A Marriage at Sea
by W. Clark Russell
THE RUE DE
CHAPTER II. THE
CHAPTER III. AT
SWEETHEARTS IN A
CHAPTER V. DIRTY
SWEETHEARTS IN A
CHAPTER VII. THE
CHAPTER IX. WE
CHAPTER X. A
CHAPTER XII. A
MARRIAGE AT SEA
CHAPTER XV. THE
CHAPTER I. THE RUE DE MAQUETRA
My dandy-rigged yacht, the Spitfire, of twenty-six tons, lay
in Boulogne harbour, hidden in the deep shadow of the wall against
which she floated. It was a breathless night, dark despite the wide
spread of cloudless sky that was brilliant with stars. It was hard upon
the hour of midnight, and low down where we lay we heard but dimly such
sounds of life as was still abroad in the Boulogne streets. Ahead of us
loomed the shadow of a double-funnelled steameran inky dye of
scarcely determinable proportions upon the black and silent waters of
the harbour. The Capécure pier made a faint, phantom-like line of gloom
as it ran seawards on our left, with here and there a lump of shadow
denoting some collier fast to the skeleton timbers.
The stillness was impressive; from the sands came a dull and distant
moan of surf; the dim strains of a concertina threaded the hush which
seemed to dwell like something material upon the black, vague shape of
a large brig almost directly abreast of us. We were waiting for the
hour of midnight to strike and our ears were strained.
What noise is that? I exclaimed.
The dip of sweeps, sir, answered my captain, Aaron Caudel; some
smack a-coming alongay, there she is, and he shadowily pointed to a
dark, square heap betwixt the piers, softly approaching to the impulse
of her long oars, the rhythmic grind of which in the thole-pins made a
strange, wild ocean music of the far-off roar of the surf, and the sob
of water alongside, and the delicate wash of the tide in the green
piles and timbers of the two long, narrow, quaint old piers.
How is your pluck now, Caudel? said I in a low voice, sending a
glance up at the dark edge of the harbour-wall above us, where stood
the motionless figure of a douanier, with a button or two of his
uniform faintly glimmering to the gleam of a lamp near him.
Right for the job, sirright as your honour could desire it.
There's but one consideration which ain't like a feeling of
sartintyand that I must say consarns the dawg.
Smother the dog! But you are right, Caudel. We must leave our boots
in the ditch.
Ain't there plenty of grass, sir? said he.
I hope so; but a fathom of gravel will so crunch under those hoofs
of yours that the very dead buried beneath might turn in their
coffinslet alone a live dog wide awake from the end of his beastly
cold snout to the tip of his tail. Does the ladder chafe you?
No, sir. Makes me feel a bit asthmatic-like, and if them duniers
get a sight of me they'll reckon I've visited the Continent to make a
show of myself, he exclaimed, with a low, deep-sea laugh, whilst he
spread his hands upon his breast, around which, under cover of a large,
loose, long pea-coat, he had coiled a length of rope-ladder with two
iron hooks at one end of it, which made a hump under either
shoulder-blade. There was no other way, however, of conveying the
ladder ashore. In the hand it would instantly have challenged
attention, and a bag would have been equally an object of curiosity to
the two or three Custom-House phantoms flitting about in
triangular-shaped trousers and shako-like headgear.
There goes midnight, sir! cried Caudel.
As I listened to the chimes a sudden fit of excitement set me
Are ye there, Job? called my captain.
Ay, sir, responded a voice from the bows of the yacht.
Here, sir, answered a second voice out of the darkness forward.
Here, sir, responded the squeaky note of a boy.
Lay aft all you ship's company and don't make no noise, growled
I looked up; the figure of the douanier had vanished. The
three men and the boy came sneaking out of the yacht's head.
Now, what ye've got to do, said Caudel, is to keep awake. You'll
see all ready for hoisting and gitting away the hinstant Mr. Barclay
and me arrives aboard. You onderstand that?
It's good English, cap'n, said one of the sailors.
No skylarking, mind. You're a listening, Bobby?
You'll just go quietly to work and see all clear, and then tarn to
and loaf about in the shadows. Now, Mr. Barclay, sir, if you're ready,
Have you the little bull's-eye in your pocket? said I.
He felt and answered, Yes.
Stop a minute, said I, and I descended into the cabin to read my
darling's letter for the last time, that I might make sure of all
details of our romantic plot, ere embarking on as hare-brained an
adventure as was ever attempted by a lover and his sweetheart.
The cabin lamp burned brightly. I see the little interior now and
myself standing upright under the skylight, which found me room for my
stature, for I was six feet high. The night-shadow came black against
the glass, and made a mirror of each pane. My heart was beating fast,
and my hands trembled as I held my sweetheart's letter to the light. I
had read it twenty times beforeyou might have known that by the
creases in it and the frayed edges, as though, forsooth, it had been a
love-letter fifty years oldbut my nervous excitement obliged me to go
through it once more for the last time, as I have said, to make sure.
The handwriting was girlishhow could it be otherwise, seeing that
the sweet writer was not yet eighteen? The letter consisted of four
sheets, and on one of them was very cleverly drawn, in pen and ink, a
tall, long, narrow, old-fashioned château, with some shrubbery in front
of it, a short length of wall, then a tall hedge with an arrow pointing
at it, under which was written, HERE IS THE HOLE. Under another arrow
indicating a big, square door to the right of the house, where a second
short length of wall was sketched in, were written the words, HERE IS
THE DOG. Other arrowsquite a flight of them, indeed, causing the
sketch to resemble a weather-chartpointed to windows, doors, a little
balcony, and so forth, and against them were written, MAM'SELLE'S
ROOM, THE GERMAN GOVERNESS'S ROOM, FOUR GIRLS SLEEP HERE,with
other hints of a like kind.
I carefully read the letter. Suppose the ladder which Caudel had
wound around his broad breast should prove too short? No! the height
from the balcony to the ground was exactly ten feet. She had measured
it herself, and that there might be no error, had enclosed me the
length of pack-thread with whichwith a little weight at the end of
itshe had plumbed the trifling distance. She hoped it would be a fine
night. If there should be thunder I must not come. She would rather die
than leave the house in a thunderstorm. Neither must I come if the sea
was rough. She was acting very wronglywhy did she love me so?why
was I so impatient? Could I not wait until she was twenty-one? Then she
would be of age and her own mistress: three years and a month or two
would soon pass, and, meanwhile, our love for each other would be
growing deeper and deeperat least hers would. She could not
answer for mine. She was content to have faith.
All this was very much underlined, and here and there was a little
smudge as though she had dropped a tear.
But she had plucked up as she drew towards the close of her letter,
and, mere child as she was, there was a quality of decision in her
final sentence which satisfied me that she would not fail me when the
moment came. I put the letter in my pocket and went on deck.
Where are you, Caudel?
Here, sir, cried a shadow in the starboard gangway.
Let us start, said I; there is half-an-hour's walk before us, and
though the agreed time is one, there is a great deal to be done when we
I've been a-thinking, Mr. Barclay, he exclaimed, that the young
lady'll never be able to get aboard this yacht by that there up and
down ladder, meaning the perpendicular steps affixed to the harbour
No! cried I, needlessly startled by an insignificant oversight on
the very threshold of the project.
The boat, he continued, had better be in waiting at them stairs,
just past the smack, astarn of us there.
Give the necessary orders, said I.
He did so swiftly, bidding two of the men to be at the stairs by one
o'clock, the others to have the port gangway unshipped that we might
step aboard in a moment, along with sails loosed and gear all seen to,
ready for a prompt start. We then ascended the ladder and gained the
top of the quay.
A douanier stood at a little distance. As we rose over the
edge of the wall he approached, and by the aid of the lamp burning
strongly close at hand, he recognised us as persons who had been coming
and going throughout the day. Caudel called out Bong swore,
and moved off that his bulky frame might not be visible. The man in a
civil voice asked in French if we had any fire-arms on us.
No, no, I responded, we are going to fetch a friend who has
consented to take a little cruise with us. The tide is making, and we
hope to be under way before two o'clock.
You English love the sea, said he, good-naturedly; all hours of
the day and night are the same to you. For my part, give me my bed at
Here is something to furnish you with a pleasant dream when you get
to bed, said I, giving him a franc. When are you off duty?
I am here till four o'clock, he answered.
Good, said I, and carelessly strolled after the portly figure of
We said little until we had cleared the Rue de l'Ecu and were
marching up the broad Grande Rue, with the church of St. Nicholas
soaring in a dusky mass out of the market-place, and the few lights of
the wide, main street rising in fitful twinklings to the shadow of the
rampart walls. A mounted gendarme passed; the stroke of his horse's
hoofs sounded hollow in the broad thoroughfare and accentuated the
deserted appearance of the street. Here and there a light showed in a
window; from a distance came a noise of chorusing: a number of fellows,
no doubt, arm-in-arm, singing Mourir pour la Patrie, to the
inspiration of several glasses of sugar and water.
I sha'n't be sorry when we're there, said Caudel. This here
ladder makes my coat feel a terrible tight fit. I suppose it'll be the
first job of the sort ye was ever engaged in, sir?
The first, said I, and the last too, believe me. It is nervous
work. I would rather have to deal with an armed burglar than with an
elopement. I wish the business was ended, and we were heading for
And I don't suppose the young lady feels extray comfortable,
either, he exclaimed. Let me see: I've got to be right in my latitude
and longitude, or we shall be finding ourselves ashore. It's for us to
make the signal, ain't it, sir?
Yes, said I, puffing, for the road was steep and we were walking
rapidly; first of all you'll have to prepare the ladder. You haven't
forgotten the rungs, I hope? referring to three brass pieces to keep
the ropes extended, contrivances which had been made to my order,
resembling stair rods with forks and an arrangement of screws by which
they could be disconnected into pieces convenient for the pocket.
They're here, sir, he exclaimed, slapping his breast.
Well, we proceed thus: The bull's-eye must be cautiously lighted
and darkened. We have then to steal noiselessly to abreast of the
window on the left of the house and flash the lantern. This will be
answered by the young lady striking a match at the window.
Won't the scraping of the lucifer be heard? inquired Caudel.
No, Miss Bellassys writes to me that no one sleeps within several
corridors of that room.
Well, and then I think you said, sir, observed Caudel, that the
young lady'll slip out on to the balcony, and lower away a small length
of line to which this here ladder, he said, giving his breast a thump,
is to be bent on, she hauling of it up?
Quite right, said I; you must help her to descend whilst I hold
the ladder taut at the foot of it. No fear of the ropes breaking, I
Lord love 'ee, he said heartily, it's brand new rattline-stuff,
strong enough to hoist the mainmast out of a first-rate.
By this time we had gained the top of the Grande Rue. Before us
stretched an open space dark with lines of trees; at long intervals the
gleam of an oil lamp dotted that space of gloom; on our right lay the
dusky mass of the rampart walls, the yawning gateway dully illuminated
by the trembling flame of a lantern into a picture which carried the
imagination back into heroic times, when elopements were exceedingly
common, when gallant knights were to be met with galloping away with
women of beauty and distinction clinging to them, when the midnight air
was vocal with guitars, and nearly every other darkling lattice framed
some sweet, pale, listening face.
Which'll be the road, sir? broke in Caudel's tempestuous voice.
I had explored the district that afternoon, had observed all that
was necessary, and discovered that the safest, if not the shortest, way
to the Rue de Maquétra where my sweetheart, Grace Bellassys, was at
school, lay through the Haute Ville or Upper Town as the English called
it. The streets were utterly deserted; not so much as a cat stirred.
One motionless figure we passed, hard by the Cathedrala policeman or
gendarmehe might have been a statue; it was like pacing the streets
of a town that had been sacked, in which nothing lived to deliver so
much as a groan; and the fancy was not a little improved by our
emergence into what resembled a tract of country through a gateway
similar to that by which we had entered, over which there faintly
glimmered out to the sheen of a near lamp the figure of Our Lady of
Boulogne erect in some carving of a boat.
Foreigners is a queer lot, exclaimed Caudel. I dunno as I should
much relish living between them walls. How much farther off is it,
About ten minutes, said I.
A blooming walk, Mr. Barclay, sir, begging your pardon. Wouldn't it
have been as well if you'd had ordered a fee-hacre to stand by ready to
jump aboard of?
A fee what? said I.
What's the French for a cab, sir?
Oh, I see what you mean. No. It's all down-hill for the lady. A
carriage makes a noise; then there is the cabman to be left behind to
tell all that he knows.
Caudel grunted an assent, and we strode onwards in silence. It was
an autumn night, but the air was very soft, and the largest of the
luminaries shone with the mellow glory of a summer that was yet rich
and beautiful in its decay. From afar, in the direction of the Calais
Road, came the dim rumbling noise of a heavy vehicle, like the sound of
a diligence in full trot; otherwise the dark and breezeless atmosphere
was of an exquisite serenitytoo placid indeed to please me; for
though the yacht was to be easily towed out of Boulogne harbour, I had
no fancy for finding myself becalmed close off the pier-heads when the
The Rue de Maquétra wasis, I may say; I presume it still existsa
long, narrow lane leading to a pretty valley. Something more than
half-way up it, on the left-hand side, stands a tall convent wall, the
shadow of which, dominated as the heights were by trees on such a
motionless midnight as this, plunged the roadway into deepest gloom.
The whole length of the lane, to the best of my remembrance, was
illuminated by two, at the outside by three, lamps which revealed
nothing but their own flames, and so bewildered instead of assisting
Directly opposite the convent wall stood the old château, darkened
and thickened in front by a profusion of shrubbery, with a short length
of wall, as I have already said, at both extremities of it. The grounds
belonging to the house, as they rose with the hill, were divided from
the lane by a thick hedge which terminated at a distance of some two
We came to a stand and listened, staring our hardest with all our
eyes. The house was in blackness; the line of the roof ran in a clear
sweep of ink against the stars, and not the faintest sound came from it
or its grounds, save the delicate tinkling murmur of a fountain playing
somewhere amongst the shrubbery in front.
Where'll be the dawg? exclaimed Caudel in a hoarse whisper.
Behind the wall there, I answered, yonder, where the great square
door is. Hark! Did not that sound like the rattle of a chain?
We listened; then said I:
Let us make for the hole in the hedge. I have its bearings. It
directly fronts the third angle of that convent wall.
We crept soundlessly past the house, treading the verdure that lay
in dark streaks upon the glimmering ground of this little-frequented
lane. The clock of the convent opposite struck half-past twelve.
One bell, sir, said Caudel; it's about time we tarned to, and no
mistake. Lord, how I'm a-perspiring! Yet it ben't so hot neither. Which
side of the house do the lady descend from?
From this side, I answered.
Well clear of the dawg anyhow, said he, and that's a good
Here's the hole, I cried, with my voice shrill beyond recognition
of my own hearing through the nervous excitement I laboured under.
The hole was a neglected gap in the hedge, a rent originally made
probably by donkey-boys, several of whose cattle I had remarked that
afternoon browsing along the ditch and bank-side. We squeezed through,
and found ourselves in a sort of kitchen garden, as I might imagine
from the aspect of the shadowy vegetation; it seemed to run clear to
the very wall of the house on this side in dwarf bushes and low-ridged
There'll be a path I hope, growled Caudel. What am I atreading
on? Cabbages? They crackle worse nor gravel, Mr. Barclay.
Clear yourself of the rope-ladder, and then I'll smother you in
your big pea-coat whilst you light the lamp, said I. Let us keep well
in the shadow of the hedge. Who knows what eyes may be star-gazing
The hedge flung a useful dye upon the blackness of the night; and
our figures against it, even though they should have been viewed close
to, must have been indistinguishable. With a seaman's alacrity Caudel
slipped off his immense coat, and in a few moments had unwound the
length of ladder from his body. He wore a coloured flannel shirtI had
dreaded to find him figuring in white calico! He dropped the ladder to
the ground, and the iron hooks clanked as they fell together. I hissed
a sea blessing at him through my teeth.
Have you no wick in those tallow-candle fingers of yours? Hush!
As I spoke the dog began to bark. That it was the dog belonging to
the house I could not swear. The sound, nevertheless, proceeded from
the direction of the yard in which my sweetheart had told me the dog
was chained. The deep and melancholy note was like that of a bloodhound
giving tongue. It was reverberated by the convent wall and seemed to
penetrate to the farthest distance, awaking the very echoes of the
sleeping river Liane, and it filled the breathless pause that had
fallen upon us with a torment of inquietude and expectation. After a
few minutes the creature ceased.
He'll be a whopper, sir. Big as a pony, sir, if his voice don't
belie him, said Caudel, fetching a deep breath. I was once bit by a
dawg he was about to spin a yarn.
For heaven's sake! now bear a hand and get your bull's eye alight,
I angrily whispered, at the same moment snatching up his coat and so
holding it as to effectually screen his figure from the house.
Feeling over the coat he pulled out the little bull's-eye lamp and a
box of matches, and catching with oceanic dexterity the flame of the
lucifer in the hollow of his hands, he kindled the wick, and I
immediately closed the lantern with its glass eclipsed. This done, I
directed my eyes at the black smears of growthsfor thus they
showedlying round about us, in search of a path; but apparently we
were on the margin of some wide tract of vegetables, through which we
should have to thrust to reach the stretch of sward that, according to
the description in my pocket, lay immediately under the balcony from
which my sweetheart was to descend.
Pick up that ladderby the hookssee they don't clankcrouch
low; make a bush of yourself as I do, and come along, said I.
Foot by foot we groped our way towards the tall, thin shadow of the
house through the cabbagesto give the vegetation a nameand
presently arrived at the edge of the sward; and now we had to wait
until the clock struck one. Fortunately there were some bushes here,
but none that rose higher than our girth, and this obliged us to
maintain a posture of stooping which in a short time began to tell upon
Caudel's rheumatic knees, as I knew by his snuffling and uneasy
movements, though the heart of oak suffered in silence.
CHAPTER II. THE ELOPEMENT
This side of the house lay so black against the fine, clear, starry
dusk of the sky that it was impossible to see the outlines of the
windows in it. I could manage, however, to faintly trace the line of
the balcony. My heart beat fast as I thought that even now my darling
might be standing at the window peering through it, waiting for the
signal flash. Caudel was thinking of her too.
The young lady, begging of your pardon, sir, must be a gal of
uncommon spirit, Mr. Barclay.
She loves me, Caudel, and love is the most animating of spirits, my
I dorn't doubt it, sir. What room will it be that she's to come out
The dining-rooma big, deserted apartment where the girls take
'Tain't her bedroom, then?
No. She is to steal dressed from her bedroom to the
The Sally what, sir?
No matter, no matter, I answered.
I pulled out my watch, but there was no power in the starlight to
reveal the dial-plate. All continued still as the tomb, saving at
fitful intervals a low note of silken rustling that stole upon the ear
with some tender, dream-like gushing of night-air, as though the
atmosphere had been stirred by the sweep of a large, near, invisible
This here posture ain't so agreeable as dancing, hoarsely grumbled
Caudel, could almost wish myself a dwarf. That there word beginning
with a Sally
Not so loud, man; not so loud.
It's oncommon queer, he persisted, to feel one's self in a
country where one's language ain't spoke. The werry soil don't seem
natural. As to the language itself, burst me if I can understand how a
man masters it. I was once trying to teach an Irish sailor how to dance
a quadrille. 'Now, Murphy,' says I to him, 'you onderstand you're my
wiz-a-wee?' 'What's dat you call me?' he cried out. 'You're anoder and
a damn scoundrel besoides!' Half the words in this here tongue sound
like cussing of a man. And to think of a dining-room being called a
The convent clock struck one.
Now, said I, stand by.
I held up the lamp, and so turned the darkened part as to produce
two flashes. A moment after a tiny flame showed and vanished above the
My brave darling! I exclaimed. Have you the ladder in your hand?
Mind these confounded hooks don't chink.
We stepped across the sward and stood under the balcony.
Grace, my darling, is that you? I called in a low voice.
Yes, Herbert. Oh, please be quick. I am fancying I hear footsteps.
My heart is scarcely beating for fright.
But despite the tremble in her low, sweet voice my ear seemed to
find strength of purpose enough in it to satisfy me that there would be
no failure from want of courage on her part. I could just discern the
outline of her figure as she leaned over the balcony, and see the white
of her face vague as a fancy.
My darling, lower the line to pull the ladder up withvery softly,
my petthere are iron hooks which make a noise.
In a few moments she called: I have lowered the line.
I felt about with my hand and grasped the end of ita piece of
twine, but strong enough to support the ladder. The deep,
blood-hound-like baying of the dog recommenced, and at the same time I
heard a sound of footsteps in the lane.
Hist! Not a stirnot a whisper, I breathed out.
It was the staggering step of a drunken man. He broke maudlingly
into a song when immediately abreast of us, ceased his noise suddenly
and halted. This was a little passage of agony, I can assure you! The
dog continued to utter its sullen, deep-throated bark in single strokes
like the beat of a bell. Presently there was a sound as of the
scrambling and crunching of feet, followed with the noise of a lurching
tread; the man fell to drunkenly singing to himself again and so passed
away up the lane.
Caudel fastened the end of the twine to the ladder, and then grunted
out: All ready for hoisting.
Grace, my sweet, I whispered, do you hear me?
Distinctly, dearest; but I am so frightened!
Pull up this ladder softly and hook the irons on to the rim of the
Blast that dawg! growled Caudel, dummed if I don't think he
The ladder went rising into the air.
It is hooked, Herbert.
All right, Caudel, swing off upon the end of ittest it, and then
aloft with you for mercy's sake!
The three metal rungs held the ropes bravely stretched apart. The
seaman sprang, and the ladder held as though it had been the shrouds of
Now, Caudel, you are a seamanyou must do the rest, said I.
He had removed his boots, and, mounting with cat-like agility,
gained the balcony; then taking my sweetheart in his arms he lifted her
over the rail and lowered her with his powerful arms until her little
feet were half-way down the ladder. She uttered one or two faint
exclamations, but was happily too frightened to cry out.
Now, Mr. Barclay, hoarsely whispered Caudel, you kitch hold of
I grasped the ladder with one hand, and passed my arm round her
waist; my stature made the feat an easy one; thus holding her to me I
sprang back, then for an instant strained her to my heart with a
whisper of joy, gratitude, and encouragement.
You are as brave as you are true and sweet, Grace.
Oh, Herbert! she panted, I can think of nothing. I am very wicked
and feel horribly frightened.
Mr. Barclay, softly called Caudel from the balcony, what's to be
done with this here ladder?
Let it be, let it be, I answered. Bear a hand, Caudel, and come
He was alongside of us in a trice, pulling on his boots. I held my
darling's hand, and the three of us made for the hole in the hedge with
all possible speed. But the cabbages were very much in the way of
Grace's dress, and so urgent was the need to make haste that, I
believe, in my fashion of helping her, I carried her one way or another
more than half the distance across that wide tract of kitchen-garden
The dog continued to bark. I asked Grace if the brute belonged to
the house, and she answered yes. There seemed little doubt, from the
persistency of the creature's deep delivery, that it scented some sort
of mischief going forward, despite its kennel standing some
considerable distance away on the other side of the house. I glanced
back as Caudel was squeezing through the holeI had told him to go
first to make sure that all was right with the aperture, and to receive
and help my sweetheart across the ditchI glanced back, I say, in this
brief pause; but the building showed as an impenetrable shadow against
the winking brilliance of the sky hovering over and past it rich with
the radiance in places of meteoric dust; no light gleamed; the
night-hush, deep as death, was upon the château.
In a few moments my captain and I had carefully handed Grace through
the hole and got her safe in the lane, and off we started, keeping well
in the deep gloom cast by the convent wall, walking swiftly, yet
noiselessly, and scarcely fetching our breath till we were clear of the
lane, with the broad, glimmering St. Omer Road running in a rise upon
By the aid of the three or four lamps we had passed I managed very
early to get a view of my sweetheart, and found that she had warmly
robed herself in a fur-trimmed jacket, and that her hat was a sort of
turban as though chosen from her wardrobe with a view to her passage
through the hole in the hedge. I had her hand under my arm; and pressed
and caressed it as we walked. Caudel taking the earth with sailorly
strides bowled and rolled along at her right, keeping her between us. I
spoke to her in hasty sentences, forever praising her for her courage
and thanking her for her love, and trying to hearten her; for now that
the first desperate step had been taken, now that the wild risks of
escape were ended, the spirit that had supported her failed; she could
scarcely answer me; at moments she would direct looks over her
shoulder; the mere figure of a tree would cause her to tighten her hold
of my arm, and press against me as though starting.
I feel so wickedI feel that I ought to returnoh! how frightened
I am;how late it is!what will mam'selle think?How the girls will
talk in the morning!
I could coax no more than this sort of exclamations from her.
As we passed through the gate in the rampart wall and entered the
Haute Ville, my captain broke the silence he had kept since we quitted
How little do the folks who's sleeping in them houses know, Mr.
Barclay, of what's a-passing under their noses. There ain't no sort of
innocence like sleep.
He said this and yawned with a noise that resembled a shout.
This is Captain Caudel, Grace, said I, the master of the
Spitfire. His services to-night I shall never forget.
I am too frightened to thank you, Captain Caudel, she exclaimed.
I will thank you when I am calm. But shall I ever be calm? And ought I
to thank you then?
Have no fear, miss. This here oneasiness 'll soon pass. I know the
yarnhis honour spun it to me. What's been done, and what's yet to do
is right and proper, and if it worn't his pause was more significant
than had he proceeded.
Until we reached the harbour we did not encounter a living creature.
I could never have imagined of the old town of Boulogne that its
streets, late even as the hour was, would be so utterly deserted as we
found them. I was satisfied with my judgment in not having ordered a
carriage. The rattling of the wheels of a vehicle amid the vault-like
stillness of those thoroughfares would have been heart-subduing to my
mood of passionately nervous anxiety to get on board and away. I should
have figured windows flung open and night-capped heads projected, and
heard in imagination the clanking sabre of a gendarme trotting in our
I did not breathe freely till the harbour lay before us. Caudel said
as we crossed to where the flight of steps fell to the water's edge:
I believe there's a little air of wind amoving.
I feel it, I answered; what's its quarter?
Seems to be off the land, said he.
There is a man! cried Grace, arresting me by a drag at my arm.
A figure stood at the head of the steps, and I believed it one of
our men until a few strides brought us near enough to witness the gleam
of uniform buttons, showing by the pale light of a lamp at a short
distance from him.
A douanier, said I. Nothing to be afraid of, my pet.
But if he should stop us, Herbert? cried she, halting.
Sooner than that should happen, rumbled Caudel, I'd chuck him
overboard. But why should he stop us, miss? We ain't smugglers.
I would rather throw myself into the water than be taken back,
exclaimed my sweetheart. I gently induced her to walk, whilst my
captain advancing to the edge of the quay and looking down, sang out:
Below there! Are ye awake?
Ay, wide awake, was the answer, floating up in hearty English
accents from the cold, dark surface on which the boat lay.
The douanier drew back a few steps; it was impossible to see
his face, but his steadfast suspicious regard was to be imagined. I
have no doubt he understood exactly what was happening. He asked us the
name of our vessel. I answered in French. The small yacht Spitfire
lying astern of the Folkestone steamer. Nothing more passed and we
descended the steps.
I felt Grace shiver as I handed her into the boat. The harbour water
washed black and cold to the dark line of pier and wharf opposite;
there was an edge of chill, too, in the distant sound of surf crawling
upon the sand, and the wide spread of stars carried the fancy to the
broad, black breast of ocean over which they were trembling. The oars
dipped, striking a dim cloud of phosphor into the eddies they made; and
a few strokes of the blades carried us to the side of the little
Spitfire. I sprang on to the deck, and lifting my darling through
the gangway, called to Caudel to make haste to get the boat in and
start, for the breeze, that had before been little more than a fancy to
me, I could now hear as it brushed the surface of the harbour wall,
making the reflection of the large stars in the water alongside twinkle
and widen out, and putting a perfume of fresh seaweed into the
atmosphere, though the draught, such as it was, came from a malodorous
I led Grace to the little companion hatch, and together we entered
the cabin. The lamp burnt brightly; the skylight lay open, and the
interior was cool and sweet with several pots of flowers which I had
sent aboard in the afternoon. It was a little box of a place, as you
will suppose, of a dandy craft of twenty-six tons; but I had not spared
my purse in decorating it, and I believe no prettier interior of the
kind in a vessel of the size of the Spitfire was in those times
afloat. There were two sleeping-rooms, one forward and one aft. The
after cabin was little better than a hole, and this I occupied. The
berth forward, on the other hand, was as roomy as the dimensions of the
little ship would allow, and I had taken care that it lacked nothing to
render it a pleasant, I may say an elegant, sea bedroom. It was to be
Grace's until I got her ashore, and this I counted upon managing by the
following Friday, that is to say in about four days from the date of
this night about which I am writing.
She stood at the table looking about her, breathing fast, her eyes
large with alarm, excitement, I know not what other sensations and
emotions. I wish I knew how to praise her, how to describe her. Sweet
is the best word to express her girlish beauty. Though she was three
months short of eighteen years of age, she might readily have passed
for twenty-one, so womanly was her figure, as though, indeed, she was
of tropic breeding and had been reared under suns which quickly ripen a
maiden's beauty. But to say more would be to say what? The liquid brown
of her large and glowing eyesthe dark and delicate bronze of her rich
abundant hairthe suggestion of a pout in the turn of her lip, that
gave an incomparable air of archness to her expression when her
countenance was in reposeto enumerate these thingsto deliver a
catalogue of her graces in the most felicitous language that love and
the memory of love could dictate, is yet to leave all that I could wish
to say unsaid.
At last, Grace! I exclaimed, lifting her hand to my lips. How is
it with you now, my pet?
She seated herself, and hid her face in her hands upon the table,
saying, I don't know how I feel, Herbert. But I know how I ought to
Wait a little. You will regain your courage. You will find nothing
wrong in all this presently. It was bound to happen. There was not the
least occasion for this business of rope ladders and midnight sailings.
It is Lady Amelia who forces this elopement upon us.
What will she say? she breathed through her fingers, still keeping
her face hidden to conceal the crimson that had flushed her on a sudden
and that was showing to the rim of her collar.
Do you care? Do I care? We have forced her hand, and what
can she do? If you were but twenty-one, Grace!and yet I don't know.
You would be three years olderthree years of sweetness gone for ever!
But the old lady will have to give her consent now, and the rest will
be for my cousin Frank to manage. Pray look at me, my sweet one.
I can't. I am ashamed. It is a most desperate act. What will
mam'selle sayand your sailors? she murmured from behind her hands.
My sailors! Grace, shall I take you back whilst there is yet time?
She flashed a look at me over her finger tips.
Certainly not! she exclaimed with emphasis, then hid her face
I seated myself by her side, but it took me five minutes to get her
to look at me, and another five minutes to coax a smile from her. In
this while the men were busy about the decks. I heard Caudel's growling
lungs of leather delivering orders in a half-stifled hurricane note,
but I did not know that we were under way until I put my head through
the companion hatch, and saw the dusky fabrics of the piers on either
side stealing almost insensibly past us. Now that the wide expanse of
sky had opened over the land, I could witness a dimness, as of the
shadowing of clouds, in the quarter of the sky against which stood the
unfinished block of the cathedral. This caused me to reckon upon the
wind freshening presently. As it now blew it was a very light air
indeed, scarce with weight enough to steady the light cloths of the
yacht. There was an unwieldy lump of a French smack slowly grinding her
way up the harbour close in against the pier on the port side, and
astern of us were the triangular lights of a paddle-wheeled steamer,
bound to London, timed for the tide that was now high, and filling the
quietude of the night with the noise of the swift beats of revolving
Mind that steamer! I called out to Caudel, who was at the helm.
She passed us close, noisily shearing through it, with the white
water at her stem throbbing like clouds of steam to the paddles, whence
the race aft spread far into the gloom astern in a wide wake of yeast;
a body of fire broke from her tall chimney and illuminated the long,
thick line of smoke like the play of lightning upon the face of a
thunder-cloud; her saloon was aglow, and the illuminated portholes went
winking past upon the vision as though there lay a coil of flame along
the length of the ebony black sides. She swept past and was away,
leaving behind her a swell upon which the Spitfire tumbled about
so violently that I came very near to being thrown out of the hatch in
which I was standing. The commotion presently ceased, and by this time
we were abreast of the longer of the two pier-heads, clear of the
harbour, but I waited still a moment or so to take another view of the
night and to send a glance round. Undoubtedly the stars shining low
down over the old town of Boulogne had dimmed greatly within the hour,
though they still flashed with brilliance in the direction of the
English coast. The surf rolling upon the sand on either side the piers
broke with a hollow note that even to my inexperienced ears seemed
prophetic of wind.
What is the weather to be, Caudel? I called to him.
We're going to get a breeze from the south'ard, sir, he answered;
nothing to harm, I dessay, if it don't draw westerly.
What is your plan of sailing?
Can't do better, I think, sir, than stand over for the English
coast, and so run down, keeping the ports conveniently aboard.
Do you mark the noise of the surf?
Ay, sir, that's along of this here ground swell.
I had hardly till this moment noticed the movement to which he
referred. The swell was long and light, setting in flowing rounds of
shadow dead on to the Boulogne shore, too rhythmically gentle to take
I re-entered the cabin, and found my sweetheart with her elbows on
the table and her cheeks resting in her hands. The blush had scarcely
faded from her face when I had quitted her; now she was as white as a
Why do you leave me alone, Herbert? she asked, turning her dark,
liquid eyes upon me without shifting the posture of her head.
My dearest, I wish to see our little ship clear of Boulogne
harbour. We shall be getting a pleasant breeze presently, and it cannot
blow too soon to please us. A brisk fair wind should land us at our
destination in three days, and thenand then said I, sitting down
and bringing her to me.
She laid her cheek on my shoulder but said nothing.
Now, I exclaimed, you are of course faint and wretched for the
want of refreshments. What can I get you? and I was about to give her
a list of the wines and eatables I had laid in, but she languidly shook
her head, as it rested on my shoulder, and faintly bade me not to speak
I should like to lie down, she said.
You are tiredworn out, I exclaimed, not yet seeing how it was
with her; yonder is your cabin. I believe you will find all you want
in it. Unhappily we have no maid aboard to help you. But you will be
able to manage, Graceit is but for a day or two; and if you are not
perfectly happy and comfortable, why, we will make for the nearest
English port and finish the rest of the journey by rail. But our little
I must lie down, she interrupted; this dreadful motion!get me a
pillow and a rug; I will lie on this sofa.
I could have heaped a hundred injurious names upon my head for not
at once observing that the darling was suffering. I sprang from her
side, hastily procured a pillow and rug, removed her hat, plunged
afresh into her cabin for some Eau de Cologne and went to work to bathe
her brow and to minister to her in other ways. To be afflicted with
nausea in the most romantic passage of one's life! I had never thought
of inquiring whether or not she was a good sailor, as it is called,
being much too sentimental, much, too much in love to be visited by
misgivings or conjectures in a direction so horribly prosaic as this.
I thought to comfort her by saying that if her sufferings continued
we would head direct for Dover or some adjacent harbour. But, somehow,
my scheme of elopement having comprised a yachting trip, the programme
of it had grown into a habit of thought with me. For weeks I had been
looking forward to the trip with the impassioned eagerness of a lover,
delighting my mind with the fancy of having my sweetheart all to myself
in a sense that no excursion on shore could possibly parallel. On shore
there would be the rude conditions of the railway, the cab, the hotel,
and all the vulgarity of dispatch when in motion. But the yacht gave my
heart's trick of idealising a chance. The quiet surface of seaI was
too much in love to think of a gale of wind; the glories of the sunset;
the new moon; the hushed night; we two on deck; our impassioned
whispers set to music by the brook-like murmurings of waters alongside;
the silken fannings of phantom-like pinions of canvas; the subdued
voices of the men forward... Yes! It was of these things I had thought;
these were the engaging, the delightful fancies that had filled my
Nor, in this candid narrative which, I trust, will carry its own
apology for our audacious behaviour as it progresses, must I omit to
give the chief reason for my choice of a yacht as a means of eloping
with Grace. She was under twenty-one; her aunt, Lady Amelia Roscoe, was
her guardian, and no clergyman would marry the girl to me without her
aunt's consent. That consent must be wrested from the old lady, and the
business of wresting manifestly implies a violent measure; and what
then, as I somewhat boyishly concluded, could follow our lonely
association at sea for three or four days, or perhaps a week, but her
A man, in describing his own passion, and in depicturing himself
making love, cannot but present a foolish figure. Unhappily, this story
solely concerns my elopement with Grace Bellassys and what came of it,
and, therefore, it is in the strictest sense a tale of love: a
description of which sentiment, however, as it worked in me and my
dearest girl, I will endeavour to trouble you as little as possible
CHAPTER III. AT SEA
It was some time after three o'clock in the morning when Grace fell
asleep. The heave of the vessel had entirely conquered emotion. She had
had no smiles for me; the handkerchief she held to her mouth had kept
her lips sealed; but her eyes were never more beautiful than now with
their languishing expression of suffering, and I could not remove my
gaze from her face, so exceedingly sweet did she look as she lay with
the rich bronze of her hair glittering, as though gold-dusted, to the
lamplight, and her brow showing with an ivory gleam through the tresses
which shadowed it in charming disorder.
She fell asleep at last, breathing quietly, and I cannot tell how it
comforted me to find her able to sleep, for now I might hope it would
not take many hours of rest to qualify her as a sailor. In all this
time that I had been below refreshing her brow and attending to her,
and watching her as a picture of which my sight could never weary, the
breeze had freshened and the yacht was heeling to it, and taking the
wrinkled sides of the swellthat grew heavier as we widened the
offingwith the sheering, hissing sweep that one notices in a steam
launch. Grace lay on a lee-locker, and as the weather rolls of the
little Spitfire were small there was no fear of my sweetheart
slipping off the couch. She rested very comfortably, and slept as
soundly as though in her own bed in times before she had known me,
before I had crossed her path to set her heart beating, to trouble her
slumbers, to give a new impulse to her life and to colour, with hues of
shadows and brightnesses what had been little more than the drab of
These poetical thoughts occurred to me as I stood gazing at her
awhile to make sure that she slept; then finding the need of
refreshment, I softly mixed myself a glass of soda and brandy, and
lighting a pipe in the companion-way, that the fumes of the tobacco
might not taint the cabin atmosphere, I stepped on to the deck.
And now I must tell you here that my little dandy yacht, the
Spitfire, was so brave, staunch, and stout a craft that, though I
am no lover of the sea in its angry moods, and especially have no
relish for such experiences as one is said to encounter, for instance,
off Cape Horn, yet such was my confidence in her seaworthiness, I
should have been quite willing to sail round the world in her, had the
necessity for so tedious an adventure have arisen. She had been built
as a smack, but was found too fast for trawling, and the owner offered
her as a bargain. I purchased and re-equipped her, little dreaming that
she was one day to win me a wife. I improved her cabin accommodation,
handsomely furnished her within, caused her to be sheathed with yellow
metal to the bends, and to be handsomely embellished with gilt at the
stern and quarters, according to the gingerbread taste of twenty or
thirty years ago. She had a fine, bold spring or rise of deck forward,
with abundance of beam, which warranted her for stability; but her
submerged lines were extraordinarily fine, and I cannot recollect the
name of a pleasure craft afloat at that time which I should not have
been willing to challenge, whether for a fifty or a thousand mile race.
She was rigged as a dandy, a term that no reader, I hope, will want me
I stood, cigar in mouth, looking up at her canvas and round upon the
dark scene of ocean, whilst, the lid of the skylight being a little way
open, I was almost within arm's reach of my darling, whose lightest
call would reach my ear, or least movement take my eye. The stars were
dim away over the port quarter, and I could distinguish the outlines of
clouds hanging in dusky, vaporous bodies over the black mass of the
coast dotted with lights where Boulogne lay, with the Cape Gris Nez
lantern windily flashing on high from its shoulder of land that blended
in a dye of ink with the gloom of the horizon. There were little runs
of froth in the ripples of the water, with now and again a phosphoric
glancing that instinctively sent the eye to the dimness in the western
circle as though it were sheet lightning there which was being
reflected. Broad abeam was a large, gloomy collier reaching in for
Boulogne harbour: she showed a gaunt, ribbed, and heeling figure, with
her yards almost fore and aft, and not a hint of life aboard her in the
form of light or noise.
I felt sleeplessnever so broad awake, despite this business now in
hand that had robbed me for days past of hour after hour of slumber, so
that I may safely say I had scarcely enjoyed six hours of solid sleep
in as many days. Caudel still grasped the tiller, and forward was one
of the men restlessly but noiselessly pacing the little forecastle. The
bleak hiss of the froth at the yacht's forefoot threw a shrewd
bleakness into the light pouring of the off-shore wind, and I buttoned
up my coat as I turned to Caudel, though excitement worked much too
hotly in my soul to suffer me to feel conscious of the cold.
This breeze will do, Caudel, if it holds, said I, approaching him
by a stride or two that my voice should not disturb Grace.
Ay, sir, it is as pretty a little air as could be asked for.
What light is that away out yonder?
The Varne, your honour.
And where are you carrying the little ship to? said I, looking at
the illuminated disc of compass card that swung in the short, brass
binnacle under his nose.
Ye see the course, Mr. Barclaywest by nothe. That 'll fetch
Beachy Head for us, afterwards a small shift of the hellum 'll put the
Channel under our bows, keeping the British ports as we go along handy,
so that if your honour don't like the look of the bayrometer, why
there's always a harbour within a easy sail.
I was quite willing that Caudel should heave the English land into
sight. He had been bred in coasters, and knew his way about by the mere
swell of the mud, as the sailors say; whereas, put him in the middle of
the ocean, with nothing but his sextant to depend upon, and I do not
know that I should have felt very sure of him.
He coughed, and seemed to mumble to himself as he ground upon the
piece of tobacco in his cheek, then said, And how's the young lady
The motion of the vessel rendered her somewhat uneasy, but she is
I took a peep as I said this, to be certain, and saw her resting
stirless, and in the posture I had left her in. No skylight ever framed
a prettier picture of a sleeping girl. Her hair looked like beaten gold
in the illusive lamplight; and to my eye, coming from the darkness of
the sea and the great height of star-laden gloom, the sleeping form in
the tender radiance of the interior was for the moment as startling as
a vision, as something of unreal loveliness. I returned to Caudel.
Sorry to hear she don't feel well, sir, he exclaimed; but this
here sea-sickness I'm told, soon passes.
I want her to be well, said I. I wish her to enjoy the run down
Channel. We must not go ashore if we can help it; or one special object
I have in my mind will be defeated.
Shall I keep the yacht well out, then, sir? No need to draw in, if
No, no, sight the coast, Caudel, and give us a view of the scenery.
And now, whilst I have the chance, let me thank you heartily for the
service you have done me to-night. I should have been helpless without
you; and what other man of my crewwhat other man of any sort, indeed,
could I have depended upon?
Oh, dorn't mention it, Mr. Barclay, sir; I beg and entreat that you
worn't mention it, sir, he replied, as though affected by my
condescension. You're a gentleman, sir, begging your pardon, and that
means a man of honour, and when you told me how things stood, why,
putting all dooty on one side, if so be as there can be such a thing as
dooty in jobs which aren't shipshape and proper, why, I says, of
course, I was willing to be of use. Not that I myself have much
confidence in these here elopements, saving your presence. I've got a
grown-up darter myself in sarvice, and if when she gets married she
dorn't make a straight course for the meeting-house, why, then, I shall
have to talk to her as she's never yet been talked to. But in this
jobhe swung off from the tiller to expectorate over the railwhat
the young lady's been and gone and done is what I should say to my
darter or any other young woman, the sarcumstances being the same, 'go
thou and dew likewise.'
You see, Caudel, there was no hope of getting her ladyship's
Then, again, consider the cruelty of sending the young lady to a
Roman Catholic school for no fairer or kinder reasons than to remove
her out of my way, and to compel her, if possible, by ceaseless teasing
and exhortation, and God best knows what other devices, to change her
I onderstand, sir, and I'm of opinion it was quite time that their
little game was stopped.
Lady Amelia Roscoe is a Roman Catholic, and very bigoted. Ever
since she first took charge of Miss Bellassys she has been trying to
convert her, and by methods, I assure you, by no means uniformly kind.
So you was asaying, sir.
It pleased me to be thus candid with this sailor. Possibly there was
in me a little disturbing sense of the need of justifying myself,
though I believe the most acidulated moralist could not have glanced
through the skylight without feeling that I heartily deserved
But supposing, Mr. Barclay, sir, continued Caudel, that you'd ha'
changed your religion and become a Papist; would her ladyship still ha'
gone on objecting to ye?
Supposing! Yes, Caudel, she would have gone on objecting even then.
There are family feelings, family traditions, mixed up in her dislike
of me. You shall have the yarn before we go ashore. It is right that
you should know the whole truth. Until I make that young lady below my
wife, she is as much under your care as under mine. That was agreed on
between us, and that you know.
That I do know, and shall remember as much for her sake as
for yourn and for mine, answered the honest fellow, with a note of
deep feeling in his voice. There's only one consideration, Mr.
Barclay, that worrits me. I onderstood you to say, sir, that your
honour has a cousin who's a clergyman that's willing to marry ye right
away out of hand.
We must get the consent of the aunt first.
There it is! cried he, smiting the head of the tiller with
his clenched fist, suppose she dorn't consent?
We have taken this step, said I softly, always afraid of
disturbing my sweetheart, to force her to consent. D'ye think
she can refuse, man, after she hears of this elopementthis midnight
rope-ladder businessand the days we hope to spend together on this
Still, Mr. Barclay, supposing she do, sir? You'll forgive me for
saying of it; but supposing she do, sir?
No good in supposing, Caudel, said I, suppressing a little
movement of irritation; no good in obstructing one's path by
suppositions stuck up like so many fences to stop one from advancing.
Our first business is to get to Penzance.
By his motions, and the uneasy shifting of his posture, he
discovered himself ill at ease, but his respectfulness would not allow
him to persevere with his inquiries.
Caudel, said I, you may ask me any questions you please. The more
you show yourself really anxious on behalf of Miss Bellassys, the more
shall I honour you. Don't fear. I shall never interpret your concern
for her into a doubt of me. If Lady Amelia absolutely refuses her
sanction, what then remains but to place Miss Bellassys with my sister
and wait till she comes of age?
So speaking, and now considering that I had said enough, I threw the
end of my cigar overboard and went below.
It was daylight shortly before six, but the grey of the dawn
brightened into sunrise before Grace awoke. Throughout the hours she
had slept without a stir. From time to time I had dozed, chin on
breast, opposite to where she lay. The wind had freshened, and the
yacht was lying well down to it, swarming along, taking buoyantly the
little sea that had risen, and filling the breeze, that was musical
with the harmonies of the taut rigging, with the swift noise of
spinning and seething water. The square of heavens showing in the
skylight overhead wore a hard, marble, windy look, but the
pearl-coloured streaks of vapour floated high and motionless, and I was
yachtsman enough to gather from what I saw that there was nothing more
in all this than a fresh Channel morning, and a sweep of southerly wind
that was driving the Spitfire along her course some eight or
nine miles in the hour.
As the misty pink flash of the upper limb of the rising sun struck
the skylight, and made a very prison of the little cabin, with its
mirrors and silver lamp, and glass and brass ornamentation, Grace
opened her eyes. She opened them straight upon me, and, whilst I might
have counted ten, she continued to stare as though she were in a
trance; then the blood flooded her pale cheeks, her eyes grew brilliant
with astonishment, and she sat erect, bringing her hands to her temples
as though she struggled to recollect her wits. However, it was not long
before she rallied, though for some few moments her face remained empty
Why, Grace, my darling, I cried, do not you know where you are?
Yes, now I do, she answered, but I thought I had gone mad when I
first awoke and looked around me.
You have slept soundly, but then you are a child, said I.
Whereabouts are we, Herbert?
I cannot tell for sure, I answered, out of sight of land anyway.
But where you are, Grace, you ought to know. Now, don't sigh. We are
not here to be miserable.
A few caresses, and then her timid glances began to show like the
old looks in her. I asked her if the movement of the yacht rendered her
uneasy, and after a pause, during which she considered with a grave
face, she answered no: she felt better, she must try to standand so
saying she stood up on the swaying deck, and, smiling with her fine
eyes fastened upon my face, poised her figure in a floating way full of
a grace far above dancing, to my fancy. Her gaze went to a mirror, and
I easily interpreted her thoughts, though, for my part, I found her
beauty improved by her roughened hair.
There is your cabin, said I; the door is behind those curtains.
Take a peep, and tell me if it pleases you?
There were flowers in it to sweeten the atmosphere, and every
imaginable convenience that it was possible for a male imagination to
hit upon in its efforts in a direction of this sort. She praised the
little berth, and closed the door with a smile at me that made me
conjecture I should not hear much more from her about our imprudence,
the impropriety of our conduct, what mam'selle would think, and what
the school girls would say.
Though she was but a child, as I would tell her, I too was but a boy
for the matter of that, and her smile and the look she had given me,
and her praise of the little berth I had fitted up for her made me feel
so boyishly joyous that, like a boy as I was, though above six feet
tall, I fell a whistling out of my high spirits, and then kissed the
feather in her hat, and her gloves, which lay upon the table,
afterwards springing, in a couple of bounds, on deck, where I stood
roaring out for Bobby Allett.
A seaman named Job Crew was at the helm. Two others named Jim Foster
and Dick Files were washing down the decks. I asked Crew where Caudel
was, and he told me he had gone below to shave. I bawled again for
Bobby Allett, and after a moment or two he rose through the forecastle
hatch. He was a youth of about fifteen, who had been shipped by Caudel
to serve as steward or cabin boy and to make himself generally useful
besides. As he approached, I eyed him with some misgiving, though I had
found nothing to object to in him before; but the presence of my
sweetheart in the cabin had, I suppose, tempered my taste to a quality
of lover-like fastidiousness, and this boy, Bobby, to my mind, looked
Do you mean to wait upon me in those clothes? said I.
They're the best I have, master, he answered, staring at me with a
pair of round eyes out of a dingy skin, that was certainly not
clarified by the number of freckles and pimples which decorated it.
You can look smarter than that if you like, said I to him. I want
breakfast right away off. And let Foster drop his bucket and go to work
to boil and cook. But tell Captain Caudel also that before you lay aft
you must clean yourself, polish your face, brush your hair and shoes,
and if you haven't got a clean shirt you must borrow one.
The boy went forward.
Pity, said I, thinking aloud rather than talking, as I stepped to
the binnacle to mark the yacht's course, that Caudel should have
shipped such a dingy-skinned chap as that fellow for cabin use.
It's all along of his own doing, sir, said Job Crew.
How? You mean he won't wash himself?
No, sir; it's along of smoking.
Smoking? I exclaimed.
Yes, sir. I know his fatherhe's a waterman. His father told me
that that there boy Bobby saved up, and then laid out all he'd got upon
a meerschaum pipe for to colour it. He kep' all on a smoking,
day arter day, and night arter night. But his father says to me, it was
no go, sir; 'stead of his colouring the pipe, the pipe coloured him,
and is weins have run nothen but tobacco juice ever since.
I burst into a laugh, and went to the rail to take a look round. We
might have been in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, so boundless did
the spreading waters look; not a blob or film of coast on any hand of
us broke the flawless sweep of the green circle of Channel waters.
There was a steady breeze off the port beam, and the yacht, with every
cloth which she carried on her, was driving through it as though she
were in tow of a steamboat. The scene was full of life. On one bow was
an English smack, as gaudy in the misty brilliance of the sunshine as
an acquatic parrot, with her red mainsail and brown mizzen, and white
foresail topping, aslant, the gloomy black hull from whose sides would
break from time to time a sullen, white flash, like a leap of fire from
a cannon's mouth, as the swing of the sea swerved the black, wet
timbers to the morning lustre. On the other bow was a little barque
with a milk-white hull, the French tri-colour trembling at her
gaff-end, and her canvas looking like shot silk, with the play of the
shadows in the bright and polished concavities. Past her a big French
lugger was hobbling clumsily over the short seas, and farther off
still, a tall, black steamboat, brig-rigged, her portholes glittering
as though the whole length of her was studded with brilliants, was
clumsily thrusting through it. Against the hard, blue marble of the sky
the horizon stood firm, making one think of the rim of a green lens,
broken in places by a leaning saila shadowy pear-like shaft. The
Channel throbbed in glory under the sun; the full spirit of the sea was
in the morning; and the wide and spreading surface of waters gave as
keen an oceanic significance to the inspiration of the moment, as
though the eye that centred the scene gazed from the heart of a South
I stood leaning over the bulwarks humming an air. Never had my heart
beaten with so exquisite a sense of gladness and of happiness, as now
possessed it. I was disturbed in a reverie of love, in which was
mingled the life and beauty of the scene I surveyed, by the arrival of
Caudel. He was varnished with soap, and blue with recent shaving, but
there was no trace of the sleepless hours I had forced him to pass in
the little sea-blue eyes which glittered under his somewhat ragged,
thatched brow. He was a man of about fifty years of age; his dark hair
was here and there of an iron-grey, and a roll of short-cut whiskers
met in a bit of a beard upon the bone in his throat. He carried a true
salt-water air in his somewhat bowed legs, in his slow motions, and in
his trick of letting his arms hang up and down as though they were
pump-handles. His theory of dress was, that what kept out the cold also
kept out the heat, and so he never varied his attire, which was
composed of a thick double-breasted waistcoat, a long pilot-cloth coat,
a Scotch cap, very roomy pilot-cloth trousers, a worsted cravat, and
I exchanged a few words with him about the boy Bobby, inquired the
situation of the yacht, and after some talk of this kind, during which
I gathered that he was taking advantage of the breeze, and shaping a
somewhat more westerly course than he had first proposed, so that he
did not expect to make the English coast much before three or four
o'clock in the afternoon, I went below to refresh myself after the
laborious undertaking of the night.
On quitting my berth I found the boy Bobby laying the cloth for
breakfast, and Grace seated on a locker watching him. Her face was
pale, but its expression was without uneasiness. She had put on her
hat, and on seeing me exclaimed:
Herbert, dear, take me on deck. The fresh air may revive me, and
she looked at the boy and the cloth he was laying with a pout full of
I at once took her by the hand and conducted her through the hatch.
She passed her arm through mine to balance herself, and then sent her
eyes bright with nervousness and astonishment round the sea, breathing
Where is the land? she asked.
Behind the ocean, my love. But we shall be having a view of the
right side of these waters presently.
What a little boat! she exclaimed, running her gaze over the
yacht. Is it not dangerous to be in so small a vessel out of sight of
Bless your dear heart, no. Think of the early navigators! Of course
mam'selle taught you all about the early navigators?
When shall we reach Penzance?
Supposing the wind to blow fair and briskly, in three or four
Three or four days! she exclaimed, and glancing down at herself,
she added, Of course you know, Herbert, that I have only the dress I
It will last you till we get ashore, said I, laughing; and then
you shall buy everything you want, which, of course, will be more than
I shall send, said she, to Mam'selle Championet for my boxes.
Certainlywhen we are married.
All your presents, particularly the darling little watch, are in
those boxes, Herbert.
Everything shall be recovered to the uttermost ha'porth, my pet.
I observed Caudel, who stood a little forward of the companion,
gazing at her with an expression of shyness and admiration. I told her
that he was the captain of the yacht; that he was the man I had
introduced to her last night, and begged her to speak to him. She
coloured a rose red, but bade him good-morning nevertheless,
accompanying the words with an inclination of her form, the graceful
and easy dignity of which somehow made me think of the movement of a
bough heavily foliaged, set curtseying by the summer wind.
I hope, Miss, said Caudel, pulling off his Scotch cap, as how I
see you well this morning, freed of that there nausey as Mr. Barclay
was a telling me you suffered from?
I trust to get used to the sea quicklythe motion of the yacht is
not what I like, she answered, with her face averted from him, taking
a peep at me to observe if I saw that she felt ashamed and would not
He perceived this too, and knuckling his forehead said, It's but a
little of the sea ye shall have, miss, if so be it lies in my power to
keep this here Spitfire awalking, and so speaking he moved off,
singing out some idle order as he did so by way of excusing his abrupt
I wish we were quite alone, Herbert, said my sweetheart, drawing
me to the yacht's rail.
So do I, my own, but not herenot in the middle of the sea.
I did not think of bringing a veilyour men stare so.
And so do I, said I, letting my gaze sink fair into her eyes,
which she had upturned to mine. You wouldn't have me rebuke the poor,
harmless, sailor men for doing what I am every instant guilty
ofadmiring you, I mean, to the very topmost height of my capacity in
that waybut here comes Master Bobby Allett with the breakfast.
Herbert, I could not eat for worlds.
Are you so much in love as all that?
She shook her head, and looked at the flowing lines of green water
which melted into snow, as they came curving, with glass-clear backs,
to the ruddy streak of the yacht's sheathing. However, the desire to
keep her at sea until we could land ourselves close to the spot where
we were to be married made me too anxious to conquer the uneasiness
which the motion of the vessel excited to humour her. I coaxed and
implored, and eventually got her below, and by dint of talking and
engaging her attention, and making her forget herself, so to speak, I
managed to betray her into breaking her fast with a cup of tea and a
fragment of cold chicken. This was an accomplishment of which I had
some reason to feel proud; but then, to be sure, I was in the secret,
knowing this; that sea nausea is entirely an affair of the nerves; that
no sufferer is ill in his sleep, no matter how high the sea may be
running, or how unendurable to his waking senses the sky-high capers
and abysmal plunges of the craft may be, and that the correct treatment
for sea-sickness isnot to think of it. In short, I made my sweetheart
forget to feel uneasy. She talked, she sipped her tea, she ate, and
then she looked better, and indeed owned that she felt so.
CHAPTER IV. SWEETHEARTS IN A DANDY
For my part I breakfasted with the avidity of a shipwrecked man.
Ashore it might have been otherwise, but the sea breeze is a noble
neutraliser of whatever is undesirable in the obligations which attend
an excess of sentiment and emotion.
The cabin made as pretty a little marine piece as ever the light of
the early sun flashed into. There were flowers of fragrance and of rich
colours; the small table sparkled with its hospitable furniture; the
polished bulkheads rippled with light, and the diamond-like glance of
the lustrous, dancing sea seemed to be swept by the blue air gushing
athwart the sky-light into the mirrors, which enriched this little
boudoir of a cabin. But it was the presence of Grace which informed
this picture with those qualities of sweetness, elegance, refinement,
perfume, which I now found in it, but had not before noticed. How
proudly my young heart rose to the sight of her! to the thought of her
as my own, one and indivisible, no longer the distant hope, which for
weary months past her aunt had made her to me, but my near
sweetheartmy present darlingher hand within reach of my grasp.
We sat together in earnest conversation. It was not for me to
pretend that I could witness no imprudence in our elopement. Indeed, I
took care to let her know that I regretted the step we had been forced
into taking as fully as she did. My love was an influence upon her, and
whatever I said I felt might weigh with her childish heart. But I
repeated what I had again and again written to herthat there had been
no other alternative than this elopement.
You wished me to wait, I said, until you were twenty-one, when
you would be your own mistress. But to wait for more than three years!
What was to happen in that time? They might have converted you
No, she cried.
And have wrought a complete change in your nature, I went on. How
many girls are there who could resist the sort of pressure they were
subjecting you to one way and another?
They could not have changed my heart, Herbert.
How can we tell? Under their influence in another year you might
have come to congratulate yourself upon your escape from me.
Do you think so? Then you should have granted me another year,
because marriage, she added, with a look in her eyes that was like a
wistful smile, is a very serious thing, and if you believe that I
should be rejoicing in a year hence over my escape from you, as you
call it, then you must believe that I have no business to be here.
This was a cool piece of logic that was hardly to my taste.
Tell me, said I, fondling her hand, how you managed last night?
I do not like to think of it, she answered. I was obliged to
undress, for it is mam'selle's rule to look into all the bedrooms the
last thing after locking the house up. It was then ten o'clock. I
waited until I heard the convent clock strike twelve, by which time I
supposed everybody would be sound asleep. Then I lighted a candle and
dressed myself, but I had to use my hands as softly as a spider spins
its web, and my heart seemed to beat so loud that I was afraid the
girls in the next room would hear it. I put a box of matches in my
pocket, and crept along the corridors to the big salle-à-manger. The
door of my bedroom creaked when I opened it, and I felt as if I must
sink to the ground with fright. The salle-à-manger is a great, gloomy
room even in day-time; it was dreadfully dark, horribly black, Herbert,
and the sight of the stars shining through the window over the balcony
made me feel so lonely that I could have cried. There was a mouse
scratching in the room somewhere, and I got upon a chair, scarcely
caring whether I made a noise or not, so frightened was I, for I hate
mice. Indeed, if that mouse had not kept quiet after a while, I believe
I should not be here now. I could not endure being alone in a great,
dark room at that fearful hour of the night with a mouse running about
near me. Oh, Herbert, how glad I was when I saw your lantern flash.
My brave little heart! cried I, snatching up her hand and kissing
it. But the worst part is over. There are no ladders, no great black
rooms now before us, no mice even.
She slightly coloured without smiling, and I noticed an anxious
expression in the young eyes she held steadfastly bent upon the table.
What thought is troubling you, Grace?
Herbert, I fear you will not love me the better for consenting to
run away with you.
Is that your only fear?
She shook her head, and said, whilst she continued to keep her eyes
downcast: Suppose Aunt Amelia refuses to sanction our marriage?
She will notshe dare not! I cried vehemently; imprudent as we
may seem, we are politic in this, Gracethat our adventure must
force your aunt into sending us her sanction. She looked at me,
but her face remained grave. Caudel, said I, who is as much your
guardian as I am, put the same question to me. But there is no earthly
good in supposing. It is monstrous to suppose that your aunt
will object. She hates me, I know, but her aversionthe aversion of
that old woman of the world with her family pride and notions of
proprietyis not going to suffer her to forbid our marriage after
this. Yet, grant that her ladyshipmy blessings upon her false
front!should go on saying no; are we not prepared?
But if it has to come to my living with your sister, Herbert
It will come to nothing of the sort, I whipped out.
Would it not have been better for me, she continued, to have
remained under Aunt Amelia's care until I came of age?
Aunt Amelia, said I, in that sense means your Boulogne
school-mistress, and in much less than three years you would have been
pestered into changing your faith.
You think I have no strength of mind. You may be right, she added,
looking at me and then around her and sighing.
But remember, my darling, what you have written to me. What was the
name now of mam'selle's confessor?
Well, on your own showing, wasn't this Father Jerome ceaseless in
Yes. Mam'selle was repeatedly leaving me alone with him under one
excuse or another. He sent me booksI was taken to massonly
yesterday morning mam'selle lost her temper with me, and quite made me
understand that her orders from Aunt Amelia were to convert me,
coûte que coûte
Then, cried I, interrupting her once more, hot with the irritation
that had again and again visited me when I read her letters where she
complained of the behaviour of mam'selle and this Father Jerome; is
there any mortal of our faith, I care not what may be his or her
theories of human propriety, who could pronounce against us for acting
as we have? My contention is, your aunt is not a proper guardian for
you. If it were your father or your motherboth Protestants, whose
spirits, looking down upon you, we are bound to believe, would wish you
to live and die Protestant to the heart as they were! But Lady Amelia
Roscoe!the most wretched mixture that can be imagined, of bigotry and
worldliness, her head stuffed full of priests and dress, of beads and
I broke off to kiss away a tear, and a little later she was smiling
with her hand in mine, as I led her up on deck.
The mistiness had gone out of the sunlight, the pearly, vaporous
curlsfaint of hue as the new moon beheld in the daywhich had given
a look of marble to the sky, had melted out or been settled by the
breeze over to the English coast, and now the heavens were a pale blue,
piebald with bodies of white vapour streaming up out of the south and
touching the green and creaming stretch of waters with shadows of
violet. There was more warmth in the sun than I should have looked for
at that time of the year, and I speedily made Grace comfortable in a
chair, a little distance from the tillerin other words, out of
earshot of the helmsman; I snugged her in rugs, and Caudel further
sheltered her by what he called a hurricane housea square of canvas
seized above the line of the bulwark rail.
She gazed about her out of the wraps which rose to her ears with
eyes full of childlike interest and wonder, not unmixed with fear, I
saw her eagerly watching the action of the yacht as the little fabric
leaned to a sea with a long, sideways, floating plunge that brought the
yeast of the broken waters bubbling and hissing to the very line of her
lee forecastle bulwark; then she would clasp my hand as though startled
when the dandy craft brought the weight of her white canvas to windward
on the heave of the underrunning sea with a sound as of drums and
bugles heard afar echoing down out of the glistening concavities and
ringing out of the taut rigging upon which the blue and brilliant
morning breeze was splitting.
She had not been sitting long before I saw that she was beginning to
like it. There was no nausea now; her eyes were bright, there was
colour in her cheeks; and her red lips lay parted as though in pure
enjoyment of the glad rush of the salt breeze athwart her teeth of
We had a deal to say to each other as you may suppose, and so much
of the nonsense that lovers will utter went to our talk that I should
be sorry to record what was said. Caudel, conning the little ship, hung
about removed from us, but I would often catch his sea-blue eye
furtively directed at Grace as though he could not look at her often
enough. The boy Bobby came and went betwixt the forecastle hatch and
the companion; the fellow at the helm swung upon the tiller with an
occasional peep at the broad wake racing, fanshaped, from under the
counter into the troubled toss and windy distance, as though he wished
to make sure that he was steering straight; the other two of my crew
were at work forward on jobs to which, not being a sailor, I should be
unable to give a name.
Thus passed the morning. There was no tedium. If ever there came a
halt in our chat there were twenty things over the side to look at, to
fill the pause with colour and beauty. It might be a tall,
slate-coloured, steam tank, hideous with gaunt leaning funnel and
famished pole-masts, and black fans of propeller beating at the
stern-post like the vanes of a drowning windmill amid a hill of froth,
yet poetised in spite of herself into a pretty detail of the
surrounding life through the mere impulse and spirit of the bright seas
through which she was starkly driving. Or it was a full-rigged ship,
homeward bound, with yearning canvas and ocean-worn sides, figures on
her poop crossing from rail to rail to look at what was passing, and
seamen on her forecastle busy with the ship's ground tackle.
It was shortly after twelve that the delicate shadow of the high
land of Beachy Head showed over the yacht's bow. By one o'clock it had
grown defined and firm, with the glimmering streak of its white
ramparts of chalk stealing out of the blue haze.
There's Old England, Grace! said I. How one's heart goes out to
the sight of the merest shadow of one's own soil! The Spitfire
has seen the land; has she not quickened her pace?
I ought to wish it was the Cornwall coast, she answered; but I am
enjoying this now, she added smiling.
How close do you intend to run in? I called to Caudel.
He rolled up to us and answered:
No call, I think, sir, to haul in much closer. The land trends in
down Brighton and Worthing way, and there'll be nothen to see till
we're off St. Catherine's Point.
Well, you know our destination, Caudel. Carry the yacht to it in
your own fashion. But mind you get there, said I, looking at Grace.
I was made happy by finding my sweetheart with some appetite for
dinner at one o'clock. She no longer sighed; no regrets escaped her;
her early alarm had disappeared; the novelty of the situation was
wearing off; she was now realising again what I knew she had realised
beforeto judge by her lettersthough the excitement and terrors of
the elopement had broken in upon and temporarily disordered her
perception; she was now fully realising, I mean, that there was nothing
for it but this step to free her from a species of immurement charged
with menace to her faith and to her love; and this being her mood, her
affection for me found room to show itself; so that now I never could
meet her eyes without seeing how wholly I had her dear heart, and how
happy she was in this recurrence of brightening out of her love from
the gloom and consternation that attended the start of our headlong
I flattered myself that we were to be fortunate in our weather;
certainly all that afternoon was as fair and beautiful in its marine
atmosphere of autumn as living creature could desire. The blues and
greens of the prospect of heaven and sea were enriched by the looming,
towering terraces of Beachy Head, hanging large and looking near upon
our starboard quarter, though I believe Caudel had not sailed very deep
within the sphere in which the high-perched lantern is visible before
shifting his helm for a straight down Channel course. A lugger with red
canvas, the hue of which was deepened yet by the delicate crimsoning of
the sun that was now sloping into the Atlantic, gliding betwixt us and
the heap of land in the north, brought out the white chalk of the
heights into a snow-white brilliance that almost startled the eye at
first sight of it.
I should imagine that a huge iceberg shows like that, said I to
I wish I had my paint-box here, she answered, her eyes glistening
as she looked.
Grace, said I, I have an idea. We will spend our honeymoon in the
Spitfire. We will lay in a stock of paint-boxes, easels and lead
pencils, sail round the coast, heave our little ship to off every point
of beauty, and take our fill of English shore scenery.
Do you mean to wait till next summer? she asked, glancing at me
shyly through her lashes, though with a hint of coquetry too in the
spirit of her look.
I laughed out, seeing her meaning, for to be sure a coastal cruise
in a twenty-six ton dandy would hardly fit the winter months of Great
Britain, and by the time we should be prepared to enter upon our
honeymoon, this autumn that was now dying would, I fear, be entirely
Then, it shall be Paris, Brussels, and Rome according to your own
programme, said I.
She coloured, and said something about there being plenty of time to
talk about such a matter as that, and went to the rail and leaned over
it, watching the distant noble mass of land in a reverie upon which I
would not intrude, so sweet did she look with her profile showing with
ivory-like delicacy against the green and blue of the east where the
tints were hardening to the gathering of the evening shadow there,
whilst her rich hair blown by the breeze seemed to tremble into fire to
the now almost level pouring of the red splendour in the west.
When the sun had fairly set I took her below, for the wind seemed to
come on a sudden with the damp of night in it, and a bite as shrewd in
its abruptness as frost. I had made no other provision in the shape of
amusement for our sea trip of three, four, or five days as it might
happen, than a small parcel of novels, scarcely doubting that all the
diversion we should need must lie in each other's company. And to be
sure we managed to kill the time very agreeably without the help of
fiction, though we both owned, when the little cabin clock pointed to
half-past nine, and she looking up at it, and yawning behind her white
fingers, exclaimed, that she felt tired and would go to bed; I say, we
both owned that the day had seemed a desperately long oneto be sure,
with us it had begun very earlyand I could not help adding that on
the whole a honeymoon spent aboard a yacht the size of the Spitfire
would soon grow a very slow business in spite of crayons and
As we lingered hand in hand, she exclaimed, What will mam'selle
have been saying all to-day?
The excitement, said I, has been tremendous. Mam'selle fainted to
begin with. Father Jerome was sent for, and I can see him with my
mind's eye taking the ground as he makes for the château with the
strides of a pantomime policeman chasing the clown. What titterings,
what exclamations, what Mon Dieux! and quelle horreurs!
among the girls! How many of them would like to be you? When they find
that rope-ladder danglingthe burglarious bull's-eye lamp at the foot
How could we have done it? she interrupted, looking at me
with a pale face and a working lip.
When she had withdrawn I put on a pea-coat, and filling a pipe,
stepped on deck. The dusk was clear, but of a darker shade than that of
the preceding night; there was not more wind than had been blowing
throughout the day; but the sky was full of large swollen-clouds
rolling in shadows of giant wings athwart the stars, and the gloom of
them was in the atmosphere. Here and there showed a ship's light, some
faint gleam of red or green windily coming and going out upon the
weltering obscurity, but away to starboard the horizon ran black,
without a single break of shore light that I could see. The yacht was
swarming through it under all canvas, humming as she went. Her pace, if
it lasted, would, I knew, speedily terminate this sea-going passage of
our elopement, and I looked over the stern very well pleased to witness
the white sweep of the wake melting at a little distance into a mere
Caudel stood near the helm,
This will do, I think, said I.
Ay, sir, he answered; she's finding her heels now. See that there
brig out yonder? and his arm pointed out against the stars over the
horizon to a dim green light on the right of our wake astern. She was
ahead of us half an hour ago, and I allow she was walking toowarn't
Warping, more like, answered the man in a grunting voice.
You go and smoother yourself! cried Caudel; why, damme a heagle
can't fly if you're to be believed.
When are we to be off St. Catherine's Point at this pace, Caudel?
At this pace, sirwhy, betwixt seven and eight o'clock to-morrow
What a deuce of a length this English Channel runs to! cried I
impatiently. Why, it will be little better than beginning our voyage
even when the Isle of Wight is abreast.
Yes, sir, there's a deal o' water going to the making of this here
Channela blooming sight too much of it when it comes on a winter's
night a-blowing and a-snowing, the hatmosphere thick as muck, answered
There'll be a bright look-out kept to-night, I hope, said I. Not
the value of all the cargoes afloat at this present instant, Caudel,
the wide world over, equals the worth of my treasure aboard the
Here Job Crew took a step to leeward to spit.
Trust me to see that a bright look-out's kept, Mr. Barclay.
There'll be no tarning in with me this night. Don't let no fear of
anything going wrong disturb your mind, sir.
I lingered to finish my pipe. The fresh wind flashed into the face
damp with the night and the spray-cold breath of the sea, and the
planks of the deck showed dark with the moisture to the dim starlight.
There was some weight in the heads of seas as they came rolling to our
beam, and the little vessel was now soaring and falling briskly upon
the heave of the folds whose volume, of course, gained as the Channel
Well, said I, with a bit of a shiver, and hugging myself in my
pea-coat, I'm cold and tired, and going to bed, so good-night, and God
keep you wide awake, and down I went, and ten minutes later was
snugged away in my coffin of a bunk sound asleep, and snoring at the
top of my pipes, I don't doubt.
Next morning when I went on deck after nine hours of solid slumber,
I at once directed my eyes over the rail in search of the Isle of
Wight, but there was nothing to be seen but a grey drizzle, a weeping
wall of slate-coloured haze that formed a sky of its own and drooped to
within a mile or so of the yacht. The sea was an ugly sallowish green,
and you saw the billows come tumbling in froth from under the vaporous
margin of the horizon as though each surge was formed there, and there
was nothing but blackness and space beyond. The yacht's canvas was
discoloured with saturation; drops of water were blowing from her
rigging; there was a sobbing of a gutter-like sort in her lee scuppers,
and the figures of the men glistening in oilskins completed the
melancholy appearance of the little Spitfire. Caudel was below,
but the man named Dick Files was at the helm, an intelligent young
fellow without any portion of Job Crew's surliness, and he answered the
questions I put.
We had made capital way throughout the night he told me, and if the
weather were clear, St. Catherine's Point would show abreast of us.
There's no doubt about Caudel knowing where he is? said I, with a
glance at the blind grey atmosphere that sometimes swept in little
puffs of cloudy damp through the rigging, like fragments of vapour torn
out of some compacted body.
Oh, no, sir, Mr. Caudel knows where he is, answered the man. We
picked up and passed a small cutter out of Portsmouth about
three-quarters of an hour ago, sir, and he told us where we were.
Has this sail been kept on the yacht all night? said I, looking up
at the wide spread of mainsail and gaff topsail.
All night, sir. The run's averaged eight knots. Night hand equal to
Well, you will all need to keep a bright look-out in this sort of
thickness. How far off can you see?
The man stared, and blinked, and mused, and then said he allowed
about a mile and a quarter.
Room enough, said I. But mind your big mail boats out of
Southampton! There are German skippers amongst them who would drive
through the devil himself sooner than lose five minutes.
The promise of a long, wet, blank day was not very cheering. In
fact, this change in the weather was as damping to my spirits as it
literally was to everything else, and as I entered the companion way
for shelter, I felt as though half of a mind to order the yacht to be
headed for some adjacent port. But a little thinking brought back my
resolution to its old bearings. It is a hard thing to avow, but I knew
that my very strongest chance of gaining Lady Amelia's consent lay in
this sea trip. Then again, there might come a break at any moment, with
a fine day of warm sunshine and clear sky to follow. I re-entered the
cabin, and on looking at the barometer observed a slight depression in
the mercury, but it was without significance to my mind.
Somewhere about this time Grace came out of her berth. She brought
an atmosphere of flower-like fragrance with her, but the motions of the
yacht obliged her to sit quickly, and she gazed at me with laughter in
her eyes from the locker, graceful in her posture as a reposing dancer.
Her face lengthened, however, when I told her about the weather, that
in short there was nothing visible from the deck but a muddy, jumbled
atmosphere of vapour and drizzle.
I counted upon seeing the Isle of Wight, cried she; there has
been no land so far except those far-off high cliffs yesterday
No matter, my sweet. Let us take as long as possible in
breakfasting. Then you shall read Tennyson to meyes, I have a volume
of that poet, and we shall find some of the verses in wonderful harmony
with our mood. She gave me a smiling glance, though her lip pouted as
though she would say, Don't make too sure of my mood, my fine young
fellow. By the time we have done with Tennyson, I continued, the
weather may have cleared. If not, then we must take as long as possible
Isn't it dangerous to be at sea in such weather as this? she
No, said I.
But the sailors can't see.
I feared the drift of her language and exclaimed, It would be
dangerous to attempt to make the land, for we might blunder upon a rock
and go to pieces, Grace; and then farewell, a long farewell to the
passions, emotions, the impulses, the sensations which have brought us
together here, and I kissed her hand.
But it would be pleasant to lie in a pretty harbourto rest as it
were, she exclaimed.
Our business is to get married, my darling, I rejoined; and we
must hasten as swiftly as the wind will allow us to the parish where
the ceremony is to be performed, for my cousin can't publish the banns
until we are on the spot, and whilst he is publishing the banns we must
be treating with her ladyship, and, as the diplomatists would say,
negotiating a successful issue.
She sighed, and looked grave, and hung her head. In truth, she took
a gloomy view of the future, was secretly convinced her aunt would not
consent, was satisfied that she would have to reside with my sister
until she had come of age, and my lightest touching upon the subject
dispirited her. And, indeed, though I had talked big to Caudel, and to
my darling also, of my sister taking charge of her, I was not at all
sureI ought undoubtedly to have asked the question of a lawyerthat
Lady Amelia Roscoe could not, as her guardian, claim her, and convey
her to school afresh, and do, in short, what she pleased with the child
until she was twenty-one years old. But all the same I felt cocksure in
my heart that it would never come to this. Our yachting trip I regarded
as a provision against all difficulties.
My mind was busy with these thoughts as I sat by her side looking at
her; but she loved me not less than I loved her, and so I never found
it hard to coax a smile into her sweet face and to brighten her eyes.
CHAPTER V. DIRTY WEATHER
I should only weary you by reciting the passage of the hours. After
breakfast I took Grace on deck for a turn, but she was glad to get
below again. All day long it continued dark weather, without a sight of
anything, save at intervals the shadowy figure of a coaster aslant in
the thickness, and once the loom of a huge ocean passenger boat,
sweeping at twelve or fourteen knots through the grey veil of vapour
that narrowed the horizon to within a mile of us. The wind, however,
remained a steady, fresh breeze, and throughout the day there was never
a rope handled nor a stitch of canvas reduced. The Spitfire
swung steadfastly through it, in true sea-bruising style, sturdily
flinging the sea off her flaring bow, and whitening the water with the
plunges of her churning keel till the tail of her wake seemed to
stretch to the near sea line.
I will not feign, however, that I was perfectly comfortable in my
mind. Anything at sea but thick weather! I never pretended to be more
than a summer-holiday sailor, and such anxiety, as I should have felt
had I been alone, was now mightily accentuated, as you will suppose, by
having the darling of my heart in my little ship with me. I had a long
talk with Caudel that afternoon, and despite my eager desire to remain
at sea, I believe I would have been glad had he advised that the
Spitfire should be steered for the nearest harbour. But his counsel
was all the other way.
Lord love ye, Mr. Barclay, sir, he exclaimed, what's agoing wrong
that we should tarn to and set it right? Here's a breeze of wind that's
adoing all that could be asked for. I dorn't say it ain't thick, but
there's nothen in it to take notice of. Of course, you've only got to
say the word, sir, and I'll put the hellum up; but even for that there
job it would be proper to make sartin first of all where we are.
There's no want of harbours under our lee from Portland Bill to Bolt
Head, but I can't trust to my dead reckoning, seeing what's involved,
said he, casting a damp eye at the skylight; and my motto is, there's
nothen like seeing when you're on such a coast as this here. Having
come all this way it 'ud be a pity to stop now.
So long as you're satisfied! I exclaimed; and no doubt he was,
though I believe he was influenced by vanity too. Our putting into a
harbour might affect him as a reflection upon his skill. He would also
suppose that, if we entered a harbour, we should travel by rail to our
destination, which would be as though he were told we could not trust
him farther. After the service he had done me it was not to be supposed
I could causelessly give the worthy fellow offence.
You steer by the compass, I suppose? said I.
By nothen else, sir, he answered in a voice of wonder.
Well, I might have known that, said I, laughing at my own stupid
question that yet had sense in it too. I should have asked you if the
compass is to be trusted?
Ay, sir. He's a first-class compass. There's nothen to make him go
wrong. Yet it's astonishing what a little thing will put a compass out.
I've heered of a vessel that was pretty nigh run ashore all along of
the helmsmannot because he couldn't steer; a better hand never stood
at a wheel; but because he'd been physicking of himself with iron and
steel, and had taken so much of the blooming stuff that the compass was
wrong all the time he was at the helm.
A very good story, said I.
I'm sure you'll forgive me, sir, he proceeded, for asking if your
young lady wears any steel bones about hercontrivances for hoisting
her dress up astarncrinolinesbustlesyou know what I mean, Mr.
I cannot tell, said I.
I've heered speak of the master of a vessel, he went on (being a
very talkative man when he got into the yarning mood), whose
calculations was always falling to pieces at sea. Two and two never
seemed to make four with him; ontil he found out that one of his lady
passengers every morning brought a stool and sat close agin the
binnacle; she wore steel hoops to swell her dress out with, and the
local attraction was such, your honour, that the compass was sometimes
four or five points out.
I told him that if the compass went wrong it would not be Miss
Bellassys' fault; and having had enough of the deck, I rejoined my
sweetheart, and, in the cabin, with talking, reading, she singingvery
sweetly she sangwe killed the hours till bed-time.
This was our third night at sea, and I was now beginning to think
that instead of three or four days we should occupy a week, and perhaps
longer, in making Mount's Bay; in which conjecture I was confirmed
when, finding myself awake at three o'clock in the morning, I pulled on
my clothes and went on deck to take a look round, and found the wind a
light off-shore air, the stars shining, and the Spitfire, with
her canvas falling in and out with sounds like the discharge of small
arms, rolling stagnantly upon a smooth-backed run of swell lifting out
of the north-east, but with a slant in the heave of it that made one
guess the impulse which set it running was fair north.
I was up again at seven o'clock, with a resolution to let the
weather shape my decision as to sticking to the vessel or going ashore,
and was not a little pleased to find the yacht making good way with a
brilliant breeze gushing steady off her starboard bow. The heavens
looked high with fine weather clouds, prismatic mare-tails for the most
part, here and there a snow-white, swelling shoulder of vapour hovering
over the edge of the sea.
Caudel told me we were drawing well on to Portland, but that the
wind had headed him, and he was off his course, so that, unless he put
the yacht about, we should not obtain a sight of the land.
No matter, said I, let us make the most of this slant.
That's what I'm for doing, sir. My principle is, always make a free
wind, no matter what be the air that's ablowing. Some men's for
ratching with the luff of their fore and aft canvas rounding in
aweather, so cleverly do they try to split the eye of the breeze. I'm
for sailing myself, and he cast a glance up at the rapful canvas,
following it on with a look at Jacob Crew, who was suddenly gnawing
upon his quid at the tiller, as though to keep him in mind by the
expression of his eye of injunctions previously delivered.
The greater part of this day Grace and I spent on deck, but nothing
whatever happened good enough to keep my tale waiting whilst I tell you
about it. Strong as the off-shore breeze was, there was but little sea,
nothing to stop the yacht, and she ran through it like a sledge over a
snow plain, piling the froth to her stem-head and reeling off a fair
nine knots as Caudel would cry out to me with an exultant countenance
of leather every time the log was hove. He talked of being abreast of
the Start by three o'clock in the morning.
Then, said I to my sweetheart, if that be so, Grace, there will
be but a short cruise to follow.
At this she looked grave, and fastened her eye with a wistful
expression upon the sea over the bows as though Mount's Bay lay there,
and as though the quaint old town of Penzance, with its long esplanade
and rich flanking of green and well-tilled heights, would be presently
I read her thoughts and said, I have never met Mrs. Howe, but
Frank's letters about her to me were as enthusiastic as mine were about
you to him. He calls her sweetly pretty. So she may be. I know she is a
lady; her connections are good; I am also convinced by Frank's
description that she is amiable; consequently, I am certain she will
make you happy and comfortable until and here I squeezed her hand..
It is a desperate step, Herbert, she sighed.
Upon which I changed the subject.
There was a noble flaring sunset that evening. The crimson of it was
deep and thunderous; the wild splendour was rendered portentous by an
appearance as of bars of cloud stretched horizontally across, as though
they railed in the flames of a continent on fire. All day long the wind
had been heading us a little off our course, which by magnetic compass
was about W.S.W., and this magnificence of sunset at which Grace and I
continued to stare with eyes of admiration and wonder, neither of us
having ever seen the like of the red and burning glory that overhung
the sea, stood well up on the starboard bow. The Channel waters ran to
it in a dark and frothing green till they were smitten by the light,
when they throbbed in blood for a space, then flowed in dark green
afresh, hardening into a firm, cold, darkly green horizon.
A small screw steamer, with her funnel sloping almost over her
stern, and her greasy poles of masts resembling fibres of gold in the
sunset, was bruising her way up Channel with a frequent cock of her bow
or stern which made one wonder where the sea was that tossed her so.
There was nothing else in sight, and by the time she vanished the last
rusty tinge of red had perished in the west, and the loneliness of the
sea came like a sensible quality of cold into the darkening twilight.
How desolate the ocean looks on a sudden! said Grace.
I thought so too as I glanced at the ashen heads of the melting
billows and up aloft at the sky, where I took notice of an odd
appearance of vapour, a sort of dusky smearing, as it werea clay-like
kind of cloud, as though rudely laid on by a trowelI cannot better
express the uncommon character of the heavens that evening. Here and
there a star looked sparely and bleakly down, and in the west there was
a paring of moon, some day or two old, shining and crystalline enough
to make the dull gleam of the stars odd as an atmospheric effect.
But the breeze blew steady; there was nothing to disturb the mind in
the indications of the barometer; hour after hour the little ship was
swarming through it handsomely, and we were now drawing on much too
close to Mount's Bay (albeit this evening we were not yet abreast of
the Start) to pause because of a thunder-coloured, smoking
sunset, and because of a hard look of sky that might yield to the stars
before midnight and discover a wide and cloudless plain of luminaries.
How long shall you keep on this tack? I asked Caudel.
All night, sir, if the wind don't head us yet. It won't put us far
off our port even at this.
Shall you sight the Start light?
No, sir. Our stretching away all day'll have put it out of our
spear of view. The Lizard light'll be all I want, and this time
twenty-four hours I hope to be well on to it.
I went below, and Grace and I killed the time as heretofore in
talking and reading. We found the evening too short indeed, so much had
we to say to each other. Wonderful is the quality and the amount of
talk which lovers are able to get through and feel satisfied with! You
hear of silent love, of lovers staring on one another with glowing
eyes, their lips incapable of the emotions and sensations which crowd
their quick hearts and fill their throats with sighs. This may be very
well too; but, for my part, I have generally observed that lovers have
a very great deal to talk about. Remark an engaged couple; sooner than
be silent they will whisper if there be company present; and when
alone, or when they think themselves alone, their tonguesparticularly
the girl'sare never still. Grace and I were of a talking
agetwo-and-twenty, and one not yet eighteen; our minds had no
knowledge of life, no experience, nothing in them to keep them steady;
they were set in motion by the lightest, the most trivial breath of
thought, and idly danced in us in the manner of some gossamer-light,
topmost leaf to the faintest movement of the summer air.
She withdrew to her berth at ten o'clock that night with a radiant
face and laughing eyes, for inane as the evening must have shown to
others, to us it had been one of perfect felicity; not a single sigh
had escaped her, and twice had I mentioned the name of Mrs. Howe
without witnessing any change of countenance in her.
I went on deck to take a last look round, and found all well; no
change in the weather, the breeze a brisk and steady pouring out of the
north, and Caudel pacing the deck well satisfied with our progress. I
returned below without any feeling of uneasiness, and sat at the cabin
table for some ten minutes or so to smoke out a cigar, and to refresh
myself with a glass of seltzer and brandy. A sort of dream-like feeling
came upon me as I sat. I found it hard to realise that my sweetheart
was close to me, separated only by a curtained door from the cabin I
was musing in. What was to follow this adventure? Was it possible that
Lady Amelia Roscoe would oppose any obstacle to our union after even
this association of three or four days as it might be? I gazed at
the mirrors I had equipped the cabin withpicked up a handkerchief my
sweetheart had left behind her and kissed itstared at the little
silver shining lamp that swung over my headpulled a flower and smelt
it in a vacant sort of way of which, nevertheless, I was perfectly
sensible.... Is there anything wrong with my nerves to-night? thought
I extinguished my cigar and went to bed. It was then about a quarter
to eleven, and till past one I lay awake, weary, yet unable to sleep. I
lay listening to the frothing and seething of the water thrashing along
the bends, broken into at regular intervals by the low thunder of the
surge, burying my cabin porthole and rising to the line of the rail as
the yacht's stern sank with a long slanting heel-over of the whole
fabric. I fell asleep at last, and as I afterwards gathered, slept till
somewhat after three o'clock in the morning. I was awakened by suddenly
and violently rolling out of my bunk. The fall was a heavy one; I was a
big fellow, and struck the plank of the deck hard, and though I was
instantly awakened by the shock of the capsisal, I lay for some moments
in a condition of stupefaction, sensible of nothing but that I had
tumbled out of my bunk.
The little berth was in pitch darkness, and I lay, as I have said,
motionless and almost dazed, till my ear caught a sound of shrieking
ringing through a wild but subdued note of storm on deck, mingled with
loud and fearful shouts, as of men bawling for life or death, with a
trembling in every plank and fastening of the little fabric as though
she were tearing herself to pieces. I got on to my legs, but the angle
of the deck was so prodigious that I leaned helpless against the
bulkhead, to the base of which I had rolled, though unconsciously. The
shrieks were continued; I recognised Grace's voice, and the sound put a
sort of frenzy into me, insomuch that, scarcely knowing how I managed,
I had in an instant, opened the door of my little berth, and was
standing, grabbing hold of the cabin table, shouting to let her know
that I was awake and up, and that I heard her.
Now, the uproar of what I took to be a squall of hurricane
power was to be easily heard. The bellowing of the wind was horrible,
and it was made more terrifying to land-going ears by the incessant
hoarse shouts of the fellows on deck; but bewildered as I was, agitated
beyond expression, not knowing but that as I stood there, gripping the
table and shouting my sweetheart's name, the yacht might be foundering
under my feet, I had wits enough to observe that the vessel was slowly
recovering a level keel, rising from the roof-like slant which had
flung me from my bed to an inclination that rendered the use of one's
legs possible. I likewise noticed that she neither plunged nor rolled
with greater heaviness than I had observed in her before I lay down.
The sensation of her motion was as though she was slowly rounding
before the wind, and beginning to scud over a surface that had been
almost flattened by a hurricane-burst into a dead level of snow. I
could hear no noise of breaking seas nor of rushing water, nothing but
a cauldron-like hissing, through which rolled the notes of the storm in
echoes of great ordnance.
Fortunately, I had no need to clothe myself, since on lying down I
had removed nothing but my coat, collar and shoes. I had a little
silver match-box in my trouser's pocket, and swiftly struck a match and
lighted the lamp and looked at Grace's door expecting to find her
standing in it. It was closed, and she continued to scream. It was no
time for ceremony; I opened the door, and called to know how it was
Oh, Herbert, save me! she shrieked; the yacht is sinking.
No, I cried, she has been struck by a gale of wind. I will find
out what is the matter. Are you hurt?
The yacht is sinking! she repeated in a wild voice of terror.
Spite of the lamplight in the cabin, the curtain and the door
combined eclipsed the sheen, and I could not see her.
Are you in bed, dearest?
Yes, she cried.
Are you hurt, my precious?
No, but my heart has stopped with fright. We shall be drowned. Oh,
Herbert, the yacht is sinking!
Remain as you are, Grace. I shall return to you in a moment. Do not
imagine that the yacht is sinking. I know by the buoyant feel of her
movements that she is safe.
And thus hurriedly speaking I left her, satisfied that her shrieks
had been produced by terror only; nor did I wish her to rise, lest the
yacht should again suddenly heel to her first extravagantly dreadful
angle, and throw her, and break a limb, or injure her more cruelly yet.
The companion hatch was closed. The feeling of being imprisoned
raised such a feeling of consternation in me that I stood in the hatch
as one paralysed, then terror set me pounding upon the cover with my
fists, till you would have thought in a few moments I must have reduced
it to splinters. After a little, during which I hammered with might and
main, roaring out the name of Caudel, the cover was cautiously lifted
to the height of a few inches, letting in a very yell of wind, such a
shock and blast of it that I was forced, back off the ladder as though
by a blow in the face, and in a breath the light went out.
It's all right, Mr. Barclay, cried the voice of Caudel, hoarse and
yet shrill too with the life and death cries he had been delivering. A
gale of wind's busted down upon us. We've got the yacht afore it whilst
we clear away the wreckage. There's no call to be alarmed, sir. On my
word and honour as a man there's no call, sir. I beg you not to come on
deck yetye'll only be in the way. Trust to me, sirit's all right, I
say, and the hatch was closed again.
Wreckage! The word sounded as miserably in my ear as though it had
been the shout of Heaven have mercy upon us! What had been wrecked?
What had happened? Was the yacht stove? Had we lost our mast? I had
heard no crash, no noise of splintering, no resounding thump as of a
fall. I listened, struck another match, and then lighted the lamp
afresh. I might know now that the Spitfire was dead before the
wind, seething almost soundlessly through the foam of the storm-swept
surface. She was going along with a steadiness that was startling when
one thought of and listened to the weather; for her plunges were so
long and buoyant as to be scarcely noticeable, whilst sea and swell
being directly in her wake, her rolling was of the lightest. This
scudding likewise took something of the weight out of the blast howling
after us; the echo as of thunder penetrating to the cabin was,
comparatively speaking, dulled; but I was sailor enough to know that we
should be having a heavy sea anon, and that if the yacht was crippled
aloft or injured below, then the merciful powers only knew how it was
going to end with us.
These thoughts were in my mind as I lighted the lamp. I now knocked
on Grace's door, and told her to rise and dress herself, and join me in
There is no danger, I shouted, nothing but a passing capful of
She made some answer which I could not catch, but I might be sure
that the upright posture and buoyant motions of the scudding yacht had
tranquillised her mind; moreover, all sounds would penetrate her berth
in very muffled tones. Still, if she looked at her watch, she might
wonder why she had to rise and dress at half-past three o'clock in the
I sat alone for some ten minutes, during which the height and volume
of the sea sensibly increased, though as the yacht continued flying
dead before the wind, her plunges were still too long and gradual to be
distressing. Occasionally a shout would sound on deck, but what the men
were about I could not conceive.
The door of the forward berth was opened, and Grace entered the
cabin. Her face was white as death; her large eyes, which seemed of a
coal blackness in the lamplight, and by contrast with the hue of her
cheeks, sparkled with alarm. She swept them round the cabin, as though
she expected to behold one knows not what sort of horror, then came to
my side and linked my arm tightly in hers.
Oh, Herbert, tell me the truth. What has happened?
Nothing serious, darling. Do you not feel that we are afloat and
But just now? Did not the yacht turn over? Something was broken on
deck, and the men began to shriek.
And so did you, Grace, said I, trying to smile.
But if we should be drowned? she cried, drawing closer to me, and
fastening her sweet, terrified eyes upon my face.
I shook my head, still preserving my smile, though Heaven knows, had
my countenance taken its expression from my mood, it must have shown as
long as the yacht herself. I could see her straining her ears to
listen, whilst her gazelarge, bright, her brows arched, her lips
parted, her breast swiftly heavingroamed over the cabin.
What is that noise of thunder, Herbert?
It is the wind, I answered.
Are not the waves getting up? Oh! feel this! she cried, as the
yacht rose with velocity and something of violence to the under-running
hurl of a chasing sea, of a power that was but too suggestive of what
we were to expect.
The Spitfire is a stanch, noble little craft, said I,
built for North Sea weather. She is not to be daunted by anything that
can happen hereabouts.
But what has happened? she cried, irritable with alarm.
I was about to utter the first reassuring sentence that occurred to
my mind, when the companion was slid a little way back, and I just
caught sight of a pair of legs ere the cabin lamp was extinguished by
such another yell and blast of wind as had before nearly stretched me.
Grace shrieked and threw her arms round my neck; the cover was closed,
and the interior, instantly becalmed again.
Who's that? I roared.
Me, sir, sounded a voice out of the blackness where the companion
steps stood; Files, sir. The captain asked me to step below to report
what's happened. He dursn't leave the deck himself.
I released myself from my darling's clinging embrace and lighted the
lamp for the third time.
Files, wrapped in streaming oilskins, resembled an ebony figure over
which a bucket of dripping has been emptied, as he stood at the foot of
the steps with but a bit of his wet, grey-coloured face showing betwixt
the ear-flaps and under the fore-thatch of his sou'wester.
Now for your report, Files, and bear a hand with it for mercy's
Well, sir, it's just this; it had been breezing up, and we
double-reefed the mainsail, Captain Caudel not liking the look of the
weather, when a slap of wind carried pretty nigh half the mast over the
side. We reckonfor we can't seethat it's gone some three or four
feet below the cross-trees. The sail came down with a run, and there
was a regular mess of it, sir, the wessel being buried. We've had to
keep her afore it until we could cut the wreckage clear, and now we're
agoing to heave her to, and I'm to tell ye with Capt'n Caudel's
compliments not to take any notice of the capers she may cut when she
heads the sea.
One moment. Is she sound in her hull?
Heaven be praised! And how is the wind?
About nor'-nor'-east, sir.
Then, of course, we've been running sou'-sou'-west, heading right
into the open channel?
He said yes.
How does the weather look, Files?
Werry black and noisy, sir.
Tell Caudel to let me see him whenever he can leave the deck, said
I, unwilling to detain him lest he should say something to add to the
terror of Grace, whose eyes were riveted upon him as though he were
some frightful ghost or hideous messenger of death.
I took down the lamp and screened it, whilst he opened the cover and
CHAPTER VI. SWEETHEARTS IN A STORM
No man could imagine that so heavy a sea was already running until
Caudel hove the yacht to. The instant the helm was put down the dance
began! As she rounded to a whole green sea struck her full abeam, and
fell with a roar like a volcanic discharge upon her decks, staggering
her to the heartsending a throe of mortal agony through her, as one
might have sworn. I felt that she was buried in the foam of that sea.
As she gallantly rose, still valiantly rounding into the wind, as
though the spirit of the British soil in which had grown the hardy
timber out of which she was manufactured was never stronger in her than
now, the water that filled her decks roared cascading over the rails.
Grace sat by my side, her arm locked in mine; she was motionless
with fear; her eyes had the fixed look of the sleep-walker's, nor will
I deny that my own terror was extreme; for imagining that I had heard a
shriek, I believed that my men had been washed overboard, and that we
two were locked up in a dismasted craft that was probably
sinkingimprisoned, I say, by reason of the construction of the
companion cover, which, when closed, was not to be opened from within.
I waited a few minutes with my lips set, wondering what was to
happen next, holding Grace close to me, and harkening with feverish
ears for the least sound of a human voice on deck. There was a second
blowthis time on the yacht's bowfollowed by a sensation as of every
timber thrilling, and by a bolt-like thud of falling water, but this
time well forward. Immediately afterwards I heard Caudel shouting close
against the skylight, and I cannot express the emotion, in truth, I may
call it the transport of joy, his voice raised in me. It was like being
rescued from a dreadful death that an instant before seemed certain.
I continued to wait, holding my darling to me; her head lay upon my
shoulder, and she rested as though in a swoon. The sight of her white
face was inexpressibly shocking to me, who very well knew that there
was nothing I could say to soften her terrors amid such a sea as the
yacht was now tumbling upon. Indeed, the vessel's motions had become on
a sudden violently heavy. I was never in such a sea before; that is to
say, in so small a vessel, and the leaping of the craft from peak to
base, and the dreadful careering of her as she soared, lying down on
her beam ends to the next liquid summit were absolutely soul subduing.
It was idle, however, to think of going on deck. I durst not leave
my darling alone lest she should swoon and be thrown down and injured,
perhaps killed; whilst, for myself, the legs of a man needed a longer
apprenticeship to the sea than ever I had served, or had the faintest
desire to serve, to qualify him for such capering planks as these, and
I was quite sure that if I wished to break my neck I had nothing more
to do than to make an attempt to stand.
Well, some twenty minutes, or, perhaps, half an hour passed, during
all which time I believed every moment to be our last, and I recollect
cursing myself for being the instrument of introducing the darling of
my heart into this abominable scene of storm in which, as I believed,
we were both to perish. Why had I not gone ashore yesterday? Did not my
instincts advise me to quit the sea and take the railway? Why had I
brought my pet away from the security of the Rue de Maquétra? Why, in
the name of all the virtues, was I so impatient that I could not wait
till she was of age, when I could have married her comfortably and
respectably, freed from all obligations of ladders, dark lanterns,
tempests, and whatever was next to come? I could have beaten my head
upon the table. Never did I better understand what I have always
regarded as a stroke of fictionI mean the disposition of a man in a
passion to tear out his hair by the roots.
At the expiration, as I supposed, of twenty minutes, the hatch cover
was opened, this time without any following screech and blast of wind,
and Caudel descended. Had he been a beam of sunshine he could not have
been more welcome to my eyes. He was clad from head to foot in
oilskins, from which the wet ran as from an umbrella in a
thunder-shower, and the skin and hue of his face resembled soaked
Well, Mr. Barclay, sir, he exclaimed, and how have you been
getting on? It's been a bad job; but there's nothen to alarm ye, I'm
sure. Then catching sight of Grace's face, he cried, The young lady
ain't been and hurt herself, I hope, sir?
Her fear and this movement, I answered, have proved too much for
her. I wish you would pull off your oilskins and help me to convey her
to the lee side there. The edge of this table seems to be cutting me in
halves, the fact being that I was to windward with the whole weight of
my sweetheart, who rested lifelessly against me to increase the
pressure, so that at every leeward stoop of the craft my breast was
caught by the edge of the table with a sensation as of a knife cutting
through my shirt.
He instantly whipped off his streaming waterproofs, standing without
the least inconvenience whilst the decks slanted under him like a
see-saw, and in a very few moments he had safely placed Grace on the
lee locker with her head on a pillow. I made shift to get round to her
without hurting myself, then cried to Caudel to sit and tell me what
Well, it's just this, sir, he answered, the mast has carried away
some feet below the head of it. It went on a sudden in the squall in
which the wind burst down upon us. Perhaps it was as well it happened,
for she lay down to that there houtfly in a way so hobstinate that I
did believe she'd never lift herself out of the water agin. But the
sail came down when the mast broke, and I managed to get her afore it,
though I don't mind owning to you now, sir, that what with the gear
fouling the helm, and what with other matters which there ain't no call
for me to talk about, 'twas as close a shave with us, sir, as ever
happened at sea.
Grace moaned, opened her eyes and then shut them again, and moved
her hand that I should take it. The companion cover lay a little way
open, but though tons of water might be flying over the bow for aught I
knew, not a drop glittered in the hatch. I could now, however, very
clearly hear the roaring hum of the gale, and catch the note of
boiling waters; but these sounds were not so distracting but that
Caudel and I clearly heard each other's voice.
Is the yacht tight, do you think, Caudel? cried I.
I hope she is, sir.
Hope! My God, but you must know, Caudel.
Well, sir, she's adraining a little water into herI'm bound to
say itbut nothen that the pump won't keep under; and I believe that
most of it finds its way into the well from up above.
I stared at him with a passion of anxiety and dismay, but his cheery
blue eyes steadfastly returned my gaze as though he would make me know
that he spoke the truththat matters were not worse than he
Has the pump been worked? I inquired.
He lifted his hand as I asked the question, and I heard the beat of
the pump throbbing through the dull roar of the wind as though a man
had seized the brake of it in response to my inquiry.
This is a frightful situation to be in, said I, with a glance at
Grace, who lay motionless, with her eyes shut, rendered almost
insensible by the giddy and violent motion of the hull.
It'll all come right, sir, he exclaimed; daybreak 'll be here
soon he looked up at the clock, then we shall be able to see what
But what is to be done?
Plenty, sir. Tarn to first of all and secure the remains of the
mast. There's height enough left. We must secure him, I says, then wait
for this here breeze to blow himself out, and then make sail and get
away home as fast as ever we can.
But is the vessel, wrecked aloft as she is, going to outlive such
weather as this? I cried, talking in a half-dazed way out of the sort
of swooning feeling which came and went in my head like a pulse with
the wild, sky-high flights and the headlong falls of the little vessel.
I hope she will, I'm sure, sir. She was built for the seas of the
Dogger, and ought to be able to stand the likes of this.
Does much water come aboard?
Now and agin there's a splash, but she's doing werry well, sir. Ye
see we ain't a canoe, nor a wherry. A hundred years ago the Spitfire
would have been reckoned a craft big enough to sail to Australia in.
Was anyone hurt by the sea as you rounded to?
Bobby was washed aft, sir, but he's all right agin.
I plied him with further questions, mainly concerning the prospects
of the weather, our chances, the drift of the yacht, that I might know
into what part of the Channel we were being blown, and how long it
would occupy to storm us at this rate into the open Atlantic; and then
asking him to watch by Grace for a few minutes, I dropped on my knees,
and crawled to my cabin, where I somehow contrived to scramble into my
boots, coat and cap. I then made for the companion steps, still on my
knees, and clawed my way up the hatch till I was head and shoulders
above it, and there I stood looking.
I say looking, but there was nothing to see save the near, vast,
cloud-like spaces of foam, hovering as it seemed high above the rail as
some black head of surge broke off the bow, or descending the pouring
side of a sea like bodies of mist sweeping with incredible velocity
with the breath of the gale. Past these dim masses the water lay in
blacknessa huge spread of throbbing obscurity. All overhead was mere
rushing darkness. The wind was wet with spray, and forward there would
show at intervals a dull shining of foam, flashing transversely across
the labouring little craft.
It was blowing hard indeed, yet from the weight of the seas and the
motions of the Spitfire, I could have supposed the gale severer
than it was. I returned to the cabin, and Caudel, after putting on his
oilskins and swallowing a glass of brandy and waterthe materials of
which were swaying furiously in a silver-plated swinging tray suspended
over the tablewent on deck, leaving the companion cover a little way
open in case I desired to quit the cabin.
Until the dawn, and some time past it, I sat close beside Grace,
holding her hand or bathing her brow. She never spoke, she seldom
opened her eyes; indeed, she lay as though utterly prostrated, without
power to articulate, or, perhaps, to think either. It was the effect of
fear, however, rather than of nausea. At any rate, I remember hoping
so, for I had heard of people dying of sea sickness, and if the weather
that had stormed down upon us should last, it might end in killing her;
whereas, the daylight, and, perhaps, some little break of blue sky
would reanimate her if her sufferings were owing to terror only, and
when she found the little craft buoyant and our lives in no danger, her
spirits would rise and her strength return.
But what an elopement is this! thought I, as I gazed upon her sweet,
white face and closed lids darkening the cheek with the shadowing of
the fringes. One reads of fugitive lovers in peril from overset stage
coaches, from detectives in waiting at railway stations, from
explosions, earthquakes and collisions on land and ocean. But a gale of
winda storm-dismantled dandy yacht of twenty-six tons furiously
working in the thick of a wild Channel sea, where the surge swells
large with the weight of the near Atlantichere are conditions of a
runaway match, the like of which are not to be found, I believe,
outside of my own experience.
The blessed daylight came at last. I spied the weak wet grey of it
in a corner of the skylight that had been left uncovered by the
tarpaulin which was spread over the glass. I looked closely at Grace
and found her asleep. I could not be sure at first, so motionless had
she been lying, but when I put my ear close to her mouth, the
regularity of her respiration convinced me that she was slumbering.
That she should be able to snatch even ten minutes of sleep cheered
me. Yet my spirits were very heavy, every bone in me ached with a pain
as of rheumatism; though I did not feel sick, my brain seemed to reel,
and the sensation of giddiness was hardly less miserable and depressing
than nausea itself. I stood up, and with great difficulty caught the
brandy as it flew from side to side on the swinging tray, and took a
dram, and then clawed my way as before to the companion steps, and
opening the cover, got into the hatch and stood looking at the picture
of my yacht and the sea.
There was no one at the helm; the tiller was lashed to leeward. The
shock I received on observing no one aft, finding the helm abandoned,
as it seemed to me, I shall never forget. The tiller was the first
object I saw as I rose through the hatch, and my instant belief was
that all my people had been swept overboard. On looking forward,
however, I spied Caudel and the others of the men at work about the
mast. I am no sailor and cannot tell you what they were doing, beyond
saying that they were securing the mast by affixing tackles and so
forth to it. But I had no eyes for them or their work; I could only
gaze at my ruined yacht, which at every heave appeared to be pulling
herself together, as it were, for the final plunge. A mass of cordage
littered the deck; the head of the mast showed in splinters, whilst the
spar itself looked withered, naked, blasted, as though struck by
lightning. The decks were full of water, which was flashed above the
rail, where it was instantly swept away by the gale in a smoke of
crystals. The black gear wriggled and rose to the wash of the water
over the planks like a huddle of eels. A large space of the bulwarks on
the port side abreast of the mast was smashed level with the deck. The
grey sky seemed to hover within musket shot of us, and it went down the
sea in a slate-coloured weeping body of thickness to within a couple of
hundred fathoms, and the dark green surges, as they came rolling in
foam from out of the windward wall of blankness, looked enormous.
In sober truth a very great sea was running indeed; the oldest
sailor then afloat must have thought so. The Channel was widening into
the ocean, with depth enough for seas of oceanic volume, and it was
still, as it had been for some hours, blowing a whole gale of wind. I
had often read of what is called a storm at sea, but had never
encountered one, and now I was viewing the real thing from the deck of
a little vessel that was practically dismasted in the heart of a
thickness that shrouded us from all observation, whilst every minute we
were being settled farther and farther away from the English coast
towards the great Atlantic by the hurling scend of the surges, and by
the driving fury of the blast.
Caudel on seeing me came scrambling to the companion. The salt of
the flying wet had dried in the hollows of his eyes and lay in a sort
of white powder there, insomuch that he was scarcely recognisable. It
was impossible to hear him amidst that roaring commotion, and I
descended the ladder by a step or two to enable him to put his head
into the hatch. He tried to look cheerful, but there was a curl in the
set of his mouth that neutralised the efforts of his eye.
Ye see how it is, Mr. Barclay?
Nothing could be worse.
Dorn't say that, sir, dorn't say that. The yacht lives, and is
making brave weather o't.
She cannot go on living.
She'll outlast this weather, sir, I'll lay.
What are you doing?
He entered into a nautical explanation, the terms of which I forget.
It was of the first consequence, however, that the mast should be
preserved, and this the men were attempting at the risk of their lives.
As the mast stood there was nothing to support it, and if it went (he
explained) the Spitfire would become a sheer hulk and then our
situation would be desperate indeed; but if the men succeeded in
preserving the mast, they could easily make sail upon the yacht when
the weather moderated, and the land ain't very fur off yet, sir, he
But we are widening our distance rapidly.
He shook his head somewhat dolefully, saying, Yes, that was so.
I am thinking of the hull, Caudel. Surely this wild tossing must be
straining the vessel frightfully. Does she continue to take in water?
I must not deceive you, sir, he answered; she do. But a
short spell at the pump sarves to chuck it all out again, and so
there's no call for your honour to be oneasy.
He returned to the others, whilst I, heart-sickened by the
intelligence that the Spitfire had sprung a leakfor that, I felt, must be the plain English of Caudel's assurancecontinued
standing a few moments longer in the hatch looking round. Ugly rings of
vapour, patches and fragments of dirty yellow scud flew past, loose and
low under the near grey wet stoop of the sky; they made the only break
in that firmament of storm. The smother of the weather was thickened
yet by the clouds of driving spray which rose like bursts of steam from
the sides and heads of the seas, making one think of the fierce gusts
and guns of the gale as of wolves tearing mouthfuls with sharp teeth
from the flanks and backs of the rushing and roaring chase they
How the seamen maintained their footing I could not imagine. In
order to climb the naked spar they had driven short nails at wide
intervals up it; and one of themFosteras I watched, crawled up the
mast with a big block on his back.
It seemed to me as though the men were working for life or death.
The yacht rode buoyant to her lashed helm under a fragment of mizzen if
I remember right, and very little water came aboard, though great
fountains of spray would occasionally soar off the bow, and blow in a
snowstorm fathoms away into the sea on the opposite side. But the
motions of that naked height of splintered mast were like a batôn in
the hands of an excited orchestra conductor, and though I believe I was
not more wanting in nerves in my time than most others, my eyes reeled
in my head at sight of the plucky fellow, doggedly rising nail by nail,
till he had reached the point of elevation where the block was to be
My anxieties, however, were below, on the locker where I had left my
sweetheart sleeping, and I was about to descend, when my sight was
taken by a shadow in the grey thickness to windward. It was a mere
oozing of darkness, so to speak for a moment or two; then as though to
the touch of the wand of an enchanter, it leapt upon the eye in the
full and majestic proportions of a great, black-hulled ship, flying
light, as the term is. She came rushing down upon us under two lower
topsails, and a reefed foresail, pitching to her hawse-pipes as she
came, then lifting a broad surface of greenish sheathing out of the
acre of yeast that the blow of her cutwater had set boiling. She rushed
by close astern of us, and the thunder of the gale in her rigging and
the hissing sounds of the seas as she burst into them rose high above
the universal humming and seething of the storm. Two figures alone were
visible; one in a sea helmet and oilskins at the wheel; a second in a
long coat and fur cap, holding by a backstay. She vanished with the
velocity with which she had emerged; but I could not have conjectured
her nearness till I reflected how plainly I had seen the two menall
features of their clothingtheir very faces, indeed!
Shall we be run down, sent helplessly to the bottom before this
weather has done its work for us? thought I, and shuddering to the
fancy of a blow from such a stem as that which had just swept past us,
I descended the cabin steps. Grace was awake, sitting upright, but in a
listless, lolling, helpless posture. I was thankful, however, to find
her capable of the exertion even of sitting erect. I crept to her side,
and held her to me to cherish and comfort her.
Oh, this weary, weary motion! she cried, pressing her hand upon
It cannot last much longer, my darling, I said; the gale is fast
blowing itself out, and then we shall have blue skies and smooth water
Can we not land, Herbert? she asked feebly in my ear, with her
cheek upon my shoulder.
Would to Heaven that were possible within the next five minutes! I
Whereabouts are we?
I cannot tell exactly; but when this weather breaks we shall find
the English coast within easy reach.
Oh, do not let us wait until we get to Mount's Bay! she cried.
My pet, the nearest port will be our port now, depend upon
This sort of talk making me feel most wretchedly and miserably
hopeless, I got away from the subject by asking her how she felt, and
by reassuring her as to the buoyancy of the yacht, and I then coaxed
her into taking a little weak brandy and water, which, as a tonic under
the circumstances, was the best medicine I could have given her. I
afterwards made her lie down again, and procured Eau de Cologne and
another pillow, and such matters, but at a heavy cost to my bones; for
had I been imprisoned in a cask, and sent in that posture on a tour
down a mountain's side, I could not have been more abominably thumped
and belaboured. It was one wild scramble and flounder from beginning to
end, blows on the head, blows on the shins, complete capsisals that
left me sitting and dazed; and when my business of attending upon her
was at an end, I felt that this little passage of my elopement had
qualified me for nothing so much as for a hospital.
The day passed; a day of ceaseless storm, and of such tossing as
only a smacksman, who has fished in the North Sea in winter, could know
anything about. The spells at the pump grew frequent as the hours
progressed, and the wearisome beat of the plied break affected my
imagination as though it were the tolling of our funeral bell. I hardly
required Caudel to tell me the condition of the yacht when, sometime
between eight and nine o'clock that night, he put his head into the
hatch and motioned me to ascend.
It's my duty to tell ye, Mr. Barclay, he exclaimed, whispering
hoarsely into my ear, in the comparative shelter of the companion
cover, that Grace might not overhear him, that the leak's againing
I had guessed as much; yet this confirmation of my conjecture
affected me as violently as though I had had no previous suspicion of
the state of the yacht. I was thunderstruck, I felt the blood forsake
my cheeks, and for some moments I could not find my voice.
You do not mean to tell me, Caudel, that the yacht is actually
No, sir. But the pump'll have to be kept continually going if she's
to remain afloat. I'm afeer'd when the mast went over the side that a
blow from it started a butt, and the leak's growing worse and worse,
consequence of the working of the craft.
Is it still thick?
As mud, sir.
Why not fire the gun at intervals? said I, referring to the little
brass cannon that stood mounted upon the quarter-deck.
I'm afeered he paused with a melancholy shake of his head. Of
course, Mr. Barclay, he went on, if it's your wish, sirbut it'll do
no more, I allow, than frighten the young lady. 'Tis but a peashooter,
sir, and the gale's like thunder.
We are in your hands, Caudel, said I, with a feeling of despair
ice-cold at my heart, as I reflected upon the size of our little craft,
her crippled and sinking condition, our distance from landas I felt
the terrible might and powers of the seas which were tossing usand as
I thought of my sweetheart!
Mr. Barclay, he answered, if the weather do but moderate, I shall
have no fear. Our case ain't hopeless yet by a long way, sir. The
water's to be kept under by continuous pumping, and there are hands
enough and to spare for that job. We're not in the middle of the
Atlantic Ocean, but in the mouth of the English Channel, with plenty of
shipping knocking about. But the weather's got to moderate. Firing that
there gun 'ud only terrify the young lady, and do no good. If a ship
came along no boat could live in this sea. In this here blackness she
couldn't kept us company, and our rockets wouldn't be visible half a
mile off. No, sir, we've got to stick to the pump, and pray for
daylight and fine weather, and, having no more to say to me, or a
sudden emotion checking his utterance, he pulled his head out and
disappeared in the obscurity.
Grace asked me what Caudel had been talking about, and I answered
with the utmost composure I could master that he had come to tell me
the yacht was making a noble fight of it and that there was nothing to
cause us alarm. I had not the heart to respond otherwise, nor could the
bare truth, as I understood it, have served any other end than to
deprive her of her senses. Even now, I seemed to find an expression of
wildness in her beautiful eyes, as though the tension of her nerves,
along with the weary endless hours of delirious pitching and tossing,
was beginning to tell upon her brain. I sought to comfort her, I
caressed her, I strained her to my heart, whilst I exerted my whole
soul to look cheerfully and to speak cheerfully, and, thank God! the
influence of my true, deep love prevailed; she spoke tranquilly; the
brilliant staring look of her eyes was softened; occasionally she would
smile as she lay in my arms, whilst I rattled on, struggling, with a
resolution that now seems preternatural when I look back, to distract
her attention from our situation.
At one o'clock in the morning she fell asleep, and I knelt by her
sleeping form, and prayed for mercy and protection.
It was much about this hour that Caudel's face again showed in the
hatch. I crawled along the deck and up the steps to him, and he
immediately said to me in a voice that trembled with agitation:
Mr. Barclay, good noose, sir. The gale's ataking off.
I clasped my hands, and could have hugged the dripping figure of the
man to my breast.
Yes, sir, he continued, the breeze is slackening. There's no
mistake about it. The horizon's opening too.
Heaven be praised. And what of the leak, Caudel?
'Taint worse than it was, sir, though it's bad enough.
If the weather should moderate
Well then, if the leak don't gain, we may manage to carry her home.
That'll have to be found out, sir. But seeing the yacht's condition, I
shall be for trans-shipping you and the lady to anything inwards bound,
that may come along. Us men'll take the yacht to port, providing she'll
let us. He paused, and then said: There might be no harm now,
perhaps, in firing off that there gun. If a smack 'ud show herself,
she'd be willing to stand by for the sake of the salvage. We'll also
send up a few rockets, sir. But how about the young lady, Mr. Barclay?
Everything must be done, I replied, that is likely to preserve
There was some gunpowder aboard, but where Caudel had stowed it I
did not know. However, five minutes after he had left me, and whilst I
was sitting by the side of my sweetheart, who still slept, the gun was
discharged. It sent a small shock through the little fabric, as though
she had gently touched ground, or run into some floating object, but
the report, blending with the commotion of the seas and bell-like
ringing, and wolfish howlings of the wind, penetrated the deck in a
note so dull that Grace never stirred. Ten or twelve times was this
little cannon discharged at intervals of five and ten minutes, and I
could hear the occasional rush of a rocket, like a giant hissing in
wrath, sounding through the stormy uproar.
Tragical noises to harken to, believe me! communicating a
significance dark as death, to the now ceaseless pulsing of the pump,
to the blows of the sea against the yacht's bow, and to every giddy
rise and fall of the labouring little structure amid the hills and
valleys of that savage Channel sea.
CHAPTER VII. THE CARTHUSIAN
From time to time, I would creep up into the companion, always in
the hopes of finding the lights of a ship close to, but nothing came of
our rockets, whilst I doubt if the little blast the quarter-deck
pop-gun delivered was audible half a mile away to windward. But though
the night remained a horrible black shadowthe blacker for the
phantasmal sheets of foam which defined, without illuminating it, the
wind about this timesomewhere between four and five o'clockhad
greatly moderated. Yet at dawn it was blowing hard still, with an
iron-grey, freckled sea rolling hollow and confusedly, and a near
horizon thick with mist.
There was nothing in sight. The yacht looked deplorably sodden and
wrecked as she pitched and wallowed in the cold, desolate, ashen
atmosphere of that daybreak. The men, too, wore the air of castaway
mariners, fagged, salt-whitened, pinched; and their faces, even the
boy's, looked aged with anxiety.
I called to Caudel. He approached me slowly, as a man might walk
after a swim that has nearly spent him.
Here is another day, Caudel. What is to be done?
What can be done, sir? answered the poor fellow, with the
irritation of exhaustion and of anxiety but little removed from
despair. We must go on pumping for our lives, and pray to the Lord
that we may be picked up.
Why not get sail upon the yacht, put her before the wind, and run
for the French coast?
If you like sir, he answered languidly, but it's a long stretch
to the French coast, and if the wind should shift he paused, and
looked as though worry had weakened his mind a little and rendered him
incapable of deciding swiftly and for the best.
The boy Bobby was pumping, and I took notice of the glass-like
clearness of the water as it gushed out to the strokes of the little
brake. The others of my small crew were crouching under the lee of the
weather bulwark. I looked at them, and then said to Caudel:
Shall we call a council? Something must be done. Those men have
lives to save, and I should like to have their opinion.
He at once halloaed to them, and they grouped themselves about me as
I stood in the companion way. Every man's voice was hoarse with
fatigue, and the skin of the poor fellows' faces had a puffed, pale
appearance that made one think of drowned bodies.
I asked them what they thought of my proposal of running for the
French shore under all the sail we could spread; but after some
discussion they were unanimous in opposing the scheme.
Who's to tell, said Crew, how fur off the French coast is? And
what port are we agoing to make? We're nearer the English coast now
than we are to France, and if there should come a shift, he added,
casting his moist, blood-shot eyes at the sky, and then fixing them
upon the pump, we might be able to stagger into Plymouth or some port
This yacht, exclaimed Foster, isn't agoing to keep afloat long,
sir. If then it's to come to that there boat, indicating with a jerk
of his chin the little boat that we carried, we'd better launch her
here than furder out.
Depend upon it, Mr. Barclay, exclaimed Caudel, there's nothen for
it but to keep all on as we are, and wait for the weather to improve.
There are plenty of ships knocking about. Let it come clear enough for
us to be seen and we shall be picked up.
In this way ran the little debate we held, but as I am not a sailor
I am unable to repeat more of it than I have set down.
Before returning to Grace I looked at our little boatshe was just
a yacht's dinghyand thought of the chance the tiny ark would provide
us with of saving our livesseven souls in a boat fit to hold five,
and then only in smooth water! And yet she was the only boat we had,
and there was absolutely nothing else by which we might preserve
ourselvesscarce any materials that I could think of or see, out of
which the rudest craft could be manufactured, though the mere thought
of it coming to a raft turned me sick and faint, when I glanced at the
green slopes of the hurling hills of water, and marked the frothing of
their heads and the fathom-thick surface of yeast they shot from their
Grace was awake when I had gone on deck at daybreak, though she had
slept for two or three hours very soundly, never once moving when the
cannon was discharged, frequent as the report of it had been. On my
descending she begged me to take her on deck.
I shall be able to stand if I hold your arm, she said, and the
air will do me good.
But I had not the heart to let her view the sea nor the wet, broken,
shipwrecked figure the yacht made with water flying over the bow, and
water gushing from the pump, and the foam flashing amongst the rigging
that still littered the deck as the brine roared from side to side.
No, my darling, said I; for the present you must keep below. The
wind, thank God, is fast moderating, and the sea will be falling
presently. But you cannot imagine, until you attempt to move, how
violently the Spitfire rolls and pitches. Besides, the decks are
full of water, and a single wild heave might throw us both and send us
She shuddered and said no more about going on deck.
Spite of her having slept, her eyes seemed languid. Her cheeks were
colourless, and there was an expression of fear and expectation that
made my heart mad to behold in her sweet young face, that, when all was
well with her, wore a most delicate bloom, whilst it was lovely with a
sort of light that was like a smile in expressions even of perfect
repose. I had brought her to this! Before another day had closed her
love for me might have cost her her life! I could not bear to think of
itI could not bear to look at herand I broke down burying my face
in my hands.
She put her arm round my neck, pressed her cheek to mine, but said
nothing, until the two or three dry sobs, which shook me to my very
inmost soul, had passed.
Anxiety and want of sleep have made you ill, she said. I am sure
all will end well, Herbert. The storm, you say, is passing, and then we
shall be able to steer for the nearest port. You will not wait now to
I shook my head, unable to speak.
We have both had enough of the sea, she continued, forcing a smile
that vanished in the next breath she drew; but you could not have
foretold this storm. And even now, would you have me anywhere else but
here? said she, putting her cheek to mine again. Rest your head on my
shoulder and sleep. I feel betterand will instantly awaken you if
there is any occasion to do so.
I was about to make some answer, when I heard a loud and, as it
appeared to me, a fearful cry on deck. Before I could spring to my feet
someone heavily thumped the companion-hatch, flinging the sliding cover
wide open an instant after, and Caudel's voice roared down:
Mr. Barclay! Mr. Barclay! there's a big ship close aboard us! She's
rounding to. Come on deck, for God's sake, sir, that we may larn your
Bidding Grace remain where she was, I sprang to the companion steps,
and the first thing I saw on emerging was a large, full-rigged ship,
with painted ports, under small canvas, and in the act of rounding with
her main topsail-yard slowly swinging aback. Midway the height of our
little mizzenmast streamed the ensign which Caudel or another of the
men had hoistedthe union downbut our wrecked mast, and the fellow
labouring at the pump must have told our story to the sight of that
ship, with an eloquence that could gather but little emphasis from the
signal of distress streaming like a square of flame half-mast high at
It was broad daylight now, with a lightening in the darkness to
windward that opened out twice the distance of sea that was to be
measured before I went below. The ship, a noble structure, was well
within hail, rolling somewhat heavily, but with a majestical, slow
motion. There was a crowd of sailors on her forecastle staring at us,
and I remember even in that supreme moment, so tricksy is the human
intelligence, noticing how ghastly white the cloths of her
topmast-staysail or jib showed by contrast with the red and blue shirts
and other coloured apparel of the mob of seamen, and against the spread
of dusky sky beyond. There was also a little knot of people on the
poop, and a man standing near them, but alone; as I watched him he took
what I gathered to be a speaking-trumpet from the hand of the young
apprentice or ordinary seaman who had run to him with it.
Now, Mr. Barclay, cried Caudel, in a voice vibratory with
excitement, there's yours and the lady's hopportunity, sir. But what's
your instructions? What's your wishes, sir?
My wishes? How can you ask? We must leave the Spitfire. She
is already half-drowned. She will sink when you stop pumping.
Right, sir, he exclaimed, and without another word posted himself
at the rail in a posture of attention with his eyes upon the ship.
She was apparently a vessel bound to some Indian or Australian port,
and seemingly full of passengers, for even as I stood watching, the
people in twos and threes arrived on the poop, or got upon the
main-deck bulwark-rail to view us. She was a long iron ship, red
beneath the water-line, and the bright streak of that colour glared out
over the foam, dissolving at her sides like a flash of crimson sunset,
as she rolled from us. Whenever she hove her stern up, gay with what
might have passed as gilt quarter badges, I could read her name in
long, white lettersCARTHUSIAN, LONDON.
Yacht ahoy! now came in a hearty tempestuous shout through the
speaking trumpet, which the man I had before noticed lifted to his
Halloa! shouted Caudel in response.
What is wrong with you?
Wessel's making water fast, and ye can see, shrieked Caudel,
pointing at our wrecked and naked masts, what our state is. The owner
and a lady's aboard, and want to leave the yacht. Will you stand by
till you can receive 'em, sir?
The man with the speaking trumpet lifted his hand in token of having
heard, which somewhat astonished me, for though Caudel's lungs were
very powerful and piercing, we were not only to leeward of the ship,
but the wind, pouring dead on to us from her, was full of whistlings
and yells, and the clamour of colliding and breaking seas.
The man with the speaking trumpet appeared to consult with another
figure that had drawn to his side. He then took a long look round at
the weather, and afterwards put the tube again to his mouth.
We will stand by you; but we cannot launch a boat yet. Does the
water gain rapidly upon you?
We can keep her afloat for some hours, sir.
The man again elevated his hand, and crossed to the weather side of
his ship to signify, I presume, that there was nothing more to be said.
In two or three hours, sir, you and the lady'll be safe aboard,
cried Caudel; the wind's failing fast, and by that time the sea'll be
flat enough for one of that craft's fine boats.
I re-entered the cabin, and found Grace standing, supporting herself
at the table. Her attitude was full of expectancy and fear.
What have they been crying out on deck, Herbert? she exclaimed.
There is a big ship close beside us, darling, I answered; the
weather is fast moderating, and by noon I hope to have you safe on
board of her.
On board of her! she cried, with her eyes large with wonder and
alarm. Do you mean to leave the yacht?
Yes; I have heart enough to tell you the truth now, Grace; she has
sprung a leak and is taking in water rapidly, and we must abandon her.
She dropped upon the locker with her hands clasped.
Do you tell me she is sinking, Herbert?
We must abandon her, I cried; put on your hat and jacket, my
darling. The deck is comparatively safe now, and I wish the people on
board the ship to see you.
She was so overwhelmed, however, by the news, that she appeared
incapable of motion. I procured her jacket and hat, and presently
helped her to put them on, and then, grasping her firmly by the waist,
I supported her to the companion steps, and carefully, and with
difficulty, got her on deck, making her sit under the lee of the
weather bulwark, where she would be visible enough to the people of the
ship at every windward roll of the yacht, and I crouched beside her
with her arm linked in mine.
There was nothing to do but to wait. Some little trifle of property
I had below in the cabin, but nothing that I cared to burthen myself
with at such a time. All the money I had brought with me, bank-notes
and some gold, was in the pocket-book I carried. As for my sweetheart's
wardrobe, what she had with her, as you know, she wore, so that she
would be leaving nothing behind her. But never can I forget the
expression of her face, and the exclamations of horror and astonishment
which escaped her lips, when, on my seating her under the bulwark, she
sent a look at the yacht. The soaked, stained, mutilated appearance of
the little craft persuaded her she was sinking even as we sat together
gazing. At every plunge of the bows she would tremulously suck in her
breath and bite upon her under-lip with nervous twitchings of her
fingers, and a recoil of her whole figure against me.
Oh, Herbert, she cried, when shall we leave? We shall be
I answered her that there was no fear of that. Though, said I,
but for that ship heaving into sight and standing by us, our fate
might have been sealed before the close of the day.
But how are we to get into the ship? she cried, straining her
eyes, brilliant with emotion, at the vessel that hung, rolling stately,
so close by that I could distinguish the features of the crowds of
people who lined the rails staring at us.
I explained that the gale was slackening, that fair weather was at
hand, as one might tell by the gradual opening of the horizon, and the
clarification of the stuff that had been hanging in soot for hours and
hours low down over our splintered, withered-looking mast-head, and
that, in a short time, the sea would be sufficiently quiet to enable
the ship to lower one of the large white quarter-boats which were
hanging by davits inboards over the poop.
The sea runs too high yet, said I, not for a boat to live in, but
to take us off. She might be swamped, stove, sunk alongside of us; and
there is time, plenty of time, my darling. Whilst that ship keeps us in
view we are safe.
But though there might have been plenty of time, as I told her, the
passage of it was of a heart-subduing slowness. It was some half-hour
or so after our coming on deck, that Caudel, quitting the pump at which
he had been taking a spell, approached me and said:
You'll onderstand, of course, Mr. Barclay, that I, as master of
this yacht, sticks to her?
What! cried I, to be drowned?
I sticks to her, sir, he repeated, with the emphasis of
irritability in his manner that was not at all wanting in respect
either. I dorn't mean to say if it should come on to blow another gale
afore that there craft, indicating the ship, receives ye, that I
wouldn't go too. But the weather's amoderating; it'll be tarning fine
afore long, and I'm agoing to sail the Spitfire home.
I hope, Caudel, said I, astonished by this resolution in him,
that you'll not stick to her on my account. Let the wretched craft go
and I held the rest behind my teeth.
No, sir. There'll be nothen to hurt in the leak if so be as the
weather gets better, and it's fast getting better as you can see. What?
Let a pretty little dandy craft like the Spitfire go down merely
for the want of pumping? All of us men are agreed to stick to her and
carry her home.
Grace looked at me; I understood the meaning her eyes conveyed, and
The men will do as they please. They are plucky fellows, and if
they carry the yacht home, she shall be sold, and two-thirds of what
she fetches divided amongst them. But I have had enough of her,
and more than enough of yachting. I must see you, my pet, safe on board
some ship that does not leak!
I could not live through another night in the Spitfire, she
No, miss, no, rumbled Caudel, soothingly; nor would it be right
and proper that you should be asked to live through it. They'll be
sending for ye presently; though, of course, as the vessel's outward
bound here he ran his eyes slowly round the sea, ye've got to
consider that onless she falls in soon with something that'll land you,
why then, of course, you both stand to have a longer spell of seafaring
than Mr. Barclay and me calculated upon when this here elopement was
Where is she bound to, I wonder? I said, viewing the tall, noble
vessel, with a yearning to be aboard her with Grace at my side; the
desperate seas which still stormily tossed between her and us safely
To Australia, I allow, answered Caudel. Them passengers ye sees
forrads and along the bulwark rail ain't of the sort that goes to
Chaney or the Hindies.
We can't go to Australia, Herbert, said Grace, surveying me with
My dear Grace, there are plenty of ships betwixt this Channel and
Australiaplenty hard by, rolling up Channel, and willing to land us
for a few sovereigns, would their steersmen only shift their helm and
approach within hail.
But though there might be truth in this for aught I knew, it was a
thing easier to say than to mean, as I felt when I cast my eyes upon
the dark-green, frothing waters, still shrouded to within a mile or so
past the ship by the damp and dirty grey of the now fast expiring gale
that had plunged us into this miserable situation. There was nothing to
be seen but the Carthusian rolling solemnly and grandly to
windward, and the glancing of white heads of foam arching out of the
thickness and running sullenly, but with weight too, along the course
of the wind.
Will not that ship put into an English port before she leaves for
good? asked Grace.
She has left for good, miss, answered Caudel. There's no
English port for her unless she ups hellum and tries back'ards again.
Where are we, then? cried Grace, with a wild stare over the lee
In what they call the Chops, miss, replied Caudel.
In the mouth of the English Channel, I explained.
I calculate, Mr. Barclay, said Caudel, that our drift's been all
three mile an hour since, it first came on to blow. The wind's hung
about nothe, nothe-east, and I don't think it's shifted a point since
it first busted down upon us.
You seriously believe, Caudel, that you can make the land, seeing
where we are, in this leaky, mast-wrecked craft?
Ay, sir, as easy as lighting a pipe.
For heaven's sake, consider before it is too late! There's no
obligation to stick to the vessel. Give us time to get out of her and
you have my consent to let her go, and I pointed downwards.
No, sir, that's not to be the Spitfire's road. The weather's
going to come settled, and I trust that when you get ashore ye'll find
the yacht safe and snug in harbour, and me in readiness to wait upon
your honour's further commands.
I could see in his face, and by the looks he directed at his mates
who stood within ear-shot of us, that his mind was made up. Argument or
remonstrance would have been idle. He and the others were sailors, and
must be allowed to know what they were about when their resolution
dealt with their own calling. No doubt, if fine weather followed this
gloom and wind, the danger of navigating the yacht would be trifling.
The water in the hold was to be kept under, as was proved by our
salvation, when the yacht was labouring furiously and taking in whole
thunderstorms of wet over the bows; the vessel then was surely to be
easily kept afloat should the weather clear up; there were spare sails
below, a spare gaff, and other materials for rigging the broken height
of mast; and there was also plenty of fresh water and provisions. But
those were considerations to weigh with men bred to the sea life; they
would not in the least degree have influenced me even had I been alone.
In truth, I had had enough of the yacht; I should have cursed myself
for my folly had we parted company with the ship and then met with bad
weather again; it was impossible to hear the clanking of the pump, and
glance at the coil of cold bright water gushing from it without a
shudder that penetrated to my inmost being. And to keep my sweetheart
in this perilous craft, rendered leaky and ricketty by storm; to go on
subjecting her to the brain-addling convulsive pitching and tossing of
the poor, mutilated hooker; to risk with her another passage of violent
winds, merely to preserve a vessel which I was now quite willing to let
quietly go to the bottom!
Not for a million! said I aloud. No, my darling, I continued, as
I fondled her hand, my business is to see you safe first of all. There
is safety yonder, said I, pointing to the Carthusian, but none
here. We must take our chance of being trans-shipped from her as
speedily as may be, of being put on board some passing steamer that
will carry us home swiftly and comfortably. But sooner than miss the
chance that vessel yonder provides us with, I would be content to make
the whole round voyage in her, with you by my side, though she should
occupy three years in completing it.
We had been waiting, and watching the weather for about an hour,
when my eye was suddenly taken by a cloud of extraordinary shape,
sailing up the sky out of the north and east, whence the wind was still
blowing. It was of the colour of sulphur, and was the exact
representation of a huge hand, the forefinger outstretched, the thumb
curved backwards as it would be in life, the remaining fingers
clenched. As it came along it seemed to project from the dirty grey
surface of vapour under which it sailed; it was as though some Titan,
lying hid past the clouds, had thrust his hand through the floor of
vapour with the finger pointing towards the mighty Atlantic.
By the time it was over the yacht its shape had changed, and it
passed away to leeward formless, a mere rag of yellowish vapour. But it
had lingered long enough as a compacted colossal hand, pointing
seawards, to astonish and even to awe me. It might have been that my
brain was a little weakened by what we had passed through, and by want
of rest; it is certain, anyway, that the spectacle of that hand of
vapour touched and stirred every superstitious instinct in me. Grace,
as well as Caudel and the others, had stared up at it with wonder, Job
Crew agape, and the boy Bobby squeezing his knuckles into his eyes
again and again as though to make sure. As it changed its form and
floated away, I exclaimed to my sweetheart:
It was the finger of Heaven pointing out our road to us, and
telling us what to do.
It was a wonderfully shaped cloud, said she.
Grace, after that sign, I cried excitedly, I would not remain in
this yacht though her leak were stopped, all sail made upon her, and
Penzance as far off as you can see, said I, pointing.
She looked, awed by the effect of the apparition of the cloud upon
me, and held my hand in silence with her eyes fixed on my face.
The ship having canvas upon her, settled slowly upon our bow at a
safe distance, but our drift was very nearly hers, and during those
weary hours of waiting for the sea to abate, the two crafts fairly held
the relative positions they had occupied at the outset. The interest we
excited in the people aboard of her was ceaseless. The line of her
bulwarks remained dark with heads, and the glimmer of the white faces
gave an odd pulsing look to the whole length of them, as the heave of
the ship alternated the stormy light. They believed us on our own
report to be sinking, and that might account for their tireless gaze
and riveted attention.
I could well imagine the deplorable figure our yacht made, as she
soared and sank, time after time plunging into some hollow that put her
out of sight to the ship, leaving nothing showing but the splintered
masthead above the clear emerald green or frothing summit of the
swollen heap of water. At such times the spectators aboard the
Carthusian might well have supposed us gone for ever.
CHAPTER VIII. OUTWARD BOUND
On a sudden, much about the hour of noon, there came a lull; the
wind dropped as if by magic, here and there over the wide green surface
of ocean the foam glanced, but in the main the billows ceased to break
and washed along in a troubled but fast moderating swell. A kind of
brightness sat in the east, and the horizon opened to its normal
confines; but it was a desolate sea, nothing in sight save the ship,
though I eagerly and anxiously scanned the whole circle of the waters.
The two vessels had widened their distance, yet the note of the
hail, if dull, was perfectly distinct.
Yacht ahoy! We're going to send a boat.
I saw a number of figures in motion on the ship's poop. The
aftermost boat was then swung through the davits over the side, four or
five men entered her, and a minute later she sank to the water.
Here they come, Grace! cried I. At last, thank Heaven!
Oh, Herbert, I shall never be able to enter her, she exclaimed,
shrinking to my side.
But I knew better, and made answer with a caress only.
The oars rose and fell, the boat showed and vanished, showed and
vanished again as she came buzzing to the yacht, to the impulse of the
powerfully swept blades. Caudel stood by with some coils of line in his
hand; the end was flung, caught, and in a trice the boat was alongside,
and a sun-burnt, reddish-haired man, in a suit of serge, and a naval
peak to his cap, tumbled with the dexterity of a monkey over the
He looked round him an instant, and then came straight up to Grace
and me, taking the heaving and slanting deck as easily as though it
were the floor of a ball-room.
I am the second mate of the Carthusian, said he, touching
his cap with an expression of astonishment and admiration in his eyes
as he looked at Grace. Are all your people ready to leave, sir?
Captain Parsons is anxious that there should be no delay.
The lady and I are perfectly ready, said I, but my men have made
up their minds to stick to the yacht with the hope of carrying her
He looked round to Caudel who stood near.
Ay, sir, that's right, exclaimed the worthy fellow, it's agoing
to be fine weather and the water's to be kept under.
The second mate ran his eye over the yacht with a short-lived look
of puzzlement in his face, then addressed me:
We had thought your case a hopeless one, sir.
So it is, I answered.
Are you wise in your resolution, my man? he exclaimed, turning to
Ay, sir, answered Caudel doggedly, as though anticipating an
argument, who's agoing to leave such a dandy craft as this to founder
for the want of keeping a pump going for a day or two? There are four
men and a boy all resolved, and we'll manage it, he added
The yacht is in no fit state for the young lady, anyway, said the
second mate. Now, sir, and you, madam, if you are ready, and he put
his head over the side to look at his boat.
I helped Grace to stand, and whilst I supported her I extended my
hand to Caudel.
God bless you and send you safe home! said I; your pluck and
determination make me feel but half a man. But my mind is resolved too.
Not for worlds would Miss Bellassys and I pass another hour in this
He shook me cordially by the hand, and respectfully bade Grace
farewell. The others of my crew approached, leaving one pumping, and
amongst the strong fellows on deck and over the sidesinewy arms to
raise and muscular fists to receive herGrace, white and shrinking and
exclaiming, was handed dexterously and swiftly down over the side.
Watching my chance, I sprang, and plumped heavily but safely into the
boat. The second mate then followed and we shoved off.
The crew of the yacht raised a cheer and waved their caps to us, and
I felt heartily grieved to leave them. They had behaved well throughout
the wild hours of storm now passed, and it seemed but a poor return, so
to speak, on my part to quit the yacht in this fashion, as if, indeed,
I was abandoning them to their fate, though, of course, they had made
up their minds and knew very well what they were about; so that it was
little more than sensitiveness that made me think of them as I did
whilst I watched them flourishing to me and listened to their cheers.
By this time, the light that I had taken notice of in the east had
brightened; there were breaks in it, with here and there a dim view of
blue sky, and the waters beneath had a gleam of steel as they rolled
frothless and swollen. In fact, it was easy to see that fine weather
was at hand, and this assurance it was that reconciled me as nothing
else could to the fancy of Caudel and my little crew carrying the
leaking, crippled yacht home.
The men in the boat pulled sturdily, eyeing Grace and me out of the
corner of their eyes, and gnawing upon the hunks of tobacco in their
cheeks, as though in the most literal manner they were chewing the cud
of the thoughts put into them by this encounter. The second mate
uttered a remark or two about the weather, but the business of the
tiller held him too busy to talk. There was the heavy swell to watch,
and the tall, slowly-rolling metal fabric ahead of us to sheer
alongside of. For my part, I could not see how Grace was to get aboard,
and, observing no ladder over the side as we rounded under the vessel's
stern, I asked the second mate how we were to manage it.
Oh, said he, we shall send you both up in a chair with a whip.
There's the block, he added, pointing to the yard-arm, and the line's
already rove, you'll observe.
There were some seventy or eighty people watching us as we drew
alongside, all staring over the rail and from the forecastle and from
the poop, as one man. I remarked a few bonnets and shawled heads
forward, and two or three well-dressed women aft, otherwise the crowd
of heads belonged to men-emigrantsshabby and grimy; most of them
looking seasick, I thought, as they overhung the side.
A line was thrown from the ship, and the boat was hauled under the
yard-arm whip, where she lay rising and falling, carefully fended off
from the vessel's iron side by a couple of the men in her.
Now, then, bear a hand! shouted a voice from the poop; get your
gangway unshipped, and stand by to hoist away handsomely.
A minute later a large chair with arms dangled over our heads, and
was caught by the fellows in the boat. A more uncomfortable,
nerve-capsizing performance I never took a part in. The water washed
with a thunderous sobbing sound along the metal bends of the ship,
that, as she stooped her side into the brine, flashed up the swell in
froth, hurling towards us also a recoiling billow, which made the dance
of the boat horribly bewildering and nauseating. One moment we were
floated, as it seemed to my eye, to the level of the bulwarks of the
stooping ship; the next we were in a valley, with the great bare hull
leaning away from usan immense wet surface of red and black and
chequered band, her shrouds vanishing in a slope, and her yard-arms
forking up sky high.
Now, madam, said the second mate, will you please seat yourself
in that chair?
Grace was very white, but she saw that it must be done, and with set
lips and in silence, was helped by the sailors to seat herself. I
adored her then for her spirit, for I confess that I had dreaded she
would hang back, shriek out, cling to me, and complicate and delay the
miserable business by her terrors. She was securely fastened into the
chair, and the second mate paused for the chance.
Hoist away! he yelled, and up went my darling, uttering one little
scream only as she soared.
Lower away! and by the line that was attached to the chair, she
was dragged through the gangway where I lost sight of her.
It was now my turn. The chair descended, and I sat upon it, not
without several yearning glances at the sloping side of the ship,
which, however, only satisfied me that there was no other method by
which I might enter the vessel than the chair, active as I was.
Hoist away! was shouted, and up I went, and I shall not readily
forget the sensation. My brains seemed to sink into my boots as I
mounted. I was hoisted needlessly high, almost to the yard-arm itself,
I fancy, through some blunder on the part of the men who manned the
whip. For some breathless moments I dangled between heaven and ocean,
seeing nothing but grey sky and heaving waters. But the torture was
brief. I felt the chair sinking, saw the open gangway sweep past me,
and presently I was out of the chair at Grace's side, stared at by some
eighty or a hundred emigrants, all 'tweendecks passengers, who had left
the bulwarks to congregate on the main deck.
Well, thank Heaven, here we are, anyway! was my first exclamation
It was a thousand times worse than the Spitfire whilst it
lasted, she answered.
You behaved magnificently, said I.
Will you step this way? exclaimed a voice overhead.
On looking up I found that we were addressed by a short, somewhat
thick-set man, who stood at the rail that protected the forward
extremity of the poop deck. This was the person who had talked to us
through the speaking-trumpet, and I at once guessed him to be the
captain. There were about a dozen first-class passengers gazing at us
from either side of him, two or three of whom were ladies. I took Grace
by the hand, and conducted her up a short flight of steps, and
approached the captain, raising my hat as I did so, and receiving from
him a sea-flourish of the tall hat he wore. He was buttoned up in a
cloth coat, and his cheeks rested in a pair of high, sharp-pointed
collars, starched to an iron hardness, so that his body and head moved
as one piece. His short legs arched outwards, and his feet were encased
in long boots, the toes of which were of the shape of a shovel. He wore
the familiar tall hat of the streets; it looked to be brushed the wrong
way, was bronze at the rims, and on the whole showed as a hat that had
made several voyages. Yet, if there was but little of the sailor in his
costume, his face suggested itself to me as a very good example of the
nautical life. His nose was scarcely more than a pimple of a reddish
tincture, and his small, moist, grey eyes lying deep in their sockets
seemed, as they gazed at you, to be boring their way through the
apertures which Nature had provided for the admission of light. A short
piece of white whisker decorated either cheek, and his hair that was
cropped close as a soldier's was also white.
Is that your yacht, young gentleman? said he, bringing his eyes
from Grace to me, at whom he had to stare up as at his masthead, so
considerably did I tower over the little man.
Yes, said I, she is the Spitfirebelongs to Southampton.
I am very much obliged to you for receiving this lady and me.
Not at all, said he, looking hard at Grace; your wife, sir?
No, said I, greatly embarrassed by the question, and by the gaze
of the ten or dozen passengers who hung near, eyeing us intently and
whispering, yet, for the most part, with no lack of sympathy and good
nature in their countenances. I saw Grace quickly bite upon her
under-lip, but without colouring or any other sign of confusion than a
slight turn of her head as though she viewed the yacht.
But what have you done with the rest of your people, young
gentleman? inquired the captain.
My name is BarclayMr. Herbert Barclay: the name of the young lady
to whom I am engaged to be married, said I, significantly sending a
look along the faces of the listeners, is Miss Grace Bellassys, whose
aunt, Lady Amelia Roscoe, you may probably have heard of.
This, I thought, was introduction enough. My business was to assert
our dignity first of all, and then as I was addressing a number of
persons who were either English or Colonial, or both, the pronunciation
of her ladyship's name was, I considered, a very early and essential
With regard to my crew I continued, and I told the captain they
had made up their minds to carry the vessel home.
Miss Bellassys looks very tired, exclaimed a middle-aged lady with
grey hair, speaking with a gentle, concerned smile, engaging with its
air of sympathetic apology, if she will allow me to conduct her to my
By all means, Mrs. Barstow, cried the captain. If she has been
knocking about in that bit of a craft there through the gale that's
been blowing, all I can say, ladies and gentlemen, she'll have seen
more tumbling and weather in forty-eight hours than you'll have any
idea of though I was to keep you at sea for ten years in this ship.
Mrs. Barstow, with a motherly manner, approached Grace, who bowed
and thanked her, and together they walked to the companion hatch and
By this time the boat had been hoisted, and the ship was full of the
animation and business of her sailors piling canvas upon her. The
sudden stagnation that had fallen was now threaded by a weak draught of
air out of the east where the brightness of the new weather had first
shown. The compacted pall of cloud was fast breaking up, settling into
large bodies of vapour, with spaces of dim blue sky between and in the
south there stood a shaft of golden sunshine that flashed up a space of
water at its base in splendour, though past it the sulky heaps of cloud
loomed the darker for that magical and beautiful lance of radiance.
Miles away in the south-west a white sail hovered, but nothing else
broke the sea-line.
I took all this in at a glance: also the figure of my poor,
mutilated yacht heaving forlorn and naked upon the swell that still
rolled heavily, as though after the savage vexing of its heart during
the past hours, old ocean could not quickly draw its breath placidly.
The little vessel looked but a toy from the height of the poop of the
iron ship. As I surveyed her, I marvelled to think that she had
successfully encountered the weather of the past two days and nights. I
could see one of the menDick Filessteadily labouring at the pump
whilst the others were busy with the tackle and gear that supported the
mast. But even as I watched, the Carthusian had got way upon
her, and was dwarfing yet the poor brave little Spitfire as she
slided round to the government of her helm, her yards squaring, her
canvas spreading, and her crew chorussing all about her decks as she
The captain asked me many questions, most of which I answered
mechanically, for my thoughts were fixed upon the little yacht, and my
heart was with the poor fellows who had resolved to carry her homebut
with them only! not with her. No! as I watched her
rolling, and the fellow pumping, not for worlds would I have gone
aboard of her again with Grace, though Caudel should have yelled out
that the leak was stopped, and though a fair, bright breezy day, with
promise of its quiet lasting for a week, should have opened round about
The captain wanted to know when I had sailed, from what port I had
started, where I was bound to, and the like. I kept my face with
difficulty when I gave him my attention at last. It was not only his
own mirth-provoking, nautical countenance; the saloon passengers could
not take their eyes off me, and they bobbed and leaned forward in an
eager, hearkening way to catch every syllable of my replies. Nor was
this all, for below on the quarter-deck and along the waist stood the
scores of steerage passengers, all straining their eyes at me. The
curiosity and excitement were ridiculous. But fame is a thing very
cheaply earned in these days.
The captain inquired a little too curiously sometimes. So Miss
Bellassys was engaged to to be married to me, hey? Was she alone with
me? No relative, no maid, nobody of her own sex in attendance? To these
questions the ladies listened with an odd expression on their faces. I
particularly noticed one of them: she had sausage-shaped curls, lips so
thin that when they were closed they formed a fine line as though
produced by a single sweep of a camel's hair-brush under her nose; the
pupil of one eye was considerably larger than that of the other, which
gave her a very staring, knowing look on one side of her face; but
there was nothing in my responses to appease hers, or the captain's, or
the others' thirst for information. In fact, ever since I had resolved
to quit the Spitfire for the Carthusian, I had made up my
mind to keep secret the business that had brought Grace and me into
this plight. The captain and the rest of them might think as they
chose; Grace was not to be much hurt by their conjectures or opinions;
there could be nothing to wholly occupy our thoughts whilst aboard the
Carthusian, but the obligation of leaving her as speedily as might
be, of reaching Penzance, and then getting married.
There can be no doubt, I hope, Captain Parsons, said I, for the
second mate had given me the skipper's name, of our promptly falling
in with something homeward bound that will land Miss Bellassys and me?
What the craft may prove can signify nothinga smack would serve our
I'll signal when I have a chance, he answered, looking round the
sea and then up aloft, but it's astonishing, ladies and gentlemen, he
continued, addressing the passengers, how lonesome the ocean is, even
where you look for plenty of shipping.
Not in this age of steam, I think, observed a tall, thin man
In this age of steam, sir, responded the captain. You may not
credit it, but on three occasions I have measured the two Atlantics
from abreast of Ushant to abreast of the Cape of Good Hope without
sighting a single ship, steam or sail.
You amaze me, said the mild, thin man.
How far are we from Penzance, captain? I inquired.
Why, he answered, all a hundred and fifty miles.
If that be so then, I cried, our drift must have been that of a
Will those poor creatures ever be able to reach the English coast
in that broken boat? exclaimed one of the ladies, indicating the
Spitfire that now lay dwarfed right over the stern of the ship.
If they are longshoremenand yet I don't know, exclaimed the
captain with a short laugh, a boatman will easily handle a craft of
that sort when a blue-water sailor would be all abroad. He put his
hand into the skylight and lifted a telescope off its brackets, and
applied it to his eye. Still pumping, said he, talking whilst he
gazed through the glass, and they're stretching a sail alongbending
it no doubt. There's plenty of mast there for cloths enough to blow
them home. The pump keeps the water underthat's certain. To my mind
she looks more buoyant than she was. Ladies and gentlemen, she'll
doshe'll do. If I thought not he viewed her for a little while in
silence. Oh, yes, ladies and gentlemen, she'll do, he repeated, and
then replacing the glass, exclaimed to me, Have you lunched, Mr.
No, captain, I have not, neither can I say I have breakfasted.
Oh, confound it, man, you should have said so before. Step this
way, sir, step this way, and he led me to the companion hatch that
conducted to the saloon, pausing on the road, however, to beckon with a
square forefinger to a sober, Scotch-faced personage in a monkey jacket
and loose pilot trousersthe chief mate as I afterwards learntto
whom in a wheezy undertone he addressed some instructions, which, as I
gathered from one or two syllables I overheard, referred to the
speaking of inward-bound ships, and to our trans-shipment.
The saloon was a fine, long, handsome interior, but I preserve no
more of it than a general impression of mirrors, rich panels, a short
row of lamps formed of some lustrous metal, an elaborate stove aft, a
piano secured to the richly-decorated shaft of the mizzenmast; a long
table with fixed revolving chairs on either hand, flanked to port and
starboard by a row of cabins or berths. After our experience aboard the
Spitfire, I was scarcely sensible of the motions of the deck of
this big ship, albeit she was rolling and curtseying as she floated,
clothed to her royal yards, over the sulky undulations of the water.
But I was able to gather from certain sounds which penetrated through
the closed doors of the berths that some of the passengers were not yet
quite well. There was nobody in the saloon save one little man with a
quantity of hair down his back after the manner of poets and
professors. He was seated near the main-deck entrance with a
countenance of a ghastly hue. His eyes were riveted to the deck, and
when the captain cheerily called to him to know how he did, he answered
without moving his figure or shifting his gaze, Ach! Gott! don't
shpeak to me.
At this moment a door close beside which I was standing opened and
Grace came out, followed by the kind lady, Mrs. Barstow. She had
removed her hat and jacket, and was sweet and fresh with the
application of such toilet conveniences as her sympathetic acquaintance
could provide her with. Captain Parsons stared at her and then whipped
off his tall hat.
This is better than the Spitfire, Grace, said I.
Oh, yes, Herbert, she answered, sending a glance of her fine dark
eyes over the saloon; but Mrs. Barstow tells me that the ship is going
to New Zealand.
So she is, so she is, cried Captain Parsons, bursting into a
laugh, and if you like, Mr. Barclay and you shall accompany us.
She looked at him with a frightened girlish air.
Oh, no, Miss Bellassys, said Mrs. Barstow. Captain Parsons is a
great humorist. I have made two voyages with him, and he keeps me
laughing from port to port. He will see that you get safely home, and I
wish that we could count upon arriving at Otaga as speedily as you will
Just then a man in a camlet jacket entered the salooncuddy, I
believe, is the proper word for it. He was the head steward, and
Captain Parsons immediately called to him.
Jenkins, here. This lady and gentleman have not breakfasted; they
have been shipwrecked, and wish to lunch. You understand? And draw the
cork of a quart bottle of champagne. There is no better sea-physic,
Miss Bellassys. I've known what it is to be five days in an open boat
in the middle of the Indian Ocean, and I believe if even Mrs. Barstow
had been my wife, I should not have scrupled to make away with her for
a quart bottle of champagne.
CHAPTER IX. WE ARE MUCH OBSERVED
Our lunch consisted of cold fowl and ham and champagne; good enough
meat and drink, one should say, for the sea, and almost good enough,
one might add, for a pair of love-sick fugitives.
How is your appetite, my darling? said I.
I think I can eat a little of that cold chicken.
This is very handsome treatment, Grace. Upon my word, if the
captain preserves this sort of behaviour, I do not believe we shall be
in a great hurry to quit his ship.
Is not she a noble vessel? exclaimed Grace, rolling her eyes over
the saloon. After the poor little Spitfire's cabin! And how
different is this motion! It soothes me after the horrid tumbling of
the last two days.
This is a very extraordinary adventure, said I, eating and
drinking with a relish and an appetite not a little heightened by
observing that Grace was making a very good meal. It may not end so
soon as we hope, either. First of all, we have to fall in with a
homeward-bound ship; then she has to receive us; then she has to arrive
in the Channel and transfer us to a tug or a smack, or anything else
which may be willing to put us ashore; and there is always the chance
of her not falling in with such a craft as we want, until she is
as high as the Forelandspast Boulogne, in short! But no matter, my
own. We are together, and that is everything.
She took a sip of the champagne that the steward had filled her
glass with, and said in a musing voice, What will the people in this
ship think of me?
What they may think need not trouble us, said I. I told Captain
Parsons that we were engaged to be married. Is there anything very
extraordinary in a young fellow taking the girl he is engaged to out
for a sail in his yacht, and being blown away, and nearly wrecked by a
heavy gale of wind?
Oh, but they will know better, she exclaimed, with a pout.
Well, I forgot, it is true, that I told the captain we sailed from
Boulogne. But how is he to know your people don't live there?
It will soon be whispered about that I have eloped with you,
Herbert, she exclaimed.
Who's to know the truth if it isn't divulged, my pet? said I.
But it is divulged, she answered.
I stared at her. She eyed me wistfully as she continued: I told
Mrs. Barstow the story. I am not ashamed of my conduct, and I ought not
to feel ashamed of the truth being known.
There was logic and heroism in this closing sentence, though it did
not strictly correspond with the expression she had just now let fall
as to what the people would think. I surveyed her silently, and after a
You are in the right. Let the truth be known. I shall give the
skipper the whole yarn that there may be no misunderstanding, for after
all we may have to stick to this ship for some days, and it would be
very unpleasant to find ourselves misjudged.
I gazed, as I spoke, through the windows of the saloon or cuddy
front, which overlooked the main-deck, where a number of steerage
passengers were standing in groups. The ship was before the wind; the
great main-course was hauled up to its yard, and I could see to as far
as the forecastle, with a fragment of bowsprit showing under the white
arch of the foresail; some sailors in coloured apparel were hauling
upon a rope hard by the foremast; a gleam of misty sunshine was pouring
full upon this window-framed picture, and crowded it with rich oceanic
tints softened by the ruled and swaying shadows of the rigging. An
extraordinary thought flashed into my head.
By Jove! Grace, I wonder if there's a parson on board?
Why do you wonder?
If there is a parson on board he might be able to marry us.
She coloured, smiled, and looked grave all in a breath.
A ship is not a church, said she, almost demurely.
No, I answered, but a parson's a parson wherever he ishe
carries with him the same appetite, the same clothes, the same powers,
no matter whither his steps conduct him.
She shook her head smiling, but her blush had faded, nor could her
smile disguise a look of alarm in her eyes.
My darling, said I, surely if there should be a clergyman on
board, you will not object to his marrying us? It would end all our
troubles, anxieties, misgivingsthrust Lady Amelia out of the question
altogether, save us from a tedious spell of waiting ashore.
But the objections which hold good on shore hold good here, said
she, with her face averted.
No, I can't see it, said I, talking so noisily out of the
enthusiasm the notion had raised in me that she looked round to say
Hush! and then turned her head again. There must be a difference,
said I, sobering my voice, between the marriage ceremony as performed
on sea and on shore. The burial service is different, and you will find
the other is so too. There is too much horizon at sea, too much
distance to talk of consent. Guardians and patents are too far off. As
to bannswho's going to say 'no' on board a vessel?
I cannot imagine that it would be a proper wedding, said she,
shaking her head.
Do you mean in the sense of its being valid, my sweet?
Yes, she whispered.
But you don't see that a parson's a parson everywhere. Whom God
The steward entered the saloon at that moment. I called to him and
said politely, Have you many passengers, steward?
Ay, sir, too many, he answered. The steerage is pretty nigh
Saloon passengers, I mean?
Every berth's hoccupied, sir.
What sort of people are they, do you know? Any swells amongst
That, depends how they're viewed, he answered, with a cautious
look round and a slow smile; if by themselves, they're all swells; if
I thought perhaps that you might have had something in the Colonial
No, sir, there's nothen in that way aboard. Plenty as needs it I
dessay. The language of some of them steerage chaps is something to
turn the black hairs of a monkey white. Talk of the vulgarity of
The glances of this steward were dry and shrewd, and his smile slow
and knowing; I chose therefore to ask him no more questions. But then,
substantially, he had told me what I wanted to gather, and secretly I
felt as much mortified and disappointed as though for days past I had
been thinking of nothing else than finding a parson on board ship at
sea and being married to Grace by him.
A little later on Mrs. Barstow came into the saloon and asked Grace
to accompany her on deck. My sweetheart put on her hat and jacket, and
the three of us went on to the poop. My first look was for a ship, and
I spied off the starboard bow a square of orange-coloured canvas; but
the vessel was going our way and was, therefore, of no use to us. The
ocean swept in a blank circle to that solitary point of sun-coloured
sail; but it was fine weather at last; whilst we were seated at lunch
the breeze had freshened and the sky cleared; the swell left by the
gale had sensibly flattened within the past hour, and the sea was
trembling and filled with the life of crisp green wrinkles running over
the light folds which flowed pleasantly out of the north; the mistiness
was gone from the sunshine; the light was brilliant and warm and
coloured the atmosphere with a delicate tinge of yellow, though the
luminary was yet high in the heavens. The clouds hung in rolls of
cream-like vapour, making the noblest and most stately prospect of the
sky that could be imagined as they moved slowly over our mastheads in
the direction in which we steered.
I had never been aboard a full-rigged ship beforethat is to say,
at sea, and under canvasand on quitting the companion-way I stood for
some moments heedless of all things in my admiration of the beautiful,
in truth, I may say the royal, picture I witnessed. From deck to truck
rose three spires of canvas, sail upon sail of a milky softness
swelling one above another. The planks of the poop deck were as white
as holystoning could make them, with a glitter as of dried salt
everywhere, and the shadows of the people and of the rigging, swaying
with the heave of the fabric, lay like sketches wrought in pale violet
ink. There was a frequent flash of glass; there were star-like glories
in polished brass; and there was an odd farmyard smell of hay in the
air, with the bleating of sheep forward and a noise of cocks and hens.
A voyage in such a ship as this, Mrs. Barstow, said I, should
make the most delightful trip of a person's life.
It is better than yachting, said Grace softly.
A voyage soon grows tiresome, remarked Mrs. Barstow. Miss
Bellassys, I trust you will share my cabin whilst you remain with us.
You are exceedingly kind, said Grace.
Others of the passengers now approached, and I observed a general
effort of kindness and politeness. The ladies gathered about Grace, and
the gentlemen about me, and the time slipped by, whilst I related my
adventures and listened to their experiences of the weather in the
Channel, and such matters. It was strange, however, to feel that every
hour that passed was widening our distance from home. I never for an
instant regretted my determination to quit the yacht. Yet, even at this
early time of our being aboard the Carthusian, I was disquieted
by a sense of mild dismay when I ran my eye over the ship, and marked
her sliding and curtseying steadily forwards to the impulse of her wide
and gleaming pinions, and reflected that this sort of thing might go on
for days, and perhaps for weeks; that we might arrive at the Equator,
perhaps, at the latitude of the Cape of Good Hope without meeting with
a vessel to serve our turn. All the wardrobe that Grace and I
possessed, we stood in. Small conveniences we should be easily able to
borrow, but what on earth were we to do without a change of dress or
linen? A voyage half-way round the world was indeed a new and quite
unconsidered detail of our elopement. From Boulogne to Mount's Bay was,
I had often thought, whilst making my plans, too far by several leagues
of water. But what, if in defiance of the keenest look-out for ships,
we should be carried to New Zealand? Could we get married there? Did
the Colonials impose the restrictions of the old home upon the nuptials
of a couple? Should we have to wait for Aunt Amelia's sanction? How
long would it take for her ladyship to receive a letter from, say
Otaga, and for us to get her reply?
Well, in talking, and in thinking, and in walking, and in looking,
that first afternoon passed, and at half-past five o'clock we went to
dinner. I had had a short chat with Captain Parsons, and from him had
learnt that there was no parson on board, though I flattered myself
that I had put the question in such a way as not to excite in his
brine-seasoned mind the faintest suspicion of the meaning of my
curiosity. I had also given him to understand that I was a young
gentleman of substance, and begged him to believe that any cost Grace
and I might put the ship to should be repaid with interest to her
This enabled me to take my seat at the table with an easy
conscience, for though there can be no doubt as to the humanity and
hospitality of the British shipmaster, the British ship-owner, on the
other hand, I have always heard spoken of as a person eminent for
thrift and economy, as is made manifest by the slenderness of the crew
he ships, the unsavoriness of the provisions he supplies them with, and
the very small wages he gives to his captains and mates.
It was impossible for me to find myself seated with Grace at my side
at that cheerful, hospitable, sparkling, sea dinner-table, without
acutely realising the difference betwixt this time and yesterday. Some
ten or twelve persons sat down, but there was room for another dozen,
which I believe about completed the number of saloon passengers the
Carthusian carried. Captain Parsons, with a countenance varnished
as from the recent employment of soap, was at the head of the table
with Mrs. Barstow on his right, and I observed that they frequently
conversed whilst they often directed their eyes at Grace and me. The
setting sun shone upon the skylight, and gleamed in ruby prisms and
crystals in the glass about the table. It was a warm and cheerful
picture; the forward windows in the saloon framed a part of the shipa
glimpse of curved white canvas, a fragment of the galley and the
long-coat, the steps leading to the forecastle, coils of gear swinging
upon pins; the soft blue afternoon sky of the fine weather that had
come at last shone betwixt the squares of the rattlines and floated in
a tender liquid atmosphere under the arch of the sails; you could see a
number of the steerage passengers pacing the main-deck, smoking and
arguing; a gentle shaling noise of waters broken by the passage
of the vessel seethed in the ear like a light, passing attack of
deafness in the intervals of silence at the table.
The chief officer, the Scotch-faced man I have before written of,
sat at the foot of the table, slowly and soberly eating.
It would be strange, sir, said I, addressing him, if we do not
hereabout speedily fall in with something homeward bound.
I would, sir, he answered, with a broad Scotch accent.
Yet not so strange, Mr. M'Cosh, said a passenger, sitting opposite
to me, if you come to consider how wide the sea is here.
Well, perhaps not so strange either, said Mr. M'Cosh, in his
sawdusty voice, with his mouth full.
Should you pass a steamer at night, said I, would you stop and
He reflected, and then said, he thocht not.
Then our opportunities for getting home must be limited to
daylight? said I.
This seemed too obvious to him, I suppose, to need a response.
Are you in a very great hurry, Mr. Barclay, to get home? exclaimed
a passenger, with a slight cast in his eye that gave a turn of humour
to his face.
Why, yes, I answered, with a glance at Grace, who was eating
quietly at my side, seldom looking up, though she was as much stared
at, even after all these hours, as decent manners would permit. You
will please remember that we are without luggage.
Eh, but that is to be managed, I think. There are many of us here
of both sexes, continued the gentleman with the cast in his eye,
sending a squint along the row of people on either side of the table.
You should see New Zealand, sir. The country abounds with fine and
noble prospects, and I do not think, he added, with a smile, that you
will find occasion to complain of a want of hospitality.
I am greatly obliged, said I, giving him a bow; but New Zealand
is a little distant for the moment.
The subject of New Zealand was now, however, started, and the
conversation on its harbours, revenue, political parties, debts,
prospects, and the like, was exceedingly animated, and lasted pretty
nearly through the dinner. Though Grace and I were seated at the
foremost end of the table, removed nearly by the whole length of it
from the captain, I was sensible that this talk to those near him
mainly concerned us. He had, as I have said, Mrs. Barstow on one hand,
and on the other sat the lady with the thin lips and sausage curls. I
would notice him turn first to one, then to the other, his round
sea-coloured face broadened by an arch knowing smile; then Mrs. Barstow
would look at us; then the lady with the thin lips would stretch her
neck to take a peep down the line in which we sat; others would also
look, smirk a bit, and address themselves, with amused faces, in a low
voice to Captain Parsons.
All this was not so marked as to be offensive, or even embarrassing,
but it was a very noticeable thing, and I whispered to Grace that we
seemed to form the sole theme of conversation at the captain's end.
What can they be talking about? said I. I hope they are not
plotting to carry us to New Zealand.
You would not permit it! she exclaimed, giving me an eager,
No, said I, it is too far off. Were it Madeira nowit may come
to Madeira yet; but the pity of it is, my sweet, said I, low in her
ear, we are not married, otherwise we might call this trip our
honeymoon, and make a really big thing of it by going the whole way to
She coloured and was silent, afraid, I think, of my being overheard,
for my spirits were now as good as they were yesterday wretched, and
whenever I felt happy I had a trick of talking rather loud.
When dinner was over we went on deck. Mrs. Barstow and the
thin-lipped lady carried off Grace for a stroll up and down the planks,
and I joined a few of the gentlemen passengers on the quarter-deck to
smoke a cigar one of them gave me. There was a fine breeze out of the
east, and the ship, with yards nearly square, was sliding and rolling
stately along her course at some six or seven miles in the hour. The
west was flushed with red, but a few stars were trembling in the airy
dimness of the evening blue over the stern, and in the south was the
young moon, a pale curl, but gathering from the clearness of the
atmosphere a promise of radiance enough later on to touch the sea with
silver under it and fling a gleam of her own upon our soaring sails.
I had almost finished my cigartwo bells, seven o'clock had not
long been struckwhen one of the stewards came out of the saloon, and
approaching me exclaimed:
Captain Parson's compliments, sir, and he'll be glad to see you in
his cabin if you can spare him a few minutes.
With pleasure, I answered, flinging the end of my cigar overboard,
instantly concluding that he wished to see me privately to arrange
about terms and accommodation whilst Grace and I remained with him.
CHAPTER X. A SINGULAR PROPOSAL
I followed the man into the saloon and was led right aft where stood
two large cabins. On entering I found Captain Parsons sitting at a
table covered with nautical instruments, books, writing materials and
so forth. A lighted bracket lamp near the door illuminated the
interior, and gave me a good view of the hearty little fellow, and his
sea-furniture of cot, locker, chest of drawers, and wearing apparel
that slided to and fro upon the bulkhead as it dangled from pegs. His
air was as grave, and his countenance as full of importance as such
features as his were capable of expressing. Having asked me to take a
seat, he surveyed me thoughtfully for some moments in silence.
Young gentleman, said he at last, before we man the windlass I
have to beg you'll not take amiss any questions I may put. Whatever I
ask won't be out of curiosity. I believe I can see my way to doing you
and your pretty young lady a very considerable service: but I shall
first want all the truth you may think proper to give me.
I heard him with some astonishment. What could he mean? What service
had he in contemplation?
The truth of what, Captain Parsons? said I.
Well, now, your relations with Miss Bellassysit's an elopement, I
That is so, I answered, hardly knowing whether to laugh or to feel
Though the young lady, he continued, is not one of my passengers
in the sense that the rest of 'em are, she is aboard my ship, and as
though by the Divine ordering, committed to my care, as are you and
every man Jack of the two hundred and four souls who are sailing with
me. Of course you know that we shipmasters have very great powers.
I merely inclined my head, wondering what he was driving at.
A shipmaster, he proceeded, is lord paramount, quite the cock of
his own walk, and nothing must crow where he is. He is responsible for
the safety and comfort, for the well-being, moral, spiritual, and
physical, of every creature aboard his ship; no matter the
circumstances under which that creature came aboard, whether by paying
cabin money, by shipwreck, or by signing articles. Miss Bellassys has
come into my hands, and it is my duty, as master of this ship, to see
that she's done right by.
The conflict of twenty emotions rendered me quite incapable to do
anything more than stare at him.
Now, Mr. Barclay, he continued, crossing his bow legs, and wagging
a little stunted forefinger in a kindly, admonishing way, don't be
affronted by this preface, and don't be affronted by what I'm going to
ask, for if all be plain sailing, I shall be able to do you and the
young lady a real A1, copper-fastened service.
Pray ask any questions you wish, captain, said I.
This is an elopement, you say?
Bullong-sewer-mare, he repeated. Was the young lady at school?
What might be her age, now?
She will be eighteen next so-and-so, said I, giving him the month.
He suddenly jumped up, and I could not imagine what he meant to do,
till pulling open a drawer, he took out a large box of cigars which he
placed upon the table.
Pray, light up, Mr. Barclay, said he, looking to see if the window
of his port-hole was open. They are genuine Havannah cigars. He
lighted one himself and proceeded. What necessity was there for this
Miss Bellassys is an orphan, I answered, still so much astonished
that I found myself almost mechanically answering him as though I were
in a witness-box, and he was Mr. Justice Parsons in a wig instead of an
old, bow-legged, pimple-nosed, merchant skipper. Her father was
Colonel Bellassys, who died some years ago in India. On her mother's
death she was taken charge of by her aunt, Lady Amelia Roscoe. Lady
Amelia's husband was a gentleman named Withycombe Roscoe, whose estate
in Kent adjoined my father's, Sir Herbert Barclay, the engineer.
D'ye mean the gentleman who built the Ldocks?
Oh, indeed! cried he, looking somewhat impressed. And how is
your father, Mr. Barclay?
He died about two years and a half ago, I replied. But you have
asked me for the truth of this elopement, Captain Parsons. There were
constant quarrels between my father and Mr. Withycombe Roscoe over a
hedge, or wall, or ditchsome matter contemptibly insignificant, but
if the value of the few rods or perches of ground had been represented
by the National Debt, there could not have been hotter blood, more
ill-feeling between them. Litigation was incessant, and I am sorry to
say that it still continues, though I should be glad to end it.
Sort of entailed lawsuit, I suppose? said the captain, smoking
with enjoyment, and listening with interest and respect.
Just so, said I, finding now a degree of happiness in this
candour; it was a kind of easing of my conscience to tell this man my
story, absolute stranger as he had been to me but a few hours before.
Mr. Roscoe died, and Lady Amelia took a house in London. I met her
niece at the house of a friend, and fell in love with her.
So I should think, exclaimed Captain Parsons, never saw a sweeter
young lady in all my time.
Well, to cut short this part of the storywhen her ladyship learnt
that her niece was in love, and discovered who her sweetheart wasthis
occupied a few months I may tell youshe packed the girl off to
Boulogne, to a Mademoiselle Championet, who keeps a sort of school at
that place, though Grace was sent there professedly to learn French.
This mademoiselle is some sort of poor connection of Lady Amelia, a
bigotted Catholic, as her ladyship is, and it soon grew clear to my
mind, from letters I received from Miss Bellassysdespatched in the
old romantic fashion
What fashion's that? called out the captain.
The bribed housemaid, sir. It soon grew clear to my mind, I say,
that Lady Amelia's main object in sending the girl to Mademoiselle
Championet was to get her converted.
Bad! bad! cried Captain Parsons.
Her letters, I continued, growing hot as I spoke, were all about
Mademoiselle Championet's devices and mean dodgeshow Miss Bellassys
was taken to masshow she was allowed to read nothing but Catholic
bookshow she was left alone with a priest
A dd shame! whipped out the captain. And such a sweet young
English woman too!
Do you need to hear more? said I, smiling. I love the girl and
she loves me; she was an orphan, and I did not consider the aunt a
right and proper guardian for her; she consented to elope, and we did
elope, and here we are, captain.
And you were bound to Penzance, I understand?
To get married at a church in that district.
Who was going to marry ye?
A cousin of mine, the Reverend Frank Howe, of course, after we had
fulfilled the confounded legal conditions which obstruct young people
like ourselves in England.
And what are the legal conditions? It's so long since I was married
that I forget 'em, said the captain.
Residence, as it is called; then the consent of her ladyship, as
Miss Bellassys is under age.
But she isn't going to consent, is she?
How can she refuse after our association in the yachtand here?
It took him some time to understand; he then shut one eye and said,
We pulled at our cigars in silence as we gazed at each other. The
evening had blackened into night; a silver star or two slided in the
open port through which came the washing noise of the water as it swept
eddying and seething past the bends into the wake of the ship; now and
again the rudder jarred harshly and there was a monstrous tread of feet
overhead. We were at the extreme after end of the vessel, where the
heave of her would be most sensibly felt, and she was still curtseying
with some briskness, but I scarcely heeded the motion, so effectually
had the mad behaviour of the Spitfire cured me of all tendency
And now, Mr. Barclay, exclaimed the captain, after a silence of a
minute or two, I'll explain why I have made so free as to ask you for
your story. It's the opinion of Mrs. Barstow and Miss Moggadore, that
Miss Bellassys and you ought to be married right away off. It's a duty
that's owing to the young lady. You can see it for yourself, sir. Her
situation, young gentleman, he added with emphasis, is not what it
ought to be.
I agree in every word, I exclaimed, but
He interrupted me: Her dignity is yours, her reputation is yours.
And the sooner you're married the better.
I was about to speak, but despite my pronouncing several words he
Mrs. Barstow is one of the best natured women in the world. There
never was a more practical lady; sees a thing in a minute; and you may
believe in her advice as you would in the fathom marks on a headline.
Miss Moggadore, the young lady that sat on my left at tabledid you
notice her, Mr. Barclay?
A middle-aged lady, with curls?
Eight and thirty. Ain't that young enough? Ay, Miss Moggadore has
two curls, and let me tell you that her nose heads the right way. Miss
Moggadore wasn't behind the door when brains were served out. Well, she
and Mrs. Barstow, and your humble servant, he convulsed his short
square figure into a sea-bow, are for having you and Miss Bellassys
married straight away off.
So there is a clergyman on board? I cried, feeling the blood in my
face, and staring eagerly at him.
No, sir, said he, there's no clergyman aboard my ship.
Then, said I, almost sulkily, what on earth, Captain Parsons, is
the good of you and Mrs. Barstow and Miss Moggadore advising Miss
Bellassys and me to get married straight away off, as you term it?
It ought to be done, said he, with an emphatic nod.
What, without a parson? I cried.
I am a parson, he exclaimed.
I imagined he intended a stupid pun upon his name.
Parson enough, he continued, to do your business. I'll
You? I shouted.
Yes, me, he returned, striking his breast with his fist.
Pray, where were you ordained? said I, disgusted with the bad
taste of what I regarded as a joke.
Ordained! he echoed, I don't understand you. I'm the master of a
British merchantman, and, as such, can and do desire, for Miss
Bellassys's sake, to marry ye.
Now, I do not know how, when or where I had stumbled upon the fact,
but all on a sudden it came into my head that it was as Captain Parsons
said: namely, that the master of a British merchantman was empowered,
whether by statute, by precedent, or by recognition of the laws of
necessity, to celebrate the marriage service on board his own ship at
sea. I may have read it in the corner of a newspaperin some column of
answers to correspondentsas likely as not in a work of fiction; but
the mere fact of having heard of it, persuaded me that Captain Parsons
was in earnest; and very much indeed did he look in earnest as he
surveyed me with an expression of triumph in his little eyes, whilst I
hung in the wind, swiftly thinking.
But am I to understand, said I, fetching a breath, that a
marriage at sea, with nobody but the captain of the ship to officiate,
Certainly, he cried, let me splice you to Miss Bellassys, and
there's nothing mortal outside the Divorce Court that can sunder you.
How many couples do you think I've married in my time?
I cannot imagine.
Six, he cried, and they're all doing well, too.
But I suppose they were all formally married afterwards?
No, sir, said he, misunderstanding me, they were not formerly
married. They came to me as you and the young lady will, single folks.
Have you a special marriage service at sea?
The same, word for word, as you have it in the Prayer Book.
And when it is read? said I, pausing.
I enter the circumstance in the official logbook, duly witnessed,
and then there you are, much more married than it would delight you to
feel if afterwards you should find out you've made a mistake.
My heart beat fast. Though I never dreamt for an instant of
accepting this shipper's offices seriously, yet if the ceremony he
performed should be legal it would be a trump card in my hand for any
game I might hereafter have to play with Lady Amelia.
But how, said I, are you to get over the objections to my
What objections? The only objection I see is your not being married
Why, said I, residence or licence.
He flourished his hand: You're both aboard my ship, aren't ye?
That's residence enough for me. As to licencethere's no such thing at
sea. Suppose a couple wanted to get married in the middle of the
Pacific Ocean; where's the licence to come from?
But how about the consent of the guardian?
The lawful guardian isn't here, he answered, the lawful
guardian's leagues astern. No use talking of guardians aboard ship. The
young lady being in this ship constitutes me her guardian, and it's
enough for you that I give my consent.
His air, as he pronounced these words, induced such a fit of
laughter, that for several moments I was unable to speak. He appeared
to heartily enjoy my merriment, and sat watching me with the broadest
I'm glad you take to the notion kindly, said he. I was afraid,
with Mrs. Barstow, that you'd create a difficulty.
I! Indeed, Captain Parsons, I have nothing in the world else to do,
nothing in the world else to think of but to get married. But how about
Miss Bellassys? I added, with a shake of the head. What will she have
to say to a shipboard wedding?
You leave her to Mrs. Barstow and Miss Moggadore, said he with a
nod; besides, it's for her to be anxious to get married. Make no
mistake, young man. Until she becomes Mrs. Barclay, her situation is by
no means what it ought to be.
But is it the fact, captain, I exclaimed, visited by a new emotion
of surprise and incredulity, that a marriage, celebrated at sea by the
captain of a ship, is legal?
Instead of answering, he counted upon his fingers.
Three and one are four, and two are six, and two's eight, and
three's eleven, and four again's fifteen. He paused, looking up at me,
and exclaimed with as much solemnity as he could impart to his briny
voice, If it isn't legal, all I can say is, God help fifteen of as
fine a set of children as ever a man could wish to clap eyes onnot
counting the twelve parents, that I married. But since you seem to
doubtI wish I had the official log-books containing the entriestell
ye what I'll do! he exclaimed, and jumped up. Do you know Mr.
A passenger, I presume?
Ay, one of the shrewdest lawyers in New Zealand. I'll send for him,
and you shall hear what he says.
But on putting his head out to call for the steward, he saw Mr.
Higginson sitting at the saloon table reading. Some whispering
followed, and they both arrived, the captain carefully shutting the
door behind him. Mr. Higginson was a tall, middle-aged man, with a face
that certainly looked intellectual enough to inspire one with some
degree of confidence in anything he might deliver. He put on a pair of
pince-nez glasses, bowed to me, and took a chair. The captain began
awkwardly, abruptly, and in a rumbling voice.
Mr. Higginson, I'll tell you in half-a-dozen words how the case
stands. No need for mystery. Mr. Barclay's out on an eloping tour. He
don't mind my saying so, for we want nothing but the truth aboard the
Carthusian. He's run away with that sweet young lady we took off
his yacht, and is anxious to get married, and Mrs. Barstow and Miss
Moggadore don't at all relish the situation the young lady's put
herself in, and they're for marrying her as quickly as the job can be
Mr. Higginson nursed his knee and smiled at the deck with a look of
embarrassment though he had been attending to the skipper's words with
lawyer-like gravity down to that moment.
You see, continued Captain Parsons, that the young lady being
aboard my ship puts her under my care.
Just so, said Mr. Higginson.
Therefore I'm her guardian, and it's my duty to look after her.
Just so, murmured Mr. Higginson.
Now, I suppose you're aware, sir, continued the captain, that the
master of a British merchantman is fully empowered to marry any couple
aboard his ship?
Empowered by what? asked Mr. Higginson.
He has the right to do it, sir, answered the captain.
It is a subject, exclaimed Mr. Higginson nervously, upon which I
am hardly qualified to give an opinion.
Is a shipboard marriage legal, or is it not legal? demanded the
I cannot answer as to the legality, answered the lawyer, but I
believe there are several instances on record of marriages having taken
place at sea; and I should say, he added slowly and cautiously, that
in the event of their legality ever being tested, no court would be
found willing, on the merits of the contracts as marriages, to set them
There ye have it, Mr. Barclay, cried the captain with a triumphant
swing round in his chair.
In the case of a marriage at sea, continued Mr. Higginson looking
at me, I should certainly counsel the parties not to depend upon the
validity of their union, but to make haste to confirm it by a second
marriage on their arrival at port.
Needless expense and trouble, whipped out the captain; there's
the official log-book. What more's wanted?
But is there no form requiredno licence necessary? I exclaimed,
addressing Mr. Higginson.
Hardly at sea, I should say, he answered, smiling.
My argument! shouted the captain.
But the young lady is under age, I continued; she is an orphan,
and her aunt is her guardian. How about that aunt's consent, sir?
How can it be obtained? exclaimed the lawyer.
My argument again! roared the captain.
No doubt, exclaimed Mr. Higginson, as the young lady is under
age, the marriage could be rendered by the action of her guardian null
and void. But would the guardian in this case take such a step? Would
she not rather desire that this union at sea should be confirmed by a
wedding on shore?
You exactly express my hope, said I; but before we decide,
Captain Parsons, let me first of all talk the matter over with Miss
All right, sir, he answered, but don't lose sight of this: that,
whilst the young lady's aboard my ship, I'm her natural guardian and
protector; the law holds me accountable for her safety and well-being,
and what I say is, she ought to be married. I've explained why; and I
say, she ought to be married!
A few minutes later, I quitted the cabin, leaving the captain and
Mr. Higginson arguing upon the powers of a commander of a ship, the
skipper shouting as I opened the door, I tell you, Mr. Higginson, that
the master of a vessel may not only legally marry a couple, but may
legally christen their infants, sir; and then legally bury the lot of
them, if they should die.
CHAPTER XI. GRACE CONSENTS
I found Grace seated at the table between Mrs. Barstow and Miss
Moggadore. Mrs. Barstow bestowed a smile upon me, but Miss Moggadore's
thin lips did not part, and there was something very austere and acid
in the gaze she fastened upon my face. The saloon was now in full
blaze, and presented a very fine, sparkling appearance indeed. The
motion of the ship was so quiet that the swing of the radiant lamps was
hardly noticeable. Some eight or ten of the passengers were scattered
about, a couple at chess, another reading, a third leaning back with
his eyes fixed on a lamp, and so on. It was of an ebony blackness in
the windows overlooking the main deck, though, as the door was opened
and shut by the coming and going of stewards, there would enter a low,
growling hum of conversation, with the scent of coarse tobacco; and now
and again, a noise as of a concertina played forward on the forecastle.
I leaned over the back of my darling's chair, and addressed some
commonplaces to her and to the two ladies, intending presently to
withdraw her, that I might have a long talk, but after a minute or two
Mrs. Barstow rose and went to her cabin, a hint that Miss Moggadore was
good enough to take. I seated myself in that lady's chair at Grace's
Well, my pet, and what have they been talking to you about?
They have been urging me to marry you to-morrow morning, Herbert,
she answered, with a smile that was half a pout and a blush that did
not signify so much embarrassment but that she could look at me.
I am fresh from a long talk with the captain, said I, and he has
been urging me to do the same thing.
It is ridiculous, said she, holding down her head; there is no
clergyman in the ship.
But the captain of a vessel may act as a clergyman under the
circumstances, said I.
I don't believe it, Herbert.
But see here, Grace, said I, speaking earnestly but softly, for
there were ears not far distant, it is not likely that we should
regard the captain's celebration of our marriage here as more than
something that will strengthen our hands for the struggle with your
aunt. Until we have been joined by a clergyman in proper shipshape
fashion, as Captain Parsons himself might say, we shall not be man and
wife; but then, my darling, consider this: first of all it is in the
highest degree probable that a marriage performed on board a ship by
her captain is legal. Next, that your aunt would suppose we regarded
the union as legal, when of course she would be forced to conclude we
considered ourselves man and wife. Would she then dare come
between us? Her consent must be wrung from her by this politic stroke
of shipboard wedding that to her mind would be infinitely more
significant than our association in the yacht. She will go about and
inquire if a shipboard wedding is legal; her lawyers will answer her as
best they can, but their advice will be, secure your niece by sending
your consent to Penzance, that she may be legitimately married in an
English Church by a Church of England clergyman.
She listened thoughtfully, but with an air of childish simplicity
that was inexpressibly touching to my love for her.
It would be merely a ceremony, said she, leaning her cheek on her
hand, to strengthen your appeal to Aunt Amelia?
Wholly, my darling.
Well, dearest, said she gently, if you wish it
I could have taken her to my heart for her ready compliance. I had
expected a resolved refusal, and had promised myself some hours that
evening and next day of exhortation, entreaty, representation. I was
indeed hot on the project, and even as I talked to her I felt my
enthusiasm growing. Secretly I had no doubt whatever that Captain
Parsons was empowered as master of a British merchantman to marry us,
and though, as I had told her, I should consider the ceremony as simply
an additional weapon for fighting Aunt Amelia with, yet as a contract
it might securely bind us too; we were to be parted only by the action
of the aunt; this I felt assured, for the sake of her niece's fame and
future and for her own name, her ladyship would never attempt; so that
from the moment the captain ended the service, Grace would be my wife
to all intents and purposes, which indeed was all we had in view when
we glided out of Boulogne harbour in the poor little Spitfire.
However, though she had sweetly and promptly consented, a great deal
remained to talk about. I repeated all that Captain Parsons, and all
that Mr. Higginson had said, and when we had exhausted the subject we
naturally spoke of our prospects of quitting the Carthusian; and
one subject suggesting another, we sat chatting till about nine
o'clock, at which hour the stewards arrived with wine and grog and
biscuits; whereupon the passengers put away their books and chess
boards and gathered about the table, effectually ending our
tête-à-tête. Then Mrs. Barstow arrived, followed by Miss Moggadore.
I took the former lady aside, leaving Grace in charge of the acidulated
gentlewoman with the curls.
Miss Bellassys tells me, said I, that you have warmly counselled
her to allow Captain Parsons to marry us. You are very good. You could
not do us a greater service than by giving such advice. She has
consented, asking only that the ceremony shall be privately performed
in the captain's cabin.
She is very young, replied Mrs. Barstow, too young I fear to
realise her position. I am a mother, Mr. Barclay, and my sympathies are
entirely with your charming sweetheart. Under such conditions as we
find her in we must all wish to see her married. Were her mother
living, I am sure that would be her desire.
Were her mother living, said I, there would have been no
She inclined her head with a cordial gesture.
Miss Bellassys, said she, has been very candid. As a mother
myself, I must blame her; but as a woman she shook her head smiling.
We are fortunate indeed, I exclaimed, in falling into the hands
of people so sympathetic and upright as yourself, and Captain Parsons.
I only wish that I could thoroughly persuade myself that a marriage
performed by a shipmaster is legal.
Oh, I think you mayI am sure you may. But your first step, Mr.
Barclay, when you get ashore, must be to get your cousin to re-marry
Undoubtedly, I cried, nor could I consider Grace my wife until
that happened, though I suppose we shall still have to waitfor that
second marriage, I meanfor the aunt's consent.
You need not fear, she exclaimed, the marriage to-morrow will
gain her consent.
We stood apart conversing for some time, and were then interrupted
by the head-steward, who came to tell me that by orders of the captain
I was to sleep in a berth occupied by one of the passengers, a Mr.
Tooth. I went to inspect this berth and was very well pleased to find a
clean and comfortable bed prepared. Mr. Tooth accompanied me, and
pointing to his razors and hair-brushes, begged me to make use of every
thing that he had. He had a great quantity of under-linen he told me,
enough to last the pair of us the whole round voyage, and his coats and
trousers were entirely at my service, though, said he, who was a
short man, running his eyes over my tall figure with a grin, I fear my
clothes will not allow you to take very much exercise.
I drank a glass of hot whisky and water at the cabin table, and,
observing that Grace looked pale and weary, I asked Mrs. Barstow to
induce her to go to bed. The darling seemed reluctant to leave me. She
looked about her in a sort of child-like, shrinking way, and whispered
that she wished to sit with me.
I am not sleepy, dearest, said she; why cannot we sit alone
together in this saloon, as we did in the cabin of the little
Spitfire? You shall sleep first, and then I will put my head upon
your shoulder. It is but for one night, Herbert. We are sure to meet a
ship going home to-morrow.
Assuredly would it have given me the most exquisite happiness to sit
alone with her, as she wished, pillowing her fair head, and watching
her as she slept; but it was not to be thought of, for reasons much too
obvious to need reciting, and presently she went with Mrs. Barstow to
that lady's cabin, turning to look at me ere the door closed upon her.
I had my pipe and a pouch of tobacco in my pocket, and thought I
would go on deck for half-an-hour before retiring to bed. As I passed
the table on my way to the companion ladder, Mr. Higginson rose from a
book he had been reading, and detained me by putting his hand upon my
I have been thinking over the matter of marriage at sea, Mr.
Barclay, he exclaimed, with a wary look round, to make sure that
nobody was listening. I wish we had a copy of the Merchants' Shipping
Act for 1854, for I believe there is a section which provides that
every master of a ship carrying an official log-book, shall enter in it
every marriage that takes place on board, together with the names and
ages of the parties. And I fancy there is another section which
provides that every master of every foreign-going ship shall sign and
deliver to some mercantile marine authority, a list containing, amongst
other things, a statement of every marriage which takes place on board.
There is also an Act called, if my memory serves me, the Confirmation
of Marriage on her Majesty's Ships' Act. But this, I presume, does not
concern what may happen in merchant vessels. I should like to read up
Hammick on the Marriage Laws of England. One thing, however, is clear:
marriage at sea is contemplated by the Merchant Shipping Acts of 1854.
Merchantmen do not carry chaplains; a clergyman in attendance as a
passenger was assuredly not in the minds of those who are responsible
for the Act. The sections, in my opinion, directly point to the captain
as the person to officiate; and, having turned the matter thoroughly
over, I don't scruple to pronounce that a marriage solemnised at sea by
the master of a British merchantman is as legal and valid as though
celebrated on shore in the usual way.
I am delighted to hear you say so, said I.
It is a most interesting point, said he. It ought certainly to be
Well, speaking for Miss Bellassys and myself, said I, we intend
to settle it to-morrow at the captain's convenience. He's very willing,
and most kindly anxious.
Oh, yes, said he drily, old Parsons is noted for this sort of
thing. I have heard of his having married several couplespassengers
of hisin his time. I believe he cuts a very great figure at a burial
at sea; but as to his claiming the right of baptising he burst into
a laugh, and added, I came to Europe with him last voyage, and he once
told me that he had mistaken his vocation: he ought to have entered the
church. 'I should have been a bishop by this time,' said he. He has a
very clerical look, certainly!
I laughed out, and went on deck with my spirits in a dance. To think
of such a marriage as we contemplated! And to find it in all
probability as binding as the shore-going ceremony! Assuredly it is an
ill wind that blows nobody any good, and the gale that had nearly
foundered us was to end in returning us to our native shorea wedded
It was a dark night, despite the young moon in the west and a wide
field of stars under which a few high clouds were floating. The wind
was almost directly over the stern, and seemed but little more than a
quiet fanning, owing to the ship running; but it had weight enough to
keep the sails silent, and to fill the ear with the murmur of hurrying
waters. The ship loomed phantasmally in the clear dusk, with a regular
and stately swaying of her pale heights. All was silent and dark on the
main-deck and forward; on the poop glittered a few figures of male
passengers with the dark shape of one of the mates pacing the deck
athwartships, a stirless shadow of a man at the wheel, and someone near
him, with a glowing tip in the middle of his face signifying a lighted
cigar. I filled my pipe and stood musing a bit, thinking of Caudel and
the others of the little dandy, of the yacht, of the gale we had
outlived, and twenty other like matters, when the voice of the captain
broke in upon my reverie.
This will be you, Mr. Barclay? I begin to know you now without
candle light by your height.
Yes, it is I, captainjust stepped on deck for a smoke and a
breath of this cool wind before turning in. Do you know, when I view
the great dark outline of your ship sweeping through this tremendous
space of darkness, and then think of the crowds of people asleep in her
heart, I can't but consider the post of commander of a big merchantman,
like this vessel, foremost amongst the most responsible under the sun.
Sir, you are right, exclaimed the little man.
Realise what is committed to his safe keeping, I went on; not
precious human lives only, but a ship and cargo of value enough to
purchase several German principalities. Nor is it one voyage only. You
may make twenty in your capacity of commander. Think then of the wealth
that will have been entrusted to you in your time, the crowds upon
crowds of human beings whose lives were in your hands!
Sir, you are right, he repeated, in a voice that was oily with
gratification. Pray what is your age, Mr. Barclay?
I told him.
Then, considering your age, all I can say is you talk very
sensibly. Let us walk, sir.
We started to measure the planks from the wheel to half-way the
length of the poop.
There is no doubt, said I, that you, as master of this vessel,
are, as you have all along contended, empowered to marry me to Miss
Bellassys, and I then gave him the substance of what Mr. Higginson had
said to me below.
I knew that Higginson would see it after thinking a bit, said he.
Of course, I am empowered to marry, on board my ship, any couple that
may apply to me. Have you spoken to Miss Bellassys?
And is she agreeable?
Good! said he with a chuckle. Now, when shall it be?
Oh, it is for you to say, captain.
Ten o'clock to-morrow morning do?
Very well, indeed, I answered, but it will be quite private,
Captain Parsons; it is Miss Bellassys's wish.
Private? Why private? he exclaimed, in a voice of disappointment;
a wedding is an interesting sight, and I intended to admit the
steerage passengers. I had also seen my way to converting our usual
lunch into a sort of wedding breakfast for you, and indeed I don't mind
telling you, Mr. Barclay, that I've been amusing myself during the last
half-hour in rehearsing several speeches.
I can assure you, captain, said I, that I fully appreciate all
your goodness. But a public ceremony!No, a quite private affair in
your cabin, if you please.
We measured half the length of the deck in silence, and I almost
dreaded to hear him speak. He then said:
It seems a pity to rob the passengers of an edifying sight. There
are several couples in the steerage who ought to be married, and the
example I counted upon offering them would be certain to take effect.
But of courseif it's the young lady's wish,by the way, you'll
forgive me asking the question: it's quite a matter of formno
rudeness intendedyou are sure that your name is Barclay?
Herbert, said I.
Herbert Barclay! said he, and the young lady's name's genuine
Perfectly genuine, captain.
Grace Bellassys! said he; it sound a bit theatrical, don't it?
It is her name, nevertheless, said I laughing.
You see, Mr. Barclay, if the names are wrong, the marriage is
There'll be nothing wrong in this marriage, said I, if the rights
of it are to be dependent merely upon the genuineness of our names. But
now, let me put this question to you: in officiating as you propose,
will you not be accepting a certain legal risk?
As how? he exclaimed.
You will be marrying a young lady who is under age, knowing, as I
repeat now, and was bound to tell you at the start, that her guardian
objects to the alliance.
There are no guardians at sea, he said, in the sense of your
young lady's aunt. I'm her guardian whilst she's aboard my ship, and as
I said before, so I say again, I give my consent seeing the situation
she's put herself in, and understanding that it's my duty to help her
out of it.
I swallowed a laugh, and changed the subject by asking him to tell
me about the couples he had married, and so in chatting, three-quarters
of an hour passed, at the expiration of which time I shook him by the
hand and went to bed.
Mr. Tooth tried hard to keep me awake that he might satisfy his
curiosity; he had vaguely heard I was to be married next day, and
wished for the story of my elopement at first hand. But I was dog
tired, and no sooner did my head press the pillows than I answered him
I slept right through the night, and when I awoke, Mr. Tooth was
shaving himself, and the cabin was brilliant with sunshine whitened to
a finer glory yet by the broad surface of milk-white froth that was
rushing past the ship. There was plainly a noble sailing breeze
blowing, and the vessel was lying well down to it, with a sort of
humming and tingling throughout the whole body of her. I made haste to
shave, fencing with Mr. Tooth's questions, as he plied them out of a
mouth that yawned darkly amid the soapsuds with which he had covered
his cheeks, and then hastened into the saloon to look for Grace and
take her on deck. The good-humoured little stewardess, however, told me
she was not yet up, though it wanted but twenty minutes to eight, on
which I shot through the companion into the windy splendour of the
grandest ocean morning that ever set a man fresh from his bed blinking.
The ship was heeling to it as a yacht might; her yards were braced
forward, and the snow at her forefoot soared and blew away in smoke to
the sliding irresistible thrust of her sharp metal stem. The sea for
leagues and leagues rolled blue, foaming, brilliant; wool-like clouds,
lovely with prismatic glitterings in their skirts, as they sailed from
the sun, were speeding into the south-east. The whole life of the world
seemed to be in that morningin the joyous sweep of the blue wind, in
the frolicsome frothing of each long blue ridge of rolling sea, in the
triumphant speeding of the ship sliding buoyant from one soft
foam-freckled hollow to another.
I drew a deep breath. Ha! thought I, if it were always like this
now, and New Zealand not so distant.
But as I thus thought I sent my eyes to leeward, and the first thing
I saw was a large steamer heading in an opposite direction, and
undoubtedly going home. Our combined speed was making her look like to
be passing at the rate of forty or fifty miles an hour. I started, and
stepped up to Mr. M'Cosh, who stood alone at the head of the poop
Isn't that vessel going home? I cried.
He viewed her deliberately as though looking at her for the first
time, then said, with his Scotch accent, which I will not attempt to
I don't doubt it, sir.
Then why not signal, Mr. M'Cosh? I may have to wait a long time for
I thought, sir, said he, looking at me with a peculiar expression
in his eyes, that you were to be married this morning?
Oh! well, I exclaimed, seeing that any talk about the steamer
would be of no use in the face of the swiftness with which a hull of
about three thousand tons was diminishing to the proportions of a
wherry; Captain Parsons is all kindness and will have his way. But
marriage or no marriage, Mr. M'Cosh, I hope he will give you and your
brother officers instructions to signal the next vessel we pass, for we
really want to get home, you know.
As I pronounced these words the square little figure of the captain,
crowned with a high hat, brushed as usual the wrong way, rose through
the companion hatch. Mr. M'Cosh touched his cap and crossed to the
other side of the deck. The captain gave me a friendly nod, and stood
awhile to send a number of seawardly, critical glances aloft, and then
round the ocean. I approached him and said, pointing to the steamer:
There's a fine chance lost, captain.
Lost? cried he, you mustn't be in a hurry yet, sir. There's your
business to do first, sir.
True, said I, but it might help us to get homein timeif you
will instruct the officers under your command to communicate with any
vessel sailing to England.
I told Mr. M'Cosh not to communicate until you were married, he
answered. There'll be no lack of ships homeward bound, sir, and so
saying he left me to go to the rail that protected the edge of the poop
where he stood surveying the scores of steerage passengers which filled
the main-deck, many of them, as they squatted or hung about here and
there, eating their breakfasts, which seemed to me to consist of ship's
biscuit and little tin pots of black tea.
I saw nothing of Grace till the cabin breakfast was ready; most of
the first-class passengers had by this time assembled, some of them who
had been sea-sick yesterday issuing from their cabins; and I noticed a
general stare of admiration as my darling stepped forth followed by
Mrs. Barstow. Her long and comfortable night's rest had returned her
bloom to her. How sweet she looked! how engaging the girlish dignity of
her posture! how bright her timid eyes as she paused to send a glance
round in search of me! I was instantly at her side.
The ceremony is fixed for ten, I think? said Mrs. Barstow, and
here Miss Moggadore arrived as one who had a right to be with us, not
to say of us.
Yes, ten o'clock, I answered. But do these people know what is
going to happen?
Oh, it will certainly have got about. A ship is like a villagethe
lightest whisper is everywhere echoed.
No matter, Grace, said I, let them stare. What isn't kindness
must be admiration.
I am of opinion, said Miss Moggadore, that the ceremony ought to
I'd rather not, I answered. In fact, we both had rather not.
But so many witnesses! said Miss Moggadore.
Shall you be present? inquired Mrs. Barstow.
I hope to receive an invitation, answered Miss Moggadore.
We shall count upon your being present, exclaimed Grace, sweetly;
but the smile with which she spoke quickly faded; she looked grave and
nervous, and I found some reproach in the eyes she lifted to my face.
It seems so unrealalmost impious, Herbert, as though we were
acting a sham part in a terribly solemn act, she exclaimed, as we
There is no sham in it, my pet. Yonder sits Mr. Higginson, a
lawyer, and that man has no doubt whatever that when we are united by
the captain we shall be as much man and wife as any clergyman could
I consent, but only to please you, said she, with something of
restlessness in her manner, and I noticed that she ate but little.
My darling, you know why I wish this marriage performed, I said,
speaking softly in her ear, for there were many eyes upon us, and some
ladies, who had not before put in an appearance, were seated almost
opposite, and constantly directed their gaze at us, whilst they would
pass remarks in whispers when they hung their heads over their plates.
It can do no possible harm; it must be my cousin, not Captain Parsons,
who makes you my wife. But then, Grace, it may be binding too,
requiring nothing more than the sanctification of the union in the
regular way, and it mayit willcreate a difficulty for your aunt
which should go very near to extinguishing her.
She sighed and appeared nervous and depressed; but I was too eager
to have my way to choose to notice her manner. It would be a thing of
the past in a very little while; we might hope at all events to be on
our way home shortly, and I easily foresaw I should never forgive
myself after leaving the Carthusian if I suffered Grace to
influence me into refusing the captain's offer to marry us, odd as the
whole business was, and irregular as it might prove, too, for all I
When breakfast was over, Mrs. Barstow took Grace to her cabin, and
there they remained. Miss Moggadore stepped up to me as I was about to
go on deck and said:
It is not yet too late, Mr. Barclay, and I really think it ought to
be a public ceremony.
Sooner than that I would decline it altogether, said I, in no
humour at that moment to be teased by the opinions of an acidulated
I consider, said she, that a wedding can never take place in too
public a manner. It is proper that the whole world should know that a
couple are truly man and wife.
The whole world, said I, in the sense of this ship, must know it
so far as I am concerned without seeing it.
Well, said she, with a simper which her mere streak of lip was but
little fitted to contrive, I hope you will have all happiness in your
I bowed, muttering some reply, and passed up the steps, not choosing
to linger longer in the face of the people who hung about me with an
air of carelessness, but with faces of curiosity.
CHAPTER XII. A MARRIAGE AT SEA
Some male passengers paced the deck, but the captain was below,
probably making sure of any hard words he would have to pronounce. I
strolled forwards to the break of the poop and found the ship a lively
scene of emigrants, as I call the steerage folks. There seemed about a
hundred of them, many rough fellows in fur caps and shabby clothes,
smoking and arguing in coarse voices, groups of women talking shrilly,
little children running about in the scuppers; and amongst them the
Jacks of the vessel came and went. I scarcely received a glance from
these people, whence I took it that what was to happen aft had not yet
got wind in the 'tweendecks.
Save a leaning shaft of sail far away down upon the horizon to
starboard there was nothing in sight, unless it were a faint
discolouration as of a steamer's smoke in the pale but clear and windy
blue of the junction of sea and sky over the bow. I searched the ocean
with some anxiety however, for every hour of this kind of sailing
threatened to make a very voyage of our return, and such was my mood
just then, that had anything hove in sight, marriage or no marriage, I
should have exhorted the captain to transfer us.
Presently I looked at my watch: a quarter to ten. Mr. Tooth strolled
up to me.
All alone, Mr. Barclay? It is a fact, have you noticed, that when a
man is about to get married people hold off from him. I can understand
this of a corpsethere is a sanctity in death; but a live young man
you knowand only because he's going to get married! By the way, as it
is to be a private affair, I suppose there is no chance for me?
The captain is the host, I answered. He is to play the father. If
he chooses to invite you, by all means be present. As I spoke, the
captain came on deck, turning his head about in manifest search of me.
He gravely beckoned with an air of ceremony, and Mr. Tooth and I went
up to him. He looked at Mr. Tooth, who immediately said:
Captain, a wedding at sea is good enough to remember; something for
a man to talk about. Can't I be present? and he dropped his
head on one side with an insinuating smile.
No, sir, answered Captain Parsons, with true sea grace, and
putting his hand on my arm he carried me right aft. The hour's at
hand, said he. Who's to be present, d'ye know? for if it's to be
private we don't want a crowd.
Mrs. Barstow and Miss Moggadorenobody else, I believe.
Better have a couple of men as witnesses. What d'ye say to Mr.
Anybody you please, captain.
And the second? said he, tilting his hat and thinking. M'Cosh?
Yes, I don't think we can do better than M'Cosh. A thoughtful Scotchman
with an excellent memory. He pulled out his watch. Five minutes to
ten. Let us go below, and down we went.
The steward was despatched to bring Mr. Higginson and the chief
mate, Mr. M'Cosh, to the captain's cabin. The saloon was empty;
possibly out of consideration to our feelings the people had gone on
deck or withdrawn to their berths.
Bless me, I had quite forgotten! cried Captain Parsons, as he
entered his cabin. Have you a wedding ring, Mr. Barclay?
Oh, yes, I answered, laughing, and pulling out the purse in which
I kept it. Little use in sailing away with a young lady, Captain
Parsons, to get married, unless you carry the ring with you.
Glad you have it. We can't be too shipshape. But I presume you
know, said the little fellow, that any sort of a ring would do, even
a curtain ring. No occasion for the lady to wear what you slip on,
though I believe it's expected she should keep it upon her finger till
the service is over. Let me see now; there's something else I wanted to
sayoh, yes; who's to give the bride away?
Though I must own to feeling a little nervous, even agitated, yet as
he pronounced these words I could not look down at his upturned face,
with its shining pimple of nose set in the midst of it, and his eyes
showing like glowworms half extinguished in their notes, without
breaking into a loud laugh, for which I instantly apologised by saying
that his speaking of giving away recalled to me a very nervous uncle
who had to undertake this office, and who, on the minister saying, Who
giveth this woman to be married to this man? gasped out, I do, and
instantly fell down in a dead faint.
There was a knock at the door and Mr. Higginson, followed by Mr.
Mr. Higginson, immediately cried the captain, you will give the
The lawyer put his hand upon his shirt-front and bowed. I glanced at
M'Cosh who had scarcely had time to do more than flourish a hair brush.
He was extraordinarily grave, and turned a very literal eye round
about. I asked him if he had ever before taken part in a ceremony of
this sort at sea. He reflected and answered, No, neither at sea nor
But seeing that you are a witness, Mr. M'Cosh, you thoroughly
understand the significance of the marriage service, I hope? said Mr.
D'ye know, then, sir, answered M'Cosh, in the voice of a saw going
through a balk of timber, I never read or heard a line of the marriage
service in all my life. But I have a very good understanding of the
object of the ceremony.
I hope so, Mr. M'Cosh, said the captain, looking at him
doubtfully. It is as a witness that you're here.
'Twill be a fact, no doubt? said Mr. M'Cosh.
Certainly, said the lawyer.
Then, of course, said the mate, I shall always be able to swear
Ten past ten, cried the captain, whipping out his watch. I hope
Miss Moggadore's not keeping the ladies waiting whilst she powders
herself, or fits a new cap to her hair.
He opened the door to call to the steward, then hopped back with a
sudden convulsive sea bow to make room for the ladies who were
My darling was very white and looked at me piteously. She came to my
side, and slipped her hand into mine, whispering under her breath,
Such a silly, senseless ceremony! I pressed her fingers, and
whispered back that the ceremony was not for us, but for Aunt Amelia.
She wore her hat and jacket, and Mrs. Barstow was clad as for the deck;
but Miss Moggadore, on the other hand, as though in justification of
what the captain had said about her, made her appearance in the most
extraordinary cap I had ever seen: an inflated arrangement, as though
she were fresh from a breeze of wind that held it bladder-like. She had
changed her gown, too, for a sort of Sunday dress of satin or some such
material. She curtseyed on entering, and took up her position alongside
of M'Cosh, where she stood viewing the company with an austere gaze,
which so harmonised with the dry, literal, sober stare of the mate,
that I had to turn my back upon her to save a second explosion of
Are we all ready? said the little captain, in the voice of a man
who might hail his mate to tell him to prepare to put the ship about,
and M'Cosh mechanically answered:
Ay, ay, sir, all ready.
On this the captain went to the table, where lay a big Church
Service in large type, and putting on his glasses, looked at us over
them, as a hint for us to take our places. He then began to read, so
slowly that I foresaw unless he skipped many of the passages we should
be detained half the morning in his cabin. He read with extravagant
enjoyment of the sound of his own voice, and constantly lifted his
eyes, whilst he delivered the sentences as though he were admonishing
instead of marrying us. Grace held her head hung, and I felt her
trembling when I took her hand. I had flattered myself that I should
exhibit no nervousness in such an ordeal as this, but though I was not
sensible of any disposition to tears, I must confess that my secret
agitation was incessantly prompting me to laughter of an hysterical
sort, which I restrained with struggles that caused me no small
suffering. It is at such times as these, perhaps, that the imagination
is most inconveniently active.
The others stood behind me; I could not see them; it would have
eased me, I think, had I been able to do so. The thought of M'Cosh's
face, the fancy of Miss Moggadore's cap grew dreadfully oppressive,
through my inability to vent myself of the emotions they induced. My
distress was increased by the mate's pronunciation of the word Amen.
He was always late with it, as though waiting for the others to lead
the way, unless it was that he chose to take a thocht before
committing himself. My wretchedness was heightened by the effect of
this lonely Amen, whose belatedness he accentuated by the fervent
manner in which he breathed it out.
Yet, spite of the several grotesque conditions which entered into
it, this was a brief passage of experience that was by no means lacking
in romantic and even poetic beauty. The flashful trembling of the
sunlit sea was in the atmosphere of the cabin, and bulkhead and upper
deck seemed to race with the rippling of the waves of light in them.
Through the open port came the seething and pouring song of the ocean;
the music of smiting billows, the small harmonies of foam bells and of
seething eddies. There was the presence of the ocean too, the sense of
its infinity, and of the speeding ship, a speck under the heavens, yet
fraught with the passions and feelings of a multitude of souls bound to
a new world, fresh from a land which many of them would never again
The captain took a very long time in marrying us. Had this business
possessed any sort of flavour of sentiment for Grace, it must have
vanished under the slow, somewhat husky, self-complacent, deep-sea
delivery of old Parsons. I took the liberty of pulling out my watch as
a hint, but he was enjoying himself too much to be in a hurry. Nothing,
I believe, could have so contributed to the felicity of this man as the
prospect of uniting one or more couples every day. On several occasions
his eyes appeared to fix themselves upon Miss Moggadore, to whom he
would accentuate the words he pronounced by several nods. The Marriage
Service, as we all know, is short, yet Captain Parsons kept us more
than half an hour in his cabin listening to it. Before reciting All ye
that are married, he hemmed loudly, and appeared to address himself
exclusively to Miss Moggadore to judge by the direction in which he
continued emphatically to nod.
At last he closed his book, slowly gazing at one or the other of us
over his glasses as if to witness the effect of his reading in our
faces. He then opened his official log-book, and in a whisper, as
though he were in church, called Mr. Higginson and Mr. M'Cosh to the
table to witness his entry. Having written it he requested the two
witnesses to read it. Mr. M'Cosh pronounced it Arle reet, and Mr.
Higginson nodded as gravely as though he were about to read a will.
The ladies must see this entry, too,' said Captain Parsons, still
preserving his Sabbatical tone. Can't have too many witnesses. Never
can tell what may happen.
The ladies approached and peered, and Miss Moggadore's face took an
unusually hard and acid expression as she pored upon the captain's
Pray read it out, Miss Moggadore, said I.
Ay, do, exclaimed the captain.
In a thin, harsh voice like the cheep of a sheave set
revolving in a blockwonderfully in accord by the way with the briny
character of the ceremonythe lady read as follows:
10.10 A.M. Solemnised the nuptials of Herbert Barclay, Esquire,
Gentleman, and Grace Bellassys, Spinster. Present: Mrs. Barstow; Miss
Moggadore; James Higginson, Esquire, solicitor; Donald M'Cosh, Chief
Officer. This marriage thus celebrated was conducted according to the
rites and ceremonies of the Church of England.
And now, Mr. Barclay, said Captain Parsons, as Miss Moggadore
concluded, you'd like a certificate under my hand, wouldn't you?
We're not strangers to Mr. and Mrs. Barclay's views, said Mr.
Higginson, and I am certainly of opinion, captain, that Mr. Barclay
ought to have such a certificate as you suggest, that, on his arrival
at home, he may send copies of it to those whom it concerns.
At the utterance of the words Mr. and Mrs. Barclay I laughed,
whilst Grace started, gave me an appealing look, turned a deep red, and
averted her face. The captain produced a sheet of paper, and after
looking into a dictionary onceNothing like accuracy, said he, in
jobs of this sorthe exclaimed, Will this do? and read as
At Sea (such and such a date.)
I, Jonathan Parsons, of the above named ship 'Carthusian,' of
London, towards New Zealand, do hereby certify that I have this day
united in the holy bands of wedlock the following persons, to wit:
Herbert Barclay, Esquire, and Grace Bellassys, Spinster, in the
presence of the undersigned.
Nothing could be better, said I.
Now, gentlemen and ladies, said the captain, if you will please
to sign your names.
This was done, and the document handed to me. I pocketed it with a
clear sense of its value, as regards I mean the effect I might hope it
would produce on Lady Amelia Roscoe. Captain Parsons and the others
then shook hands with us, the two ladies kissing Grace, who, poor
child, looked exceedingly frightened and pale.
What is the French word for breakfast? said Captain Parsons.
Deejenwer, sir, answered M'Cosh.
Parsons bent his ear with a frown. You're giving me the Scotch for
it, I believe, said he.
It's dejeuner, I think, said I, scarce able to speak for
Ay, that'll be it, cried the captain. Well, as Mr. and Mrs.
Barclay don't relish the notion of a public degener, we must
drink their healths in a bottle of champagne.
He put his head out of the cabin and called to the steward, who
brought the wine, and for hard upon half an hour my poor darling and I
had to listen to speeches from old Parsons and the lawyer. Even M'Cosh
must talk. In slow and rugged accents he invited us to consider how
fortunate we were in having fallen into the hands of Captain Parsons.
Had he been master of the Carthusian there could have
been no marriage, for he would not have known what to do. He had
received a valuable professional hint that morning, and he begged to
thank Captain Parsons for allowing him to be present on so interesting
This said, the proceedings ended. Mrs. Barstow, passing Grace's hand
under her arm, carried her off to her cabin, and I, accepting a cigar
from the captain's box, went on deck to smoke it and to see if there
was anything in sight likely to carry us home.
A number of passengers approached with smiling faces, guessing the
wedding over, but they speedily perceived that I was in no temper for
talking, and were good-natured enough to leave me to myself. Even Mr.
Tooth, who promised to become a bore, carried his jokes and his grins
to another part of the deck in a very short while, and I leaned against
the rail, cigar in mouth, lost in thought, casting looks at the sea, or
directing my eyes over the side where the white water, in a wide and
throbbing sheet, was racing past.
Married! Could I believe it? If soif I was indeed a wedded man,
then, I suppose, never in the annals of love-making could anything
stranger have happened than that a young couple, eloping from a French
port, should be blown out into the ocean and there united, not by a
priest, by but a merchant skipper. And supposing the marriage to be
valid, as Mr. Higginson, after due deliberation, had declared such
ocean wedding ceremonies as this to be, and supposing when we arrived
ashore, Lady Amelia Roscoe, despite Grace's and my association and the
ceremony which had just ended, should continue to withhold her
sanction, thereby rendering it impossible for my cousin to marry us,
might not an exceedingly fine point arisesomething to put the wits of
the lawyers to their trumps, in the case of her ladyship or me going to
them? I mean this: that seeing that our marriage took place at sea,
seeing, moreover, that we were in a manner urged, or, as I might choose
to put it, compelled by Captain Parsons to marryhe assuming,
as master of the ship, the position of guardian to the girl, and as her
guardian exhorting and hurrying us to this union for her sakewould
not the question of Lady Amelia Roscoe's consent be set aside, whether
on the grounds of the peculiarity of our situation, or because it was
impossible for us to communicate with her, or because the commander of
the ship, a person in whom is vested the most despotic powers,
politely, hospitably, but substantially, too, ordered us to be
married? I cannot put the point as a lawyer would, but I trust I make
intelligible the thoughts which occupied my mind as I stood on the
decks of the Carthusian after quitting the captain's cabin.
About twenty minutes later, Grace arrived, accompanied by Mrs.
Barstow. My darling did not immediately see me, and I noticed the eager
way in which she stood for some moments scanning the bright and leaping
scene of ocean. The passengers raised their hats to her, one or two
ladies approached and seemed to congratulate her; she then saw me, and
in a moment was at my side.
How long is this to last, Herbert?
At any hour something may heave in sight, dearest.
It distresses me to be looked at. And yet, it is miserable to be
locked up in Mrs. Barstow's cabin, where I am unable to be with you.
Do not mind being looked at. Everybody is very kind, Grace; so
sweet as you are, toowho can help looking at you? Despite your
embarrassment, let me tell you that I am very well pleased with what
has happened, and I repeated to her what had been passing in my mind.
But she was too nervous, perhaps too young to understand. She had
left her gloves in the yacht, her hands were bare, and her fine eyes
rested on the wedding ring upon her finger.
Must I go on wearing this, Herbert?
Oh, yes, my owncertainly, whilst you are here. What would Captain
Parsons say?what would everybody think if you removed it?
But I am not your wife! she exclaimed with a pout, softly beating
the deck with her foot, and this ring is unrealit signifies
I interrupted her. I am not so sure that you are not my wife, said
I. She shot a look at me out of her eyes, which were large with alarm
and confusion. At all events, I believe I am your husband, and surely,
my precious, you must hope that I am. But whether or not, pray go on
wearing that ring. You can pull it off when we get to Penzance, and I
will slip it on again when we stand before my cousin.
It has been a dreadful adventure, said she.
More memorable than dreadful, I answered, putting her hand under
my arm and stepping with her over to where the second mate was
standingthe young fellow who had brought us aboard out of the yacht.
He touched his cap very civilly, whilst the skin of his face shrunk
into a thousand wrinkles to the grin he put on.
Surely something will be coming into view soon? said I.
Oh, I think so, sir, he answered.
What is this rate of sailing?
About nine knots, sir.
There it is! cried I, and every hour brings New Zealand nearer
and makes England more distant.
Do not talk of New Zealand, exclaimed Grace. What sort of ships
are to be met here? she added, addressing the second mate.
All sorts, Miss, I beg your pardon, I mean ma'am, he answered;
ocean tramps in the main, but a mail liner here and there.
What are your instructions? I began, but at that instant I caught
sight of old Parsons rising through the hatch with a sextant in his
hand. Oh, here is the captain coming to take sights, said I; we must
arrive at an understanding with him. I believe he would like to keep us
on board as an inducement to others to get married.
He smiled with an air of importance as we advanced, and I imagined
in him an effort to give himself the airs of a father, or of a
father-in-law. His little damp, deep-sunk eyes, so far as they could
express any species of emotion, seemed to survey us with benignity and
pride as though he would say, That couple is my work, ladies
and gentlemen. I made them one. Who's next?
When you have finished with your sextant, captain, I exclaimed, I
should like a few words with you.
Pray talk away, he answered, putting the instrument to his eye.
What about our getting home?
At the first opportunity that comes along, I'll transfer you. Can't
do more. Can't send ye home in one of my quarter-boats, you know.
But your mates have no instructions.
They shall have all necessary instructions presently. And how do
you feel, mem, after that little job below? Being married 's a trying
performance. I've known men who'd have been married twenty times over
if it hadn't been for the ceremony.
He gazed with an air of satisfaction at her wedding ring, and then
applied his eye afresh to the sextant. My mind was rendered easier by
his promise to repeat his earlier instructions to his mates, and until
the luncheon bell rang, Grace and I continued to pace the deck. By this
time the news of our having been married had travelled forwards,
conveyed to the Jacks and to the steerage passengers, as I took it, by
one of the stewards. It was the sailors' dinner hour, and I could see
twenty of them on the forecastle staring at us as one man, whilst every
time we advanced to the edge of the poop, where the rail protected the
deck, there was a universal upturning of bearded, rough faces, with
much pointing and nodding among the women.
After all this the luncheon table was something of a relief, despite
the rows of people at it. I was afraid from the manner in which Captain
Parsons from time to time regarded us that he was rehearsing a speech,
a menace I could not think of without silent horror since it must
inevitably compel a reply from me. However, nothing was said, and we
lunched in peace, much looked at, particularly by the ladies, as you
will suppose; but I found Grace easier under this inspection than I
should have dared to hope; possibly she was now getting used to it. She
divided her conversation between me and Mr. Higginson, who sat at her
left, and she wore a very sweet and easy manner, charming with its
girlish grace of dignity. Her breeding showed to perfection at that
time, I thought. It was probably rendered more defined to my mind by
the looks and behaviour of the other ladies, all of them, to be sure, a
very good sort of homely, friendly people, with something of the true
lady indeed in Mrs. Barstow.
CHAPTER XIII. THE MERMAID
Nothing was said about the marriage.
The privacy of the affair lay as a sort of obligation of silence
upon the kindly-natured passengers, and though, as I have said, they
could not keep their eyes off us, their conversation was studiedly
remote from the one topic about which we were all thinking. Lunch was
almost ended when I spied the second mate peering down at us through
the glass of the sky-light, and in a few minutes he descended the cabin
ladder, and said something in a low voice to the captain.
By George, Grace! said I, grasping her hand as it lay on her lap,
and whipping out with the notion put into me by a look I caught from
the captain. I believe the second mate has come down to report a ship
She started, and turned eagerly in the direction of the captain, who
had quickly given the mate his orders, for already the man had returned
Mrs. Barstow, seated close to the captain, nodded at us, and Parsons
himself sung out quietly down the table:
I believe, Mr. and Mrs. Barclay, this will be your last meal aboard
I sprang with excitement to my feet.
Anything in sight, captain?
Ay, a steamerapparently a yacht. Plenty of time, added he,
rising, nevertheless, leisurely as he spoke, on which all the
passengers broke from the tableso speedily dull grows the sea-life,
so quickly do people learn how to make much of the most trivial
incidents upon the oceanand in a few moments we were all on deck.
Yes, by Jove, Grace, there she is, sure enough! cried I, standing
at the side with my darling and pointing forward, where, still some
miles distant, a point or two on the starboard bow, was a steamer,
showing very small indeed at the extremity of the long, far-reaching
line of smoke that was pouring from her. A passenger handed me a
telescope; I levelled it, and then clearly distinguished a yacht-like
structure, with a yellow funnel, apparently schooner-rigged, with a
sort of sparkling about her hull, whether from gilt, or brass, or
glass, that instantly suggested the pleasure vessel.
It was still the same bright, joyous day that had shone over us all
the morning. The sea was of a dark, rich blue, and the run of it
cradle-like, with a summer-day lightness and grace in the arching and
breaking of the surge. The ship, aslant in the wind, was sailing
finely, with a slow, regular, stately swing of her towering fabric of
canvas to windward, as she softly rolled on the floating slant of the
seas. Turning my face aft, I saw the second mate and an apprentice, or
midshipman in buttons, in the act of hoisting a string of colours to
the gaff-end. The flags soared in a graceful semi-circle, and the whole
ship looked brave in a breath with the pulling of the many-dyed
bunting, each flag delicate as gossamer against the blue of the sky,
and the whole show of the deepest interest as the language of the
seaas the ship's own voice!
Had we been cast away, and in the direst peril, I could scarcely
have awaited the approach of that steamer with more breathless
expectation. Where was she bound to? Would she receive us? Should we
accept her offer to take us aboard, though she might be heading to some
port wide of the place we desired to reach, such as Ireland or the
North of Scotland? I could think of nothing else. The captain stood aft
watching her, now and again lifting the ship's glass to his eye; the
forecastle was loaded with steerage passengers all staring forward; the
poop too looked full; the very stewards had left the saloon to peer;
the cook had quitted his galley, and the Jacks had knocked-off, as
they call it, from the sundry jobs on which they were engaged, as
though awaiting the order to bring the main topsail to the mast.
I approached the captain with Grace's hand under my arm.
She has her answering pennant flying, he exclaimed, letting fall
his glass to accost me, and he called to the second mate to haul down
our signal. I believe she will receive you, Mr. Barclay. She's a
gentleman's yacht, and a fine boat at that. So much the better. After
the Carthusian, he added, with a proud look at his noble ship,
I dare say you mightn't have found the first thing we fell in with
Where do you think she's bound, captain?
I should say undoubtedly heading for the English Channel, he
There should be no difficulty in transferring us, I think, said I,
with a glance at the sea.
Bless me, no, he answered, get her close to leeward, and the
ship'll make a breakwater for Mrs. Barclay.
Captain Parsons, what can I say that will in any measure express my
gratitude to you? May I take it that a letter addressed to you to the
care of the owners of the Carthusian will be sure to reach you
on your return?
Oh, yes. But never you mind about that. What I've done has given me
pleasure, and I hope that you'll both live long, and that neither of
you by a single look or word will ever cause the other to regret that
you fell into the hands of Captain Parsons of the good ship
Grace gave him a sweet smile. Now that it seemed we were about to
leave his ship she could gaze at him without alarm. He broke from its
to deliver an order to the second mate, who re-echoed his command in a
loud shout. In a moment a number of sailors came racing aft and fell to
rounding-in, as it is called, upon the main and main-top sailbraces
with loud and hearty songs, which were re-echoed out of the white
hollows aloft and combined with the splashing noise of waters and the
small music of the wind in the rigging into a true ocean concert for
the ear. The machinery of the braces brought the sails on the main to
the wind; the ship's way was almost immediately arrested, and she lay
quietly sinking and rising with a sort of hush of expectation along her
decks, which nothing disturbed save the odd farmyard-like sounds of the
live stock somewhere forward.
The steamer was now rapidly approaching us, and by this time without
the aid of a glass I made her out to be a fine screw yacht of some
three hundred and fifty tons, painted black, with a yellow funnel
forward of amidships, which gave her the look of a gunboat. She had a
charthouse, or some such structure near her bridge, that was very
liberally glazed, and blinding flashes leapt from the panes of glass as
she rolled to and from the sun as though she were quickly firing cannon
charged with soundless and smokeless gunpowder. A figure paced the
filament of bridge that was stretched before her funnel. He wore a gold
band round his hat and brass buttons on his coat. Two or three men
leaned over the head rail viewing us as they approached, but her
quarter-deck was deserted. I could find no hint of female apparel or of
the blue serge of the yachtsman.
Old Parsons, taking his stand at the rail clear of the crowd, waited
until the yacht floated abreast, where with a few reverse revolutions
of her propeller she came to a stand within easy talking distanceas
handsome and finished a model as ever I had seen afloat.
Ho, the yacht, ahoy! shouted Captain Parsons.
Hallo! responded the glittering figure from the bridge, manifestly
the yacht's skipper.
What yacht is that?
Where are you from and where are you bound to?
From Madeira for Southampton, came back the response.
That will do, Grace, cried I, joyfully.
We took a lady and a gentleman off their yacht, the Spitfire, that we found in a leaky condition yesterday, shouted Parsons,
having been dismasted in a gale and blown out of the Channel. We have
them aboard. Will you receive them and set them ashore?
How many more besides them, sir? bawled the master of the yacht.
No morethem two only, and Parsons pointed to Grace and me, who
stood conspicuous, near the main rigging.
Ay, ay, sir; we'll receive 'em. Will you send your boat?
Captain Parsons flourished his hand in token of acquiescence; but he
stood near enough to enable me to catch a few growling sentences,
referring to the laziness of yachtsmen, which he hove at the twinkling
figure through his teeth in language which certainly did not accord
with his priestly tendencies.
There was no luggage to pack, no parcels to hunt for, nothing for me
to do but leave Grace a minute, whilst I rushed below to fee the
stewards. So much confusion attended our transference that my
recollection of what took place is vague. I remember that the second
mate was incessantly shouting out orders, until one of the ship's
quarter boats, with several men in her, had been fairly lowered to the
water's edge, and brought to the gangway, over which some steps had
been thrown. I also remember once again shaking Captain Parsons most
cordially by the hand, thanking him effusively for his kindness and
wishing him and his ship all possible good-luck under the heavens. The
passengers crowded round us and wished us good-bye, and I saw Mrs.
Barstow slip a little parcel into Grace's hand, and whisper a few
words; whereupon they kissed each other with the warmth of old friends.
Mr. M'Cosh stood at the gangway, and I asked him to distribute the
twenty-pound bank note I handed to him amongst the crew of the boat
that had taken us from the Spitfire; I further requested that
the second mate, taking his proportion which I left entirely to the
discretion of Mr. M'Cosh, would purchase some trifle of pin or ring by
which to remember us.
Grace was then handed into the boata ticklish business to the eyes
of a landsman, but performed with amazing despatch and ease by the
rough seaman who passed her over and received her. I followed, watching
my chance, and in a few moments the oars were out and the boat making
for the yacht, that lay within musket shot. She was rolling, however,
faster and so much more heavily than the big iron ship, that the job of
getting on board her was heightened into a kind of peril. I should
never have imagined merely by looking down on the water from the height
of the Carthusian's rail how strong was the Atlantic
surgeblue, summer-like and beautiful with its lacery of froth, as it
showed from the altitude of the ship's deck. It came to Grace being
lifted bodily over the side by a couple of the yachtsman, who each
grasped her hand. I was similarly helped up, and was not a little
thankful to find ourselves safe on the solid deck of the steamer after
the egg-shell-like tossing of the ship's quarter-boat alongside.
We were received by the captain of the yacht, a fellow with a face
that reminded me somewhat of Caudel, of a countenance and bearing much
too sailorly to be rendered ridiculous by his livery of gold band and
buttons. But before I could address him old Parsons hailed to give him
the name of the Carthusian and to request him to report the
ship, and he ran on to the bridge to answer. I could look at nothing
just then but the ship. Of all sea pieces I never remember the like of
that for beauty. We were to leeward of her, and she showed us the
milk-white bosoms of her sails, that flashed out in silver brilliance
to the sunlight through sheer force of the contrast of the vivid red of
her water-line as it was lifted out of the yeast and then plunged again
by the rolling of the craft. Large soft clouds resembling puffs of
steam sailed over her waving mast-heads, where a gilt vane glowed like
a streak of fire against the blue of the sky between the clouds.
A full-rigged ship never looks more majestic I think than when she
is hove to under all plain sail, that is, when all canvas but
stun'sails is piled upon her and her main topsail is to the mast, with
the great main course hauled up to the yard and windily swaying in
festoons. She is then like a noble mare reined in; her very hawse pipes
seem to grow large like the nostrils of some nervous creature
impatiently sniffing the air; she bows the sea as though informed with
a spirit of fire that maddens her to leap the surge, and to rush
forward once more in music and in thunder, in giddy shearing and in
long floating plunges on the wings of the wind. Never does a ship show
so much as a thing of life as when she is thus restrained.
But the boat had now gained the tall fabric's side; the tackles had
been hooked into her, and even whilst she was soaring to the davits the
great main topsail yard of the Carthusian came slowly round, and
the sails to the royal filled. At the same moment I was sensible of a
pulsation in the deck on which we were standing; the engines had been
started, and in a few beats of the heart the Carthusian was on
our quarter, breaking the sea under her bow as the long, slender, metal
hull leaned to the weight of the high and swelling canvas.
I pulled off my hat and flourished it, Grace waved her handkerchief,
a hearty cheer swept down to us, not only from the passengers assembled
on the poop but also from the crowds who watched us from the forecastle
and from the line of the bulwark rails, and for some minutes every
figure was in motion, as the people gesticulated their farewells to us.
Act the fourth! said I, bringing my eyes to Grace's face. One
more act and then over goes the show, as the Cockneys say.
Aren't you glad to be here, Herbert?
I could kneel, my duck. But how good those people are! How well
they have behaved! Such utter strangers as we are to them! What did
Mrs. Barstow give you?
She put her hand in her pocket, opened the little parcel, and
produced an Indian bracelet, a wonderfully cunning piece of work in
Upon my word! cried I.
How kind of her! exclaimed Grace, with her eyes sparkling, though
I seemed to catch a faint note of tears in her voice. I shall always
remember dear Mrs. Barstow.
And what yacht is this? said I, casting my eyes around. A
beautiful little ship indeed. How exquisitely white are these planks!
What money, by George! in everything the eye rests upon!
The master, who had remained on the bridge to start the yacht, now
approached. He saluted us with the respectful air of a man used to fine
company, but I instantly observed, on his glancing at Grace, that his
eye rested upon the wedding ring.
I presume you are the captain? said I.
I am, sir.
Pray, what name?
John Verrion, sir.
Well, Captain Verrion, I must first of all thank you heartily for
receiving us. I had to abandon my yacht, the Spitfire,
yesterday. We were nearly sunk by a hurricane of wind, but the men
believed they could keep her afloat and carry her home. They would
have their way, and I heartily pray they are safe, though they cannot
yet have made a port. Is the owner of this vessel aboard?
No, sir. She belongs to the Earl of . His lordship's been left
at Madeira. He changed his mind and stopped at Madeirahim and the
countess, and a party of three that was along with themand sent the
Then there is nobody aboard except the crew?
I have not the honour of his lordship's acquaintance, said I, but
I think, Grace, I exclaimed, turning towards her, not choosing to
speak of her as this lady, whilst she wore the wedding ring, not to
call her my wife either, that he is a distant connection of your
aunt, Lady Amelia Roscoe.
I don't know, Herbert, she answered.
Anyway, said I, it is a great privilege to be received by such a
vessel as this.
His lordship 'ud wish me to do everything that's right, sir, said
Captain Verrion. I'll have a cabin got ready for you, but as to
meals he paused, and added awkwardly, I'm afraid there's nothen
aboard but plain yachting fare, sir.
Oh, we have been shipwreckedwe are now accustomed to the
privations of the seaanything that our teeth can meet in will do for
us, captain! I exclaimed, laughing. When do you hope to reach
Monday afternoon, sir.
A little more than two days, I exclaimed. You must be a pretty
He smiled and said, What might be the port you want to get at, sir?
Southampton may be too high up for you.
Our destination was Penzance, said I; but any port that is in
England will do.
Oh, said he, there ought to be no difficulty in putting you
ashore at Penzance. He then asked us if we would like to step below,
and forthwith conducted us into a large, roomy, elegantly, indeed
sumptuously, furnished cabin, as breezy as a drawing-room, and aromatic
with the smell of plantains or bananas hung up somewhere near, though
out of sight. The panels were hand-painted pictures, the upper deck or
ceiling was finely embellished, and there was a gilt centrepiece from
which depended a small but costly chandelier or candelabra that
projected some ten or twelve oil lamps. The carpet was a thick velvet
pile, and there were curtains and mirrors as in a drawing-room; indeed,
I never could have imagined such an interior on board a sea-going
structure, and though it was all very grand and princely to look at, I
could not but regard the whole as an example of wanton, senseless
This should suit you, Grace! said I.
Is it not heavenly? she cried.
The captain stood by with a pleased countenance, observing us.
I don't know if I'm right in calling you sir? he exclaimed;
I didn't rightly catch your name.
My name is Mr. Herbert Barclay.
Thank ye, sir. I was going to say if you and her ladyship
No, not her ladyship, I interrupted, guessing that the fellow,
having caught the name of Lady Amelia Roscoe, was confounding Grace
with that title; but here I broke off, with a conscious look, I fear,
for I could not speak of my sweetheart as Miss Bellassys with that ring
on her finger, nor would it have been safe to talk of her as my wife
either: in her presence, at all events, for she had the most sweet
ingenuous face imaginable, through which every mood and thought peeped,
and Captain Verrion's eyes seemed somewhat shrewd.
I was going to say, sir, he proceeded, that you're welcome to any
of the sleeping berths you may have a mind to. If you will take your
choice I'll have the beds got ready.
The berths were aftmere boxes, each with a little bunk, but all
fitted so as to correspond in point of costliness with the furniture of
the living or state room. We chose the two foremost berths as being the
farthest of the sleeping places from the crew; and this matter being
ended, and after declining Captain Verrion's very civil offer of
refreshments, we returned to the deck.
The steamer was thrashing through it at an exhilarating speed. The
long blue Atlantic surge came briming and frothing to her quarter,
giving her a lift at times that set the propeller racing, but the
clean-edged, frost-like band of wake streamed far astern, where in the
liquid blue of the afternoon that way hung the star-coloured cloths of
the Carthusian, a leaning shaft, resembling a spire of ice.
Bless me! I cried, how we have widened our distance! When a man
falls overboard with what hideous rapidity must his ship appear to
glide away from him!
Is it not delightful to be independent of the wind, Herbert?
exclaimed Grace, as she took my arm.
Yes, but consider the beauty of a tower of canvas compared to that
yellow chimney pot, said I. The Carthusian! I added, sending
my glance at the distant airy gleam; we shall never forget her. Yet
she seems but a phantom ship too; some sea vision of one's sleep, so
quickly has it all happened, and so astonishing what has happened. But
has old Parsons made us man and wife?
She shook her head.
That cabin wedding this morning, I continued, ought to be a fact
if all the rest is a dream. But you must go on wearing that ring,
Grace, and since it is on I shall have to call you Mrs. Barclay. Don't
go and pull it off now. I saw this captain fasten his eye upon it, and
we must be one thing or the other, my sweet.
Oh, anything to please you, Herbert, she replied, pouting as was
her custom when she was not of my mind; but try to call me Mrs.
Barclay as seldom as possible.
Thus we chatted as we walked the deck. We had the afterpart of the
little ship entirely to ourselves; the captain came and went, but never
offered to approach. There was a mate as I supposed, a man without a
gold band to his cap, but with buttons to his coat, who replaced the
skipper on the bridge when he quitted it. Owing to deck structures,
funnel-casing and the like, I could see but little of the forward part
of the yacht; but such men as showed seldom glanced aft, and then with
such an air of respect as was excessively refreshing after the narrow,
inquiring and continuous inspection we had been honoured with aboard
the Carthusian. The quietude of a man-of-war was in the life of
the yacht; the seamen spoke low; if ever one of them smoked a pipe he
kept himself out of sight with it. In fact, it was like being aboard
one's own vessel, and now that we were fairly going home, being driven
towards the English Channel at a steady pace of some twelve or thirteen
knots in the hour by the steady resistless thrust of the propeller, we
could find heart to abandon ourselves to every delightful sensation
born of the sweeping passage of the beautiful steamer, to every emotion
inspired by each other's society, and by the free, boundless, noble
prospect of dark blue waters that was spread around us.
We were uninterrupted till five o'clock. The captain then advanced,
and saluting us with as much respect as if we had been the earl and his
lady, he inquired if we would have tea served in the cabin. I answered
that we should be very glad of a cup of tea; but that he was to give
himself no trouble; the simplest fare he could put before us we should
feel as grateful for as if he sat us down to a mansion house dinner.
He said that the steward had been left ashore at Madeira, but that a
sailor, who knew what to do as a waiter, would attend upon us.
Who would suppose, Grace, said I, when we were alone, that the
ocean was so hospitable? Figure us finding ourselves ashore in such a
condition as was our lot when we thought the Spitfire sinking
under usin other words, in want! At how many houses might we
have knocked without getting shelter or the offer of a meal? This is
like being made welcome in Grosvenor Square, and you may compare the
Carthusian to a fine mansion in Bayswater.
I have had quite enough of the sea, Herbert, she answered. Its
hospitality is not to my taste; and yet, if you owned such a steamer as
this, I believe I should be willing to make a voyage in her with you
when we are married.
I let this pass, holding that I had already said enough as to the
legitimacy of our shipboard union.
And now what follows I need not be very minute in relating. The
captain contrived for tea, as he called it, as excellent a meal as we
could have wished for; white biscuit, good butter, bananas, a piece of
virgin corned-beef, and preserved milk to put into our tea. What better
fare could one ask for? I had a pipe and tobacco with me, and as I
walked the deck in the evening with my darling, I had never felt
It was a rich autumn evening; the wind had slackened and was now a
light air, and we lingered on deck long after the light had faded in
the western sky, leaving the still young moon shining brightly over the
sea, across whose dark, wrinkled, softly-heaving surface ran the wake
of the speeding yacht, in a line like a pathway traversing a boundless
We passed one or two shadowy ships, picking them up and then
dropping them with a velocity, that to our homeward-yearning hearts was
exceedingly soothing and comforting. Then, when the strong, continuous
sweep of the breeze raised by the passage of the steamer grew too
strong for Grace, we descended into the cabin, where our sailor
attendant, lighted the fine chandelier or candelabra, and Grace and I
sat in splendour, our forms reflected in the mirrors, everything
visible as by sunlight, though there must have been some magic above
the art of the sun in those soft pencils of light flowing from the
centre-piece of oil-flames; for never before had I observed in my
darling so delicate and tender a bloom of complexion; her hair, too,
seemed to gather a deeper richness of dye, and her eyes
But, enough of such parish talk; though I know not why a lover
should not be as fully privileged to celebrate his sweetheart's
perfection in prose, as a poet is in verse. It is a matter of custom
rather than of taste. Dante might have praised his Beatrice, Waller his
Sacharissa, Horace and Prior their Chloes, and a very great many other
gentlemen a very great many other ladies in prose sentences, quite as
fine and true to the understanding as their verse. But would they have
found readers? It is this consideration that makes me take a hurried
leave of Grace's eyes.
CHAPTER XIV. HOMEWARD BOUND
I heartily appreciated the Earl of 's theory of sea-beds when I
sprang into my narrow shelf of bunk, and found myself buoyant on some
very miracle of spring mattress. I slept as soundly as one who sleeps
to wake no more; but on going on deck some little while before the
breakfast was served, I was grievously disappointed to find a wet day.
There was very little wind, but the sky was one dismal surface of
leaden cloud, from which the rain was falling almost perpendicularly
with a sort of obstinacy of descent that was full of the menace of a
tardy abatement. Fortunately, the horizon lay well open; one could see
some miles, and the steamer was washing along at her old pacea full
thirteen, with a nearly becalmed collier, ragged, wet and staggering,
all patches and bentinck-boom, dissolving rapidly into the weather over
the starboard quarter. Captain Verrion, in streaming oilskins, catching
sight of my head, came aft to inquire if I had slept comfortably. We
then talked of the weather.
One may know the English Channel ain't fur off, sir, said he, with
a grin, as he looked up at the sky.
Ay, said I, and how would it be with us if we depended upon
sails? There is better music to me in the noise of your engine-room
than in the finest performance of the first opera orchestra in the
He respectfully assented; and to kill the time as I stood under
shelter, I asked a few questions about the earl and countess, related
our adventures, taking care, however, to let him suppose that we were a
young married couple out on a yachting honeymoonnot that I said this;
I allowed him to infer it; spoke of the chances of the Spitfire,
and then seeing Grace at the foot of the ladder, joined her, and
presently we were at breakfast.
It rained incessantly, but, happily, the wind remained small, and we
travelled along as quietly in that three hundred and fifty ton yacht as
though we reposed in the saloon of an Atlantic giantess. A number of
volumes filled the shelves of a sumptuous bookcase; I took the liberty
of seeking for a book for Grace, and found that the collection
consisted almost entirely of novels. His lordship was as wise in his
choice of literature for sea-going purposes as in his taste for
spring-mattresses, for what but a novel in a yacht's cabin on a wet day
can fix the attention?
It was some time after three o'clock in the afternoon, that on a
sudden the engines were slowed down, as I believe the term is, and a
minute later the revolutions of the propeller ceased. There is always
something startling in the abrupt cessation of the pulsing of the screw
in a steamer at sea. One gets so used to the noise of the engines, to
the vibrating sensation communicated in a sort of tingling throughout
the frame of the vessel by the thrashing blades, that the suspension of
the familiar sound falls like a loud and fearful hush upon the ear.
Grace, who had been dozing, opened her eyes.
What can the matter be? cried I.
As I spoke I heard a voice, apparently aboard the yacht, hailing. I
pulled on my cap, turned up the collar of my coat, and ran on deck
expecting to find the yacht in the heart of a thickness of rain and fog
with some big shadow of a ship looming within biscuit-toss. It was
raining steadily, but the sea was not more shrouded than it had been at
any other hour of the day, saving perhaps that something of the
complexion of the evening, which was not far off, lay sombre in the wet
atmosphere. I ran to the side and saw at a distance of the length of
the steam yacht, my own hapless little dandy, the Spitfire! Her
main mast was wholly gone, yet I knew her at once. There she lay,
looking far more miserably wrecked than when I had left her, lifting
and falling forlornly upon the small swell, her poor little pump going,
plied, as I instantly perceived, by the boy, Bobby Allett.
I had sometimes thought of her as in harbour, and sometimes as at
the bottom of the sea, but never, somehow, as still washing about,
helpless and sodden, with a gushing scupper and a leaky bottom. Caudel,
poor old Caudel, stood at the rail shouting to Captain Verrion, who was
singing out to him from the bridge.
I rushed forward, bawling to Captain Verrion, That's the
Spitfire; that's my yacht! and then at the top of my voice I
shouted across the space of water between the two vessels, Ho, Caudel!
where are the rest of you, Caudel? For God's sake launch your boat and
He stood staring at me, dropping his head first on one side, then on
the other, doubting the evidence of his sight, and reminding one of the
ghost in Hamlet: It lifted up its head and did address itself to
motion as it would speak. Astonishment appeared to bereave him of
speech. For some moments he could do nothing but stare, then up went
both hands with a gesture that was eloquent ofWell, I'm blowed!
Come aboard, Caudel! Come aboard! I roared, for the little dandy
still had her dinghey and I did not wish to put Captain Verrion to the
trouble of fetching the two fellows.
With the motions and air of a man dumb-founded, or under the
influence of drink, Caudel addressed the lad, who dropped the pump
handle, and between them they launched the boat, smack-fashion. Caudel
then sprang into her with an oar and sculled across to us. He came
floundering over the side, and yet again stood staring at me as though
discrediting his senses. The colour appeared to have been washed out of
his face by wet; his very oilskins seemed to have surrendered their
water-proof properties, and they clung to his frame as soaked rags
would. His boots were full of water, and his eyes resembled pieces of
jellyfish fixed on either side his nose. I grasped his hand.
Of all astonishing meetings, Caudel! But how is it that you are
here? What has become of the main mast? Where are the rest of the men?
Never did a man look more shipwrecked than you. Are you thirsty? Are
By this time Captain Verrion had joined us, and a knot of the
steamer's crew stood on the forecastle looking first at the Spitfire, then at Caudel; scarcely, I daresay, knowing as yet whether to feel
amused or amazed at this singular meeting. Caudel had the slow,
laborious mind of the merchant sailor. He continued for some moments to
heavily and damply gaze about him, then said:
Dummed if this ain't wonderful, too. To find you here, sir! and
your young lady, Mr. Barclay?
Safe and well in the cabin, I answered; but where are the others,
I'll spin you the yarn in a jiffy, sir! he answered, with a
countenance that indicated a gradual recollection of his wits. Arter
you left us we got some sail upon the yacht; but just about sundown it
breezed up in a bit of a puff and the rest of the mast went overboard,
a few inches above the deck. Well, there we lay. There was nothen to be
done. Job Crew, he says to me, 'What's next?' says he. 'What but a tow
home,' says I. 'It'll have to be that,' says he, 'and pretty quick,
too,' he says, 'for I've now had nigh enough of this galliwanting.' Job
was awanting in sperrit, Mr. Barclay. I own I was surprised to hear
him, but I says nothen, and Dick Files, he says nothen, and
neither do Jim Foster. Well, at daybreak a little barque bound to the
River Thames comes along and hails us. I asked her to give me a tow
that I might have a chance of falling in with a tug. The master shook
his head, and sings out that he'd take us aboard, but we wasn't to talk
of towing. On this Job says, 'Here goes for my clothes.' Jim
follows him. Dick says to me, 'What are you going to do?' 'Stick to the
yacht,' says I. He was beginning to argue. 'No good atalking,' says I,
'here I am and here I stops.' Wouldn't it have been a blooming shame,
he added, turning slowly to Captain Verrion, to have deserted that
there dandy when nothen's wanted but an occasional spell at the pump,
and when something was bound to come along presently to give us a
Captain Verrion nodded, with a little hint of patronage, I thought,
in his appreciative reception of Caudel's views.
Well, to make an end of the yarn, Mr. Barclay, continued Caudel,
them three men went aboard the barque, taking their clothes with 'em;
but when I told Bobby to go too, 'No,' says he, 'I'll stop and help ye
to pump, sir.' There's the makings of a proper English sailor, Mr.
Barclay, in that there boy, he exclaimed, casting his eyes at the lad
who had again addressed himself to the pump.
And here you've been all day? said I.
All day, sir, and all night too, and a dirty time it's bin.
Waiting for something to give you a tow, with a long black night at
Mr. Barclay, said he, I told ye I should stick to that there
little dandy, and I wouldn't break my word for no man.
You sha'n't be disappointed, said Captain Verrion, bestowing on
Caudel a hearty nod of approval, this time untinctured by
condescension, give us the end of your tow rope and we'll drag the
dandy home for ye.
Cap'n, I thank 'ee, said Caudel.
You and the boy are pretty nigh wore out, I allow, exclaimed
Captain Verrion. I'll put a couple of men aboard the Spitfire.
How often do she want pumping?
'Bout every half hour.
You stay here, said Captain Verrion, looking with something of
commiseration at Caudel, who, the longer one surveyed him, the more
soaked, ashen, and shipwrecked one found him. I'll send for the boy,
and you can both dry yourselves and get a good long spell of rest.
He left us to give the necessary orders to his men, and, whilst the
steamer launched her own boat, I stood talking with Caudel, telling him
of our adventures aboard the Carthusian, of our marriage, and so
forth. He listened very gravely whilst I talked of my marriage.
I fear it's a sham, said I, but it will be something to
strengthen my hands with when I come to tackle Lady Amelia.
A sham! cried he, no fear, sir. If you've been married by the
master of a ship, there's no more splicing wanted. You're a wedded man.
There can be no breaking away from it.
How do you know? said I, wondering whether he did know.
How do I know, sir? Why, the master of a ship can do anything
aboard his own craft, and whatever he does is lawful.
This was mere forecastle superstition, and I saw that he did not
Anyway, Caudel, said I, the wedding ring is on the young lady's
finger. Captain Verrion has noticed it, and I shall feel obliged by
your calling her Mrs. Barclay whenever you have occasion to speak of
her. Give Allett that hint, too, will you?
I had got into the shelter of the companion whilst I talked, and
Grace, hearing my voice, called to me to tell her why the steamer had
stopped, and if there was anything wrong.
Come here, my darling, said I. She approached and stood at the
foot of the steps. We have fallen in with the Spitfire, Grace,
and here is Caudel.
She uttered an exclamation of astonishment. He directed his
oyster-like eyes into the comparative gloom, and then catching sight of
her, knuckled his forehead, and exclaimed, Bless your sweet face! And
I am glad indeed, mum, to meet ye and find you both well and going home
likewise. She came up the steps to give him her hand and I saw the old
sailor's face working as he bent over it.
The steamer made a short job of the Spitfire; but a very
little manoeuvring with the propeller was needful; a line connected the
two vessels; the yacht's boat returned with the boy Bobby, leaving
three of the steamer's crew in the dandy; the engine-room bell sounded,
immediately was felt the thrilling of the engines in motion, and
presently the Mermaid was ripping through it once more with the
poor little dismasted Spitfire dead in her wake. I sent for the
boy, and praised him warmly for his manly behaviour in sticking to
Caudel. Captain Verrion then told them both to go below and get some
hot tea, and put on dry clothing belonging to them, that had been
brought from the dandy.
I'm thinking, sir, said he, when Caudel and the other had left,
that I can't do better than run you into Mount's Bay. I never was at
Penzance, but I believe there's a bit of a harbour there, and no doubt
a repairing slipway, and I understood that Penzance was your
destination all along.
I assured him that he would be adding immeasurably to his kindness,
by doing as he proposed, but as to the Spitfire, I continued,
I sha'n't spend a farthing upon her. My intention is to sell her, and
divide what she will fetch amongst those who have preserved her. I have
had more of the Spitfire than I want, Captain Verrion, and
though I am glad to know that she is towing astern, I protestassuming
the safety of her crew assuredthat it would not have caused me a pang
to learn she had gone to the bottom.
Well, sir, we'll head for Mount's Bay then. It will be a saving of
some few hours of sea anyway for the lady, and with that he trudged
From the shelter of the companion hatch we could just catch a view
over the steamer's taffrail of the Spitfire as she came sliding
after us to the pull of the tow-rope. With linked arms Grace and I
stood looking at her. The air was darkening to the descent of the
evening shadow, the rain poured continuously; but the wind was gone.
The sea undulated in an oil-like surface, and the rain as it fell
pitted the water with black points, as of ink. The melancholy of the
scene was unspeakably heightened by that detail of mutilated, dismasted
yacht astern, and by the tragic significance she gathered for us as we
stood looking, recalling the night of the elopement, our stealthy
floating out of Boulogne harbour, the gale that had nearly foundered
us, and our escape that might well seem miraculous to our land-going
eyes as we noticed her littleness and her present helplessness, and
remembered the height of the seas which ran, and the hurricane weight
of storm which she had survived.
We killed the evening with books and talk, and the minutes fled with
the velocity of the flight of birds. Our sailor steward informed us
that Caudel and the boy had turned in after making a hearty supper and
were sleeping like dead men. I stood awhile in the companion to smoke a
pipe before going to bed; but at that hour the night was as black as
thunder, the wet hissed upon our decks as it fell; yet upon the white
waters of the steamer's wake the dim configuration of the little
Spitfire was visible, with her weak side-lights of red and green
dimly glimmering over the pale, faint stream of froth that rushed from
the Mermaid's counter to the dandy's sides.
It was possibly the thoughts and memories induced by the obscure and
melancholy vision of the little fabric in our wake that rendered me
nervous. I thought to myselfhere we are steaming at ten or twelve
knots an hour through a thick, coal-black night; suppose we should
plunge into some wooden or metal side? Some such apprehensions as this,
not quite idle nor unmanly either, dismissed me to my cabin with a
resolution to lie down fully clothed, and for three hours I lay wide
awake, listening to the restless grinding of the engines and to the
sounds of water flowing swiftly past. I then rose, and felt my way up
the companion steps, not doubting to find the same black, weeping night
I had left; instead of which my mind was instantly relieved by the
spectacle of a high, clear sky, crowded with stars, with the firm ebony
line of the horizon showing sharp against the distant starry reaches,
and within half a mile of us on our starboard beam the huge shape of an
ocean steamer, some vessel from who shall tell what distant part of the
worldthe Cape, the Indies, the far-off Australiassliding past us it
seemed almost half as fast again as we ourselves were going, a vast
symmetric shadow, like an island, with ore bright point of light only
visible to my eyes.
I waited until she had drawn ahead, then turned in afresh, this time
between the sheets, and slept like a top.
The change of weather, the clearness of the night helped us, and
some time about two o'clock on the afternoon of Monday the Mermaid, with the Spitfire in tow, was steaming into Mount's Bay. I
stood with Grace on my arm looking. The land seemed as novel and
refreshing to our sight as though we had kept the sea for weeks and
weeks. The sun stood high, the blue waters delicately brushed by the
light wind ran in foamless ripples, the long curve of the parade with
the roofs of houses past it dominated by a church came stealing out of
the green slopes and hills beyond. A few smacks from Newlyn were
putting to sea, and the whole picture that way was rich with the dyes
of their canvas.
The steamer was brought to a stand when she was yet some distance
from Penzance harbour, but long before this we had been made out from
the shore, and several boats were approaching to inquire what was wrong
and to offer such help as the state of the Spitfire suggested.
Caudel and Captain Verrion came to us where we were standing, and the
I'm going aboard the dandy now, sir. I'll see her snug and will
then take your honour's commands.
Our address will be my cousin's house, which is some little
distance from Penzance, I answered; here it is, and I pulled out a
piece of paper and scribbled the address upon it. You'll be without
anything in your pocket, I daresay, I continued, handing him five
sovereigns. See to the boy, Caudel, and if he wants to go home you
must learn where he lives, for I mean to sell that yacht there, and
there'll be money to go to him. And so farewell for the present, said
I, shaking the honest fellow heartily by the hand.
He saluted Grace, and went over the side, followed by Bobby Allett,
and both of them were presently aboard the little Spitfire.
There are boats coming, exclaimed Captain Verrion, which will tow
your dandy into Penzance harbour, sir. Will you go ashore in one of
them, or shall I have one of the yacht's boats lowered for you?
Thanking him heartily, I replied that one of the Penzance boats
would do very well, and then looking into my pocket-book and finding
that I had no more gold about me than I should need, I entered the
cabin, sent the sailor attendant for some ink, and wrote a couple of
cheques, one of which I asked Captain Verrion to accept for himself,
and to distribute the proceeds of the other amongst his crew. He was
reluctant to take the money, said that the earl was a born gentleman
who would wish him to do everything that had been done, that no sailor
ought to receive money for serving people fallen in with in a condition
of distress at sea; but I got him to put the cheques into his pocket at
last, and several boats having by this time come alongside, I shook the
worthy man by the hand, thanked him again and again for his treatment
of us, and went with Grace down the little gangway ladder into the
We had no sooner quitted the yacht than the engine-room bell rang,
and the beautiful fabric was in motion, and before our boatmen had
measured a dozen strokes, the steamer's stern was at us, with Captain
Verrion flourishing his brass-bound cap to us from the bridge. There
were two boats alongside my wretched little dandy, and so quiet was the
day that I could hear Caudel talking to their occupants. But I was now
wholly done with her; honest Caudel and Bobby Allett were safe, and I
could think of little more than of the string of adventures I should
have to relate to my cousin, and of what was beyond, what Lady Amelia
was going to do, whether it might come to my cousin being unable to
publish the banns for us, and whether the darling at my side had been
made my true and lawful wife by Captain Parsons' recital of the
On landing we proceeded to the Queen's Hotel where I ordered dinner,
and then wrote a letter to my cousin asking him and his wife to come to
us as speedily as possible, adding that we had been very nearly
shipwrecked and had met with some strange adventures, the narrative of
which, if attempted, must fill a very considerable bundle of
manuscript. This done I told the waiter to procure me a mounted
messenger, and within three quarters of an hour of our arrival at
Penzance my letter was on its way at a hard gallop to the little
straggling village of of which Frank Howe was vicar.
When we had dined I stood with Grace at the window of the
sitting-room that overlooked the noble bight of Mount's Bay. On our
left rose the lofty Marazion hills, with the little town of Marazion
lying white at the eastern base of the range, and beyond ran the dark
blue loom of Cudden Point melting into the dim azure of the Lizard
district. The sun was in the west, his light was red, and this warm dye
made a glorious autumn picture of that sweep of cliff embraced waters.
Several colliers lay high and dry on the mud just abreast of the town,
but the Spitfire had vanished, towed, as I might suppose, by
boats to the security of the harbour that was hidden from me. Far past
the distant giant foreland point was an orange-coloured sail showing
like a delicate edge of cloud over the edge of the blue, lens-like rim
of the sea. I thought of the Carthusianof our sea
marriageand lifting my darling's hand, toyed mechanically with the
wedding-ring upon it, whilst I looked at her.
She had been pale and nervous ever since our arrival; her delight in
being safely ashore at last had seemed but a short-lived sensation. She
looked at the ring with which I was toying and said:
What shall I do with this thing?
Go on wearing it down to the time when it will be necessary to
remove it in order to replace it.
And what will your cousin think of mea clergyman! And his wife is
a clergyman's daughter. Oh, Herbert! she added, sighing in a
They will admire you, they will consider you the sweetest of girls.
What else can they think, Grace?
But her mood was what it had been at the time we sailed out of
Boulogne harbour. She was depressed, frightened, acutely sensitive,
dreading opinion, and all to such a degree that she could utter nothing
which was not full of apprehension and regret, so that anyone who had
watched us unseen must have concluded that either we were not lovers,
or that we had been married much longer than our tender years
suggested. But lovers we were all the same! and however it might have
been with her in that little passage of worry, uncertainty, and
nervousness, she had never been dearer to me; never had I felt prouder
of winning her heart, nor more triumphant in my possession of her.
CHAPTER XV. THE END
Time passed, and I was beginning to fear that some engagement
prevented Howe and his wife from coming over to us, when, hearing a
noise of wheels, I stepped to the window and saw my cousin assisting a
lady out of a smart little pony carriage.
Here they are! I exclaimed to Grace.
There was a pause; my darling looked about her with terrified eyes,
and I believe she would have rushed from the room but for the
apprehension of running into the arms of the visitors as they ascended
the staircase. A waiter opened the door, and in stepped Mr. and Mrs.
Frank Howe. My cousin and I eagerly shook hands, but nothing could be
said or done until the ladies were introduced. I had never before met
Mrs. Howe, and found her a fair-haired, pretty woman of some
eight-and-twenty years, dressed somewhat dowdily, to use the ladies'
word; but her countenance so beamed with cheerfulness and good-nature
that it was only needful to look as her to like her. Frank, on the
other hand, was a tall, well-built man of some three-and-thirty, with
small side whiskers, deep-set eyes, and a large nose, and teeth so
white and regular that it was a pleasure to see him smile. One guessed
that whatever special form his Christianity took it would not be
wanting in muscularity. He held Grace's hand in both his and seemed to
dwell with enjoyment upon her beauty as he addressed her in some
Mrs. Howe kissed her on both cheeks, drew her to the sofa, seated
herself by her side, and was instantly voluble and delightful.
I took Frank to the window, and with all the brevity possible in
such a narrative of adventures as ours, related what had befallen us.
He listened with a running commentary of By Jove!You don't say
so,Is it possible? and other such exclamations, constantly
directing glances at Grace, who was now deep in talk with Mrs. Howe,
and, as I might know by the expression in her face, excusing her
conduct by explaining the motives of it. In fact, even as I talked I
could catch such words as Ma'mselle Championet,the Roman Catholic
Priest,Lady Amelia Roscoe's bigotry,with one or two other
expressions, all giving me to know in what direction their conversation
Mrs Howe's air was one of affection and sympathy, as though she had
come to my darling with the resolution to love her and to help her.
She is very young, Herbert, said Frank in a low voice.
She is eighteen, I answered.
She is exquisitely beautiful. I cannot wonder at you even if I
could have the heart to condemn you. But, is not that a wedding-ring on
It is, I answered, looking at him.
He looked hard at me in return and exclaimed, A mere provision
against public curiosity, I presume? For surely you are not married?
I am not so sure of that, I answered; but my story is not yet
ended, and I then told him of the marriage service which had been
performed by Captain Parsons on board the ship, Carthusian.
Tut! cried he, with a decided churchman-like shake of the head
when I had made an end, that's no marriage, man.
I believe it is then, said I, though, of course, until you
unite us we do not consider ourselves man and wife.
I should think not, he exclaimed with vehemence. What! a plain
master of a ship empowered to solemnise holy matrimony? Certainly not.
No churchman would hear of such a thing.
Ay, but it's not for the Church, it's the affair of the law. If the
law says it's all right the Church is bound to regard it as right.
Certainly not, he cried, and was proceeding, but I
interrupted him by repeating that we had consented to be married by
Captain Parsons in the forlorn hope that the contract might be binding.
But without banns?without licence?without the consent of the
young lady's guardians? No! no! he cried, you are not married. But it
is highly desirable, he added, with a look at Grace, that you should
get married without delay. And so what do you propose to do?
Well, time may be saved by your publishing the banns at once,
Yes, but you must first obtain the guardian's consent.
Oh, confound it! I cried, I did not know that. I believed the
banns could be published whilst the consent was being worked for.
He mused awhile, eyeing his wife and Grace, who continued deep in
conversation, and then, after a considerable pause, exclaimed:
There is nothing to be done but this; we must revert to your
original scheme; Miss Bellassys
Call her Grace, said I.
Well, Grace must come and stay with us.
I nodded, for that I had intended all along.
I will find a lodging for you in the village. I nodded again.
Meanwhilethis very day, indeedyou must sit down and write to Lady
Amelia Roscoe, saying all that your good sense can suggest, and taking
your chance, as you have put it, of the appeal your association with
her niece will make to her ladyship's worldly vanity and to her
perceptions as a woman of society.
All that you are saying, I exclaimed, I had long ago resolved on,
and you will find this scheme as you have put it almost word for word
in the letter in which I told you of my plans and asked you to marry
Yes, I believe my recommendations are not original, said he.
There is something more to suggest, however. If Lady Amelia will send
Grace her consent, why wait for the banns to be published? Why not
procure a licence? It is due to Grace, said he, sinking his voice and
sending a look of admiration at her, that you should make her your
wife as speedily as possible.
Yes, yes. I have heard that said before. I have been a good deal
advised on this head. My dear fellow, only consider. Would not I make
her my wife this instant if you will only consent to marry us?
He laughed and turned from me, and addressed Grace, and presently
the four of us were busily talking. By this time my darling had
regained some degree of confidence; her eyes were bright, her cheeks
wore a little glow, there was nothing of embarrassment in her smile or
general air as she addressed my cousin or met his gaze. In fact, the
talk with Mrs. Howe had done her a deal of good. Her fears had
foreboded a sort of Hannah More like view of things in Frank's wifean
easy capacity of recoiling and of being frosted from head to foot by
such behaviour as that of an elopement; and she had no doubt that if
Mrs. Howe took her to her home and showed her some kindness, her
conduct would be a mere effusion of parochial sensibility; it would be
her dutyher duty as a clergyman's wife, and she would not do less for
a servant-maid that had run away with a grocer's assistant.
This, I say, had been my sweetheart's apprehension, but a few
minutes' chat had corrected it, and she could now look with happiness
and friendship at the amiable and pretty, if dowdy, woman who was
seated at her side, and attend without any further appearance of
constraint than what one would expect to find in so young and girlish a
character to the kindly, graceful, warm-hearted conversation of my
The pony and trap had been sent round to some adjacent stables, but
by seven o'clock we had made all necessary arrangements, and the
vehicle was again brought to the door. Grace was to be the guest of my
cousin and his wife until we heard from Lady Amelia Roscoe. I should
sleep at the hotel that night, and next day take possession of the best
lodgings Frank could procure for me in his little parish. It was also
settled that next day Sophiefor that was Mrs. Howe's Christian
nameshould come to Penzance with Grace and purchase all that was
immediately needful in the shape of wearing apparel, and so on.
I shall to-night, said I, write to Mademoiselle Championet and
request her to send your boxes, Grace.
Wait until you hear from Lady Amelia, said Frank. She may quarrel
with mademoiselle and refuse to pay her, in which case mademoiselle
will have a lien upon the luggage and stick to it.
I laughed and exclaimed, There is no hurry, and then after taking
Grace in my arms and straining her to my heart, as though we were about
to part for ever and ever, and after much cordial handshaking with
Frank and his wife, I accompanied the three of them downstairs, saw
them into the pony-carriage, and when they had driven off, returned to
write a letter to Lady Amelia Roscoe.
It is some years now since all this happened. I have no copy of that
letter, and my memory is not strong in points of this sort. I
recollect, however, after making several attempts, that I produced
something which was brief almost to abruptness, and that it satisfied
me as on the whole very well put, not wanting in a quality of what I
might term mild brutality, for this was an element I could not very
well manage without having regard to what I had to ask and to what I
had to tell. And let this reference to that letter suffice, though I
must add that I took care to enclose a copy of Captain Parsons'
certificate of our marriage, with the names of those who had signed it,
affirming that the marriage was good in point of law, as she might
easily assure herself by consulting her solicitors, and also
acquainting her in no doubtful terms that the wedding-ring was on
Grace's finger and that we regarded ourselves as husband and wife.
I had scarcely despatched this letter when Caudel was announced. He
stood in the doorway, cap in hand, knuckling his forehead and backing a
bit with a rolling gait, after the custom of the British merchant
Well, Mr. Barclay, sir, and how are ye again? And how's the young
lady after all these here traverses?
I bade him sit down, pulled the bell for a glass of grog for him,
and asked for news of the Spitfire. Well, sir, he answered,
she's just what I've come to talk to ye about. She'd started a butt as
I all along thought, otherwise she's as sound as a bell. There was a
shipwright as came down to look at her, and he asked me what we was
going to do. I told him that I didn't think the gent as owned her meant
to repair her. 'I rather fancy,' I says, says I, feeling my way, 'that
he wants to sell her.' 'How much do 'ee ask, d'ye know?' says he,
looking at the little dandy. 'I'm sure I can't answer that,' says I,
'but dessay he'll accept any reasonable offer.' Says he, 'May I view
her?' 'Sartinly,' I says, says I. He thoroughly overhauled her inside
and out, and then, says he, 'I believe I knows a customer for this here
craft. Suppose you go and larn what the gentleman wants, and let me
know. You'll find me at' and here he names a public-house.
Get what you can for her, Caudel, I answered; the more the better
for those to whom the money will go. For my part, as you know, I
consider her as at the bottom, but since you've pulled her through I'll
ask you to pack up certain articles which are on board; the cabin
clock, the plate, my books, and I named a few other items of the
little craft's internal furniture.
Well, he sat with me for half-an-hour talking over the dandy and our
adventures, then left me, and I went into the town to make a few
necessary purchases, missing the society of my darling as though I had
lost my right arm; indeed, I felt so wretched without her that,
declining the landlord's invitation to join a select circle of Penzance
wits over whom he was in the habit of presiding in the evening in a
smoking-room full of the vapour of tobacco and the steam of hot rum and
whisky, I went to bed at nine o'clock, and may say that I did not sleep
the less soundly for missing the heave of the ocean.
Next morning shortly after breakfast Frank arrived to drive me over
to . Until we were clear of the town he could talk of nothing but
Grace, how sweet she was, how exquisite her breeding, how gentle. All
this was as it should be, and I heard him with delight.
But I want you to understand, Herbert, that my conscience never
could have suffered me to countenance this elopement but for Lady
Amelia's effortsunderhand efforts I must sayto procure her niece's
Oh, I quite understand that, I exclaimed.
She informs me that both her father and mother were Protestants.
That is so.
We have a right then to assume, as I put it to her in talking the
matter over last night, that were they living they would still be
Protestants and would wish their child to remain in our Church. She
herself has not the slightest leaning towards Roman Catholicism.
Undoubtedly her aunt's conduct is without justification. She was to be
rescued, as I understood from your letter from a species of persuasion
which a girl of her years and temperament might not long be able to
resist. The remedy lay in this elopement. I am sorry to have to say it;
but the case is altogether a peculiar one; and I, Herbert, speaking as
a clergyman, cannot find it in me to pronounce against you both.
If an elopement had made a Roman Catholic of her, her aunt would
have been willing, said I.
No doubt, no doubt. Here, said he, putting the reins into my
hands, hold these for a moment or two, Herbert. You recollect that
yesterday I pooh-poohed your opinion that a marriage at sea may be a
He pulled out a pocket-book and searched it whilst he continued to
My wife's uncle was old Admiral Clements, and at his death a number
of his books came to us. We were talking last evening about the
marriage on board the Carthusian, when Sophie suddenly
exclaimed, 'Frank, I believe I know where the record of a marriage at
sea is to be found.' She sat pondering and puzzling awhile, then
stepped to the bookcase and exclaimed, 'This will be it, I am sure.'
She pulled out a volume of memoirs of Admiral Markham, and after
hunting through it, read what I have here copied for your special
behoof, Herbert. 'Bessie was Elizabeth, eldest daughter of the Dean of
York, the Archbishop's third son. She was born August 28th, 1790.
Josephine was the French young lady adopted by the Archbishop's family.
Both girls were then seventeen and devotedly attached to each other.
After the Archbishop's death they were not parted but lived with his
widow. On August 30th, 1815, Bessie was married to a crusty old general
named Rufane Donkin and was to go out to India with him. But she could
not bear to be separated from her friend, so it was arranged that
Josephine should accompany her. General Donkin was of a very jealous
disposition and could not endure his wife liking anything or anybody
but himself. On board the ship he began to treat her young friend with
discourtesy, and at last with such brutality that it excited the
indignation of both captain and passengers. Among the latter there was
a young officer, named Chadwick, whose pity for the forlorn girl grew
into love. He entreated her to marry him that he might have the right
to protect her. At last she consented, and the marriage ceremony was
performed during the voyage by Captain Haviside, the captain of the
He replaced the pocket-book, took the reins from me, and we stared
at each other.
Well, said I, bestowing an exultant nod upon him, that looks
ship-shape enough, doesn't it? as Admiral Clements would have said.
They were probably re-married, said he.
That remains to be proved, I rejoined.
It certainly shakes me in my views, he exclaimed. Still, it seems
truly iniquitous that unconsecrated handssuch a person as a ship's
captainshould enjoy the privileges of a priest.
He can christen.
No! he shouted.
This discussion was only terminated by our arrival at his house; the
most delightful little parsonage that can be imagined: a snug, green,
nestling box to the eye, yet quite equal to the requirements of the
large family which this mild and happy couple bade fair to encumber
themselves with. The church was within a short walk, an aged, ivy-clad
structure, with many noble trees round about it, and a yard full of
ancient, leaning indecipherable, memorial stones. Grace was awaiting
our arrival that she might drive with Sophie to Penzance on her
shopping errands. We embraced as though we had not met for years. I
said to her:
Now you are satisfied that you are my wife?
No, she cried, holding up her left hand from which she had removed
the wedding-ring; then producing it from her pocket, she added, Keep
it till you can put it on properly.
This damped me, and my face showed some annoyance. I honestly
believed her to be my wife, willing as I was that Frank should
presently confirm the ceremony that Captain Parsons had performed, and
her removal of the ring was a sort of shock to me, though, to be sure,
my good sense told me that if there was any virtue whatever in our
shipboard union it was not to be weakened by my carrying the ring
instead of her wearing it.
She stood gazing at me in her loving, girlish way for a moment, then
observing disappointment, slipped her fingers into my waistcoat pocket,
pulled out the ring, and put it on again. I kissed her for that, and
though Frank shook his head, Sophie said, If Grace is really married,
as I believe her to be after what Frank read, then she is perfectly in
the right to do what her husband wishes.
But to make an end, seeing that but little more remains to be told.
It was four days after our arrival at that I drove Grace over to
Penzance to enable her to keep an appointment with her dressmaker.
Caudel still hung about the quaint old town. He had sent me a rude,
briny scrawl, half the words looking as though they had been smeared
out by his little finger, and the others as if they had been written by
his protruded tongue, in which he said, in spelling beyond expression
wonderful, that he had brought the shipwright to terms, and wished to
see me. I left Grace at the dressmaker's and walked to the address
where Caudel said I should find him. He looked highly soaped and
polished, his hair shone like his boots, and he wore a new coat, with
several fathoms of spotted kerchief wound round about his throat.
After we had exchanged a few sentences of greeting and goodwill, he
addressed me thus:
Your honour gave me leave to do the best I could with the dandy.
Well, Mr. Barclay, sir, this is what I've done and here's the money.
He thrust his hands into the pockets of his trousers, which buttoned
up square as a Dutchman's stern, after the fashion that is long likely
to remain popular with men of the Caudel breed, and pulling out a large
chamois leather bag, he extracted from it a quantity of banknotes, very
worn, greasy and crumpled, and some sovereigns and shillings, which
looked as if they had been stowed away in an old stocking since the
beginning of the century. He surveyed me with a gaze of respectful
triumph, perhaps watching for some expression of astonishment.
How much have you there, Caudel?
You'll scarcely credit it, sir, said he, grinning.
But how much, man, how much?
One hundred and seventy-three pounds, fourteen shillun', as I'm a
man, cried he, smiting the table with his immense fist.
I smiled, for though I had bought the dandy cheap, she had cost me a
very great deal more, by the time she was fit to go afloat in, than
Caudel had received for her. But Grace was not to be kept waiting, and
You will give what you think fair to the boy Bobby, Caudel.
He looked at me stupidly.
Did not I tell you, said I, that what the dandy fetched was to be
yours, and that something of it was to go to the boy? As to those who
deserted you, they may call upon me for their wages, but they'll get no
He seemed overwhelmed, and indeed his astonishment surprised me, for
I had imagined my intentions with regard to the yacht were well known
to him. I cut short the worthy fellow's thanks by assuring him that my
gratitude for his services at Boulogne and for his behaviour throughout
the whole delicate business was not to be expressed by five times the
amount that lay upon the table; and then telling him to let me hear of
him when Miss Bellassys and I were married and settled, and promising,
should I ever go yachting again, to offer him the command of my vessel,
I wrung his hand and ran out, pursued by twenty God bless ye, sirs.
Grace and I returned to somewhere about four o'clock, having
lunched at Penzance. We alighted at the vicarage and entered the
fragrant little dining-room. My cousin and his wife were sitting
waiting for us. Sophie, on our entrance, started up and cried: Grace,
here is a letter for you. I believe it is from your aunt.
My darling turned white, and I was sensible of growing very nearly
as pale as she. Her hand trembled as she took the letter; she eyed me
piteously, seemed to make an effort to break the envelope, then
extending it to me said, I dare not read it.
I instantly tore it open, read it to myself once, then aloud:
Lady Amelia Roscoe begs to inform her niece that she washes her
hands of her. She wishes never to see nor to hear of her again. So far
as Lady Amelia Roscoe's consent goes, her niece is at liberty to do
what she likes and go where she likes. Any further communication which
Lady Amelia's niece may require to make must be addressed to her
ladyship's solicitors, Messrs. Fox & Wyndall, Lincoln's Inn Fields.
Thank Heaven! I exclaimed, drawing the deepest breath I had ever
fetched in my life.
Now, Herbert, I am at your service, exclaimed Frank.
Grace was crying, and Sophie, giving her husband and me a reassuring
look, with sisterly gentleness took my darling's arm, and led her out
of the room.
* * * * *
Needless to say that in due course we were married, or rather let me
say, re-married. But this said, the brief incident I have endeavoured
to relatethe story of the elopementends. Down to this present
moment of writing, however, I have been unable to find out whether I
was or whether I was not legitimately, validly, lawfully, made a
husband of by Captain Parsons. I have put the question to solicitors; I
have written to shipowners and to shipbrokers, to captains and to
mates, to shipping papers, and to a variety of marine authorities, such
as dock superintendents, Board of Trade officials, and nautical
assessors, but to no purpose. A great many fancy that a shipboard
marriage is all right, but nobody is certain. What have the readers
of this narrative to say? Is there any one amongst them who can speak
with authority? I submit that it is a point which ought to be settled.
Legislation should put an end to doubt. Could I have felt sure on the
subject, I should have been spared a great deal of anxiety. That
marriages have taken place at sea is beyond question; the offspring of
these unions must be numerous. Are they legitimate? Many colonials
should feel concerned in the question, and I trust yet to receive some
definite information on the matter one way or the other.
Since this story was written, I find that the Rev. Thomas Moore,
Rector of All-hallows-the-Great, late Surrogate in the Diocese of
Canterbury, in a useful little work on the British and foreign laws of
marriage, entitled, How to be Married, writes of marriages on
board merchant vessels, that There is no statutory provision for
these. But the requirements of the Merchant Shipping Act, 1854, Section
282, providing for their proper registration in the Diocesan Registry
of London, assume that they may take place. In a letter addressed to
the author, Mr. Moore says: I may say, that to constitute the validity
of such marriages, which I take for granted would be marriages of
emergency, the presence of a clergyman or minister would not be
required, and is not contemplated. It would be sufficient that the
captain of the ship officiated and made a record of the marriage. He
ought, however, to report it to the proper authority as soon as
possible at the end of the voyage. Such marriages, though legal, are
 Published by Griffith and Farran.
Printed in Great Britain by Wyman & Sons, Ltd.,
London and Reading.