-room, where I had been irresistibly detained by the conversation which took place. I hastened to my own chamber, determined that I would leave the house the next morning before any one was stirring. I gained it in the dark, but, having the means of striking a light, I did so, and packed up all my clothes ready for my departure. I had just fastened down my valise, when I perceived a light on the further end of the long corridor which led to my apartment. Thinking it might be Mr. Trevannion, and not wishing to see him, I blew out my own light and retreated to a small dressing-room, within my chamber, communicating by a glass door. The light evidently approached, and at last I perceived the party was entering my room, the door of which was wide open. It was Miss Trevannion who entered, and, turning round with her chamber-light in her hand, appeared to survey the apartment with a mournful air. She perceived my valise, and her eyes were fixed upon it for some time; at last she walked up to the dressing-table, and, sitting on the stool before it, leant down her head upon her hands and wept.
“Alas!” thought I, “if those tears were but for me; but it is not so—she has been excited, and her tears have come to her relief.”
After a time she raised her head from the table, and said, “How unjust have I been—and I shall see him no more!—if I could but beg his pardon, I should be more happy. Poor fellow!—what must he have felt at my harsh bearing. Oh! My father, I could not have believed it. And what did I say?—that I had no feeling for—well, I thought so at the time, but now—I am not quite sure that I was correct, though he—well, it’s better that he’s gone—but I cannot bear that he should have gone as he has done. How his opinion of me must have changed! That is what vexes me—” and again she bent her head down on the table and wept.
In a moment she again rose, and took her candle in her hand. Perceiving on the dressing-table a small gold ring which I had taken off my finger the day before, and had forgotten, she took it up and examined it. After a little while she laid her light down on the table, and put the ring upon her finger.
“I will keep it till I see him again,” murmured she; and then taking her light she walked slowly out of the room.
The knowledge I had gained by this unintentional eaves-dropping on my part, was the source of much reflection; and as I lay on the bed without taking off my clothes, it occupied my thoughts till the day began to break. That I still retained the good opinion of Miss Trevannion was certain, and the mortification I had endured at our final interview was now wholly removed. It was her duty to suppose her parent not in fault till the contrary was proved. She had known her father for years—me she had only known for a short time—and never before had she known him guilty of injustice. But her expressions and her behaviour in my room—was it possible that she was partial to me, more partial than she had asserted to her father when she was questioned?—and her taking away the ring!
- A rather baldly stated assurance from M. Trevannion that the war, or some war, would last indefinitely
- Probably should read "make over to you
- How he reconciles this with the salary he is paid is not known
- Coins with the portait of, interestingly enough, King James
- 312½ pounds, or 42,041.25 GBP
- 21 pounds, or 2,825.17 GBP
- What exactly he means by this...
- What he means here isn't obvious either. He got there in the dark, but with a light?