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Derelict, A Tale of the Wayward Sea

by Frank R. Stockton


On the 25th of May, 1887, I sat alone upon the deck of the Sparhawk, a three-masted schooner, built, according to a description in the cabin, at Sackport, Me. I was not only alone on the deck, but I was alone on the ship. The Sparhawk was a "derelict"; that is, if a vessel with a man on board of her can be said to be totally abandoned.

I had now been on board the schooner for eight days. How long before that she had been drifting about at the mercy of the winds and currents I did not then know, but I discovered afterward that during a cyclone early in April she had been abandoned by her entire crew, and had since been reported five times to the hydrographic office of the Navy Department in Washington, and her positions and probable courses duly marked on the pilot chart.

She had now become one of that little fleet abandoned at sea for one cause or another, and floating about this way and that, as the wild winds blew or the ocean currents ran. Voyaging without purpose, as if manned by the spirits of ignorant landsmen, sometimes backward and forward over comparatively small ocean spaces, and sometimes drifting for many months and over thousands of miles, these derelicts form, at night and in fog, one of the dangers most to be feared by those who sail upon the sea.

As I said before, I came on board the abandoned Sparhawk on the 17th of May, and very glad indeed was I to get my feet again on solid planking. Three days previously the small steamer Thespia, from Havana to New York, on which I had been a passenger, had been burned at sea, and all on board had left her in the boats.

What became of the other boats I do not know, but the one in which I found myself in company with five other men, all Cuban cigarmakers, was nearly upset by a heavy wave during the second night we were out, and we were all thrown into the sea. As none of the Cubans could swim, they were all lost, but I succeeded in reaching the boat, which had righted itself, though half full of water.

There was nothing in the boat but two oars which had not slipped out of their rowlocks, a leather scoop which had been tied to a thwart, and the aforementioned water.

Before morning I had nearly baled out the boat, and fortunate it was for me that up to the time of the upset we had had enough to eat and drink, for otherwise I should not have had strength for that work and for what followed.

Not long after daybreak I sighted the Sparhawk, and immediately began to make such signals as I could. The vessel appeared to be but a few miles distant, and I could not determine whether she was approaching me or going away from me. I could see no sign that my signals had been noticed, and began frantically to row toward her. After a quarter of an hour of violent exertion, I did not appear to be much nearer to her; but, observing her more closely, I could see, even with my landsman's eyes, that something was the matter with her. Portions of her mast and rigging were gone, and one large sail at her stern appeared to be fluttering in the wind.

But it mattered not to me what had happened to her. She was a ship afloat, and I must reach her. Tired, hungry, and thirsty I rowed and rowed, but it was not until long after noon that I reached her. She must have been much farther from me than I had supposed.

With a great deal of trouble I managed to clamber on board, and found the ship deserted. I had suspected that this would be the case, for as I had drawn near I would have seen some sign that my approach was noticed had there been anybody on board to perceive it. But I found food and water, and when I was no longer hungry or thirsty I threw myself in a berth, and slept until the sun was high the next day.

I had now been on the derelict vessel for eight days. Why she had been deserted and left to her fate I was not seaman enough to know. It is true that her masts and rigging were in a doleful condition, but she did not appear to be leaking, and rode well upon the sea. There was plenty of food and water on board, and comfortable accommodations. I afterwards learned that during the terrible cyclone which had overtaken her, she had been on her beam ends for an hour before the crew left her in the boats.

For the first day or two of my sojourn on the Sparhawk I was as happy as a man could be under the circumstances. I thought myself to be perfectly safe, and believed it could not be long before I would be picked up. Of course I did not know my latitude and longitude, but I felt sure that the part of the Atlantic in which I was must be frequently crossed by steamers and other vessels.

About the fourth day I began to feel uneasy. I had seen but three sails, and these had taken no notice of the signal which I had hung as high in the mizzen-mast as I had dared to climb. It was, indeed, no wonder that the signal had attracted no attention among the fluttering shreds of sails about it.

I believe that one ship must have approached quite near me. I had been below some time, looking over the books in the captain's room, and when I came on deck I saw the stern of the ship, perhaps a mile or two distant, and sailing away. Of course my shouts and wavings were of no avail. She had probably recognized the derelict Sparhawk and had made a note of her present position, in order to report to the hydrographic office.

The weather had been fair for the most part of the time, the sea moderately smooth, and when the wind was strong, the great sail on the mizzen-mast, which remained hoisted and which I had tightened up a little, acted after the manner of the long end of a weather-vane, and kept the ship's head to the sea.

Thus it will be seen that I was not in a bad plight; but although I appreciated this, I grew more and more troubled and uneasy. For several days I had not seen a sail, and if I should see one how could I attract attention? It must be that the condition of the vessel indicated that there was no one on board. Had I known that the Sparhawk was already entered upon the list of derelicts, I should have been hopeless indeed.

At first I hung out a lantern as a night signal, but on the second night it was broken by the wind, and I could find only one other in good condition. The ship's lights must have been blown away in the storm, together with her boats and much of her rigging. I would not hang out the only lantern left me, for fear it should come to grief, and that I should be left in the dark at night in that great vessel. Had I known that I was on a vessel which had been regularly relegated to the ranks of the forsaken, I should better have appreciated the importance of allowing passing vessels to see that there was a light on board the Sparhawk, and, therefore, in all probability a life.

As day after day had passed, I had become more and more disheartened. It seemed to me that I was in a part of the great ocean avoided by vessels of every kind, that I was not in the track of anything going anywhere. Every day there seemed to be less and less wind, and when I had been on board a week, the Sparhawk was gently rising and falling on a smooth sea in a dead calm. Hour after hour I swept the horizon with the captain's glass, but only once did I see anything to encourage me. This was what appeared like a long line of black smoke against the distant sky, which might have been left by a passing steamer; but, were this the case, I never saw the steamer.

Happily, there were plenty of provisions on board of a plain kind. I found spirits and wine, and even medicines, and in the captain's room there were pipes, tobacco, and some books.

This comparative comfort gave me a new and strange kind of despair. I began to fear that I might become contented to live out my life alone in the midst of this lonely ocean. In that case, what sort of a man should I become?

It was about 8.30 by the captain's chronometer, when I came on deck on the morning of the 25th of May. I had become a late riser, for what was the good of rising early when there was nothing to rise for? I had scarcely raised my eyes above the rail of the ship when, to my utter amazement, I perceived a vessel not a mile away. The sight was so unexpected, and the surprise was so great, that my heart almost stopped beating as I stood and gazed at her.

She was a medium-sized iron steamer, and lay upon the sea in a peculiar fashion, her head being much lower than her stern, the latter elevated so much that I could see part of the blades of her motionless propeller. She presented the appearance of a ship which was just about to plunge, bow foremost, into the depths of the ocean, or which had just risen, stern foremost, from those depths.

With the exception of her position, and the fact that no smoke-stack was visible, she seemed, to my eyes, to be in good enough trim. She had probably been in collision with something, and her forward compartments had filled. Deserted by her crew, she had become a derelict, and, drifting about in her desolation, had fallen in with another derelict as desolate as herself. The fact that I was on board the Sparhawk did not, in my eyes, make that vessel any the less forsaken and forlorn.

The coming of this steamer gave me no comfort. Two derelicts, in their saddening effects upon the spirits, would be twice as bad as one, and, more than that, there was danger, should a storm arise, that they would dash into each other and both go to the bottom. Despairing as I had become, I did not want to go to the bottom.

As I gazed upon the steamer I could see that she was gradually approaching me. There was a little breeze this morning, and so much of her hull stood out of the water that it caught a good deal of the wind. The Sparhawk, on the contrary, was but little affected by the breeze, for apart from the fact that the great sail kept her head always to the wind, she was heavily laden with sugar and molasses and sat deep in the water. The other was not coming directly toward me, but would probably pass at a considerable distance. I did not at all desire that she should come near the Sparhawk.

Suddenly my heart gave a jump. I could distinctly see on the stern of the steamer the flutter of something white. It was waved! Somebody must be waving it!

Hitherto I had not thought of the spyglass, for with my naked eyes I could see all that I cared to see of the vessel, but now I dashed below to get it. When I brought it to bear upon the steamer I saw plainly that the white object was waved by some one, and that some one was a woman. I could see above the rail the upper part of her body, her uncovered head, her uplifted arm wildly waving.

Presently the waving ceased, and then the thought suddenly struck me that, receiving no response, she had in despair given up signalling. Cursing my stupidity, I jerked my handkerchief from my pocket, and, climbing a little way into the rigging, I began to wave it madly. Almost instantly her waving recommenced. I soon stopped signalling, and so did she. No more of that was needed. I sprang to the deck and took up the glass.

The woman was gone, but in a few moments she reappeared armed with a glass. This action filled me with amazement. Could it be possible that the woman was alone on the steamer, and that there was no one else to signal and to look out? The thing was incredible, and yet, if there were men on board, why did they not show themselves? And why did not one of them wave the signal and use the glass?

The steamer was steadily but very slowly nearing the Sparhawk, when the woman removed the glass and stood up waist high above the rail of the steamer Now I could see her much better; I fancied I could almost discern her features. She was not old; she was well shaped; her bluish gray dress fitted her snugly. Holding the rail with one hand she stood up very erect, which must have been somewhat difficult, considering the inclination of the deck. For a moment I fancied I had seen or known some one whose habit it was to stand up very erect as this woman stood upon the steamer. The notion was banished as absurd.

Wondering what I should do, what instant action I should take, I laid down my glass, and as I did so the woman immediately put up hers. Her object was plain enough; she wanted to observe me, which she could not well do when a view of my face was obstructed by the glass and my outstretched arms. I was sorry that I had not sooner given her that opportunity, and for some moments I stood and faced her, waving my hat as I did so.

I was wild with excitement. What should I do? What could I do? There were no boats on the Sparhawk, and what had become of the one in which I reached her I did not know. Thinking of nothing but getting on board the vessel, I had forgotten to make the boat fast, and when I went to look for it a day or two afterward it was gone. On the steamer, however, I saw a boat hanging from davits near the stern. There was hope in that.

But there might be no need for a boat. Under the influence of the gentle breeze, the steamer was steadily drawing nearer to the Sparhawk. Perhaps they might touch each other. But this idea was soon dispelled, for I could see that the wind would carry the steamer past me, although, perhaps, at no great distance. Then my hopes sprang back to the boat hanging from her davits.

But before these hopes could take shape the woman and her glass died out of sight behind the rail of the steamer. In about a minute she reappeared, stood up erect, and applied a speaking-trumpet to her mouth. It was possible that a high, shrill voice might have been heard from one vessel to the other, but it was plain enough that this was a woman who took no useless chances. I, too, must be prepared to hail as well as to be hailed. Quickly I secured a speaking-trumpet from the captain's room, and stood up at my post.

Across the water came the monosyllable, "Ho!" and back I shouted,

Then came these words, as clear and distinct as any I ever heard in my life: "Are you Mr. Rockwell?"

This question almost took away my senses. Was this reality? or had a spirit risen from this lonely ocean to summon me somewhere? Was this the way people died? Rockwell? Yes, my name was Rockwell. At least it had been. I was sure of nothing now.

Again came the voice across the sea. "Why don't you answer?" it said.

I raised my trumpet to my lips. At first I could make no sound, but, controlling my agitation a little, I shouted: "Yes!"

Instantly the woman disappeared, and for ten minutes I saw her no more. During that time I did nothing but stand and look at the steamer, which was moving more slowly than before, for the reason that the wind was dying away. She was now, however, nearly opposite me, and so near that if the wind should cease entirely, conversation might be held without the aid of trumpets. I earnestly hoped this might be the case, for I had now recovered the possession of my senses, and greatly desired to hear the natural voice of that young woman on the steamer.

As soon as she reappeared I made a trial of the power of my voice.
Laying down the trumpet I shouted: "Who are you?"

Back came the answer, clear, high, and perfectly audible: "I am Mary

Mary Phillips! it seemed to me that I remembered the name. I was certainly familiar with the erect attitude, and I fancied I recognized the features of the speaker. But this was all; I could not place her.

Before I could say anything she hailed again: "Don't you remember me?" she cried, "I lived in Forty-second Street."

The middle of a wild and desolate ocean and a voice from Forty-second Street! What manner of conjecture was this? I clasped my head in my hands and tried to think. Suddenly a memory came to me: a wild, surging, raging memory.

"With what person did you live in Forty-second Street?" I yelled across the water.

"Miss Bertha Nugent," she replied.

A fire seemed to blaze within me. Standing on tiptoe I fairly screamed: "Bertha Nugent! Where is she?"

The answer came back: "Here!" And when I heard it my legs gave way beneath me and I fell to the deck. I must have remained for some minutes half lying, half seated, on the deck. I was nearly stupefied by the statement I had heard.

I will now say a few words concerning Miss Bertha Nugent. She was a lady whom I had known well in New York, and who, for more than a year, I had loved well, although I never told her so. Whether or not she suspected my passion was a question about which I had never been able to satisfy myself. Sometimes I had one opinion; sometimes another. Before I had taken any steps to assure myself positively in regard to this point, Miss Nugent went abroad with a party of friends, and for eight months I had neither seen nor heard from her.

During that time I had not ceased to berate myself for my inexcusable procrastination. As she went away without knowing my feelings toward her, of course there could be no correspondence. Whatever she might have suspected, or whatever she might have expected, there was nothing between us.

But on my part my love for Bertha had grown day by day. Hating the city and even the country where I had seen her and loved her and where now she was not, I travelled here and there, and during the winter went to the West Indies. There I had remained until the weather had become too warm for a longer sojourn, and then I had taken passage in the Thespia for New York. I knew that Bertha would return to the city in the spring or summer, and I wished to be there when she arrived. If, when I met her, I found her free, there would be no more delay. My life thenceforth would be black or white. And now here she was near me in a half-wrecked steamer on the wide Atlantic, with no companion, as I knew, but her maid, Mary Phillips.

I now had a very distinct recollection of Mary Phillips. In my visits to the Nugent household in Forty-second Street I had frequently seen this young woman. Two or three times when Miss Nugent had not been at home, I had had slight interviews with her. She always treated me with a certain cordiality, and I had some reason to think that if Miss Nugent really suspected my feelings, Mary Phillips had given her some hints on the subject.

Mary Phillips was an exceedingly bright and quick young woman, and I am quite sure that she could see into the state of a man's feelings as well as any one. Bertha had given me many instances of her maid's facilities for adapting herself to circumstances, and I was now thankful from the bottom of my heart that Bertha had this woman with her.

I was recovering from the stupefaction into which my sudden emotions had plunged me, when a hail came across the water, first in Mary Phillips's natural voice, and then through a speaking-trumpet. I stood up and answered.

"I was wondering," cried Mary Phillips, "what had become of you; I thought perhaps you had gone down to breakfast." In answer I called to her to tell me where Miss Nugent was, how she was, how she came to be in this surprising situation, and how many people there were on board the steamer.

"Miss Nugent has not been at all well," answered Mary, "but she brightened up as soon as I told her you were here. She cannot come on deck very well, because the pitch of the ship makes the stairs so steep. But I am going to give her her breakfast now, and after she has eaten something she may be stronger, and I will try to get her on deck."

Brightened up when she knew I was near! That was glorious! That brightened up creation.

By this time I needed food also, but I did not remain below to eat it. I brought my breakfast on deck, keeping my eyes all the time fixed upon Bertha's steamer. The distance between us did not seem to have varied. How I longed for a little breeze that might bring us together! Bertha was on that vessel, trusting, perhaps, entirely to me: and what could I do if some breeze did not bring us together? I looked about for something on which I might float to her; but if I made a raft I was not sure that I could steer or propel it, and I might float away and become a third derelict. Once I thought of boldly springing into the water, and swimming to her; but the distance was considerable, my swimming powers were only moderate, and there might be sharks. The risk was too great. But surely we would come together. Even if no kind wind arose, there was that strange attraction which draws to each other the bubbles on a cup of tea. If bubbles, why not ships?

It was not long before nearly one-half of Mary Phillips appeared above the rail. "Miss Nugent aas come on deck," she cried, "and she wants to see you. She can't stand up very long, because everything is so sliding."

Before my trembling lips could frame an answer, she had bobbed out of sight, and presently reappeared supporting another person, and that other person was Bertha Nugent.

I could discern her features perfectly. She was thinner and paler than when I had last seen her, but her beauty was all there. The same smile which I had seen so often was upon her face as she waved her handkerchief to me. I waved my hat in return, but I tried two or three times before I could speak loud enough for her to hear me. Then I threw into my words all the good cheer and hope that I could.

She did not attempt to answer, but smiled more brightly than before.
Her expression seemed to indicate that, apart from the extraordinary
pleasure of meeting a friend on this waste of waters, she was glad that
I was that friend.

"She can't speak loud enough for you to hear her," called out Mary Phillips, "but she says that now you are here she thinks everything will be all right. She wants to know if you are alone on your ship, and if you can come to us."

I explained my situation, but said I did not doubt but the two ships would gradually drift together. "Is there no one to lower your boat?" I asked.

"No one but me," answered Mary, "and I don't believe I am up to that sort of thing. Miss Nugent says I must not touch it for fear I might fall overboard."

"Do you mean to say," I cried, "that there is nobody but you two on board that steamer?"

"No other living soul!" said Mary, "and I'll tell you how it all happened."

Then she told their story. The friends with whom Miss Nugent had travelled had determined to go to Egypt, but as she did not wish to accompany them, she had remained in Spain and Algiers during the early spring, and, eleven days before, she and Mary Phillips had started from Marseilles for home in the steamer La Fidélité. Five days ago, the steamer had collided in the night with something, Mary did not know what, and her front part was filled with water. Everybody was sure that the vessel would soon sink, and the captain, crew, and passengers—all French—went away in boats.

"Is it possible" I yelled, "that they deserted you two women?"

Mary Phillips replied that this was not the case. They had been implored to go in the boats, but the night was dark, the sea was rough and pitchy, and she was sure the boat would upset before they had gone a hundred yards. Miss Nugent and she both agreed that it was much safer to remain on a large vessel like the Fidélité, even if she was half full of water, than to go out on the dark and stormy water in a miserable little shell of a boat. The captain got down on his knees and implored them to go, but they were resolute. He then declared that he would force them into the craft, but Mary Phillips declared that if he tried that, she would shoot him; she had a pistol ready. Then, when they had all got in the boats but the captain, two of the men jumped on board again, threw their arms around him and carried him off, vowing that he should not lose his life on account of a pair of senseless Americans. A boat would be left, the men said, which they might use if they chose; but, of course, this was more a piece of sentiment than anything else.

"And now you see," cried Mary Phillips, "I was right, and they were wrong. This steamer has not sunk; and I have no manner of doubt that every soul who went away in those boats is now at the bottom of the sea."

This was indeed a wonderful story; and the fact that Bertha Nugent was on board a derelict vessel and should happen to fall in with me on board of another, was one of those events which corroborate the trite and hackneyed adage, that truth is stranger than fiction.

It was surprising how plainly I could hear Mary Phillips across the smooth, still water. The ships did not now seem to be moving at all; but soon they would be nearer, and then I could talk with Bertha. And soon after (it must be so) I would be with her.

I inquired if they had food and whatever else they needed; and Mary Phillips replied that, with the exception of the slanting position of the ship, they were very comfortable; that she did the cooking; and that Miss Nugent said that they lived a great deal better than when the ship's cook cooked.

Mary also informed me that she had arranged a very nice couch for Miss Nugent on the afterdeck; that she was lying there now, and felt better; that she wanted to know which I thought the safer ship of the two; and that whenever a little wind arose, and the vessels were blown nearer each other, she wished to get up and talk to me herself.

I answered that I thought both the ships were safe enough, and should be delighted to talk with Miss Nugent, but in my heart I could not believe that a vessel with her bow as low as that of the Fidélité could be safe in bad weather, to say nothing of the possibility of, at any time, the water bursting into other compartments of the ship. The Sparhawk I believed to be in much better condition. Despite the fact that she was utterly helpless as far as sailing qualities were concerned, the greater part of her masts and rigging being in a wretched condition, and her rudder useless, she did not appear to be damaged. I had no reason to believe that she leaked, and she floated well, although, as I have said, she lay rather deep in the water.

If the thing were possible, I intended to get Bertha on board the Sparhawk, where there was hope that we could all remain safely until we were rescued. With this purpose in view, the moment Mary Phillips disappeared, I went below and prepared the captain's cabin for Bertha and her maid. I carried to the forward part of the vessel all the pipes, bottles, and glasses, and such other things as were not suitable for a lady's apartment, and thoroughly aired the cabin, making it as neat and comfortable as circumstances permitted. The very thought of offering hospitality to Bertha was a joy.

I proposed to myself several plans to be used in various contingencies. If the two vessels approached near enough, I would throw a line to La Fidélité, and Mary Phillips would make it fast, I knew. Then with a windlass I might draw the two vessels together. Then I would spring on board the steamer, and when I had transferred Bertha and Mary to the Sparhawk, would cut loose La Fidélité to drift where she pleased.

It was possible that I might convey from one vessel to the other some articles of luxury or necessity, but on this point I would not come to any definite conclusion. I would consult Mary Phillips on the subject.

Another plan was that if we did not approach very close, I would endeavor to throw a long, light line to the steamer, and Mary Phillips would attach it to the boat which hung from the davits. Into this she would put a pair of oars and lower it as well as she could; then I would haul it to the Sparhawk, row over to the steamer, and transfer Bertha and Mary to my vessel. It was possible that we should not have to be very near each other for me to carry out this plan. Had I been a seaman, I might have thought of some other plan better than these. But I was not a seaman.

I did not waste any time in the cabin, although I was very desirous to make it as pleasant as possible for the reception of Bertha, but when I returned to the deck I was astonished to find that the steamer was farther away than it had been when I went below. There was a slight breeze from the east, which had nearly turned the Sparhawk about with her bow to the wind, but was gently carrying La Fidélité before it.

I seized the speaking-trumpet, and with all my power, hailed the steamer; and in return there came to me a single sound, the sound of the vowel O. I could see two handkerchiefs fluttering upon the stern. In ten minutes these were scarcely discernible.

Half-crazed, I stood and gazed, and gazed, and gazed at the distant steamer. The wind died away, and I could perceive that she was not becoming more distant. Then I began to hope. Another wind might spring up which would bring her back.

And in an hour or two the other wind did spring up; I felt it in my face, and slowly the Sparhawk turned her bow toward it, and, enrapturing sight! the steamer, with my Bertha on board, began to move slowly back to me! The wind which was now blowing came from the southwest, and La Fidélité, which before had lain to the southward of the Sparhawk, was passing to the north of my vessel. Nearer and nearer she came, and my whole soul was engaged in the hope that she might not pass too far north.

But I soon saw that unless the wind changed, the steamer would probably pass within hailing distance.

Soon I could see Mary Phillips on deck, speaking-trumpet in hand; and seizing my trumpet, I hailed when as I thought we were near enough. I eagerly inquired after Bertha, and the high voice of Mary Phillips came across the water, telling me that Miss Nugent was not feeling at all well. This uncertain state of affairs was making her feel very nervous. "Can she come on deck?" I cried. "Can she use a speaking-trumpet? If I could talk to her, I might encourage her."

"She needs it," answered Mary, "but she cannot speak through the trumpet; she tried it, and it made her head ache. She is here on deck, and I am going to help her stand up as soon as we get nearer. Perhaps she may be able to speak to you."

The two vessels were now near enough for a high-pitched conversation without the assistance of trumpets, and Mary Phillips assisted Bertha to the side of the steamer, where I could distinctly see her. I shouted as hearty a greeting as ever was sent across the water, bidding her to keep up a good heart, for help of some kind must surely come to us. She tried to answer me, but her voice was not strong enough. Then she shook her head, by which I understood that she did not agree with me in my hopeful predictions. I called back to her that in all this drifting about the two vessels must certainly come together, and then, with the assistance of the steamer's boat, we could certainly devise some way of getting out of this annoying plight. She smiled, apparently at the mildness of this expression, and again shook her head. She now seemed tired, for her position by the rail was not an easy one to maintain, and her maid assisted her to her couch on the deck. Then stood, up Mary Phillips, speaking loud and promptly:—

"She has a message for you," she said, "which she wanted to give to you herself, but she cannot do it. She thinks—but I tell her it is of no use thinking that way—that we are bound to be lost. You may be saved because your ship seems in a better condition than ours, and she does not believe that the two vessels will ever come together; so she wants me to tell you that if you get home and she never does, that she wishes her share in the Forty-second Street house to go to her married sister, and to be used for the education of the children. She doesn't want it divided up in the ordinary way, because each one will get so little, and it will do no good. Do you think that will be a good will?"

"Don't speak of wills!" I shouted; "there is no need of a will. She will get home in safety and attend to her own affairs."

"I think so, too," cried Mary Phillips; "but I had to tell you what she said. And now she wants to know if you have any message to send to your parents, for we might blow off somewhere and be picked up, while this might not happen to you. But I don't believe in that sort of thing any more than in the other."

I shouted back my disbelief in the necessity of any such messages, when
Mary Phillips seized her trumpet and cried that she did not hear me.

Alas! the breeze was still blowing, and the steamer was moving away to the northeast. Through my trumpet I repeated my words, and then Mary said something which I could not hear. The wind was against her. I shouted to her to speak louder, and she must have screamed with all her force, but I could only hear some words to the effect that we were bound to come together again, and she waved her handkerchief cheerily.

Then the steamer moved farther and farther away, and speaking-trumpets were of no avail. I seized the glass, and watched La Fidélité, until she was nothing but a black spot upon the sea.

The wind grew lighter, and finally died away, and the black spot remained upon the horizon. I did not take my eyes from it until night drew on and blotted it out. I had not thought of advising Mary Phillips to hang out a light, and she was probably not sufficiently accustomed to the ways of ships to think of doing it herself, although there could be no doubt that there were lanterns suitable for the purpose on the steamer. Had there been a light upon that vessel, I should have watched the glimmer all night. As it was, I slept upon the deck, waking frequently to peer out into the darkness, and to listen for a hail from a speaking-trumpet.

In the morning there was a black spot upon the horizon. I fancied that it was a little nearer than when I last saw it; but in the course of the forenoon it faded away altogether. Then despair seized upon me, and I cared not whether I lived or died. I forgot to eat, and threw myself upon the deck, where I remained for several hours, upbraiding myself for my monstrous, unpardonable folly in neglecting the opportunities which were now lost.

Over and over again I told myself bitterly, that when I had been near enough to the vessel which bore Bertha Nugent to converse with Mary Phillips without the aid of a speaking-trumpet, I should have tried to reach that vessel, no matter what the danger or the difficulties. I should have launched a raft—I should have tried to swim—I should have done something.

And more than that, even had it been impossible for me to reach the steamer, I should have endeavored to reach Bertha's heart. I should have told her that I loved her. Whether she were lost or I were lost, or both of us, she should have known I loved her. She might not have been able to answer me, but she could have heard me. For that terrible mistake, that crime, there was no pardon. Now every chance was gone. What reason was there to suppose that these two derelicts ever again would drift together?

In the afternoon I rose languidly and looked about me. I saw something on the horizon, and seizing the glass, I knew it to be La Fidélité. I could recognize the slant of the hull, of the masts.

Now hope blazed up again. If she were nearer, she must come nearer still. I recovered my ordinary state of mind sufficiently to know that I was hungry, and that I must eat to be strong and ready for what might happen.

Upon one thing I was determined. If Bertha should ever again be brought near enough to hear me, I would tell her that I loved her. The object of life, however much of it might be left me, should be to make Bertha know that I loved her. If I swam toward the vessel, or floated on a plank, I must get near enough to tell her that I loved her.

But there was no wind, and the apparent size of the steamer did not increase. This was a region or season of calms or fitful winds. During the rest of the day the distant vessel continued to be a black speck upon the smooth and gently rolling sea. Again I spent the night on deck, but I did not wake to listen or watch. I was worn out and slept heavily.

The day was bright when I was awakened by a chilly feeling: a strong breeze was blowing over me. I sprang to my feet. There was quite a heavy sea; the vessel was rolling and pitching beneath me, and not far away, not more than a mile, La Fidélité was coming straight toward me. Lightly laden, and with a great part of her hull high out of water, the high wind was driving her before it, while my vessel, her bow to the breeze, was moving at a much slower rate.

As I looked at the rapidly approaching steamer, it seemed as if she certainly must run into the Sparhawk. But for that I cared not. All that I now hoped for was that Bertha should come to me. Whether one vessel sank or the other, or whether both went down together, I should be with Bertha, I would live or die with her. Mary Phillips stood full in view on the stern of the oncoming steamer, a speaking-trumpet in her hand. I could now see that it was not probable that the two vessels would collide. The steamer would pass me, but probably very near. Before I could make up my mind what I should do in this momentous emergency, Mary Phillips hailed me.

"When we get near enough," she shouted, "throw me a rope. I'll tie it to the boat and cut it loose."

Wildly I looked about me for a line which I might throw. Cordage there was in abundance, but it was broken or fastened to something, or too heavy to handle. I remembered, however, seeing a coil of small rope below, and hastening down, I brought it on deck, took the coil in my right hand, and stood ready to hurl it when the proper moment should come.

That moment came quickly. The steamer was not a hundred feet from me when I reached the deck. It passed me on the port side.

"Be ready!" cried Mary Phillips, the instant she saw me. It was not now necessary to use a trumpet.

"Throw as soon as I get opposite to you!" she cried.

"Is Bertha well?" I shouted.

"Yes!" said Mary Phillips; "but what you've got to do is to throw that rope. Give it a good heave. Throw now!"

The two vessels were not fifty feet apart. With all my strength I hurled the coil of rope. The steamer's stern was above me, and I aimed high. The flying coil went over the deck of La Fidélité, but in my excitement I forgot to grasp tightly the other end of it, and the whole rope flew from me and disappeared beyond the steamer. Stupefied by this deplorable accident, I staggered backward and a heave of the vessel threw me against the rail. Recovering myself, I glared about for another rope, but of course there was none.

Then came a shout from Mary Phillips. But she had already passed me, and as I was to the windward of her I did not catch her words. As I remembered her appearance, she seemed to be tearing her hair. In a flash I thought of my resolution. Rushing to the rail, I put the trumpet to my mouth. The wind would carry my words to her if it would not bring hers to me.

"Tell Bertha to come on deck!" I shouted. Mary Phillips looked at me, but did not move. I wished her to rush below and bring up Bertha. Not an instant was to be lost. But she did not move.

"Tell her I love her!" I yelled through the trumpet. "Tell her that I love her now and shall love her forever. Tell her I love her, no matter what happens. Tell her I love her, I love her, I love her!" And this I continued to scream until it was plain I was no longer heard. Then I threw down my useless trumpet and seized the glass. Madly I scanned the steamer. No sign of Bertha was to be seen. Mary Phillips was there, and now she waved her handkerchief. At all events she forgave me. At such a terrible moment what could one do but forgive?

I watched, and watched, and watched, but no figure but that of Mary Phillips appeared upon the steamer, and at last I could not even distinguish that. Now I became filled with desperate fury. I determined to sail after Bertha and overtake her. A great sail was flapping from one of my masts, and I would put my ship about, and the strong wind should carry me to Bertha.

I knew nothing of sailing, but even if I had known, all my efforts would have been useless. I rushed to the wheel and tried to move it, pulling it this way and that, but the rudder was broken or jammed,—I know not what had happened to it. I seized the ropes attached to the boom of the sail, I pulled, I jerked, I hauled; I did not know what I was doing. I did nothing. At last, in utter despair and exhaustion, I fell to the deck.

But before the wind had almost died away, and in the afternoon the sea was perfectly calm, and when the sun set I could plainly see the steamer on the faroff edge of the glistening water. During the whole of the next day I saw her. She neither disappeared nor came nearer. Sometimes I was in the depths of despair; sometimes I began to hope a little; but I had one great solace in the midst of my misery—Bertha knew that I loved her. I was positively sure that my words had been heard.

It was a strange manner in which I had told my love. I had roared my burning words of passion through a speaking-trumpet, and I had told them not to Bertha herself, but to Mary Phillips. But the manner was of no importance. Bertha now knew that I loved her. That was everything to me.

As long as light remained I watched La Fidélité through the glass, but I could see nothing but a black form with a slanting upper line. She was becalmed as I was. Why could she not have been becalmed near me? I dared not let my mind rest upon the opportunities I had lost when she had been becalmed near me. During the night the wind must have risen again, for the Sparhawk rolled and dipped a good deal, troubling my troubled slumbers. Very early in the morning I was awakened by what sounded like a distant scream. I did not know whether it was a dream or not; but I hurried on deck. The sun had not risen, but as I looked about I saw something which took away my breath; which made me wonder if I were awake, or dreaming, or mad.

It was Bertha's steamer within hailing distance!

Above the rail I saw the head and body of Mary Phillips, who was screaming through the trumpet. I stood and gazed in petrified amazement.

I could not hear what Mary Phillips said. Perhaps my senses were benumbed. Perhaps the wind was carrying away her words. That it was blowing from me toward her soon became too evident. The steamer was receding from the Sparhawk. The instant I became aware of this my powers of perception and reasoning returned to me with a burning flash.

Bertha was going away from me—she was almost gone.

Snatching my trumpet, I leaned over the rail and shouted with all my might: "Did you hear me say I loved her? Did you tell her?"

Mary Phillips had put down her trumpet, but now she raised it again to her mouth, and I could see that she was going to make a great effort. The distance between us had increased considerably since I came on deck, and she had to speak against the wind.

With all the concentrated intensity which high-strung nerves could give to a man who is trying to hear the one thing to him worth hearing in the world, I listened. Had a wild beast fixed his claws and teeth into me at the moment I would not have withdrawn my attention.

I heard the voice of Mary Phillips, faint, far away. I heard the words, "Yes, but—" and the rest was lost. She must have known from my aspect that her message did not reach me, for she tried again and again to make herself heard.

The wind continued to blow, and the steamer continued to float and float and float away. A wind had come up in the night. It had blown Bertha near me; perhaps it had blown her very near me. She had not known it, and I had not known it. Mary Phillips had not known it until it was too late, and now that wind had blown her past me and was blowing her away. For a time there was a flutter of a handkerchief, but only one handkerchief, and then La Fidélité, with Bertha on board, was blown away until she disappeared, and I never saw her again.

All night I sat upon the deck of the Sparhawk, thinking, wondering, and conjecturing. I was in a strange state of mind. I did not wonder or conjecture whether Bertha's vessel would come back to me again; I did not think of what I should do if it did come back. I did not think of what I should do if it never came back. All night I thought, wondered, and conjectured what Mary Phillips had meant by the word "but."

It was plain to me what "yes" had meant. My message had been heard, and I knew Mary Phillips well enough to feel positively sure that having received such a message under such circumstances she had given it to Bertha. Therefore I had positive proof that Bertha knew that I loved her. But what did the "but" mean?

It seemed to me that there were a thousand things that this word might mean. It might mean that she was already engaged to be married. It might mean that she had vowed never to marry. It might mean that she disapproved of such words at such a time. I cannot repeat the tenth of the meanings which I thought I might attach to this word. But the worst thing that it could purport, the most terrible signification of all, recurred to me over and over again. It might mean that Bertha could not return my affection. She knew that I loved her, but she could not love me.

In the morning I ate something and then lay down upon the deck to sleep. It was well that I should do this, I thought, because if Bertha came near me again in the daytime Mary Phillips would hail me if I were not awake. All night long I would watch, and, as there was a moon, I would see Bertha's vessel if it came again.

I did watch all that afternoon and all that night, and during my watching I never ceased to wonder and conjecture what Mary Phillips meant by that word "but."

About the middle of the next day I saw in the distance something upon the water. I first thought it a bit of spray, for it was white, but as there were now no waves there could be no spray. With the glass I could only see that it was something white shining in the sun. It might be the glistening body of a dead fish. After a time it became plainer to me. It was such a little object that the faint breezes which occasionally arose had more influence upon the Sparhawk than upon it, and so I gradually approached it.

In about an hour I made out that it was something round, with something white raised above it, and then I discovered that it was a life-preserver, which supported a little stick, to which a white flag, probably a handkerchief, was attached. Then I saw that on the life-preserver lay a little yellow mass.

Now I knew what it was that I saw. It was a message from Bertha. Mary
Phillips had devised the means of sending it. Bertha had sent it.

The life-preserver was a circular one, filled with air. In the centre of this, Mary, by means of many strings, had probably secured a stick in an upright position; she had then fastened a handkerchief to the top of the stick. Bertha had written a message and Mary had wrapped it in a piece of oiled silk and fastened it to the life-preserver. She had then lowered this contrivance to the surface of the water, hoping that it would float to me or I would float to it.

I was floating to it. It contained the solution of all my doubts, the answer to all my conjectures. It was Bertha's reply to my declaration of love, and I was drifting slowly but surely toward it. Soon I would know.

But after a time the course of the Sparhawk or the course of the message changed. I drifted to the north. Little by little my course deviated from the line on which I might have met the message. At last I saw that I should never meet it. When I became convinced of this, my first impulse was to spring overboard and swim for it. But I restrained this impulse, as I had restrained others like it. If Bertha came back, I must be ready to meet her. I must run no risks, for her sake and my sake. She must find me on the Sparhawk if she should come back. She had left me and she had come back; she might come back again. Even to get her message I must not run the risk of missing her. And so with yearning heart and perhaps tearful eyes I watched the little craft disappear and become another derelict.

I do not know how many days and nights I watched and waited for Bertha's ship and wondered and conjectured what Mary Phillips meant by "but." I was awake so much and ate so little and thought so hard that I lost strength, both of mind and body. All I asked of my body was to look out for Bertha's steamer, and all that I asked of my mind was to resolve the meaning of the last words I had heard from that vessel.

One day, I do not know whether it was in the morning or afternoon, I raised my head, and on the horizon I saw a steamer. Quick as a flash my glass was brought to bear upon it. In the next minute my arms dropped, the telescope fell into my lap, my head dropped. It was not Bertha's steamer; it was an ordinary steamer with its deck parallel with the water and a long line of smoke coming out of its funnel. The shock of the disappointment was very great.

When I looked up again I could see that the steamer was headed directly toward me, and was approaching with considerable rapidity. But this fact affected me little. It would not bring me Bertha. It would not bring me any message from her. It was an ordinary vessel of traffic. I took no great interest in it, one way or the other.

Before long it was so near that I could see people on board. I arose and looked over the rail. Then some one on the steamer fired a gun or a pistol. As this seemed to be a signal, I waved my hat. Then the steamer began to move more slowly, and soon lay to and lowered a boat.

In ten minutes three men stood on the deck of the Sparhawk. Some one had hailed me in English to lower something. I had lowered nothing; but here they were on deck. They asked me a lot of questions, but I answered none of them.

"Is your captain with you?" I said. They answered that he was not, that he was on the steamer. "Then take me to him," said I.

"Of course we will," said their leader, with a smile. And they took me.

I was received on the steamer with much cordiality and much questioning, but to none of it did I pay any attention. I addressed the captain.

"Sir," said I, "I will be obliged to you if you will immediately cruise to the southwest and pick up for me a life-preserver with a little white flag attached to it. It also carries a message for me, wrapped up in a piece of oiled silk. It is very important that I should obtain that message without delay."

The captain laughed. "Why, man!" said he, "what are you thinking of? Do you suppose that I can go out of my course to cruise after a life-preserver?"

I looked at him with scorn. "Unmanly fiend!" said I.

Another officer now approached, whom I afterward knew to be the ship's doctor.

"Come, come now," he said, "don't let us have any hard words. The captain is only joking. Of course he will steam after your life-preserver, and no doubt will come up with it very soon. In the mean-time you must come below and have something to eat and drink and rest yourself."

Satisfied with this assurance, I went below, was given food and medicine, and was put into a berth, where I remained for four days in a half-insensible condition, knowing nothing—caring for nothing.

When I came on deck again I was very weak, but I had regained my senses, and the captain and I talked rationally together. I told him how I had come on board the Sparhawk, and how I had fallen in with the La Fidélité, half wrecked, having on board only a dear friend of mine. In answer to his questions I described the details of the communications between the two vessels, and could not avoid mentioning the wild hopes and heart-breaking disappointments of that terrible time. And, somewhat to my languid surprise, the captain asked no questions regarding these subjects. I finished by thanking him for having taken me from the wreck, but added that I felt like a false-hearted coward for having deserted upon the sea the woman I loved, who now would never know my fate nor I hers.

"Don't be too sure of that," said the captain, "for you are about to hear from her now."

I gazed at him in blank amazement. "Yes," said the captain, "I have seen her, and she has sent me to you. But I see you are all knocked into a heap, and I will make the story as short as I can. This vessel of mine is bound from Liverpool to La Guayra, and on the way down we called at Lisbon. On the morning of the day I was to sail from there, there came into port the Glanford, a big English merchantman, from Buenos Ayres to London. I knew her skipper, Captain Guy Chesters, as handsome a young English sailor as ever stood upon a deck.

"In less than an hour from the time we dropped anchor, Captain Guy was on my vessel. He was on the lookout, he said, for some craft bound for South America or the West Indies, and was delighted to find me there. Then he told me that, ten days before, he had taken two ladies from a half-wrecked French steamer, and that they had prayed and besought him to cruise about and look for the Sparhawk, a helpless ship, with a friend of theirs alone on board.

"'You know,' said Captain Guy to me, 'I couldn't do that, for I'd lost time enough already, and the wind was very light and variable; so all I could do was to vow to the ladies that when we got to Lisbon we'd be bound to find a steamer going south, and that she could easily keep a lookout for the Sparhawk, and take off the friend.' 'That was a pretty big contract you marked out for the steamer going south,' I said, 'and as for the Sparhawk, she's an old derelict, and I sighted her on my voyage north, and sent in a report of her position, and there couldn't have been anybody on board of her then.' 'Can't say,' said Captain Guy; 'from what I can make out, this fellow must have boarded her a good while after she was abandoned, and seems to have been lying low after that.' Was that so, sir? Did you lie low?"

I made no answer. My whole soul was engaged in the comprehension of the fact that Bertha had sent for me. "Go on!" I cried.

"All right," said he. "I ought not to keep you waiting. I promised Captain Guy I would keep a lookout for the Sparhawk, and take you off if you were on board. I promised the quicker, because my conscience was growling at me for having, perhaps, passed a fellow-being on an abandoned vessel. But I had heard of the Sparhawk before. I had sighted her, and so didn't keep a very sharp lookout for living beings aboard. Then Captain Guy took me on board his ship to see the two ladies, for they wanted to give me instructions themselves. And I tell you what, sir, you don't often see two prettier women on board ship, nor anywhere else, for that matter. Captain Guy told me that before I saw them. He was in great spirits about his luck. He is the luckiest fellow in the merchant service. Now, if I had picked up two people that way, it would have been two old men. But he gets a couple of lovely ladies; that's the way the world goes. The ladies made me pretty nigh swear that I'd never set foot on shore till I found you. I would have been glad enough to stay there all day and make promises to those women; but my time was short, and I had to leave them to Captain Guy. So I did keep a lookout for the Sparhawk, and heard of her from two vessels coming north, and finally fell in with you. And a regular lunatic you were when I took you on board; but that's not to be wondered at; and you seem to be all right now."

"Did you not bring me any message from them?" I asked.

"Oh, yes; lots," said the captain. "Let me see if I can remember some of them." And then he knit his brows and tapped his head, and repeated some very commonplace expressions of encouragement and sympathy.

The effect of these upon me was very different from what the captain had expected. I had hoped for a note, a line—anything direct from Bertha. If she had written something which would explain the meaning of those last words from Mary Phillips, whether that explanation were favorable or otherwise, I would have been better satisfied; but now my terrible suspense must continue.

"Well," said the captain, "you don't seem cheered up much by word from your friends. I was too busy looking at them to rightly catch everything they said, but I know they told me they were going to London in the Glanford. This I remembered, because it struck me what a jolly piece of good luck it all was for Captain Guy."

"And for what port are you bound?" I asked. "La Guayra," he said. "It isn't a very good time of the year to be there; but I don't doubt that you can find some vessel or other there that will take you north, so you're all right."

I was not all right. Bertha was saved. I was saved; but I had received no message. I knew nothing; and I was going away from her.

Two or three days after this, the captain came to me and said: "Look here, young man; you seem to be in the worst kind of doleful dumps. People who have been picked up in the middle of the ocean don't generally look like that. I wonder if you're not a little love-sick on account of a young woman on the Glanford."

I made no answer; I would not rebuke him, for he had saved my life; but this was a subject which I did not wish to discuss with a sea-captain.

"If that's really what's the matter with you," said he, "I can give you a piece of advice which will do you good if you take it. I think you told me that you are not engaged to this lady," (I nodded) "and that you never proposed to her except through a speaking-trumpet." I allowed silence to make assent. "Well, now, my advice is to give her up, to drop all thoughts of her, and to make up your mind to tackle onto some other girl when you find one that is good enough. You haven't the least chance in the world with this one. Captain Guy is mad in love with her. He told me so himself, and when he's out and out in love with a girl he's bound to get her. When I was with him he might have been married once a month if he'd chosen to; but he didn't choose. Now he does choose, and I can tell you that he's not going to make love through a speaking-trumpet. He'll go straight at it, and he'll win, too. There's every reason why he should win. In the first place, he's one of the handsomest fellows, and I don't doubt one of the best love-makers that you would be likely to meet on land or sea. And then again, she has every reason to be grateful to him and to look on him as a hero."

I listened without a word. The captain's reasoning seemed to me very fallacious.

"You don't know it," said he, "but Captain Guy did a good deal more than pick up those two women from an abandoned vessel. You see he was making his way north with a pretty fair wind from the south-west, the first they'd had for several days, and when his lookout sighted La Fidélité nobody on board thought for a minute that he would try to beat up to her, for she lay a long way to the west of his course, though pretty well in sight.

"But Captain Guy has sharp eyes and a good glass, and he vowed that he could see something on the wreck that looked like a handkerchief waved by a woman. He told me this himself as we were walking from my ship to his. Everybody laughed at him and wanted to know if women waved handkerchiefs different from other people.

"They said that any bit of canvas might wave like that, and that it was plain enough that the vessel was abandoned. If it was not, it could be, for there was a boat still hanging to one of its davits. Captain Guy paid no attention to this, but spied a little longer; then he vowed that he was going to make for that vessel. There was one of the owners on board, and he up and forbid Captain Guy to do it. He told him that they had been delayed enough on the voyage by light winds, and now that they would be over-due at their port a good many days before they got there. Every day lost, he said, was money lost to the owners. He had never heard of any skipper undertaking a piece of tomfoolery like this. It would take all day to beat up to that wreck, and when they reached it they would find an old derelict, which was no more than they could see now. And as for there being a woman on board, that was all stuff. The skipper had woman on the brain.

"To this Captain Guy answered that he didn't own the ship, but he commanded her, and as long as he commanded this vessel or any other, he was not going to pass a wreck when there were good reasons to believe that there was a human being on board of it, and in spite of what anybody said, his eyes told him that there was reason to believe that there was somebody waving on that wreck. So he ordered the ship put about, paying no attention to the cursing and swearing of the owner, and beat against a wind that was getting lighter and lighter for over four hours until he reached the French steamer and took off the two ladies.

"There was nobody on board the Glanford that thinks that Captain Guy will ever sail that ship again. And in fact he don't think so himself. But said he to me: "If I can marry that girl, the ship can go. If I can't get another ship, I can sail under a skipper. But there's no other girl in the world like this one."

"And so you see, sir," he continued, "there isn't the least chance in the world for you. Captain Guy's got her on board his ship; he's with her by sunlight and starlight. He's lost his ship for her and he wants to marry her. And on the other hand, it'll be weeks and weeks and perhaps months before you can see her, or write to her either, as like as not, and long before that Captain Guy will have his affair settled, and there isn't any reason in my mind to doubt which way it will settle. And so you just take my advice, sir, and stop drawing that long face. There are plenty of good girls in the world; no reason why you shouldn't get one; but if you are moping for the one that Captain Guy's got his heart set on, I'm afraid you'll end by being as much out of your head as you were when I found you."

To all this I made no answer, but walked gloomily toward the stern and looked down into the foaming wake. I think I heard the captain tell one of the men to keep an eye on me.

When we reached La Guayra—and the voyage seemed to me a never-ending one—I immediately set about finding a vessel bound for England. My captain advised me to go up on the mountains and wait until a steamer should sail for New York, which event might be expected in two or three weeks. America would be much better for me, he thought, than would England. But I paid no attention to him, and as there was nothing in port that would sail for England, I took passage in a Spanish steamer bound for Barcelona. Arriving there, after a passage long enough to give me plenty of time for the consideration of the last two words I heard from Mary Phillips, and of the value of the communications I had received regarding Captain Guy Chesters, I immediately started by rail for London. On this journey I found that what I had heard concerning the rescue of my Bertha had had a greater effect upon me than I had supposed. Trains could not go fast enough for me. I was as restless as a maniac; I may have looked like one.

Over and over I tried to quiet myself by comforting reflections, saying to myself, for instance, that if the message which Bertha had sent floating on the sea to me had not been a good one, she would not have sent it. Feel as she might, she could not have been so hard-hearted as to crush the hopes of a man who, like herself, might soon lie in a watery grave. But then, there was that terrible word "but." Looked at in certain lights, what could be more crushing or heart-breaking than that?

And then again, Mary Phillips may not have understood what I said to her through the speaking-trumpet. A grim humor of despair suggested that at that distance, and in that blustering wind, the faithful maid-servant might have thought that instead of shouting that I loved my Bertha, I was asking her if they had plenty of salt pork and hardtack. It was indeed a time of terrible suspense.

I did not know Bertha's address in England. I knew that she had friends in London and others in the country; but I was sure that I would find her if she were on the island. I arrived in London very early in the morning, too early to expect to find open any of the banking-houses or other places where Americans would be likely to register. Unable to remain inactive, I took a cab and drove to the London docks.

I went to inquire the whereabouts of Captain Guy Chesters.

This plan of action was almost repulsive to me, but I felt that it offered an opportunity which I should not neglect. I would certainly learn about Bertha if I saw him, and whether it would be anything good or anything bad I ought to know it.

In making my inquiries the cabman was of much assistance to me. And after having been referred from one person to another, I at last found a man, first mate of a vessel in the docks, who knew Captain Chesters, and could tell me all about him.

"Yes, sir," said he, "I can tell you where to find Captain Chesters. He's on shore, for he doesn't command the Glanford now, and as far as I know he hasn't signed articles yet either as skipper or mate in any other craft. The fact is, he's engaged in business, which I suppose he thinks better than sailing the sea. He was married about a month ago. It's only two or three days since he's got back from a little land trip they took on the Continent. I saw him yesterday; he's the happiest man alive. But it's as like as not that he's ready for business now that he's got through with his honeymoon, and if it's a skipper you're looking for you can't find a better man than Captain Guy, not about these docks."

I stood and looked at the man without seeing him, and then in a hollow voice asked: "Where does he live?"

"A hundred and nine Lisbury Street, Calistoy Road, East. Now that I've told you, I wish I hadn't. You look as though you were going to measure him for a coffin."

"Thank you," said I, and walked away.

I told the cabman to drive me to the address I had received, and in due time we arrived in front of a very good-looking house, in a quiet and respectable street.

I was in a peculiar state of mind. I had half expected the terrible shock, and I had received it. But I had not been stunned; I had been roused to an unusual condition of mental activity. My senses were sharpened by the torment of my soul, and I observed everything,—the quarter of the city, the street, the house.

The woman who opened the door started a little when she saw me. I asked for Mrs. Captain Chesters, and walked in without waiting to be told whether the lady was in or not. The woman showed me into a little parlor, and left me. Her manner plainly indicated that she suspected something was the matter with me.

In a very short time a tall, well-made man, with curly brown hair, a handsome, sun-browned face, and that fine presence which command at sea frequently gives, entered the room.

"I understand, sir," said he, "that you asked for my wife, but I thought it better to come to you myself. What is your business with her, sir, and what is your name?"

"My name is Charles Rockwell," I said, "and my business is to see her. If she has already forgotten my name, you can tell her that I kept company with her for a while on the Atlantic Ocean, when she was in one wreck and I was in another."

"Good heavens!" cried the young sailor; "do you mean to say that you are the man who was on the derelict Sparhawk? And were you picked up by Captain Stearns, whom I sent after you? I supposed he would have written to me about you."

"I came faster than a letter would come," I answered. "Can I see her?"

"Of course you can!" cried Captain Guy. "I never knew a man so talked about as you have been since I fell in with the wreck of that French steamer! By George! sir, there was a time when I was dead jealous of you. But I'm married tight and fast now, and that sort of thing is done with. Of course you shall see her."

He left the room, and presently I heard the sound of running footsteps. The door was opened, and Mary Phillips entered, closely followed by the captain. I started back; I shouted as if I had a speaking-trumpet to my mouth:—

"What!" I cried; "is this your wife?"

"Yes," said Captain Guy, stepping forward, "of course she is. Why not?" I made no answer, but with open arms I rushed upon Mary Phillips and folded her in a wild embrace. I heard a burst of nautical oaths, and probably would have been felled by a nautical fist, had not Mary screamed to her husband:—

"Stop, Guy!" she cried; "I understand him. It's all right. He's so glad to see me."

I released her from my embrace, and, staggering back, sank upon a chair.

"Go get him a glass of sherry, Guy," she said, and wheeling up a great easy-chair, she told me to sit in it, for I looked dreadfully tired. I took the chair, and when the wine was brought I drank it.

"Where is Miss Nugent?" I asked.

"Miss Nugent is all right," said Mary Phillips, "but I'm not going to tell you a word about her or anything else until you've had some breakfast. I know you have not tasted food this day."

I admitted that I had not. I would eat, I would do anything, so that afterward she would tell me about Bertha.

When I had a cup of coffee and some toast which Mary brought to me upon a tray, I arose from my chair.

"Now tell me quickly," I said, "where is Bertha?"

"Not a bit of it," said Mary Phillips—I call her so, for I shall never know her by any other name.

"Sit down again, Mr. Rockwell, and eat these two eggs. When you have done that I will talk to you about her. You needn't be in a hurry to go to see her, because in the house where she is the people are not up yet."

"Might as well sit down and eat," said the captain, laughing. "When you're under command of this skipper you will find that her orders are orders, and the quicker you step up and obey them, the better. So I would advise you to eat your eggs."

I began to do so, and Captain Guy laughed a mighty laugh. "She's a little thing," he said, "but she does know how to make men stand about. I didn't believe there was a person in this world who could have kept my hands off you when I saw you hugging my wife. But she did it, and I tell you, sir, I was never worse cut up in my whole life than I was when I saw you do that."

"Sir," said I, looking at him steadfastly, "if I have caused you any pain, any misery, any torment of the soul, any anguish of heart, any agony of jealousy, or mental torture of any kind, I am heartily glad of it, for all of these things you have brought on me."

"Good!" cried Mary Phillips; "you must be feeling better, sir, and when you have entirely finished breakfast we will go on and talk."

In a few moments I pushed away the tray, and Mary, looking at it, declared herself satisfied, and placed it on a side table.

"So you really supposed, sir," she said, sitting near me, "that Captain
Chesters married Miss Nugent?"

"I certainly did," I answered.

"No doubt, thinking," said Mary, with a smile, "that no man in his senses would marry anybody else when Miss Nugent was about, which was a very proper opinion, of course, considering your state of mind."

"And let me say, sir," said Captain Guy, "if I had married Miss Nugent, more people than you would have been dissatisfied. I would have been one of them, and I am sure Miss Nugent would have been another."

"Count me as one of that party," said Mary Phillips. "And now, Mr.
Rockwell, you shall not be kept waiting a moment longer."

"Of course she is safe and well," I said, "or you would not be here, and before you say anything more about her, please tell me what you meant by that terrible word 'but.'"

"But?" repeated Mary Phillips, with a puzzled expression. And Captain
Guy echoed, "But? What but?"

"It was the last word I heard from you," said I; "you shouted it to me when your vessel was going away for the last time. It has caused me a world of misery. It may have been followed by other words, but I did not catch them. I asked you if you had told her that I loved her, and you answered, 'Yes, but—'"

Captain Guy slapped his leg, "By George!" he said; "that was enough to put a man on the rack. Mary, you should have told him more than that."

Mary Phillips wrinkled her forehead and gazed steadfastly into her lap.
Suddenly she looked up.

"I remember it," she said; "I remember exactly what I answered or tried to answer. I said, 'Yes, but she knew it before.'"

I sprang to my feet. "What do you mean?" I cried.

"Of course she knew it," she cried: "we must both have been very stupid if we hadn't known that. We knew it before we left New York; and, for my part, I wondered why you didn't tell her. But as you never mentioned it, of course it wasn't for us to bring up the subject."

"Bertha knew I loved her?" I ejaculated. "And what—and how—what did she say of it? What did she think of it?"

"Well," said Mary Phillips, laughing, "I could never see that she doubted it; I could never see that she objected to it. In fact, from what she said, and, being just us two, of course she had to say a good many things to me, I think she was very glad to find out that you knew it as well as we did."

"Mary Phillips!" I cried; "where is she? Tell me this moment!"

"Look here," said Captain Guy, "you're leaving me out of this business altogether. This is Mrs. Mary Chesters."

"Mr. Rockwell will be all right when he gets over this flurry," said
Mary to her husband.

I acknowledged the correction with a nod, for I had no time then for words on the subject.

"Don't get yourself flustered, sir," said Mary. "You can't go to her yet; it's too early. You must give the family time to come down and have breakfast. I am not going to be party to a scene before breakfast nor in the middle of a meal. I know the ways and manners of that house, and I'll send you at exactly the right time."

I sat down. "Mary—Mrs.—"

"Don't bother about names just now," she interrupted; "I know who you're speaking to."

"Do you believe," I continued, looking steadfastly at her, "that Bertha
Nugent loves me?"

"I don't know," she said, "that it's exactly my business to give this information, but under the circumstances I take it on myself to say that she most certainly does. And I tell you, and you may tell her if you like, that I would not have said this to you if I hadn't believed this thing ought to be clinched the minute there was a chance to do it. It's been hanging off and on long enough. Love you? Why, bless my soul, sir, she's been thinking of nothing else for the past two or three days but the coming of the postman, expecting a letter from you, not considering that you didn't know where to address her, or that it was rather scant time for a letter to come from La Guayra, where Captain Stearns would take you if he succeeded in picking you up."

"The whole affair had a scanty air about it," said Captain Guy. "At least, that's the way I look at it."

"You've never said anything like that before," said Mary, rather sharply.

"Of course not," replied the captain. "I wanted to keep you as merry and cheerful as I could. And besides, I didn't say I had thought there was no chance of Mr. Rockwell's turning up. I only said I considered it a little scantish."

"Love you?" continued Mary Phillips; "I should say so. I should have brought her on deck to wave her handkerchief to you and kiss her hand—perhaps, when you blew the state of your feelings through a trumpet; but she wasn't strong enough. She was a pretty weak woman in body and mind about that time. But from the moment I told her, and she knew that you not only loved her, but were willing to say so, she began to mend. And how she did talk about you, and how she did long that the two ships might come together again! She kept asking me what I thought about the condition of your vessel and whether it would be like to sink if a storm came on. I could not help thinking that, as far as I knew anything about ships, you'd be likely to float for weeks after we'd gone down, but I didn't say that to her. And then she began to wonder if you had understood that she had received your message and was glad to get it. And I told her over and over and over again that you must have heard me, for I screamed my very loudest. I am very glad that I didn't know that you only caught those two words."

"Dear girl!" I ejaculated. "And did she send me a message on a life-preserver?"

"You mean to say that you got it?" cried Mary Phillips.

"No," said I; "it floated away from me. What was it?"

"I got up that little scheme," said Mary Phillips, "to quiet her. I told her that a letter might be floated to you that way, and that, anyway, it would do no harm to try. I don't know what she wrote, but she must have said a good deal, for she took a long time about it. I wrapped it up perfectly water-tight. She made the flag herself out of one of her own handkerchiefs with her initial in the corner. She said she thought you would like that."

"Oh, that it had come to me!" I cried.

"I wish from the bottom of my soul that it had," said Mary, compassionately. "It would have done you a lot of good on that lonely ship."

"Instead of which," observed Captain Guy, "some shark probably swallowed it, and little good it did him."

"It put a lot of affection and consideration into him," said Mary, a little brusquely, "and there are other creatures connected with the sea who wouldn't be hurt by that sort of thing."

"There's a shot into me!" cried the captain. "Don't do it again. I cry quarter!"

"I must go," I said, rising; "I can wait no longer."

"Well," said Mary, "you may not be much too soon, if you go slowly."

"But before I go," I said, "tell me this: Why did she not send me some word from Lisbon? Why did she not give Captain Stearns a line on a piece of paper or some message?"

"A line! a message!" exclaimed Mary. "She sent you a note; she sent you a dozen messages by Captain Stearns."

"And I'll wager a month's pay," said Captain Guy, "that he never delivered one of them."

"He gave me no note," I cried.

"It's in the pocket of his pea-jacket now," said Captain Chesters.

"He did deliver some messages," I said, "after I questioned him; but they were such as these: Keep up a good heart; everything's bound to be right in the end; the last to get back gets the heartiest welcome. Now, anybody could have sent such words as those."

"Upon my word," cried Mary Phillips, "those were the messages I sent. I remember particularly the one about the last one back and the heartiest welcome."

"Confound that Stearns!" cried Captain Guy; "what did he mean by giving all his attention to you, and none to the lady that he was sent for to see?"

"Good bye, Mrs. Chesters," I said, taking her by the hand. "I can never thank you enough for what you have done for her and for me. But how you could leave her I really do not understand."

"Well," said Mary, coloring a little, "I can scarcely understand it myself; but that man would have it so, and he's terribly obstinate. But I don't feel that I've left her. She's in the best of hands, and I see her nearly every day. Here's her address, and when you meet her, Mr. Rockwell, you'll find that in every way I've told you truly." I took a hearty leave of Captain Guy, shook Mary by the hand once more, rushed down stairs, roused the sleeping cabby, and glancing at the card, ordered him to gallop to 9 Ravisdock Terrace, Parmley Square.

I do not know how I got into the house, what I said nor what I asked, nor whether the family had had their breakfast or not; but the moment my eyes fell upon my beloved Bertha I knew that in everything Mary Phillips had told me truly. She came into the room with beaming eyes and both hands extended. With outstretched arms I rushed to meet her, and folded her to my breast. This time there was no one to object. For some moments we were speechless with joyful emotion, but there was no need of our saying anything, no need of statements nor explanations. Mary Phillips had attended to all that.

When we had cooled down to the point of speech, I was surprised to find that I had been expected, that Bertha knew I was coming. When Mary Phillips had left me that morning to prepare my breakfast, she had sent a message to Bertha, and then she had detained me until she thought it had been received and Bertha was prepared to meet me.

"I did not want any slips or misses," she said, when she explained the matter to me afterward. "I don't want to say anything about your personal appearance, Mr. Rockwell, but there are plenty of servants in London who, if they hadn't had their orders, would shut the door in the face of a much less wild-eyed person than you were, sir, that morning."

Bertha and I were married in London, and two weeks afterward we returned to America in the new ship Glaucus, commanded by Captain Guy Chesters and his wife.

Our marriage in England instead of America was largely due to the influence of Mary Phillips, who thought it would be much safer and more prudent for us to be married before we again undertook the risks of a sea-voyage.

"Nobody knows what may happen on the ocean," she said; "but if you're once fairly married, that much is accomplished, anyway."

Our choice of a sailing-vessel in which to make the passage was due in a great part to our desire to keep company as long as possible with Captain Chesters and his wife, to whom we truly believed we owed each other.

When we reached New York, and Bertha and I were about to start for the Catskill Mountains, where we proposed to spend the rest of the summer, we took leave of Captain Guy and his wife with warmest expressions of friendship, with plans for meeting again.

Everything seemed to have turned out in the best possible way.

We had each other, and Mary Phillips had some one to manage.

We should have been grieved if we had been obliged to leave her without occupation.

At the moment of parting I drew her aside. "Mary," I said, "we have had some strange experiences together, and I shall never forget them."

"Nor shall I, sir," she answered. "Some of them were so harrowing and close-shaved, and such heart-breaking disappointments I never had. The worst of all was when you threw that rope clean over our ship without holding on to your end of it. I had been dead sure that the rope was going to bring us all together."

"That was a terrible mishap," I answered; "what did Bertha think of it?"

"Bless my soul!" ejaculated Mary Phillips; "she wasn't on deck, and she never knew anything about it. When I am nursing up a love match I don't mention that sort of thing."