IN WHICH OUR HERO SEES A LITTLE MORE SERVICE, AND IS BETTER EMPLOYED THAN IN FIGHTING DON SILVIO
But before they met the governor at his table, a sloop of war arrived from the fleet with despatches from the commander-in-chief. Those to Captain Wilson required him to make all possible haste in fitting, and then to proceed and cruise off Corsica, to fall in with a Russian frigate which was on that coast; if not there, to obtain intelligence, and to follow her wherever she might be.
All was now bustle and activity on board of the Aurora. Captain Wilson, with our hero and Gascoigne, quitted the governors house and repaired on board, where they remained day and night. On the third day the Aurora was complete and ready for sea, and about noon sailed out of Valette harbour.
In a week the Aurora had gained the coast of Corsica, and there was no need of sending look-out men to the mast-head, for one of the officers or midshipmen was there from daylight to dark. She ran up the coast to the northward without seeing the object of her pursuit, or obtaining any intelligence.
Calms and light airs detained them for a few days, when a northerly breeze enabled them to run down the eastern side of the island. It was on the 18th day after they had quitted Malta, that a large vessel was seen ahead about eighteen miles off. The men were then at breakfast.
A frigate, Captain Wilson, Im sure of it, said Mr. Hawkins the chaplain, whose anxiety induced him to go to the mast-head.
How is she steering?
The same way as we are.
The Aurora was under all possible sail, and when the hands were piped to dinner, it was thought that they had neared the chase about two miles.
This will be a long chase; a stern chase always is, observed Martin to Gascoigne.
Yes, Im afraid sobut Im more afraid of her escaping.
Thats not unlikely either, replied the mate.
You are one of Jobs comforters, Martin, replied Gascoigne.
Then Im not so often disappointed, replied the mate. There are two points to be ascertained: the first is, whether we shall come up with the vessel or lose her; the next is, if we do come up with her, whether she is the vessel we are looking for.
You seem very indifferent about it.
Indeed I am not: I am the oldest passed midshipman in the ship, and the taking of the frigate will, if I live, give me my promotion, and if Im killed, I shant want it. But Ive been so often disappointed, that I now make sure of nothing until I have it.
Well, for your sake, Martin, I will still hope that the vessel is the one we seek, that we shall not be killed, and that you will gain your promotion.
I thank you, EasyI wish I was one that dared hope as you do.
Poor Martin! he had long felt how bitter it was to meet disappointment upon disappointment. How true it is, that hope deferred maketh the heart sick! and his anticipations of early days, the buoyant calculations of youth, had been one by one crushed, and now having served his time nearly three times over, the
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