He came aboard with his officers at midnight, and accosted me politely, saying he had received orders to treat me with distinction. I thanked him cordially, and introduced my wife to him, whom he greeted respectfully, saying he was delighted to have such a charming passenger, who would doubtless give us a fortunate voyage. He was too polite to be astonished that the minister had made no mention of the count's wife in his letter.
"We got to the frigate in less than an hour; she was three leagues from land, and as soon as we got on board the captain ordered the men to set sail. He took us to a room which was extremely comfortable, considering it was only a cabin, and after doing the honours left us to ourselves.
"When we were alone we thanked Heaven that everything had gone off so well, and far from going to sleep we spent the night in discussing the bold step we had taken, or rather, only just begun to take; however, we hoped it would have as fortunate an ending as beginning. When the day dawned our hearts were gladdened because Lisbon was no longer in sight, and as we were in need of rest I laid down on a seat, while the count got into a hammock, neither of us troubling to undress.
"We were just falling asleep, when we began to feel the approach of sea-sickness, and for three days we knew no peace.
"On the fourth day, scarcely being able to stand upright for weakness, we began to be hungry, and had to exercise a careful moderation, so as not to become seriously ill. Happily for us the captain had a store of good food, and our meals were delicate and well-served.
"My lover, whose sickness has been more severe than mine, used this as a pretext for not leaving his room. The captain only came to see us once; this must have been out of extreme politeness, for in Portugal one may be jealous and yet not ridiculous. As for me, I stood upon the bridge nearly all day; the fresh air did me good, and I amused myself by scanning the horizon with my telescope.
"The seventh day of the voyage my heart trembled as with a presentiment of misfortune, when the sailors said that a vessel which could be seen in the distance was a corvette which was due to sail a day after us, but being a swift sailor would probably reach England two or three days before us.
"Though the voyage from Lisbon to England is a long one we had a fair wind all the way, and in fourteen days we dropped anchor at day-break in the port of Plymouth.
"The officer sent ashore by the captain to ask leave to disembark passengers came on board in the evening with several letters. One the captain read with peculiar attention, and then called me to one side and said,
"'This letter comes from Count Oeiras, and enjoins me, on my life, not to let any Portuguese young lady land, unless she be known to me. I am to take her back to Lisbon after having executed my various commissions. There is neither wife nor maid on my frigate, except the countess your wife. If you can prove that she is really your wife she may land with you; otherwise, you see, I cannot disobey the minister's orders.'
"'She is my wife,' I said, coolly; 'but as I could not foresee this accident I have no papers to prove the fact.'
"'I am sorry to hear it, as in that case she must go back to Lisbon. You may be sure I will treat her with all possible respect.'
"'But a wife may not be parted from her husband.'
"'Quite so, but I cannot disobey orders. If you like you can return to Lisbon in the corvette; you will be there before us.'
"'Why cannot I return in this frigate?
"'Because I have distinct orders to put you on land. And now I come to think of it, how was it that there was not a word about your wife in the letter you gave me when we started? If the lady is not the person meant by the minister, you may be sure she will be sent back to join you in London.'
"'You will allow me to go and speak to her?
"'Certainly, but in my presence.'
"My heart was broken; nevertheless, I had to put a good face on the losing game I was playing.