STORIES BY ENGLISH AUTHORS
THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE BY W. CLARK RUSSELL
QUARANTINE ISLAND BY SIR WALTER BESANT
THE ROCK SCORPIONS ANONYMOUS
THE MASTER OF THE "CHRYSTOLITE" BY G. B. O'HALLORAN
"PETREL" AND "THE BLACK SWAN" ANONYMOUS
MELISSA'S TOUR BY GRANT ALLEN
VANDERDECKEN'S MESSAGE HOME ANONYMOUS
THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURE OF A CHIEF MATE
BY W. CLARK RUSSELL
In the newspapers of 1876 appeared the following extracts from
the log of a merchantman: "VOLCANIC ISLAND IN THE NORTH ATLANTIC.
—The ship Hercules, of Liverpool, lately arrived in the Mersey,
reports as follows: March 23, in 2 deg. 12' north latitude, 33 deg.
27' west longitude, a shock of earthquake was felt, and shortly
afterward a mass of land was hove up at a distance of about two miles
from the ship. Michael Balfour, the chief officer, fell overboard.
A buoy was thrown to him, the ship brought to the wind, and a boat
lowered within fifteen minutes of the occurence. But though the
men sought the chief mate for some time, nothing could be seen of
him, and it is supposed that he sank shortly after falling into
the sea. Masters of vessels are recommended to keep a sharp lookout
in approaching the situation of the new island as given above. No
doubt it will be sighted by other ships, and duly reported."
I am Michael Balfour; I it was who fell overboard; and it is
needless for me to say here that I not drowned. The volcanic island
was only reported by one other ship, and the reason why will be
read at large in this account of my strange adventure and merciful
It was the evening of the 23d of March, 1876. Our passage to the
equator from Sydney had been good, but for three days we had been
bothered with light head winds and calms, and since four o'clock
this day the ocean had stretched in oil-smooth undulations to its
margin, with never a sigh of air to crispen its marvellous serenity
into shadow. The courses were hauled up, the staysails down, the
mizzen brailed up; the canvas delicately beat the masts to the soft
swing of the tall spars, and sent a small rippling thunder through
the still air, like a roll of drums heard at a distance. The heat
was great; I had never remembered a more biting sun. The pitch in
the seams was soft as putty, the atmosphere was full of the smell
of blistered paint, and it was like putting your hand on a red-hot
stove to touch the binnacle hood or grasp for an an instant an iron
A sort of loathing comes into a man with a calm like this. "The
very deep did rot," says the poet; and you understood his fancy
when you marked the blind heave of the swell to the sun standing
in the midst of a sky of brass, with his wake under him sinking in
a sinuous dazzle, as though it was his fiery glance piercing to the
green depths a thousand fathoms deep. It was hot enough to slacken
the nerves and give the imagination a longer scope than sanity
would have it ride by.
That was why, perhaps, I found something awful and forbidding in
the sunset, though at another time it might scarcely have detained
my gaze a minute. But it is true, nevertheless, that others besides
me gaped at the wonderful gushings of hot purple,—arrested whirlpools
of crimson haze, they looked,—in the heart of which the orb sat
rayless, flooding the sea with blood under him, so magnificently
fell was the hue, and flushing the sky with twenty dyes of gold
and orange, till, in the far east, the radiance fainted into the
delicacy of pale amber.
"Yon's a sunset," said Captain Matthews, a North of England man,
to me, "to make a fellow think of the last day."
"I'm looking at it, sir," said I, "as though I had never seen a
sunset before. That's the oddest part of it, to my mind. There's
fire enough there to eat a gale up. How should a cat's-paw crawl
then?" And I softly whistled, while he wetted his finger and held
it up; but to no purpose; the draught was all between the rails,
and they blew forward and aft with every swing of the sails.
When the dusk came along, the silence upon the sea was something
to put all sorts of moods into a man. The sky was a hovering velvet
stretch of stars, with a young moon lying curled among them, and
winkings of delicate violet sheet-lightning down in the southwest,
as though some gigantic-tinted lantern, passing, flung its light
upon the dark blue obscure there. The captain went below, after a
long, impatient look round, and I overhung the rail, peering into
the water alongside, or sending my gaze into the frightful distance,
where the low-lying stars hung. With every soft dip of the ship's
side to the slant of the dark folds, there shot forth puffs of
cloudy phosphor, intermixed with a sparkling of sharper fires now
and again, blue, yellow, and green, like worms of flame striking
out of their cocoons of misty radiance. The noise of the canvas on
high resembled the stirring of pinions, and the cheep of a block,
the grind of a parrel, helped the illusion, as though the sounds
were the voices of huge birds restlessly beating their pinions
Presently the man at the wheel startled me with an observation.
I went to him, and he pointed upward with a long, shadowy arm. I
looked, and saw a corposant, as it is called at sea,—a St. Elmo's
fire,—burning at the end of the crossjack-yard. The yard lay
square, and the polished sea beneath gave back the reflection so
clearly that the mystic fire lay like a huge glow-worm on the black
"There should be wind not far off," said the helmsman, in a subdued
voice; for few sailors can see one of these lights without a stirring
of their superstitious instincts, and this particular exhalation
hung close to us.
"I hope so," said I, "though I don't know where it's to come from."
As I spoke, the light vanished. I ran my eye over the yards,
expecting its reappearance; but it returned no more, and the sails
rose pale and phantom-like to the stars. I was in an odd humour,
and this was an apparition not to brighten one up. Of course one
knows all about these maritime corpse-candles, and can explain
their nature; but nevertheless the sudden kindling of them upon
the darkness of the night, in the dead hush of the calm or amid the
fury of the shrieking hurricane, produces feelings which there is
nothing in science to resolve. I could have laughed to find myself
sending a half-awed look aloft, as if I expected to see some visionary
hand at work upon another one these graveyard illuminations-with
a stealing out of some large, sad face to the melancholy glow; but
I returned to the side very pensive for all that, and there stood
watching the fiery outline of a shark subtly sneaking close to the
surface (insomuch that the wake of its fin slipped away in little
coils of green flame) toward the ship's bows.
Half an hour later the dark curl of a light air of wind shattered
the starlight in the sea, and our canvas fell asleep. I called to
the watch to trim sail, and in a few moments the decks were busy
with the figures of men pulling and hauling and surging out at the
ropes in sulky, slumberous growlings. The captain arrived.
"Little worth having in this, I fear," said he. "But make the most
of it—make the most of it. Get the foretopmast stunsail run up.
If she creeps but a league, it is a league to the good."
The sail was sleepily set. Humbugging about with stunsails to the
cat's-paws little pleased the men, especially at night. For three
days they had been boxhauling the yards about to no purpose, and
it was sickening work running stunsail-booms out to airs that died
in their struggles to reach us. However, here was a draught at
last, and the old gurgling and moaning sounds of the breathless,
sluggish swell washing heavily like liquid lead to the sides were
replaced by the tinkling noises of waters parting at the bows with
a pretty little seething of expiring foam, and the hiss of exploding
froth-bells. At eleven o'clock the light breeze was still holding,
and the ship was floating softly through the dusk, the paring
of moon swaying like a silver sickle over the port mizzen topsail
yard-arm, everything quiet along the decks, no light save the
sheen from the lamps in the binnacle, and nothing stirring but the
figure of a man on the forecastle pacing athwartships, and blotting
out at every step a handful of the stars which lay like dust
on the blackness, under the yawn of the forecourse. On a sudden a
steamer's lights showed on the starboard bow—a green beam, and a
yellow one above, with the water on fire beneath them, and sparks
floating away upon her coil of smoke, that made you think of the
spangles of a falling rocket. She went past swiftly, at no great
distance from us. There was not a moan in the hot breeze to disturb
the wonderful ocean stillness, and you almost thought you caught
the beating of the iron heart in her, and the curious monotonous
songs which engines sing as they work. She swept past like a phantom,
running a line of illuminated windows along, which resembled a
row of street-lamps out in the darkness; and as she came on to our
quarter she struck seven bells (half-past eleven), the rich metallic
notes of which I clearly heard; and with the trembling of the last
stroke upon the ear her outline melted.
At that instant a peculiar thrill ran through the ship. It may
be likened to the trembling in a floor when a heavy waggon passes
in the street outside. It was over in a breath, but I could have
sworn that it was not my fancy. I walked aft to the wheel, and
said to the man, "Did you notice anything just now?"
"Seemed to me as if the vessel trembled like," he replied.
As he spoke the ship shook again, this time strongly. It was
something more than a shudder; the sensation was for all the world
as though she had scraped over a shoal of rock or shingle. There
was a little clatter below, a noise of broken glass. The watch,
who had been dozing on deck, sprang to their feet, and their
ejaculations of surprise and fear rolled in a growl among them.
The captain ran out of the companionway in his shirt and trousers.
"What was that, Mr. Balfour?" he bawled.
"Either the shock of an earthquake," said I, "or a whale sliding
along our keel."
"Get a cast of the lead! get a cast of the lead!" he shouted.
This was done to the full scope of the hand-line, without bottom,
of course. By this time the watch below had tumbled up, and all
hands were now on deck, staring aloft or over the side, sniffing,
spitting, muttering, and wondering what had happened.
"There's that bloomin' compreesant come again!" exclaimed a hoarse
voice; and, sure enough, a light similar to the one that had hung
at the crossjack yard-arm now floated upon the end of the upper
"The devil's abroad to-night!" exclaimed the captain. "There's
sulphur enough about," and he fell a-snuffling.
What followed might have made an infidel suppose so; for scarce
were the words out of his mouth when there happened an astonishing
blast of noise, as loud and violent as that of forty or fifty cannons
fired off at once, and out of the black sea no farther than a mile
broad on the starboard beam rose a pillar of fire, crimson as the
light of the setting sun and as dazzling too; it lived while you
might have counted twenty, but in that time it lighted up the sea
for leagues and leagues, put out the stars, and made the sky resemble
a canopy of yellow satin; we on the ship saw one another's faces
as if by daylight; the shrouds and masts and our own figures cast
jet-black shadows on the deck; the whole ship flashed out to that
amazing radiance like a fabric sun-touched. The column of fire
then fattened and disappeared, and the night rolled down upon our
blinded eyes as black as thunder.
There was no noise—no hissing as of boiling water. If the furious
report that preceded the leap of the fire had rendered its coming
terrible, its extinction was made not less awful by the tomb-like
stillness that attended it. I sprang on to the rail, believing I
could perceive a dark mass—like a deeper dye upon the blackness
that way—upon the water, and to steady myself caught hold of the
mizzen loyal backstay, swinging out to my arm's length and peering
with all my might. My excitement was great, and the consternation
that posessed the ship's crew was upon me. As I leaned, the
vessel heeled violently to a large swell caused by the volcanic
disturbances. The roll was extraordinarily severe, heaving the
vessel down to her covering-board; and the great hill of water
running silent and in darkness through the sea, so that it could
neither be viewed nor heard, made the sickening lurch a dreadful
surprise and wonder.
It was in that moment that I fell overboard. I suppose my grip of
the backstay relaxed when the ship lay down; but, let the thing
have happened how it would, in a breath I was under water. It is
said that the swiftness of thought is best shown by dreams. This
may be so; yet I cannot believe that thought was ever swifter in
a dream than it was in me ere I came to the surface; for in those
few seconds I gathered exactly what had befallen me, wondered
whether my fall had been seen, whether I should be saved, realised
my hopeless condition if I had not been observed, and, above all, was
thinking steadfastly and with horror of the shark I had not long
ago watched stemming in fire past the ship. I was a very indifferent
swimmer, and what little power I had in that way was like to be
paralysed by thoughts of the shark. I rose and fetched a breath,
shook the water out of my eyes, and looked for the ship. She had
been sliding along at the rate of about four knots an hour; but
had she been sailing at ten she could not seem to have gone farther
from me during the brief while I was submerged. From the edge of
the water, where my eyes were, she appeared a towering pale shadow
about a mile off. I endeavoured to scream out; but whether the cold
of the plunge had bereft me of my voice, or that I had swallowed
water enough to stop my pipes, I found I could utter nothing
louder than a small groan. I made several strokes with my arms,
and suddenly spied a life-buoy floating almost twenty yards ahead
of me. I made for it in a transport of joy, for the sight of it
was all the assurance I could ask that they knew on the ship that
I had tumbled overboard; and, coming to the buoy, I seized and
threw it over my head, and then got it under my arms and so floated.
The breeze, such as it was, was on the ship's quarter, and she
would need to describe a considerable arc before she rounded to.
I could hear very faintly the voices on board, the flinging down
of coils of rope, the dim echoes of hurry and commotion. I again
sought to exert my lungs, but could deliver no louder note than a
moan. The agony of mind I was under lest a shark should seize me I
cannot express, and my strained eyeballs would come from the tall
shadow of the ship to the the sea about me in a wild searching of
the liquid ebony of it for the sparkling configuration of the most
abhorred of all fish. I could have sworn that hours elapsed before
they lowered a boat from the ship, that seemed to grow fainter and
fainter every time I looked at her, so swallowing is the character
of ocean darkness, and so subtle apparently, so fleet in fact, the
settling away of a fabric under canvas from an object stationary
on the water. I could distinctly hear the rattle of the oars in
the rowlocks, and the splash of the dipped blades, but could not
discern the boat. It was speedily evident, however, that they were
pulling wide of me; my ear could not mistake. Again I tried to
shout, but to no purpose. Manifestly no one had thought of taking
my bearings when I fell, and I, who lay south, was being sought
Time passed; the boat never approached me within a quarter of a
mile. They must instantly have heard me, could I have halloed; but
my throat refused its office. I reckoned that they continued to
row here and there for about half an hour, during which they were
several times hailed by the captain, as I supposed; the sound of
the oars then died. A little later I heard the very faint noises
made by their hoisting the boat and hauling in upon the braces,
and then there was nothing for me to do but to watch, with dying
eyes, the shadow of the ship till it faded, and the stars shone
where she had been.
The sky shed very little light, and there was no foam to cast an
illumination of its own. However, by this time, as you will suppose,
I was used to my situation; that is to say, the horror and novelty
of my condition had abated, and settled into a miserable feeling
of despair; so that I was like a dying man who had passed days in
an open boat, and who languidly directs his eyes over the gunwale
at the sea, with the hopelessness that is bred by familiarity with
his dreadful posture. It was some time after the ship had melted
into the airy dusk that I seemed to notice, for the first time
since I had been in the life-buoy, the lump of blackness at which
I had been straining my eyes when the vessel heeled and I fell.
It had the elusiveness of a light at sea, that is best seen (at
a distance) by gazing a little on one side of it. It lay, a black
mass, and whether it was a vast huddle of weeds, or a great whale
killed by the earthquake, or solid land uphove by the volcanic
rupture, was not conjecturable. It hung, still and not very tall,
for I could not see that it put out any stars, and was about a mile
distant. Whatever it might prove, I could not be worse off near
or on or amid it than I was here; so, setting my face toward it,
I began to strike out with my legs and arms.
The water was so fiery, it chipped in flashes to every blow of my
hands. I swam in the utmost terror, never knowing but that the next
moment I should be feeling the teeth of a shark upon my legs, for
the sparkling of the sea to my kicks and motions was signal enough
for such a beast if it was a league distant; but I may as well say
here that there is no doubt the shock of earthquake and the flame
effectually cleared the sea in its neighbourhood of every kind
of fish that floated in it, though the hope of such a thing could
yield me but very little comfort while I swam.
I continued to make good progress, and presently approaching the
block of blackness, for so it looked, perceived that it was certainly
land,—a solid rock, in short,—the head of some mountainous
submarine formation lifted ten or twelve feet above the sea. I could
now discern a faintness of vapour circling up from it and showing
like steam against the stars. Its front stretched a length of a
few hundred feet; how far it went behind I could not tell. A small
sound of creaming waters came from it, produced by the light swell
washing its shelter side. It lay all in a line of grayish darkness
even when I was quite close, and I could see nothing but the shapeless
body of it. Of a sudden my feet struck ground, and I waded thirty
paces along a shelf that was under water till my paces lifted to
the dry beach. But by this time I was fearfully exhausted; I could
scarcely breathe. My legs and arms were numbed to the weight of
lead. The atmosphere was warm, but not unbearably so—not hotter
than it had been at noon in the ship. Steam crawled up from every
pore, like the drainings of smoke from damp straw, but it did not
add to the distress of my breathing. I made shift to stagger onward
till I had gone about fifty feet from the wash of the sea. Nature
then broke down; my knees gave way, I stumbled and fell—whether
in a swoon or whether in a death-like slumber, I cannot say; all
I can tell is that when I awoke, or recovered my senses, the sun
stood fifteen degrees above the horizon, and I opened my eyes upon
a hot and dazzling sky.
I sat up in the utmost amazement. My mind for some time was all
abroad, and I could recollect nothing. Memory then entered me with
a bound, and I staggered to my feet with a cry. The first thing
I took notice of was that my clothes were nearly dry, which was
not very reconcilable with the steam that was still issuing from
the island, though it was as I say. My bones ached cruelly, but
I was not sensible of any particular languor. The brilliance was
so blinding that I had to employ my eyes very warily in order
to see; and it was not until I had kept opening and shutting them
and shading them with my hands for some minutes that they acquired
their old power. The island on which I stood had unquestionably been
hove up in the night by the earthquake. I cannot figure it better
than by asking you to imagine a gigantic mass of pumice-stone,
somewhat flat on top, and shelving on all sides very gently to the
water, lying afloat but steady on the sea. It was of the hue of
pumice, and as clean as an egg-shell, without a grain of calcined
dust or any appearance of scoriae that I could anywhere observe.
It was riddled with holes, some wide and deep—a very honeycomb;
and that I did not break my neck or a limb in staggering walk from
the beach in the darkness, I must ever account the most miraculous
part of my adventure.
But what (when I had my whole wits) riveted my attention, and held
me staring open-mouthed, as though in good truth the apparition of
the devil had risen before me, was the body of a ship leaning on
its bilge, at not more than a gunshot from where I stood, looking
toward the interior. When my eyes first went to the thing I could
not believe them. I imagined it some trick of the volcanic explosion
that had fashioned a portion of the land or rock (as it may be
called) into the likeness of a ship, but, on gazing steadfastly, I
saw that it was indeed a vessel, rendered extraordinarily beautiful
and wonderful by being densely covered with shells of a hundred
different kinds, by which her bulk was enlarged, though her shape
was preserved. Bright fountains of water were gushing from fifty
places in her, all these waterfalls shone like rainbows, and showed
surprisingly soft and lovely against the velvet green of the moss
and the gray and kaleidoscopic tints of the shells upon her. Lost
in amazement, I made my way toward her, and stood viewing her at
a short distance. She had three lower masts standing—one right
in the bows, and the mizzen raking very much aft. All three masts
were supported by shrouds, and that was all the rigging the sea
had left. She looked to be made of shells and moss; her shrouds and
masts were incrusted as thickly as her hull. She was a mere tub of
a ship in shape, being scarce twice as long as she was broad, with
great fat buttocks, a very tall stern narrowing atop, and low bows
with a prodigious curve to the stem-head. I am not well versed in
the shipping of olden times, but I would have willingly staked all
I was worth in the world that the fabric before me belonged to a
period not much later than the days of Columbus, and that she had
been sunk at least three centuries below the sea; and it was also
perfectly clear to me that she had risen in the daylight, out of
her green and oozy sepulchre, with the upheaval of the bed on which
she lay to the convulsion that had produced this island.
But my situation was not one to suffer me to stand long idly
wondering and staring. The moment I brought my eyes away from
the ship to the mighty desolation of the blue and gleaming ocean,
a horror broke upon me, my heart turned into lead, and in the
anguish of my spirits I involuntarily lifted my clinched hands to
God. What was to become of me? I had no boat, no means of making
anything to bear me, nothing but the life-buoy, that was no better
than a trap for sharks to tear me to pieces in. I was thirsty, but
there was no fresh water on this steaming speck of rock, and I tell
you, the knowing that there was none, and that unless rain fell
I must die of thirst, had like to have driven me mad. Where the
ship was, and beyond it, the island rose somewhat in the form of
a gentle undulation. I walked that way, and there obtained a view
of the whole island, which was very nearly circular, like the head
of a hill, somewhat after the shape of a saucepan lid. It resembled
a great mass of sponge to the sight, and there was no break upon its
surface save the incrusted ship, which did, indeed, form a very
conspicuous object. Happening to look downward, I spied a large
dead fish, of the size of a cod of sixteen or eighteen pounds,
lying a-dry in a hole. I put my arm down and dragged it out, and,
hoping by appeasing my hunger to help my thirst somewhat, I opened
my knife and cut a little raw steak, and ate it. The moisture in the
flesh refreshed me, and, that the sun might not spoil the carcass,
I carried it to the shadow made by the ship, and put it under one
of the waterfalls that the play might keep it sweet. There was
plenty more dead fish in the numerous holes, and I picked out two
and put them in the shade; but I knew that the great heat must
soon taint them and rot the rest, whence would come a stench that
might make the island poisonous to me.
I sat down under the bends of the ship for the shadow it threw,
and gazed at the sea. Perhaps I ought to have felt grateful for
the miraculous creation of this spot of land, when, but for it, I
must have miserably perished in the life-buoy, dying a most dreadful,
slow, tormenting death, if some shark had not quickly despatched
me; but the solitude was so frightful, my doom seemed so assured,
I was threatened with such dire sufferings ere my end came, that,
in the madness and despair of my heart, I could have cursed the
intervention of this rock, which promised nothing but the prolongation
of my misery. There was but one live spark amid the ashes of my
hopes; namely, that the island lay in the highway of ships, and
that it was impossible a vessel could sight so unusual an object
without deviating from her course to examine it. That was all the
hope I had; but God knows there was nothing in it to keep me alive
when I set off against it the consideration that there was no water
on the island, no food; that a ship would have to sail close to
remark so flat and little a point as this rock; and that days, ay,
and weeks might elapse before the rim of yonder boundless surface,
stretching in airy leagues of deep blue to the azure sky at the
horizon, should be broken by the star-like shining of a sail.
Happily, the wondrous incrusted bulk was at hand to draw my thoughts
away from my hideous condition; for I verily believe, had my eye
found nothing to rest upon but the honeycombed pumice, my brain would
have given way. I stood up and took a long view of the petrified
shell-covered structure, feeling a sort of awe in me while I looked,
for it was a kind of illustration of the saying of the sea giving
up its dead, and the thing stirred me almost as though it had been
a corpse that had risen to the sun, after having been a secret of
the deep for three hundred years.
It occurred to me that if I could board her she might furnish me
with a shelter from the dew of the night. She had channels with
long plates, all looking as if they were formed of shells; and
stepping round to the side toward which she leaned, I found the
fore channel-plates to be within reach of my hands. The shells were
slippery and cutting; but I was a sailor, and there would have been
nothing in a harder climb than this to daunt me. So, after a bit
of a struggle, I succeeded in hauling myself into the chains, and
thence easily dragged myself over the rail on to the deck.
The sight between the bulwarks was far more lovely and surprising
than the spectacle presented by the ship's sides. For the decks
seemed not only formed of shells of a hundred different hues;
there was a great abundance of branching corals, white as milk,
and marine plants of kinds for which I could not find names, of
several brilliant colours; so that, what with the delicate velvet
of the moss, the dark shades of seaweed of figurations as dainty
as those of ferns, and the different sorts of shells, big and
little, all lying as solid as if they had been set in concrete,
the appearance of the ship submitted was something incredibly
fantastic and admirable. Whether the hatches were on or not I could
not tell, so thickly coated were the decks; but whether or not, the
deposits and marine growths rendered the surface as impenetrable
as iron, and I believe it would have kept a small army of labourers
plying their pickaxes for a whole week to have made openings into
the hold through that shelly coating of mail.
My eye was taken by a peculiar sort of protuberance at the foot
of the mainmast. It stood as high as I did, and had something of
the shape of a man, and, indeed, after staring at it for some time,
I perceived that it had been a man; that is to say, it was a human
skeleton, filled up to the bulk of a living being by the shells and
barnacles which covered it. Ashore, it might have passed for some
odd imitation in shells of the human figure; but, viewing it as I
did, in the midst of that great ocean, amid the frightful solitude
of the great dome of heaven, in a ship that was like the handiwork
of the sea-gods at the bottom of the deep—I say, looking at it as
I did, and knowing the thing had had life in centuries past, and
had risen thus wildly garnished out of the unfathomable secret
heart of the ocean, it awed me to an extent I cannot express, and
I gazed as though fascinated. In all probability, this was a man
who, when the ship foundered, had been securely lashed to the mast
for safety or for punishment.
I turned away at last with a shudder, and walked aft. The wreck
was unquestionably some Spanish or Portuguese carrack or galleon
as old as I have stated; for you saw her shape when you stood on
her deck, and her castellated stern rising into a tower from her
poop and poop-royal, as it was called, proved her age as convincingly
as if the date of her launch had been scored upon her.
What was in her hold? Thousands of pounds' worth of precious ore in
gold and silver bars and ingots, for all I knew; but had she been
flush to her upper decks with doubloons and ducats, I have exchanged
them all for the sight of a ship, or for a rill of fresh water. I
searched the horizon with feverish eyes; there was nothing in sight.
The afternoon was advancing; the sun was burning unbearably midway
down the western sky, and my thirst tormented me. I dropped over
the side and cut another steak of fish; but though the moisture
temporarily relieved me, the salt of the water flowing upon it dried
into my throat and increased my sufferings. There was a light air
blowing, and the sea trembled to it into a deeper hue of blue, and
met in a glorious stream of twinkling rubies under the setting sun.
I counted half a score of wet black fins round about the island,
and understood that the sharks had recovered from their scare, and
had returned to see if the earthquake had cast up anything to eat.
When the sun sank, the night came along in a stride; the curl of the
moon looked wanly down upon me, and the sky flashed with starshine,
so rich and magnificent was the glow of the nearer luminaries.
I reentered the ship and stepped to the cabin front, over which
extended a "break" or penthouse, under which I might find some
shelter from the dew that was already falling like rain, and squatted
down, lascar-fashion, with my back against the shell-armoured
bulkhead. Great Father! never had I known what solitude was till
then. There was no sound save the quiet foaming of waters draining
from the wreck, and the purring of the very light swell softly
moving upon the beach, and the faint, scarce audible whispering
of the dew-laden draught of air stirring in the stony, fossilised
shrouds. My throat felt like hot brass; I tried to pray, but could
not. Imagination grew a little delirious, and I would sometimes
fancy that the terrible shape at the foot of the mainmast moved
as if seeking to free itself and approach me. There was a constant
glancing of shooting stars on high, swift sparklings and trailings
of luminous dust, and, as on the previous night, here and there
upon the horizon a dim violet play of sheet-lightning. It was like
being at the bottom of the sea, alive there, to be in this black,
shelly, weed-smelling ship. Whether my thoughts came to me waking
or sleeping I cannot tell, but I know some mad fancies possessed
me, and upon the sable canvas of the night, imagination, like
a magic lantern, flung a dozen febriletinctured pictures, and
I particularly recollect conceiving that I was my own soul at the
bottom of the ocean in the ship; that, in the green twilight of
the valley in which I was, I saw many forms of dead men standing or
lying or sitting, preserving the postures in which they had come
floating down into the darkly gleaming profound—figures of sailors
of different centuries clad in the garb of their times, intermixed
with old ordnance making coarse and rusty streaks upon the sand,
the glitter of minted money, the gleam of jewels, and fish brightly
apparelled and of shapes unknown to man floating round about like
fragments of rainbow. My dreams always wound up with imaginations
of babbling drinks, and then I'd wake with the froth upon my lips.
However, I got some ease by leaving my handkerchief to soak in the
dew and then sucking it.
Several times during the night I had got on to the upper poop—the
deck above the poop anciently termed the poop-royal—and looked
around me. But there was nothing to see, not a shadow to catch the
eye. The breeze freshened somewhat about midnight, and the air
was made pleasant by the musical noises of running waters. I fell
asleep an hour before dawn, and when I awoke the early ashen line
was brightening in the east. The birth of the day is rapid in those
parallels, and the light of the morning was soon all over sea and
sky. I turned to search the ocean, and the first thing I saw was a
brig not above half a mile from the island. She had studding sails
set, and was going north, creeping along before the breeze. The
instant I saw her I rushed on to the poop, where my figure would be
best seen, and fell to flourishing my handkerchief like a maniac.
I sought to shout, but my voice was even weaker than it had been
after I fell overboard. I have no power to describe my feelings
while I waited to see what the brig would do. I cursed myself for
not having kept a lookout, so that I might have had plenty of time
to signal to her as she approached. If she abandoned me I knew I
must perish, as every instant assured me that I had neither mental
nor physical power to undergo another day and night without drink
and without hope upon the island.
On a sudden she hauled up the lee clew of her mainsail, boom-ended
her studding sails, and put her helm over. I knew what this signified,
and, clasping my hands, I looked up to God.
Presently a boat was lowered and pulled toward the island. I dropped
over the side, tumbling down upon my nose in my weakness, and made
with trembling legs to the beach, standing, in my eagerness, in
the very curl of the wash there. There were three men in the boat,
and they eyed me, as they rowed, over their shoulders as if I had
been a spectre.
"Who are you, mate, and what country is this?" exclaimed the man
who pulled stroke, standing up to stretch his hand to me.
I pointed to my throat, and gasped, "Water!" I could barely
Nothing in this wide world moves sailors like a cry to them for
water. In an instant the three men had dragged me into the boat,
and were straining like horses at their oars, as they sent the boat
flashing through the rippling water. We dashed alongside.
"He's dying of thirst!" was the cry.
I was bundled on deck; the captain ran below, and returned with a
small draught of wine and water.
"Start with that," said he. "You'll be fitter for a longer pull
The drink gave me back my voice; yet for a while I could scarce
speak, for the tears that swelled my heart.
"Are there any more of ye?" said the captain.
I answered, "No."
"But what land's this?" he inquired.
"An island uphove by an earthquake," said I.
"Great thunder!" he cried. "And what's that arrangement in shells
and weeds atop of it?"
"A vessel that's probably been three hundred years at the bottom,"
"The quake rose it, hey?"
"Just as it is," said I.
"Well, boil me," cried the worthy fellow, "if it don't seem too good
to be true! Mr. Fletcher, trim sail, sir. Best shove along—shove
along. Come, sir, step below with me for a rest and a bite, and
give me your tale."
A warily eaten meal with another sup of wine and water made me a
new man. We sat below a long while, I telling my story, he making
notes and talking of the credit he would get for bringing home a
report of a new country, when suddenly the mate put his head into
"The island's gone, sir."
"What d' ye mean? that we've sunk it?"
"No, by the Lord; but that it's sunk itself."
We ran on deck, and where the island should have been was all clear
The captain stared at the water, with his mouth wide open.
"Nothing to report after all!" he cried.
"I saw it founder!" exclaimed the mate. "I had my eye on it when
it sank. I've seen some foundering in my day; but this beats all
my going a-fishing!"
"Well," said the captain to me, "we didn't come too soon, sir."
I hid my face in my hands.
The Susan Gray was the name of the brig that rescued me. The
Hercules saw the first of the island, and the Susan Gray the last
of it. Hence, as I said at the start, it was reported by two vessels
BY SIR WALTER BESANT
"No!" he cried, passionately. "You drew me on; you led me to believe
that you cared for me; you encouraged me! What! can a girl go on
as you have done without meaning anything? Does a girl allow a
man to press her hand—to keep her hand—without meaning anything?
Unless these things mean nothing, you are the most heartless girl
in the whole world; yes—I say the coldest, the most treacherous,
the most heartless!" It was evening, and moonlight; a soft and
delicious night in September. The waves lapped gently at their
feet, the warm breeze played upon their faces, the moon shone upon
them—an evening wholly unfit for such a royal rage as this young
gentleman (two and twenty is still young) exhibited. He walked
about on the parade, which was deserted except for this solitary
pair, gesticulating, waving his arms, mad with the madness of
She sat on one of the seaside benches, her hands clasped, her head
bent, overwhelmed and frightened and remorseful. He went on: he
recalled the day when first they met; he reminded her of the many,
many ways in which she had led him on to believe that she cared
for him; he accused her of making him love her in order to laugh
at him. When he could find nothing more to say, he flung himself
upon the bench,—but on the other end of it,—and crossed his arms,
and dropped his head upon them. So that there were two on the bench,
one at either end, and both with their heads dropped—a pretty
picture in the moonlight of a lovers' quarrel. But this was worse
than a lovers' quarrel. It was the end of everything, for the girl
was engaged to another man.
She rose. If he had been looking up, he would have seen that there
were tears in her eyes and on her cheek.
"Mr. Fernie," she stammered, timidly, "I suppose there is nothing
more to say. I am no doubt all that you have called me. I am
heartless; I have led you on. Well, but I did not know—how could
I tell that you were taking things so seriously? How can you be so
angry just because I can't marry you? One girl is no better than
another. There are plenty of girls in the world. I thought you
liked me, and I—but what is the use of talking? I am heartless
and cold; I am treacherous and vain and cruel, and—and—won't you
shake hands with me once more, Claude, before we part?"
"No! I will never shake hands with you again; never—never! By
heavens! nothing that could happen now would ever make me shake
hands with you again. I hate you, I loathe you, I shudder at the
sight of you, I could not forgive you—never! You have ruined my
life. Shake hands with you! Who but a heartless and worthless woman
could propose such a thing?"
She shivered and shook at his wild words. She could not, as she
said, understand the vehemence of the passion that held the man.
He was more than half mad, and she was only half sorry. Forgive
the girl. She was only seventeen, just fresh from her governess.
She was quite innocent and ignorant. She knew nothing about the
reality and vehemence of passion; she thought that they had been
very happy together. Claude, to be sure, was ridiculously fond of
taking her hand; once he kissed her head to show the depth of his
friendship. He was such a good companion; they had had such a
pleasant time; it was a dreadful pity that he should be so angry.
Besides, it was not as if she liked the other man, who was old and
"Good-bye, then, Claude," she said. "Perhaps when we meet again you
will be more ready to forgive me. Oh," she laughed, "it is so silly
that a man like you—a great, strong, clever, handsome man—should
be so foolish over a girl! Besides, you ought to know that a girl
can't have things her own way always. Good-bye, Claude. Won't you
shake hands?" She laid her hand upon his shoulder,—just touched
it,—turned, and fled.
She had not far to go. The villa where she lived was within
five minutes' walk. She ran in, and found her mother alone in the
"My dear," the mother said, irritably, "I wish to goodness you
wouldn't run out after dinner. Where have you been?"
"Only into the garden, and to look at the sea."
"There's Sir William in the dining-room still."
"Let him stay there, mother dear. He'll drink up all the wine and
go to sleep, perhaps, and then we shall be rid of him."
"Go in, Florence, and bring him out. It isn't good for him, at his
age, to drink so much."
"Let the servants go," the girl replied, rebellious.
"My dear, your own accepted lover! Have you no right feeling? O
Florence! and when I am so ill, and you know—I told you—"
"A woman should not marry her grandfather. I've had more than
enough of him to-day already. You made me promise to marry him.
Until I do marry he may amuse himself. As soon as we are married,
I shall fill up all the decanters, and keep them full, and encourage
him to drink as much as ever he possibly can."
"My dear, are you mad?"
"Oh no! I believe I have only just come to my senses. Mad? No.
I have been mad. Now, when it is too late, I am sane. When it is
too late—when I have just understood what I have done."
"Nonsense, child! What do you mean by being too late? Besides, you
are doing what every girl does. You have accepted the hand of an
old man who can give you a fine position and a great income and
every kind of luxury. What more can a girl desire? When I die—you
know already—there will be nothing—nothing at all for you. Marriage
is your only chance."
At this moment the door opened, and Sir William himself appeared.
He was not, although a man so rich, and therefore so desirable,
quite a nice old man to look at—not quite such an old man as a
girl would fall in love with at first sight; but perhaps under the
surface there lay unsuspected virtues by the dozen. He was short
and fat; his hair was white; his face was red; he had great white
eyebrows; he had thick lips; his eyes rolled unsteadily, and his
shoulders lurched; he had taken much more wine than is good for a
man of seventy.
He held out both hands and lurched forward. "Florenshe," he said,
thickly, "letsh sit down together somewhere. Letsh talk, my dear."
The girl slipped from the proffered hands and fled from the room.
"Whatsh matter with the girl?" said Sir William.
Out at sea, all by itself, somewhere about thirty miles from a
certain good-sized island in a certain ocean, there lies another
little island—an eyot—about a mile long and half a mile broad. It
is a coral islet. The coral reef stretches out all round it, except
in one or two places, where the rock shelves suddenly, making it
possible for a ship to anchor there. The islet is flat, but all
round it runs a kind of natural sea-wall, about ten feet high and
as many broad; behind it, on the side which the wall protects from
the prevailing wind, is a little grove of low, stunted trees, the
name and kind of which the successive tenants of the island have
never been curious to ascertain. I am therefore unable to tell you
what they are. The area protected by the sea-wall, as low as the
sea-level, was covered all over with long, rank grass. At the
north end of the islet a curious round rock, exactly like a martello
tower, but rather higher, rose out of the water, separated from
the sea-wall by twenty or thirty feet of deep water, dark blue,
transparent; sometimes rolling and rushing and tearing at the sides
of the rock, sometimes gently lifting the seaweed that clung to
the sides. Round the top of the rock flew, screaming all the year
round, the sea-birds. Far away on the horizon, like a blue cloud,
one could see land; it was the larger island, to which this place
belonged. At the south end was a lighthouse, built just like all
lighthouses, with low white buildings at its foot, and a flagstaff,
and an enclosure which was a feeble attempt at a flower-garden.
You may see a lighthouse exactly like it at Broadstairs. In fact,
it is a British lighthouse. Half a mile from the lighthouse, where
the sea-wall broadened into a wide, level space, there was a wooden
house of four rooms—dining-room, salon, and two bedrooms. It was
a low house, provided with a veranda on either side. The windows
had no glass in them, but there were thick shutters in case
of hurricanes. There were doors to the rooms, but they were never
shut. Nothing was shut or locked up or protected. On the inner or
land side there was a garden, in which roses (a small red rose)
grew in quantities, and a few English flowers. The elephant-creeper,
with its immense leaves, clambered up the veranda poles and over
the roof. There was a small plot of ground planted pineapples, and
a solitary banana-tree stood under the protection of the house,
its leaves blown to shreds, its head bowed down.
Beyond the garden was a collection of three or four huts, where
lived the Indian servants and their families.
The residents of this retreat—this secluded earthly paradise—were
these Indian servants with their wives and children; the three
lighthouse men, who messed together; and the captain, governor, or
commander-in-chief, who lived in the house all by himself because
he had no wife or family.
Now the remarkable thing about this island is that, although it
is so far removed from any other inhabited place, and although it
is so small, the human occupants number many thousands. With the
exception of the people above named, these thousands want nothing:
neither the light of the the day or the warmth of the sun; neither
food nor drink. They lie side by side under the rank grass, without
headstones or even graves to mark their place, without a register
or record of their departure, without even coffins! There they
lie,—sailors, soldiers, coolies, negroes,—forgotten and lost as
much as if they had never been born. And if their work lives after
them, nobody knows what that work is. They belong to the vast army
of the Anonymous. Poor Anonymous! They do all the work. They grow
our corn and breed our sheep; they make and mend for us; they build
up our lives for us. We never know them, nor thank them, nor think
of them. All over the world, they work for their far-off brethren;
and when one dies, we know not, because another takes his place.
And at the last a mound of green grass, or even nothing but an
undistinguished strip of ground!
Here lay, side by side, the Anonymous—thousands of them. Did
I say they were forgotten? Not quite; they are remembered by the
two or three Indian women, wives of the Indian servants, who live
there. At sunset they and their children retreat to their huts,
and stay in them till sunrise next morning. They dare not so much
as look outside the door, because the place is crowded with white,
shivering, sheeted ghosts! Speak to one of these women; she will
point out to you, trembling, one, two, half a dozen ghosts. It
is true that the dull eye of the Englishman can see nothing. She
sees them—distinguishes them one from the other. She can see them
every night; yet she can never overcome her terror. The governor,
or captain, or commander-in-chief, for his part, sees nothing.
He sleeps in his house quite alone, with his cat and dog, windows
and doors wide open, and has no fear of any ghosts. If he felt any
fear, of course he would be surrounded and pestered to death every
night with multitudes of ghosts; but he fears nothing. He is a
doctor, you see; and no doctor ever yet was afraid of ghosts.
How did they come here—this huge regiment of dead men? In several
ways. Cholera accounts for most, yellow fever for some, other
fevers for some, but for the most cholera has been the destroyer.
Because, you see, this is Quarantine Island. If a ship has cholera
or any other infectious disease on board, it cannot touch at the
island close by, which is a great place for trade, and has every
year a quantity of ships calling; the infected ship has to betake
herself to Quarantine Island, where her people are landed, and
where they stay until she has a clear bill; and that sometimes is
not until the greater part of her people have changed their berths
on board for permanent lodgings ashore. Now you understand. The
place is a great cemetery. It lies under the hot sun of the tropics.
The sky is always blue; the sun is always hot. It is girdled by
the sea. It is always silent; for the Indian children do not laugh
or shout, and the Indian women are too much awed by the presence
of the dead to wrangle; always silent, save for the crying of the
sea-birds on the rock. There are no letters, no newspapers, no
friends, no duties—none save when a ship puts in; and then, for
the doctor, farewell rest, farewell sleep, until the bill of health
is clean. Once a fortnight or so, if the weather permits and if the
communications are open,—that is, if there is no ship there,—a boat
arrives from the big island with rations and letters and supplies.
Sometimes a visitor comes, but not often, because, should an
infected ship put in, he would have to stay as long as the ship.
A quiet, peaceful, monotonous life for one who is weary of the
world, or for a hermit; and as good as the top of a pillar for
silence and for meditation.
The islet lay all night long in much the same silence which lapped
and wrapped it all the day. The water washed musically upon the
shore; the light in the lighthouse flashed at intervals; there was
no other sign of life. Toward six o'clock in the morning the dark
east grew gray; thin, long white rays shot out across the sky, and
then the light began to spread. Before the gray turned to pink or
the pink to crimson, before there was any corresponding glow in the
western sky, the man who occupied the bungalow turned out of bed,
and came forth to the veranda, clad in the silk pajamas and silk
jacket which formed the evening or dress suit in which he slept.
The increasing light showed that he was a young man still, perhaps
about thirty—a young man with a strong and resolute face and
a square forehead. He stood under the veranda watching, as he had
done every day for two years or more, the break of day and the
sunrise. He drank in the delicious breeze, cooled by a thousand
miles and more of ocean. No one knows the freshness and sweetness
of the air until he has so stood in the open and watched the dawn
of a day in the tropics. He went back to the house, and came out
again clad in a rough suit of tweeds and a helmet. His servant
was waiting for him with his morning tea. He drank it, and sallied
forth. By this time the short-lived splendour of the east was fast
broadening to right and left, until it stretched from pole to a pole.
Suddenly the sun leaped up and the colours fled and the splendour
vanished. The sky became all over a deep, clear blue, and round
about the sun was a brightness which no eye but that of the sea-bird
can face and live. The man in the helmet turned to the sea-shore,
and walked briskly along the natural mound or sea-wall. Now and
then he stepped down upon the white coral sand, picked up a shell,
looked at it, and threw it away. When he came to the sea-birds'
rock, he sat down and watched it. In the deep water below, sea-snakes,
red and purple and green, were playing about; the bluefish, who
are not in the least afraid of the snakes, rolled lazily round and
round the rock; in the recesses lurked unseen the great conger-eel,
which dreads nothing but the thing of long and horny tentacles,
the ourite or squid: round and round the rock darted the humourous
tazaar, which bites the bathers in shallow waters all for fun and
mischief, and with no desire at all to eat their flesh; and besides
these a thousand curious creatures, which this man, who had trained
his eyes by days and days of watching, came here every day to look
at. While he stood there the sea-birds took no manner of notice
of him, flying close about him, lighting on the shore close at his
feet. They were intelligent enough to know that he was only dangerous
with a gun in his hand. Presently he got up and continued his walk.
All round the sea-wall of the island measures about three miles.
He took this walk every morning and every evening in the early cool
and the late. The rest of the time he spent indoors.
When he got back it was nearly seven, and the day was growing hot.
He took his towels, went down to the shore, to a place where the
coral reef receded, leaving a channel out to the open. The channel
swarmed with sharks, but he bathed there every morning, keeping in
the shallow water while the creatures watched him from the depths
beyond with longing eyes. He wore a pair of slippers on account
of the laf, which is a very pretty little fish indeed to look at;
but he lurks in dark places near the shore, and he is too lazy to
get out of the way, and if you put your foot near him he sticks
out his dorsal fin, which is prickly and poisoned; and when a man
gets that into the sole of his foot he goes home and cuts his leg
off, and has to pretend that he lost it in action.
When he had bathed, the doctor went back to his house, and performed
some simple additions to his toilet. That is to say, he washed the
salt water out of his hair and beard; not much else. As to collars,
neckties, braces, waistcoats, black coats, rings, or any such
gewgaws, they were not wanted on this island. Nor are watches and
clocks; the residents go by the sun. The doctor got up at daybreak,
and took his walk, as you have seen, and his bath. He was then
ready for his breakfast, a solid meal, in which fresh fish, newly
caught that morning, and curried chicken, with claret and water,
formed the principal part. A cup of coffee came after, with a cigar
and a book on the veranda. By this time the sun was high, and the
glare of forenoon had succeeded the coolness of the dawn. After
the cigar the doctor went indoors. The room was furnished with a
few pictures, a large bookcase full of books, chiefly medical, a
table covered with papers, and two or three chairs. No curtains,
carpets, or blinds; the doors and windows wide open to the veranda
on both sides.
He sat down and began writing; perhaps he was a novel. I think
no one could think of a more secluded place for writing a novel.
Perhaps he was doing something scientific. He continued writing
till past midday. When he felt hungry, he went into the dining-room,
took a biscuit or two, and a glass of vermuth. Then, because it
was now the hour for repose, and because the air outside was hot,
and the sea-breeze had dropped to a dead calm, and the sun was like
a red-hot glaring furnace overhead, the doctor kicked off his boots,
threw off his coat, lay down on a grass mat under the mosquito-curtain,
and instantly fell fast asleep. About five o'clock he awoke and
got up; the heat of the day was over. He took a long draught of
cold tea, which is the most refreshing and the coolest drink in the
world. The sun was now getting low, and the air was growing cool.
He put on his helmet, and set off again to walk round his domain.
This done, he bathed again. Then he went home as the sun sank, and
night fell instantly without the intervention of twilight. They
served him dinner, which was like his breakfast but for the addition
of some cutlets. He took his coffee; he took a pipe—two pipes,
slowly, with a book; he took a whisky-and-soda; and he went to bed.
I have said that he had no watch; it hung idly on a nail; therefore
he knew not the time, but it would very likely be about half-past
nine. However that might be, he was the last person up in this
ghostly Island of the Anonymous Dead.
This doctor, captain-general, and commandant of Quarantine Island
was none other than the young man who began this history with a
row royal and a kingly rage. You think, perhaps, that he had turned
hermit in the bitterness of his wrath, and for the faults of one
simple girl had resolved on the life of a solitary. Nothing of
the kind. He was an army doctor, and he left the service in order
to take this very eligible appointment, where one lived free, and
could spend nothing except a little for claret. He proposed to stay
there for a few years in order to make a little money by means of
which he might become a specialist. This was his ambition. As for
that love-business seven years past, he had clean forgotten it,
girl and all. Perhaps there had been other tender passages. Shall
a man, wasting in despair, die because a girl throws him over?
Never! Let him straightway forget her. Let him tackle his work; let
him put off the business of love—which can always wait—until he
can approach it once more in the proper spirit of illusion, and
once more fall to worshipping an angel.
Neither nature nor civilisation ever designed a man's life to be
spent in monotony. Most of us have to work for our daily bread,
which is always an episode, and sometimes a pretty dismal episode,
to break and mark the day. One day there came such a break in the
monotonous round of the doctor's life. It came in the shape of a
ship. She was a large steamer, and she steamed slowly.
It was early in the morning, before breakfast. The doctor and one
of the lighthouse men stood on the landing-place watching her.
"She's in quarantine, doctor, sure as sure," said the man. "I
wonder what's she's got. Fever, for choice; cholera, more likely.
Well, we take our chance."
"She's been in bad weather," said the doctor, looking at her
through his glass. "Look; she's lost her mizzen, and her bows are
stove in. I wonder what's the meaning of it. She's a transport." She
drew nearer. "Troops! Well, I'd rather have soldiers than coolies."
She was a transport. She was full of soldiers, time-expired men
and invalids going home. She was bound from Calcutta to Portsmouth.
She had met with a cyclone; driven out of her course and battered,
she was making for the nearest port when cholera broke out on board.
Before nightfall the island was dotted with white tents; a hospital
was rigged up with the help of the ship's spars and canvas. The
men were all ashore, and the quarantine doctor, with the ship's
doctor, was hard at work among the cases, and the men were dropping
in every direction.
Among the passengers were a dozen ladies and some children. The
doctor gave up his house to them, and retired to a tent or to the
lighthouse or anywhere to sleep. Much sleep could not be expected for
some time to come. He saw the boat land with the ladies on board;
he took off his hat as they walked past. There were old ladies,
middle-aged ladies, young ladies. Well, there always is this
combination. Then he went on with his work. But he had a curious
sensation, as if something of the past had been revived in his mind.
It is, however, not an uncommon feeling. And one of the ladies
changed colour when she saw him.
Then began the struggle for life. No more monotony in Quarantine
Island. Right and left, all day long, the men fell one after the
other; day after day more men fell, more men died. The two doctors
quickly organised their staff. The ship's officers became clinical
clerks; some of the ladies became nurses. And the men, the rough
soldiers, sat about in their tents with pale faces, expecting. Of
those ladies who worked there was one who never seemed weary, never
wanted rest, never asked for relief. She was at work all day and
all night in the hospital; if she went out, it was only to cheer
up the men outside. The doctor was but conscious of her work and of
her presence; he never spoke to her. When he came to the hospital,
another nurse received him; if he passed her, she seemed always
to turn away. At a less troubled time he would have observed this.
At times he felt again that odd sensation of a recovered past, but
he regarded it not; he had other things to consider. There is no
time more terrible for the courage of the stoutest man than a time
of cholera on board ship or in a little place whence there is no
escape; no time worse for a physician than one when his science
is mocked and his skill avails nothing. Day after day the doctor
fought from morning till night, and far on to the morning again;
day after day new graves were dug; day after day the chaplain read
over the new-made graves the service of the dead for the gallant
lads who thus died, inglorious, for their country.
There came a time, at last, when the conqueror seemed tired
of conquest; he ceased to strike. The fury of the disease spent
itself; the cases happened singly, one or two a day instead of ten
or twenty. The sick began to recover; they began to look about
them. The single cases ceased; the pestilence was stayed; and they
sat down to count the cost. There had been on board the transport
three hundred and seventy-five men, thirty-two officers, a dozen
ladies, a few children, and the ship's crew. Twelve officers,
two of the ladies, and a hundred men had perished when the plague
"One of your nurses is ill, doctor."
"Not cholera, I do hope."
"No; I believe a kind of collapse. She is at the bungalow. I told
them I would send you over."
"I will go at once."
He left a few directions, and walked over to the house. It was, he
found, the nurse who had been of all the most useful and the most
active. She was now lying hot and feverish, her mind wandering,
inclined to ramble in her talk. He laid his hand upon her temples;
he felt her pulse; he looked upon her face; the odd feeling
of something familiar struck him again. "I don't think it is very
much," he said. "A little fever. She may have been in the sun; she
has been working too hard; her strength has given way." He still
held her wrist.
"Claude," murmured the sick girl, "you are very cruel. I didn't
know—and a girl cannot always have her own way."
Then he recognised her.
"Good heavens!" he cried, "it is Florence!"
"Not always have her own way," she repeated. "If I could have had
my own way, do you think I would—"
"Florence!" he said again; "and I did not even recognise her.
Another of the ladies, the colonel's wife, was standing beside him.
"You know her, doctor?"
"I knew her a long time ago—some years ago—before she married."
"Married? Florence is not married. You must be thinking of some
"No. This is Florence Vernon, is it not? Yes. Then she was formerly
engaged to marry a certain Sir William Duport."
"Oh, I believe there was some talk about an old man who wanted to
marry her. But she wouldn't have him. It was just before her mother
died. Did you know her mother?"
"I knew her mother a little when they were living at Eastbourne.
So she refused the old man, did she? and has remained unmarried.
Curious! I had almost forgotten her. The sight of her brings back
the old days. Well, after she has pulled so gallantly through the
cholera, we cannot have her beaten by a little fever. Refused the
old man, did she?"
In the dead of night he sat watching by the bedside, the colonel's
wife with him.
"I had almost forgotten," whispered the lady, "that story of the
old baronet. She told me about it once. Her mother was ill, and
anxious about her daughter because she had next to nothing except
an annuity. The old man offered; he was an unpleasant old man, but
there was a fine house and everything. It was all arranged. The girl
was quite a child, and understood nothing. She was to be sold, in
fact, to this old person, who ought to have been thinking of his
latter end instead of a pretty girl. Then the mother died suddenly,
and the girl broke it off. She was a clever girl, and she has been
teaching. For the last three years she has been in India; now she
is going home under my charge. She is a brave girl, doctor, and
a good girl. She has received half a dozen offers, but she has
refused them all; so I think there must be somebody at home."
"Claude," murmured the girl, wandering, "I never thought you would
care so much. If I had thought so, I would not have encouraged
you. Indeed, indeed, I would not. I thought we were only amusing
"Claude is a pretty name. What is your own Christian name, doctor?"
asked the colonel's wife, curiously.
"It is—in fact—it is Claude," he replied, blushing; but there
was not enough light to see his blushes.
"Dear me!" said the colonel's wife.
A few days later the patient, able to sit for a while in the shade
of the veranda, was lying in a long cane chair. Beside her sat
the colonel's wife who had nursed her through the attack. She was
reading aloud to her. Suddenly she stopped. "Here comes the doctor,"
she said; "and, Florence, my dear, his name, you know, is Claude.
I think you have got something to talk about with Claude besides
the symptoms." With these words she laughed, nodded her head, and
ran into the salon.
The veranda, with its green blinds of cane hanging down, and its
matting on the floor, and its easy-chairs and tables, made a pretty
room to look at. In the twilight, the fragile figure, pale, thin,
dressed in white, would have lent interest even to a stranger. To
the doctor, I suppose, it was only a "case." He pushed the blinds
aside and stepped in, strong, big, masterful. "You are much better,"
he said; "you will very soon be able to walk about. Only be careful
for a few days. It was lucky that the attack came when it did,
and not a little earlier when we were in the thick of the trouble.
Well, you won't want me much longer, I believe."
"No, thank you," she murmured, without raising her eyes.
"I have had no opportunity," he said, standing over her, "of
explaining that I really did not know who you were, Miss Vernon.
Somehow I didn't see your face, or I was thinking of other things.
I suppose you had forgotten me. Anyhow, it was not until the other
day, when I was called in, that I remembered. But I dare say you
have forgotten me."
"No; I have not forgotten."
"I thought that long ago you had become Lady Duport."
"No; that did not take place."
"I hear that you have been teaching since your mother's death. Do
you like it?"
"Yes; I like it."
"Do you remember the last time we met—on the sea-shore? Do you
remember, Florence?" His voice softened suddenly. "We had a quarrel
about that old villain; do you remember?"
"I thought you had forgotten such a little thing as that long ago,
and the girl you quarrelled with."
"The point is rather whether you remember. That is of much more
"I remember that you swore that you would never forgive a worthless
girl who had ruined your life. Did I ruin your life, Dr. Fernie?"
He laughed. He could not honestly say that she had. In fact, his
life, so far as concerned his work, had gone on much about the
same. But then, such a man does not allow love to interfere with
"And then you went and threw over the old man. Florence, why didn't
you tell me that you were going to do that? You might have told
She shook her head. "Until you fell into such a rage, and called
me such dreadful names, I did not understand."
"Why didn't you tell me, Florence?" he repeated.
She shook her head again.
"You were only a little innocent, ignorant child then," he said;
"of course you could not understand. I was an ass and a brute and
a fool not to know."
"You said you would never forgive me. You said you would never
shake hands with me again."
He held out his hand. "Since," he said, "you are not going to
marry the old man, and since you are not engaged to anybody else,
why—then—in that case—the old state of things is still going
on; and—and—Florence—but if you give me your hand, I shall keep
"Dear me!" said the colonel's wife, standing in the doorway. "Do
quarantine doctors always kiss their patients? But you told me,
doctor dear, that your Christian name was Claude; didn't you? That
The ship, with those of her company whom the plague had spared,
presently steamed away, and, after being repaired, made her way to
Portsmouth dockyard. But one of her company stayed behind, and is
now queen or empress of the island of which her husband is king,
captain, commandant, and governor-general, and also resident
THE ROCK SCORPIONS
The screw steamer Jenny Jones was lying alongside a coal-hulk at
Gibraltar one October afternoon. By three o'clock her bunkers were
nearly filled, and the captain was getting ready for casting off,
when one of the natives came on board. Captain Hindhaugh looked
about for something to throw at the visitor, and only the difficulty
of selecting an efficient missile from a large and varied assortment
prevented him from letting fly at once.
The "Scorpion" said, "Ah, no, no, Capeetan! No been throw nothin'
at myself. Beesiness! I'se been com' for beesiness. Big thing,
The last phrase was spoken with such a profound wink that
Hindhaugh held his hand, and, addressing the man as one would an
ill-conditioned dog, said, "Don't keep bowing and scraping there,
you tastrel! Get it out sharp!"
The Scorpion whispered, "No been talk up here. Keep ship one hour,
two hour, three hour. You'se been com' with me, and I speak you
Like many of his tribe, this interesting native spoke a kind
of English which is not heard anywhere else on the Mediterranean
shore. A few of the people on the Rock learn to talk very well to
our men, but most of those who come about the ships use a picturesque
lingo in which "myself" the place of quite a variety of parts of
Hindhaugh invited the man below, and asked him to explain himself.
The fellow leaned over the table and chattered on, throwing quick
side glances at every few words.
"This been big thing, Capeetan. You get away a little; drop your
anchor a little. Then three felucca com' alongside, and you'se been
hoist bales. Then you 'se go where agent say you. Very big thing.
Five thousand sovereign."
"What is it? tobacco?"
"That been it."
"I'm not going out of Portuguese waters at no price."
"Ah, no, no, Cheesu, Capeetan—no! Five mile. We have felucca there
ready. I 'se been see him myself."
"What's the figure? what's the money?"
"You com' 'shore and see agent with myself."
Hindhaugh put a revolver in his pocket and went on deck; the
Scorpion got ashore, and hung about with an air of innocence. The
captain was about to follow when the man in charge of the hulk
called out, "Do you intend to keep bumping us like this all night?
Why don't you cast off? You're knocking us all to flinders."
Hindhaugh beckoned. "Look here, my good chap, it won't matter to
you for a couple of hours. Let us lie till dusk, and then I'll
get away. I've got important business ashore."
"That's very well, Captain. But look here; if there's anything on,
I'm in it. You understand—I'm in it."
"You understand that, do you? Well then, I'll tell you to keep
your mouth shut just now, or never another ton of coal will you
put aboard of us as long as I run here."
"All right, Captain. No need to be nasty. You'll do the square
thing, I bet."
Then Hindhaugh went ashore, and the Scorpion walked on ahead,
gazing on architectural beauties with easy interest. Presently the
two men came to a narrow stairway, and the Englishman gripped his
revolver. A dark-eyed Spaniard was waiting on a landing, and held
up two fingers when the guide passed. The Scorpion knocked at
a greasy door, and an ugly fellow, with a cowl on, looked out and
nodded. Hindhaugh stepped into a room that reeked with garlic and
decay. Two men sat in the steamy dusk at the far side. An oily
gentleman rose and bowed. "I'm the interpreter, Captain. You and
this merchant must do your business through me. What'll you take
"Get through your business, mister. I'm not wanting any drink."
In brief, jerky sentences the interpreter explained what was wanted.
"You steam slowly till you're near the Fleet. Then put all your
men on and get the stuff up. This man goes with you, and he'll
tell you where to go. Lie five miles off Huelva."
"I sha'n't go except to Portuguese waters."
"Good. Then the lighters will come and the men will discharge
"And now," said the captain, "what about me? How much?"
"One hundred and twenty pounds."
"Can't be done. Make it two hundred and fifty."
After some haggling, a bargain was made for two hundred and twenty.
Then Hindhaugh went further: "I want one hundred and ten down before
we start, and the balance before you take an ounce of tobacco out
This was settled; the merchant bowed, and the skipper went away,
still keeping his hand on the revolver. Every cranny in the walls
seemed fit to hide a murderer—seemed made for nothing else; and
Hindhaugh thought what a fool he must have been to venture under
that foul arch.
On getting aboard, the captain sent for his brother, who sailed
as mate with him. He said, "Now, Jack, I'm going to run some risk.
You take this pistol, and get her oiled and put right. When you see
three feluccas coming alongside, get all the chaps on deck—the Dora's
crew as well as ours." (Hindhaugh was taking home a ship-wrecked
crew, and he was very grateful just then for that accession of
force.) "Whack on everything you know, and get the bales up sharp.
Tell the engineers to stand by for driving her, and leave the rest
to me. If we're nailed we'll be detained, and I don't know what
may happen; so you'll have to look slippy."
Jack replied, "All right, sir!" Quarter-deck manners were punctiliously
observed by one of the brothers.
The shadows fell low, and the crown of the Rock grew dim.
The creeping wind stole over the Pearl Rock, and set the sinister
ripples dancing; the bugles sang mysteriously through the gloom,
and the mystery of the night was in the air. The Jenny Jones stole
quietly toward the broad sheet of water where the vessels of the
Fleet heaved up their shadowy bulk above the lapping flood. All the
English sailors were stripped to the shirt, and a low hum of excited
talk came from amidships. Suddenly the raking yard of a felucca
started out from amid the haze; then came another, and another.
A sailor slipped a cork fender over the side, and there was a
muffled bump and a slight scrape. Jack, the mate, whispered, "Now,
you cripples!" and a brief scene of wild hurry and violent labour
ensued. Bale after bale was whisked aboard; the Englishmen worked
as only English sailors can, and the Scorpions excelled themselves
under the influence of fear and black wine. When the last bale was
up, Hindhaugh said to the man who first boarded him, "Who's got
"Me, Capeetan. All right. Honest man myself. You'se been have
"Well then, it's neck or nothing. We have half an hour to clear
out into the Gut. Come below, and shell out."
The Scorpion counted out one hundred pounds in gold, and then asked,
"That be enough? Other money all right other end."
"Deuce a bit! Down with the other ten or I sliver you."
The Scorpion did not know what "sliver" meant, but the gleam of
the skipper's cold eye was enough for him. He paid up and went on
Hindhaugh had just said to the engineer, "Now, rive the soul out
of her," when a low, panting sound was heard, and a white shape
appeared gliding over the water. The captain had let the feluccas
go, and the Jenny Jones was moving. He waved for the mate. "It's
all up. Here's a mess. You must go home overland; suppose you swim
ashore. Steady the men down."
Jack performed one or two steps of a dance, and placed his finger
against his nose. He rather enjoyed a scrape, did this frivolous
chief officer. The white shape came nearer, and a sharp whistle
sounded. Hindhaugh had known well enough that it was a steam-launch
that made the panting noise, and he got ready for the worst. The
launch drew right across the bows of the steamer, and then the
throbbing of the little engines ceased. Again the whistle sounded;
the launch gave a bound forward; then she struck away into the
darkness, and Hindhaugh drew a long breath.
In an instant every possible ounce of steam was put on, and the
Jenny Jones went away at eleven knots toward the Gut. All night
long the firemen were kept hard at it, and before morning the Rock
was far astern of the driving steamboat.
Three of the Scorpions had stayed aboard, and Captain Hindhaugh
noticed that they earned their knives. He noticed, too, that the
cringing manner which the fellows had shown before the Rock was
cleared had given place to a sort of subdued swagger.
About noon the engines were slowed down almost to nothing, and
the Jenny Jones crept gently on toward the shore. By four o'clock
the vessel was well into Portuguese waters, and Hindhaugh was
prepared to defy any quantity of Spanish coast-guards. When the
sun had dipped low the Scorpion-in-chief came aft, and pointed
mysteriously to the northeast.
"You'se been look where I point myself. Feluccas! You'se follow
them in and drop anchor."
Hindhaugh smiled. "Do you think you're talking to a fool? Come you
below there, and let me have that other money sharp."
"Ah, Capeetan, wait till agent's man come with felucca. I'se been
have no money myself."
Hindhaugh was not a person to be trifled with. He quietly took
out his revolver. "Now, do you see that pretty thing? First shot
for you. Look at that block forrad, and see how much chance you'll
have if I fire at you." The pop of the revolver sounded, and then
Hindhaugh went forward, pulling the Scorpion with him. "Do you see
that hole, you image? How would you like if that was your gizzard?
Now, no games, my joker."
The Scorpion begged for time, and Hindhaugh was so sure of his
man that he made no further objection. He had another conference
with Jack, and, to that worthy man's great delight, he expressed
"We're going to have a fight over this job," said the skipper. "I'm
dead sure of it. Go down and load the two muskets, and give them
to the safest men. When the lighters DO come, borrow the fireman's
iron rods. I've lent the steward my bowie that I got at Charleston,
and you can try and hold that old bulldog straight. We mustn't show
the least sign of funking."
Then Hindhaugh and his brother called for tea, and fed solidly.
The Scorpion whispered down the companion, "They'se been com'," and
the captain went on deck. Two large felucca-rigged lighters hove
up slowly through the dusk, and the chief Scorpion's signal was
answered. Hindhaugh saw both lighters draw near, he felt the usual
scraping bump, and then he heard a sudden thunder of many feet.
The second mate sung out, "Here's half a hundred of these devils,
sir. They're all armed to the teeth." And sure enough, a set of
ferocious-looking rapscallions had boarded the steamer. They looked
like low-class Irishmen browned with walnut-juice. Each man had
a heavy array of pistols in his sash, and all of them carried ugly
knives. The Scorpion waved to the gang, and they arranged themselves
around the pile of bales that stuck out through the after-hatch.
Hindhaugh had fully discounted all the chances, and had made up
his mind to one thing: he wouldn't be "done."
The Scorpion imperiously observed, "Come below, Capeetan," and
Hindhaugh went. Then the defiant native of the Rock put his back
against the cabin door, heaved out his chest in a manly way, and
said, "Now, Capeetan, you no have more money. You speak much, and
I'se been get your throat cut myself."
"You've got no money?"
"No; not a damn dollar."
"You won't keep to your bargain?"
"No; you come 'shore for your money if you want him."
Hindhaugh made up his mind in a flash. In spite of his habit of
wearing a frock-coat and tall hat, he was more than half a pirate,
and he would have ruffled it, like his red-bearded ancestors, had
fighting been still the usual employment of Norsemen. He marked his
man's throat, and saw that the insolent hands could not get at a
knife quickly. Then he sprang at the Scorpion, gripped him by the
windpipe, and swung him down. The fellow gurgled, but he couldn't
cry out. Hindhaugh called the steward, and that functionary came
out of his den with the long bowie. "Sit on him," said the captain.
"If he stirs cut his throat. Now, you, if you move a finger you're
done." The steward straddled across the Scorpion, and held the
knife up in a sarcastic way.
Hindhaugh went swiftly on deck, and stepped right among the jabbering
Spaniards. He smiled as though nothing had happened, but when he
saw one man lay hold of a bale he pulled him back. "Tell them I'll
shoot the first man that tries to lift a bale till I'm ready."
This message brought on a torrent of talk, which gave the captain
time. He whispered to Jack, "Sneak you round through the engine-room.
That lighter's made fast forrad; the second one's fast here. Get
a hatchet from the carpenter, and set him alongside of the second
rope. When I whistle twice, both of you nick the ropes, and we'll
jink these swindling swine." The engineer also received orders to
go full speed ahead on the instant that the whistle sounded.
Hindhaugh kept up his air of good-humour, although the full sense
of the risk he ran was in his mind. His threat of shooting had made
the Spaniards suspicious, although they were used to big talk of
the kind. One peep into the cabin would have brought on a collision,
and although the Englishmen might have fought, there was nothing
to gain by a fight. Everything depended on swiftness of action, and
Hindhaugh determined grimly that if rapidity could do anything he
would teach the "furriners" a lesson for trying to swindle him.
He said, very politely, "We're all ready now. You get your men
aboard the lighters, and we'll soon rash your cargo over the side."
This was transmitted to the smugglers, and immediately they swarmed
aboard their own boats. They had rather expected a quarrel, and
this pacific solution pleased them. As Jack afterward said, "They
blethered like a lot o' wild geese."
All the foreigners were gone but three. Hindhaugh stepped quietly
up to the interpreter, and said, very low, "I'm covering you with
my revolver from inside my pocket. Don't you stir. Is that other
money going to be paid?"
The interpreter had been innocent of all knowledge of the wild
work in the cabin. He stammered, "I thought by your way it was all
right. Where's our man?"
"I've got him safe enough. Ask those fellows in the lighters if any
of them can pay the freight for the job. If you tell them to fire
they may miss me, and I can't miss you."
No one, not even the consignee's man, had any money; the smugglers
meant to trick the Revenue, and the English captain as well.
Hindhaugh whistled, and then roared out, "Lie down, all of you! Ram
her ahead!" The hatchets went crack, crack; the steamer shuddered
and plunged forward; and the lighters bumped swiftly astern.
"Over the side, you animals, or I'll take you out to sea and drown
The three Spaniards rushed to the side, and took flying leaps into
the lighters. Hindhaugh stooped low and ran to the companion. "Let
that beggar up," he shouted. The Scorpion scuttled on deck. "Now,
mister, I'll let you see if you'll take me in. Over you go. Over
the stern with you, and mind the propeller doesn't carve you." Two
shots were fired, but they went wild. The Scorpion saw the whole
situation; he poised for a second on the rail, and then jumped
for it, and Hindhaugh laughed loudly as his enemy came up blowing.
Jack performed a triumphal war-dance on the steamer's bridge, and
the Jenny Jones was soon far out of pistol range.
All that night Captain Hindhaugh did not sleep a wink. He was quite
persuaded that he had acted the part of an exemplary Briton. What
is the use of belonging to the ruling race if a mere foreigner is
to do as he likes with you? But the adventurous skipper had landed
himself in a pretty mess, and the full extent of his entanglement
grew on him every minute. At twelve o'clock, when the watch was
relieved, Jack came aft in a state of exultation that words cannot
describe. He chuckled out, "Well, sir, we've made our fortunes
this time." Hindhaugh damped his spirits by saying, slowly, "Not
too fast; that 'baccy's got to go overboard, my boy." Jack's mental
processes became confused. He had been measuring the cubic contents
of the smuggled goods, and the thought of wasting such a gift of
the gods fairly stunned him. Had it been cotton, his imagination
would not have been touched. But 'baccy! and overboard! It was
too much, and he groaned. He was ready with expedients at once.
"Why not run it to Holland?"
"Can't be done; where's our bill of lading?"
"Make up one yourself; you have plenty of forms."
"And suppose the luck goes the wrong way. What's to happen to
me—and to you too for that matter?"
"Run to a tobacco port, and warehouse the stuff in your own name."
"We're not bound for a tobacco port. What's to be done about the
cargo of ore that we are carrying? No, John; the whole five thousand
pounds must go over the side."
Next morning broke joyously. The sea looked merry with miles of
brisk foam, and the little Portuguese schooners flew like butterflies
hither and thither. Every cloud of spray plucked from the dancing
crests flashed like white fire under the clear sun. It was one of
the mornings when one cannot speak for gladness. But Hindhaugh's
thoughts were fixed on material things. The rich bales lay there,
and their presence affected him like a sarcasm. The men were called
aft, and the shovels used for trimming grain were brought up. Then
the captain said, "Now each of you take a pound or two of this
tobacco, and then break the bales and shovel the rest overboard."
The precious packages were burst, and the sight of the beautiful
leaf, the richness of the tender aroma, affected the sailors with
remorse. It was like offering up a sacrifice. But the captain's
orders were definite; so until near noon the shovels were plied
smartly, and one hundredweight after another of admirable tobacco
drifted away on the careless sea.
Hindhaugh watched grimly until at last his emotions overcame him.
He growled, "Confound it, I can't do it! Belay there, men; I'll have
another think over this job." And think he did, with businesslike
solemnity, all day long. He saw that he might make a small fortune
by risking his liberty, and the curious morality of the British
sailor prevented him from seeing shades of right or wrong where
contraband business was concerned. Had you told him that the
tobacco was stolen, he would have pitched you overboard; he felt
his morality to be unimpeachable; it was only the question of
expediency that troubled him. For three days it was almost unsafe
to go near him, so intently did he ponder and plan. On the fifth
day he had worked his way through his perplexities, and was ready
with a plan. A pilot cutter came in sight, and Hindhaugh signalled
her. The pilot's boat was rowed alongside, and the bronzed and
dignified chief swaggered up to the captain with much cordiality.
No one is so cordial as a pilot who has secured a good ship. The
two men exchanged news, and gradually slid into desultory talk.
Suddenly Hindhaugh said, "Are you game for a bit of work? Do you
ever DO anything?"
The pilot was virtuously agitated. He drew himself up, and, taking
care that the mate should hear, answered, "Me! Not for the wurrrld,
Cap'n. I've got a wife and children, sir."
"All right, Pilot, never mind; come down and have some tea."
Then Hindhaugh gradually drew his man out, until the pilot
was absolutely confidential. The captain knew by the very excess
of purity expressed in the pilot's first answer that he was not
dealing with a simpleton; but he carefully kept away from the main
subject which was in his (and the pilot's) mind. At last the man
leaned over and gave a masonic sign. "What was that job you was
speaking about, Cap'n? We're near home now, you know. Better not
go too near."
Hindhaugh played a large card. He smiled carelessly. "Fact is, I've
just told the fellows to shy the stuff overboard; I shall risk no
"Mercy me, Cap'n! You're mad. How did I know who you were? I see
all about it now, but I did not know what game you might have on
with me. I'm in it, you know, if the dimes is right!"
"Why, if the job's big enough. You stand off for a day; go down to
the Sleeve, and hang round, and I'll find you a customer."
"If you do, I pay you three hundred pound as soon as his money's
"Done, then. My boat's not gone far. Whistle her, and I'll go slap
for Bristol. Never you mind for a day or two. How's your coals?"
"They're all right. You scoot now, and fetch your man over this
way. I'll go half-speed to the sou'west for twelve hours, another
twelve hours half-speed back. You'll find us."
In thirty-six hours the pilot cutter came back, and a Hebrew
gentleman boarded the Jenny Jones from her. After a long inspection,
the visitor said, "Now look here, I must have a hundred per cent.
margin out of this. What's your figure?"
"Two thousand five hundred."
"Won't do. Say two thousand, and you pay the jackal out of that."
"Done. And how do you manage?"
"I'll split the lot up among three trawlers. You wait off, and
give the jackal an extra fifty for bringing the boats down. I risk
Another night passed, and the dawn was breaking coldly when the
dirty sails of the trawlers came in sight. Ship after ship had
hailed Hindhaugh, and offered to tow him if anything had happened
to his engines. He knew he would be reported as lying off apparently
disabled, and he was in a feverish state of excitement. The Hebrew
speculator watched the last bale down the side, and then handed over
the money, had a glass of brandy with the pilot, and departed—whither
Hindhaugh neither knew nor cared. The Jenny Jones ran for her
port. She had just slowed down, and the great waves of smoke from
the town were pouring over her, when two large boats, heavily
laden with men, came off to her. The men swarmed up the side, and
the officer in command shouted, "Bring up the pickaxes, and go to
work!" The hatches were pulled off before the steamer had taken up
her moorings, and the men went violently to work among the ore.
Hindhaugh looked innocent, and inquired, "What's all this about,
"Fact is, Captain, we've got a telegram from Gibraltar to say you
have contraband on board. You may save all trouble if you make a
"Contraband! Who told you that?"
"Oh, we should have known without the wire. That gentleman on the
quay there came overland, and he put us up to you."
Hindhaugh looked ashore, and saw a dark face that he knew well. He
whistled and smiled. Then he said to the officer, "You may just
as well stop those poor beggars from blistering their hands. You
won't find anything here except what the men have in the forecastle.
You're done this journey fairly. Come away down and liquor, and
I'll tell you all about it." Then Hindhaugh gave an artistic account
of the whole transaction, and put the matter in such a light that
the custom-house officer cordially congratulated him on having
escaped without a slit weasand.
The Jenny Jones went back to Gibraltar, and Captain Hindhaugh was
very careful never to go ashore without a companion. One day he
was passing a chandler's shop when a sunken glitter of dark eyes
met him. His old acquaintance, the chief Scorpion, was looking
stilettos and poison at him. But Hindhaugh went by in his big,
burly way, and contented himself with setting on three watchmen
every night during his stay. To this day he is pleased with himself
for having given the foreigners a lesson in the elements of morality,
and he does not fear their knives one whit.
THE MASTER OF THE "CHRYSOLITE"
BY G. B. O'HALLORAN
Captain Anderson stood alone in the world. But he was one who COULD
stand alone, for his will was strong and his affections were weak.
Those who thought they knew him best said he was hardy. The remainder
said he was hard, his heart a stone. Still he was a human being, for,
like others, he cherished hobbies. His hobbies, however, were not
of that class which is compassed about by rest and roses. Instead,
they were clothed with a stern delight born of defiance and danger.
To work his ship across the Bay in the teeth of an adverse gale; to
weather a lee shore; to master a rebellious crew single-handed—these
were the wild diversions which satisfied him. Once, in the China
seas, his men grew mutinous, said the ship was "leaking like a
lobster-pot," and straightway put her about for Singapore; swore
they did not care what the skipper thought—in fact, would like
to talk to him a bit. The skipper was below when the first mate
brought down the news and a very pale face as well.
"Tell the men to muster!"
So soon as the mate's back was turned, John Anderson took a revolver
from a locker and charged it; then, ascending the companion-ladder,
he walked to the break of the poop, with his hands buried in the
pockets of a pea-jacket. Down below him were the men, lolling
about in a sullen crowd on the weather side of the quarter-deck.
They were thirty or forty in number, and were a vicious-looking
"Now then, my men! Half an hour ago we were steering due northeast.
Who was it dared to lay the ship's nose the other way?"
The burly boatswain swung his way out of the crowd, planted his foot
on the first step of the poop-ladder, and stared up at the captain.
"I did, and be damned to you!" roared he. There was a loud report.
The boatswain dropped, shot in the leg. And the crew shivered under
a gleaming eye and a gleaming weapon.
"All hands 'bout ship!" cried the master. The wounded boatswain,
raising himself for a moment on one hand, piped faintly, and fell
back unconscious. But the men were already at their stations, and
in five minutes more the Chrysolite was heading northeast again.
Such incidents as these gave John Anderson an unenviable reputation
among sailors. It was seldom that the same crew served him twice.
Two voyages under this tartar were more than could be stood, and
from his subordinates, therefore, he gained nothing but hatred
It was very difficult, then, to find out where Captain Anderson's
weakness lay. Everybody, of course, has his weakness. But this man
appeared to be all strength. His whole life seemed like a rod of
burnished steel—a passion-proof life, a fire-proof rod. The owners
of the Chrysolite, Messrs. Ruin & Ruin, of Billiter Street, piqued
themselves on knowing his tender point. He was avaricious, thought
they; he would do much for money, and they would some day try him
in the furnace. It was true, indeed, that the old sailor had amassed
considerable wealth during his frequent voyages to the East. It
was true also that he was sparing and saving; that he drove bargains
to the verge of perdition, and clinched them at the crucial moment.
But it was equally true that he was free from fraud. His teas were
what they pretended to be, his silks unimpeachable, and no man
ever came back upon him with complaints of their genuineness. The
world allowed that he was at least commercially honourable, but
felt fully convinced that he was eaten up with the desire for gold.
But the world was wrong. The captain himself was sometimes given
to metaphysical speculation, and even HE was puzzled to know if
his heart had a whit more feeling than any other pumping-engine.
Women he looked upon as frivolities of vanity to which he could
not reconcile his stern nature; and men he regarded as instruments
to be rigorously disciplined, not failing at the same time
to discipline himself. His heart was of no use to him except to
circulate his blood. In default, therefore, of loving anything,
he fell naturally to pursuing a difficult task—the piling up of a
mountain of gold. This was congenial solely because it was difficult,
and difficulties overcome were his only sources of satisfaction.
Now it happened that a new firm trading to the East, in competition
with Messrs. Ruin & Ruin, had made advances to Captain Anderson
with a view to engaging him in their service; and as they offered
liberal terms, including a handsome percentage, it was not long
before the old seaman was won over. Here is a chance, thought he, of
heaping up my mountain so much the more quickly, and I am determined
that my actions shall not be hampered by sentiment. Notwithstanding
this last threat, he found it a very unpleasant thing to break with
his old employers, one of whose ships he had commanded for a score
of years. But he would get scot-free of them before he finally concluded
negotiations with the new people. And so it came to pass that one
morning he walked along Billiter Street with his twenty-year-old
commission in his pocket.
It is curious how fond real old salts are of dress when ashore.
Here was John Anderson in a top-hat and kid gloves, looking anything
but at home in them. The glossy hat was a mockery to his bold
sea-worn face, and his big knuckles were almost bursting through
the soft kid with indignation at the affront put upon them.
He reached the chambers in which the firm of Messrs. Ruin & Ruin
was established, and ascended the staircase, for the office was on
the second floor. The senior partner was within, and the captain
was admitted into his room without delay.
"Glad to see you, Captain Anderson," said Mr. Ruin, in an unusually
cordial tone, at the same time shaking hands. "You've made a capital
passage, and freighted the Chrysolite well."
Mr. Ruin was a big, fat man who spoke oilily. His clean-shaven
face was never without the remnants of a smile—a smile, though,
which was not remarkable for its sincerity. Still, it had its
value,—in the market,—for it was a commercial smile. A pair of
small gray eyes were almost hidden by the obese curves of his cheeks;
but you learned in a very short time that they kept a sharp and
shrewd lookout from behind those ramparts. The two men sat down at
opposite sides of the table, the owner guessing from the captain's
manner that there was something in the wind, and the captain
thinking his employer's exuberance of civility betokened more than
"Yes, I brought her a quick passage," replied Anderson; then, looking
straight at the owner, "and it's the last she'll make under me."
The remnants of a smile coalesced, ploughing up Mr. Ruin's cheeks
into greasy furrows.
"My dear Captain, we could not hear of it! We're too old friends
to part like that."
"Well, sir, I've come this morning, for private reasons, to throw
up my commission," said the captain, simultaneously throwing down
his commission before the senior partner's eyes.
"I can't accept it, Mr. Anderson; I can't indeed," replied the
owner, picking up the parchment. "And I'll tell you why. My brother
and I have been thinking matters over, and we've really been obliged
to confess, for conscience' sake, that the Chrysolite is getting
"Devilish old!" muttered the captain, forgetting himself for a
"Well, now I think of it again, I believe my brother did say she
was 'devilish old'—a strange coincidence. Still she is a fine
model of a boat. What d' ye think yourself?"
"She has rare lines," said the other, with a slight approach to
"The very remark I made myself only yesterday. Yes, we agreed she
was a pretty boat; and I admit, from sheer sentiment, I cannot bear
to think of her being chopped up for firewood. So inharmonious,
don't you think?"
The old sailor looked sullen and said nothing.
Mr. Ruin leaned his elbows well on to the table in a confidential
manner, and reduced his voice to husky whispering.
"My brother told me he should not mind seeing her end her days as
a picturesque wreck, but to sell her for match-wood was barbarous.
I was really of the same opinion. And—and—couldn't it be managed
for her, Captain Anderson?"
The two looked at each other narrowly. "If you can get any one to
do it, of course it can be done. But I would sooner—"
"Now before you judge, hear me, Captain. I feel sure you could
find that man if you chose. See; the Chrysolite is insured in
the Jupiter Insurance Company for nine thousand pounds. Here is
the policy. And the man that saves her from the axe, and makes a
picturesque wreck of her, will earn the gratitude of Messrs. Ruin
& Ruin, and three thousand pounds besides."
For once even the remnants of a smile had disappeared from the
senior partner's face, and he stood confessed—the type of a cool
The sailor, on the other hand, was agitated as no one had ever seen
him before. The veins stood out on his brawny throat like rope;
his eyelids were purple; for a few moments his head swam. Then he
righted himself as suddenly, with an emphatic refusal ready on his
lips. But the wily partner had left the room. This gave Anderson
time to think, and the more he thought the more that pile of gold
forced itself before him, until, forsooth, he fell to thinking
how such an end COULD be compassed—by another commander. He saw
clearly that a skilful seaman might achieve this thing with slight
danger to himself and his crew. And all this time the three thousand
pounds shone so lustrously that his moral vision was dazzled, and
the huge iniquity of the whole affair was rapidly vanishing from
When Mr. Ruin reentered, Anderson was looking ashamed and guilty.
"Well, Captain, can I help you to a conclusion?" came from the
"It's this way," replied the old man, turning round, but keeping
his eyes fixed on the carpet; "I can't do it. No, I can't."
Mr. Ruin eyed him dubiously, and rubbed his chin gently. "I'm
sorry—very, very sorry! Three thousand pounds won't go long begging,
though. And I shall have to accept your resignation, Captain."
Anderson only took up his hat and walked slowly out of the room.
He had not descended many steps when he turned back and reopened
"No, sir," he said; "it can't be done. I must think it over,
and—no—it can't be done." With that he went his way, miserable.
The same night he received a letter by post. It contained his old
commission, reinstating him in the command of the Chrysolite.
Four months later the Chrysolite was unloading a general cargo in
Mauritius harbour. Captain Anderson had thought it over.
The quay was quickly covered with Manchester bales and Birmingham
cases; and it was not long before the tackle at the main-yard arm
was set a-clicking, as the baskets of sand ballast were hove up
to be poured into the empty hold. No such luxuries were there as
steam-winches; not any of those modern appliances for lightening
labour. Instead, five or six hands plied the ponderous work at
the winch handles, the labour being substantially aggravated by
the heat of a vertical sun. A spell at the orthodox hand-winch in
the tropics is an ordeal not to be lightly spoken of, and sailors
have the very strongest objection to the work. It requires the
utmost vigilance on the part of the captain, therefore, to prevent
the feebler spirits from deserting. He was able, however, to reckon
a full crew as he steered out of Port Louis harbour and shaped his
course for Ceylon.
Some of the hands had grumbled at not having more liberty to go
ashore. In an excess of passion, Anderson made answer:
"To your kennels, you dogs! I'll put you ashore soon enough, and
I'll warrant you'll stay there longer than you care for."
It was indiscreet language, and the men puzzled over it. They
concluded that the skipper meant to obtain their imprisonment at
the next British port they should touch for mutinous conduct, and,
knowing he was a man of his word, they assumed their best behaviour.
Captain Anderson had not changed for the better. Hitherto he had
maintained a firmness of discipline boarding upon severity, and he
certainly had never relaxed from that attitude. Now he had become
an incomprehensible mixture of indulgence and cruelty. The two
elements were incompatible, and the more intelligent of his officers
were not long in perceiving that there was a vicious and variable
wind in their superior's moral atmosphere, under which his canvas
strained or flapped unaccountably. They imagined, to pursue their
own figure, that his hand did not grasp the reason tiller with
its customary grip, and that his bark was left more or less to the
conflicting guidance of other influences. Many a time since his
departure from England had the old sailor been stung with remorse
at the unwritten tenor of his present commission. He would frequently
try to look the whole thing in the face—would endeavour to account
for the acceptance of an office against which his whole self
revolted. He would recite the interview in the Billiter Street
chambers with his employer, passing rapidly over the preliminary
parts until he came to the REWARD. No! he was not false enough or
euphemistic enough to call it a reward; he would regard it as a
bribe. But he could never get further. He always grounded on his
reef of gold, and no tide of indignation or regret, no generous
current of honour, had power to sweep him off again into the
saving waters. Here the fierce rays of desire shot down upon the
resplendent heap, whose reflected glory filled the whole vision
of the water with its lustre. Blame him not too much, nor it. For,
after all, man is but man, and gold is a thing of comfort.
But had Captain Anderson followed his mental inquiries to a conclusion,
had he demonstrated to himself the depth of moral degradation into
which he must be plunged, his pride would never have allowed him
to do anything but redeem his unuttered word.
As an illustration of the captain's lately acquired habit of indulgence,
the most remarkable was his treatment of the watch on deck during
the night. The man on the lookout, for instance, was in the habit
of going to sleep if the weather made it at all practicable. The
rest of the watch, some fifteen or twenty hands, followed suit, or
even skulked back into the fo'castle, there to stretch themselves
out on their chests and smoke. These things the captain connived
at, and the men were only too glad of the relief to inquire
too curiously into his reasons. The main object of a sailing-ship
sailor is to gain as much sleep as he can by whatever means, and
in pursuit of this end he will evade even those duties which are
most essential to the safety of the ship.
One night, during the middle watch, the captain came on deck, and
took to walking up and down with the second mate. The night was
clear, though dark. The Chrysolite was close-hauled on the starboard
tack, and was making good headway under a clinking breeze. She
was an old-fashioned, frigate-built, full-rigged ship, such as one
seldom happens on now, her quarter-galleries, chain-plates, to'
gallant bulwarks, and single topsail-yards being all out of date
among the ship-builders of to-day. It has been said that she had
"rare lines," and the remark was just. A more imposing pile of
timber was possibly never floated. She had plenty of beam to cope
with the South Atlantic wave-giants, and not too much sheer. Her
fiddle-stem was gracefully cut, and harmonised to perfection with
the slight rake aft of her lofty masts. Her spars, also, were finely
proportioned to the breadth of her hull. So that, with her canvas
spread in an unwavering breeze, the Chrysolite was a stately creature
and "a thing of beauty."
"Mr. Grant," said the captain, addressing his subordinate officer,
"be good enough to take a star and work out the ship's position."
The second mate quickly brought his sextant, and took the altitude
of a star convenient for his purpose. He then went below to the cabin
to perform his calculations. The lookout man, a ready sleeper, was
in a heavy slumber, upon which the stiffening breeze made no effect.
The rest of the watch had disappeared in the customary fashion.
Captain Anderson was practically alone on deck.
He walked forward, leaned over the weather-rail, and directed his
glass. He saw just exactly what he expected to see. There, right
ahead in the distance, the binoculars showed a long, thin streak
of sparkling silver, appearing like a lightning flash held fast
between the darkness and the deep sea. It was phosphorescent water
playing on a sand-bank.
Anderson put the glass into his pocket. He was sullen and determined.
He stood motionless for full half an hour, trying to repress the
workings of an aroused conscience; but his thoughts would not let
him alone. There was something behind them, some new sensations,
which set them buzzing in his mind. These sensations were his
finest feelings—ennobling emotions which had been cramped in the
grip of discipline for forty years. He could not comprehend it, but
he found himself pursuing a train of thoughts of finer sensibility
than he had ever experienced, and in which the great bribe had no
place. He foreshadowed in his mind's eye the tragic events over which
he was now presiding. He foresaw the danger to life and limb with
a fresh clearness of vision. He pictured to himself the possible
agonies of his fellow-creatures (never once thinking of his own) with
a sentiment much akin to pity—strong, too, but not sufficiently
strong to overcome that unbending guide which forbade him for
honour's sake to go back upon his promise. Then there was the doom
of the ship itself—
The man is not angry, much less fearful; but his lips are quivering
and his nostrils widening with a passion hitherto unknown. He sees
the picture vividly—a majestic, gallant ship done to destruction;
a rich, ruined seaman wandering on earth a broken heart in a
dishonoured bosom. Not only a gallant ship, but a lifelong pride
and the fulness of a heart's desire swept recklessly into limbo.
Here, at last, had his love revealed itself.
"No, by God, she SHALL not perish!"
With a rapid movement he gains the fo'castle, and roars into it,
"All hands 'bout ship! Quick now, for your very lives!"
There is no mistaking his tone. It is not one of driving tyranny,
but of urgent agony, and it goes right home to every man.
Up they tumble in a ready crowd, many in their shirts alone. They
are all sleepy, but the business on hand will soon cure them of
They stand by. The helm is put down, and quickly the Chrysolite
veers round in process of reaching the other tack. Will she do it?
No! She trembles almost in the teeth of the wind, misses stays,
and falls off again on to the old tack.
Anderson cannot understand it, old sailor as he is; puts the helm
down once more; once more she misses.
"Back the main-yard! Shiver the foreyard!"
Soon every stitch of canvas on the mainmast is swung about to face
the breeze, while that on the foremast is hauled in. Although she
be going at eight knots, THAT should check her.
But it does not.
"Mizzen topsail braces, then!" Quick as thought the lee braces are
slacked off, and those on the weather side made taut. Still she
is not checked. Strange, too, for the breeze is stiff. Anderson
feels she is in the stream of a strong current.
There had been no need to say what was the cause of danger. The
heavy boom of breakers rose above the tread of feet, the clashing
of spars, and the chorus of curses.
Meanwhile Mr. Grant has finished his calculations below. He has
found for a result that the ship is among the Maldive reefs. He is
certain there must be some error in his work, and he sets himself
to revise his figures. But the breeze sweeps into the cabin with
a faint command from the upper air—"Back the main-yard!"—and he
shrewdly guesses that his calculations are correct.
The captain is everywhere at once, urging and aiding. He sees the
whole canvas aback, and yet the Chrysolite drifts on. He cannot
'bout his ship nor back her.
The reef is quite within appreciable distance now. The hands can
do nothing more, so they gaze at the dancing line of phosphorescent
atoms, and curse tremendously—though these may be their last
"All hands wear ship!" comes sharply from Anderson.
"—you and your orders!" cries some one. "To the boats, to the
Although the Chrysolite carried five boats, no less than four of them
were unseaworthy. In those days the examination of an outward-bound
ship was slurred over, with the natural consequence that the
marine law was more frequently broken than observed. The only boat
on board the Chrysolite worth launching was the life-boat, which
stood bottom upward between the main and mizzen masts. At the cry
"To the boats!" there was a rush for her. But Anderson is first.
He carries in his hand a small axe, meant for clearing away light
wreckage. With a vigorous blow the life-boat is stove in. The men
stop short, daunted. He turns about and faces them, looking like
an angry Titan.
"Now then, you hell-hounds, wear the ship or sink!" They see he
means to be master to the end.
It is too late even for imprecation. The men literally spring to
their work, with an alacrity begot of desperation. Every moment is
of the utmost value, for the reef is very close and the horrible
breakers are in all ears.
Anderson himself holds the wheel. He has put the helm up, and soon
the great ship, with swelling sails, breaks out of the current.
He feels the change in an instant; the hands know it too. But the
danger is not past. Leaving the wheel to another, he runs quickly
forward to lean over the weather-rail. As he passes through the
crowd on the fo'castle, the poor fellows cheer him ringingly. The
fine old seaman doffs his cap and makes them a grand, manly bow.
He glances at the reef and then mutters quietly to himself, "She
will never clear it, and God forgive me!" Then, wheeling round, he
gives a command.
"Let go both anchors; it is our only chance!"
Many hearts sink at the order, but in as few moments as possible
the cables are smoking through the hawse-pipes. The anchors touch
bottom, and hold. All hands clutch the stanchions or shrouds in
anticipation of the shock. It comes. The ship, racing on, is brought
up with a round turn of such sudden force as to shake every nail
in her timbers. Aloft there is crash upon crash, and the lighter
spars come showering on to the deck, bringing with them ragged
remnants of canvas. One man is struck down. The hawsers hum with
strenuous vibration. The timbers at the bluff of the bow crack
almost vertically, until the ship's nose is well-nigh torn out.
The tension is too great and the port cable snaps. The starboard
one is tougher. But were it ever so tough it would not save the
ship, for its anchor is dragging. Back she sags, gathered into her
doom by the whitening waters; until at length, thus lifted along,
her keel rests athwart the bank, and she heels over. Her sailing
days are done. As the consecutive seas sweep up the reef, she lifts
her head and drops it again and again, like a poor recumbent brute
in its death-hour. But the wind must sometime cease, and the waves
forget their anger. Then will she take a long repose, leaning on
her shattered side—the very type of a picturesque wreck.
About this time Messrs. Ruin & Ruin were more than usually interested
in the shipping news, and one morning they saw, under the heading
of "Wrecks and Casualties," this:
"MINICOY (MALDIVE ISLANDS).—The ship Chrysolite, of London, went
ashore yesterday night on the southern reefs, and is now a total
wreck. All hands saved except John Anderson, master, who was killed
by a falling spar."
The result of the whole business had far exceeded the owners'
expectations. It had been so neatly done; and the greatest comfort
of all was that no one was now left who could tell tales. They
did not exactly thank God in so many words for the death of their
faithful servant. That was very sad, as of course it should be.
But they thanked Him in all humility for a certain sum of three
thousand pounds, which would have gone elsewhere but for—If he,
Anderson, had had wife or children, Messrs. Ruin & Ruin felt almost
certain they would have made provision for them. But they thanked
God again that he had never married. All that was necessary to be
done now was to send in a claim for the insurance money, and, if
well advised, retire into private life.
Messrs. Ruin & Ruin talked the matter over between them, congratulated
themselves upon their prosperity, made no end of choice little
plans for the future, and finally decided to forsake the commercial
profession. And, indeed, they would have done so, but that the
evening papers contained an item of intelligence which, though less
expected, and therefore more startling, contained just as lively
an interest for them as the report of the wreck. It ran thus:
"It is currently reported that the Jupiter Insurance Company has
failed heavily, and is only able to meet its liabilities with a
composition of sixpence on the pound."
Messrs. Ruin & Ruin still carry on business near Billiter Street,
but their offices are now on the top floor in a very back alley.
"PETREL" AND "THE BLACK SWAN"
Never, surely, did the cry fall upon more welcome ears, save and
except those of men becalmed in a boat upon the open sea. For
twelve weary days and nights had we, the officers and men of H.M.S.
Petrel (six guns, Commander B. R. Neville), been cooped up in our
iron prison, patrolling one of the hottest sections of the terrestrial
globe, on the lookout for slavers. From latitude 4 deg. north to
latitude 4 deg. south was our beat, and we dared not venture beyond
these limits. Our instructions were to keep out of sight of land
and try to intercept some of the larger vessels, which, it was
suspected, carried cargoes of slaves from the —— coast. The ship,
the sea, the cloudless sky—there was nothing else to see, nothing
else to think of. Work, study, play even, were alike impossible in
that fierce, scorching heat. If you touched a bit of iron on deck
it almost burned your hand. If you lay down between-decks covered
with a sheet, you awoke in a bath of perspiration.
The man, in his excitement, repeated the shout before he could be
hailed from the deck.
"Where away?" sang out the captain.
"Two points on the weather-bow, sir," was the reply.
That phrase about the "weather-bow" was a nautical fiction, for
there was no wind to speak of, and what there was was nearly dead
"Keep her away two points," said Commander Neville; and the order
was promptly obeyed.
In a few seconds the news had spread through the ship, and the men
clustered on the bulwarks, straining their eyes to get a glimpse of
the stranger. Even the stokers, poor fellows, showed their sooty
faces at the engine-room hatchway. Of course the stranger might
be, and probably was, an innocent trader; but then she might be a
slaver; and golden visions of prize-money floated before the eyes
of every man and boy on board the Petrel.
We did not steam very fast, as of course our supply of coal was
limited; and it was about two hours before sundown when we fairly
sighted the stranger. She was a long three-masted schooner, with
tall raking masts, lying very low in the water. All her canvas was
set; and as a little wind had sprung up, she was slipping through
the water at a fair pace.
"She looks for all the world like a slaver, sir," remarked Mr.
Brabazon, the first lieutenant, to the commander.
Neville said nothing, but his lips were firmly compressed, and a
gleam of excitement was in his eyes.
"Fire a blank cartridge, Mr. O'Riley," said he to the second
lieutenant; "and signal her to ask her nationality and her code
This was done; and in answer to the signal the schooner slowly
hoisted the American colours.
"She has eased away her sheets, and luffed a point or two, sir,"
said the quartermaster, touching his cap.
The captain merely answered this by a nod.
"Put a shot in your gun, Mr. O'Riley," said he. "Lower your hoist
and make a fresh hoist demanding her name."
This was done, but the American took no notice.
"Fire a shot, Mr. O'Riley—wide, of course," said the commander.
Again the deafening report of the big gun sounded in our ears; and
we could see the splash of the shot as it struck the water about
fifty yards from the schooner. Immediately a flag was run up, then
another and another; and we saw that she was not giving us her
code number, but was spelling out her name, letter by letter—The
"Just look that up in the United States Merchant Registry," said
the captain to the first lieutenant. And in half a minute he
had reported—"No such name, sir." This was something more than
suspicious. And the wind was rising.
"Hoist the signal for her to heave to!" cried Commander Neville.
"Take a boat and half a dozen hands, Mr. O'Riley," he continued;
"board her, inspect her papers, and come back to report. If her
papers are not in order," added he, "you may search for slaves;
but if they are you had better do nothing further. You know it is
clearly set down in the Protocol that we are not entitled to search
the hold if the papers are in order; and there have been complaints
lately against some over-zealous officers, who have got into trouble
in consequence. So be careful. But keep your eyes open. Note any
suspicious circumstances, and come back and report."
Before Lieutenant O'Riley reached the ship he saw that everything
about her had been sacrificed to speed. Her spars, especially, were
unusually heavy for a craft of her size.
The British officer was received by a little, thin, elderly man
wearing a Panama hat and speaking with a strong Yankee accent.
"Produce your papers, if you please," said O'Riley. They were handed
out at once, and seemed to be perfectly regular.
"What have you got on board?" was the next question.
"General cargo—dry goods, and so on."
"Why isn't your name on the register?"
"Ain't it now? Well, I guess it must be because this is a new ship.
We can't put our name on by telegraph, mister."
"Just tell your men to knock off the hatches. I want to have a look
at your cargo."
The skipper shook his head.
"I've been delayed long enough," said he, "and have lost a great
part of the only wind we've had in this darned latitude for a week."
"I'll do it myself, then!" cried O'Riley.
"Not now, sir; not with six men while I have fifteen. You have no
right to search the hold of a respectable merchantman and disturb
her cargo. Do you take me for a slaver, or what? Ef you must have
the hatches up, send back to your man-of-war for a larger crew, so
as to overpower me, you understand, and you may do it with pleasure.
Bet I guess there'll be a complaint lodged at Washington, and you
folks in London will have to pay for it. That's all, mister. I only
want things fair and square, within my treaty rights."
And having delivered himself of this long speech, the Yankee skipper
turned on his heel.
Of course O'Riley could only return to the Petrel and report all
this to his commander. "I'm convinced she is a slaver, sir," said
he in conclusion.
"But you have no evidence of it; and you say the papers were all
"Apparently they were, sir."
"Then I'm afraid I can do nothing," said the commander. And to the
deep disgust of the whole ship's crew, the order was given for the
Petrel to return to her course.
All that night, however, Commander Neville was haunted by a doubt
whether he had not better have run the risk of a complaint and a
reprimand, rather than forego the overhauling of so suspicious-looking
a craft; and in the morning a rumour reached his ears that the
cockswain, who had accompanied Mr. O'Riley to The Black Swan, had
noticed something about her of a doubtful nature. The man was sent
for and questioned; and he said that, while the lieutenant was on
board, the boat of which he was in charge had dropped a little way
astern; and that he had then noticed that the name of the vessel
had been recently painted out, but that the last two letters were
distinctly visible. And these letters were LE, not AN.
"The scoundrel said she was a new ship!" cried the commander. "'Bout
"We can't possibly catch her up, sir," said the first lieutenant,
"I don't know that, Mr. Brabazon," answered Neville. "There has
been hardly any wind, and we know the course she was steering. She
could not expect to see us again; so in all probability she has
kept to that course. By making allowances, we may intercept her;
I am convinced of it."
The hope of again encountering The Black Swan, faint as it was,
caused quite a commotion in our little world. The day passed without
our sighting a single sail; but when the morning dawned Lieutenant
Brabazon was forced to own that the commander's judgment had
proved better than his own. By the greatest good luck we had hit
upon the right track. There, right in front of us, was the American
schooner, her sails lazily flapping against her masts.
"Full speed ahead, and stand by!" shouted the captain down the
"Signal to her to heave to, and if she does not obey, fire a shot
right across her bows, Mr. O'Riley," continued the commander.
"Mr. Brabazon, you take a boat and thirty men well armed. Board
her, and have her hatches off at once. You'll stand no nonsense,
"All right, sir," cried the lieutenant, an active, somewhat imperious
officer, of the Civis Romanus sum type. He had been unusually
disgusted at his commander's decision to leave The Black Swan without
searching her; and he was delighted that a more active policy had
"I say, Brabazon," whispered the commander to him, as he was going
over the side, "you know I'm stepping a bit beyond bounds, and
I'm just a little anxious. If she turns out to be a slaver, as
we suspect, step to the taffrail and wave your handkerchief, will
"I will, sir; I'm certain it will be all right," cheerfully responded
the first lieutenant.
A tall, slim, youngish man, in white linen, received the British
officer as he set foot on the deck of The Black Swan.
"I am at present in command of this craft, sir," said the young
American. "The skipper is not fit just at present. We had a visit
from you two days ago, I think. Can I do anything for you?"
"Yes; I want you to take off your hatches," said the lieutenant,
"Well, sir," began the Yankee, "I guess your demand is beyond your
"I know all about that. I must have the hatches off."
"And you are detaining me and overhauling my cargo on no grounds
"Will you do it at once?" broke in the British officer.
"I repeat—ON NO GROUNDS WHATEVER; will cause an in—ter—na—tional
difficulty, and may bring re—markably unpleasant con—sequences
to your captain. Now—"
"Off with your hatches!" cried the lieutenant.
"If you don't, by George, I will!"
"You know clearly what you're doing, sir?"
"And you know the risk you run?"
"I do. No more palaver. Off with them at once, or I'll break them
Further resistance was useless. The thing was done; and the moment
the first hatch was raised the sickening effluvium that issued from
the hold proclaimed the truth. Nearly three hundred slaves were
packed between-decks, many of the poor creatures standing so close
that they could not lie down.
With a look of speechless contempt at the young mate of the
schooner, the lieutenant walked to the side of the ship and waved
his handkerchief. That instant a loud British cheer rang over the
water, given by the blue-jackets, who could be seen clustering in
the rigging like bees.
"I told our skipper judgment would overtake us," said the Yankee.
"Say, mister," he added, in another tone, "seeing that the game's
up, suppose we have a glass of iced champagne downstairs?"
The lieutenant hesitated. To drink with the mate of a slaver!
Slowly he moved toward the companionway. "I don't mind if I do,"
he said, at length; "and you may as well bring up your papers with
the drinks, for I shall carry them on board the Petrel. Of course
you understand that you are my prize."
And having set a guard at the hatchways, the lieutenant descended
the cabin stairs.
The iced champagne was duly forthcoming, and under its genial
influence Lieutenant Brabazon began to feel something like pity
for the young mate who had been so early seduced into the paths of
crime. Probably he had a mother or a sweetheart somewhere in the
States who imagined that he was already on his way home, whereas
now his character was ruined, even if he escaped a long term of
This feeling was strengthened as he saw that his companion was
gazing mournfully at his glass without speaking a word. At length
the young man lifted his head.
"Say, mister, what'll they do to me, do you think?"
"I can't tell. Of course you know that what you have been engaged
in is a kind of piracy?"
"I believe so. Cargo and crew are confiscated, of course. What
they will do with you I can't tell."
"They won't hang me, will they?"
"Probably not," said the lieutenant; "but let this be a warning
to you. You see what it is to wander off the straight course and
hanker after forbidden gains. Lead an honest life in future, when
you are released from custody. Avoid vicious companions—But what's
this?" he cried, as his eye fell on an empty scabbard hanging on the
wall. It looked very like a United States service sword scabbard,
and immediately the thought darted through his mind that this
hypocritical young Yankee (who had been pretending to wipe away a
tear as he listened to the lieutenant's good advice) had been doing
something worse, or at least more heavily punished, than running
cargoes of slaves.
The British officer looked round the cabin. A United States navy
cap was lying on a plush-covered bench.
"Ah! you've been having a brush with an American man-of-war!" cried
Lieutenant Brabazon. "You will have to tell my superior officer
how you came into possession of these articles. I most place you
under arrest!" And, bitterly regretting that he had sat down to
table with the fellow, the British officer rushed on deck.
"Quartermaster," he cried, "bring up a guard of four men, and take
this man," pointing to the Yankee, who had followed him on deck,
"to the Petrel. If he tries to escape, shoot him at once!"
The quartermaster advanced to seize the prisoner; but before
he reached him he involuntarily stopped short. A roar of laughter
sounded in his ears. The American mate and his companions were
shrieking and staggering about the deck; even the crew of the
slaver were, every man Jack of them, grinning from ear to ear. The
lieutenant was dumfounded.
"Excuse me, sir; but the joke was too good," said the Yankee, coming
forward and holding out his hand. "I am the first lieutenant of the
United States war-ship Georgia, in command of a prize crew on board
this vessel, taking her to —— to have her condemned. We seized
her yesterday. Hearing that you had been on a visit to her the
day before, and had gone away without doing anything, I couldn't
resist the temptation of taking you in. Hope you don't bear malice?
Let's finish that magnum of champagne."
It was evidently the best thing to be done; but the lieutenant was
not a first-rate companion on that occasion.
"Give my respects to your commander," called out the United States
officer, as his guest went down into his boat, "and advise him
from me not to be so jolly particular another time. And I'll try
to take your kind advice and sail a straight course in future!" he
cried, as her Majesty's boat shot away for the last time from the
side of The Black Swan.
BY GRANT ALLEN
Lucy looked across the table at me with a face of blank horror.
"O Vernon," she cried, "what are we EVER to do? And an American
at that! This is just TOO ghastly!" It's a habit of Lucy's, I may
remark, to talk italics.
I laid down my coffee-cup, and glanced back at her in surprise.
"Why, what's up?" I exclaimed, scanning the envelope close. "A
letter from Oxford, surely. Mrs. Wade, of Christchurch—I thought
I knew the hand. And SHE's not an American."
"Well, look for yourself!" Lucy cried, and tossed the note to me,
pouting. I took it, and read. I'm aware that I have the misfortune to
be only a man, but it really didn't strike me as quite so terrible.
"DEAR MRS. HANCOCK: George has just heard that your husband and
you are going for a trip to New York this summer. COULD you manage
to do us a VERY GREAT kindness? I hope you won't mind it. We have
an American friend—a Miss Easterbrook, of Kansas City, niece of
Professor Asa P. Easterbrook, the well-known Yale geologist—who
very much wishes to find an escort across the Atlantic. If you
would be so good as to take charge of her, and deliver her safely
to Dr. Horace Easterbrook, of Hoboken, on your arrival in the States,
you would do a good turn to her, and at the same time confer an
eternal favour on "Yours very truly, "EMILY WADE."
Lucy folded her hands in melodramatic despair.
"Kansas City!" she exclaimed, with a shudder of horror. "And Asa
P. Easterbrook! A geologist, indeed! That horrid Mrs. Wade! She
just did it on purpose!"
"It seems to me," I put in, regarding the letter close, "she did
it merely because she was asked to find a chaperon for the girl;
and she wrote the very shortest possible note, in a perfunctory
way, to the very first acquaintance she chanced to hear of who was
going to America."
"Vernon!" my wife exclaimed, with a very decided air, "you men are
such simpletons! You credit everybody always with the best and
purest motives. But you're utterly wrong. I can see through that
woman. The hateful, hateful wretch! She did it to spite me! Oh,
my poor, poor boy; my dear, guileless Bernard!"
Bernard, I may mention, is our oldest son, aged just twenty-four,
and a Cambridge graduate. He's a tutor at King's, and though he's
a dear good fellow, and a splendid long-stop, I couldn't myself
conscientiously say I regard guilelessness as quite his most marked
"What are you doing?" I asked, as Lucy sat down with a resolutely
determined air at her writing-table in the corner.
"Doing!" my wife replied, with some asperity her tone. "Why,
answering that hateful, detestable woman!"
I glanced over her shoulder, and followed her pen as she wrote:
"MY DEAR MRS. WADE: It was INDEED a delight to us to see your neat
little handwriting again. NOTHING would give us greater pleasure,
I'm sure, than to take charge of your friend, who, I'm confident,
we shall find a most charming companion. Bernard will be with us,
so she won't feel it dull, I trust. We hope to have a very delightful
trip, and your happy thought in providing us with a travelling
companion will add, no doubt, to all our enjoyment—especially
Bernard's. We both join in very kindest regards to Mr. Wade and
yourself, and I am ever
"Yours most cordially,
"LUCY B. HANCOCK."
My wife fastened down the envelope with a very crushing air. "There!
THAT ought to do for her," she said, glancing up at me triumphantly.
"I should think she could see from that, if she's not as blind as
an owl, I've observed her atrocious designs upon Bernard, and mean
to checkmate them. If, after such a letter, she has the cheek to
send us her Yankee girl to chaperon, I shall consider her lost
to all sense of shame and all notions of decency. But she won't,
of course. She'll withdraw her unobtrusively." And Lucy flung the
peccant sheet that had roused all this wrath on to the back of the
fireplace with offended dignity.
She was wrong, however. By next evening's post a second letter
arrived, more discomposing, if possible, to her nerves than the
"Mrs. Lucy B. Hancock, London.
"DEAR MADAM: I learn from my friend, Mrs. Wade, of Oxford College,
that you are going to be kind enough to take charge of me across
the ocean. I thank you for your courtesy, and will gladly accept
your friendly offer. If you will let me know by what steamer you
start, I will register my passage right away in Liverpool. Also,
if you will be good enough to tell me from what depot you leave
London, and by what train, I will go along with you in the cars.
I'm unused to travel alone. "Respectfully, "MELISSA P. EASTERBROOK."
Lucy gazed at it in despair. "A creature like that!" she cried, all
horror-struck. "Oh, my poor, dear Bernard! 'The ocean,' she says!
'Go along with you in the cars!' 'Melissa P. Easterbrook!'"
"Perhaps," I said, tentatively, "she may be better than her name.
And at any rate, Bernard's not BOUND to marry her!"
Lucy darted at me profound volumes of mute feminine contempt. "The
girl's pretty," she said, at last, after a long, deep pause, during
which I had been made to realise to the full my own utter moral
and intellectual nothingness. "You may be sure she's pretty. Mrs.
Wade wouldn't have foisted her upon us if she wasn't pretty, but
unspeakable. It's a vile plot on her part to destroy my peace of
mind. You won't believe it, Vernon; but I KNOW that woman. And what
does the girl mean by signing herself 'Respectfully,' I wonder?"
"It's the American way," I ventured gently to interpose.
"So I gather," my wife answered, with a profound accent of contempt.
To her anything that isn't done in the purest English way stands
ipso facto self-condemned immediately.
A day or two later a second letter arrived from Miss Easterbrook,
in reply to one of Lucy's suggesting a rendezvous. I confess it
drew up in my mind a somewhat painful picture. I began to believe
my wife's fears were in some ways well grounded.
"Mrs. Lucy B. Hancock, London [as before].
"DEAR MADAM: I thank you for yours, and will meet you on the day
and hour you mention at St. Pancras depot. You will know me when
you see me, because I shall wear a dove-coloured dress, with bonnet
to match, and a pair of gray spectacles.
"MELISSA P. EASTERBROOK."
I laid it down and sighed. "A New England schoolmarm!" I exclaimed,
with a groan. "It sounds rather terrible. A dove-coloured dress and
a pair of gray spectacles! I fancy I can picture her to myself:
a tall and bony person of a certain age, with corkscrew curls, who
reads improving books and has views of her own about the fulfilment
But as my spirits went down so Lucy's went up, like the old man
and woman in the cottage weather-glass. "That looks more promising,"
she said. "The spectacles are good. Perhaps, after all, dear
Bernard may escape. I don't think he's at all the sort of person
to be taken with a dove-coloured bonnet."
For some days after Bernard came home from Cambridge we chaffed a
good deal among ourselves about Miss Melissa Easterbrook. Bernard
took quite my view about the spectacles and dress. He even drew
on an envelope a fancy portrait of Miss Easterbrook, as he said
himself, "from documentary evidence." It represented a typical
schoolmarm of the most virulent order, and was calculated to
strike terror into the receptive mind of ingenuous youth on simple
At last the day came when we were to go to Liverpool. We arrived
at St. Pancras in very good time, and looked about on the platform
for a tall and hard-faced person of transatlantic aspect, arrayed
in a dove-coloured dress and a pair of gray spectacles. But we
looked in vain; nobody about seemed to answer to the description.
At last Bernard turned to my wife with a curious smile. "I think
I've spotted her, mother," he said, waving his hand vaguely to the
right. "That lady over yonder—by the door of the refreshment-room.
Don't you see? That must be Melissa." For we knew her only as
Melissa already among ourselves; it had been raised to the mild
rank of a family witticism.
I looked in the direction he suggested, and paused for certainty.
There, irresolute by the door, and gazing about her timidly with
inquiring eyes, stood the prettiest, tiniest, most shrinking little
Western girl you ever saw in your life—attired, as she said, in
a dove-coloured dress, with bonnet to match, and a pair of gray
spectacles. But oh, what a dove-coloured dress! Walter Crane
might have designed it—one of those perfect travelling costumes
of which the America girl seems to possess a monopoly; and the
spectacles—well, the spectacles, though undoubtedly real, added
just a touch of piquancy to an otherwise almost painfully timid
and retiring little figure.
The moment I set eyes on Melissa Easterbrook, I will candidly
admit, I was her captive at once; and even Lucy, as she looked at
her, relaxed her face involuntarily into a sympathetic smile. As a
rule, Lucy might pose as a perfect model of the British matron in
her ampler and maturer years—"calmly terrible," as an American
observer once described the genus; but at sight of Melissa she
melted without a struggle. "Poor wee little thing, how pretty she
is!" she exclaimed, with a start. You will readily admit that was
a great deal from Lucy.
Melissa came forward tentatively, a dainty blush half rising on her
rather pale and delicate little cheek. "Mrs. Hancock?" she said, in
an inquiring tone, with just the faintest suspicion of an American
accent in her musical, small voice. Lucy took her hand cordially.
"I was sure it was you, ma'am," Melissa went on, with pretty confidence,
looking up into her face, "because Mrs. Wade told me you'd be as
kind to me as a mother; and the moment I saw you I just said to
myself, 'That MUST be Mrs. Hancock; she's so sweetly motherly.'
How good of you to burden yourself with a stranger like me! I hope,
indeed, I won't be too much trouble."
That was the beginning. I may as well say, first as last, we were
all of us taken by storm "right away" by Melissa. Lucy herself
struck her flag unconditionally before a single shot was fired; and
Bernard and I, hard hit at all points, surrendered at discretion.
She was the most charming little girl the human mind can conceive.
Our cold English language fails, in its roughness, to describe her.
She was petite, mignonne, graceful, fairy-like, yet with a touch
of Yankee quaintness and a delicious espieglerie that made her
absolutely unique in my experience of women. We had utterly lost
our hearts to her before ever we reached Liverpool; and, strange to
say, I believe the one of us whose heart was most completely gone
was, if only you'll believe it, that calmly terrible Lucy.
Melissa's most winning characteristic, however, as it seemed to me,
was her perfect frankness. As we whirled along on our way across
England, she told us everything about herself, her family, her friends,
her neighbours, and the population of Kansas City in general. Not
obtrusively or egotistically,—of egotism Melissa would be wholly
incapable,—but in a certain timid, confiding, half-childlike way,
as of the lost little girl, that was absolutely captivating. "Oh
no, ma'am," she said, in answer to one of Lucy's earliest questions;
"I didn't come over alone. I think I'd be afraid to. I came with a
whole squad of us who were doing Europe. A prominent lady in Kansas
City took charge of the square lot. And I got as far as Rome with
them, through Germany and Switzerland, and then my money wouldn't
run to it any further; so I had to go back. Travelling comes high
in Europe, what with hotels and fees and having to pay to get your
baggage checked. And that's how I came to want an escort."
Bernard smiled good-naturedly. "Then you had only a fixed sum," he
asked, "to make your European tour with?"
"That's so, sir," Melissa answered, looking up at him quizzically
through those pretty gray spectacles. "I'd put away quite a little
sum of my own to make this trip upon. It was my only chance of
seeing Europe and improving myself a piece. I knew when I started
I couldn't go all the round trip with the rest of my party; but I
thought I'd set out with them, anyway, and go ahead as long as my
funds held out; and then, when I was through, I'd turn about and
come home again."
"But you put away the money yourself?" Lucy asked, with a little
start of admiring surprise.
"Yes, ma'am," Melissa answered, sagely. "I know it. I saved it."
"From your allowance?" Lucy suggested, from the restricted horizon
of her English point of view.
Melissa laughed a merry little laugh of amusement. "Oh no," she
said; "from my salary."
"From your salary!" Bernard put in, looking down at her with an
"Yes, sir; that's it," Melissa answered, all unabashed. "You see,
for four years I was a clerk in the post-office." She pronounced
it "churk," but that's a detail.
"Oh, indeed!" Bernard echoed. He was burning to know how, I could
see, but politeness forbade him to press Melissa on so delicate
a point any further.
Melissa, however, herself supplied at once the missing information.
"My father was postmaster in our city," she said, simply, "under
the last administration,—President Blanco's, you know,—and he
made me one of his clerks, of course, when he'd gotten the place;
and as long as the fun went on, I saved all my salary for a tour
"And at the end of four years?" Lucy said.
"Our party went out," Melissa put in, confidentially. "So, when
the trouble began, my father was dismissed, and I had just enough
left to take me as far as Rome, as I told you."
I was obliged to explain parenthetically, to allay Lucy's wonderment,
that in America the whole personnel of every local government office
changes almost completely with each incoming President.
"That's so, sir," Melissa assented, with a wise little nod. "And
as I didn't think it likely our folks would get in again in a
hurry,—the country's had enough of us,—I just thought I'd make
the best of my money when I'd got it."
"And you used it all up in giving yourself a holiday in Europe?"
Lucy exclaimed, half reproachfully. To her economic British mind
such an expenditure of capital seemed horribly wasteful.
"Yes, ma'am," Melissa answered, all unconscious of the faint
disapproval implied in Lucy's tone. "You see, I'd never been
anywhere much away from Kansas City before; and I thought this was
a special opportunity to go abroad and visit the picture-galleries
and cathedrals of Europe, and enlarge my mind and get a little
culture. To us a glimpse of Europe's an intellectual necessary."
"Oh, then you regarded your visit as largely educational?" Bernard
put in, with increasing interest. Though he's a fellow and tutor
of King's, I will readily admit that Bernard's personal tastes lie
rather in the direction of rowing and foot-ball than of general
culture; but still, the American girl's point of view decidedly
attracted him by its novelty in a woman.
"That's so, sir," Melissa answered once more, in her accustomed
affirmative. "I took it as a sort of university trip. I graduated
in Europe. In America, of course, wherever you go, all you can see's
everywhere just the same—purely new and American; the language,
the manners, the type, don't vary. In Europe, you cross a frontier
or a ribbon of sea, and everything's different. Now, on this trip
of ours, we went first to Chester to glimpse a typical old English
town—those rows, oh, how lovely! And then to Leamington for
Warwick Castle and Kenilworth. Kenilworth's just glorious—isn't
it?—with its mouldering red walls and its dark-green ivy, and
the ghost of Amy Robsart walking up and down upon the close-shaven
"I've heard it's very beautiful," Bernard admitted, gravely.
"What! you live so close, and you've never BEEN there!" Melissa
exclaimed, in frank surprise.
Bernard allowed with a smile he had been so culpably negligent.
"And Stratford-on-Avon, too!" Melissa went on, enthusiastically,
her black eyes beaming. "Isn't Stratford just charming! I don't
care for the interminable Shakespeare nuisance, you know; that's
all too new and made up; we could raise a Shakespeare house like
that in Kansas City any day. But the church and the elms and the
swans and the river! I made such a sweet little sketch of them all,
so soft and peaceful. At least, the place itself was as sweet as
a corner of heaven, and I tried as well as I could in my way to
"I suppose it IS very pretty," Bernard replied, in a meditative
Melissa started visibly. "What! have you never been there, either?"
she exclaimed, taken aback. "Well, that IS odd, now! You live in
England, and have never run over to Stratford-on-Avon! Why, you
do surprise me! But there! I suppose you English live in the midst
of culture, as it were, and can get to it all right away at any
time; so perhaps you don't think quite as much of it as we, who
have to save up our money, perhaps for years, to get, for once in
our lives, just a single passing glimpse of it. You live at Cambridge,
you see; you must be steeped in culture right down to the finger-ends."
Bernard modestly responded, twirling his manly moustache, that the
river and the running-ground, he feared, were more in his way than
art or architecture.
"And where else did you go besides England?" Lucy asked, really
"Well, ma'am, from London we went across by Ostend to Bruges, where
I studied the Memlings, and made a few little copies from them,"
Melissa answered, with her sunny smile. "It's such a quaint old
place—Bruges; life seems to flow as stagnant as its own canals.
Have you ever been there?"
"Oh, charming!" Lucy answered; "most delightful and quiet.
But—er—who are the Memlings? I don't quite recollect them."
Melissa gazed at her open-eyed. "The Memlings?" she said, slowly;
"why, you've just missed the best thing at Bruges if you haven't
seen them. They've such a naive charm of their own, so innocent
and sympathetic. They're in the Hopital de St. Jean, you know, where
Memling put them. And it's so delightful to see great pictures
like those (though they're tiny little things to look at) in their
native surroundings, exactly as they were first painted—the 'Chasse
de Ste. Ursule,' and all those other lovely things, so infantile
in their simplicity, and yet so exquisitely graceful and pure and
beautiful. I don't know as I saw anything in Europe to equal them
for pathos in their own way—except, of course, the Fra Angelicos
at San Marco in Florence."
"I don't think I've seen them," Lucy murmured, with an uncomfortable
air. I could see it was just dawning upon her, in spite of her
patronising, that this Yankee girl, with her imperfect command of
the English tongue, knew a vast deal more about some things worth
notice than she herself did. "And where did you go then, dear?"
"Oh, from Bruges we went on to Ghent," Melissa answered, leaning
back, and looking as pretty as a picture herself in her sweet little
travelling dress, "to see the great Van Eyck, the 'Adoration of
the Lamb,' you know—that magnificent panel picture. And then
we went to Brussels, where we had Dierick Bouts and all the later
Flemings; and to Antwerp for Rubens and Vandyck and Quentin
Matsys; and the Hague, after that, for Rembrandt and Paul Potter;
and Amsterdam, in the end, for Van der Heist and Gerard Dow and the
late Dutch painters. So, you see, we had quite an artistic tour;
we followed up the development of Netherlandish art from beginning
to end in historical order. It was just delightful."
"I went to Antwerp once," Bernard put in, somewhat sheepishly, still
twirling his moustache; "but it was on my way to Switzerland, and
I didn't see much, as far as I can recollect, except the cathedral
and the quay and the hotel I was stopping at."
"Ah, that's all very well for YOU," Melissa answered, with a
rather envious air. "You can see these things any day. But for us
the chance comes only once in a lifetime, and we must make the most
Well, in such converse as this we reached Liverpool in due time,
and went next morning on board our steamer. We had a lovely passage
out, and, all the way, the more we saw of Melissa the more we liked
her. To be sure, Lucy received a terrible shock the third day out,
when she asked Melissa what she meant to do when she returned to
Kansas City. "You won't go into the post-office again, I suppose,
dear?" she said, kindly, for we had got by that time on most friendly
terms with our little Melissa.
"I guess not," Melissa answered. "No such luck any more. I'll have
to go back again to the store as usual."
"The store!" Lucy repeated, bewildered. "I—I don't quite understand
"Well, the shop, I presume you'd call it," Melissa answered, smiling.
"My father's gotten a book-store in Kansas City, and before I went
into the post-office I helped him at the counter; in fact, I was
"I assure you, Vernon," Lucy remarked, in our berth that night,
"if an Englishwoman had said it to me, I'd have been obliged to
apologise to her for having forced her to confess it, and I don't
know what way I should ever have looked to hide my face while she was
talking about it. But with Melissa it's all so different somehow.
She spoke as if it was the most natural thing on earth for her
father to keep a shop, and she didn't seem the least little bit in
the world ashamed of it, either."
"Why should she?" I answered, with my masculine bluntness. But that
was perhaps a trifle too advanced for Lucy. Melissa was exercising
a widening influence on my wife's point of view with astonishing
rapidity; but still, a perfect lady must always draw a line somewhere.
All the way across, indeed, Melissa's lively talk was a constant
delight and pleasure to every one of us. She was so taking,—that
girl,—so confidential, so friendly. We really loved her. Then
her quaint little Americanisms were as pretty as herself—not only
her "Yes, sirs," and her "No, ma'ams," her "I guess" and "That's
so," but her fresh Western ideas, and her infinite play of fancy
in the queen's English. She turned it as a potter turns his clay.
In Britain our mother tongue has crystallised long since into set
forms and phrases. In America it has the plasticity of youth; it is
fertile in novelty—nay, even in surprises. And Melissa knew how to
twist it deftly into unexpected quips and incongruous conjunctions.
Her talk ran on like a limpid brook, with a musical ripple playing
ever on the surface. As for Bernard, he helped her about the ship
like a brother, as she moved lightly around, with her sylph-like
little form, among the ropes and capstans. Melissa liked to be
helped, she said; she didn't believe one bit in woman's rights;
no, indeed; she was a great deal too fond of being taken care of
for that. And who wouldn't take care of her,—that delicate little
thing,—like some choice small masterpiece of cunning workmanship?
Why, she almost looked as if she were made of Venetian glass, and
a fall on deck would shatter her into a thousand fragments.
And her talk all the way was of the joys of Europe—the castles
and abbeys she was leaving behind, the pictures and statues she had
seen and admired, the pictures and statues she had left unvisited.
"Somebody told me in Paris," she said to me one day, as she hung on
my arm on deck, and looked up into my face confidingly with that
childlike smile of hers, "the only happy time in an American woman's
life is the period when she's just got over the first poignant regret
at having left Europe, and hasn't just reached the point when she
makes up her mind that, come what will, she really MUST go back
again. And I thought, for my part, then my happiness was fairly
spoiled for life, for I shall never be able again to afford the
"Melissa, my child," I said, looking down at those ripe, rich lips,
"in this world one never knows what may turn up next. I've observed
on my way down the path of life that, when fruit hangs rosy red
on the tree by the wall, some passer-by or other is pretty sure in
the end to pluck it."
But that was too much for Melissa's American modesty. She looked
down and blushed like a rose herself; but she answered me nothing.
A night or two before we reached New York I was standing in the
gloom, half hidden by a boat on the davits amidships, enjoying my
vespertinal cigar in the cool of evening; and between the puffs I
caught from time to time stray snatches of a conversation going on
softly in the twilight between Bernard and Melissa. I had noticed
of late, indeed, that Bernard and Melissa walked much on deck in
the evening together; but this particular evening they walked long
and late, and their conversation seemed to me (if I might judge
by fragments) particularly confidential. The bits of it I caught
were mostly, it is true, on Melissa's part (when Bernard said
anything he said it lower). She was talking enthusiastically of
Venice, Florence, Pisa, Rome, with occasional flying excursions into
Switzerland and the Tyrol. Once, as she passed, I heard something
murmured low about Botticelli's "Primavera"; when next she went
by it was the Alps from Murren; a third time, again, it was the
mosaics at St. Mark's, and Titian's "Assumption," and the doge's
palace. What so innocent as art, in the moonlight, on the ocean?
At last Bernard paused just opposite where I stood (for they didn't
perceive me), and said very earnestly, "Look here, Melissa,"—he
had called her Melissa almost from the first moment, and she to
prefer it, it seemed so natural,—"look here, Melissa. Do you know,
when you talk about things like that, you make me feel so dreadfully
ashamed of myself."
"Why so, Mr. Hancock?" Melissa asked, innocently.
"Well, when I think what opportunities I've had, and how little I've
used them," Bernard exclaimed, with vehemence, "and then reflect
how few you've got, and how splendidly you've made the best of
them, I just blush, I tell you, Melissa, for my own laziness."
"Perhaps," Melissa interposed, with a grave little air, "if one
had always been brought up among it all, one wouldn't think quite
so much of it. It's the novelty of antiquity that makes it so charming
to people from my country. I suppose it seems quite natural, now,
to you that your parish church should be six hundred years old,
and have tombs in the chancel, with Elizabethan ruffs, or its floor
inlaid with Plantagenet brasses. To us, all that seems mysterious,
and in a certain sort of way one might almost say magical. Nobody
can love Europe quite so well, I'm sure, who has lived in it from
a child. YOU grew up to many things that burst fresh upon us at
last with all the intense delight of a new sensation."
They stood still as they spoke, and looked hard at one another.
There was a minute's pause. Then Bernard began again. "Melissa,"
he faltered out, in a rather tremulous voice, "are you sorry to go
"I just hate it!" Melissa answered, with a vehement burst. Then
she added, after a second, "But I've enjoyed the voyage."
"You'd like to live in Europe?" Bernard asked.
"I should love it!" Melissa replied. "I'm fond of my folks,
of course, and I should be sorry to leave them; but I just love
Europe. I shall never go again, though. I shall come right away
back to Kansas City now, and keep store for father for the rest of
my natural existence."
"It seems hard," Bernard went on, musing, "that anybody like you,
Melissa, with such a natural love of art and of all beautiful
things,—anybody who can draw such sweet dreams of delight as those
heads you showed us after Filippo Lippi, anybody who can appreciate
Florence and Venice and Rome as you do,—should have to live all
her life in a far Western town, and meet with so little sympathy
as you're likely to find there."
"That's the rub," Melissa replied, looking up into his face with
such a confiding look. (If any pretty girl had looked up at ME
like that, I should have known what to do with her; but Bernard
was twenty-four, and young men are modest.) "That's the rub, Mr.
Hancock. I like—well, European society so very much better. Our
men are nice enough in their own way, don't you know; but they
somehow lack polish—at least, out West, I mean, in Kansas City.
Europeans may n't be very much better when you get right at them,
perhaps; but on the outside, anyway to ME, they're more attractive
There was another long pause, during which I felt as guilty as
ever eavesdropper before me. Yet I was glued to the spot. I could
hardly escape. At last Bernard spoke again. "I should like to have
gone round with you on your tour, Melissa," he said. "I don't know
Italy; I don't suppose by myself I could even appreciate it. But
if YOU were by my side, you'd have taught me what it all meant;
and then I think I might perhaps understand it."
Melissa drew a deep breath. "I wish I could take it all over again,"
she answered, half sighing. "And I didn't see Naples, either. That
was a great disappointment. I should like to have seen Naples, I
must confess, so as to know I could at least in the end die happy."
"Why do you go back?" Bernard asked, suddenly, with a bounce,
looking down at that wee hand that trembled upon the taffrail.
"Because I can't help myself," Melissa answered, in a quivering
voice. "I should like—I should like to live always in England."
"Have you any special preference for any particular town?" Bernard
asked, moving closer to her—though, to be sure, he was very, very
"N—no; n—none in particular," Melissa stammered out, faintly,
half sidling away from him.
"Not Cambridge, for example?" Bernard asked, with a deep gulp and
an audible effort.
I felt it would be unpardonable for me to hear any more. I had heard
already many things not intended for me. I sneaked off, unperceived,
and left those two alone to complete that conversation.
Half an hour later—it was a calm, moonlight night—Bernard rushed
down eagerly into the saloon to find us. "Father and mother," he
said, with a burst, "I want you up on deck for just ten minutes.
There's something up there I should like so much to show you."
"Not whales?" I asked, hypocritically, suppressing a smile.
"No, not whales," he replied; "something much more interesting."
We followed him blindly, Lucy much in doubt what the thing might
be, and I much in wonder, after Mrs. Wade's letter, how Lucy might
At the top of the companion—ladder Melissa stood waiting for us,
demure, but subdued, with a still timider look than ever upon that
sweet, shrinking, small face of hers. Her heart beat hard, I could
see by the movement of her bodice, and her breath came and went;
but she stood there like a dove, in her dove-coloured travelling
"Mother," Bernard began, "Melissa's obliged to come back to America,
don't you know, without having ever seen Naples. It seems a horrid
shame she should miss seeing it. She hadn't money enough left, you
recollect, to take her there."
Lucy gazed at him, unsuspicious. "It does a pity," she answered,
"She'd enjoy it so much. I'm sorry she hasn't been able to carry
out all her programme."
"And, mother," Bernard went on, his eyes fixed hard on hers, "how
awfully she'd be thrown away on Kansas City! I can't bear to think
of her going back to 'keep store' there."
"For my part, I think it positively wicked," Lucy answered, with a
smile, "and I can't think what—well, people in England are about,
to allow her to do it."
I opened my eyes wide. Did Lucy know what she was saying? Or had
Melissa, then, fascinated her—the arch little witch!—as she had
fascinated the rest of us?
But Bernard, emboldened by this excellent opening, took Melissa
by the hand as if in due form to present her. "Mother," he said,
tenderly, leading the wee thing forward, "and father, too, THIS is
what I wanted to show you—the girl I'm engaged to!"
I paused and trembled. I waited for the thunderbolt. But no thunderbolt
fell. On the contrary, Lucy stepped forward, and, under cover of
the mast, caught Melissa in her arms and kissed her twice over.
"My dear child," she cried, pressing her hard, "my dear little
daughter, I don't know which of you two I ought most to congratulate."
"But I do," Bernard murmured low. And, his father though I am, I
murmured to myself, "And so do I, also."
"Then you're not ashamed of me, mother dear," Melissa whispered,
burying her dainty little bead on Lucy's shoulder, "because I kept
store in Kansas City?"
Lucy rose above herself in the excitement of the moment. "My
darling wee daughter," she answered, kissing her tenderly again,
"it's Kansas City alone that ought to be ashamed of itself for
putting YOU to keep store—such a sweet little gem as you are!"
VANDERDECKEN'S MESSAGE HOME;
THE TENACITY OF NATURAL AFFECTION
Our ship, after touching at the Cape, went out again, and, soon losing
sight of the Table Mountain, began to be assailed by the impetuous
attacks of the sea, which is well known to be more formidable there
than in most parts of the known ocean. The day had grown dull and
hazy, and the breeze, which had formerly blown fresh, now sometimes
subsided almost entirely, and then, recovering its strength for
a short time, and changing its direction, blew with temporary
violence, and died away again, as if exercising a melancholy caprice.
A heavy swell began to come from the southeast. Our sails flapped
against the masts, and the ship rolled from side to side as heavily
as if she had been water-logged. There was so little wind that she
would not steer.
At 2 P.M. we had a squall, accompanied by thunder and rain. The
seamen, growing restless, looked anxiously ahead. They said we would
have a dirty night of it, and that it would not be worth while to
turn into their hammocks. As the second mate was describing a gale
he had encountered off Cape Race, Newfoundland, we were suddenly
taken all aback, and the blast came upon us furiously. We continued
to scud under a double-reefed mainsail and foretopsail till dusk;
but, as the sea ran high, the captain thought it safest to bring
her to. The watch on deck consisted of four men, one of whom was
appointed to keep a lookout ahead, for the weather was so hazy
that we could not see two cables' length from the bows. This man,
whose name was Tom Willis, went frequently to the bows as if to
observe something; and when the others called to him, inquiring
what he was looking at, he would give no definite answer. They
therefore went also to the bows, and appeared startled, and at
first said nothing. But presently one of them cried, "William, go
call the watch."
The seamen, having been asleep in their hammocks, murmured at this
unseasonable summons, and called to know how it looked upon deck.
To which Tom Willis replied, "Come up and see. What we are minding
is not on deck, but ahead."
On hearing this they ran up without putting on their jackets, and
when they came to the bows there was a whispering.
One of them asked, "Where is she? I do not see her." To which another
replied, "The last flash of lightning showed there was not a reef
in one of her sails; but we, who know her history, know that all
her canvas will never carry her into port."
By this time the talking of the seamen had brought some of the
passengers on deck. They could see nothing, however, for the ship
was surrounded by thick darkness and by the noise of the dashing
waters, and the seamen evaded the questions that were put to them.
At this juncture the chaplain came on deck. He was a man of grave
and modest demeanor, and was much liked among the seamen, who called
him Gentle George. He overheard one of the men asking another if
he had ever seen the Flying Dutchman before, and if he knew the
story about her. To which the other replied, "I have heard of her
beating about in these seas. What is the reason she never reaches
The first speaker replied, "They give different reasons for it,
but my story is this: She was an Amsterdam vessel, and sailed from
that port seventy years ago. Her master's name was Vanderdecken.
He was a staunch seaman, and would have his own way in spite of
the devil. For all that, never a sailor under him had reason to
complain, though how it is on board with them now nobody knows.
The story is this, that, in doubling the Cape, they were a long
day trying to weather the Table Bay, which we saw this morning.
However, the wind headed them, and went against then more and more,
and Vanderdecken walked the deck, swearing at the wind. Just after
sunset a vessel spoke him, asking if he did not mean to go into the
bay that night. Vanderdecken replied, 'May I be eternally d—d if
I do, though I should beat about here till the day of judgment!'
And, to be sure, Vanderdecken never did go into that bay; for it
is believed that he continues to beat about in these seas still,
and will do so long enough. This vessel is never seen but with
foul weather along with her."
To which another replied, "We must keep clear of her. They say that
her captain mans his jolly-boat when a vessel comes in sight, and
tries hard to get alongside, to put letters on board, but no good
comes to them who have communication with him."
Tom Willis said, "There is such a sea between us at present as
should keep us safe from such visits."
To which the other answered, "We cannot trust to that, if Vanderdecken
sends out his men."
Some of this conversation having been overheard by the passengers,
there was a commotion among them. In the meantime the noise of the
waves against the vessel could scarcely be distinguished from the
sounds of the distant thunder. The wind had extinguished the light
in the binnacle, where the compass was, and no one could tell
which way the ship's head lay. The passengers were afraid to ask
questions, lest they should augment the secret sensation of fear
which chilled every heart, or learn any more than they already knew.
For while they attributed their agitation of mind to the state of
the weather, it was sufficiently perceptible that their alarms also
arose from a cause which they did not acknowledge.
The lamp at the binnacle being relighted, they perceived that the
ship lay closer to the wind than she had hitherto done, and the
spirits of the passengers were somewhat revived.
Nevertheless, neither the tempestuous state of the atmosphere nor
the thunder had ceased, and soon a vivid flash of lightning showed
the waves tumbling around us, and, in the distance, the Flying
Dutchman scudding furiously before the wind under a press of canvas.
The sight was but momentary, but it was sufficient to remove all
doubt from the minds of the passengers. One of the men cried aloud,
"There she goes, topgallants and all."
The chaplain had brought up his prayer-book, in order that he might
draw from thence something to fortify and tranquillise the minds
of the rest. Therefore, taking his seat near the binnacle, so that
the light shone upon the white leaves of the book, he, in a solemn
tone, read out the service for those distressed at sea. The sailors
stood round with folded arms, and looked as if they thought it
would be of little use. But this served to occupy the attention of
those on deck for a while.
In the meantime the flashes of lightning, becoming less vivid,
showed nothing else, far or near, but the billows weltering round
the vessel. The sailors seemed to think that they had not yet seen
the worst, but confined their remarks and prognostications to
their own circle.
At this time the captain, who had hitherto remained in his berth,
came on deck, and, with a gay and unconcerned air, inquired what
was the cause of the general dread. He said he thought they had
already seen the worst of the weather, and wondered that his men
had raised such a hubbub about a capful of wind. Mention being
made of the Flying Dutchman, the captain laughed. He said he "would
like very much to see any vessel carrying topgallantsails in such
a night, for it would be a sight worth looking at." The chaplain,
taking him by one of the buttons of his coat, drew him aside, and
appeared to enter into serious conversation with him.
While they were talking together, the captain was heard to say,
"Let us look to our own ship, and not mind such things;" and,
accordingly, he sent a man aloft to see if all was right about the
foretopsail-yard, which was chafing the mast with a loud noise.
It was Tom Willis who went up; and when he came down he said that
all was tight, and that he hoped it would soon get clearer; and
that they would see no more of what they were most afraid of.
The captain and first mate were heard laughing loudly together,
while the chaplain observed that it would be better to repress such
unseasonable gaiety. The second mate, a native of Scotland, each
other without offering to do anything. The boat had come very near
the chains, when Tom Willis called out, "What do you want? or what
devil has blown you here in such weather?" A piercing voice from
the boat replied, in English, "We want to speak with your captain."
The captain took no notice of this, and, Vanderdecken's boat having
come close alongside, one of the men came upon deck, and appeared
like a fatigued and weather-beaten seaman holding some letters in
Our sailors all drew back. The chaplain, however, looking steadfastly
upon him, went forward a few steps, and asked, "What is the purpose
of this visit?"
The stranger replied, "We have long been kept here by foul weather,
and Vanderdecken wishes to send these letters to his friends in
Our captain now came forward, and said, as firmly as he could, "I
wish Vanderdecken would put his letters on board of any other vessel
rather than mine."
The stranger replied, "We have tried many a ship, but most of them
refuse our letters."
Upon which Tom Willis muttered, "It will be best for us if we do
the same, for they say there is sometimes a sinking weight in your
The stranger took no notice of this, but asked where we were from.
On being told that we were from Portsmouth, he said, as if with
strong feeling, "Would that you had rather been from Amsterdam!
Oh, that we saw it again! We must see our friends again." When he
uttered these words, the men who were in the boat below wrung their
hands, and cried, in a piercing tone, in Dutch, "Oh, that we saw
it again! We have been long here beating about; but we must see
our friends again."
The chaplain asked the stranger, "How long have you been at sea?"
He replied, "We have lost our count, for our almanac was blown
overboard. Our ship, you see, is there still; so why should you
ask how long we have been at sea? For Vanderdecken only wishes to
write home and comfort his friends."
To which the chaplain replied, "Your letters, I fear, would be of
no use in Amsterdam, even if they were delivered; for the persons
to whom they are addressed are probably no longer to be found there,
except under very ancient green turf in the churchyard."
The unwelcome stranger then wrung his hands and appeared to weep,
and replied, "It is impossible; we cannot believe you. We have
been long driving about here, but country nor relations cannot be
so easily forgotten. There is not a raindrop in the air but feels
itself kindred to all the rest, and they fall back into the sea to
meet with each other again. How then can kindred blood be made to
forget where it came from? Even our bodies are part of the ground
of Holland; and Vanderdecken says, if he once were to come to
Amsterdam, he would rather be changed into a stone post, well fixed
into the ground, than leave it again if that were to die elsewhere.
But in the meantime we only ask you to take these letters."
The chaplain, looking at him with astonishment, said, "This is the
insanity of natural affection, which rebels against all measures
of time and distance."
The stranger continued, "Here is a letter from our second mate to
his dear and only remaining friend, his uncle, the merchant who
lives in the second house on Stuncken Yacht Quay."
He held forth the letter, but no one would approach to take it.
Tom Willis raised his voice and said, "One of our men, here, says
that he was in Amsterdam last summer, and he knows for certain that
the street called Stuncken Yacht Quay was pulled down sixty years
ago, and now there is only a large church at that place."
The man from the Flying Dutchman said, "It is impossible; we cannot
believe you. Here is another letter from myself, in which I have
sent a bank-note to my dear sister, to buy some gallant lace to
make her a high head-dress."
Tom Willis, hearing this, said, "It is most likely that her head
now lies under a tombstone, which will outlast all the changes of
the fashion. But on what house is your bank-note?"
The stranger replied, "On the house of Vanderbrucker & Company."
The man of whom Tom Willis had spoken said, "I guess there will
now be some discount upon it, for that banking house was gone
to destruction forty years ago; and Vanderbrucker was afterward
a-missing. But to remember these things is like raking up the
bottom of an old canal."
The stranger called out, passionately, "It is impossible;
we cannot believe it! It is cruel to say such things to people in
our condition. There is a letter from our captain himself, to his
much-beloved and faithful wife, whom he left at a pleasant summer
dwelling on the border of the Haarlemer Mer. She promised to have
the house beautifully painted and gilded before he came back,
and to get a new set of looking-glasses for the principal chamber,
that she might see as many images of Vanderdecken as if she had
six husbands at once."
The man replied, "There has been time enough for her to have had
six husbands since then; but were she alive still, there is no fear
that Vanderdecken would ever get home to disturb her."
On hearing this the stranger again shed tears, and said if they would
not take the letters he would leave them; and, looking around, he
offered the parcel to the captain, chaplain, and to the rest of
the crew successively, but each drew back as it was offered, and
put his hands behind his back. He then laid the letters upon the
deck, and placed upon them a piece of iron which was lying near,
to prevent them from being blown away. Having done this, he swung
himself over the gangway, and went into the boat.
We heard the others speak to him, but the rise of a sudden squall
prevented us from distinguishing his reply. The boat was seen to
quit the ship's side, and in a few moments there were no more traces
of her than if she had never been there. The sailors rubbed their
eyes as if doubting what they had witnessed; but the parcel still
lay upon deck, and proved the reality of all that had passed.
Duncan Saunderson, the Scotch mate, asked the captain if he should
take them up and put them in the letter-bag. Receiving no reply,
he would have lifted them if it had not been for Tom Willis, who
pulled him back, saying that nobody should touch them.
In the meantime the captain went down to the cabin, and the chaplain,
having followed him, found him at his bottle-case pouring out a
large dram of brandy. The captain, although somewhat disconcerted,
immediately offered the glass to him, saying, "Here, Charters,
is what is good in a cold night." The chaplain declined drinking
anything, and, the captain having swallowed the bumper, they
both returned to the deck, where they found the seamen giving their
opinions concerning what should be done with the letters. Tom Willis
proposed to pick them up on a harpoon, and throw it overboard.
Another speaker said, "I have always heard it asserted that it is
neither safe to accept them voluntarily, nor, when they are left,
to throw them out of the ship."
"Let no one touch them," said the carpenter. "The way to do with
the letters from the Flying Dutchman is to case them up on deck,
so that, if he sends back for them, they are still there to give
The carpenter went to fetch his tools. During his absence the ship
gave so violent a pitch that the piece of iron slid off the letters,
and they were whirled overboard by the wind, like birds of evil
omen whirring through the air. There was a cry of joy among the
sailors, and they ascribed the favourable change which soon took
place in the weather to our having got quit of Vanderdecken. We
soon got under way again. The night watch being set, the
rest of the crew retired to their berths.