Derelict, A Tale
of the Wayward
by Frank R.
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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
I looked at him with scorn. "Unmanly fiend!" said I.
Another officer now approached, whom I afterward knew to be the ship's
"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
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
I listened without a word. The captain's reasoning seemed to me very
"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
"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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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."