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THE HONOURABLE FREDERIC WALPOLE, R.N.,
AND TO CAPTAIN
SIR WILLIAM HOSTE, BART, R.N.,
AS SAILORS, AND DEAR RELATIVES,
bounds of endurance, and called forth hard words and severe looks from others in the ship, his indulgent smile, and kind excuse were ever ready
“There's a great noise below there, Mr. St. Clair,” the Captain would exclaim.
Young spirits, Sir, young spirits; all the better when work comes,” would be the kindhearted answer.
Yet when in passing along the decks, his “Have a care, young gentlemen,” was heard, it was invariably treated with respect; and the " Ay, ay, Sir," was never more cheerfully returned than to him ; while quiet would be for a moment restored.
The light-hearted beings over whom he exercised this "mild control,” used among themselves to call him “St. John St. Clair,” John being one of his Christian names; but the appellation was given in all kindliness, for he was greatly beloved; and the strong religious opinions which suggested the name, bringing with them no harshness, were tolerated for his sake, and in many instances indeed, became, through him, reverenced for their own.
Under circumstances of less intolerable suffer
ing, Henry Ashton would often have gladly conversed with him; but it was impossible for him to talk much on indifferent subjects; and the source of his affliction was one which he could lay open to no human eye, nor could he seek comfort under it from any human voice. Scarcely indeed to Heaven could he, at that distressful time, look for consolation, “Il était triste de la tristesse, qui était alors le fond de sa vie,” and all his energies seemed gone.
After cruising about for some time, the ship touched at Malta ; and when there, Mr. St. Clair received a letter from a friend of his who had formerly sailed with Henry Ashton, and who made particular inquiries after him, asking if he were still the life of the crew as he had formerly been. Surprised at receiving a character of him so unlike what his present appearance warranted, Mr. St. Clair watched him more closely; and he soon became convinced that it was trouble of heart which had converted the once gay and high-spirited young sailor, into the silent, melancholy being who then trod the deck with so abstracted an air. This conviction aroused all his kindly feelings, and made him anxious, if possible, to assuage the sorrow of so young a heart.
When Henry's turn therefore came for keeping the first watch, he lingered some time on deck, waiting for an opportunity of quiet conversation with him. Henry, unaware of his object, took no notice of him ; but continued his monotonous walk up and down in silence; till at length, full of his own sad thoughts, he stopped, and leant over the gangway, his face buried on his arm. A strong, but kind hand laid on his shoulder, soon roused him from his reverie. He started, and was rather surprised at finding it was Mr. St. Clair's ; for he had scarcely exchanged a syllable with him, excepting on matters of duty, since he had been on board. “ These night scenes
waken melancholy thoughts, Mr. Ashton,” said the First Lieutenant.
“Not more so than sunshine,” replied Henry, gloomily.
“Not if we like holding silent communion with the Father of our spirits,” said Mr. St. Clair; “ but otherwise darkness is generally felt to be a dreary thing."