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When he had thoroughly recovered himself
and had joined me on the beach, his warm
Southern nature broke through all artificial
English restraints, in a moment. He
overwhelmed me with the wildest expressions of
affectionexclaimed passionately, in his
exaggerated Italian way, that he would hold his
life, henceforth, at my disposaland declared
that he should never be happy again, until he
had found an opportunity of proving his gratitude
by rendering me some service which I
might remember, on my side, to the end of my
days. I did my best to stop the torrent of his
tears and protestations, by persisting in treating
the whole adventure as a good subject for
a joke; and succeeded at last, as I imagined, in
lessening Pesca's overwhelming sense of obligation
to me. Little did I think thenlittle did
I think afterwards when our pleasant Brighton
holiday had drawn to an endthat the
opportunity of serving me for which my grateful
companion so ardently longed, was soon to come;
that he was eagerly to seize it on the instant;
and that, by so doing, he was to turn the whole
current of my existence into a new channel, and
to alter me to myself almost past recognition.

Yet, so it was. If I had not dived for
Professor Pesca, when he lay under water on his
shingle bed, I should, in all human probability,
never have been connected with the story which
these pages will relateI should never, perhaps,
have heard even the name of the woman, who
has lived in all my thoughts, who has possessed
herself of all my energies, who has become the
one guiding influence that now directs the
purpose of my life.


PESCA'S face and manner, on the evening
when we confronted each other at my mother's
gate, were more than sufficient to inform me
that something extraordinary had happened. It
was quite useless, however, to ask him for an
immediate explanation. I could only conjecture,
while he was dragging me in by both hands,
that (knowing my habits) he had come to the
cottage to make sure of meeting me that night,
and that he had some news to tell of an unusually
agreeable kind.

We both bounced into the parlour in a highly
abrupt and undignified manner. My mother
sat by the open window, laughing and fanning
herself. Pesca was one of her especial favourites;
and his wildest eccentricities were always
pardonable in her eyes. Poor dear soul! from
the first moment when she found out that the
little Professor was deeply and gratefully
attached to her son, she opened her heart to him
unreservedly, and took all his puzzling foreign
peculiarities for granted, without so much as
attempting to understand any one of them.

My sister Sarah, with all the advantages of
youth, was, strangely enough, less pliable. She
did full justice to Pesca's excellent qualities of
heart; but she could not accept him implicitly,
as my mother accepted him, for my sake. Her
insular notions of propriety rose in perpetual
revolt against Pesca's constitutional contempt
for appearances; and she was always more or
less undisguisedly astonished at her mother's
familiarity with the eccentric little foreigner.
I have observed, not only in my sister's case,
but in the instances of others, that we of the
young generation are nothing like so hearty and
so impulsive as some of our elders. I constantly
see old people flushed and excited by the
prospect of some anticipated pleasure which
altogether fails to ruffle the tranquillity of their
serene grandchildren. Are we, I wonder, quite
such genuine boys and girls now as our seniors
were, in their time? Has the great advance in
education taken rather too long a stride; and
are we, in these modern days, just the least
trifle in the world too well brought up?

Without attempting to answer those questions
decisively, I may at least record that I never
saw my mother and my sister together in Pesca's
society, without finding my mother much the
younger woman of the two. On this occasion,
for example, while the old lady was laughing
heartily over the boyish manner in which we
tumbled into the parlour, Sarah was perturbedly
picking up the broken pieces of a teacup, which
the Professor had knocked off the table in his
precipitate advance to meet me at the door.

"I don't know what would have happened,
Walter," said my mother, "if you had delayed
much longer. Pesca has been half-mad with
impatience; and I have been half-mad with
curiosity. The Professor has brought some
wonderful news with him, in which he says you
are concerned; and he has cruelly refused to
give us the smallest hint of it till his friend
Walter appeared."

"Very provoking: it spoils the Set,"
murmured Sarah to herself, mournfully absorbed
over the ruins of the broken cup.

While these words were being spoken, Pesca,
happily and fussily unconscious of the irreparable
wrong which the crockery had suffered at
his hands, was dragging a large arm-chair to the
opposite end of the room, so as to command us
all three, in the character of a public speaker
addressing an audience. Having turned the
chair with its back towards us, he jumped into
it on his knees, and excitably addressed his small
congregation of three from an impromptu

"Now, my good dears," began Pesca (who
always said "good dears," when he meant
"worthy friends"), "listen to me. The time
has comeI recite my good newsI speak at

"Hear, hear!" said my mother, humouring
the joke.

"The next thing he will break, mamma,"
whispered Sarah, "will be the back of the
best arm-chair."

"I go back into my life, and I address myself
to the noblest of created beings," continued
Pesca, vehemently apostrophising my unworthy
self, over the top rail of the chair. "Who found
me dead at the bottom of the sea (through Cramp);
and who pulled me up to the top; and what did I

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