Memorable Day by
Miss Tillotson's grey parrot had called Clarissa a dozen times at
least, and was listening with his cunning head on one side for
footsteps on the stairs. Breakfast was ready; an urn, shaped something
like a sepulchral monument, was steaming on the table, and near it
stood an old china jar filled with monthly roses. It was a warm, bright
morningthat twenty-ninth of August in the year 1782. The windows at
each end of the room were wide open, but scarcely a breath of air
wandered in, or stirred the lilac bushes in the garden. For the
Tillotsons' house could boast of a respectable strip of ground,
although it stood in a street in Portsea.
At a quarter past eight Clarissa Tillotson came downstairs, and
entered the room with a quick, firm step, taking no notice of the
parrot's salutation. She was a tall, fair girl of nineteen; her hair,
worn according to the fashion of that period, in short curls, was
almost flaxen; her eyes were clear blue, her features regular, and, but
for a certain hardness and sternness about the mouth, she might have
been pronounced beautiful. She was dressed in a short-waisted gown of
white muslin, with a blue girdle; her bodice was cut square, leaving
her neck uncovered; her tight sleeves reached to the wrists. The gown
was so scanty, and the skirt clung so closely to her figure, that it
made her appear even taller than she really was. And at this day, on
the wall of a modern London mansion, Clarissa's grandchildren and
great-grandchildren behold her in a tarnished gilt frame, habited in
the very costume which she wore on that memorable morning.
Good-morning, Anthony, she said stiffly, as a young man, two years
older than herself, made his appearance.
Good-morning, sister, he answered in a cheery tone, drawing a step
nearer as if he meant to give her a kiss. But Clarissa drew up her
stately figure to its full height, and turned quickly to the table.
Her brother coloured with annoyance. There had been a quarrel
between them on the preceding day, and Anthony was willing to make the
first advance towards reconciliation. But he saw that Clarissa intended
to keep him at a distance, and he knew the obstinacy of her nature too
well to renew his attempt. He took his seat with a sigh, thinking how
bright the home-life would be if the cloud of her unyielding temper did
not too frequently darken the domestic sunshine.
I find that father is not well enough to come down yet, he said at
last, breaking an awkward silence. He means to leave his room this
Dr. Vale charged him to be very cautious, rejoined Clarissa.
These young people were motherless; the daughter reigned as mistress
of her father's house, acknowledging no control save his, and that was
of the mildest kind. Captain Tillotson was the most indulgent of
parents; his wife had died while Clarissa was still too young to
realize her loss, and the child had been entirely left to the care of
an old servant, who allowed her to have her own way in all things. At
school she had been forced to submit to discipline; but her strong will
was never conquered, and she generally contrived to gain an ascendency
over her companions. Having retired from long and honourable service in
the Royal Navy, the captain settled himself at home, to pass his old
age in peace; and Clarissa proved herself an affectionate daughter. But
Anthony was scarcely so easy to manage as her father; to him, his
sister's word was not always law, and she sometimes found herself
If I give in, thought she, going over the before-mentioned
quarrel, he will think that he has got the mastery. No; I will treat
him with marked coldness until he makes an apology.
Thoroughly chilled by her frigid tone and manner, Anthony made few
efforts to sustain the conversation. Breakfast was finished in silence,
and he rose rather hastily from his seat at the table.
I am going on board the Royal George this morning, he said,
moving towards the door. If my father asks for me, Clarissa, please
tell him that I wanted to say a few words to Lieutenant Holloway. He
will have to sail again shortly.
Very well, replied Clarissa, indifferently.
The hall-door closed behind him, and she rung the bell to have the
breakfast-table cleared. Then the sunshine tempted her to saunter into
the garden, and gather a bunch of sweet lavender, but from some
unexplained cause her mind was ill at ease. She could take no pleasure
in her flowers; no interest in the vine which had been her especial
care; and she returned to the house, determined to spend the morning at
her worsted-work. Seating herself near the open window, she drew her
frame towards her, and arranged her crewels. The shining needle darted
in and out, and she was soon deeply absorbed in her occupation.
Every piece of work has a history of its own; and this quaint
representation of the woman of Samaria was fated to be of great
interest to succeeding generations. But the busy worker little guessed
what memories would hereafter cling to that morning's labour, nor
dreamed that some day those very stitches would remind her of the
darkest hours in her life.
She worked on until the old clock in the hall struck ten; and at the
same moment a sudden gust of wind swept through the room, strewing the
table with petals from the over-blown roses in the jar, and blowing
Clarissa's curls about her head. It was a welcome breeze, coming as it
did after the sultry stillness, and she stood up between the two
windows to enjoy the draught. Then, after pacing the long room to and
fro for awhile, she sat down to her frame again, and began to think
about her brother Anthony.
Had she been quite right after all? Would it not have been well to
have received that kiss of peace? Was it such a very meritorious thing
to hold out until her adversary had humbled himself before her? Even if
the apology were made, would it not be rather a poor victoryone of
those conquests which degrade instead of exalting the conqueror?
Anthony was a noble fellow, a brother of whom most girls would be
proud. His only fault was that determination to maintain his own
opinion; but was that indeed a fault? She worked faster, and almost
decided that it was not.
So busy was her brain that time flew by unheeded, and she started to
hear the clock striking one. Scarcely had the stroke died away, when a
shrill cry came ringing through the quiet street, driving the colour
out of her face in an instant. Springing up from her chair, she hurried
to the window that overlooked the pavement, and saw that people had
come to their doors with dismayed faces, for a woman was standing on
the causeway, raising that terrible wail.
It's all trueit's all true! she shrieked. The Royal George
has gone down at Spithead.
The two maid-servants rushed upstairs in affright, for the cry had
reached their ears. The captain heard it in his room overhead, and came
down in his dressing-gown and slippers; but his daughter scarcely
stayed to exchange a word with him. Mechanically seizing the garden-hat
and shawl that hung in the hall, she put them on, and ran out into the
street, setting off at full speed for the dockyard gates. Could it be
true? Alas! the news was confirmed before she reached her destination,
and the first wail was but the herald of many others. Even in that hour
of universal distress and consternation people took note of the tall,
fair young lady whose face and lips were as white as the dress she
The Royal George had lately arrived at Spithead after a
cruise, and on that fatal morning she was undergoing the operation
known as a parliament heel. The sea was smooth and the weather still,
and the business was begun early in the morning, a number of men from
Portsmouth dockyard going on board to assist the ship's carpenters. It
was found necessary, it is said, to strip off more of the sheathing
than had been intended; and the men, eager to reach the defect in the
ship's bottom, were induced to heel her too much. Then indeed the
land-breeze shook her shrouds, throwing her wholly on one side; the
cannon rolled over to the side depressed; the water rushed in; and the
gallant ship met her doom. Such was the story, told in hurried and
broken words, that Clarissa heard from the pale lips of an old seaman;
but he could give no other tidings. The boats of the fleet had put off
to the rescue; that was all he could tell.
There was no hope in Clarissa's heart as she turned her steps
homewards. Anthony had gone downgone down with Admiral Kempenfeldt
and his eight hundred. The same breeze that had scattered the
rose-petals and played with her curls had a deadlier mission to
perform. She remembered how she had stood rejoicing in that sudden gust
of cool wind, and the thought turned her faint and sick as she reached
her father's house.
Clarissa, cried the captain, meeting her at the door, what is all
this? Surely it can't be true. Where's Anthony?
Ay, where was Anthony? She threw her arms round the old man's neck,
and hid her eyes upon his shoulder that she might not see his face.
Fatherdear father! He said he was going to see Lieutenant
Holloway on board
She could not finish her sentence, and there was no need of more
words. Captain Tillotson was a brave man; he had faced death many a
time without flinching, but this was a blow which he was wholly
unprepared to meet. Putting his daughter gently aside, he sat down on a
sofa, and looked straight before him with that terrible blank look that
tells its own tale of a stroke that has crushed out all strength. The
servants, glancing from the father to the daughter, saw that on both
faces this sudden sorrow had done the work of years. What was time? Was
it months or minutes ago that the first cry had sounded through the
If I had only kissed him! Clarissa did not know that she was
saying the words aloud. To her, indeed, this cup was doubly bitter, for
it was mingled with the gall of remorse. But for that hard nature of
hers, she might have had the sweetness of a kind parting to think upon.
Had he forgiven her, in his loving heart, while the great ship was
going down, and the water was taking away his life? Ah, she might never
know that, until the cruel sea gave up its dead.
There was a noise of wheels in the street; but what were noises to
her? The sound drew nearer; the wheels stopped at the door, but it
could be only some friend, who had come in haste to tell them the bad
news which they knew already.
Battered, and bruised, and dripping with water, a man descended from
the hackney coach, and Clarissa started up.
The face was so pale, the whole aspect so strange, that she could
not receive the great truth all at once. It was not until he entered
the room, and knelt down, wet and trembling as he was, at his father's
feet, that she realized her brother's safety.
Anthony had been on the upper deck when the ship sank, and was among
that small number who escaped death. All those who were between decks
shared the fate of the great Admiral who went down with his sword in
its sheath, and ended his threescore years and ten of hard service, in
sight of shore. The many were taken, the few left; but although
hundreds of homes were made desolate that day, there were some from
whence the strain of thanksgiving ascended, tempered by the national
People were wont to say afterwards that Clarissa never again looked
so young and fair as she did before the blow fell. But if that day's
agony robbed her of her bloom, it left with her the meek and quiet
spirit which never comes to some of us until it is gained through a