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Title: Abandoned
Author: W Clark Russell
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1403171.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: December 2014
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------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Abandoned
Author: W Clark Russell

*

ABANDONED

by

W. CLARK RUSSELL

*

AUTHOR of "THE WRECK OF THE GROSVENOR," "MY DANISH SWEETHEART," ETC.

*

METHUEN & CO. 
36 ESSEX STREET W.C. 
LONDON 

1904

=======================================

CONTENTS:

CHAPTER I..........THE WEDDING
CHAPTER II.........THE MEDICAL CERTIFICATE
CHAPTER III........TRAPPED
CHAPTER IV.........A CHANGE OF MIND
CHAPTER V..........THE WRECK
CHAPTER VI.........THE FISHERMAN
CHAPTER VII........THE BOAT'S CREW
CHAPTER VIII.......CONVERSATIONS AND CONFIDENCES
CHAPTER IX.........THE CHASE
CHAPTER X..........TWO GRAVES
CHAPTER XI.........THE "CHANTICLEER"
CHAPTER XII........AFTER EIGHT YEARS
CHAPTER XIII.......AT RAMSGATE
CHAPTER XIV........A RESCUE
CHAPTER XV.........MR. GOODHART OFFERS MARRIAGE
CHAPTER XVI........HUSBAND AND WIFE

*

CHAPTER I.--THE WEDDING

MISS LUCRETIA LANE stood at the toilet-glass in her bedroom in Chepstow
Place, Bayswater, dressing herself for her marriage. She was watched
from the embrace of an armchair by a young lady who was to accompany
her to the church, and who was dressed for the solemnity. How? In a hat
and jacket and skirt, for this was to be a very simple ceremony, and
Miss Lucretia was putting on her hat and thrusting pins into it, and
toying with it as ladies do with their head-gear when they adjust it,
whilst her friend sat and watched her.

Miss Lane was a handsome, tall, well-proportioned, finely-moulded young
woman, aged twenty-four, with dark red hair, large shining brown eyes,
a little Roman nose, a firm mouth with red lips, a throat of a rich
whiteness, close-seated ears, delicately tinted like certain beautiful
shells, a low, square, tranquil brow, dark and clearly pencilled
eyebrows, white, ivory-bright, even teeth, rather small hands, the
fingers long and nervous, and the nails so shaped that, taking them
with the ears, and a certain delicacy in the carving of the lineaments
of her face, you would have guessed she had a strain of good old blood
in her.

The other girl, Miss Constance Ford, takes so small a part in this
story that there is no occasion to say more about her than name her.

"You had better make haste," said Miss Ford. "Do you know what the time
is? I am certain that was Major Stroud who knocked some minutes ago.
What makes you linger and pause so? Don't you feel well, Lucretia?"

Lucretia turned her head slowly, brought her fine eyes to bear upon her
friend, and said, with a slight frown and in a note of temper--

"Don't tease me!"

Miss Ford stepped to the window and looked out. It was Wednesday, in
September, 1890. Villas over the way, dull sky with shadows of fog
looking like rain-clouds hanging over the pointing fingers on the
chimney-stacks; a piano organ under the window began to play "Auld
Robin Gray." Miss Ford started to sing; she sang audibly, with her face
averted and her eyes screwed into their corners upon Lucretia.


"My father argued sair--my mother did'na speak,
But she look'd me in the face till my heart was like to break;
They gied him my hand, but my heart was in the sea,
And so Auld Robin Gray he was gudeman to me."


Lucretia went on fiddling with her hat. What ailed the girl? Was she
going to be married to Auld Robin Gray? Was her heart in the sea? How
should a young woman look whilst she is dressing, or being helped to
dress, for her wedding? She is taking a momentous step; the event is
the most significant that can happen to her in all her days. It is more
heavily freighted with consequences than the circumstance of her birth.
It is a harbour out of which she will sail into an ocean, wider and
more awful in its appeals to, its demands upon, her five mortal senses
than the imagined life into which the grave cradles, as the launched
ship is cradled, the disembodied, and therefore the function-less
spirit. How should a young woman look, then, on the eve of her marriage?

Not surely in the main as Lucretia Lane looked. She was extremely
fidgety; the rovings of her fingers were often aimless; she sometimes
trembled. Several times Miss Ford had observed Lucretia's reflection
in the glass, talking to herself. It might have been suspected by
a medical observer that had a strong man been rent with the mental
conflict which was obviously raging in the heart and in the soul of
Lucretia Lane, he would have sweated. Lucretia, not being a strong man,
was suffering from the war within her after the manner of her sex, at
least of those of them who cannot put down their foot and mean--though
their heart break as they resolve--that their yea shall mean yes, and
that their nay shall mean no.

"I think I had better go downstairs and tell them that you are coming
in a minute," said Miss Ford.

As she spoke, Mrs. Lane entered the room; a comely, clean little
gentlewoman, aged about sixty, with the word neatness writ large on
every turn of her; a trifle bustling with nerve as she entered in
black silk, black lace, and jet cape, black bonnet with white feathers
rather rakishly perched on a black comb; a woman of whom you might
safely affirm that her bedroom would be a model of folded-up things, a
woman to touch and adjust objects into symmetrical bearings; on whose
bedroom mantel-piece, for example, the shepherd and shepherdess would
be exactly equidistant from the marble clock and the painted china
candlesticks.

She did not seem to observe her daughter's manner, mood, or bearing.
Her mind was capable of dealing with one idea only at a time, and the
idea that now possessed her was not the face of her daughter as the
girl stood before the looking-glass putting on her hat.

"Not ready yet, Lucretia?" cried Mrs. Lane, who always gave her
daughter the full pomp of her baptismal title. "The major is downstairs
walking about with his watch in his hand. He thought he would be late,
and actually ran a part of the way, and has scarcely got his breath
yet. You know how impatient he is. All these little retired India men
are. And irritable. I think we are most fortunate to have got him to
give you away. He is afraid the clergyman won't wait if he's kept. How
long are you likely to be, dear?"

"Two minutes," answered Lucretia, without turning her eyes from the
mirror into which she was directing their beauty and brilliance, and
which was reflecting a countenance glacial in expression. Under that
sort of ice of reserve what a vast number of disagreeable and dangerous
properties may be floating!

"I'll go downstairs and keep the major company," said Miss Ford;
and as she passed Mrs. Lane, she whispered, "Lucretia seems very
uncomfortable."

"You are quite happy at heart, my darling, I hope?" said the mother,
getting hold of that idea and none other, and approaching her daughter
to look at her reflection in the toilet-glass.

"I cannot make haste if you talk to me, mother," answered the girl.
"There! this hat must do."

She put on her gloves and went downstairs, followed by her mother,
whose face wore an expression of uneasiness and surprise, as well it
might.

About the little parlour flitted with agitation the figure of Major
Stroud: a shape of bristling whisker and wiry moustache, buttoned up
in the form of a cask of ale in a frock-coat, and there was temper in
the Indian duskiness of his eye. Miss Ford stood in the window. On the
sideboard were displayed the wedding gifts: from Major and Mrs. Stroud
a silver tea-service; from Mr. Featherbridge a full-rigged ship under a
glass shade; from Miss Giddens a silver-mounted paper-knife; from Miss
Ford a set of silver salt cellars; from Dr. Phillips (who could not
come) the works of Shakespeare; from an old servant who was married,
a biscuit tin; from Mrs. Lane a watch and chain, a diamond brooch and
gold bracelet, the gifts of her husband (deceased).

"I am sorry to have kept you waiting, Major Stroud," said Lucretia.

"I'm afraid we shall be late as it is. Are we quite ready?" answered
the Major.

But the irritability went out of his eyes as he looked at the handsome
girl, bowing to her, and then smiling.

The marriage was to take place at St. Stephen's Church, which is within
a convenient walk of Chepstow Place. They might have driven, but they
chose to walk. Lucretia walked with her mother, the Major and Miss Ford
behind them. Mrs. Lane endeavoured to get her daughter to talk; but
the girl was extraordinarily silent. She would answer "Yes," or "No,"
or "I don't know," languidly, abstractedly, with a visible and indeed
pronounced inattention as though she was under a spell, or as if she
was in that sort of sleep in which the slumberer responds to questions
without recollecting anything that was said when she awakens. Mrs. Lane
was without much talent, and therefore unequal to the establishment
of any sort of satisfactory hypothesis; even the intuition of the
mother failed her, that marvellous penetration which is Nature's gift
of interpretation without mental effort. In a foggy sort of way she
desired to believe that her daughter was too high-spirited to appear
to be fretting over what was not indeed to prove an immediate farewell
to her mother and home, but which was, nevertheless, the most absolute
of all solutions of continuity, a complete severance in effect, though
she might continue to dwell for a long time with Mamma. Mrs. Lane
remembered that she had felt in this way herself when she was married,
when she wanted to cry whilst walking up the aisle on her father's
arm, and made strange faces under her veil to hide her emotion. Little
did she foresee, good woman, the bolt that was to drop with a meteoric
blast at her feet!

At the church door Major Stroud gave his arm to Lucretia, who took it
with an exterior of frigid impassivity, and together they approached
the altar preceded by Mrs. Lane and Miss Ford. A few spectators spotted
the sittings. Though all ends and parts of London swarm with business
and hurry there are always plenty of people with leisure enough to make
a crowd at a wedding. Even a walking, and hatted and jacketed wedding
is sufficiently extraordinary (in an age when of course people are
very seldom married, very rarely born, almost never buried) to delay
the yelp of the milkman, to arrest the motion of the perambulator, to
retard the delivery of Sir Thomas's piece of salmon, and to bewilder
the blind man following his dog upon the pavement.

Some figures were near the altar awaiting the arrival of the bride.
There was nobody answering to the appearance of Auld Robin Gray amongst
them. One was a tall, deep-chested, clean-shaven man, with a straight
nose, standing a little out in a sort of seeking way, greenish-grey
eyes like salt water in soundings, hair parted down the middle,
close-cropped, like a soldier's; a rather military-looking man on the
whole, with something marine in the motions of his body, as though he
was on board ship in a small sea-way. Under thirty years of age. His
smile was slow in formation, like that of an actor whose business it
is to keep his face. He had very good teeth, which made his slow smile
like the gilding of sunshine upon his countenance. He was Captain
Francis Reynolds of the British Merchant Service, and he was waiting
near the altar in St. Stephen's Church to be married to Lucretia Lane.

His best man stood near him: Mr. William Featherbridge, a brown-eyed,
bearded person of twenty-eight, sheep-like in steadfastness of gaze,
but with hints in his shape of considerable alertness at the call of
duty.

Captain Reynolds, as Lucretia approached, viewed her with a face moving
with love, and a smile eloquent of devotion and of manly affection.
She did not meet his eye; her face was uninterpretable; you could not
have detected the least quiver of lip, the faintest hint of agitation,
in any the smallest working of the lineaments of her countenance. The
deuce alone knows how it was with her, what she was about, why she was
there, why, being there, she did not look the radiant maiden, she did
not bear the label of the rosy and modest virgin who was to find a
blissful haven for life in the manly bosom alongside of her. Some who
watched her put it down to nervousness; some to that sort of conceit
which makes people superior to any kind of situation they may happen
to find themselves in; some to acting; none, not even the mother, not
even the bridegroom, who, standing next her, looked at her marble-hard
face a minute before the clergyman began to read, attributed the
girl's behaviour to the right cause, which was an impassioned sense of
chastity dominating all other emotion with the vigour of hysteria, yet
without force of spirit in it to subdue her to the nun-like path she
scarcely knew whether she wished to tread or not. She was in a state
of mind that froze the sources of feeling, that closed the portals
of every corridor of the heart and soul, that numbed the brain till
volition was mere mechanism, till the will might have been compared to
a dumb and stirless raven perched upon a bust, like that of Pallas in
the poem.

The clergyman began to read the service. The responses were scarcely
whispered by Lucretia. The officiating minister, a curate, looked at
her over his spectacles somewhat pointedly, then at the man whom he was
transmuting into the golden state of husband, God wot! In the vestry
Captain Reynolds took his wife's hand and, with a face full of love,
sought to kiss her; but she shrank from his lips, almost shrank indeed
from her mother's, and the name which she inscribed under that of her
husband was scarcely legible for the tremors that ran through her hand.

Captain Reynolds' face was clouded; his eyebrows were arched into
a fixed expression of astonishment; he was profoundly confused,
and looked about him with perplexity. In the vestry he received an
inquiring stare from his best man, Mr. Featherbridge, and his answering
glance was as blank as that of the gaze of a man in a black room. He
offered his wife his arm, and she took it, and together they walked
down the church to the door followed by Mrs. Lane; the others lingered
to join them a little later on. The moment they gained the pavement
Lucretia withdrew her hand.

"Mrs. Lane," said Captain Reynolds, "Creeshie will not speak to me.
What is the matter? What have I done?"

"Lucretia," exclaimed Mrs. Lane, who walked on her daughter's right,
and who spoke in a voice that showed that tears were not far off, "I
cannot understand your conduct. Do you feel ill, my darling?"

"No."

"Does your marriage make you unhappy?" said Captain Reynolds.

She returned no answer, keeping her eyes obstinately bent upon the
ground.

"It is such a wretched beginning," said Mrs. Lane. "I gave my sanction.
I thought you both wanted this. Whatever is the cause of this change in
you, Lucretia?"

"I can scarcely hear what you say, with these omnibuses and cabs and
boys whistling," answered Lucretia.

"I do not think it very kind of you, I am sure," said Mrs. Lane,
in a whimpering way. "It is very hard upon Frank. I could not have
treated your father like this. Certainly not at the very outset. It is
incredible," she said, projecting her head past her daughter to peer at
Reynolds. "What will our friends think, if you carry on like this?"

The husband of a few minutes was dredging his wife's face with his
eyes, but could find no meaning in it outside its beauty pleading to
him. No hint to convey a physical or a spiritual explanation of the
mystery of this sudden metamorphosis. He was bitterly concerned. Could
it be possible that she was mad? That she had suddenly given life to
a latent but pregnant seed of hereditary distemper--a strain in the
family that had been concealed from him, a quality of intellectual
structure of which the girl, and the mother herself, might have been
ignorant as a part of the paternal or maternal legacy? He had kissed
her often. She had never repulsed him. They had often sat together
alone in the twilight hand in hand. A couple are seldom married without
certain happenings having gone before. Memories of the tender green
of the May of love were sweet and scented between them. It was not to
be supposed that she could forget all of a sudden. She must remember
everything, though she gave no visible expression to recollection by
dramatization of her mood. He felt that she should know better than to
act like this. She was now his wife. She could not get away from that.
She had always been very willing to marry him. What in the devil's name
had gone wrong with the fine creature? Yet never was his love more
consuming than whilst he walked to Chepstow Place with the beautiful,
chaste, animated statue he had wedded.

The moment the house door was opened Lucretia passed in, ran upstairs
to her bedroom, and locked the door. Captain Reynolds and Mrs.
Lane walked into the parlour where a hired waiter was trimming the
refreshments--cakes, ices, chicken, sandwiches, fruit, jellies, and so
on, with champagne.

"Doesn't she mean to return, do you think?" said Reynolds.

"Oh dear, her conduct is most extravagant and unintelligible! She ought
to be in the drawing-room to receive our guests. I haven't the least
idea what to do;" and the eyes of the neat, comely little gentlewoman
fairly streamed.

"It must be a passing fit," said Reynolds, in a low voice, frowning,
and tapping the floor from the heel with the toe of one boot. "It may
be a matter for a doctor."

"I'll go upstairs and see what she means to do," said Mrs. Lane. "Stay
in the drawing-room, Frank. If she keeps on like this some excuse must
be made. We must say that she's ill. But oh, how silly of her; and what
an awful position to place us in!"

And she trudged upstairs to her daughter's bedroom, whilst Frank went
to the floor above, where the drawing-room was.

"Who's there?" exclaimed the voice of Lucretia.

"It's I, your mother," answered Mrs. Lane, talking at the door-handle
which she had turned without producing further consequences. "For
goodness' sake unlock the door and let me in that we may talk
rationally. There is yet time; the people haven't arrived, though they
are coming."

"I don't mean to live with Captain Reynolds," said the voice of
Lucretia.

A pause followed this terrific remark. The mother scarcely seemed
to hear, or hearing to understand. The black bonnet with the white
feathers swayed from side to side like the head of a listening hen.

"What!" then gasped Mrs. Lane; and, seizing the handle of the door with
both hands, she shook it as though she had got hold of her daughter,
crying, "Let me in! How dare you behave like this, Miss?" forgetting
that the Miss was now Mrs. "Do you want to break my heart? Open this
door, Lucretia."

"I don't intend to live with Captain Reynolds," said the lady inside,
speaking with such deliberation that there was the interval of a pulse
at least between the dropping of every syllable.

Now, this girl had sanctioned and expressed delight in Reynolds'
arrangements for them after marriage: they were to take a run to
Edinburgh and the north for a week or so, and then the bride would
return to her mother and live with her until her husband's return.

"Why don't you come out and join Frank and me, and behave yourself
properly?" cried Mrs. Lane.

No answer was returned. Captain Reynolds, on the lower platform, came
on to the landing to listen. When, as he swiftly did, he discovered
that Lucretia did not answer her mother, he called out, in a loud stern
sea voice, "She's my wife, Mrs. Lane. She has no right to withdraw
herself from me. If she will not open the door I can easily put my
shoulder against it."

The house was small, and the captain's voice very filling, and the
hired waiter stood half in and half out of the parlour door with his
left ear cocked upwards, and a grin of astonishment on his face, while
the housemaid, with a nosegay in her bosom, listened at the foot of the
staircase. Lucretia could not fail to hear Frank's voice. She exclaimed
from her bed, on which she had seated herself--

"You may tell him that if he attempts force I will swallow this bottle
of poison I am holding."

Mrs. Lane shrieked. At that moment the hall bell rang, and the house
door was hammered upon. With the echo of her shriek, as it might seem,
on the expression of her face, poor Mrs. Lane went downstairs, and,
with a toss of both hands, cried--

"I can do nothing with her. She threatens to poison herself if you
approach her."

"Is it not a case for a doctor?" said Captain Reynolds. "Shall I go for
Dr. Phillips, and explain matters, and bring him round?"

"Dr. Phillips can't help us," moaned Mrs. Lane; "if I can't influence
her, how should Dr. Phillips?"

"Major and Mrs. Stroud," said the housemaid.

And they entered, and were quickly followed by others of the
invited; the curate who had officiated, Miss Giddens, Miss Ford, Mr.
Featherbridge, and one or two more.

The major was a little man who asked questions; conversation with him
consisted of a series of interrogatories. He was a Paul Pry, always
hoping (without saying so) that he didn't intrude, and intruding to a
degree that was often offensive. He rather relished the misfortunes of
others; he was one of those people who, according to the French cynic,
find something that does not displease them in les maux des autres.

This major, with all the rest, must instantly have seen there was
trouble in the little house; and so, consistently with his nature, he
went to work to ask questions.

"Where is Mrs. Reynolds?" he inquired, rolling his eyes over the room
as though he expected to see her shape herself out of a cabinet or an
armchair.

"She's not very well, major," responded Mrs. Lane, discovering the
greatest disorder of spirits, sincere uneasiness, and much misery by
her manner.

"Not well!" cried the major. "Why, she was quite well ten minutes ago."

"People sometimes fall ill in one minute," said Mr. Featherbridge.

"What can be the matter?" whispered Miss Giddens to Miss Ford.

"She was very singular before she went to church and very remarkable
during the service," was the reply, faintly delivered.

"I am afraid we intrude," said Mrs. Stroud.

"Can I be of any service?" asked the curate, who, stepping close to
Mrs. Lane, added in her ear, "I did observe a strange constraint in
your daughter's manner at the altar which made me fear she was not
quite happy at heart."

"She refuses to live with her husband," said Mrs. Lane, in a ghastly
whisper.

The curate, who was blue about the upper-lip and cheeks, and had a face
like a beardless saint without a halo in a church window, composed his
face into the exact posture of a whistle; the expression arrested the
eye of the major, who fearlessly took a step towards the pair.

"Now, what is it all about?" said he. "Mrs. Lane, I plead the privilege
of a friend. At your request I gave your daughter away. Why is she not
here?"

The poor woman, looking at him under her white feathers, seemed to
crack nuts, and rather spelt than pronounced the words, "She declines
to live with Frank."

"Oh, that's all damned nonsense!" burst out the major. "She is legally
compelled to live with him. What's made her change her mind? They
seemed very much in love. I thought she was deuced cold during the
service. Where is she? Shall I go and talk to her? I'm not a man to
stand any tomfoolery. If she were my daughter she'd either favour me
with a very complete explanation or--shall I go and see her?"

All this he exclaimed in so loud a voice that the whole room was in the
secret, and many looks were exchanged.

"I am truly sorry, dear Mrs. Lane," said Mrs. Stroud, very kindly; "our
presence can only be an intrusion under the circumstances."

"I am awfully sorry," said Miss Ford, going up to the widow, with
her hand extended; "but you'll find she'll come round. It's mere
petulance--too ridiculous in a girl that's just gone through the
ceremony to be regarded seriously."

"Do please take some refreshments before you go!" sobbed Mrs. Lane.

In ten minutes everybody had cleared out, save Captain Reynolds and his
best man Mr. Featherbridge.

Mrs. Lane and these two gentlemen sat staring into vacancy. Said
Featherbridge, breaking the silence--

"I have often thought that marriage is like the great sea-serpent: when
it's not seen it's believed in, and when it is seen it's not believed
in."

"I'll go up and see her," cried Captain Reynolds, starting from his
chair.

"No!" exclaimed Mrs. Lane, also starting from her chair. "She has a
bottle of poison. She will drink it--I know she will if you attempt
force by thrusting against the door or even talk threateningly to her."

"I beg pardon, captain," said Mr. Featherbridge, with something of the
deference of an officer to his skipper, "but may I make a suggestion?
Suppose you leave Mrs. Reynolds for the day and call to-morrow and see
how things are going?"

"It's just what I could wish," exclaimed Mrs. Lane. "It's the advice I
would give you, Frank. In the mood she is in nothing can be done, I am
sure."

"Well, you may be right," said the unfortunate husband, slowly, and
gazing with a little bewilderment round the walls much as he had
looked in the vestry. "It's a violent, strange change. Something quite
outside any bearings I can take. Could any girl have been more loving?
I suppose people can have fits of mind just as they have fits of the
body. This seems a fit of the mind, as if it was epilepsy, and she had
fallen on the floor with a shriek or two, insensible."

"So much the more reason for giving her time, then, sir," said
Featherbridge.

"Just so," said Mrs. Lane. "A night's rest and reflection may work
wonders, and I am here to reason with her."

"Is there a hotel in the neighbourhood?" asked the captain.

"Yes, quite close, in Prince's Square," replied Mrs. Lane.

"They've let my diggings or I should return," said Captain Reynolds.
"Why," he continued, pulling out his watch, "we ought to be in a cab,
going to the station for Scotland. Well, till to-morrow--till to-morrow."

He sighed and frowned, and abruptly left the room, unwilling that his
face should be seen.

Mr. Featherbridge shook hands with sympathetic ardency with poor Mrs.
Lane, and followed Captain Reynolds out of the house.

Mrs. Lane went to her bedroom to remove her bonnet and cape and put on
her cap, and then went upstairs to her daughter.

"Who's there?"

"Your mother."

"What do you want, mother?"

"Frank and Mr. Featherbridge have left the house. You can open the
door," said Mrs. Lane.

On this the door was unlocked and the mother entered. Scarcely,
however, could she command her faculties to address her daughter when
the housemaid arrived.

"The waiter wants to know, please, if he's to remain?"

"Give him this half sovereign and send him away," said Mrs. Lane,
pulling out her purse.

Lucretia had removed her hat and jacket, and stood with her hand
upon the toilet-table looking at her mother. Her hair seemed to glow
as though there was sunshine in the room. It would be absurd to say
that her dark eyes shone with the fire of resolution that was like
wrath; because the eyes do not change. It is the eyelids and eyebrows
which dramatize those motions of spirit which the eyes themselves are
believed to express. If this were not so the actress's face would be
a very imperfect representation of the part she takes. There was a
certain nobleness and dignity in Lucretia's bearing which was owing to
a sense of supernatural triumph of chastity, of a conquest of virtue
by something even higher than virtue, as the cold star is more exalted
than the lonely peak, moon-like with virgin snow, that points to it at
some prodigious mountain altitude.

"Frank has left----" began Mrs. Lane.

"I don't want to hear his name mentioned," interrupted Lucretia.

The mother strained her eyes at her daughter's face. She could find
nothing to hint at insanity, not the dimmest monition of aberration.
She was as she had always been, saving that now she had taken to
herself a stateliness of demeanour, an importance and even pomp of
bearing, lofty and victorious as though her soul was swelled with
exultation over the issue of her extraordinary battle.

"Why did you go through the service, Lucretia?" asked the mother,
seating herself.

"I felt the change coming over me whilst I was dressing," answered the
young wife. "Mother, it was agony! I had not the courage to declare to
myself I would not marry him. I ought to have had the courage. I can
never live with him."

"But you'll wear his ring?"

"Oh yes. I don't mean to be faithless to myself. I know what I am, and
how I intend to remain."

"How we shall be talked about!"

"What is the value of the opinion of a few handfuls of dust in skirts
or frock-coats? I know that I have acted with sickening stupidity.
But that is my concern, I am still queen of myself, and"--slowly and
deliberately--"I do not mean to live with Captain Reynolds."

A gleam of good sense at this moment irradiated the darksome cells
of Mrs. Lane's brain. What could be more transparent than that her
daughter was in no mood to be reasoned with? That the application of
the remedial drug in her condition of mental sickness was certain to
injure her and not benefit her? She might be managed with patience, she
must be allowed time for reflection. You may soften a tough steak by
beating it, but you shall not mend a broken leg with a mustard leaf.

Mrs. Lane, influenced by good sense, quitted her daughter and went
downstairs to find that five pounds' worth of refreshments had been
left on her hands untasted by, God help her! the wedding guests.




CHAPTER II.--THE MEDICAL CERTIFICATE

NEXT day, shortly after twelve, Captain Reynolds called at Chepstow
Place. He was shown into the parlour, and Mrs. Lane speedily arrived.
She was pale and agitated. When this poor woman's spirits were
fluttered she could not keep her seat, but flitted about the table,
lifting a pinch of her dress and pinning it to the table's side, so to
speak, as though she would fasten herself securely.

"Well," said Captain Reynolds, with profound anxiety, "what does
Creeshie say?"

"I am sorry to answer that she is as obstinate this morning as she was
yesterday. Indeed she is firmer and harder. She will not listen to me.
She declares, in the most imperious way, that she will not live with
you."

Reynolds' face darkened as though to a sudden scowl of the sky. He held
a stick in his right hand. He raised it to his left hand and broke it
with an unconscious and obviously involuntary effort, looked at the
pieces, and threw them into the grate. The strength of the stick, the
ease with which it had been broken, the mood the action expressed,
frightened Mrs. Lane, who pinned her pinch of gown to the edge of the
table half a dozen times in as many seconds.

"Can you, as her mother, give me any idea why she will not live with
me?" said Captain Reynolds.

"None--none whatever," answered Mrs. Lane, shaking her head.

"Has she explained her reasons for refusing?"

"No. She told me that the change came over her whilst she was dressing
for the marriage. It worked in agony in her, but failed to give her
resolution enough to decide not to go to church. All the rest of her
words may be summed up in her one determined remark, 'I do not mean to
live with him.'"

He put his hand in his pocket and pulled out an envelope containing
perhaps half a dozen letters. He replaced the envelope without looking
at its contents.

"I was reading them," he said, "last night. They are a few that I like
to carry about with me. She calls me her darling, and tells me that
she is mine. One letter, not a fortnight old"--he pressed his hand
upon the pocket containing the envelope as though his heart, that beat
close under, was paining him--"is full of love, of everything that a
man could wish to read in a letter from a woman he is shortly to marry.
What have I done to deserve this treatment? What have I been guilty of
that she should take her love and her marriage vows away from me? Is
she at home?"

"Oh yes; but do not attempt to see her," cried the mother.

"But why not? Why mightn't the very sight of me induce a change in her,
and bring about what you must wish, surely?"

Again his brow was dark, as though his face was shadowed by a thunder
squall in the sweep of the wind over a heaving deck at sea.

"She knows you were coming. Had she wished to see you she would have
said so. Her threat to poison herself haunts me like a nightmare. I
know she is in that state of mind when she could commit some frightful,
heart-breaking act if you attempted by roughness, or command, or any
other manner you might adopt to bend her mind, which is now as rigid as
that poker."

The little woman spoke with unusual energy. Conviction of the truth
of her views compacted her reasoning faculties and supplied ideas and
words to her tongue.

"Will you go and tell her that I am here, that I wish to see her if
only for five minutes," said Captain Reynolds.

"Oh yes; but I know what her answer will be," answered Mrs. Lane,
moving to the door as though she was weary, and she went upstairs,
whilst Captain Reynolds stood at the window, with his arms folded and
his lips set, as though his teeth were clenched behind them.

Mrs. Lane was at least a quarter of an hour absent, and at every sound
Captain Reynolds started, and looked, and listened. When at last the
old lady returned, he stared beyond her, but she was alone. She began
to pin her dress to the table as rapidly as her fingers could work,
whilst she exclaimed--

"I knew how it would be. She went to her bedroom and locked me up with
her, and then turned me out and locked herself in again; and she swears
that the thought of living with you is dreadful to her. She would
rather die, and as I am sure she has poison hidden in her bedroom, she
will kill herself if you persist."

She burst into tears.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Lane. I don't know when we shall meet again," said
Captain Reynolds; and, taking his hat from a chair, he walked out of
the house.

He repaired to the hotel at which he had slept, and wrote a letter
of six pages to his wife. The letter was lighted with flashes of
sentiment. It was moving with impassioned appeal. It teemed with
memories of kisses and endearments, of promises, vows, and hopes; he
described his life of loneliness on board ship, and asked her why she
had abandoned him; why she refused to know him as her husband, when in
a few weeks his ship would be sailing; when in a few weeks the solitude
and the desolation of the ocean would be his, without the light and
love of her spirit to brighten the hours of the solitary watch on deck,
to set up a beacon of home upon which he could keep his eyes fixed,
which should be as a star to him to bring him round the world of waters
to his love.

He posted this letter, though it was written within a few minutes' walk
of Chepstow Place; and making his way to a cab-stand, got into a hansom,
and told the man to drive to Mr. Turnover, solicitor, in a street out
of Holborn. Mr. Turnover had acted for Captain Reynolds in a lawsuit
which arose through a collision at sea. He was a bald, bland, little
old man, with streaks of faded yellow whisker, gold-framed spectacles,
dressed in the rusty black that Charles Lamb loved; and had he worn
shoes with bows you would have thought him shod in keeping. They shook
hands, and Captain Reynolds, sitting down, told his story.

"It is certainly a very singular case," said Mr. Turnover. "There is
one celebrated case of the sort but it differs from yours because the
parties had, apparently, agreed to separate at the church door. The
husband, if I remember aright, left the country, and on his return
after some years, claimed his wife, who refused to live with him; on
which he kidnapped her and locked her up."

Reynolds frowned and looked at Mr. Turnover steadfastly.

"Her friends obtained access to her; her case was brought before the
Courts, who decided that by the law of England a man has no right to
detain his wife against her will."

"Is that so?" said Captain Reynolds.

"Quite so," responded Mr. Turnover. "The husband must not use force. If
he does the law will punish him."

"But is not there such a thing as restitution of conjugal rights?"
inquired Captain Reynolds.

"Yes; but in your case, as in the other, no rights were ever
established by co-habitation; there is therefore no infraction upon
which to base an appeal for restitution."

"Good God, what extraordinary laws we have in this country!" exclaimed
Captain Reynolds.

"But I am quite sure, rights or no rights," said Mr. Turnover, "that
you would never get a judge to sanction the detention of your wife by
force and against her will."

"What would you call force?"

"Imprisoning her in her home and setting a guard over her."

"What do you advise me to do, Mr. Turnover? I am in love with my wife.
I was, as I have told you, yesterday married to her in the presence of
her mother and others. I am legally entitled to possess her."

"Yes, but even in post-nuptial arrangements there must be two to a
contract," said Mr. Turnover, blandly. "It seems to be a case of
perversity--a mood, let us hope, that will pass. I once said to Mrs.
Turnover, I compare man and wife to a mill and stream: the mill turns
one way and the stream runs the other. But betwixt them both the grain
is ground."

"Not in my case," said Captain Reynolds, grimly.

"Are you leaving the country?"

"Yes."

"Shortly?" asked Mr. Turnover.

"I sail in command of a ship on October 8 next."

"Your wife may come round between this and then," said Mr. Turnover.
"Her mother, I presume, is well disposed to you?"

"Oh yes. She is bitterly cut up by her daughter's conduct."

"I am pleased to hear that," said Mr. Turnover. "Often in these
matrimonial troubles the mother-in-law is as the snake that lies coiled
round the stem of the flower that hides it. Some mothers do not like
to part with their daughters. They are unwholesomely and unnaturally
jealous of the husbands, especially if the marriage was in opposition
to their wishes, or ambitions, or, I regret to say, interests. If
I were you I would trust your mother-in-law to help you with her
influence, and leave the rest to the good sense of your wife."

Captain Reynolds paid the lawyer his fee and left the office, having
got as much value for his money out of the Law as most men commonly
receive who deal with it.

Who was Captain Reynolds? And who was Mr. Featherbridge? One of these
men fills an important part in this sea drama, and whilst the captain
sits over a chop and half a pint of sherry in an old inn in Holborn,
thinking of how, by rights, he should be enjoying life with a handsome
young wife in Scotland, and what he must do to get hold of her, we will
expend a few minutes in some account of him and the other.

Reynolds was the son of a gentleman farmer, who fared ill on the
goodly fruits of the earth in Essex. He received a middling education
to the age of fourteen, when he was sent to sea as an apprentice in
a sailing-ship in the English Merchant Service--vulgarly called the
Mercantile Marine. He rose to command several tramps in sail and steam
and two mail steamers; but having run into a ship in a fog he lost his
berth in the company he served, though he saved his certificate and
was glad to accept the command of a sailing vessel called the Flying
Spur of one thousand tons, owned by Mr. George Blaney of Leadenhall
Street. She was bound to Poposa, a port in Chili, some distance north
of Valparaiso, and her very commonplace cargo would consist of bricks,
coke, and coal, and of nitrate of soda on her return voyage.

Reynolds had saved a few hundred pounds, but he would have found
(if questioned) no justification in his occupation or prospects for
marrying: which was doubtless his reason as a sailor for getting
married. He had hoped on his return from this next trip to take his
wife to sea with him on a voyage, then establish her in a little home
in some district where rent was cheap and where her mother might live
with her during his absence. But what are the expectations of man? He
certainly never, amidst his most gilded and expanded dreams of the
future, could have conceived himself sitting, on the day following his
marriage, over a chop and half a pint of sherry in Holborn, a more
lonesome man than Daniel at his pulse, or Crusoe over a kid steak.

Mr. Featherbridge was the son of a schoolmaster, and learning had been
applied to him when a boy at more ends of his person than one. He
had been caned by the paternal hand into a considerable knowledge of
Latin, which was irremediably lost on his first voyage when beating
down the English Channel, and a liberal equipment of mathematics,
which he preserved, and which helped him in after years in passing
his sundry examinations. He, too, like Reynolds, had been sent to sea
as an apprentice, and they had been shipmates on several occasions;
indeed Reynolds had a warm liking for Mr. Featherbridge, and when his
friend served under him as second mate he dropped the dignity and
importance of command though he was extremely reserved to the mate, and
walked the deck with Featherbridge in his watch and talked to him with
the pleasantness and candour of a brother. Thus it happened, when he
obtained command of the Flying Spur he sent a line to Featherbridge
offering the berth of mate of the ship, and we now understand why it
should have been that Mr. Featherbridge was Captain Reynolds' best man
at his marriage.

It will be supposed that Captain Reynolds was careful that his wife
should know his address. He received no answer to his letter dated at
the hotel in Bayswater. He took a lodging near the Millwall Docks,
where his ship was loading, and made a second impassioned appeal to his
wife, and he also wrote to Mrs. Lane, entreating her to help him by
using her influence with her daughter, and telling her that his heart
was aching for Lucretia, and that it must break with grief at sea if
she made no sign before he departed, as he would be able to think of
nothing but his wife.

Mrs. Lane answered in a letter expressed in affectionate language,
but could give him no hope. Lucretia was as chilling and determined
as ever she had been, and reddened with impatience and temper if her
mother hazarded the subject of her husband. Mrs. Lane thought that
the extraordinary mood which possessed Lucretia had not had time to
be modified by thought, by recurrence of emotion which could not have
perished, by the sense of dutifulness and loyalty which might visit her
when she reflected upon her marriage vows. She strongly advised Frank
not to dream of calling, as another visit could only end in a deeper
degree of obduracy, and, personally, such a visit as he had last paid
was so trying that she felt she had neither the strength nor the nerve
to confront such another experience.

So Captain Frank Reynolds found himself completely blocked out from
the avenue at the extremity of which, on the pedestal of sentiment,
irradiated by the rosy light of his passion, stood the cold, chaste
statue upon whose finger he had passed the ring which made her his,
though there was no piece of sculpture in England at that time, though
there was no picture of a beautiful woman hanging upon any wall in the
country, more distant and hopeless to the yearning of love, to fruition
of desire, than the wife whose parrot cry was, "I will not live with
Captain Reynolds!"

On Tuesday, October 7, Mrs. Lane and Lucretia were at table in Chepstow
Place finishing lunch. It was about half-past one, the day very bright
and the air fresh, but the hearth trappings of the summer still
decorated the grate in that little parlour. Lucretia was dressed in
grey cloth that closely fitted her figure, and expressed its ripeness
and beauties: her hair was dressed high in the Greek style, and it
shone upon her brow in a neglect of red-gold threads, the effect of
which no artist in hair-dressing could have produced. She was somewhat
pale, and her looks were cold, but her fine eyes were alight with the
strong spirit that was her husband's despair, and you witnessed the
nerve-character of the woman in the long white fingers with which she
dismounted a beautiful Persian cat from her right shoulder, on to which
it had sprung without eliciting a scream or causing a start.

The house bell rang and the knocker clattered. It was natural that Mrs.
Lane should exclaim, "Who can that be, I wonder?" and turn her head to
look out of window, though of course the person at the hall door would
be invisible to her.

The servant came in, and said to Mrs. Lane, "Mr. Featherbridge would
like to see you, m'am."

"Where is he?" hissed Lucretia.

The servant slung her head sideways to intimate that he was in the
passage.

"In the drawing-room!" hissed Lucretia, screwing her thumb up at the
ceiling.

"What can he want?" inquired Mrs. Lane, as though she addressed a ghost.

"Go to him, mother!" said Lucretia, "I shall be in my bedroom." She
paused to add, "But make him clearly understand that my mind as
regards living with Frank is absolutely made up. It is impossible."
And with something that resembled a shudder of disgust in an instant's
convulsion of her form she went from the room, a very Hermione of a
figure.

Mrs. Lane, with an expression on her face that reflected the prophetic
promise of her soul to her of trouble, mounted the staircase and
entered the drawing-room. Mr. Featherbridge stood at the round table in
the middle of the apartment, bearded, slow eyed, yet with alertness in
the suggestion of his legs. He bowed to the old lady with the funeral
solemnity of an undertaker, and indeed had he been receiving pounds a
week for the talent of his face, he could not have looked more solemn
and afflicted.

"I am sorry to be the bearer of ill news," he said, on which Mrs. Lane
laid her hand upon her heart. "Indeed, I wish I could call it ill
news." He gazed at her wistfully. "Your son-in-law, Captain Reynolds,
has met with a terrible--a frightful accident! Yesterday he fell
through the main hatch into the hold of his ship, and is so injured
that he is dying, and may be dead before I can return to him!"

"Oh, goodness me, how shocking!" cried Mrs. Lane, breathing quickly.
"Dying, do you say?"

"He may be dead as I talk to you," answered Mr. Featherbridge. "Look at
this!" he added; and he drew out a letter, which he gave to Mrs. Lane,
who immediately groped behind her for her spectacle case, and put on
her glasses with hands which shook as though she had been running down
a hill. The letter went thus--


"Hours of Consultation--
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"20, Gloucester Road, Gravesend,

October 7, 1890.

"I have examined Captain Francis Reynolds, and find him suffering
from a compound fracture of the left leg, from fracture of the skull,
and also from fracture of three or four ribs on the left side. He
is severely collapsed, and this points to some internal hemorrhage,
probably from rupture of the liver or kidney, but he is too ill to
stand more minute examination, so I cannot state definitely which is
the injured organ. It is quite impossible to remove him to hospital,
and I fear that he will not live for more than about ten or twelve
hours.

"H. PAGET-SYMES, F.R.C.S."


"Poor fellow, oh poor fellow!" whined Mrs. Lane. "Who is seeing to him?"

"I got a professional nurse last night from Gravesend," answered Mr.
Featherbridge, receiving the letter, and viewing Mrs. Lane with his
slow melancholy stare. "He is sensible, and his dying request is that
he must see his wife, and I have come to ask her to accompany me to the
ship to say good-bye for ever, and to give him that one kiss which will
send the poor fellow to his rest with a smile upon his face."

"Oh, she ought to go! She will go, I am sure," cried the widow. "It
must be her atonement. Oh, how shocked she will be! Give me that
letter!"

And with a respiration full of sobs, due rather to nerves than to the
mind, for consciousness had scarcely yet time to absorb the full horror
of the report, she went to her daughter's bedroom. She broke into it
rather than walked in.

"What has he come to say?" asked Lucretia.

"Read that!" answered Mrs. Lane, handing the certificate to her
daughter.

Lucretia's cheeks paled into the aspect of white wax as she read.

"How horrible! How awful!" she exclaimed, as the surgeon's certificate
sank in her hand to her side. "Where is he?"

"Why, at Gravesend," sobbed Mrs. Lane. "No, on board his ship, I
suppose. You see, the man says he couldn't be moved. He may be dead
whilst I am talking to you."

"Was he conscious when Mr. Featherbridge left him?" asked Lucretia,
with an incomparable expression of horror and fear in her face.

"I suppose he was," blubbered Mrs. Lane; "because he sent Mr.
Featherbridge to ask you to come and see him to say good-bye--for
ever--good-bye. It is most awful!"

The sentiment that had induced Lucretia to accept Frank's hand, to
sweeten into a smile under the pressure of his lips, nay to impel her
to the altar with him, faithless in fidelity, an egoistic loyalty that
was ignobly treacherous to her lover and husband, this sentiment was
stirring in her as she held the letter listening to her mother.

"Come down and see Mr. Featherbridge!" said Mrs. Lane.

She left the room, and Lucretia followed. Mr. Featherbridge slightly
bowed.

"Do you think there is no hope?" exclaimed Lucretia.

"Absolutely none," said Mr. Featherbridge. "You have read that letter?"
he added, sending a glance at the certificate in her hand.

"Is he sensible?" asked the wife.

"At intervals," was the answer. "He sent the nurse to me this morning,
and asked me to go to you and bring you to him to say farewell. I hope
you will come. It is a sudden and shocking end, and I trust, Mrs.
Reynolds, that you will not make this event more heart-breaking than it
is by refusing his dying request."

"You must go--you must indeed, Lucretia," cried Mrs. Lane. "I'll go
with you. If people should get to hear that your husband was dying and
you refused to go and see him, what would they think? What would be
said? I should not be able to show my face. I should be ashamed to meet
my friends, and oh, what an awful memory for life for you! I'll go and
put on my bonnet."

"I do not think your presence would be advisable, Mrs. Lane," said
Mr. Featherbridge, in his slow way. "The meeting would be sacred. He
loves you, I know, but it is not you that he wants. Such a meeting
might be overwhelming if you made one, and how--and how----" He looked
in a formative sort of way at Lucretia, "I mean," he went on, "that
something might be said which could not, and therefore would not, be
said if witnesses--even if you, Mrs. Lane, were present."

"Well, will you go and get ready, Lucretia?" said Mrs. Lane.

"How long is it to Gravesend?" inquired Lucretia, glancing at the
clock, but always preserving her marble-white face of horror and fear,
in which there was now subtly mingled an expression which told of the
woman's heart beating a little in love and much in pain.

Mr. Featherbridge drew out a railway guide from his pocket

"A train leaves Charing Cross at a quarter to three," he said. "We can
catch that, if you'll kindly not delay. A train leaves Gravesend at
6.40. You can easily be home again by nine or half-past, and I will do
myself the honour to see you to this house."

"I shall be ready in five minutes," said Lucretia, and quitted the
drawing-room.

"The poor fellow has felt Mrs. Reynolds' abandonment dreadfully," said
Mr. Featherbridge. "God forbid that I should do him an injustice, but
this fall in the hold seems strange; the ship lies motionless at a
buoy. Nothing struck him to throw him forward...."

"You don't say so?" whispered Mrs. Lane, in a voice of awe.

"I only hope he may be alive when we reach the ship," said Mr.
Featherbridge. "I shall have done my duty by a man who has always
treated me as a brother, whose character is as beautiful, loyal, and
true as any I have ever heard of in a sailor. Why would not she live
with him? She loved him--she must have loved him to consent to be
his wife. It was not as though he could give her a title and a great
estate, as though there was something outside the mere poor man himself
which she was willing to wed."

"Oh, Mr. Featherbridge, you wring my heart!" sobbed the widow; and she
began to pin her gown to the edge of the drawing-room table.

In five minutes Lucretia appeared in a hat and jacket, and with an
umbrella.

"Have you got any change, mother?" she asked.

Mrs. Lane gave her two sovereigns.

"I am ready, Mr. Featherbridge," said Lucretia.

"Give him a fond kiss and my dearest love," said Mrs. Lane, "and tell
him--oh, Lucretia, tell him all that you feel and know I would say if I
were at his side."

Lucretia went downstairs. Mr. Featherbridge opened the hall door for
her; they passed on to the pavement, and Mr. Featherbridge hailed a
hansom cab that was passing. They got in and were driven to Charing
Cross, which Mr. Featherbridge considered a safer and surer way of
reaching their destination in time than if they took the underground
railway. Whilst they drove to the station Lucretia asked a few
questions about her husband, about his accident, if he suffered much
pain, if he had the comforts he required, if there was the least hope
of his living. She was very pale; her quivering lip denoted much
turbulency of heart. Her eyes were tearless, but they were dull with
saddening emotions.

On their arrival at Gravesend they immediately made for the water-side,
and Featherbridge hailed a boat The afternoon was fine, a dead calm; a
light cerulean mist floated in the atmosphere, and through it the sun
darted his beams in tarnished silver sparkles upon the glass-smooth
waters. It was the stream of ebb, and the ships at anchor pointed their
bowsprits up river. A large and brilliant mail steamer lay in midstream
waiting for something, with a black man holding a flag perched on
the awning astern. The tremors of the stream thrilled in harp-like
lines through the shadow she floated on and defaced the beauty of
that piece of mirroring. The breast of river bore its familiar burden
of ships coming, of ships going: all sorts of ships, lofty steamers,
lofty square rigs in tow, and the water was a mosaic of tints with the
reflection of divers coloured canvas hanging at yard or gaff from one
shape or another, straining at anchor or buoy, and all looking one way.

"That's the ship!" said Mr. Featherbridge, as the waterman dipped his
oars.

He pointed to the Flying Spur. The marine eye easily perceived that
she was something old-fashioned: a composite ship, metal ribs and
timber frame with a handsome cutwater and old-fashioned figure-head,
and elliptical stern, and a white band running round her, broken by
painted ports. Her masts were lofty and well stayed--that is, her long
topgallant masts had that faint curve forwards from the slight slant
aft of the lower masts and topmasts which was admired as a beauty in
the old frigates. She was ready for sea; sails furled on the yards,
all running rigging rove: a stout comely ship on the whole, one that
had done good service to other owners in her time, and was then bought
cheap, as she lay capable of shifting without ballast in the West India
Docks, by one George Blaney of Leadenhall Street. The boat arrived
alongside: steps dangled from the gangway.

"I can mount by myself, thanks, if you will hold my umbrella," said
Lucretia; and Mr. Featherbridge, remaining in the boat, could not but
admire Mrs. Reynolds' fine figure as she lay hold of the ladder and
ascended.

She put her foot on the gangway and stepped on to the deck, and Mr.
Featherbridge, bidding the waterman wait, was immediately at her side.
He had grown pale on a sudden, and an expression of nervousness was
visible in his face. No doubt he was dreading the effect upon the
wife's mind of the dreadful wreck her husband presented: bandaged,
stained, broken, dying, or dead! He gave her the umbrella, and led
the road to the companion-way, for this was a ship with under-deck
accommodation. Some of the crew were at work about the deck. Some
looked to be loafing on the forecastle head, gazing gregariously at
the shore. There is nothing more loafing or lounging than a sailor's
posture when he leans over the headrail sucking a pipe.

The mate, Mr. Featherbridge, conducted Lucretia down the
companion-steps into a tolerably well-lighted interior: a sufficiently
roomy cabin containing five berths, of which one on the starboard side
was the pantry, a table and chairs, a swing tray or two, and that was
about all. A young man, evidently the cabin servant, was polishing some
glasses. The mate peremptorily ordered him to drop the job and go on
deck. Lucretia was trembling. This was a new world to her, a singular
unimaginable scene, a strange atmosphere with its old marine smells and
the giant shaft of mizzen-mast piercing the upper and then piercing the
lower deck, the coffee-coloured bulkheads, the light troubled in the
skylight by the glass's protection of brass wire, the tell-tale compass
in the ceiling over the head of the table: all this was penetrated by
the presence or knowledge of anguish if dying, of horror and misery if
dead.

Mr. Featherbridge went to the door of a cabin which was clearly the
largest, and filled nearly the whole of the space aft, and opening it
just a little way, enough to admit of the passage of a human figure, he
asked Lucretia to step in: then instantly closed the door, softening to
his own ear the shriek which followed the wife's entrance.




CHAPTER III.--TRAPPED

LUCRETIA was trapped! Instead of seeing her husband lying in a bunk,
broken, hollow, bandaged, stained, dying, or dead, watched by a nurse,
what did she behold? Her husband indeed, and only her husband; erect
at a little square table, as healthy in aspect as ever he had shown,
a fine figure of a man, amongst the last, one should say, to excite
repulsion in a woman who had once owned she loved him, and who had been
made one with him in the most sacred of human bonds.

She shrieked; she swallowed, almost choking, a sob of terror and dire
astonishment. The unexpectedness of this apparition as she viewed it,
the abrupt astounding transmutation of the illusion that had filled her
mind as a fact into the fact that confronted her, seemed, after she had
screamed, to shock the life out of her limbs, to root her to the deck,
to paralyze every function. Then, with the instinct of escape, she
turned her head, and her husband sprang to the door.

"No, dear," said he, not without a note of sternness in his voice,
not without a shadow of austerity in his gravity; "you belong to me.
The law has given you to me. You gave your hand to me before God, who
is my witness. You are mine, and shall remain mine, and why not? What
has happened to me that this change should have happened to you? Why
have you refused to see me? Have I grown loathsome in appearance and
manner since we met at the church? Have I by any single deed warranted
your contempt and aversion? I love you as I have ever loved you. I am
adoring you, my darling, even as I seem to address you in heat. Come to
your own, you will find him true!"

He extended his arms to her, and smiled with such a commingling
of pathos in the expression as softened the look almost into the
tenderness of tears.

"Open the door and let me pass!" she answered. "You are a coward and
a villain to have betrayed me as you have, sending a lying rascal to
me to represent you as dying, and making me----" her voice broke. She
swelled her breast, and cried, "Let me pass! I want to go home."

"You shall return home with me," said he, "but in my own good time."

"You dare not imprison me!" she almost screamed.

"You are here, and here you remain," he replied. "We will not call it
imprisonment. When a wife lives with her husband, whether at sea or
ashore, she is not his prisoner. She is his companion, and in my case
his love."

"Are you really in earnest in keeping me here and taking me away to
sea?" she asked, with the very spirit of tragedy firing her fine eyes,
and making extraordinarily dramatic the forward-leaning, imperiously
inquisitorial posture of her figure.

"I certainly am," he answered bluntly.

She looked at him for a few seconds, and speculation passed from her
glowing balls of vision. Her eyes swooned in their upward rolling under
the descending lids, and the scarlet of wrath died out of her cheeks
into their first pallor of virgin wax. She reeled, and would have
fallen; but he caught her, and laid her tenderly in the one bunk of
that cabin, supporting her head to remove her hat that he might pillow
her, liberating her throat, now kissing, now fanning her, and brooding
over her with the passion of a man whose love has been consecrated.

Meanwhile Mr. Featherbridge, who had received his instructions, was
executing them. He hailed the waterman to bring his boat alongside, got
in, and was rowed ashore, and making his way to the telegraph office he
stamped two forms already filled up and handed them to the clerk. The
first ran thus--


"To Mrs. Lane,
Chepstow Place,
Bayswater, London.

"Shall remain to nurse Frank. Please send my clothes at once to care of
Station Master, Falmouth.

"LUCRETIA, Flying Spur, off Gravesend."


The other telegram was this--


"To Station Master, Falmouth.

"Please receive and hold boxes addressed to my wife to your care.

"FRANCIS REYNOLDS,

"Master Flying Spur, Gravesend."


This was a plot artfully planned and diligently prosecuted. It is not
for the chronicler to pronounce upon its morality. His business is
to relate, and to leave the reader to judge. But that certificate?
Was a third "party" in this scheme in the form of a medical man? No;
Mr. Featherbridge, instructed by Captain Reynolds, had called upon a
medical practitioner in Gloucester Road and complained of pains in the
bowels and general malaise. He protruded a tongue as red as a powder
flag; the doctor felt his pulse, which yielded the rhythm of the
hammered anvil. The doctor took pen in hand to prescribe, and whilst he
cast his eyes upon the ceiling in search of drugs Featherbridge asked
him for a sheet of headed paper, on which he feigned to scribble a note
with a pencil. This blank sheet he folded once, ready for its square
envelope, and pocketed it, and on this sheet in the cabin of the Flying
Spur he wrote to the dictation of Captain Reynolds the remarkable
and telling certificate which had lured Lucretia to Gravesend and into
captivity.

He was rowed aboard, having been absent a little over an hour. It was
about five o'clock. At six the tug Deerstalker would be alongside to
take the Flying Spur in tow for the Channel. The air was amazingly
tranquil. The delicate colour of the October sun sinking low gave the
picture of smooth river, and restful ships, and houses ashore, and the
melancholy flatness of the Tilbury plains, a hue of warmth that made a
summer scene of it. Every flag hung up and down like a streak of paint
from the gaff or mast-head of vessels rooted to their buoy or anchor;
but the colours fluttered at the staff or gaff of the steamer, mail,
or tramp, noble in bulk, or humped in bow, or hogged amidships, or
sagged aft where the leaning funnel threatened the demolition of that
extremity of the ship. And these filled the horizon of the eye with the
motions of life and the colours of commerce.

Mr. Featherbridge climbed the side, and at the gangway found Mr.
Vincent Ralland the second mate, a rather fat, warm-coloured,
yellow-haired man, in a round coat that made his figure resemble a
cup and ball, with a smile of natal origin which might have passed as
satirical or cynical had his utterances justified such an assumption.

"The captain's been asking for you, sir," said this man.

"Where is he?" inquired Mr. Featherbridge.

"In the cabin, I think, sir."

"See all ready for the tug! I shall be on deck shortly;" and Mr.
Featherbridge went below.

As he entered the cabin Captain Reynolds came out of a berth on the
port side. It was not the compartment into which Featherbridge had
introduced Lucretia. The door of that berth was closed and locked, and
Reynolds had the key of it in his pocket, and it would remain locked
until the ship was fairly under way in tow of the tug.

"Did you send the wires?"

"Yes, sir."

"Featherbridge," said the captain, extending his hand, "I am extremely
obliged to you for your part in this unhappy business. I am the more
obliged because I know that much that you have undertaken on my behalf
is in conflict with your views."

"I am glad to have served such a friend as you have been to me, Captain
Reynolds," said Mr. Featherbridge. "But Mrs. Reynolds will hate me like
poison, and I shall be ashamed to meet her. And yet, what more proper
than that a wife should live with her husband?"

"She fainted," said Captain Reynolds, "and was so long in coming to
that I was alarmed. She cries silently, which goes to my heart, for
God knows it is not in me to give her cause for a single tear. She
shall not have reason to complain of my honour, though I have proved
treacherous in my effort to possess that which I lawfully own and
loyally love. She shall be as a virgin to her husband, but under his
protection and within the embrace of his eyes, which must suffice until
the woman's heart breaks through the woman's perversity, and the higher
form of chastity asserts itself in union."

These may seem flowery thoughts and shining words in the mouth of a
captain in the Merchant Service; but we shall see, as we progress, that
Reynolds was a man of reflection and reading; one who had spent a great
portion of his leisure in studies outside those to which he was courted
by his profession. He had read well into the poets, and had followed
science in some of the most eloquent of its exponents, such as Faraday,
Tyndall, and Kelvin, was not without some knowledge (for conversation)
of sculpture, painting, and music. He was mainly self-educated, and
therefore well-grounded, and indeed he had made but a small impression
on Lucretia if his fascinations had been limited to his person.

Meanwhile in the captain's cabin sat or stood the captive Lucretia. The
husband's hand was visible in the furniture of this sea apartment. The
bunk--the one bunk--was cosy with eiderdown quilt, soft pillow, new
hair mattress. A row of pegs supplied the absence of a wardrobe for
the storage of skirts, jackets and the like. A toilet-table under the
round scuttle with which this bedroom was illuminated bore fiddles for
the preservation of a powder-box, bottles of rosewater, eau-de-Cologne,
and other dressing delicates. On the table were ivory hair-brushes and
knick-knacks too commonplace to catalogue. Several pots of plants in
flower sweetened the atmosphere.

Lucretia had ceased to weep; her face had taken a hard look of rage and
alarm. She gazed about her, but entirely missed the symptoms of marital
affection through the resentment and indignation she was consumed with.
Had the cabin been lighted by a port-hole big enough to run a gun
through Lucretia would not have thrown herself into the Thames. She
had threatened poison to her trembling mother outside, but she had not
had a drop in the room, and she was a conspicuous figure amongst those
people of this world who are the very last to lay violent hands upon
themselves. No doubt she would have made a brave dash for liberty could
she have found an exit: descended a rope-ladder, say, or jumped a fall
of fifteen feet into a boat; but she had no idea of destroying herself,
and perhaps her husband knew enough of her character to form an opinion
under this head. For would he otherwise have allowed a brand-new pair
of scissors to repose in a fiddle on the toilet-table? since even a
bare bodkin suffices in the hands of those who will not fardels bear,
not to mention husbands.

What a honeymoon was this for Lucretia! Her nostrils quivered, her
lips worked as she vowed that if ever she was permitted to return she
would pursue her treacherous husband and the scoundrel Featherbridge
to the uttermost recesses of the law. And still she gathered from the
character of her sea bedroom, from the absence of all instruments for
purposes of navigation, and of all hints of a masculine presence, that
she was to dwell alone, and from this perception her cold, chaste,
passionless spirit sucked in a little comfort. What would her mother
think when she came to learn the truth? Unfortunately, Lucretia felt
secretly convinced that Mrs. Lane would approve on the whole of Frank's
stratagem as rescuing both herself and her daughter from a most
anomalous and gossip-breeding position. It was not as though Captain
Francis Reynolds had kidnapped Lucretia Lane, a disdainful, handsome
young woman, a prize not only for beauty, but for money. He had
beguiled his own wife into his arms! The fittest of all harbours for
her to bring up in, the safest and surest casket in which to deposit
the jewel of her life.

This sort of reasoning would occur to Lucretia no doubt, but not in
a convincing way. She might have been agitated by such reflections
but not persuaded, as a sea-fowl when the waves pass under it is not
carried forward, but moves up and down. She had no fear of violence;
she very well knew that she was deeply and devotedly loved. But
she burnt with wrath when she considered how she had been tricked
and trapped. And again she wept, and sometimes wildly stepped the
narrow-carpeted space of deck, and sometimes paused to listen, with
vulgar surmises occasionally breaking in: such as, would Frank keep her
locked up until she consented? Did he mean to keep her throughout the
voyage, or did he merely intend to terrify her into the submission of a
wife? If so, then persistent obstinacy must result in his sending her
ashore before the ship was fairly away from England. Where would she be
allowed to take her meals? Would she be permitted to go on deck?

Hark! What noise was that? Merely the sounds of the helm, the scrape of
the wheel-chain, the jar of an old-fashioned system of steering.

She looked through the scuttle, and perceived that the ship was in
motion. The pilot was in charge, and the captain was at large. Lucretia
heard the key turned in her cabin door, and Reynolds entered. He looked
at her wistfully and said--

"We have started. The voyage has begun, Creeshie. Though you may not
forgive me for a little, I am happy. It is as it should be, as your
mother could wish it to be, as you, dearest, will soon admit it ought
to be."

"Do you mean to land me?" she exclaimed, with fire in her eyes.

"No."

"Do you intend to carry me all the way to the South American port you
are sailing to?"

"Yes, and back again."

"You are a black-hearted wretch!" she exclaimed, working her hands
hysterically. "If I live I'll punish you!"

"The voyage will do you good," he said, in an easy voice of
good-nature, almost cheerful. "This is a stout little ship, and in her
day she was a proud one. You have the figure for a rolling deck, and
the eyes for a tropic calm."

"You are no gentleman!" she exclaimed, frowning at him. "Would any
gentleman treat a woman as you are treating me?"

"Talk to me as my wife and I will listen to you," he responded. "What
good will scolding do? I am not changed. I am as I was when we first
met, and as I was when you said "Yes" to me, and we kissed, and you
gave me a rose from your breast. You cannot forget such things! I have
you, and I will keep you, and you shall thank me yet, Creeshie."

"I demand to be sent on shore!" she exclaimed, lifting her foot and
bringing it down with an angry slap on the deck.

"Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder," said
Captain Reynolds. "Why should I divorce you? We love and we lose, and
the poet tells us that it is better to love and lose than never to love
at all. I love you, and I don't mean to lose you. No, Crish, that ring
has a meaning as deep as your life and mine, which are one."

She passionately seized the wedding-ring on her finger as though she
would tear it off. But she did no more than that. In the minute of
silence that followed he grew stern, and looked at her gloomily and
even forbiddingly, as though he would have her know that he was her
lord, and that one of her vows was obedience, which formed the third
of the trinity which included love and honour; but if temper had not
blinded her she would have seen that this look was but a mask; indeed,
the glow of his love coloured the whole man, and rendered her conduct
inexplicable; for we recognize the passion of chastity in the vows of
the nun, but it is impossible to interpret precisely that quality in
the vows of the bride.

"You will understand," said he, "now that the ship is under way that
you can come and go, and do what you please. This cabin has been
prepared for you, and for you only. You can take your meals alone or
with me at the cabin table as you choose."

In all this he was unconsciously answering the questions which had run
in her head before he arrived. He proceeded--

"You have but to name a desire, and if it's in the power of the
sea-life to gratify it, you shall not be disappointed. You have nothing
to fear. If you can find the elements of happiness in you, you shall
not miss in me a solid foundation for the erection of your temple."

He viewed her steadfastly whilst her eyes glowed at him with
indignation and scorn, and, rounding on his heel, he walked out.

Her mind fell into a hurry of desperate thought. The idea possessed
her to write a letter--she gazed about her for writing materials;
nothing of the sort was visible. She was very ignorant of the sea, had
some vague fancy of a passing boat, of throwing a letter into it and
begging the people to post it. But to whom should she write? there was
but one--her mother. And what could her mother do, even if she proved
willing to separate them now that they were together?

Her reflections grew pale with something like despair. What a base
trick to play her! Helplessness added fuel to wrath. To bring her away,
too, without clothes! How on earth was she to manage with only the
things she had on, when she had understood from Frank--yes, she called
him Frank to herself--that the outward passage might run into three, or
even four months; for the ship was bound round the Horn, and from the
Thames to Poposa is a long navigation for an old-fashioned, composite
sailing ship, hedged about by those conditions of calms and head winds,
and long heaving-to's, with the arrest of ice and other familiar causes
of delay which take no part in the voyage of the steamer.

She determined to go on deck. Her cabin had been a prison, and was an
exasperation to her. And now she resolved, even before she quitted her
sleeping-room, to adopt and express a posture of mind that should prove
a death-blow to her husband's expectations. We shall presently see what
she meant to do.

The cabin was lighted; a broad flame of oil in a glass globe swung
pulses of radiance through the atmosphere to the bulkheads, and the
sheen rippled in bright wood, in cutlery, and crockery, and glass.
Stars of the evening trembled in the skylight. It was hard upon seven
o'clock. The cloth was spread for a meal in the cabin. The servant,
who no doubt had received instructions from the captain, stepped up
to Lucretia with a mighty fine air of respect, and asked if he should
serve tea to her. Yes; her throat was a little dry with tears and
constriction and angry words, and she waited, not seated, standing
beside the table, whilst the cabin servant went forward to the galley.
Occasionally sounds broke from the interior, noises of straining like
to the groans delivered by old furniture at midnight. This was a very
new scene of life to the lady, and she looked about her with petulant
disgust, with a ceaseless complaining of heart that she should have
been betrayed by a most ignoble trick into a captivity that was really
worse than gaol, as the sage pointed out, for in a ship you are not
only locked up, but you stand to be drowned.

Whilst she waited for a cup of tea, Mr. Featherbridge came down the
companion-steps on his way to his berth. He started at sight of her,
and averted his face as he passed. She followed him with a gaze of
withering intensity and dislike. She looked a handsome figure in her
hat and jacket; the oil flame glorified her hair; it gave a delicacy
to her extreme pallor; it accentuated the dark depth of her eyes, and
lighted a little star of beauty in each. Why on earth could not this
woman be commonly human, and take her husband for better or for worse?
It was Fontenelle who proposed the erection of statues to beautiful
women. He would have gone further; built an immense hall, in which
figures in wax of the beautiful women of the country apparelled in
the fashion, would be collected. In such a vast and engaging museum
Lucretia would have made no inconsiderable show.

The servant arrived with the tea-pot and milk, and placed some thin
bread and butter and cake on the table. She filled a cup, and sipped
it, standing. As she sipped, her husband came out of his cabin.

"I am glad to see you are taking some refreshment," said he, looking at
her with an appearance of moving affection.

She held her eyes off him, and curled her lip, and kept silence.

"Oh, I forgot to tell you," he continued briskly, as though he would
have his good-humour shear, as the cutwater of a ship the wrathful
billow, through her rage and resentment, "that I sent a wire to your
mother to forward your clothes to Falmouth, where we shall call for
them."

Her answer, without looking at him, was a sneer, and she turned her
back upon him and drank her tea. It was pretty clear now that she had
made up her mind not to speak to him, to be to him a shape without a
spirit, a statue without a soul, a lighthouse without a lantern, a moon
without glory--a something of which the absence would be a blessing in
comparison with the discomfort of its presence.

He told the servant to light the lamp in Mrs. Reynolds' cabin, and
passed on deck. In a few minutes she put down the cup and went up the
steps. Land and river were clothed in the early October night. The
ship was floating restfully in the wake of the tug, whose shape was a
shadow, and whose line of smoke as it rose almost perpendicular from
the funnel was often full of the spangles of the furnace. There was
majesty in the figure of the ship, in the solemn lifting of her masts
crossed with yards symmetrically braced, each glimmering with its
length of pale canvas; there was poetry in the lonely figure of the
helmsman at the wheel, the incarnation of that spirit of sentience
which to the meditative eye is visible in the motions of the compass.
Gleams of light, falling one knew not whence, swarmed capriciously in
the water; yellow sparks dotted the dark shores, and here and there a
lighted house touched the gloom with a misty dash of radiance, like
phosphor in brine; visionary forms of ships passed; the coloured
signals of the sea in red and green and white shone in the gloom, or
hovered over the dark breast of river like lights about a swamp, or the
tremulous meteors of the highway, which affright the clown, and hurry
him along in sweat to report a lie, namely, a ghost.

Lucretia moved warily about the deck, giving her husband a wide berth.
He stood in conversation with the pilot, but whilst she continued above
he held her in the tail of his eye. There was a sheen of lamplight
and starlight in the atmosphere, and if the expression of the face
could not be read the behaviour of the eyes could be followed. Captain
Reynolds observed the pilot watching Lucretia.

"She is my wife," he said.

"Oh yes, I thought as much," answered the Trinity House man, whose
square trunk, compact of coat and shawl, lightly swayed on rounded legs
under skirts that half concealed them. And to himself he added, "She
may be his wife, but she don't seem much of a companion."

The evening was perfectly tranquil; the river glass-smooth. A large
star or two that went in the water with the ship, hung like a prism of
white light, but the movement of the vessel made a little wind, and the
threads of hair on Lucretia's brow danced to it as though they were
Coleridge's summer leaf in an entranced night on a topmost bough, and
she felt a bit chilly. She stepped from the side at which she had been
looking at the shore and occasionally glancing at the man who conversed
with her husband, and going to the sailor at the wheel asked who that
person was who was with the captain.

"The pilot, mum," answered the fellow.

"Does he remain in the ship?" inquired Lucretia.

"No, mum. I expect he'll go ashore at Deal."

She said, "Thanks," and walked to the ship's side again, where she
debated whether she should appeal to the pilot to help her to return
home. But the sense of the absurd flavoured her anger; she was not
without a good and even a strong understanding, and the ridiculous
was inevitably the inherent condition of every emotion. For mind,
like matter, has the power of selecting its colour, and not the most
tempestuous mood could be hers without its taking the hue of the
imbecility of the position in which she had partly placed herself and
partly been placed. It was not conceivable that the pilot would meddle
with what he might regard as a twopenny quarrel betwixt husband and
wife, some jibbing perhaps on her part in jealousy. At all events,
she reflected that it would be impossible for her to explain to a
rough seaman, such as a pilot, her reasons for declining to live with
Captain Reynolds whom she would be bound to admit was her husband.
Nor was Lucretia a person to court discomfiture. So, with a shudder,
contrived partly by the temperature, partly by disgust and a sense of
helplessness, she returned to her cabin and closed the door.

Reynolds' appeal to her through the medium of the cabin furniture lay
in other directions than that of the toilet-table. Against a bulkhead
were ranged some hanging book-shelves, and had she condescended to
examine their burden she would have found the volumes by her favourite
authors, and those which were new to her were such as she would have
chosen. This alone proved that Reynolds' scheme to kidnap her had been
long preconcerted, and that he regarded the sequel as a certain triumph
to him. She sat in an armchair as comfortable as the one in which Miss
Ford had been seated whilst Lucretia dressed for her marriage, but
remained clothed as for the deck or shore. In about half an hour some
one knocked on the door.

She cried quickly, "Who's that?"

"I'm John, mum."

"What do you want, I say?"

On this he opened the door and told her that the captain had sent him
to inquire what she would like for supper. She was again thirsty, but
answered--

"I want nothing."

He stared at her with a mind that lagged heavily in the rear of his
eyes, and said--

"There's chicken and cold lamb and cold boiled beef, and claret and
sherry--what will it please you to take?"

"Have you got any soda-water?"

"Yes, mum."

"Bring me some claret and soda-water!"

"Yes, mum. And what to eat?"

"Cut a couple of thin ham sandwiches!"

He went out, and the moment he was gone she fell into a rage and began
to cry. It was evident that she was the only woman in the ship. There
was no stewardess. To think of being waited on and perhaps nursed if
she should be sea-sick by a tarry young Jack in a sleeved waistcoat,
who breathed Spanish onions, and who was so awed by the sight of
her that, like people who cannot work and talk at the same time, he
neglected his business in viewing her! The position was to be summed up
in the old Frenchman's saying concerning a religious drama, "C'est une
chose assez risible, mais il manque des rieurs."

When the sandwiches had been brought to her, she locked the door.
Her husband, however, did not trouble her. There was no motion as
yet in the ship: the cabin deck seemed as fixed a platform as the
land. Sometimes she heard the voices of men talking as they ate at
table. The tiller chains overhead occasionally strained, and a voice
of lamentation sometimes proceeded from some timber weary of its
obligation of cohesion, or from the cargo underfoot. Presently she
looked at the time and found the hour half-past nine. She wound up her
watch, and feeling extravagantly exhausted, what with her journey, what
with the amazing passions her betrayal had lighted in her, and what
with the tears she had shed, idle and most unworthy tears, she resolved
upon taking some rest; so she removed her hat and jacket and got into
the bunk, otherwise fully apparelled, and covered herself with the
light eider-down quilt. It was a coffin of a bedstead, something very
removed from all her experiences of going to rest at night; but novelty
was not to negative the commands of Nature, and in ten minutes she was
sleeping peacefully.

All through the night the ship was towed down the river into the
opening breast of ocean, where the land to starboard rounds into the
Channel; but when, next day, a little forest of masts which shadowed
the horizon abreast of Deal in delicate pencils, was hove into view, a
south-west breeze sprang up and a small swell came rolling along under
it, and the Flying Spur began to drop curtseys to the mother whose
child she was. A south-west wind tarnishes the brightness of the sky
and is often a wet breeze. It may lock a sailing-ship up in the Downs
when she is outward bound, and the tug that was pulling the Flying
Spur was hailed, and her master informed by Mr. Featherbridge, who
shouted to him from the starboard cathead, that the ship would bring
up. Which she did in due course, abreast of Deal Castle, and the pilot
went ashore.

Now, at the hour of breakfast, John had knocked on Lucretia's door and
found her up. He had received her orders, and taken a tray to her. She
was indeed pale, but looked the fresher and the better for many hours
of profound oblivion. The sea was then smooth, and the ship floated
steadily after the tug. The anchor had been let go shortly before one
o'clock, and the tide had canted the vessel somewhat athwart the swell.
She rolled as well as pitched, not, it is true, heavily, but with a
behaviour that could have been hardly deemed nursing by a sensitive
stomach. It was breezing pleasantly for homeward bounders, and
tacks-and-sheetsmen of all rigs blew with the old moaning of the sea
in their lifting white breasts through the Gulls, past anchored ships
looking withered as winter pines, with here and there a gaunt steam
tramp yearning through wide nostrils at the swell, now breaking into a
wet flash of red light as she rolled, now soaring with balloon-round
bows, now immodestly kicking up her heels in her can-can of the
water, to the shameless revelation of the blades of her propeller.
Dirty clouds, like smoke, were scattering up from France, and at times
slapped a shower into the eye.

"If it was in the east," said Captain Reynolds to the mate, "I should
consider this berth good for six weeks. If Mrs. Reynolds comes on deck
and sees that town close aboard, there'll be trouble."

His reference was to Deal, which lay abreast, with the foam of the
breaker snaked along the base of the slope of grey shingle like a
mighty hawser of silver wire. The church spire stretched its vane to
the flash of the noon: windows sparkled in terraces: in the foreground
were shapes of boats on the pebbly acclivity, and the green land soared
to the giant Foreland, with its tower of splendour by night, and its
majesty of austere white rampart by day.

It was the dinner hour, and the meal was served below, and the captain
and Mr. Featherbridge repaired to the table, leaving the second mate to
watch the ship, and John went to Lucretia's door to knock and inquire
what she would be pleased to have for dinner.




CHAPTER IV.--A CHANGE OF MIND

THE cabin servant, as we have seen, knocked upon the door of
Lucretia's berth, but obtained no reply. He applied his knuckles more
boisterously, and Captain Reynolds turned in his chair at the head of
the table to look and listen.

"Doesn't she answer?" he exclaimed, springing up.

He tried the handle, and strained the door with his shoulder; the key
was turned in the lock. Reynolds smote the door four or five times with
his fist, crying, "We must force this door if you will not unlock it."
And this he shouted in a strong stern note of command. His face changed
when the silence continued beyond a few seconds. He cried, with the
swiftness of alarm--

"Go forward, and tell the bo'sun to lay aft at once with tools to force
this door!"

John sprang up the companion-steps as though driven by a bayonet. The
ship's pitching and tossing filled the interior with all sorts of
noises, and though Reynolds bent his ear in such passion of attention
as rose to pain, no sounds that he could attribute to the lips of
Lucretia reached him.

"I hope to God nothing has come to her!" said he to Mr. Featherbridge,
who had risen from his meal, and was standing beside his captain and
friend.

"She has not been seen all the morning, sir."

"She has not come on deck," said the Captain. "She breakfasted, and
John reported her to me as all right."

But whilst he spoke Lucretia's threat to her mother to poison herself
if her husband attempted force or broke through the door, recurred to
him, and before the boatswain arrived the man's heart was wild with
anxiety and apprehension.

The daylight in the companion-way was eclipsed by the intervention
of a figure, and down came the boatswain, who was also the ship's
carpenter--a sturdy seaman named Martin Webb--whose eagle nose stood
out like a flying-jib betwixt a pair of whiskers standing from his
cheeks like the frill of an enraged hen going open-beaked at another.

"As quick as you can, Webb!" said the captain.

And after a few sounds resembling the hammering of the old-fashioned
carpenter before the old-fashioned anchor falls from the old-fashioned
cathead, and fills the hollow forecastle with the roaring of iron links
in an iron eye, the door flew open, and Reynolds rushed in.

What did he, what did the others who stood in the doorway, behold?
Merely a woman with dark red hair, and a face of the pallor of virgin
wax, lying in a bunk under an eider-down quilt with half-closed eyes,
motionless in the prostration of that dire distemper, sea-sickness.
The wash-basin was on the deck beside her bunk. One arm overhung the
bunk-board, and the hand, with its long, nervous fingers, was suspended
just above the deck, and looked as though shaped from the petals of the
moon-lily.

Reynolds knelt by her side. She was not dead, but she was scarcely
conscious, and the whites of her eyes visible past the lashes of the
half-sealed lids, made of her face such a counterfeit presentment of
death as might have misled a skilled medical inspection. The husband
felt the pale, cold, hanging wrist, and found a thin pulse in it. Then,
lifting the hand, and placing it upon the eider-down, he turned his
head, and asked Featherbridge for a wine-glass of brandy and water,
which was immediately procured and given to him. Nodding at the fiddles
on the toilet-table, he told Featherbridge to bring him that bottle of
eau-de-Cologne. He put his arm, with a wonderful tenderness of love
and sympathy, under his wife's head, and succeeded in draining some
brandy and water through her lips, and extending his handkerchief to
Featherbridge, he bade him soak it with eau-de-Cologne, and this he put
to his wife's forehead, kneeling beside her, watching, and now waiting.

"My poor sweet," he thought, "alone, and so ill; almost dying! Oh, why,
dearest, do you wish to abandon me?"

He told Featherbridge to finish his meal and close the door upon him,
to relieve the second mate, and to instantly report if a shift of wind
happened, as he would get under way forthwith. And he was left alone
with his wife, whose lips he kissed, whose hair he smoothed, whose hand
he caressed, until, in about half an hour, she exhibited some signs of
returning animation. The white lids lifted, and the rich brown irises
rolled down, but fireless, though with a little life of wonder in them
when the shape of her husband filled their horizon.

Throughout that afternoon he hung over his wife, never suffering the
tenderness of his ministering to be affected by her silence--that
silence which is more irritating than a sneer--as an expression of
the aversion she sought to render as manifest as nausea would permit,
of the wounding and inflaming nature of her resolution to release
herself from him and preserve the severe chastity of the beautiful,
passionless, faithless, and cruel Ego which she doted on, and whose
deliciousness was not likely to cloy her. No, the sweet idea of
her purity was not to sicken her soon, if ever; and there was his
deception to resent, and his outrage on her liberty to punish.

Never once would she answer him, though his few appeals to her to be
his wife were most affecting with his pity for her sufferings, and
eloquent with his love for her, and sweet with his contrition for the
trick which had betrayed her to her honourable place by his side.

She did not know where the ship was. She would naturally bring the
ignorance of a schoolgirl to the sea. What could she have told you
about the English Channel? Had she been informed that the town of Deal,
which she had visited when spending a fortnight at Ramsgate, was within
a twenty minutes' pull, she would not have been too sea-sick to have
demanded her release--to have raged in her request to be put ashore.
But the vessel was rolling and pitching, and Lucretia was convinced
that the Flying Spur was miles out of sight of land upon the ocean,
sailing on a voyage of which the contemplation was like that of
eternity.

Towards sundown Captain Reynolds sent for some tea, cake, and thin
bread and butter, and placed the tray by her side. She would not look
at him; she would not speak to him. No corpse could have been more mute
under the grief-stricken gaze of the mourner. He went to the door with
a dark face, and, removing the key from the lock, turned to her, and
said--

"I would not advise you to bolt yourself in. At sea tragic surprises
come in a moment. If we should be run into, so that the ship might
easily founder in five minutes, how are you to be rescued if you shoot
this bolt or turn this key, and are too ill to leave your bunk, or lie
in ignorance of what is happening?"

He paused to hear if she would answer. Her response was a sneer and a
diligently averted gaze. With a heavy sigh and a hot heart he walked
out and went on deck.

This man had dreamt of a long honeymoon on the ocean. He and Lucretia
would have watched the sunset together. He would have explained to
her the heraldry of the sky--talked of eyeless fish in water three
miles deep. She would have viewed with him the moon-like bleakness and
desolation and lifelessness of the iceberg. He would have instructed
her in the causes of the colours of the ocean--why it is green, or
grey, or blue, or black. In his handsome young wife he knew that he
could, and she had been willing, have found a companion whose intellect
was capable of translating the pictures she viewed into a wide poetic
and romantic meaning. Such behaviour as hers, such a disappointment as
his, might well clothe the manliest and most cheerful spirit in crape,
and deeply black-edge the remaining pages in the story of his life.

He paced the deck alone, lost in thought. The beacons of the sea were
here and there leaping into the dusk from the light-ships off that
yellow serpent of shoal called the Goodwins, ashore from the windy
headland whence streamed a far-reaching splendour; from the fore-stays
of moored ships, and the familiar red eye of the port lantern went
sliding up Channel, dimming yet the shadow that conveyed it; and
the familiar green eye stole glimmering down, wan and elusive as a
glow-worm on a summer evening misty with dew. It was still blowing a
fresh moist breeze from the westward of south-west, and a starless
night was at hand. The waters ran in flickers of froth, and broke into
sounds of sobbing along the bends, and the tall masts waved in stately
measures, growing spectral under the translating wand of the dusk.

Featherbridge stood in the waist, leaning upon the rail, gazing
shorewards. A riding-light shone on the stay forward, and shapes of
men were on the forecastle, but you heard nothing but the noise of the
wind aloft and of streaming waters, and a dreary clattering of booms
ill-secured. After many turns Reynolds went to the side of the mate and
said--

"Featherbridge, she is making me the unhappiest man under God. Shall I
persevere? Shall I send her ashore? I have her, and I tell you that the
idea of parting with her is hell to me."

"Well, sir," answered Featherbridge, after a little thinking, "as I
ventured to tell you, when this scheme came into your head, it seemed
to me, and I still think, that had you taken this voyage and left
her to her mother, you would have found her all you could wish on
your return. It is a state of mind that wants time, and I fancy that
violence will harden it."

Captain Reynolds looked during a considerable interval at the lights
ashore, and then, with a stamp of the foot and a slap of his thigh, he
burst out vehemently--

"No, by God! It has given me great trouble to get her. She is with me,
and so far as that goes, things are as they ought to be. I'll not
part with her. If time is to operate ashore, why not here? Here there
is at least the constant appeal of the sight of me, of the knowledge
of my presence in the ship. But she ashore and I away, why--this craze
might induce her to take some extraordinary step. Her mother has no
control over her; she might enter a convent."

"Not as a married woman, sir, I think," said the mate, with a slow
shake of his head.

"A married woman!" exclaimed the captain, with bitter scorn. "Is it the
wedding-ring, is it the words uttered by the priest, that make a woman
married to a man? No; I've got her, and I'll keep her."

The wind shifted at daybreak. It had slipped well into the eastward
of south, and was a clear steady breeze. The boatswain summoned the
crew of the Flying Spur to get the ship under way. The windlass
was manned, and the castanets of the pawls timed the chorus which
accompanied the entrance, link by link, of the cable through the
hawse-pipe. The date was the 10th of October. The morning broke fair,
with a fine high sky of feather-shaped clouds. The sea was a magazine
of colours and floating life in motion, for all the outward-bound
vessels were getting their anchors, and the sun poured a delicate pink
light upon mounting canvas and leaning shafts of cloths, the dark
red sail of the coaster and the white wings of the yacht. Old Deal
stretched salt and sweet as a fresh mackerel with its wool-white line
of surf and its greenish sparkle of window to the risen day-beam. On
the Flying Spur sail by sail was set until the ship was clothed in
breasts of cloth, narrowing at each summit, three pyramids with curves
of canvas like the sea-gull's wings between, and glowing with the soft
purity of untrodden snow in that autumn morning sunshine.

When breakfast was on the table John knocked on Lucretia's door. He was
told to enter, whence it appears that the door was not bolted, whilst
it could not have been locked, as Reynolds had withdrawn the key. The
captain was eating some breakfast, and the mate had charge of the ship.
The cabin servant, coming out of Lucretia's berth, stepped to Reynolds'
side, and said--

"The lady asks for some tea and dry toast, sir."

"Is she dressed?"

"Yes, sir, the same as yesterday. She is lying in her bunk."

"How does she seem?"

"She looks nicely," answered John.

"Get her whatever she wants," said Reynolds.

His brow was heavy with thought as he sat alone eating. It was not
difficult to see that some consideration, which had suddenly visited
him, had sunk deep and was perplexing him. There was in his glances
from his plate to the bulkheads about him, and up through the skylight,
that imperious vivacity of eye which tells of a soul in storm and
conflict. The lightning of the mind was in his regard. He closed his
knife and fork, left his seat, and tapped on his wife's door.

"Who's that?" she asked.

"I--your husband--Frank."

She did not answer. He turned the handle and walked in. She was seated
in the armchair, very pale; but sleep and time had discharged the
sunk and hollow look of nausea, and the very neglect that her hair
discovered rendered her the more admirable and pleading to his sight.

When he entered she looked down and stared with riveted eyes upon her
lap as though she was in some hypnotic sleep, and the lashes of the
lids were impenetrable veils of dark red golden hair. But he observed
that she had formed her mouth into a sneer, and there was scorn and
wrath in the dishonouring facial expression. It was as though he was a
spider or a frog.

"Won't you speak to me, Lucretia?" he said.

She held her eyes steadily fixed upon her lap, nor did her sneer change
by so much as an effect produced by a single touch of the pencil.

"Won't you even look at me?" he said again.

Marry come up, not she! He stood viewing her for a little with a frown;
but, as she would not look at him nor speak to him, he left the cabin,
feeling mortally humiliated. Here was conduct that was darting lances
into his amour-propre, and his spirit writhed with the pain of the
wounds. The old poet says--


"Sweet are the kisses, the endearments sweet
When like desires and like affections meet."


Where was he to find sweetness in this union if she held on as she
was? Was he not her husband? Was he not a gentleman? It is true he had
brought her into the ship by a stratagem, but surely the love that
lay at the root of his action should woo and win forgiveness for a
greater offence than that. "On pardonne tant que l'on aime," says the
French cynic; and Lucretia's inexorable resentment, vital even in the
prostration of nausea, was an augury he could not misinterpret. He had
used her with a chivalry which the majority of husbands would have held
her unworthy of. Moreover, her behaviour was belittling him in the eyes
of his officers, and the gossip of this strange affair would reach the
forecastle, and he understood the character of sailors well enough to
imagine that what might be said in that hollow humming sea-parlour with
much expectoration and a vast variety of oaths, would not contribute
greatly to the dignity of command and the requirements of discipline.

Once the swelling bosoms of the sails had taken impulse and life from
the wind, the Flying Spur proved herself nimble of heel. She sloped
her masts and slanted her cutwater, and bit with a keen fore-tooth
into the gleaming curves, filling the air round about her bows with
beauties and miracles: the lightning of foam, the rainbow of the
prism, the emerald-green and diamond-white of gems. At noon the wind
headed the ship and she broke off three points with her yards braced
well forwards. Dinner was served to Lucretia in her cabin, but in the
afternoon, about half-past three, when her husband was on deck, she
made her appearance and stood in the companion-way, holding by the hand
that wore her wedding-ring, and stared about her. A very fine form, as
Jack at the wheel thought, her eyes dark and glowing like the heavens
at night, her lips slightly parted as though in relish of the sweetness
of the wind that swept betwixt them. She stepped out and crossed over
to Mr. Ralland, the fat, warm-coloured, yellow-haired second mate, and
addressed him as though her husband had been left ashore, or was dead.

"In what part of the sea is this ship?" she asked.

"In the English Channel, madam."

"Are we far from England?"

"There is England yonder, madam," answered Mr. Ralland, with a smile
that seemed satirical but was not, pointing to some blue films hovering
over the sea-line on the starboard quarter.

"Have we left Falmouth?"

"No, madam; we are making for Falmouth."

"When are we likely to get there?"

"Why," answered Mr. Ralland, looking aloft, "the wind's drawn ahead,
and we're off our course, and shall have to go about unless the breeze
shifts again. So that," said he, with a rather nervous look in the
direction of the captain, whose interpretation of this conversation
with his wife he did not like to think of, "I don't expect we shall
reach Falmouth much before late on the thirteenth or it may be the
fourteenth."

She looked at the films of land with a hard, pale face of resolution,
and it was impossible even for Mr. Ralland to miss observing that she
had arrived at a determination to take a step, and that this time she
meant to score.

Captain Reynolds was pacing the weather-side of the quarterdeck when
she arrived. She went to leeward to the gangway, so as to remove
herself as far from him as possible without invading the precincts of
the sailors' quarters, and she stood with her arms resting upon the
bulwark-rail, looking at the horizon or at the forming or dissolving
mounds of water, or at two or three colliers and a screw tramp with
raised bows in the outline of a cow lying down. Two sailors were
working side by side forward. That they were British and not foreign
seamen may be judged by the following sentences that passed between
them.

"Fine young party that! What's called a piece of all-right."

"She's the old man's wife," answered Bill, meaning by "old man" Captain
Reynolds.

"Ow dyer know?" says Jim.

"Aint she a-treatin' of him as if she was? If she worn't his wife----"
and Bill, with a wink, nudges Jim in the ribs.

"What's she doin' here if they don't get on?" said Jim.

"Think 'e's goin' to leave the likes of her ashore?" answered Bill.
"He'll wait upon yer! Where'd she be when he tarned up? A wife may be
like a bad thick 'un; sights better than the real thing to look at, but
yer dars'nt spend 'un. Ye've got to keep carryin' of it about. Yon's a
thick 'un without much ring in her, you lay."

"Not even the weddin'-ring, p'raps," said Jim.

"Oh, I allow you'll find that all right. He'd live in fear of us men."

"'Ow's a man goin' to command a ship that can't command a woman?" asked
Jim.

"If a woman won't answer her 'ellum," replied Bill, "what are
ye going to do? You bet the old man's tried it hard-a-port, and
hard-a-starboard, and what luffin' 'ud do, or if 'ellum's a-lee would
mix nicely in the biling. I think myself," said he, very gravely, "that
some women is best left alone. If they prove onmanageable, then turn
to and secure the 'ellum, and you'll find the party'll take up her own
position and ride comfortable."

It will be judged from this fragment of conversation that Captain
Reynolds had not erred in the anticipation of his forecastle's comments.

As eight bells (four o'clock) were being struck, Lucretia left the rail
at which she had been standing, and walked up to Mr. Ralland, who was
in the gangway abreast of her. Captain Reynolds continued to stump his
lonely principality of quarterdeck, betwixt the wheel and the skylight.

"Of course," exclaimed Lucretia, haughtily, "you know that I am the
captain's wife."

Mr. Ralland, staring at her, stuttered "Yes," and instantly looked
ill at ease. He was waiting for Mr. Featherbridge to relieve him, and
disliked this being talked to by Mrs. Reynolds in the presence of the
commander of the ship, whose despotic importance was great enough to
ruin him, and the whole estate of this fat involuntary cynic lay in his
calling.

"I was brought to this ship by a base stratagem," said Lucretia, "and I
am imprisoned in her, as you are easily able to see. I desire to return
home to my mother. Will you tell your captain that if he does not allow
me to leave the ship at Falmouth, I will ask the sailors to help me to
free myself? I will appeal to those men who will not allow a woman to
be ill-treated. I have always heard that sailors are warm-hearted, and
I beg you to tell Captain Reynolds, that unless he liberates me I will
go right amongst his crew there, and tell them my story."

So saying, she slightly inclined her head, and went towards the
companion-hatch as Mr. Featherbridge stepped out of it. She darted at
him the lightning of her eyes, under the shadow of her frown, and sank
down the hatchway out of sight.

Mr. Ralland, with a mind slightly muddled, was about to go below to
compose himself over a pipe and a book in his bunk, throughout the
first dog-watch, should there not come a call for "All hands!" Captain
Reynolds called him.

"Mrs. Reynolds has been asking you questions, I think?"

The second mate coloured up, and answered that she had.

"What does she want to know?"

"Where we are, sir."

"Yes?"

"And how long it will take us to fetch Falmouth."

"Yes?"

The fat and purple young man hung in the wind, and after a cough or two
said--

"She asked me to tell you----" and he quoted Lucretia's threat, word
for word.

"Is that all?" inquired Reynolds, whose expression of face was stern
but calm in rigidity.

"That's all, sir."

"Thanks."

Mr. Ralland slunk to his quarters. The captain took a few turns; then,
catching Featherbridge's eye, he invited him to his side by a toss of
the head.

"She'll do at this for another hour," said he. He looked aloft and to
windward. "Featherbridge, I have formed my resolution. I have made up
my mind to send Mrs. Reynolds home when we arrive at Falmouth."

"I am sure I think you will be acting wisely if you do, sir," answered
Featherbridge.

"She is not to be conquered. She is not to be got at. I could not have
believed that her heart was so hard. I make every allowance for her
indignation at being trapped, but is there no love in her to help me?
Nothing left of the old feeling which induced her to take me?"

The captain's voice trembled slightly, but his face continued stern
and tranquil with the tranquillity of the marble face whose expression
is that of deep resentment and a heart on fire. And, in truth, it was
quite possible for the slow-souled Mr. Featherbridge to suspect in
Captain Reynolds a languid motion of mind that must presently harden
into aversion, for the elasticity of even such a love as this man bore
this woman has its limitations: the tissues crack, the passion sinks
shapeless; it takes another name, and a feeling that may threaten the
wreck of two lives, replaces the ruined sentiment.

"I did what I thought it was right I should do," continued Captain
Reynolds, "and I find that I was mistaken. My blunder arose from an
imperfect knowledge of the nature I was dealing with. Could I foresee
that the change that has come to her would prove as fixed as though it
had been inherent?--which it never was, for, so help me God, no woman
could have been more tender, more sweet, and docile in the privileges
she permitted. Many will tell me that I have not acted the part of a
gentleman; but I am a man, and I feel as a man, and she has not treated
me as I deserve to be treated by her. Featherbridge, you will continue
your kindness to the end. I will ask you to see her ashore. No doubt
her luggage will have been received at the station before our arrival."

He broke off. He could not bring himself to say more. He was unmanned,
and went to his cabin to collect himself.

Throughout that night the ship was a frequent scene of disturbance.
The wind headed her off her course, and to prevent her from running
now into the coast of France, or now into the coast of England, the
captain put her about--an evolution in merchantmen that is commonly
attended with great uproar. Men howl upon ropes as they drag at them.
The captain shouts, the mates bawl; the ship plunges, staggers, stops,
and reels; the wind roars in the shrouds; the fingers of the gale
sweep the canvas into a slatting like a volleying of stones from a
quay side into a hold; and there is much confusion below of nimble
crockery and sliding commodities. When it comes to, "Let go and haul!"
the fore-topsail-yard swings, the jib-sheets leap the stays, the
ship leans, and, after a pause of thought, lets drive her keen tooth
into the surge, which parts in slinging and singing masses of giddy
splendour, and she is again off and away, with her sailors coiling the
ropes over the pins, and the captain and mates staring aloft to observe
the lay of the yards and the set of the canvas. The scene is one of
inextricable complexity to a landsman's eye on a fine day and in summer
waters. But in the darkness of an autumn Channel moonless night, when
a strong head sea is running, and the work is to be discharged by two
only of the five fallible mortal senses--namely, touch and hearing--the
scene, or at least as much of it as is visible, takes for the landsman
an element of fear, and passengers have been known to go to prayers on
their own account when the ship was in the agonies of "mainsail haul"
on a dark night blowing hard, the captain suspecting that the white
water on the horizon was breakers, and that he was several leagues
out of his reckoning, and the mate convinced that if she hung another
minute she would be in irons, and they would have to wear ship, shoal
or no shoal.

When the Flying Spur was put about a little before nine on the
night of this day we are dealing with, the noise on the deck was so
great that Lucretia in her cabin believed the vessel was sinking. The
ship, as the helm was put down, met the seas and pitched heavily; the
rudder jarred; the tramp of feet overhead was as though all hands were
fighting for their lives to get into the boats. Lucretia heard shouts
and loud, hoarse bawlings, and, white with fear, with a heart beating
quickly--for she could not but remember what her husband had told her
about the ship being run into and sunk in five minutes--she opened the
door of her berth; but nobody was in the cabin. It was "all hands" on
deck, and John was amongst them.

She stood waiting and hearkening in the doorway until she grew
reassured by the comparative silence on deck and the steady floating
motions of the ship, and then John's legs appeared on the ladder, and
the man descended.

"What is the matter?" cried Lucretia.

"We've been putting the ship about, mum," answered John.

"What do you mean by that?"

"Laying her on the port tack for another board, mum."

Had he answered her in Chinese he would have been equally intelligible.

"Is there any danger?" she asked.

"Lord love me, no, mum!"

On which she closed the cabin door upon herself, not choosing that her
husband should descend and behold her. And then she sat down and cried
with rage and other emotions, and detested Frank for bringing her into
such a situation, and vowing, whilst she mopped her fine eyes with her
pocket-handkerchief, that if he did not release her at Falmouth, she
would go amongst the crew, plead to them to help her to free herself,
and gain her end, or render her husband's situation as captain of the
ship impossible.

The night passed; a night, as has been said, of commotion and going
about. At the breakfast-table, Captain Reynolds asked Mr. Featherbridge
to visit his wife and acquaint her with her husband's intention to send
her ashore at Falmouth. There had come a shift of wind in the morning
watch, and the breeze was so blowing as to allow the ship to look up
for her port. The morning sunshine clothed the glass of the skylight
with silver brightness. The sea ran with a cradling motion; through
the scuttles you caught a glimpse of the sparkling azure of it. Mr.
Featherbridge did not relish his mission; but he faced it like a man,
and, ascertaining from John, after Reynolds had left the table, that
Mrs. Reynolds had finished her breakfast, he walked to the cabin door
of the lady, and knocked.

Who was that, she wanted to know.

"Mr. Featherbridge. I have come with a message from the captain. May I
enter?"

She immediately concluded that his errand was in the interests of peace
and conjugal felicity.

"I decline to meet you, and beg that you will not come in," she cried.

"I believe the news I bring is what you will be glad to hear," said Mr.
Featherbridge.

After a pause, during which she thought of the doctor's certificate
and the livery of trouble Featherbridge had cunningly worn during his
interview with her mother at Chepstow Place, she said--

"You can come in."

He entered, bowed, and said, "I have been asked by Captain Reynolds to
inform you that you will be put ashore at Falmouth, according to your
request."

She stood holding by the table, swaying her fine figure with the
motions of the deck. Her face slightly lightened as though to a sudden
brightness of heart, but the expression soon faded.

"It is about time that Captain Reynolds acted like a man," she said
coldly and haughtily.

Mr. Featherbridge secretly wondered what o'clock it would be when Mrs.
Reynolds should think it time to act like a woman.

"The captain expects," says the mate, "that your luggage will be at the
station, and I shall do myself the pleasure to attend to that and see
you off."

She curled her lips at him before answering, and said--

"I shall not want to be seen off, thanks. I am quite capable of looking
after myself. I shall require some money to pay my fare. I had but two
sovereigns, which you saw me borrow from my mother."

"Captain Reynolds will see to that," said Mr. Featherbridge, who
thought to himself, "If you were the only young woman in England, damme
if I'd have you."

She turned to the scuttle or little window, in token that the interview
was ended, and, after a slow look at her, Featherbridge walked out. He
went to the captain, who was on deck.

"She is very willing to go, sir; but she won't allow me to escort her.
She wishes to go alone."

"She shall have her way," answered Captain Reynolds, in a hard voice.
"How does she seem?"

"Quite well, I think, sir."

"A stubborn soul, a very stubborn soul to bend," said Captain Reynolds,
as though thinking aloud. "Such spirits need but a very little bending
to break. I never could have believed it of her or in her. How does she
look, do you say?"

"Why, very well, sir."

"What a fine creature to love and lose; to have, and not to be able
to hold!" continued Reynolds, still talking as though he was thinking
aloud. "I suppose she and I will never meet again."

"I wouldn't think such a thing, sir."

"Oh, my God, look at the chances against our meeting!" cried the
captain, with a little storm of passion coming into his voice out of
his heart. "It's not the risks only of our lives at sea; there's her
nature, which will hold her aloof, and the longer she remains divorced
from me the severer will grow the quality that keeps her divorced. A
child--oh, a little child--something to humanize her, something to look
with my eyes into hers"--he stepped to the rail, and stared away to
sea. Featherbridge stood still. The captain returned.

"I suppose her reception of you was cold, perhaps insulting?" said he.

The mate answered, "No-oo, sir; she says she wants some money. I saw
her borrow two pounds from her mother, and she changed one when she
insisted on paying for her ticket at Gravesend."

"I'll see to it," said Reynolds.

Half an hour later, he went below. He had lingered on deck trusting his
wife would appear, for he loved to look at her. He entered his cabin,
and opening a locker, took out a desk, which he unlocked, and from a
corner of it picked up a small roll of Bank of England notes. He took
two five-pound notes and placed them in a blank envelope, then stood
hanging over the desk for a little while, musing; for a small parcel of
his wife's letters lay there, and they set him thinking. He replaced
the desk in the locker, and, putting his head out, called to John, and
told him to give that envelope to Mrs. Reynolds. He then got into his
bunk to take some rest, for the night had been full of business for
him, and his whole being felt strained.




CHAPTER V.--THE WRECK

THE Flying Spur anchored in Falmouth Bay on the noon of October 13,
1890. She had no business at that port. When Mr. Blaney of Leadenhall
Street, her owner, read the report in the shipping news of her having
touched at Falmouth, he would probably assume that the crew had given
trouble; a Dutchman, perhaps, had stabbed an Englishman, and the
captain had been forced to put into Falmouth to supply the deficiencies
caused by the knife, and to hand over the prisoner.

As a matter of fact, Reynolds was here to fetch his wife's clothes, and
the owner's demands on him as a skipper must yield to that skipper's
claims upon himself as a newly married man. And now his wife was going
ashore to fetch her clothes herself, and take them home with her, and
leave him.

The ship brought up with only her lighter canvas furled, for she was
to sail again as soon as might be. It was noon; sweet and calm were
the waters of this lovely harbour, glorious the land in the mantle of
October, pleasant and fair to see the ships floating upon the mirror,
whose margin reflected the burning leaf of autumn. Lucretia was in her
cabin when the anchor was let go. She felt the thrill of the chain
cable as it thundered through the hawse-pipe, but did not know what
it meant Came a knock upon her door. The inevitable, "Who is there?"
followed.

"Mr. Ralland."

"Oh, walk in!"

The second mate entered, purple and shiny, cuplike in form, very
nervous in demeanour.

"If you are ready to go ashore, madam," said he, "the boat is ready
alongside, and I will steer you to the landing-place."

She started, not until then realizing the arrival of the ship. Into the
pallor of her face passed a subtler shade of whiteness, if one may so
speak, indicating the presence of the heart.

"I shall be on deck in five minutes," she answered; and Mr. Ralland
left her.

In five minutes she was attired in hat and jacket, and with her went
the umbrella which she had brought from Chepstow Place. She passed
through the companion-way into an atmosphere quivering with brilliance,
and, without intention, met the eyes of her husband, who was seated
upon the grating abaft the wheel, in a place to command a view of the
deck and the departure of the boat. She instantly looked away: no
flush of cheek indicated emotion, no dullness of eye, the sudden gush
of sadness from the springs of the soul. She saw Mr. Ralland waiting
at the open gangway, and went to him. Mr. Featherbridge was doing some
business of the ship on the forecastle; but all the sailors on the
deck, idling or working, took a look at that fine figure as it passed
to the side, and, could their secret thoughts have been interpreted,
literature would be the richer by several pages of original ideas.

The port quarter-boat had been lowered and manned, and lay under the
gangway ladder. Without looking aft, where her husband was, without a
glance around her at the ship she was deserting, Lucretia put her foot
upon the steps and descended, and took her place in the stern-sheets,
where she was joined by Mr. Ralland, who, catching hold of the
yoke-lines, sang out, "Shove off!" The oars dipped, and Lucretia was
going home.

Reynolds, with his arms folded, watched the shape of the receding
boat, watched the diminishing form of his wife, and his manhood broke
from him in a great sigh and a little hysterical shake of the head, as
though he was wrenched by an inward agony, and, but for his being in
full view of the sailors, he would have covered his face and vented
himself in the convulsed dry sob of his sex, to whom the tears of women
who make men weep in their way, are denied.

She was gone. He rose and slowly went below, not unmarked by some
of the men, who, rough seamen as they were, could, in their crude,
uninstructed fashion, enter into his thoughts. He walked into the cabin
which had been occupied by his wife, and gazed around him. He looked at
the trifling comforts, at the toilet fal-lals which he had provided,
he looked at the pots of flowers. It is true, as Tennyson sings after
Dante:


"That a sorrow's crown of sorrow is remembering happier things."


But the ship must start afresh. At sea, says Dana, there is no time
for sentiment. The lily-white hand may be waved ashore, the dark eyes
of sweet Susan, reclining on a rock, may be full of tears, but Jack on
board ship must heave and pawl, must heave and raise the dead, must
sheet home with a hoarse yeo-yeo, which slants tremorless to the mate's
ear, unfaltering, though the heart-strings be cracking, gay as the leap
of the sea at the bow, though the sailor's sweetheart is transformed
into the pickled horse of the harness cask and the pressure of her ruby
lips into the benisons of the quarterdeck.

Within three hours of the arrival of the Flying Spur in Falmouth
Bay, the quarter-boat, in which Lucretia had been rowed ashore, was
again hanging in its place at the ship's davits, and the crew were,
for the second time since leaving London, breaking out the anchor to
the melody of their voices and the clanking of the revolved windlass.
The upper topsail-yards were mast-headed, topgallant-sails and royals
loosed and set, and the sinking sun shone upon that fair and still
visible picture of the sea, a full-rigged ship under all sail standing
out from the land, her bowsprit pointing to the violet line of water in
the south, every rope gleaming as though threaded by a hair of gold,
every cloth coloured as though touched with a brush dipped in gilt
varnish; every piece of brass-work burning with an eye that was like a
little scarlet sun; a thin racing of beaded bubbles marked the progress
of the keel, and the song of the sea, when the heavens are bright and
the waters restful, and the breeze a pleasant impulse for the canvas,
was chanted under the bows as the vessel slowly sailed out into the
English Channel, out into the enfolding pinions of the evening, out
into the star-studded raven darkness of the night on her long voyage to
a port on the west coast of South America.

The reader is to be spared an account of this voyage of a sailing-ship
whose lading was bricks, coke, and coal. Not but that the true romance
of the deep is to be found in such vessels: for if it dwell not in them
you shall seek it in vain in those steamers which, of all floating
structures, are most familiar to readers of novels. The marine Muse
shrinks from the giant edifice whose walls might have been designed for
the storage of gas, whose saloon is the coffee-room of the huge hotel,
whose engine-room is indeed a noble submission of human genius, but on
whose sliding rods and rotating cranks the fairy foot of Poesy finds no
platform.

We pass to the month of February in the year 1891, and the date was the
second. The Flying Spur was off the coast of Chili. Her voyage down
to this period had been absolutely uneventful. Three days earlier--that
is, on the morning of January 31, a man had come running aft to Mr.
Featherbridge to report that smoke was rising from the forehatch. The
covers were lifted, and the cargo of coal in the fore and main holds
was found to be on fire. Drenching volumes of water by the ton were
poured in by hose, by bucket, through holes cut in the deck. In vain.
The stench of sulphureous gases drove the men out of the forecastle,
and the captain and mates from their quarters in the cabin. The Island
of Santo Cristo then bore a few leagues distant about west-north-west.
On the first of February, the day following the discovery of the fire
which continued to burn with fury, rendering the decks too hot for the
naked foot to endure, though no flames had as yet leapt up, it came
on to blow from the south-west. It was first a fresh breeze in the
tail of a heavy running swell, which it wrinkled with snappish little
seas. But in the afternoon the wind had stormed up into half a gale,
and the burning ship, with coils of black smoke streaming from her
hatchways, flying low over the lee bulwarks, was hove to under her
lower main-topsail.

A gale of wind and a ship on fire! It is difficult to conceive a more
horrible combination of peril. A ship hove to and on fire, and an iron
beach of an island close aboard, out there throughout the blackness of
the night, throughout the leaden morn that howled in fury as it came
and stayed without brightening. The high seas were a sallow green,
and poured cataracts of foam into the valleys at their feet. The
fore-topgallant-mast had carried away, some sails had been blown out
of their gaskets and were streaming in rags from the yards. The ship,
labouring furiously, swung her spars in maddened sheerings under the
rushing soot of the storm, and the picture was ghastly and wild, not by
reason only of the flashing of torn canvas flogging as it was swept,
shrieking as it was carried like a pennant at a rolling masthead, nor
by the shattering of water falling like the avalanche self-hurled
from the mountain brow; but by the leaping of flames through the fore
hatch, tongues of scarlet fire which soared like the furnace-wings of
the smoke, shrivelling shroud and stay, blackening and cracking and
cinder-colouring every mast and spar.

In the morning Featherbridge had been talking with Captain Reynolds
in a consultation as to what should be done. If the weather moderated
the boats might live; if the weather held, and the fire grew as it was
growing, what must follow?

"It is well," said Reynolds, "that my wife is not here."

These were the last words that he ever addressed to his friend, for
when the captain had spoken, Featherbridge went forward. The vessel
at that moment plunged as though she was going over the edge of
the falls of Niagara: before she could lift her bow a huge green
sea came with the roaring of a hundred thunderbolts aboard, and
Featherbridge was seen no more. No one knew how he had perished, nor
was he immediately missed. The mountain-leap of that sea, and then the
sudden, volcanic uprush of flame, paralyzed the men with consternation;
the three tremendous forces of Nature were let loose upon, and in,
that frail and labouring, and lamenting, and brutually used example
of human handiwork. The wind and the sea had united with fire, and
were a trinity of raging, giant demons to whom the sailors they were
strangling and calcining could oppose nothing but the beating hearts of
men.

The hour of panic must come. It came when the decks blew up between
the fore and main-masts and liberated a belching hell of white fire,
blinding as the sunbeam and roasting as the furnace. The seamen rushed
to the boats. The second mate and a little crowd were lowered, but it
was the act of men driven mad by fire and fright. In a moment the boat
went to pieces under them, and they were battling in the water. The
senses of a sailor suddenly left him, and he jumped overboard, flinging
into the wind as he hurled himself from the rail, a wilder cry than any
made by the gale.

Reynolds had no orders to give--no counsels to deliver. To stay was to
be broiled--to go was to be drowned. What instructions, then, could he
convey at a moment in which the alternative that nearly every crisis
supplies, and that enables the vigorous will to form its resolution,
had been slaughtered by the wrath of the sea on the one hand and the
rage of the fire on the other? But, faithful to the traditions of
the British captain, he was the last to leave the ship. He pulled a
lifebelt over his head, and got it under his arms, and standing on the
leeside of the taffrail watched for the lift of the sea that his fall
might not be far, and plunged.

The ship roared herself out in flames and explosions and much mighty
hissing. The evening came. The night came. The dawn glimmered wan and
sad along the eastern sea-line; the sun soared into a blue sky along
which sailed a thousand little clouds like old men-of-war, and poured
his glory upon an island glittering with dew, sparkling with cascades,
radiant with foreshore of coral strand, green with tall grass and
little trees and bushes, standing in the heart of a shoreless sea
like a many-faceted gem that flashes the green and yellow and red of
the spectrum. It was the island of Santo Cristo in latitude 40° 16
min. S. and longitude 80° 39 min. W. It is about one mile long, and
three-quarters of a mile wide. Two small cascades fall from a hill,
and unite in a little horse-shoe river on the southern side, prettily
fringed with trees. Around the island, to the mouth of the horse-shoe
river at the easternmost extremity of this little sea-garden, runs a
beach of brilliant sand. In parts the ground is covered with brushwood,
and some of the growths resemble, or perhaps are, casuarina trees.
The grass is long and coarse, and amongst it may be found ferns, and
mosses, and mushrooms. Even in gentle weather the seas break in thunder
on the coast betwixt the east and south of the island. The huge blue
swell, even though uncreased by the cat's-paw, slides with the weight
of countless tons, and bursts into the magnificence of foam as it
recoils from the blow it delivers. There is a ceaseless play of white
water on the north side, where a ledge of rock or coral comes within a
foot or two of the surface and troubles the peace of the deep even in
its most tranquil mood.

The sun had been risen an hour when the figure of a man, lying on the
white sand on the south-west side, stirred and presently sat up. He
was in a lifebelt. He was Captain Francis Reynolds, apparently sole
survivor of the ship Flying Spur. No bodies of men were to be seen
upon the white sand, no sparkle of wet spar, no blot of blackened beam,
invited the eye to the sea. The ship was absolutely vanished, and with
her, her people, and nothing remained to denote that such a creation
had ever had being, or that a few hours earlier a ship of a thousand
tons was on fire and struggling with half a hurricane, save that lonely
figure in a lifebelt sitting on the coral sand.

Trying to move his arms, he found them encumbered by the lifebelt. He
languidly passed the thing over his head, but seemed to get no ideas
from the ship's name that was painted upon it. He was sensible of a
smarting pain about his left eye, and at the right-hand junction of the
lips in the cheek, and, touching those parts, he found that he had been
badly hurt and was bleeding. Had he viewed himself in a mirror he would
surely not have known who he was. He had been flung by the breach of
the sea against a rock which had cut deep into the flesh and bone about
the eye and ripped the end of the mouth. As likely as not he would lose
the sight of that eye, and perhaps the other would perish in sympathy.

His senses began to come to him, and he felt his legs, and moved
himself to try his ribs, and then got up and stood, and found that
his bones were unbroken. He gazed somewhat vacantly about him; first
staring at the sea and then round upon the land, and again he cast his
eyes upon his legs, and looked at his arms and pressed his hand against
his head from which his cap had been washed. His catching a sight of
one of the sweet and sparkling cascades made him feel as though his
throat was of hot brass, whilst his tongue stung behind his teeth. He
walked very slowly towards the foot of the falls, where they sang in a
glory of froth and went away in a horseshoe-shaped river. He knelt, and
fashioning his hands into a cup, drank; and then he bathed his face.
By which time his five wits were once more vigorous, and he clearly
understood that he was Frank Reynolds, and that he had been cast ashore
on the little empty island of Santo Cristo, and that, so far as he
could judge--for the view of parts of the island were intercepted by
rises and little downs--he was the sole survivor of the crew of the
ship.

When his thirst was assuaged he felt hungry, and sent a look at
certain birds which were wheeling about the island--petrels, gulls,
whale-birds, and penguins. They were not many, but they gave a vitality
to the air, and enriched its brilliance with the grace of their flight
and the soft hues of their plumage. But they were not to be come at for
a meal.

Reynolds' eye fell upon a creek, about one hundred fathoms long, in
the bight of which was a flat rock. The water had sunk, and this rock
was covered with coloured oysters, limpets, and mussels. He was an old
hand; he had sought oysters at Sydney and elsewhere, and knew what to
do. He looked about him for a hammer, and found what he wanted in a
heavy cucumber-shaped stone, which was undoubtedly a meteorite. Armed
with this stone he slowly made his way to the creek, and stepping on
to the rock which was black and gleaming, salt-smelling and hairy with
weed, he knocked off a meal of oysters, which he opened with a strong
clasped knife he had carried about with him at sea for years past. Here
was a very good repast. When he had eaten as much as he needed--and
whilst he ate he took notice of certain large fish, of a rock-cod sort,
floating deep in the crystal water betwixt the rock and the shore--he
stepped from the rock on to the land, which was scarcely at the
distance of a jump, and going to where the grass was growing, he seated
himself under a tree with his back against the trunk, and as quickly as
a man dies whose heart fails him, he fell asleep.

He slept for three hours, and if his good angel stood beside him and
watched him as he slumbered, her heart would have been melted by pity,
for never did ocean reject the life of a more forlorn figure than this
broken and wounded man, scarce recognizable as the comely, somewhat
military looking Captain Reynolds who had commanded the Flying Spur.
The whole spirit of the mighty desolation round about was incarnate in
him.

When he awoke he stared about him as before, with a wondering eye, but
was soon as sensible as ever he had been. He knew where he was, and
that the coast of Chili lay at a distance of about two hundred and
fifty miles. What were his chances of escape? He must keep throughout
the day a sharp look-out for ships, and prepare and hold in readiness
a big heap of rubbish to make a thick, black, tall smoke with when a
sail should shine upon the horizon. How was he to make fire? He might
rub two sticks together for years and scarcely warm them. This getting
fire by friction is a trick which one must be a savage to have the
art of. Fortunately for Reynolds he carried in his waistcoat pocket
a burning-glass, a piece of crystal with which at sea he used under
a high sun to light his pipe or cigar for love of the purity of the
flame. So, whilst the sun shone, he could never lack fire, and whilst
those oysters clung to the rock he could not starve, and the cascades
of fresh water were as sweet to the palate as they were lovely in their
glancings and flashings to the eye.

Still sitting at the foot of the tree under which he had slept, he
thought of his wife. Had he forced her to accompany him, she must have
perished in the shipwreck. He knew, when he recalled with shudders
those days of horror, of tempest, of fire, that when the crisis came he
could not have saved her life, unless God's hand had brought her ashore
as he had been; but this salvation of her would not have been of his
working.

What had he lost by the shipwreck? He had brought with him one hundred
and fifty pounds, of which he had given ten to his wife, and this
money had gone down; likewise all his clothes, charts, chronometers,
nautical instruments. Should ever he be rescued, he would have to begin
life afresh. Would life, any form of life, be worth the effort of its
maintenance, deserted as he was by his wife, ruined as he was by the
sea? Never was any man more bankrupt in heart and estate than this poor
lonely fellow, who had been guilty of the great blunder of loving not
wisely but too well.

After looking at the brilliant beach, or as much of it as his vision
compassed, as it swept from rock and soil into the tall feathering
wash of the sea--for in every breaker that rolled upon that little
island dwelt the power of the mighty Pacific--an idea visited him, and
he walked down to the coral stretch. He looked along it to the north,
where it terminated at the margin of a little bay whose low face of
cliff was abrupt. Here and there were rocks, lumps of large grey stone,
but no corpse, and no signs of a living man. He sighed, and a sense of
solitude oppressing him, he clenched his hands, thinking, as he turned
round to look along the beach towards the west, "I am alone." The
thought of the extinction of the sailors he had commanded--for he had
been the last to leave the ship, and since no man had saved his life by
this island he knew that it was inevitable that all had perished--this
thought and the memory of Featherbridge, a shipmate he had loved, the
comrade of many a quiet watch, overwhelmed him, and he wept.

He continued to walk slowly, and a speculation which seemed somewhat
out of place in a maimed and hopeless castaway troubled his poor
brains. He said to himself, as life is a property of vital matter,
and as we are taught that nothing is destructible, what becomes of
life at death? What has become of the life that enabled Featherbridge
to talk to me? I can conceive, perhaps explain, the passage of heat
and all forms of energy from the human body at death into other
states, but what becomes of that property called life which is in me
now whilst I reflect, and which, as, like heat and all other things,
it is indestructible, cannot cease to exist because it has quitted
my body? Perhaps, he mused, still thinking of Featherbridge and his
drowned sailors, the belief in the human soul may be based upon our
knowledge of the indestructibility of all created things. No, he argued
to himself, belief in the soul existed long before it was known that
matter and all the conditions of matter cannot be destroyed, can only
be changed. The hope of the soul is based upon the innate and inborn
desire of every man to project his life beyond the grave.

These were strange speculations to trouble him in such a place and
under such circumstances; but the mind is not responsible for the ideas
which spring in it. There is a frequent impertinence in thought, as,
for instance, when you find yourself humming some tune of which you are
heartily sick, but which teases you with irritating iteration, be your
mood what it will; for a man will hum such an air within himself at the
grave side, or when occupied in business which should utterly remove
him from the vexing ghost of melody.

He walked along by the beach around the western extremity of the
island, until he was within sight of the mouth of the little horse-shoe
shaped river, and constantly as he walked he looked up at the slope
or frown of the land with a dumb and throbbing yearning, like a pain
in his heart, for the sight of a human figure. The sun was rolling
low down the sky, and the west was gorgeous with colours, and in this
beautiful light the two waterfalls or cascades, leaping midway from an
altitude of about three hundred feet, shone like ropes of fine pale
amber, and the picture was made exquisite by the fern-like delicacy
of the boughs of trees defining their foliage and their branches upon
the tender depths of the eastern blue. He climbed a green slope and
gained the higher parts of the island, and looked about him for a spot
in which he might shelter himself for the night. Hard by was a little
dell covered with mosses and other growths, and he observed on one side
of it a horizontal fissure about six feet deep, whilst the gap was
about five feet. He gazed carefully about him in search of snakes or
other dangerous reptiles, but saw nothing of the kind. That fissure,
he judged, would provide him with a bed-place. So he walked towards a
tract of tall grass, like guinea grass, and, pulling out his knife, cut
down a quantity, enough to make a little bundle to serve as a pillow.
This bundle he compacted by binding it with grass which he knitted into
withes, for this man was a sailor who could lay up sennit, or weave
grass into a hat.

He put his pillow into the crevice and went across the island to the
beach again to get his supper off the rock. How sad were the splendid
colours of the west, how heart-subduing the vastness of the solitude!
The voice of the spirit of desolation was heard in the sound of the
wind in the trees, in the organ-roll of crushed and seething swell,
in the troubled rustling on the shoal, in whispers of running waters
coming from afar. He got upon the rock armed with his meteorite. It was
but a long stride from the edge of the land to the rock. The oysters
were large and sweet, and provided him with an excellent meal. It was a
calm evening; the swell came rolling from the sun in liquid gold; the
sea-fowl were fishing diligently, and some of them, whose plumage gave
resilience to the western light, wheeled in shapes of brass and ivory
through the air.

Reynolds regained the shore, and ascending the slope behind which was
the dell that was to shelter him from the night, sat down and watched
the sun set and the sumptuous pageantry fade, watched the sea-line
that perished in the evening shadow which was trembling with stars. He
wondered how long he would be forced to remain on this island, and if
it was his destiny to die upon it, and his imagination grew morbid,
and he pictured his dead body supine, and the decay of it, till a
shudder compacted his mind, and the tone of it grew more manly. Oh,
for a companion, he thought, but one--but one to speak to! He tried to
recollect the people who had been in his situation, and could recall
but two, Peter Serano and Alexander Selkirk. It brightened him for
the moment to recollect that both were delivered from the horrors of
an island's loneliness. Peter, he remembered, was covered with hair
when he was succoured, and looked like some furry imagination of Pagan
mythology, and was frightful to see.

A shooting star caught his eye. He followed the brilliant track of it,
and then his chin sank, and he put up a short prayer to God for mercy.

Though never religious, Reynolds was always a devout man. He had
read and reasoned himself into a full conviction as to the being of
a Creator. It is ridiculous, he would argue, to talk of chance, when
you witness design everywhere. If the theory of chance is right,
then creation is nothing but a dice-box, the issue of every throw
unforeseen. He held that in nothing is design more visible than in
evolution, with its enduring elements of prevision and provision. If
evolution were merely chance, Creation would be chaos. He had once said
to Lucretia, "What the learned call chance, I, who am not learned,
call intention. Look at this little daisy: consider its colour, its
form, the hand that grasps the petals, the airy beauty of the orange
throne in the heart of it on which the viewless shape of the queen of
the fairies sits on moonlighted nights, and let the Darwins of the age
call this miracle of the meadow chance, if they can or dare!" Once,
in taking a ramble in some fine scenery in New Zealand, he watched
two birds, called huia birds, and was struck by the intention in form
which their procedure explained. The male had a short, stout bill; the
female a long, curved bill. He observed that they earned their living
in company thus: the male, hopping or flying to a tree, with his strong
bill knocked off the bark and exposed the grub, and the female, with
her long curved bill, took the grub out, and between them they made a
meal.

Thus it will be seen that when this man prayed to God, his heart spoke
with conviction that he was addressing a Spirit who would give him heed
though He made no sign.

It was lonesome sitting there with nothing but the voice of the sea to
hear, and nothing but the sparkling suns of the sky to behold, for the
island sank into ink on a moonless night; he rose, and made his way to
the dell, and got into the cleft and laid his broken face and weary
head upon his grass pillow.

He fell asleep, and dreamed that his wife stood by his side. A cold
star glittered on her forehead, and its radiations struck lances of
ice into his heart. He awoke, and looked for his wife, and saw nothing
but the stars shining at the edge of the fissure above the dell. But
she had been with him, and with him in that same repellent spirit of
chastity that had sundered them. Why should we deal lightly with, or
speak in scorn of our dreams. Half our lives are formed of dreams,
whether the visions shape themselves to the slumberer, or dwell in
the stare of the waking abstracted eye. The boy dreams of the sea and
of fairy lands forlorn; the maiden of that ideal man whom she shall
not meet this side of the grave; the politician of power, and the
philosopher of the undiscovered bourne; the king of a people's love,
and the beggar of a copper ere noon. Rob the mind of dreams, sleeping
or waking, and you extinguish one-third of the solid joys of life and
two-thirds of its solid troubles.

Reynolds fell asleep again, but his wife did not return.




CHAPTER VI.--THE FISHERMAN

WHEN Reynolds again opened his eyes the day was broad, brilliant,
and noisy. He got out of the fissure which had supplied him with a
sheltered moss-coated couch, and immediately made his way to a rise
of ground to obtain a view of the sea. He swept the horizon with the
practiced gaze of a sailor, observing in his wounded eye a little
dimness of vision. Nothing that could be named a ship was in sight.
Large dark clouds were sailing with the wind, but above them was a
ceiling of mother-of-pearl that was settling slowly westwards. A fresh
breeze was blowing. The sea was alive and leaping. On the shoal the
water was the glaring whiteness of wrestling waves. The blow of the
surge on the south-east side boomed with the deep note of heavy guns
through the wind. The trees sang and the surf bellowed, and the full
and spacious scene, from dome to liquid floor, throbbed and shouted and
danced and roared with the spirit of ocean liberty.

Reynolds walked towards the foam-heap at the foot of the cataract and
drank, then, stripping himself, plunged into the bright water of the
little river, which was as sweet as honey for the distance of half
a cable, with the force of the current that was rushed through the
foam-mound by those water-falls, when it grew brackish and rapidly
passed into salt water. He was much refreshed by his bath, and ran to
and fro to dry himself, and when he had put on his clothes he walked to
the sand and got upon the rock to breakfast.

He ate heartily, for these were very fat and choice oysters though
big. And for condiment they needed neither vinegar nor pepper, but
the contents of the best of all cruet-stands (which he had)--that is,
appetite.

Whilst he was thus occupied he saw swimming deep in the green crystal
space of water betwixt the rock and the shore, where the creek began
to widen, a number of big fish, of which he had before taken notice.
He judged by their bulk that they would weigh from eight to thirty
pounds. If they were not rock-cod they resembled that fish, but some
were of a different species, and they were gay with colours and shaped
like perch. Reynolds saw abundance of food beneath him, but how was
he to get it? He was without hook or line, though there was plenty
of bait in the thousands of limpets which adhered to this and other
rocks. He recollected that a naval officer who was in a surveying
ship off Patagonia had told him that the 'long-shore natives of that
country took fish in this way. They fashioned lines out of tendrils
of shrubbery; to the end of a line they attached a limpet; this they
dropped over the edge of their canoe. The fish gorged the limpet, and
was warily drawn to the surface by the fisherman, who then dexterously
passed his hand under the fish and tossed it out of water into the boat.

This memory determined Reynolds to try his hand; he was a sailor, and
the possessor of a knife and a burning glass. And thus equipped he
could not be at a loss. But as he never could be in want of food whilst
oysters and other shell-fish abounded, he resolved first to explore
the island and to climb its highest point, which was a hill several
hundred feet high, that hill from whose steeps the cataracts "blew
their trumpets." It must be his business to prepare the means of making
a smoke should a sail heave into view.

He wished to catch a sight of himself to judge of the extent of the
injuries to his face, but there was no pool of water that was not
blurred by the hurrying fingers of the wind. He got upon the shore and
set out upon his adventures. This little principality was but a mile
long, as you have heard, and three-quarters of a mile wide, and it
was to be compassed and examined without much fatigue of walking. He
climbed the hill and gained the summit, and the island lay below him
in green and brown and grey, tender with verdure and splendid with its
mighty dazzle of foam on the south-east side, and the brilliant cream
of the surf that roared upon its coral strand from the north to right
around by west to south. It blew fresh up there where he was, and the
salt song shrilled past his ears as though he was aloft in a squall on
a top-gallant-yard. There was a hollow a short distance down, and in
that hollow he determined to collect the materials for a fire; but he
was compelled to make many journeys before his heap for burning was
collected and sufficient. There was no wood fit for his purpose on the
hill. He cut and hacked with his knife, and painfully ascended with his
arms full, but he did not cease in his toil until his work was ended,
and then he sat down on the top of the hill to rest and muse and survey
the sea-line.

He asked himself, "What is my chance of escape?" The island was far out
of the track of steamers bound north or south; nothing was likely to
come that way but a ship blown out of her course, or a whaler to whom
this island might be known for the purity and value of its fresh water.
He had again and again looked at his chart before the shipwreck, and
memory submitted a clear map of his situation to him. He understood,
with a sense of dismay that grew into consternation as he realized the
magnitude of his ocean loneliness, that weeks, that months, nay, that
even years might pass and find him, if alive, a captive on this shore.
The weight of a reflection so enormous was crushing, and he said to
himself, "Oh, my great God, it may happen as I fear!" and again his
heart was rent by an insupportable pang of yearning for one--but for
one companion only to speak to.

This passionate desire caused him to scrutinize the coast and
foreshore, of which he commanded the whole extent from where he sat,
but he could not perceive the least signs of wreckage or anything
resembling a stranded human body. His spirits were so sunk that he
found no heart to make grass lines for fishing that day, and until he
laid himself down in the cleft in the side of the dell, he rambled
aimlessly here and there, often sending a forlorn gaze seawards,
sometimes sitting with his head bowed upon his folded arms, sometimes
going to the river for a drink of water, twice to his rock for oysters.
He looked at the trees for fruit, but saw none. Here on this island
was vegetation that he had met with in other parts of the world; some
flowers, one of which he plucked, but it was without smell, though he
afterwards discovered that this flower blew a very sweet perfume at
nightfall and through the darkness, and likewise when the moon whitened
the scene. The several growths were more or less familiar to him, for
in his time Reynolds had visited many different parts of the globe, but
in respect of knowledge he was like the boy who, in speaking of the
letters of the alphabet, told the schoolmaster that "he knew them by
their fyaces but not by their nyames."

Next morning, which was another windy, sparkling, singing day much
like that which was gone, he fell to his task of making fishing-lines
after he had bathed and breakfasted. He cut some long grass and plaited
it, but found that when it was in six or even eight strands it broke
easily. He strolled to some of the trees, conceiving he might meet with
some withe-like tendrils; and sure enough he discovered, coiled round
the trunks of several dwarf trees in a little bit of a wood near the
dell, a parasitic growth of the thickness of the thong of a coach whip
and as strong. He cut away one and uncoiled its embrace, and found
himself equipped with a supple fishing-line between eight and ten feet
long strong enough to have hanged him with.

He was pondering how he should attach a limpet to the end of this
creeper, when his eye was taken by a little collection of bush, in the
midst of which he seemed to see a sort of darkness. He approached the
bushes and found himself looking into the mouth of a cave. The aperture
was scarcely obstructed by the growth which stood thick on either hand,
leaving the mouth a sort of blackness when viewed from a distance. The
entrance was a little more than the height of a man. Though a natural
formation, the roof of the opening stood out from the slope of the land
as though the invention of human labour.

Reynolds went close and peered in, and as he stared a large sea-bird
came sailing out. It looked like a ghost as it grew out of its own
glimmering, and it hit Reynolds over the face with its wing. It would
have knocked his cap off had he been covered. He started back in
terror; the apparition was sudden and unexpected, and at the instant
frightful to the man whose nerves were very low. But when, following
the thing with his eye, he perceived that it was a very large kind of
sea-gull, white and grey in feathers, seemingly sick, for its flight
was languid, and it sank upon the ground after a short excursion, his
spirits rallied, and again he peered into the cave.

He entered by several paces, and then stood stock still, awaiting the
passage of another sea-bird, for this might be a kind of hospital for
decayed ocean-fowl; and then, his eyes growing used to the shadow, he
found himself in a natural cavern running back from its mouth about
twenty feet, sloping low at the extremity so as to oblige one who went
there to crouch, but in the middle part tall enough to stand under, the
walls about eight feet apart. As his vision grew educated to the gloom,
objects shaped themselves within its horizon, and he judged that this
in its day had been the haunt of one man, or more. The floor was hard
and sandy, with a little dim sheen in it as though it was bestrewn with
grit which possessed a property of shining. On the left-hand side stood
an old-fashioned sea-chest. Close against it, resting against the wall,
was a shovel of a very elderly pattern; upon the ground were a musket
and a carpenter's axe.

Reynolds went to the chest and found it locked. He picked up the axe,
and forcing the sharp corner of the cutting part betwixt the lid and
the side, he prized the lid open. Indeed, it was something rotten,
and not only did the wood split and yield very easily, but the metal
of the lock and the screws and nails about it showed like old teeth,
grinning and rusty. The chest was furnished with a shelf, in which he
found a brass tobacco-box, some clay pipes, three spade guineas, and
a few five-shilling pieces and some shillings, about three pounds of
leaf tobacco bound in canvas and twine, a coil of copper wire, a roll
of yellowing paper, and a flat pencil. In the chest were two pairs of
cloth knee-breeches, several pairs of coarse grey stockings, two pairs
of buckle shoes, two waistcoats, one coat, and a cloak with a chain
to connect it at the throat. He judged the date of this apparel to be
about eighteen hundred. On the lid of the chest were chiselled deep two
letters, "L. B."

He looked about him for the remains of a man in the shape of human
bones. Nothing in that way was to be seen. It was clear, from the state
of the chest, that the cave had not been entered since the departure
of the man or men who had used it. He conjectured that the furniture
illustrated a story of shipwreck. Some men had come ashore from a
foundered craft, bringing with them the sea-chest, the shovel, axe, and
musket. Whether they had been taken off, or whether they had perished
or rotted out of being on this island, was not to be gathered from
their dumb memorials. And yet it warmed Reynolds with a little heat of
cheerfulness to reflect that others had been here before him. The sense
of previous life, though charged as that life might have been with
dire suffering and a miserable ending, humanized the island. He again
scrutinized this interior for signs of human remains, and then stepped
out into the daylight, bearing with him the creeper he had cut from the
tree.

It is difficult to imagine any scene of human life more interesting
than the spectacle of a man suddenly flung, by some such stress of
destiny as shipwreck, from all the resources of civilization into the
obligation of living as though he was something primordial, dwelling in
a time that knew not the plough nor the blacksmith, nor the shop which
calls itself "Stores." A man is cast almost naked upon an island coast.
He is alone--a Crusoe, a Selkirk. How shall he feed, and clothe, and
shelter himself? His needs must fire his ingenuity. The mongrel dog
knows as well as the two-legged customer the butchers of the town, and
lives by snatching. A hungry, half-stripped man deals with nature as
the mongrel with the butcher; he scrutinizes her, not in admiration of
her divine skill, but for what he can steal from her to eat. Whether a
princely nobleman would, as a castaway, suffer equally with a sweep in
a like situation might depend upon the state of his health. It would be
true, perhaps, if it be said that we should take more interest in the
struggles of his grace to find a breakfast on a rock, or a supper in a
tree, than in the labours of a man to whom a bloater and a potato are a
banquet.

Outside the cave Reynolds fell to considering his fishing-line, and how
he was to bait it with a limpet. And whilst he reflected he constantly
sent looks at the horizon, for at any moment the white star of a sail,
or the stain of a steamer's smoke, might break the continuity of that
everlasting girdle. Suddenly it entered his head to use the copper wire
in the sea-chest. He re-entered the cave and took the wire from its
shelf, brought a guinea to the cavern's mouth to examine it, went back
and picked up some of the clothes and carried them out into the light.
They were perhaps a hundred years old, and almost rotten, save the
cloak, which, being made of some strong ribbed material like corduroy,
seemed as stout and promised to be as useful as though it was fresh
from the sign of the board and shears. He left the clothes on the
ground as worthless to him, and by help of the axe he struck a nail
from the ripped lock of the sea-chest, and hammered it into the side of
the cave and hung up the cloak.

He brought the little parcel of tobacco to the light and cut it open,
but the leaves within crumbled to powder when he touched them, and he
threw the stuff away. Now drawing forth the copper wire, he cut off a
piece and passed it through the end of the creeper, turning it up into
the shape of a hook, and thus armed he made his way to the rock.

This business occupied his mind, and kept him a little away from
melancholy. He took his meteorite, which lay on the shore near the
rock, and struck at some limpets. These creatures adhere with so much
tenacity that to detach one you must strike with a force of sixty-two
pounds, that is to say, close upon two thousand times its own weight.
He baited his strange fishing-line and dropped it into the water. In
a few moments a fish of about ten pounds floated up and swallowed
the bait, and then Reynolds perceived that he had calculated amiss.
He brought the fish to the surface, but when he tried to land it he
drew the bait out of the creature's throat, and perceived, unless,
Patagonian-wise, he could pass his hand or something else under the
fish, his angling would be little more than a tickling. He must make a
net stout enough to lift the fish on to the rock.

He regained the island, leaving his line and the cucumber-shaped stone
on the shore opposite the rock, and walked inland, with many a glance
at the horizon. He easily understood what to do. He selected two
boughs and curved them into a hoop, binding them with strong fibres of
creepers. He then cut another bough for a handle, and this he skilfully
secured to the hoop by cleaving one end of the stick and fitting the
hoop into it, and securely binding it. He chose fibres of creepers for
a mesh, and, cutting as much as he needed, sat down in the shadow of a
tree and began to weave.

It was now past noon; the sun was high, and shone with great splendour
upon the sea, which was full of the life of the fresh breeze. The
booming of the surf was like the roaring of a city heard from a
church-top. The sea-birds slanted and curved in lovely flight, and the
waterfalls sparkled like quicksilver into the glory of foam at their
foot. From time to time he would remit the diligent plying of his
fingers to look seawards, and then around him. It was a kind of toil
that suffered plenty of room for thought. His fancies flowed to his
wife, and he said to himself--

"Supposing she had consented to stay with me, and she had been
saved with me only, and we two had found ourselves alone upon this
island--how strange it would have been! how would I have cherished her!
what delight should I have found in this imprisonment in providing
for her wants! So that hereafter, should it have ever come to our
being rescued, we should both recall this island as a happy garden--an
ocean's gift of a dwelling for us whilst our honeymoon ran."

He sighed, and his hands sank, and for some minutes he sat motionless
with his eyes fixed upon the grass. The tree overhead sang and shivered
and scintillated with little suns, and the taller shrubs and bushes
were gay with "nods and becks and wreathed smiles," as though there
were a minstrelsy in the breeze which made them dance.

A great quantity of mushrooms flourished in this island. Reynolds had
peered at the trees for fruit, but it had not occurred to him to look
upon the earth for food. His eye lighting on some mushrooms, it struck
him that they would be good to eat and supply the absence of bread, and
going to them he picked one, and knew enough of the vegetable world to
distinguish at once the eatable fungus from the toad-stool. He skinned
some and eat them with relish.

His work of weaving was not half ended when the dusk came. He had often
dropped the job to climb a height and scan the sea, to walk to the
river to drink, and twice to the rock for oysters. In that part of the
world it was the season that corresponds with our July, and extremely
warm; indeed, the sun bit with a fang of fire, but the shadows cast by
the trees were deliciously fanned by the fresh wind. Another night had
come. He had no mind to occupy the cave. He was a sailor, accustomed
to the wide freedom of the sea, and the idea of the natural bed in the
dell, over which sparkled the firmament, pleased him better than the
thought of the cave, which was a sort of sepulchre to his imagination,
with its mute memorials of human life which had passed. He, however,
entered it to fetch the cloak, which he spread on the floor of the
fissure, and it made him, with the moss beneath, a softer couch than
many he had dreamed deeply on at sea.

Next morning, after bathing and breakfasting as before, he went to work
again upon his landing-net, which he completed in the early afternoon.
Already the spirit of solitude was doing its work in him. His beard
and moustache had sprouted, and accentuated a melancholy shadow in
the hollows under his cheek bones. He was bareheaded, and his hair
lay wild. The wounds at the corner of his mouth and eye had healed.
He was sensible that the sight of his left eye was affected, but he
could not have imagined how great was the structural change in his
face in consequence of the injuries. To be sure, when his moustache
grew the disfigurement at the corner of the mouth would be concealed,
but the real transformation lay in the left side of his face, owing to
distortion of the eyebrow and to a new expression of the eye, drawn
by the pencils of the healed flesh. He had looked into some pools of
water here and there, but in no silent surface even could he find an
adequate portrait. The misery of his situation had already wrought in
him, and was strangely visible in the infixed sadness of his looks. But
it was not only his shipwreck, his being a lamentable castaway, his
being so alone that, if he had been that last man described by the poet
Campbell, he could not have been lonelier; there was memory to yellow
and skeletonize what had otherwise been the green leaves of his mind.
Even as he sat making his landing-net he would think of his wife, and
wonder why she had forsaken him; whether through some perversion of
brain she had, when standing before the altar, conceived something in
him--a quality of mind, a characteristic of person--that had suddenly
excited in her a deep and abiding loathing. Then, too, he mourned the
death of his friend Featherbridge, and the shocking tragical extinction
of the whole of the ship's company, for men who are cooped up for many
long weeks together in a ship will take that colouring of sentiment
which the sailor feels when he speaks of a messmate and a shipmate. All
those men whom he had commanded; who had sprang readily to his order;
who had proved dutiful and an excellent crew--for he was a sailor who
knew how to treat sailors--were as clean gone out of life as the cloud
that sailed two hours before across the sky. Here were thoughts to put
a pang into every heart-beat, a sigh into every respiration.

His fish-lifter was a basket rather than a net. He carried it to the
rock and baited his line. The fish, unused to the sight of the human
figure, and ignorant of the human character, exhibited a tameness that
would have been as shocking to Reynolds as Cowper thought a like sort
of indifference must have proved to Selkirk, had he heeded it. They
floated in various-sized green and silver shapes beneath him, and
scarce was the limpet under water when a fine fish gorged it. Reynolds
softly brought his prey to the surface, and then, quickly putting his
basket under it, whipped the noble fish on to the rock, a prize of
fifteen pounds weight, where it sprang and gasped.

This was a clever achievement, and Reynolds was sensible of a little
heat of triumph. Whilst he watched his victim he considered how he
should cook him. His first idea had been to dig a pit for a furnace,
which was now quite easy, as there was a shovel in the cave. Over this
pit he proposed to arch a stout bough, and hang by grass a steak of
fish over the fire. He foresaw trouble, first because only the lower
part of the fish would be baked, and next because the fire was certain
to burn the grass lanyard and let the fish fall into the flames. But
it now occurred to him to use the shovel for a frying-pan; so, full of
this business, he took up the fish and carried it on to the mainland,
and walked with it to the cave, where he placed it for safety, as he
had no mind, after his labours, to be robbed by those insatiate gentry
of the air who were wheeling and curving over the sea, by the shore,
and sometimes over the land.

He laid hold of the shovel, and saw that it would serve very well
indeed as a frying-pan after it had dug him an oven. He pulled off
his coat and waistcoat and placed them in the cave, and began to dig
outside, and dug with such diligence as though he was a Trappist intent
on his own grave, that in a very short time he had made a considerable
square hole. He took care that it should be well in the sun, as he
needed the fire of that luminary for his burning-glass. He then
collected a quantity of fuel, and set fire, with his burning-glass,
to some grass as dry as hay, and the fire burnt merrily. With the axe
which was in the cave he cut wood into little logs, and presently the
hole was glowing, and a delicate blue smoke was soaring and arching
over, when the wind took it, like a feather.

He thoroughly cleaned the inside of the shovel, then stepped into the
cave and gutted his fish and cut it into steaks, two or three of which
he lay in the shovel along with the creature's liver and some slices of
mushroom. Next, going to the fire with his shovel thus furnished, he
placed his queer frying-pan upon the furnace, contriving that it should
rest without his support, and with his knife he turned the slices
of fish about, until one of the goodliest smells he had smelt for a
long time past arose: for here was a fish wonderfully fresh and sweet
from its native brine, resembling a cod, though the flesh looked like
turbot. It was a real treat to the poor fellow, whose nature loneliness
was colouring with a childlike simplicity, insomuch that presently he
would be finding a joy in very little things, and a keen distress in
trifles, as a prisoner long confined gets to love a spider and tears
his hair when it dies, or as a sailor after a long voyage takes delight
or finds trouble in things whose triviality excites the wonder of the
people he steps ashore amongst.

A number of sea-birds flew in circles over his head whilst he cooked.
When the meal was prepared he plucked a large leaf for a tablecloth and
set a fried steak and mushrooms upon it and fell to, scarcely missing
salt. Maybe the sweat of his toil supplied that seasoning for his
appetite. Never had he banquetted more sumptuously, and when he had
drank from the river he felt strongly the force and truth of the line,
"Man wants but little here below," even if he should want that little
long.

This day passed and the next, and the hours moving into weeks swelled
into a month, which was like to prove a twelve-month, and perhaps
a lifetime, for all this man could tell; for never once, though he
was ever on the watch, did he catch sight of a sail or the shadow of
smoke. Constantly he would ascend the hill from the hollow where he
had assembled the materials for a fire, and strain his sight until the
balls of vision ached. He was now bearded and his mouth concealed by
hair; although no more than a month had passed he looked as wild, pale,
and ragged as any wretched pauper that one meets on a highway with
his skirts in ribbons, and limping in old boots, of which you shall
presently meet one left in the middle of the road, discarded for ever,
an object very fit to muse upon.

This brought him into the month of March. One night he had put himself
away in his cleft, which he continued to occupy, as his first aversion
to sleeping in the cave had now, by the strain of melancholy that
was in his mind, been changed into a sort of superstition, and as a
lonesome man he was afraid to rest in that place. The moon was up, and
her light shone in a fine silver haze in the dell. The night was still;
the trees slumbered. The little white cloud on high lingered as though
for love of the glorious glowing star that gemmed its skirt. But old
ocean, perturbed by memories of wreck and ruin, tossed in her dreams
and shouted as she drove her liquid shoulders at the island's step,
and muttered moodily and hissed her own thoughts on the coral strand.
The whiteness and coolness and calmness of the night brought Lucretia
into Reynolds' mind, and he remembered his dream when she appeared to
him with a light on her brow that froze his heart with lances of ice.
He thought of her. Her eyes were a clear, liquid dusk, within whose
tender horizons admiration witnessed the passions, the sensibilities,
the tastes it desired for so fine a figure of a woman. What was the
truth? Her eyes were altars on which her spirit had placed the cold
white lamps of chastity; lights which like the remote stars revealed
themselves only and warmed and illuminated nothing.

He lay thinking of his wife with his eyes upon the moon, which, with
a considerable circle of sky over the dell, was visible to him in the
position he occupied on that natural shelf. The moon stands as a symbol
of purity. Such beautiful women as Lucretia should be viewed by the
moonlight only. The moon stands as a symbol of desolation, and the
words which Tennyson makes Lucretius use in his reference to the seat
of the gods, are strangely applicable to our satellite--


"Where never creeps a cloud or moves a wind,
Nor ever falls the least white star of snow,
Nor ever lowest roll of thunder mourns,
Nor sound of human sorrow mounts to mar
Its sacred everlasting calm."


He fell asleep for about two hours, then opened his eyes, waking
suddenly. The dell was still bathed in the moonshine, and he saw the
figure of a man who was walking very slowly. Every bush cast its ebony
shadow, but the figure of this man was shadowless. He was dressed in
a long coat with side skirts of the old-fashioned sort, knee-breeches
and shoes, and held his hat in his hand. His face in the moonlight was
pale and full, and it was without hair. He was bald, with flowing hair
falling from the semicircle it made at the back of his head between his
ears.

Reynolds' heart beat hard. He stared, and if that which was perceptible
to him had been visible to an onlooker, it would have been difficult
for him to decide which was the stranger sight, the face of the living
man in that cleft, or the apparition he watched. He took notice again
that it was shadowless, whilst at the foot of every bush slept its ebon
ghost.

He threw his legs over and got out and stood looking at the shape as
it walked; approached a step with his heart thundering, like the swell
against the cliff, in his ear, stood still and looked, and found he
was alone. Slowly he turned his eyes round the dell. The vision of the
brain had vanished.

He was awed and terrified. He perfectly understood that what he had
beheld was an illusion, and he conceived that it was a sign he was
losing his reason. Or could it be that he had dreamt vividly that
he had seen a ghost and had left the ledge to watch it, and it had
disappeared because he awoke, having quitted his bed in his sleep with
the dream working in his head? He was without superstition, he had
never believed in ghosts; he knew that what had stalked in the dell
was an imagination, a deceit, a coinage of some brain-cell that had
mutinied and irresponsibly acted. But for the rest of the night he
could not sleep, nor for many days afterwards could he shake off the
horror that that vision of the dell was a premonition of madness.

Wherein he proved that not then, at all events, was he mad: for he
was unwittingly following the logic of Coleridge, who said, "If I
see a figure enter a room and know that it is unreal, I am not mad:
but if I start and believe it real and behave, whether by accost or
by other conduct, as though it were an actual entity, I am mad." The
poet's reasoning ran to this effect, not quite in these words. It was
certainly very strange that the shape should have been attired in the
costume in the sea-chest in the cave. Yet it might easily have been
that the irresponsible brain-cell, in indulging in this freak, would
select the garb and figure a presentment of one who was perhaps the
last man who had lived on this island.

The months rolled on, and Reynolds remained alone.




CHAPTER VII.--THE BOATS CREW

CAME September 14, 1891, a bright cool morning, making it seven months
and rather more since Captain Francis Reynolds was flung ashore,
bruised, bleeding, and insensible, on the uninhabited island of Santo
Cristo, there to languish. During which time he had never once set
eyes on the sails of a ship or the smoke of a steamer by day, whatever
may have passed in the night. He knew not the day nor the month. In
seven months he had not spoken: no, there was not even a dog nor a
parrot for him to address. Sometimes in the beginning he would speak
aloud to himself, fearful lest his voice should perish by disuse. But
he neglected this custom later on, and never broke the silence, not
even when he put up a prayer for mercy and for deliverance.

He was now presenting the most grotesque and uncouth appearance that
could be imagined. His hair had turned grey, and streamed far down his
back, like that of the Welsh bards of yore. A considerable beard had
grown, and his cheeks and his mouth and the half of his breast were
concealed by hair. His left eye was dim and stained, and its vision was
so weak that when he looked through it alone, closing the other eye, he
could barely distinguish the outline of a tree fifty feet distant. And
all about that side of his head, was the puckered flesh and distorted
bone of the defacing wound. He was much burnt by exposure to the sun,
but the mahogany was not the healthy brown of the sky-and-sea-blistered
sailor; there was mixed with it a sort of ashiness which produced a
complexion impossible to convey in words. His clothes and boots were
sadly broken. Unhappily the shoes in the sea-chest were too small for
him. He presented indeed a most melancholy, shocking figure, stooped,
suggesting by attitude and motion a perpetual hopelessness at heart
that would have moved the most soulless to witness.

On the morning named, he left the fissure which he had continued to
occupy, having outlived the trouble of the ghost who had never again
appeared, and made his way slowly to the horse-shoe river, where he
drank and washed, and then came back to the cave, where lying in the
shovel were some cutlets of cooked fish. He took one, and sat down
outside the cave and began to eat.

Whilst he was eating he chanced to cast his eyes up at the slope above
the dell, and beheld a man. The man stood looking at him. He wore a
fur cap, and sleeved-waistcoat, and pilot-cloth breeches. The arm with
which Reynolds was feeding himself, was blasted as though struck by
lightning. The whole man was turned into an inimitable effigy of stone.
The morning, as has been said, was bright and cool: the splendour of
the sun was far searching, the life of the earth, of the ocean, of the
heavens, was in the bending and swaying of plants, in the movement of
the boughs of the trees, in the sparkling fall of the cataracts, in the
resounding organ-note of the sea, in the speeding of clouds. Yonder,
then, surely was no ghost.

"Hallo!" shouted the man. "Who are you down there?"

Then, turning, he bawled with the sharp of his hand at his mouth--

"I say, mates, there's a man down here, eatin' his breakfast and
lookin' as though he belonged to the island." Then, again addressing
himself to Reynolds, he cried, "Are you English? How long have you been
here?" And with that he stepped out to approach him.

Even as he walked the forms of several other men appeared on the rise
which he had quitted. Reynolds rose; the piece of fish he was eating
fell; he was trembling violently; his features worked as though in
convulsions. As the man approached him, a wild smile irradiated his
face as though a beam of electric light had been passed over it, and he
dropped upon the ground in a fit.

The men who collected about him were seven in number. Six were
manifestly sailors. The seventh was a strange and striking-looking
personage: about six feet tall, broad, and so stout about the chest
that he seemed to be padded. He was bearded, and looked about fifty
years of age. He had a large, full, mild face, rather protruding eyes,
bland, like a cow's, with intellect and thought in their residual
expression.

"Has he dropped dead for joy at sight of us?" said one of the sailors.
"I've heard of such things."

"How long has he been 'ere, I wonder?" said another.

"Turn him over!" exclaimed the tall man, pronouncing these few words
with great deliberation and a slight Irish accent. "Poor fellow!" he
exclaimed, looking at Reynolds, whose face, though calm in the oblivion
of the brain, was pregnant with pathos in the appealing expression the
spirit of solitude had chiselled upon it.

"Is he dead, sir, d'ye think?" said a man.

The tall personage stooped and felt Reynolds' wrist, and said--

"No. I guess by his appearance that he's been here many weeks."

"Why, ain't that a cave?" said a man.

"There's the pit he uses for cooking," exclaimed another.

Three or four of the sailors left Reynolds to the tall man and two who
stayed, and entered the cave. They peered in warily, then entered. They
blinked a bit before they could fairly see; and then one said--

"See that there shovel? Gord's life, that's how he's cooked his food!
See the bits of fish in it, bullies?"

"A regular castaway, and no blooming mistake," said another.

"Here's his old chest," cried one, "with his letters cut on it. Why,
whoever sees a chest like this nowadays? How old's he? Why, this old
chest's all a hundred years old, you lay."

He opened the lid. As we know, Reynolds had removed the clothes.

"Why, see 'ere," continued the man, taking up one of the buckle shoes;
"this is what they wear when they dresses up for old men in stage
plays. Shoes of this pattern ha'nt been wore for o'er a century."

"And look at his old gun lying down there!" exclaimed another. "My
grandfather had a piece like that, and it belonged to his grandfather.
So how old is that gun, I should like to know?"

"Ain't there a yarn," said a man, "about a Dutchman who fell asleep
upon the top of a mountain when he was young, and came down bald, with
a long beard, and found everybody he had known dead and gone years and
years; there wasn't even anybody as he might have owed money to alive
to ask him for it?"

A man lifted the lid of the shelf. "What's this?" said he, picking up a
guinea.

It was examined by the others, whilst the first man scrutinized the
silver.

"It's good money," said a man. "More here than a month's pay, by a long
chalk. The dating of it'ull tell you how old he is. What's the latest
numberin'?"

"'Ere's a bit marked h'eighteen-one," exclaimed a sailor, talking in
the better light at the mouth of the cave.

"Poor old man!" said one of the others.

They replaced the money, and went out. Reynolds was just then coming
to. He was fetching his breath with difficulty, and opening and
shutting his eyes.

"There's h'evidence in that cave, Mr. Good'art," said the sailor in
the sleeved-waistcoat and fur cap, "that this man can't be less than a
hundred and thirty years old."

"What d'ye mean?" asked one of the men who had stayed.

"Go and look for yourself," was the answer. "There's a musket that's
over a hundred years old. His sea chest's just as ancient. The youngest
of his money is marked eighteen hundred and one."

Reynolds opened his eyes, gave two or three gasps, made an effort to
sit up, was helped by the man who had been called Mr. Goodhart, into a
sitting posture, rolled his eyes with tokens of astonishment and of a
spirit kindling into transport, tried to speak, muttered "Water!" and
then continued to stare around upon the men.

"Where's fresh water to be got?" asked the man in the waistcoat

Reynolds pointed to the cascades.

"What's it to be brought in?" continued the man.

It did not seem that Reynolds could speak until he had drank. One went
to the cave, and came back, saying there was nothing that would hold
water in it.

"Run down to the boat for the soup and bullie can, one of you," said
Mr. Goodhart.

A man procured this can, went to the river, and returned. During his
absence the sailors who thought Reynolds a hundred and thirty years
old, gazed at him with the emotions of a boy who views a mummy. The man
who brought the water exclaimed--

"Oyster shells has been used for drinking with down at that river.
A blamed sweet river. It begins up there," said he, pointing at the
cascades, "and it's like watching fire-engines a-playing. Go and taste
it. Nicest drop of water I ever swallowed."

Whilst this was being said, Reynolds drank and the draught liberated
his voice. He strained his sight at the only piece of sea that was
visible from the place they occupied, and said--"Where's your ship?"

"At the bottom of the sea," answered Goodhart. And then, with a
singularly cordial manner, very gentle and charming with kindness, he
said, "Pray, what might be your name?"

"Francis Reynolds."

"How long have you been here?"

Reynolds struggled with his memory, and replied, "I have lost all tally
of weeks."

"To-day," said Goodhart, "is September 14, 1891."

"My ship," answered Reynolds, "was lost, and I was cast ashore here on
February 2, 1891."

Swiftly and secretly computing, he was overwhelmed by the magnitude
of his time of loneliness, and looked most woefully and wistfully at
Goodhart as though for commiseration.

"What was your ship?"

"The Flying Spur."

"A steamer?"

"No."

"Were you a passenger?"

"I was her master."

At this the sailors stared at him with an attention which was tinctured
with a visible colour of respect.

"Her master!" exclaimed Goodhart. "Are you the only survivor?"

"The only survivor."

Life was brisker in him now, and memory quickened, and he began to
talk. There had been times when he believed he should, by long enforced
silence, lose the power of articulation. He spoke well, with fluency,
for this man, through reading and reflection, was master of an ample
vocabulary. The sailors knew that they were in the presence of a
gentleman and an educated man, and they ceased to think him a hundred
and thirty years old. Goodhart followed the narrative with sympathy and
earnest attention.

"The lifebelt I came ashore in is somewhere about," said Reynolds. "My
ship's name is on it. What's your story?"

"I'm going for a drink of fresh water," said a sailor.

"What's there good to eat on this island?" asked the man in the
sleeved-waistcoat.

"Plenty of fish and oysters. No fruit nor vegetables saving mushrooms,"
answered Reynolds. "What's your story, sir?"

The men went roaming off in ones and twos, and Goodhart sat down beside
Reynolds.

"We've not been arrived above an hour," said he. "I was a passenger
in the ship--the only passenger. She was the barque Esmond, of
nine hundred tons, bound from Sydney to Valparaiso, and thence to San
Francisco. Her captain was a man named Mordaunt, and his wife and child
were on board. But I was the only passenger in the sense of paying for
a cabin. I was at sea when a boy. My health needed a successive change
of climates; so, knowing Mordaunt, who was a very good fellow, I hired
a cabin in the Esmond, intending to make my way from San Francisco
to New York, and so to England. Three days ago we were in collision
with a large steel sailing-ship, which cut us down on the starboard
bow, and made off in the gloom of the evening and vanished. The water
gained upon us, but we held on till yesterday evening, when the ship
was within half an hour of foundering. This gave us time to lower the
boats, and stock them. The captain went with his wife and child, and a
little crowd; there was another boat; and ours. The man who fetched the
water for you was the boatswain. We lost sight of the other boats in
the night, and this island shone out upon us this morning when the sun
rose. You have been seven months here," he added, looking slowly around
him. "Am I to believe that no ship has ever come within sight of this
island in all that time?"

"I vow to God," answered Reynolds, "that I have not once caught sight
of a sail or smoke."

"But, surely," said Goodhart, "an island almost directly in the way
of the course shaped by vessels bound from Australia to South Chilian
ports must often be passed by ships."

"Never have I seen one," cried Reynolds. "Though conceive--conceive the
sort of look-out a man in my situation would keep."

Goodhart looked very pensive.

Reynolds cried rapturously in a sudden hurry of joy, "How often have I
exclaimed to myself, if I had but one--but one to speak to!" And,
laying hold of Goodhart's hand, he bowed his head.

Goodhart viewed the poor fellow with a most noble and touching
expression of pity that seemed to lie upon his face like a sort of holy
light, as though there was something divine in the spirit within him,
and that shone in his face as one could conceive of a saint, or of the
Redeemer--not to speak profanely--when He addressed soothing words.
Reynolds released his hand, and Goodhart, looking towards the cave,
asked--

"Do you sleep there?"

"No; my bed is yonder, in a crack in the embankment of that dell. This
island has been occupied. I found some old relics of human habitation
in that cave."

"How have you lived?"

"I have taken fish and drank that water," answered Reynolds, directing
his eyes at the cascades. "When do you mean to start?"

"I shall not trust my life to an open boat," answered Goodhart. "This
is solid land, and I intend to remain to be taken off."

Reynolds looked startled. "You will not surely remain alone here?"

"A thousand times over, sooner than take the risk of an open boat.
Consider," said Goodhart, speaking with great deliberation, and with a
slight Irish accent; "when we were in the boat we found that she was
without mast or sail."

"Ho!" exclaimed Reynolds.

"We hailed the nearest boat to be taken in tow; but I don't think she
heard us. The night came along so fast that until the moon shone the
sea absorbed the boats like bits of ebony afloat on ink. Next, our
breaker holds six gallons only. Now, you are one of us, and think of
what a breaker containing six gallons for eight men in a rowing boat,
and a great ocean to measure--think what such a thing signifies! But I
beg your pardon, sir, you are a sailor."

"I quite agree with you; the risk is enormous," said Reynolds. "But
surely it is preferable to this imprisonment."

"No; because I am quite certain that ships do at times come within
sight of this island," said Goodhart, mildly, but firmly. "It is a
coincidence that nothing should have appeared during your stay here.
Probably, within the next few days something may come along, and take
us off. My heart is weak. I have suffered for years from that organ,
and shall die of it, if nothing else kills me. Exposure, the horrible
suffering of thirst, would make haste to do their work with me, and I
shrink from the idea of my body being thrown over the gunwale of the
boat by those sailors. And I have my reasons for choosing a possible
sentence of imprisonment here that may run into months, rather than
take my chance in an open sail-less boat with seven comrades and a
breaker of six gallons; and what to eat to last us if we are not soon
picked up, or make the land?"

"We must rig up a mast," said Reynolds.

"Where's the sail to come from?" exclaimed Goodhart

"The sailors must stitch their shirts together," answered Reynolds.

"Have you got needles and thread here?"

"None."

"Nothing in which fresh water may be stored?"

Reynolds considered, and answered, "Nothing."

"The sight of these waterfalls makes me thirsty," said Goodhart, who
rose, and walked with Reynolds to the bank of the river where the
bright water foamed.

Here Reynolds had placed several large oyster shells for his own
convenience, and these made good saucers for dipping and drinking.
The men had drank, and had lounged down to the beach for oysters and
shell-fish.

"This is delicious water," exclaimed Goodhart. "It sinks sweet and cold
to one's very marrow, like the flavour of a banana after a long voyage."

"Ah, I have found it sweet and good medicine," exclaimed Reynolds.
"A few weeks ago I received an ugly visit from an old friend of
mine--Mediterranean fever. I might guess my own temperature, about a
hundred and four, and a slow pulse--not the pulse of fever--and a weary
throbbing headache, and a thirst which scarcely those waterfalls," said
he, looking up, "were able to quench."

"And with the chance of that fever recurring at any moment, as its
habit is," said Goodhart, "you would trust yourself in a boat without
sails, containing eight men, and a breaker of six gallons?"

Reynolds looked down upon the ground thoughtfully. There could be no
doubt that his mind had been weakened by solitude and suffering, mental
and physical, and he was in a state when he was to be swayed, and not
with difficulty. There had been a time--it would have been the same
with him now had he been alone--when, could it have been said to him,
"There is an open boat in that fishing creek of yours; she is without
mast or sail, and in her bow is a little cask that holds six gallons of
fresh water," he would have fried fish in his shovel with incomparable
despatch, hove into the boat a freight of oysters and of mushrooms,
if the season yielded them, and have gone away with a hymning heart,
taking his chance by sculling her out to drift into deliverance; taking
his chance of the most lonely, the most Godforsaken death a man can
die, sooner than remain locked up, a broken, solitary, speechless, and
hopeless prisoner in this island solitude.

"I should like to look into that cave," said Goodhart.

And together they went into it.

Goodhart entered, and gazed about him as a man might who inspects a
room he has a mind to rent. When the sight was used to the gloom,
Goodhart examined the contents of the shelf in the chest, peered at the
little bundle of clay pipes, looked at the old musket and the buckle
shoes.

"It makes one think of the old buccaneers," said he. "I should say,
with you, the date is about eighteen hundred. They did not maroon men
then, though it is true that the captain of a man-of-war sent a seaman
named Jeffreys ashore to perish as fast as he could. He was rescued,
and did well on the merits of his sufferings. Who was the owner of this
chest?" said he, viewing the letters on the lid. "I remember at Bath
Abbey looking down upon the pavement and seeing a memorial stone, from
which the lettering had been totally effaced, saving the single word
'Esq.' Of such is the pomp and importance of man."

"I once saw the owner of this chest walking in the dell by moonlight,"
said Reynolds. "The bushes made a shadow, but no shadow walked with the
man. He never again returned, and I was glad."

"Oh, what can equal loneliness as a vision-breeder!" exclaimed
Goodhart. "And yet," he continued, gravely regarding the old sea-chest,
"I don't know, Captain Reynolds, why the illusions of the brain should
be more unreal than the ideas we receive from our sensations. We are
beset with mysteries vaster and more profound than ghosts. They are
so familiar that few give them thought. Yet, though we walk in the
sunshine, no man knows what brightness is, no man what heat is. We
slumber, but no man knows what sleep is. We don't know why the inverted
image upon the retina should be accepted right-side up by the brain. We
believe that time is a thing measurable by the flight of the heavenly
bodies, and that it would cease if the sun stood still; but we do
not know what fills the interval, sun or no sun, between our leaving
a chair and reaching a door, or quitting Liverpool and arriving at
Boston."

This was a form of speculation very much in Reynolds' way, and he
watched the speaker with interest.

"Where do you catch fish?" said Goodhart.

Reynolds replied; and they walked together to the creek. A boat of a
whaling pattern lay snug in the little harbour betwixt the fishing-rock
and the shore. Reynolds started at the sight of her.

"Ah, my God!" he exclaimed softly. "How often have I dreamt of such a
thing."

"The open boat stands next to the raft in my catalogue of the direst
horrors of the deep," exclaimed Goodhart.

A man was in the boat handing provisions to the rest of the fellows
ashore; one or two of whom were already seated and eating. These stood
up when Goodhart and Reynolds approached. Presently the whole company
were seated and eating. They had drunk plentifully, and did not want
water. To Reynolds, after months of oysters and fried fish, the tinned
meat and ship's biscuits were delicious.

"I beg pardon," said the waist-coated man, whom we shall call
boatswain. "Do you catch your fish with 'ooks and lines?"

Reynolds explained how he caught fish, and added that he would catch
some for them presently.

"Please, capt'n, how fur off 's Chili?" inquired a sober-looking young
sailor.

"All three hundred miles," answered Reynolds.

"What are the ports, sir?" asked another; for Reynolds had been master
of a ship, and these seamen naturally looked up to him as a navigator.

"Santiago, Valdivia, Valparaiso, and some smaller ports," was the reply.

"Ain't Joan Fernandez knocking about close by somewheres?" inquired the
boatswain.

"It's as distant as the coast of Chili from this island," responded
Reynolds.

"How are you going to make a port without a sail?" said Goodhart.

"My answer to Mr. Goodhart was, let the men take their shirts," said
Reynolds, "and connect them into a sail with fibres of creepers."

"I'm afraid," said the boatswain, with a slow shake of his head, "that
such a sail 'ud blow away from its yard in the first bit of wind like
smoke from a baccy pipe."

"Have you got a compass?" asked Reynolds.

"No," answered Goodhart

"How are you going to find your way along?" inquired Reynolds.

Goodhart shrugged his shoulders.

"By the sun, and by other bodies in the 'eavens, as others have done in
their day," said the boatswain.

"I'm for keeping all fast and giving ourselves a chance of a ship
passing, and making for her in the boat," said a sailor.

"Yes!" exclaimed Goodhart, with a warm nod of approval.

"But," said the boatswain, "here's Capt'n Reynolds bin seven months and
never sighted a wessel, though I reckon you kept a sharp look-out, sir?"

"I've climbed that hill two or three times a day. A look-out! But my
sight is not as it was."

"You see," said a sailor, "that we are shipwrecked men. I've lost all
but what I'm a-sittin' in, and I want to get ashore and begin again.
I don't take on to the notion of tarning crab or cockle, and that's
what a man becomes who lives without wages, or clothes, or a house in
islands of this sort."

Murmurs of approval attended this delivery.

"I'll show you how to catch fish," said Reynolds.

He fetched his fishing-line and landing-basket, which he kept snug in a
little hole on the mainland, and showed the men what they were made of.
He took his meteorite and hammered off the requisite bait. Goodhart and
the sailors watched him with profound interest. This was the product of
bitter experience, the reality of human need and suffering on Nature's
own stage: no delusive coinage of imagination such as a dramatist might
introduce in a sea play. A fish took the bait readily, and Reynolds
landed a twenty pounder of the cod species in his basket, to the
admiration of the seamen.

"It's bloomed clever," said one of them. "Durned if I should have
thought of it."

"Is it your own idea, captain?" inquired Goodhart

"The Patagonians fish like this," was the answer.

"A couple of you had better turn to," said the boatswain, "and cut
lines after that pattern, and I'll make another landing-basket, which
'ull be enough."

Nothing more was said about stopping or going. The boatswain asked
Reynolds if there was a piece of sailcloth in the cave, or any other
stuff in the island fit to make a sail of. Reynolds told him there
was not a rag, except the old cloak that wrapped him at night and the
clothes they wore. Some now went to work to make lines; one or two
searched the island for anything that might prove useful to them,
particularly for anything in which water might be stored for a boat
voyage. But Reynolds could easily have told them that this quest must
prove worthless.

He and Goodhart went to a green slope under a tree and sat down.
The autumn vegetation clothed the island with many beautiful and
some glowing tints. The season's growth of mushrooms was plentiful.
Wild flowers, with petals blue and crimson and orange, blew a small
fragrance into the air. Reynolds again took notice of the peculiar
bulkiness of Goodhart's figure: it was as though he wore stays or was
padded. His attire consisted of a yachting cap, a double-breasted round
cloth coat, and dark cloth trousers. He wore a wedding-ring on his
little finger, and a large signet-ring on his right forefinger. When he
seated himself now, he unbuttoned his coat, and discovered a dark-red
waistcoat with gilt buttons; a heavy gold chain lay upon it, and when
he drew out his watch Reynolds saw that it was a fine and very valuable
gold timepiece.

"I never thought," said Goodhart, "that I should be wrecked on a
desolate island. I believe I hankered after something of the sort when
I was a boy. You have been sharing the experiences of Robinson Crusoe.
To what degree does your practice correspond with Defoe's imagination?"

"I should have been glad," answered Reynolds, "had a ship been stranded
within rafting distance full of everything that I wanted. It is easy
for writers of romances to oblige their castaways by wrecking ships,
not only to feed and clothe, but to put plenty of money in their
pockets. Your reckoning makes out that I have been here seven months,
and I have never caught sight of even the royals of a ship, and no more
smoke than you now see."

"You missed Man Friday," said Goodhart.

"Yes," said Reynolds, with a faint smile. "I could have put up with
somebody to fish with, to have made signs to, even if he no speakee."

"Are you married, sir?"

Reynolds slightly bowed.

"Any children, might I ask?"

Reynolds gravely shook his head.

"A wife in England, waiting and hoping. Ah," said Goodhart, with a face
of abstraction as though he thought aloud, "none but the sufferer knows
the pathos, the pang of the heartache, the depth of the human sigh,
the bitterness of the human tear contained in that one awful word,
missing. But, Captain Reynolds, I have faith in the direction of
the drift and in the issues of life. It does so happen at the end that
things have shaped themselves for our good. If you are spared to look
back upon this incident of your career, you will find a circumstance of
good in it, a gem set in a crown of thorns and nettles which you could
not have done without, and would not have forfeited for twenty-fold
more of suffering than you have endured."

"Are you married, Mr. Goodhart?"

"This was her ring," Goodhart answered, taking between his thumb and
forefinger the wedding-ring on his little finger. "It was enlarged to
fit me. It was her wish that I should wear it and be buried in it.
She died in childbed. I am as absolutely alone, captain, in this wide
universe of correlations as you were yesterday."

"It's the happiest state of life!" exclaimed Reynolds. "Nobody to work
for, nobody whose future must be your bitter business, nobody who by
misconduct could disgrace your honourable name, nobody to--to----" He
looked away to the deep ocean recess, into the miles of hollow blue
there, and the figure of Lucretia shaped itself before his mental
vision. He started and found Goodhart observing him intently.

"Is that an old scar, captain, at your eye?"

"No. When I came to after being flung ashore here, I found my brow cut
and bleeding and my mouth injured. The blow has affected the sight
of the damaged eye, and it may be--I hope it may be--that ships'
hull-down, have passed and I have not seen them. I have tried to catch
a sight of myself in a pool of water, but never could distinguish such
an image as could give me the view I want. Am I much distorted?"

"That could only be answered by one who knew you before you were
injured. You have grown a fine length of hair," said Goodhart, with
his placid, kindly smile. "I venture to say that you did not give that
fathom of locks to the breeze on your quarterdeck."

"Nor this," said Reynolds, grasping his beard. "If you stay here, Time
will adorn you too."

"I am not to be disturbed by the idea of hair," said Goodhart. "Nothing
shall induce me to venture my life in that boat we arrived in. Good
Heavens, look what a mighty surface the ocean is! What a contemptible
atom, a microscopic monad, is an open boat--a vibrio of the deep which
the passing telescope shall easily miss!"

Now, it is a fact, whether credible or not, that when these two men's
conversation had reached this point, it was interrupted by a fellow who
was half-way up the hill of cascades bellowing as though for his life,
whilst he flourished his hand in ecstasies of gesture in the direction
of the south-east horizon.

"Sail ho! sail ho!" he bawled, in a note that fell as clear upon the
ear as the song of a lark in the sky.

Reynolds sprang to his feet

"What's that he says?" he shouted, rounding to look up at the man.

"Sail ho! sail ho!" yelled the fellow.

And some figures of his shipmates went scrambling up to him.

"Go, and judge for yourself, Captain Reynolds," said Goodhart. "My weak
heart will not allow me to attempt that hill."




CHAPTER VIII.--CONVERSATIONS AND CONFIDENCES

REYNOLDS started to climb the hill, stepping fast. He gained the group
of sailors, who all pointed at the sea together, as he came, and
exclaimed, nearly in one voice--

"There she is, sir!"

Far out upon the sea hung what might have seemed to a landsman a rising
star, pale as the pearl of the moon when she floats in the blue of the
day. But the sailors knew that speck of light to be a ship, which way
standing they could not then tell. Reynolds looked, but could not see
her.

"There she is, sir."

Ah, they might point; but Reynolds failed to perceive her.

"You have no doubt she is a ship?" said he, with a look of a blind man,
as he turned his face upon the seamen.

"Oh yes, sir; that's the sail of a ship right enough," answered the
boatswain, who had dropped his task of plaiting a mesh to view the ship
from the hillside. "Can you see our boat down there, sir?"

"Why, of course, clear enough; and I dare say I should be able to see
that ship if she lifted her hull," answered Reynolds.

Again he strove with his eyes at the sea-line, and saw nothing but the
junction of heaven and water.

"It may be that vessels have passed within sight, but at a great
distance, and I have not seen them," said he.

"She is too far off to be of any good to us," said one of the men, with
a nod at the sail. "But it's clear that this island is sighted, and, as
I was a-saying down below there, I'm for keeping all fast and giving
ourselves a chance before we agree to take what is to come by putting
to sea without a sail."

"And with a beaker holding six gallons only," said Reynolds.

"Ay," said the boatswain, "it ought to be a vat."

"You'll find plenty of fuel laid ready for a smoke up in that hollow
there," said Reynolds, pointing to the place he meant. "Day to day I
have seen to that, but never a chance was given me to fire it."

"Where d'ye get fire from, sir?" asked the boatswain.

Reynolds pulled out his burning-glass. "Can you still see her?" he
asked.

"Oh yes," answered one of the men. "But she's passing away; she's dying
out."

One remained to watch and report. Reynolds rejoined Goodhart.

"I am not surprised that you shouldn't see her," said Goodhart. "You
generally find that the vision of one eye sympathizes with that of the
other; and how far distant is she, do you think?"

"Why, we should command a view of twenty-five miles up there, and she's
just in sight, the men say, and fading," said Reynolds.

"Well," answered Goodhart, "her appearance determines me to stop. I
am convinced that an island, situated as this is, must be frequently
sighted and occasionally visited. What do you say now to the chance
supplied you by a passing ship and a fast boat to get at her, and
nothing but that same boat without mast or sail and a six-gallon keg?"

"Oh, Mr. Goodhart, you have not yet had seven months of it," answered
Reynolds, with a sort of sick shudder.

"But you're alive, sir, and well, and you need but a barber and a
tailor to return to the aspect you have doffed. But an open boat!
Figure three weeks, and all the fresh water gone, and the fever has
come upon you again----" Mr. Goodhart added blandly, but with a
deliberation that made you understand that the teeth of his mind were
set, "I stay here. And I hope those men won't be foolhardy enough to
quit the island unless to pursue a ship."

They looked up at the hill, and saw the man who had been left to watch
coming down, whereby they knew that that distant vision of light had
vanished.

The men passed the day in fishing, cooking, preparing the cave with
couches and bolsters of grass for the night. The river was just a
walk; for this was, as we know, but a little island one mile long and
three-quarters wide, and if a man felt thirsty, he could slake his
thirst in a few minutes in the sweet cold water that came down the hill
in silver hawsers, and foamed in glory where the little river began.

A fine night came along, this the first night of Goodhart's and the men
of the Esmond's visit. They had some plug tobacco amongst them, and
there were pipes of the year 1800 or thereabouts in the old sea-chest.
A coat that had been taken from the chest by Reynolds and cast and
left upon the floor of the cave proved as good as tinder. They cut off
a piece, and Goodhart gave them a wax match out of a silver box, with
which they set fire to the piece of old coat. This glowed long enough
to enable them to smoke and re-light and smoke again.

Goodhart and Reynolds walked together upon the white beach that
streamed before and behind them like ivory in the clear light of the
moon. Their shadows marched black at their sides. The sea under the
moon quivered with her light. The air was filled with the solemn roar
of the bursting surge south-east, and with the cymbals of the cataracts
threading with metallic music the delicate orchestra of the wind in
the dark vegetation, and with the weary voice of the wheeling breakers
rolling into foam upon the sand. As they paced, Goodhart talked of
himself.

"My father," said he, "was a clergyman, who had a living in Ireland.
Do I call it a living? God help him! We were so poor that unless he
caught a hare for dinner we went without a midday meal. Of all forms
of poverty the poverty of the poor clergyman is the most distressful,
for he cannot lie in hiding as a retired Service man might. He must
go about; his linen must be clean; his apparel decent. He must have
words of sympathy, and even a trifle in money when, as God knows, he
grievously wants these things himself. He had but two children--myself
and my sister. She was a girl sweet to the sight as a plum tree in
May. But the good die first, said Wordsworth, and she was carried off
by a galloping consumption. I did not choose to starve at home, so I
made my way to Waterford, and got a berth as cabin boy and cook's mate
in a crazy old brig called the Emerald Isle. She was a coaster,
and the soft tack we got was not half so soft as the hard weather was
hard. I afterwards shipped as an ordinary seaman in a barque commanded
by a Yankee, who was, without doubt, the greatest outrage upon the
image of God that was ever perpetrated by those dangerous confederates
against the peace of the world--I mean man and woman. I fled from this
scoundrel at Boston, and shipped for Australia, where, in company with
nearly the whole of the crew, I ran. I found work, and made a little
money and married. Oh, Captain Reynolds, it is hard to love and lose;
to love well, and lose irremediably."

"I have loved and lost, and know what you mean," answered Reynolds.

"But your wife lives?"

"Tell me your story, Mr. Goodhart."

"It is told. I lingered in Australia, and then made up my mind to
return to England and die there. I think I explained why I chose the
Esmond. Did nothing belonging to your ship, a body, or what the law
holds more precious, goods, come ashore?"

"Nothing. I looked for a corpse. My ship's sole relic is the person who
speaks to you."

"Do you lose much by this disaster?"

"More than I can afford. I am a poor man."

Goodhart halted and looked at the sea.

"It is a mighty cemetery," he said. "There is no foaming head of
billow that should prove one too many as a gravestone for the dead in
the deep. I can't but think drowning one of the most painful forms of
death. The agony may be brief, but----whilst it's with you!"

"I have sometimes, during my loneliness," said Reynolds, as they
resumed their walk, "tried to disturb my mind by conjecturing whether
we suffer pain after death."

Goodhart's head slowly shook in the moonshine.

"A man dies," continued Reynolds, "and a new form of vital activity
begins. His body changes into chemicals, gases and the like. Are
these changes accompanied by sensation? Sensation can exist without
the consciousness of sensation, as we know from the circumstance that
sensation occupies an appreciable time to travel from any given part of
the body to the brain."

"If there is no consciousness to receive sensation," said Goodhart, "it
is not present, so far as we are concerned, and, therefore, when we die
pain ends."

"I forget the speed of sensation," said Reynolds.

"Helmholtz," answered Goodhart, "computes it at about seventy feet a
second."

"Yes, I remember," exclaimed Reynolds. "So that if you should let
fall a paving-stone on the bunnion of a giant seventy feet tall,
a second would elapse before his brain received the news, another
appreciable interval must be allowed to enable the molecules of the
brain to adjust themselves for the reception of the report, and another
second must pass whilst the brain is telegraphing to the foot to kick
or stamp. Sensation, therefore, in this case, is present without
consciousness. Why not in the human corpse that is undergoing all sorts
of transmutations?"

"The times have been that when the brains were out the man would die,
and there an end," answered Goodhart. "I do not care whether I am to
have sensation or not after I am dead. I only desire to understand that
I shall not feel."

"You remarked this morning, Mr. Goodhart, that we are beset with
mysteries," said Reynolds. "What is more absolutely impenetrable than
the mystery of sensation? We are told that it is merely the translation
of the vibration of an object into consciousness in us, but why that
consciousness should clothe the vibration with form, colour, music,
flavour, fragrance, softness or hardness, heat or cold, and the
countless conditions of life, spiritual and physical, is God's secret,
and apparently must for ever be so."

"I answer you thus," said Goodhart. "We have five senses, and all the
qualities and inherent conditions of the objects we hear, see, and
feel, and so on, make individual appeals to us through those senses.
The objects are there, and they report themselves as there; for, if
they were not there, what news could vibration vehicle? I have no
shadow of a doubt that, outside what we know of objects, such as their
perfume, brightness, shape, colour, and so on, are attributes and
qualities of which we know nothing, and can know nothing, owing to the
limitation of our senses. Could a man err in plucking a flower and
saying, 'there is more in this than meets the eye or the touch or the
smell'?"

"This is a strange platform for the discussion of such things," said
Reynolds.

"I judge as a sailor you have been a student, Captain Reynolds."

"Well, yes, I have read and I have thought. The night-watch at sea
finds you leisure for the latter."

"Does it not occur to you," said Goodhart, "that the mere circumstance
of the Esmond having gone down within a night's pull of this island
should convince us that ships must pass within sight?"

"Yes, and that sail to-day is hopeful," answered Reynolds; "but I do
assure you, keen as my look-out has been, that in seven months I have
seen nothing."

After a little more talk of this kind they went to rest for the
night--Reynolds to his bed in the dell, and Goodhart to the cave. The
men had prepared grass beds for all hands. The moon shone bright, and
Goodhart easily found the mouth and entered. It was very black within.
He struck a wax match, not knowing where his couch of grass was. Dim
outlines of sleeping men were thrown up. By his little taper, Goodhart
perceived a vacant couch close at hand. He blew out his light and lay
down. A sailor called out in his sleep--

"'Ow's a man to 'ook on if yer don't luff and shake it out of her?
Luff, damn you, luff, I say, luff!"

"What buddy old owl is that a-hooting?" exclaimed the boatswain, in a
deep voice.

A wave of snores followed, and Goodhart slumbered with the rest.

Reynolds, in his fissure, lay watching the moonshine that bathed
the sky over the dell. The glowing stars of those temperate heights
trembled in the silver mist. The hysteric hurry of mind, which had
been his in the morning on his discovery of men in the island and a
boat, and which had remained his for some hours, was gone. A sober
tranquillity and abiding emotion of gratitude and of peace had replaced
it. He lay thinking of Goodhart. There was something in the manner,
the voice, the looks, the gentle smiles and tender pensiveness of the
man, that fascinated Reynolds, and won his heart with the beautiful and
irresistible power with which truth, no matter in what it dwells, wins
human affection. He impressed him as a man whose character was a harp
from whose strings the spirit-fingers of the soul swept music that was
always sweet and good. What had passed between them in conversation had
expressed them as intimate in sympathy, for it had not needed a day for
Reynolds to discover that Goodhart had in his time been a student and a
thinker, more particularly in those metaphysical walks which Reynolds
loved to tread.

One point Goodhart had made clear: he was determined not to risk his
life by a voyage in a little open craft which was without mast or
sail, and in which it would be impossible, so barren was the island
in this respect, to store water enough for eight men, to last, even
on the leanest allowance, for more than two or three days. This was a
resolution to give Reynolds pause too. His desire to leave the island,
which was consuming when he was alone, was moderated by companionship;
moderated to the extent that he was too old a hand as a sailor to take
his chance in an open sail-less boat when, by waiting, as the sail
that hove into sight that morning promised, his deliverance might be
procured with comfort and safety. If a sail could be obtained the
hazard of the voyage would be diminished, because even though they
should be unable to shape a course for a port, yet by heading due
east they were bound to blow into the track of ships steering north
or south. But to start in a rowing-boat he easily understood would
be suicidal, and think as he might, and think as he did, as he lay
straining his mind in the fissure, he could not conceive what the
island might yield in the shape of a sail, unless the men put his idea
about their shirts into practice, and it did not seem to him, as he
reflected, that the manufacture of such a sail would be worth the effort.

For some days the men were patient and watchful. They dried and
smoked a quantity of fish, which they stocked in the locker of the
stern-sheets of the boat. They were also careful to keep the beaker
filled with fresh water in preparation for the instant emergency.
They seemed to enjoy this lounging life of the island. They culled
nosegays and decorated themselves. They ate oysters and mussels. They
fished diligently and cooked their takes, and it will be judged that,
after the salt horse and worm-bored sea-bread of the forecastle, the
mushrooms and cod steaks and steaks of other fish, and the fish they
dried and smoked, provided them with a heavenly banquet. But they had
brought with them but a lenten store of plug tobacco. The pieces soon
gave out, and the want started a spirit of discontent and restlessness.
They hunted for a substitute, but could find nothing of any sort to
replace the black cavendish of their love. They were without rum, and
wanted tea, cocoa, or coffee for a hot drink. They were sailors, and
a sailor without a grievance is a tool without a handle. After a few
days they began to feel thoroughly shipwrecked, and the gaze they
levelled at the sea-line grew more and more ardent, and more and more
rebellious. It was easily gatherable from their general bearing that
they did not mean to stay long for a ship to appear.

Goodhart and Reynolds were inseparable. They had contracted such a
liking for each other as promised to become a bond of affectionate
friendship. For some time Reynolds was reserved about his past. One
afternoon they were seated on a knoll in the shade where they commanded
a fine view of the dazzle of thunder-sounding foam on the south-east
side, and of the two lovely cataracts which arched in apparently
polished motionless glass from the rocks, then quivered into prisms,
tinting the immediate air with pallid lights of the spectrum. Goodhart
for a few moments watched a bird in silence.

"How wonderful that fellow's wings and body are dyed!" he exclaimed.
"Look at his white breast, and the blue edgings to the indigo that
stains the feathers of his wings. God works with a purpose in lights
and colours."

"Oh yes, undoubtedly," said Reynolds. "I've heard of a little fish
whose dorsal spine consists of a long filament arching over the head
and mouth, the mouth filled with frightful teeth. At the extremity of
the filament there is a brilliant phosphorescent spot. The hideous
little monster hangs out this lovely star, and everything small that
comes to admire is devoured."

"Yes," said Goodhart, "I have heard of a fish found three miles deep
with a phosphorescent eye which it kindles at pleasure, either to scare
its enemies or allure its victims."

"Take the ptarmigan," said Reynolds, with a glance at the wheeling
sea-bird that had attracted Goodhart. "This bird is almost black in
summer. Nature protects it by providing changes of colour with the
seasons. If it remained black it would be at the mercy of the hawk or
the owl in winter, when the country is white with snow. In summer the
country is dark, and the ptarmigan is black. In autumn the country is
gray, and the ptarmigan turns gray. In winter the plumage of this bird
is white. This is also true of the falcon and the snowy owl. If they
were black in a country covered with snow, they would be eluded and
starve."

"Some queer stories are told of the cuckoo," said Goodhart. "It is
declared that it lays eggs coloured so as to deceive the birds in whose
nests they are deposited. The hedgesparrow is the greatest sufferer at
the hands of the cuckoo. I remember reading that a German writer has
declared that the cuckoo will sometimes lay perfectly blue eggs. The
hoopoes are another illustration of purpose in colour. Their hue is
sandy, and by virtue of that they may be known almost certainly to be
inhabitants of a sandy region. When this bird sees a hawk it throws
itself flat on the sandy ground, turns its wings up, and erects its
bill so as to resemble as closely as possible a bit of old rag." He
looked seawards and exclaimed, "I would swear that yonder is a ship, if
I were not sure that it is a cloud." He pointed.

Reynolds determinedly bent his vision, but what Goodhart saw was
invisible to him. His companion viewed him with a gaze tender and
touching with commiseration, the sympathy that does not depress like
pity, but that exalts by unaffected fellowship of feeling, working like
nature from the inside, and not like art from the outside.

"I devoutly hope," said he, "that we shall soon be released, if only
for your sake. It is sad to think of your poor wife."

Reynolds fixed his eyes upon the ground

"Have you been long married?"

"Long married!" exclaimed Reynolds. "How long have those waterfalls
been married? They leap together and unite at the foot in a common
grave of foam. But if they coexist, they also possess a most consuming
divisibility. I'll tell you a queer story of a wedding, Mr. Goodhart.
You are a man of deep thought and great humanity. Perhaps you will be
able to suggest a key for the lock of a safe in which lies a jewel so
absolutely embowelled that no pearl in its oyster at the bottom of the
sea is more secret and distant."

Goodhart's face wore an expression of benevolent attention.

"Conceive a man loving a woman as purely, loftily, loyally as it is
in the power of male flesh and blood to love that which God wills it
to yoke. They were married. The mother of the bride was present. She
was the bridegroom's very good friend and well-wisher. The bride on
her return home from the church locked herself up in her bedroom and
refused to see, or to speak to, or to have anything to do with her
husband. No, by old Harry, Mr. Goodhart, she threatened to poison
herself if the man ventured so much as to approach her bedroom door.
Had the Marriage-Service converted her husband into a hedgehog, or a
bat, or a toad, or something which makes women scream and shrink and
faint, this wife's loathing could not have been more phenomenally
profound. He had his memories of endearments, and was paralyzed by
astonishment and dismay, and, indeed, despair. What had come to her?
But his letters, his entreaties, her mother's influence, availed
nothing. He sailed from Falmouth, leaving her behind him; his ship
was burnt, and he was cast ashore on an island, and was seven months
alone." After he had pronounced these words his voice failed him.

"It is a strange story," said Mr. Goodhart, regarding the poor fellow
with an expression of touching kindness. "When you sailed you were
separated?"

"We have never lived together."

"When were you married?"

Reynolds gave him the date.

Goodhart mused, and his face took on a look of judicial gravity.

"It is impossible to consider it as aversion in her," he said. "Human
nature does not change in an hour. If we are to call it aberration,
then we shall know what to think. I should regard it as a sudden
violent distemper of morality. It is not dislike of you, but love
of ego, a disease of self which the physiologist would view as the
antithesis of a mania not rare amongst women. If I were you, I should
hail this state of shipwreck as an avenue that is to conduct you to her
heart."

"How?"

"Already your ship is overdue. She will soon be posted. To the
imagination of your wife you are a drowned man. Your appeal of
abandonment and of death will prove an eloquence that must find her
a heart. Give her that, and when you again meet, as surely as she is
human, and as surely as you love her, you will find her yours by virtue
of an ordeal that shall make her more triumphantly your own than any
other form of conquest could render her."

"The Marriage Service changed her into a statue. Nothing chiselled in
marble could be more insensible."

"Depend upon it, Captain Reynolds, that a woman's heart beats under
that hard surface, and her conviction of your death and her memory of
what preceded your departure will work in her."

"If I return," exclaimed Reynolds, with a little wildness in the look
he sent at the sea, "I shall not seek her. To be repulsed again--spat
upon---- Time, Mr. Goodhart, time! I have been alone for months, and
my thoughts have run as a lonely man's would; but, despite the carved
figure that weeps over the urn, despite the sumptuous memorial window,
I must believe, I must hope, that the inscription wears out, that the
slate is cleansed by something else than tears, that the flame is often
extinguished before the candle is expended."

"I trust it will happen as shall make best for your happiness," said
Goodhart, with emotion. "What is your age?"

Reynolds replied.

"And your wife's?"

Reynolds told him. Goodhart smiled gravely.

"You must meet again as sweethearts," he said. "You are proud of
her, and fond of her. Indeed, you are rapturously fond of her. The
charm that won you is still hers. She is your wife. Nothing but God's
hand can keep you apart. Not, indeed, but that chastity so rigid is
extremely unamiable and very undesirable. A sister of mercy who nursed
me said, 'To prove how bad an opinion God has of us, observe that He
is perpetually replacing us and trying others. Generation succeeds
generation.' 'And what opinion,' I answered, 'can He have of those who
think it improper to help Him?' It is an oversight on the part of a
person to marry one with whom personal association is, when rather late
in the day, considered objectionable. For example, how much trouble
would be saved if men made it a rule to choose the right sister to
begin with! The hearts of the bishops would be lighter; there would be
a little less talk in the House of Lords. You will find no difficulty
in getting another berth?"

"I can't say," answered Reynolds. "Captains are very plentiful, and I
have not been very fortunate."

"I have a friend in Sydney," said Goodhart, "who is a managing director
of a coastwise line of steamers. The pay is good, and the people
employed are loyally used. I should be most happy to give you a letter
to him."

"You are extremely kind, Mr. Goodhart."

"But you will naturally wish to return to England to follow your
profession in that country."

"Why?"

"Your wife is in England."

Reynolds shook his head. Goodhart smiled.

"We were just now talking of purpose in colour," said he, breaking from
a subject that might have easily been made painful by even a nuance
of insistence. "I have often asked myself, to what degree is colour
necessary as a fibre or thread in the woof of matter? The solar light
is formed of coloured rays, visible and invisible, and by and in that
light does Creation move and have its being. But is colour essential as
a constituent of matter? For instance, is colour a part of the flower's
life, so that in the absence of colour the flower would need something
as necessary to its being as any formative condition of its existence?
Or, restricting myself to the flower, is it painted merely to delight?
If so, for whose delight is it coloured? Is it to be supposed that the
sole purpose of colour is to gratify the aesthetic sense in man? That
colour is a created thing, whose existence is independent of human
sensation, is too clear to need talking about. If visually we know
that colour is a concomitant of state or change, we have a right to
infer that colour is an abiding quality in coloured matter, and that
the conditions under which it accompanies all mutations render it
inseparable from matter; a property, therefore, indwelling in objects
both in darkness and light."

"You mean," said Reynolds, "that if, for example, you carried a red
rose into a black room, it would retain its colour?"

"I mean," answered Goodhart, "that the cause of the redness remains in
the rose in the black room, and what is that cause but colour?"

"It seems to me," said Reynolds, "that the causes of colour consist
of three things; first, the solar light; secondly, the selective
properties of the coloured objects; thirdly, the human eye. Extinguish
one of these things, and you extinguish colour. In this way, perhaps,
it may be shown that colour is as much a property of the object that
possesses it as of the light that reveals it or the eye that beholds
it."

"I cannot allow your red rose to lose its glory," said Goodhart,
"simply because you can't see it. For example, take a glass of port and
a glass of sherry into a black cellar. Taste them. You will recognize
each one by its flavour. If the flavour is present, why not the colour?
There are certain crystals, forms of fluorspar, which, though they have
remained buried for centuries in the earth, have, nevertheless, what
has been termed a 'potentiality of light' locked up in them. Do you
hold that that potential light is not light until you see it?"

"You want to corner me," said Reynolds, smiling, "by forcing me to
admit that the extent of creation cannot be limited by our knowledge of
its existence through our sensations. But what other guides have we? If
I can't see colour or light, it has no being so far as I am concerned."

"But the sun shines, and the rose is red, though the blind man sees
neither. Snow is melted by those rays of the sun which are invisible.
Those rays may be made visible by a process called calorescence. Do
they not exist as a part of the sun's light because you can't see them?"

"Pardon me, Mr. Goodhart, but isn't there a smack of sophistry in this
reasoning?"

Goodhart smiled. It was evident that he talked rather to divert than to
convince his companion.

"You doubtless remember," said he, "Tyndall's noble illustration of the
invisibility of light. He took a box like a photographic camera: either
side was pierced with a little window. He allowed all the floating
particles in the atmosphere contained in the box to be deposited. He
then darted a powerful electric beam through the windows. The light
streamed in brilliance to one window, passed in blackness through the
box, and flashed through the other window with the splendour with which
it had entered. Thus that great man proved that light, which renders
all things visible, is itself invisible." He added, pleasantly smiling,
"We must place but little confidence in our sensations."

Now what should seem stranger than that two shipwrecked men, one of
whom slept in a cave whilst the other took his rest in a fissure
in a dell, should be found upon a little island seated on a grassy
rise in the shade, discussing abstract problems of science with as
much sincerity as if they were going up for an examination, with
their chance of deliverance from their awful position so feeble as
to entitle them to a habit of mental prostration? But in the human
mind there is latent a power of philosophy which almost unconsciously
helps it to adapt itself to any state it may chance to be in without
violent departure from old habits or forms of thought. Suppose two
maids-of-honour flung ashore from the sea, why should not they at
intervals talk of drawing-rooms, presentations, the duchess's red
face, the blazing fat throat of Lady Throgmorton Street? things it is
true of a past more or less recent, but topics of habitual inspiration
nevertheless. Two stock-jobbers similarly cast up by the deep might be
expected in the pauses between the meal of mussels and the search for
something more digestible, to talk of loans and mines, of Goschen's
year, and the prospects of Japan. Our two companions loved science, and
from time to time, as we see, there was nothing in shipwreck to stop
them from talking about it.

But their story, after a brief passage of rest, was to change suddenly
into the eventful.




CHAPTER IX.--THE CHASE

ON the 2nd October, making it rather more than a fortnight since the
arrival of the boat's crew, a man named Lydiart, being the first to
awaken, quitted the cave and came into the open, where he yawned and
stretched his arms, and then slowly looked around him. It was blowing
what sailors would call a royal breeze. Wings of dusky cloud sailed
under the sky. The east was a moist purple and the clouds came out of
it stained with that tint; but before they gained the central heaven
they changed into greys and browns with their skirts gilt by the sun.
The stretch of coral sand was noisy with breakers which charged in
cannon-shocks and receded sweating, cruelly fingering long black lines
of weed as though they were tresses of the land they were seeking to
tear off; and the ocean was filled with lighted lines of seas whose
edgings of foam ran athwart in parallel archings till the whole surge
sank in its own splendour of whiteness. Loud was the organ-thunder
rolling from the stern abrupt which the island opposed to the sea
south-east. The little piece of land was full of the music of the
morning; and the sea-birds glanced as they wheeled and slanted from
dark shapes into bright.

A second man came out of the cave. He was grim with a fortnight's
growth of hair on face and head.

"Anything in sight?" he asked.

"Ain't 'ad time to 'ave a look round."

"I'm growing buddy sick of this," said number two. "I'm for making a
start and chancin' it. That there Captain Reynolds ain't fur out, you
lay. Seven months, he says, and nothen showin', and 'ere we've bin
getting on more'n a buddy fortnight, and what's hove into view good for
anybody but a blind man?"

Here a third sailor came out. He was followed by Goodhart and the other
people, whilst Reynolds was to be seen approaching from his crack in
the dell. Just on that part of the island where the men stood, only a
little piece of the ocean was to be seen.

"Jim!" said the boatswain. "Run aloft up that 'ill, and see if there's
anything to report."

"Good morning, Mr. Goodhart," said Reynolds. "Good morning, men."

"Blamed slow work this, sir," exclaimed the boatswain. "I feel
sometimes as if I could have swum the distance. Three hunnerd miles,
ain't it? The English Channel's bin swum."

"Strike me silly," said a sailor, "if I wouldn't rather turn jelly-fish
than keep all on 'ere."

"Wait till you've had over seven months of it," said Reynolds.

"That's just what we don't mean to wait for, then," answered the
boatswain, who, though he recognized Captain Reynolds' position as a
master and gentleman, was heedful to assert himself as commander of his
own little company who would take their opinions from him, or at least
submit to be advised by him, without allowing that Captain Reynolds,
though a shipmaster, had the least authority amongst them.

The man who had gone up the hill to report, having climbed about a
hundred feet, stopped to take a look, and no sooner were his eyes upon
the sea than he pointed and yelled--

"There she is, all a-growing and a-blowing! Sail ho! There she spouts!"

On which everybody rushed up to him saving Goodhart, who followed very
slowly and with pauses. This time the whole of a ship's sails were in
view. A square of white, like a butterfly on the margin of a meadow.
She was down away westwards, too far off for the trim of her yards
to be discernible, and the hull of her was out of sight behind the
sea-line. Everybody but Reynolds saw her. At times he thought he caught
sight of her, but his injured vision was betrayed by the white leap of
the seas, and had he been alone she would have passed unnoticed.

"Which way is she standin'?" exclaimed the boatswain, panting with his
hurry of limbs and excitement of spirits.

"She's on the port tack," said the man who had reported her.

This man had the best sight of any amongst them; in fact it was as good
as a little pocket telescope.

"'Ow's the wind?" cried the boatswain.

"East," answered Reynolds.

"If she's on the port tack," cried the boatswain, almost shouting with
sensation, "and the wind's east, she'll be heading so as to be liftin'
her hull by the time that she's abreast of this island, and I'm for
makin' for her and shoving right athwart her as she comes headin' up,
so as to bring the north-east point of this rock on her starboard
quarter."

This was closely followed and immediately understood by the men.

"I'm ready."

"So am I."

"So am I."

So were the whole six.

"Will you come, Mr. Good'art, and take your chance?" shouted the
boatswain to that gentleman, who was painfully and slowly ascending the
slope.

"I don't understand you," was the bawled reply.

The boatswain ran down to him.

"There," he cried, in his eagerness catching hold of Goodhart's arm,
"there's the ship. D'ye see her, sir?"

"Yes, about ten miles off," answered Goodhart, staring at the vision on
the sea.

"We're all for making a dead pull to wind'ard, so as to bring us within
sight of her by the hour she's got the north-east point of this island
on her starboard quarter. Will you come? There's no time to lose, sir."

"You mean to pull to windward against this sea and breeze?" exclaimed
Goodhart, with a lift of eyebrows and a blank stare of wonder.

"Yes."

By this time the others had come down and were gathered round these two.

"What d'ye mean to do?" said Reynolds.

"We're a-going to row within sight of that ship," shouted the
boatswain, hoarsely, and with a danger-signal in the tone of his voice.

"I advise you not to try it. Not against that weight of sea and wind,"
said Reynolds, striving to see the ship.

"We shall lose her if we stand here jawing," cried a man.

"You'll need to pull eight or ten miles to put yourselves within reach
of her sight," said Reynolds. "What's her speed? You say she's on a
taut luff? Call it seven."

"Come on, all as means to come," roared the boatswain, smiting down
Reynolds' reasoning as you might hit a man on the head with an iron
pin, and away he ran in the direction of the creek where the boat lay,
bawling, as he sprang along, "If we stop argyfying we lose her."

Instantly the sailors followed, racing and leaping like schoolboys just
let loose.

"You'll report that we are left if you come up with her!" shouted
Reynolds.

A fellow flung his arm up in token that the request had been heard.
Reynolds' heart was in that distant sail, which was now, when he
looked, a very dim delicate vision in the horizon of his eye; his soul
raved for release from the withering imprisonment of this island. The
mere figures of the running men fired him with a passion to run with
them. For a minute the inward conflict was a very madness of mental
convulsion, a tempestuous lunatic dance of contending feelings.

He was a man, however, habituated by his profession to the forming
of the instant resolution. This is the inevitable education of the
sailor who is worth his salt. Fog, collision, fire, the sudden tempest,
the mighty ice island looming in thunder of bursting surge out of
the snow-storm, do not admit of leisurely deliberation. Now he was
understanding that vessels might have passed and he had not seen them,
and Goodhart's hope and expectation of a comfortable deliverance,
therefore, might be shared. Next he witnessed rashness, danger, and
disappointment in that long pull against a head sea in a fresh wind.
Likewise he perceived that the men's chances of salvation would be
Goodhart's and his without their peril, for it could not be doubted
that when the captain of the vessel had been informed that two men were
left, he would heave his ship to and send for them. And finally, he was
impelled by the affectionate regard in which he had already come to
hold Goodhart to stop with him and share with him in such fortune as
was to befall, be it what it might.

The men gained the boat, and jumped in. She was of the whaler pattern,
sharp at both ends, a good boat, pulling five oars, with inboard
air-tight boxes under her gunwales. They had taken care to keep her
stocked with food and fresh water.

"It's a pity," said Goodhart, who, with his companion, had walked a
little distance to obtain a better view of the boat's departure, "that
they did not think of cutting down a long bough to attach a shirt to
for waving!"

"I can see the ship now," said Reynolds. "She can't be less than ten
miles distant. If the boat heads due east, then, at three miles an
hour--and they'll not sweep more out of her--it will be noon before she
arrives at the point where she is to come in contact with the ship. And
the ship," he continued, making his calculations as he spoke, "will, if
she holds on all, have to sail a distance of thirty miles to arrive at
the spot aimed at by the boat. She will accomplish this in four hours,
and the boat will be one hour away from her--three miles short."

"What headstrong fools!" exclaimed Goodhart.

But the men were already rowing. The boatswain steered. The oars
flashed and sank, flashed and sank as the little fabric was urged over
the still waters of the creek; then she was in the open, and leaping,
and Goodhart and his companion saw the figures of the men bending and
backing with those motions of energy and determination which signify
that the impulse which governs the toiler is the heart's cry of life or
death.

The boat sprang bravely, showering crystals, heading right into the
glittering lines of light which were rolled by the breeze under the
soaring sun, until she faded out, even to the straining gaze of
Goodhart, whilst the ship had floated up the horizon to the line of
her bulwark rails, lifting jibs and spanker boom, and passing on with
the beauty, grace, and dignity which are the gifts of sunshine and the
blue breeze and flashing waters to a ship when she is under full sail,
leaning the stirless bosoms of her canvas to the spectator, and beheld
from afar.

"I shall make a smoke for that ship, but not yet," said Reynolds, who
was now seeing her clearly.

"All's ready up there!" exclaimed Goodhart.

"I saw to it yesterday afternoon," Reynolds rejoined. "It will take her
two hours to give us a sight of her hull."

"I am going for a drink and a dip," said Goodhart, and he walked
leisurely in the direction of the river.

There was not much room for the exhibition of the mysterious in this
little island, though an illustration came when the lonely captive
had awakened and seen the figure of the owner of the chest walking
shadowless in the moonshine, hat in hand; but two points Reynolds had
observed in Goodhart. He was never seen to take off his coat night
or day, and though he bathed three or four times a week, he always
contrived to take to the water with the strictest privacy, never before
saying, as he had just now said, that he was going to the river for
a plunge, but mentioning the circumstance to Reynolds afterwards, as
the minutest incident came weighted with deepest interest in this dull
and dismal routine of watching the sea and catching and cooking fish.
From these trifles Reynolds inferred that Goodhart's disproportioned
bulkiness of trunk was due to some painless but morbid growth, or that
it was a deformity which he desired with a feminine passion to conceal
from the sight of others.

Reynolds stood for a little while with his eyes fixed on the ship. His
gaze was yearning, his heart ached. She was scarcely wanted to bring
before him the image of his wife, for not an hour of the day rolled
past but he thought of her. But that floating cloud out yonder recalled
the Flying Spur; how she might have been out there just where that
ship was; how, if Lucretia had given him her heart again, after he had
decoyed her on board, she might have been with him as though they were
together in that vessel, leaning side by side over the bulwark-rail and
viewing this same little island, with its silver lightning of cascades
and its lace-like trimming of brilliant breakers, the theatre to him of
a most sad and pitiful drama of shipwreck.

He sighed, and cast his eyes up at the hill where the fuel lay ready
for kindling, and after weighing the chance afresh of such a smoke as
he could make being seen by that ship which was still very nearly hull
down from the altitude from which he regarded her, he went to work to
build up a little fire in the cook-pit, then entered the cave, where
were some fish taken yesterday, cut off a couple of steaks and put them
into the shovel, which remained the only frying-pan in that island; all
the while strenuously thinking of the probability of the boat being
seen by the ship, heartily praying for it, and gravely doubting her
chance.

There was nothing to eat but the mushrooms and the fish. When the
little meal was dressed he sat down to wait for his companion and his
friend. He presented a most ragged figure, and one who had previously
known him might have judged by his face that his nature had undergone
a change. His look was pensive; he wore an habitual air of melancholy;
there was no fire or spirit in his speech. He suggested a man whose
heart is cowed by thought that is ebon-tinged with memory, and forlorn
almost to hopelessness in anticipation. The mother of this man would
not have known her son. He had that shaggy look which is often the
impress of toil, and nearly always accompanies privation at sea. Seven
months of solitude and the dismal eternity of the encircling ocean had
so wrought in him that if you had met him in a crowded street he would
have been the one to seize your gaze and compel you to look after him,
and to proceed in thought about him.

Goodhart came from the river, and sat down beside him.

"We should be thought vulgar for eating this fish with our knives,"
said he, with an easy smile and gentle voice that might have made you
suppose they were breakfasting comfortably at home.

"One does not learn good manners at sea," answered Reynolds.

"The best of manners, surely," replied Goodhart. "When a sailor is a
gentleman, a more perfect gentleman you shall not find. I am fond of
observing the contrasts of life. Take our situation; compare a nobleman
in Grosvenor Square at breakfast; take the tramp who has dossed it
under a hedge through the night breaking his fast on a turnip he has
sneaked from a field after a wary look round. I remember passing a
church where a wedding had just taken place, and the bells were pealing
joyously in the tower, and in the graveyard stood the marble figure of
an angel pointing with one hand to heaven, with the other to the grave,
at its feet, of a girl of twenty."

But whilst they talked they kept their eyes upon the ship, for it was
impossible to foresee but that at any moment she might shift her helm
to obtain a closer view of the island, and Reynolds must be ready to
rush up the hill to light the fire.

"I sometimes wondered," said Goodhart, "what form madness would take in
a man who should lose his mind in shipwreck on such an island as this."

"I have sometimes thought," exclaimed Reynolds, "that madness is the
delirium of a disposition that has lain latent and even unsuspected.
For example: I am an ambitious man, but do not know the absurd heights
to which my soul secretly aspires until I lose my reason, and then I
believe I am a king or god. In my case I believe had I gone mad here I
should have imagined I was Brigham Young."

Goodhart was amused, and laughed with gentle enjoyment.

"I have heard of a man," said he, "who believed he was his own father.
He had made a will leaving all his property to himself as his only son;
but his worry was to know what he should do if he was to happen to die
before his father. I have also heard of a lady who believed she was the
author of the novels of George Eliot, and was afraid of looking into a
mirror for fear of seeing the ghost of George Henry Lewes."

"The only instance of sanity I have heard in madness," said Reynolds,
"was the case of a journalist who, whenever he felt the drink fiend
taking possession of him, compelled his wife to put him away."

He stood up to look at the ship: Goodhart also rose, and they viewed
the distant sail for a while in silence. She was holding stubbornly on.
So far it was certain she had not brought the boat within sight, unless
she was to give the spectators an illustration of behaviour, which most
happily is very rare at sea, by seeing the boat, yet standing on and
leaving the tossed men to their fate. The breeze was steady, and gushed
in large, liberal folds; the island sent up its patient moan of shaken
trees and shrubbery, and the beach its sullen roar of surf, and the
south-east cliff its sulky thunder of foaming surge.

They continued to watch and wait, then Reynolds went up the hill to
kindle the prepared fuel in the hollow. The stuff made a thick white
smoke, but it was blown low at a sharp angle from the hollow in which
the wood flamed, and as the ship drew further eastwards, and as the
smoke was blowing due west, it was less and less likely that the
fore-shortened beacon-trail would catch the eye of any one on board;
or, if it did, the white smoke, like one of those country fires which
discharge shafts of vapour from dead leaves and rubbish into the
autumn atmosphere, might be thought to proceed from a little volcano.
But Reynolds was bound to give himself and Goodhart a chance, and for
a whole hour he plied his fire, laboriously fetching big armfuls of
stuff, and raising a thick smother whilst the ship grew smaller and
smaller, as, with something of the slant of the sea-gull's wing when it
wheels in its flight, she vanished in a shadow of mother-of-pearl into
the east. Reynolds rejoined Goodhart.

"What time is it?"

Goodhart pulled out his watch and said, "Eleven."

Reynolds glanced at the sun, and judged Goodhart's report to be fairly
accurate.

"That ship is not to prove our salvation," said he. "If she is to catch
a sight of the boat she should have seen her before this, with a long
enough pause to enable us to know that she had hove-to to receive the
people, or by a shift of helm which would have changed her shape."

"I shall keep a look-out for the boat," said Goodhart. "If the men are
disappointed they must return. What else remains?"

"I don't know," exclaimed Reynolds, with a gloomy shake of his head;
"there are some mules amongst them, and the bo'sun is a good leader for
people of that sort. They may reason, having left the island and come
so far, 'What will be the good of returning? We know what we've got to
expect. Much more chance of our being picked up the further we go than
keeping all fast aboard that piece of rock.'"

"They are without a compass," said Goodhart. "Suppose they get some
thirty miles distant and resolve to come back; this island is small,
and without its bearings being known or a compass to help the helmsman,
it may easily be missed."

Thus they conversed whilst the hours wore on. Reynolds as a look-out
was of no use. Goodhart did the staring part, but never could see
anything to report. He was calm, resigned, grateful. He said--

"At all events, Captain Reynolds, we know where we are, but we don't
know where the boat is. I am thankful to God I was not tempted to trust
myself in her. Figure the weariness of that little skipping structure,
the hopeless grinding of the oars compared to which the toil of the
galley slave is a joke, for the felon is not threatened every instant
with death, the miserable and pitiful look-out--for what? Why, to see
only the curling heads of seas, clouds of spray which must keep you
baling, the breeze freshening, the night coming on, and a little stock
of dried fish, a few tins of meat and six gallons of water for eight
souls--for that's how it would have been with us had we gone."

"I believe you are right--I believe you are right," said Reynolds, in
a voice that was coloured with the spirit of consolation that he drew
from the happy resignation and comfortable philosophy of his companion.
"If the boat does not show itself before dark I shall give her up, not
necessarily as lost so far as the men are concerned, but as lost for
us."

He snapped his fingers to a sudden uncontrollable impulse of vexation.

At one o'clock by Goodhart's watch the ship was out of sight. At six
the dusk was gathering, but the watchers saw no signs of the boat. The
long runners of the ocean streamed in steady procession out of the
east; the clouds, opening as they rose, flew in many windy spectral
shapes, a very Chinaman riot of shadowy monsters. The moon floated up
and tinged with a delicate silver green the foliage and the waters
which she shone upon.

"It is strange," said Goodhart, viewing the satellite as she swept
through the phantom rush of wings on high--"it is strange," he
said--his habit of moralizing and philosophizing constantly taking
form--"that God should have thought fit to hang up in the heavens two
wonderful symbols of creation--its life and its death. In the glorious
sun Nature lives and moves and has her being. The moon is death, white,
silent, cold, awful. In the morning you awaken with life; in the night
you go to rest with death."

"I wish to God," cried Reynolds, with a little glow of passion, "that
the moon would reveal the boat. There was good hope whilst that boat
remained in the creek. The beggars, in going away in her, stole her
from us, and, in my opinion, they are lost men, and we shall be
prisoners for months, and perhaps years."

He wrung his hands, unseen in the gloom by his friend, for just then
the weight of his months of solitude came down upon his heart in a
sensation of almost physical oppression, and in imagination he was
alone, with nothing to look at but a desolate breast of ocean, with
nothing to hope for but the sight of a ship, with nothing to live for
but a burden of being that love had abandoned, and shipwreck rendered
crushing.

Goodhart took his hand and pressed it,

"Keep up your heart, Reynolds!" he cried cheerfully. "A ship will come,
and we shall be rescued. All will be well. Not very much is needed to
make rich the man who has nothing. The coming of a ship is no very
mighty affair, no prodigy, nothing that shall have anything of the
miraculous in it, and I look forward to being rescued with profound
confidence. Did you ever hear of the 'sweet little cherub that sits-up
aloft' forsaking poor Jack?"

"It was a passing mood," answered Reynolds, softly. "But, remember,
that for many months I have heard this noise of the trees, I have
watched that moon, I have listened to the sea, I have thought through
many bitter waking thoughts, I have prayed to God, alone--always alone."

That night they occupied the cave together. There was plenty of grass
in it, and Reynolds easily felt and found a couch near Goodhart's. It
was totally black inside, but the silver dimness in the atmosphere lay
like tissue-paper stretched over the mouth of the cave.

Twice before one o'clock in the morning Reynolds went out and gained
a height and looked about him; but the boat had not returned. Nothing
moved upon the surface of the island, but a quick, though stormy, dance
of shadows. It was blowing fresh; the dwarf trees roared with the surf,
and the moon shot through the swift drift. He fell asleep, but was
awakened by a loud report.

Goodhart cried out, "What was that?"

"Was it a cannon shot?" said Reynolds, standing up.

Another sharp rattle, and the lightning glanced in blue splendour at
the mouth of the cave.

"My God!" cried Reynolds. "What chance will this sort of thing give the
boat?"

"But think," said Goodhart, "that we might be in her."

The sheen of the lightning sank in instant pulses into the cavern's
blackness, and the two men in the flashes were revealed to each other.
Again Reynolds stepped out. It was not raining on the island. A heavy
thunderstorm was playing over the sea about two miles distant, and the
moon was sunk into a mere jelly of moist light in the shrouding of
the weather that was stretched out over the heavens from the electric
vapour.

"Goodhart," cried Reynolds, running to the mouth of the cave to shout,
"come and see a wonderful sight!"

What was it? The lightning was frequent and fierce, and every white or
crimson spark that flashed upon the eye its wire-like rill of fire,
illuminated two gigantic waterspouts about half a mile distant on
the west side; touching them into stately columns of the aspect of
white-hot metal, their foot in foam, their head lifted with inky vapour
into the aspect of the cocoanut tree.

"If they are coming this way we shall be deluged," said Goodhart

But their waltz was to the southward. The two men watched this
wonderful, lightning-revealed picture, sublime and awful with its
accompaniments of the midnight, of the lightning-dart, of the
thunder-shock, and the universal roaring of an angry ocean. They
returned to the cave and lay down; but for some time neither could
sleep, though one was a sailor and the other had been well salted,
owing to the rushing noise made by the rain, which descended in a
living sheet, as though it was a great lake coming down from the edge
of a mountain, and but for the cave being on a slope, they would have
been floated out.

The morning was cool, calm, and bright. Their first act was to
scan the sea for the boat, but the ocean was a plain as naked as a
looking-glass. The water swang to the shore softly, and melted in
caresses of froth.

"Do you see anything like a sail?" said Reynolds.

"Nothing," answered Goodhart, after a long and careful scrutiny of the
whole circle of horizon. "But I am not to be depressed. I am perfectly
satisfied to think that I am not afloat in that boat."

"It is inconceivable that she was picked up by the vessel," said
Reynolds. "As likely as not they were swamped in the night."

Goodhart went to the river and Reynolds to the rock to catch a fish
for breakfast. This morning he secured a fish shaped like a salmon,
gorgeously dyed, and weighing about eight pounds. He had caught this
sort of fish about twice or thrice before, and found it delicious
eating. He made his fire and began to cook. Goodhart kept him waiting;
indeed, he grew anxious, and was going to seek him when he saw him
coming slowly from the direction of the river, holding what resembled a
satchel in his hand. He stepped with this satchel-like thing into the
cave, and emerged with nothing in his hands.

Reynolds looked at him and instantly observed a diminution of his
bulk--that bulk of trunk whose extravagance had often puzzled him. He
said nothing, and Goodhart, coming near the cook-hole with his kind and
gracious smile, seated himself. Undoubtedly his figure had undergone a
change since he had visited the river. He was now a well-proportioned
man, without that stuffed look which had excited conjectures in
Reynolds. His coat lay open. The massive watch-chain rested upon his
waistcoat; his attire was indeed in a state of princely freshness
compared with that of his companion; but then he had not been seven
months on the island, nor had he been thrown ashore on toothed rocks by
the breakers of a gale of wind.

Goodhart's smile vanished as he viewed his friend thoughtfully, with
an impressive and inspiriting air of kindness. They had ceased to
"captain" and "mister" each other.

"How long will you be able to support this sort of existence?" said
Reynolds.

"I keep my mind tranquil with the fixed assurance of release," answered
Goodhart, taking up a slice of fish with a leaf and beginning to eat.
"It may be delayed; but it will come. I do not think of myself as a
prisoner. I could be worse off, I have been worse off. This fish is
excellently tasted. I do not miss liquor; those cascades are a noble
drinking-fountain. I should be glad of a substitute for bread, but
whilst our mushrooms flourish I shall not grumble."

"I am sick of it, Goodhart," said Reynolds. "So will you be soon."

"I assure you, Reynolds," replied Goodhart, with a note of cordial
cheerfulness, "that your companionship, and my own state, tastes,
and habits of life render this imprisonment, as you term it, so
little disagreeable to me that if a few comforts could be contrived
I should be very well pleased to accept this brief sentence of exile
as a pleasant holiday in a delicious climate under circumstances
delightfully romantic."

Reynolds smiled and bowed, and said, "You are a true philosopher."

"What are our wants for this holiday until we are taken off? A little
cottage, a loaf of bread a day, a joint of fresh meat to vary the
eternity of the produce of the creek, tobacco for the pipe, and a few
boxes of cigars. We enjoy a royal state, for we do not need money, and
the greatest monarch might envy us for that. But weigh against our
humble requirements the blessings of our escape from shipwreck, yonder
glorious privilege of bright falling waters, the agreeable dishes
swimming in that creek, or sticking to the rocks, or growing in the
ground. We might go further," he added, looking significantly seaward,
evidently thinking of the boat, "and fare worse."

"When you get home--I will not say if you get home, in the face of
your magnificent spirit of hope--where shall you settle?"

"Not in Ireland."

"You are the sort of man they want there."

"Well, it may come to Great Britain dealing with Ireland as a colony
and extirpating the few lingering natives by swamping the country with
British emigrants and settlers."

"That would solve the Irish question," said Reynolds.

"I shall settle in London," said Goodhart. "There you can get
everything you want, the best and the worst of everything, and with
judgment you can make ten shillings do what a sovereign scarcely does
in a provincial town."

"I hate London," burst out Reynolds. "Particularly Bayswater."

"But why Bayswater?" laughed Goodhart. "Why not Hackney or Clapham?"

"I was married in Bayswater," answered Reynolds; and, jumping to his
feet, he hove a stone at a penguin that was sitting like a robed bishop
on a rock.

Goodhart viewed him for a moment or two in thought.

"Do you observe," said he, putting his hands to his sides, "that I have
lost weight since bathing?"

"You are certainly thinner."

Goodhart again viewed him as though he had fallen into a fit of
profound musing, then, rising, he said--

"Reynolds, come into the cave with me."




CHAPTER X.--TWO GRAVES

REYNOLDS, greatly marvelling, followed his companion into the cave.
After the necessary pause to accustom the sight to the interior gloom,
Goodhart, stepped to the old sea-chest, and, opening the lid, took
from the bottom two thin bags united by a pair of shoulder-straps. He
carried these bags or satchels to the mouth of the cave. Each bag was
formed of a waterproof tissue with a rope handle of silk connected with
straps like a man's braces. It was easy to see that these satchels or
bags had been made to wear on the back or chest. They were filled with
folded documents.

"These," said Goodhart, holding up the satchels, "represent all that I
possess in the world outside what I carry in my pockets. They contain
the product of thirty-five years of hard labour."

He hung the satchels by their straps over his arm and extracted one of
the documents, and opening it, handed it, with his delightful smile, to
Reynolds, saying--

"There are eleven of them, and they all carry the same face."

The document in Reynolds' hand was a one-thousand pound Victoria four
per cent bond, the date of whose issue was 1885. It was shorn of the
coupons which had matured.

"These bags," continued Goodhart, receiving and returning the bond to
its sack, "contain Colonial Government securities amounting to the
value of eleven thousand pounds, and you will easily understand why I
chose to remain a bloated body whilst the sailors stayed on the island."

"But why do you carry such things about with you?" said Reynolds,
who was not very much affected by the sight of the sacks: rather
disappointed, indeed, for he had looked for something solemn and deep,
and not a commonplace exhibition of Stock Exchange securities, in his
friend's invitation to follow him into the cave. "All that money might
have gone down in the Esmond."

"When it was suggested to me to convert the bonds into inscribed stock,
I found the difference in price sufficiently great to determine me to
keep what I had got. Besides," said Goodhart, with his mild look and
gentle smile, "had these bonds foundered with me, I should have been
disproving the general belief that a man cannot take his money with him
to the grave."

He was going to the chest to replace the sacks.

"Do you mean to keep them there?" said Reynolds.

"Why not?"

"Suppose such another crew as yours comes ashore--would to God they
would!--and we are on the other side of the island, or they catch us
napping, and they come to this cave and forthwith open the chest."

"Where shall I put them?" said Goodhart, looking round the gloomy
interior.

"Bury them. This is good dry soil."

Reynolds went outside to fetch the shovel, and began to dig a hole in
the corner of the cave.

"You are right," said Goodhart, "and we never could forget where we had
placed them." And whilst Reynolds dug, his friend proceeded: "Plenty
of time was allowed us aboard the Esmond. I went below and took off
my coat and waistcoat and put these bags on. They bulked me out, but
not in such a way as to excite attention, unless in a Customs man, whom
I was not afraid of meeting. You noticed probably that I have always
bathed in a furtive sort of way. Naturally I did not desire my satchels
to be seen by the sailors. Marine tradition has been enriched by some
dark stories founded on sums of money much smaller than the amount you
are digging a grave for."

"Oh yes," said Reynolds, manfully plying his shovel and scraping rather
than digging into the hard dry cavern floor. "I should have felt very
uncomfortable of a night, or even of a day, to reflect that you were
sleeping or going about bulged out with those bonds, if their existence
and the value of them had been known to the men. 'Lead us not into
temptation, but deliver us from evil!' I am glad that you did not tell
me that you had them upon you. I should have trembled for your safety
if by the merest accident the secret had been betrayed to the sailors."

When the hole was made, Reynolds went out and cut a quantity of dry
grass, with which he lined the grave. Then, putting in the bags, he
covered them up with the stuff he had thrown out.

"There," said he, with a final appreciative pat with the shovel. "No
gem could lie more secret fathoms deep in rock."

They walked into the sunshine and down upon the lovely length of coral
foreshore, which they paced. The breaker was curling to them out of the
blue water. The sea-bird hovered and glanced, glistened and darkened as
it winged about; the morning light lay in glory upon the ocean, and the
off-shore breeze was scented with the land.

"Eleven thousand pounds is a small sum to represent the savings and
labours of thirty-five years," said Goodhart.

"It's more than you would have made as a philosopher," exclaimed
Reynolds.

"I don't know," answered Goodhart, "there are some professors who are
deucedly well paid. I knew a man who received two thousand a year, and
a more bigoted coxcomb, insolent in cocksureness, contemptibly venomous
in hostility, never led others astray."

"What are these professors paid for?"

"To lecture, for the most part," answered Goodhart, with his lip taking
a slight curl of contempt.

"Well, of all vocations," said Reynolds, "I do hold the sea life to
be the most beggarly--I mean the merchant sea life. In the Navy you
get a pension. You invest your labours, for which the State pays you,
and when it is done with you it sends you a sum annually that may make
you easy for life. You shall serve a shipowner for years honestly,
anxiously, most dutifully, and when he is done with you you go about
your business--to the workhouse for all the employer cares."

"How are you off?"

"Badly."

"No savings?"

"A few pounds."

"Has your wife money?"

"A little. But if she had a million what good would it be to me?"

"It is difficult to meet a man without a relation of some sort," said
Goodhart. "But that, as I told you, happens to be my case. Both my
parents were only children. I am the sole survivor of my family. I
have many acquaintances, but no friends; but I believe I have found
a friend." He looked with a smile at Reynolds. "Our association," he
continued, "has not been long, but it has given me very great pleasure,
and I trust it may not end with our release. There is enough for two up
there," he continued, inclining his head in the direction of the cave,
"and if I am called first, to whom but to a sufferer who has taught me
to respect, and admire, and like him, should I wish it to go?"

The pale, worn, and scarred face of Reynolds flushed with emotion, his
eyes moistened; the passion of gratitude and of that sort of love which
is born of beautiful feeling, cordial kindness, and sincere sympathy
between man and man ran a-trembling through him.

"It is not your money, Goodhart," he exclaimed in a low voice, catching
his breath with a sharp, hysterical shake of the head. "It is your
goodness."

He was right in that, for surely it is the smile that sweetens the
gift; it is the impulse of which the deed is the fruit that endears
and is best valued by the heart whose purest and most exalted emotions
it excites. And it is quite conceivable that two men thrown into each
other's company by the adversity of shipwreck should grow so attached
that when their deliverance has come about they have chosen to dwell
together as brothers. Let us not doubt that such things have happened,
for the story of marine peril runs back deep into time.

"But do not suppose," said Goodhart, with a little pensiveness in the
arch look he put on, "that I flatter myself on being sure of you. Your
first act on reaching England will be to inquire after your wife."

"To inquire, perhaps, and there an end."

"No, you will learn that she is living somewhere, and you'll write to
her and entreat her to grant you an interview."

"I don't think so."

"My dear fellow, the fascination that won you must still be hers, and
when you see her the old spell will exert its magic."

"Spells are often broken," said Reynolds, moodily.

Enough had been said on this subject. Goodhart stopped to view the
breakers as they curved in caves of liquid blue glass, and broke with
summer softness and tropic glory.

"It seems to me," said he, "that Science is a little too willing to
overlook the precedent idea in Nature. The ultimate link in the chain
of causation is neglected because philosophy is indisposed to discuss
the only hook by which it can be hung up. All that we produce in art
is the result of antecedent idea--the house, the picture, the statue,
the fountain. Without the idea of these things the things could not
be engendered. Now, why are we forbidden to witness idea--the Divine
idea--in what we behold in Nature--the tree, the flower, the man?
Molecules form themselves into shapes of beauty. I don't claim
sentience for these particles of matter, which may be a snow-flake,
a fibre of colour in liquor, a red rose;" he smiled as he spoke.
"But I claim these formations as the effect of a law which has been
preceded by idea! 'Mind cannot create, it can only perceive,' once
wrote Charles Lloyd, a remark which deeply impressed the poet Shelley.
We perceive the idea in Nature, and in our way we produce it as Art.
As we cannot create, how should we be able to perceive the idea if it
were not the antecedent of what we know and study? I think it is Dr.
Alcock who expresses surprise that those whose business it is to create
should have generally neglected the wonderful examples and perfect
models which abound in Nature. He tells us that all animated Nature
is full of hints for perfecting existing mechanical contrivances,
and of suggestions for inventions not even thought of. The teredo
(or ship-worm) inspired Brunei with the plan of tunneling which was
employed by him in the Thames tunnel, and yet Science denies idea, and
commits itself to a fatuous theory of chance."

"I have always held the opinion you express," said Reynolds, "and upon
it I have based, as rootedly as a lighthouse upon a rock, my faith in
the existence of God."

"It is Tyndall that speaks of matter," continued Goodhart, after a
pause, whilst he gazed at the arching breakers, "as possessed of a
power of shaping itself into forms of beauty. It is a gift. Who or
what is the giver? Mark the beauty in those arching waters; in the
conformation of that rock; in the spout and fall of those cascades: in
all that meets the eye. When alum crystallizes perfect octahedrons are
formed. The crystallization of carbonate of lime results in beautiful
rhomboids. By crystallizing silica you get hexagonal prisms, capped
at the ends by pyramids, and, of course, you know that when carbon
crystallizes you get the diamond. Surely all this loveliness must be
the effect of the precedent idea reaching its end by laws which proceed
from the creative mind."

"During my stay here," said Reynolds, "I have discovered a flower that
smells only by night. It is absolutely scentless when the sun is up. It
will not be found at this season. I have wondered what virtue there is
in darkness, that puts most things to sleep, to waken life in a flower
in the shape of perfume."

"You will probably find the phenomenon explained by the law of
vibration," answered Goodhart. "Take, for example, the sensation of
hearing. If the sound-vibrations number less than sixteen a second we
are conscious only of the separate shocks. If they exceed thirty-eight
thousand a second the ear does not receive the sound. The range of the
best ear is said to be about eleven octaves. I suppose the sensation
of smell may also be computed in octaves. What the range is I can't
imagine, but undoubtedly the vibrations of the flower that is scented
by night only are so rapid in sunlight as to exceed the power of
consciousness in the sense of smell. Now that I come to think of it,"
he added, "Humboldt, I believe it is, tells us that from a certain
position on the Plains of Antures the sound of the great Falls of
Orinoco resemble the beating of a surf upon a rocky shore, and is
much louder by night than by day. He held this to be due to the sound
passing through an atmosphere which frequently changed its density. At
night differences of temperature ceased, and sound-waves, travelling
through a homogeneous atmosphere, reached the ear undiminished by
reflection. As the operations of nature are uniform in their infinite
variety, the law that applies to the sound of the great Falls may be
the law under which comes the flower that is fragrant only at night.
... I am a little tired. I wish my heart was stronger."

They walked slowly in the direction of the dell and sat down.



And now, on this the day immediately following the boat's attempt to
intercept the ship, it was the destiny of these two men to enter into
a spell of waiting and hoping until May 20, 1892, when came a change,
for though it is true that matter is indestructible, it is equally true
that things as they are do not last for ever.

In this time of expectation, and during the course of their constant
conversations, it came to be clearly understood between them that, if
it should please God to call Goodhart away whilst he was on the island
Reynolds must consider himself his heir, and would take possession
of the bonds and the property he would find upon the person of his
friend. This, indeed, was obvious and inevitable, because it was not
to be supposed that, if Reynolds survived Goodhart and was rescued, he
would leave eleven thousand pounds of securities to rot in a grave in a
cave, though, had Goodhart owned connections and expressed his wishes,
Reynolds was the man to have fulfilled his desires as completely as
though Goodhart himself had acted.

A true and honest love for each other had penetrated these men's
hearts. There was a kinship of nature between them. They were congenial
souls--Goodhart the loftier and the more simple, but Reynolds was
liberally endowed with those gifts of character which enable a man
to adorn life when his means suffer him to occupy a position for
their proper display. He would have done well in the Royal Navy. He
would have been a popular officer as president of a gun-room mess,
or as a talker or listener at the ward-room table. He was too good
for the Merchant Service, as, unhappily, it is in these days in the
main represented. Goodhart loved Reynolds for the simplicity of his
nature; for his habit of thought; for a bouquet or aroma of character
which cannot be conveyed by words. He sympathized with the deep, the
apparently irreparable sorrow his wife had caused him, and affection
is often in close alliance with sympathy. He liked him as a sailor,
himself having used the sea for a living; he compassionated his
distress as a castaway whose fortune was broken, whose "hearth was
cold." Indeed, Goodhart was a man in whose soul dwelt a quality of
greatness, and his character was exalted by the nobility of his manhood
and the possession of those virtues which make men blessed in the eyes
of God, and Reynolds would have died for him.

In all these dreary, weary, and spirit-quenching weeks they kept a
close look-out for ships' sails and the smoke of funnels, and held
in readiness a stock of fuel in the hollow on the hill ready for the
burning-glass; but never once did Reynolds catch sight of a ship, and
Goodhart, in all that while, four times only, three sail and one trail
of smoke, all far in the north, two happening in a week and the others
in three months, but all at such a distance as to make them of no more
good to the poor disconsolate watchers than the sea-fowl that wheeled
between. It seemed incredible to Goodhart that no ship should ever
approach the island; but for all that he declared again and again that
he would sooner take his chance of three, ay, or even of five years'
captivity, than have trusted himself in that open boat to intercept
a distant ship with oars only and a slender store of food and fresh
water, and eight men, as there would have been. And again and again he
would say in varying words when sunset flushed a desolate, bare plain
of ocean, and they had stood together looking into the liquid distance
till they saw a star--

"No matter. It may be but one more night for us to wait. To-morrow may
find us on board ship; and how long will it take us to forget this
brief detention? How easily we forget the operation we feared we should
die under, the quarrel which we thought we should never be able to make
up! I am fond of Swift's remark: 'It is always too hot or it is always
too cold, but, somehow or other, God Almighty so contrives it that at
the end of the year it is all the same.'"

It was fortunate for them that they occupied an island which lies in
the temperate latitudes, where there is almost constantly a summer
softness in the air, and where even June, which is our December, has no
fierceness. The cave was dry and sheltered them well, and the tangle of
bushes on either side of the entrance was a good screen when the wind
blew into the mouth from the south-west.

As the time wore on, Goodhart would often fall into long fits of
abstraction, moods of pensive withdrawal from the visible, a deep
sinking into himself, with that inward-turned expression of face
which betrays the mind that is wandering through the long corridors
of memory lighted by the mystical irradiation which is also memory's.
Occasionally he complained of the weakness of his heart, and there was
no doubt that the privations he was enduring could not help him to
fight this organic trouble. If he mounted a rise for even twenty feet
he would pause to breathe with evident distress, and Reynolds often
watched him with deep solicitude.

Came the 20th of May, 1892, which is our November. Reynolds awoke and
went out of the cave, leaving Goodhart sleeping. The figure of his
companion was easily visible to Reynolds, whose sight, fresh from the
seals of sleep, found a good light reflected from the radiance outside
the cave's mouth. He went about as usual to prepare the cook-pit,
taking a look at the sea, but in a sort of hopeless way which was a
habit and would have been most moving to a spectator: and the look he
directed was also influenced by the knowledge that unless a ship was
hull up and within two or three miles she would be invisible to him.

He walked down to the creek to fish. This was an inexhaustible source
of supply; the fish never seemed to go away: no sooner was the bait
sunk than a cod, or a salmon-shaped fish, or a fish shaped like a
turbot but gloriously adorned, would come up, and Reynolds, as you may
suppose, was now an adroit artist in the use of his landing-basket.
When he returned he found that Goodhart still remained inside. He
cleaned and cut up his fish and lighted his fire, every minute
expecting Goodhart to appear. He prepared his shovel with a couple of
slices, but before he set his strange pan upon the fire he thought
he would look into the cave. After the necessary pause, he stooped
and peered at the sleeper. Goodhart's eyes were partially closed. He
was fat in the throat, and when lying, his chin reposed upon its own
layers, and prevented the jaw from dropping.

Reynolds said softly, "Goodhart!" Then "Goodhart!" more loudly; then
cried his name strongly, taking him by the shoulder and shaking him.
The corpse, though often entreated, has never yet responded to the
human cry. Not one of the millions since the beginning of things has
spoken to tell us what it means and what it has found out.

Reynolds took up the dead man's hand. It was as cold as putty and fell
like putty when released. A wild and frightful heart-cracking sensation
of horror and consternation seized the unhappy, lonely, forsaken man.
Again alone, how much lonelier now than when he was alone before he but
too surely knew. He reared his figure and gazed at the dead, motionless
as a statue. A flood of sorrow overwhelmed his soul. He fell upon his
grass couch, and hid his face, and sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed.

He rose again and looked at Goodhart; then ran out into the sunshine
and fell to pacing the ground as though he was gone mad. Nobody to
speak to now. Nobody to soothe him with precious and beautiful words
of hope. He thinks his heart must break. He will die, and again before
his mental vision the picture of his body, supine, a ragged, bearded,
rotten, shameless corpse shaped itself, and his long finger-nails dug
themselves into the palms of his hands in the agony of his thoughts.

The morning had advanced before the tempest of distress that flashed
and groaned in the poor fellow was spent, and then he entered the cave
and again looked at Goodhart. Oh yes, he was dead. Death never made
a plainer report that It was in possession. He went to the river to
drink, and feeling faint with fasting remade his fire and cooked a
piece of fish. What his reflections were you shall readily conceive.
Never was the enormous solitude of the island so oppressive. Never did
the horizon of the sea seem more remote, never the prospect of release
more hopeless. He would go mad! Those birds uttering cries like the
creaking of strained timber in a sea-way, the melancholy monotonous
roar of surf, the eternity of the dwarf trees, of the falling cascades,
of those circling winged shapes, of that sliding, burning eye of sun:
these things must, by endless iteration, drive the reason out of his
skull.

In the afternoon he went about to dig a grave. He was slow because he
could not ply the shovel as though it were a spade. He chose the centre
of the dell for a resting-place for his friend, as the soil was more
easily dug up in this part than elsewhere. It is hard to imagine a more
pathetic figure than this poor man made, bearded, pale, and ragged,
alone, surveyed now and again by a circling sea-bird, digging a hole in
which to secrete the remains of a man he had learnt to love.

He had finished his sad task by sunset, but not before. He made his way
by the twilight to the river to drink, and came back to eat the remains
of his cooked fish, and that night he slept in the old fissure, his
bed-place of seven months. He was very low and nervous, distracted by
the grief occasioned by his loss, subdued into a sense of dumb, aching
suspense which was a sort of hysteria proper to raise a ghost again to
pace the dell, and he could not bring himself to lie in the cave with
the dead body. He obtained some rest in the night, and after attending
to his needs in the morning, he proceeded with the task of burying
Goodhart.

Nothing could be more painful to him than the idea of despoiling the
body of its property, removing the clothes, and dragging the dead to
its burial-place. But all this had to be done. Reynolds possessed the
strictest title to all that Goodhart had left. The man who was dead had
never named a relative: he had, indeed, stated again and again that he
was as much alone in the world as Reynolds on his island; so that, his
being dead, his bonds and belongings were as much Reynolds' as if they
had been willed to him, or as if he had preceded Reynolds in his lonely
occupation of the island, and left his bonds and property to be taken
by the first who was lucky enough to find them.

Reynolds found these things in the dead man's pockets--a very handsome
gold watch and chain, to which was attached a spade guinea and a small
revolving seal, bearing his wife's initials on one side and his own
on the other; a handsome Russia-leather pocket-book, the contents of
which he did not then examine, but which he afterwards found to hold
four Bank of England notes of fifty pounds each, eight of ten pounds
each, and five of five pounds: also four letters from his wife, one
containing a lock of her hair. These he would have buried with the body
if he had thought of inspecting the contents of the pocket-book before
the interment. But he was too much worried, affected--he was grieving
too much over his loss and the sorrowful task imposed upon him, to
think of examining the value of his poor friend's pocket possessions.
He also found an elaborate knife full of useful blades and tools, a
gold pencil-case, a purse containing some sovereigns and silver, a gold
tooth-pick, and a silver match-box.

He put these things in the chest for the present, as his clothes were
little more than rags, which hung upon him like wet weed on a rock, and
his pockets broken and useless, and then removed the coat, waistcoat;
and trousers. This done, with trembling hands and a sobbing heart he
gently and reverentially dragged the body down the slope to the grave
he had dug, and after lining the trench with grass, with most pious
hands he contrived to let the corpse slide into the grave, where it
rested on its back, looking with sweet expression in death up to
that God whom in life he had adored. With him was buried his wife's
wedding-ring and the ring he wore on his forefinger. Reynolds next
covered the body with grass and leaves, and when this was done he knelt
and pronounced aloud these simple words: "Father, receive him, and do
not forsake me."

He arose and began to shovel in the earth, haunted by this reflection,
"If I die here, who will bury me?" And he shuddered again and again to
the loathsome image that held aghast the vision of his mind.

The hours passed in this melancholy work, and in the afternoon he had
heaped up a sight-catching grave, which he resolved to memorialize.
So next day, with the axe, he had hewed down a stout bough and made
a cross out of it, and in the next two or three days, during the
intervals of providing for his own necessities, he cut these words--


"JOHN GOODHART, died May 20,1892.

Buried by his loving friend and mourner, 
Francis Reynolds.

Lord have mercy upon us."


The letters were small, for the split surface on which they were traced
was narrow. But they were cut deep and well. He was something of an
artist with a knife, and in Goodhart's he had a good tool. He could
carve model sailing-ships, make toy chests of drawers, and dolls'
houses, and had been chased and caned more than once in his youth for
cutting his name in church sittings, school-desks, park-seats, and the
like.

He was once again alone--lonelier than when he was formerly alone,
lonelier by virtue of the knowledge he had gained that ships might pass
and he would not see them unless they came close in.




CHAPTER XI.--THE "CHANTICLEER"

CAPTAIN FRANCIS REYNOLDS, bankrupt by shipwreck, was now a rich man;
that is to say, he was rich beyond any dreams of avarice which had ever
entered his head. For how long does a master in the Merchant Service
take as a rule to save out of perhaps the poorest-paid calling in the
world the handsome sum of eleven thousand pounds, with a few hundred
pounds on top in notes and gold; just enough to open a pretty little
banking account with?

But Reynolds did not happen to take an inspiriting view of the noble
turn which fortune had done him. He was never once visited by a single
heart-beat of exultation. The solemn and sturdy sense of satisfaction
and repose of spirit which attend competence did not come to swell his
heart. On the contrary, he regarded himself as a miserable hopeless
castaway, as a wretch whose hideous doom prayer was not likely to
avert; and the bonds in the cave, and the notes and property in the
chest, were as worthless in his sight as the leaf on the tree, or the
empty sea-shell on the sand.

At the same time, he was sensible that he had most honourably come by
this little estate, and he would sit and lament that he could make no
use of it. The desire of his soul was that Lucretia should get it, and
learn from whom it came, and in what state the husband she had forsaken
had been when he contrived that she should receive it. Mrs. Lane was by
no means well off. Dr. Lane in his day had been tempted to gamble on
the Stock Exchange. "The old fool went into mines," his friends said.
He could not ask for a simpler and surer grave for the everlasting
entombment of his capital, which he had gotten by painful toil, by
tedious, anxious vigils in sick-rooms, by exposure to weather, and to
the many morbific diseases to which flesh is heir. Panic seized him. To
rescue himself, his wife, and daughter from the workhouse he purchased
an annuity on his own and Mrs. Lane's life, on which, and about one
hundred a year, which Lucretia would come into on her mother's death,
and which represented money that had not gone to the jobbers, Mrs. Lane
and Lucretia lived.

All this was known to Reynolds, and whenever he thought of the bonds in
the cave, he longed to give them to his wife, though convinced he would
never meet her again. But how was this to be done? He pondered in vain.
It was an end impossible to arrive at. Ideas occurred to him which
he considered absurd. He had Goodhart's gold pencil, and there was a
flat pencil in the chest; a roll of paper was there, and in that chest
were blank leaves of letters--Mrs. Goodhart's, and a few of Lucretia's
to him; his wife's letters had been in his pocket when he was washed
ashore. The ink had run, the writing was indecipherable; but he had
kept the letters, nevertheless, and they had dried long ago, and were
fit where they were blank to receive pen or pencil.

He said to himself: "If I write my wishes, how am I to despatch them?
I have not even an empty bottle to cork the missive up in, and send it
afloat. But suppose this could be managed; the man who picked up the
bottle (if it did not go washing about till the crack of doom) might
value the secret too highly to betray it, come to the island, and carry
off the bonds."

It will be seen that in these speculations he conceived himself dead.
But one day, being vastly exercised by thoughts of his wife and the
bonds, he formed a resolution. He said to himself: "I will write a sort
of will, and take my chance of its being found by one who will prove
honest enough to carry out the instructions it contains."

For he clearly understood that if he was to die on the island, the
buried bonds must remain a secret for ever; and eleven thousand pounds
would be left to rot in a cave, of no good to mortal man, when, by
leaving a declaration of the existence of the treasure--which it truly
was--it might, peradventure, come safely into his wife's hands, and
benefit the honest fellow who delivered it to her.

He took the roll of old paper from the shelf in the chest, and using
Goodhart's pencil-case, he sat down on the grass, employing the back of
the shovel as a table. A useful shovel! It had served as a frying-pan,
as a mattock for the burial of a man's bonds, and then the man himself,
and now it was to supply the place of a desk. He wrote thus:--


"June 15, 1892. I who write this am Captain Francis Reynolds. I
commanded the ship Flying Spur, which sailed from Falmouth, October
13, 1890, and was lost off this island through fire, and in half a
gale of wind, February 2, 1891. I am the sole survivor of the whole
ship's company. This, at least, is my conviction. I remained alone
till September 14, seven months of solitude, when a boat arrived with
six seamen of the crew of the Esmond, that had gone down through
a collision, and Mr. John Goodhart, of Sydney, New South Wales. The
sailors stayed on the island until October 2, on which day they chased
a ship, but the boat was without mast or sail, and I am certain that
she never came up with that ship, and I am also persuaded that she will
not again be heard of. Had her people been rescued, they would have
reported Mr. Goodhart and me as being left, and we would have been
fetched, not necessarily by the ship that received the men, but through
the report of her master; plenty of time having elapsed to allow for
that report to reach the ears of a British Consul, who would consider
it his duty to communicate with the commander-in-chief on the Pacific
station.

"When the boat had left the island, Mr. Goodhart showed me, in a couple
of waterproof sacks, eleven Victoria 4 per cent, bonds, each of the
value of one thousand pounds. He informed me that his wife had died in
childbed at Sydney, and that he was absolutely without kith or kin. We
conceived a great liking for each other. We were one in sympathy and
tastes. But his was a very great and noble mind. Our comradeship in
privation, and the sufferings which attend shipwreck, heightened our
affection, and endeared us to each other. He told me that if he died on
the island I was to consider myself as his heir, and take possession,
not only of his bonds, but also of all the property which was upon his
person. As I shall continue to carry that property about with me in his
clothes, which I am wearing, it will be found upon my remains, which
cannot lie far away from this spot, if, indeed, I do not die in the
cave; and the discoverer of this letter must seek my body, and take
what is on it; and I implore him, in God's name, to bury me.

"To provide against the risk of a landing being effected unseen by us,
in which case the cave might be entered, the chest explored, and the
bonds removed, I buried them with the approval of Mr. Goodhart, and
the place where they lie will be found marked by a short spade-shaped
stake, which I drove into the ground, to help me should my memory come
to be weakened. My wife, Lucretia, when I left England, was living
with her mother, Mrs. Lane, in Chepstow Place, Bays water, London, W.,
and it is my earnest wish that she should be the recipient of these
bonds and the property that may be found upon me. To which end I, a
broken-hearted, desolate, dying man, humbly and affectionately greet
the reader of this letter, and do entreat him, as he loves God and the
truth and honour, to convey these words and the property to my wife,
Lucretia Reynolds, who, for the trouble he is at in finding her, if she
has removed, and in acting as my emissary, will receive fifteen hundred
pounds, which he will more greatly enjoy, as money honourably and
virtuously gained, than if he kept the whole sum, thereby robbing the
widow, and blasting the only hope which keeps warm and alive the heart
that dictates these words. Again I greet and bless you, and thank you
for the noble service you will be doing me.

"FRANCIS REYNOLDS."


The mere writing this letter was almost as good as a talk, almost as
comforting to the poor fellow as the sound of a voice. He was even
warmed, when he ended it and had read it over, by a little glow of
hope. It was a something done, an act with a possibility attached to
it. He went into the cave, and, opening the chest, took out an envelope
that had been addressed to him by Lucretia; but the ink had been
dissolved by immersion into mere stains. The envelope was dry, and he
wrote upon it--


"TO THE HONOURABLE STRANGER."


He put his letter into the envelope, and, by working it with his knife,
drew a nail out of the ruptured lock, and nailed the missive to the lid
of the chest.

This was a great day's work, and he had not felt easier in spirits
for many a long hour. He diverted, or rather distracted his mind by
conceiving the sort of person who would find the letter. But his face
lengthened, the faint tinge of colour deserted his hollow cheek, when
Fancy, exerting her brush, painted the image of a man cautiously
entering the cave, then staring at the old sea-chest, then bringing the
letter away from the nail to the mouth of the cave to read it, then
picking up the shovel and digging out the bonds, then proceeding to
search for--Reynolds' dead body! He did not fear the passage from life
into negation. He could not suppose it difficult to die. He was certain
that in nearly all cases Nature gently slopes the way, and puts her
child to rest as a mother her baby. And he was fond of these lines--


"To die is landing on some silent shore
Where billows never beat nor tempests roar;
Ere well we feel the friendly stroke, 'tis o'er."


Doubtless it was the human instinct of decency, or maybe it was the
secret passion in most of us that our ashes shall be honourably used,
that stirred in him. Somehow his very soul recoiled from the idea of
his body lying unburied, submitting a pitiful shocking spectacle to him
who met with it. It is the pride of the spirit which demands that its
earthly tabernacle shall not be dishonoured when life is fled. There is
nothing of human weakness in this quality. It is in true keeping with
our most exalted thoughts that the spirit of man should desire that
the shape of flesh which it warmed, which it informed, which expressed
in brilliance of eye, in colouration of cheek, in play of mouth, in
motion of limbs, the animation of its soul, should, when that soul has
departed, be reverently composed and decently draped for death, and
piously memorialized.

This same day, being full of his will, as he chose to think of his
letter, he took the guineas and silver out of the shelf in the
chest, and dropped them into Goodhart's purse, which he returned to
his pocket. Goodhart's clothes had been fairly new and of excellent
quality, and they fitted Reynolds. But who would have recognized in
that pale, hollow, bearded, scarred face, the lustreless left eye, the
ruined cheek at the corner of the mouth, in the long hair streaked with
grey, in that sad, wistful, hearkening expression which attends long
watching and hope deferred, the good-looking, erect, close-shaven man,
who had stood before the altar in St. Stephen's Church with Lucretia
Lane on Wednesday afternoon, September 16, 1890?

But not yet was Goodhart's prediction to be verified, and Reynolds
released from his long captivity and bitter solitude; from his sad and
solemn contemplations of the awful and stupendous chasms of silence in
interstellar space; from the voice of the sea sobbing in the calm or
bellowing in the gale; from the whispers as of spirit-tongues in the
trees, often to his visionary ear syllabling his name as though he were
summoned; from the weariness of his lonely strolls, his solitary labour
in the creek and over the fire-pit, the waking to the cold and desolate
grey of the dawn, the going to rest with the sea-bird at the mandate of
the dusk and the first of the stars.

Came September 4, 1892. A cool fair morning, light clouds moving
lazily, a note of languor in the blow of the surge. Reynolds went
for his bath and a drink of cold water. In returning he stepped from
the shorter way to the cave to ascend an elevation. The first thing
he saw, on looking at the sea, was a small brig heading in. She bore
about north-north-west. The wind was about west, and she flapped and
curtseyed as she floated softly onwards.

At sight of her Reynolds was transfixed for the space of a minute,
then the powerful instinct of self-preservation broke the hysteric
spell; with the speed of a madman he rushed to the cave, picking up
the shovel near the cook-pit as he went, drove with weight of foot and
rage of muscle into the earth, exposed the bonds, tore off his coat and
waistcoat, slung the sacks upon his chest and back, and, struggling
into his waistcoat, ran headlong to the beach, wrestling into his
coat, as he dashed down the slope. On the brilliant whiteness of that
foreshore of coral nothing could have been more visible--not even the
hill behind of three hundred feet--than Reynolds' figure, motioning
like a firework in frenzied dumb-show. Had his sight been good he would
have known he was seen. Invisible to him, but easily within reach of
a good eye, a man stood near the wheel of the brig, waving a white
grass hat above the bulwark-rail. She was a little vessel of about two
hundred and fifty tons: her white breasts panted, as she sank and rose
upon the tireless swell of the sea; a band of white ran round her,
broken by painted ports; the sun flashed a lightning glance from the
metal dog-vane at the royal masthead.

In about half an hour she shifted her helm and came slowly round into
the wind, bracing her fore yards forward and her after yards aback: and
there she lay, swaying her toy-like milky softness of cloths against
the morning sky with the firm sea-line ruling in indigo from either
hand, whilst a boat sank from her port davits, and two men and a man
steering with an oar came along.

"Head for the creek!" shouted Reynolds, when they were within earshot,
and he motioned in the direction of that familiar spot, walking rapidly
towards it whilst the boat swerved and went that way in obedience to
his diverting gestures.

She entered the creek and Reynolds stood waiting for her, ready to jump
in from the low shore, and even before she had lost way, when three or
four feet separated her from the bank side, even before the two men
had thrown in their oars, Reynolds with a wild convulsive shout of joy
sprang and was in the boat with arms out to shake hands with them all.

The fellow who had steered with an oar, had a cast in his eye, and the
red beard on his chin was stiff as a tooth-brush.

"You don't mean to lose no time," said he, gazing with the others with
great curiosity at the figure of the man. "Who might you be?"

"A shipwrecked sailor," answered Reynolds. "A man who was in command of
a ship that foundered off here twenty months ago. Thank God, you are
Englishmen. I can talk to you."

One of them who was a Swede grinned, but his face sank instantly into
its former stare of astonishment at the long hair and wild and rugged
appearance of this newcomer.

"Twenty months?" said the man of the tooth-brush beard. "Are you alone,
sir?"

"All alone."

"This is a non-inhabited island, then?"

"Oh my God, yes."

"Is there any fruit or vegetables to be got? That's what we've been
sent ashore to find out, and to bring off."

"You'll find nothing to eat ashore," said Reynolds.

"What have you kept yourself alive on, then, sir?"

"Fish. Look over the side! That's how I have fared."

"Any fresh water?"

"Abundance. Two cataracts of delicious cold-bright water."

"Johnny," said the man, addressing one of his companions, "I'll just
step ashore and have a look round, and then we'll put you aboard, sir.
Gord bless me, twenty months!"

His face, hard as leather with weather and seafaring, softened its
expression as he looked at Reynolds and he said--

"What might have been the name of your ship, sir?"

"The Flying Spur."

"'Ailing from where?"

"From London."

"We are the brig Chanticleer from Hobart to Santiago, Muddell,
master, and I'm her mate, and my name's Frost. You keep all on down
'ere, sir, whilst I takes a look round. Th' old man will expect a
report."

He got upon the shore and walked up the slope. Reynolds sank into the
stern sheets. He was trembling now as he had trembled when he first
beheld the apparition of the boatswain of the Esmond looking down
upon him as he sat with a slice of fish breaking his fast in the dell.
His eyes were moist, his respiration short and distressing. The two men
who remained observed his state, and humanely let him be for a little,
with the taste which would have done honour to well-bred gentlemen,
directing their gaze at the island, or at the water over the side, in
whose glass-clear depths shapes of fish could be seen moving slowly.
The sailors viewed anything rather than this rescued man, who was
broken down with the joy of release, the transports of deliverance; for
extremes of human passions are in close touch, and great griefs and
great delights often affect us in the same way.

"I hope," exclaimed Reynolds, "that Mr. Frost won't be long. You can't
guess how mad I am to feel your brig's decks under my feet."

"He'll not be long," said the Swede, soothingly. "He vhas bount to
gif a look rount, or der ole man vould haze him. He can haze, can dot
ole man. Hey, Shonnie?" His shipmate grinned. "I tink," continued the
Swede, "I dit know der Flying Spur. She vhas a barque?"

"No, she was a ship."

"Den she vhas annudder."

"I don't reckon you've done much smoking 'ere, sir," said Johnnie.
"It's always baccy that men miss most when they're locked up. I've got
a pipe and baccy on me 'ere. Would you like a draw?" he added with a
sailor's politeness.

"I have not smoked for many months," answered Reynolds, "and, thanking
you much, will not start just now." He sent an impatient look at the
island for Frost. "I have had no news for nearly two years," said he,
after a pause. "Have you any to give me? What's happened in all these
months?"

"There was a strike on amongst the sailors at Hobart, when we sailed,"
said Johnnie. "I don't believe in Unions myself."

"It vhas der same 'ere," said the Swede.

"They make you pay to become members," said Johnnie, "and then keeps
you out of work."

"No European, no English news?" asked Reynolds.

"I reads a piece in a paper before I leaf, how dot they hov open a
new dock at Cartiff, und dot a French tramp roons into der Goodwin
lightship und sink her."

Reynolds could not forbear a smile. After twenty months of ocean
solitude, this was to be his news of the world!

"One thing you'll find ain't much changed since you was wrecked," said
Johnnie, "and that's sailors' wages."

"Und sailors' groob," said the Swede.

"Them's a nice show of oysters," exclaimed Johnnie, looking at a richly
dyed cluster on some rocks projecting from the shore of the creek.

"Jump on that rock," said Reynolds, "and you'll find a stone shaped
like a cucumber. Knock them off with it. They are good eating."

He did not need to ask if they had knives; each man carried a blade in
a sheath, belted to his hip. They sprang ashore, and were soon busy
in hammering oysters and swallowing morsels truly delicious after
pease-soup and salt pork.

It would be impossible to describe, though not hard to imagine, the
dance of sensations, passions, and emotions in the mind of Reynolds
whilst he sat waiting for the others in that boat. The island uprose
before him, Goodhart was there in memory, and himself in his solitude;
and again he beheld, with the vision of the spirit, the shadowless
form that had walked bareheaded in the dell. How often had he watched
those cascades, those birds out yonder, the ponderous coil of the surf
rushing its load of splendour up the beach? He thought of the gloomy
cave, his bed in the fissure, the stars beyond which his thoughts had
winged to God, the grave he had dug, the cross he had made, the words
he had cut upon it. And now he was to be rescued! He was seated in the
boat. Men were hammering and swallowing and talking hard by. Yonder
was a brig to bear him back to civilization and liberty, and the life
of man in town or country. It was so much like a dream that he sweated
with fear that it was, and got up and stepped into the bows of the
boat, returned, picked up an oar, opened a little locker under the
stern sheets, all to make sure that he was awake.

Mr. Frost came leisurely along to the creek with a deep sea-roll, and
his arms curved like spouting water, and, seeing that his men were
eating oysters, joined them, calling to Reynolds, "Won't you partake of
some before we go on board?"

Reynolds called back, "I've eaten enough, and want no more."

Indeed, he stuck to that boat as a barnacle to a ship. And, grappling
the thwarts, he might have defied the united efforts of the three
men to heave him out. For this man had been shipwrecked, and the
Chanticleer was the first vessel that had come to look at the island
in twenty months, and God knows how much longer, and he sat in that
boat with the intention to stop. Impatience was worked up into agony in
him whilst the three feasted. The Chanticleer was a little brig; the
discipline was not severe. If Mr. Frost was mate, he was man too, and
was Jimmy ashore, though Mister on board. When this mate and his men
had banqueted, they must needs linger to knock off a little freight of
oysters for the old man; but whilst they were thus employed the old man
appeared to be visited by some of Reynolds' impatience, for, sending
for his gun, he loaded and discharged it at the island over the lifting
and sinking rail.

"All right," said Mr. Frost, "we're a-coming."

They entered the boat, and shoved out of the creek with about four
dozen oysters at Reynolds' feet.

"You must have found it pretty dull," said Mr. Frost.

"Deadly dull."

"Worese'n a lighthouse, I guess. I came across a grave; was that of
your h'erecting?"

"Yes."

"Ain't bin alone all along, then?"

"No."

"I likewise looked into a cave; it 'ad a broken chest in it with a
few old pipes in the shelf, and there was a hole in the corner of the
ground as if something had been buried and then dug up. Did you sleep
in that there cave?"

"Sometimes. Did you observe a letter nailed to the lid of the box?"

"I can't say that I did. Oh, why, yes, now that I come to think of it,
I did take notice of what I thought was a label--sort of address card."

"You left it there?"

"Why, certainly."

"Thanks."

His answers were short. He scarcely listened. The man's heart was
burning for the brig, to get aboard her, to sit safe and deep in her
bound for a port and human life.

"Six months," said the mate, gazing grimly behind him at the receding
island. "If I was cast away alone upon a bit of a water-tight backyard
like that, blowed if I know how I should be able to pass the time.
Nobody to play cards with, even if a pack was to be 'ad or invented,
n'er a parrot in sight to tame and larn to talk. There's no signs of
life anywhere, not even that durned old goat which every man expects to
fall in with when he's cast away."

"If a man vhas cast away mit a fine young female, I doan know but dot
shipwreck vhas goodt," said the Swede.

"You might stow that swash," said the mate, with a very bristling,
rugged nod.

Several figures leaned over the side of the brig watching the
approaching boat. What product of the island, dressed as a man, was
Jimmy Frost bringing aboard? The boat's bows struck the vessel, and
in a breath or two Reynolds had leapt the rail and was standing on
the deck. Captain Muddell was a very short man, clad in a long coat,
whose swelling skirts descended to midway the calves of his legs. When
you took a back view of him and did not observe the projection of
his long feet, whose toes curved upwards, you beheld the travesty of
some provincial academic figure, say a village schoolmaster; it was a
coat, a head, and a wide straw hat fixed securely on two stout wooden
pegs. Nothing more at variance with the traditions of the beef-face
of the sea could be imagined than this singular little creature, who
wore a beard, who curled into a coil with soap the extremities of his
moustachios, and who gazed at you through a pair of heavily rimmed
spectacles. He was stepping his piece of quarter-deck with a sort of
skating or sliding motion with the dignity of an admiral taking the
air in his stern-walk, but stopped when Reynolds, jumping from the
rail, sprang almost on top of him. The recoil of the short left leg in
its trouser was an involuntary melodramatic stroke, an example to the
tragedian who starts at a ghost, and the little man's magnified eyes
glared at the wild and hairy figure that confronted him.

"Are you Captain Muddell?" exclaimed Reynolds, who was so profoundly
affected by the sense of salvation and the knowledge of absolute
safety, that he was without control of his voice; he spoke in gasps;
the whole fabric of his nerves appeared to have fallen to pieces.

"Yes, sir; my name is Muddell," answered the little skipper, viewing
the nearly two years' growth of hair, the long beard, the bloodless,
haggard, injured face, the worn-out raiment of his visitor with a most
risible expression of astonishment, not wholly uncoloured by awe.

Reynolds grasped his hand.

"May the merciful God bless you," he said, "as the only man whose ship
has touched at this island in twenty long months, during most of which
time I have been alone. Here--about here--twenty months ago my ship, in
flames, the Flying Spur, foundered. I commanded her. Where are you
bound to? Oh yes, I remember--Santiago. Am I awake? My God, am I
awake?"

He looked around him, and up at the brig's canvas.

The sailors forward who were viewing him spoke not, did not smile,
nor nudge, nor give expression to any other emotion than that of the
sensations with which their little skipper was filled, by the pathetic
pallor and worn and sorrowful countenance of this long-bearded man who
pleaded as a castaway, who was imperiously significant, even to the
most ignoble instinct by the magnitude of his twenty months of almost
lonely confinement to yonder little island, with its silver threads of
cascades, its lifeless slopes, its dazzle of foreshore.

"I am very glad to receive you," said Captain Muddell. "I was a bit out
of my reckoning, and seeing this island close aboard at daylight, I
thought I'd look in to find something that would give us a fresh mess.
What's to be had?" he asked, addressing the mate.

"I've brought off a few oysters," answered Mr. Frost. "There's nothing
else worth mentioning. There's fish, but fishes want catching, and
catching means waiting."

"Is that water good that's spouting down that hill?" said Captain
Muddell.

"Deliriously pure and cold and bright," answered Reynolds.

Muddell sent a look at the oysters which the men had handed up.

"We might do with some more of them," said he; "and suppose you turn
to, James, and lower a couple of casks into the boat. We can do with a
little pure, cold bright fresh water. It may be all a week's sail yet,
and fresh water at sea is fresh water if its fresh water anywhere, bar
no place in this globe, though you shall call it Sahara. Have you eaten
any breakfast, captain?" he continued, expressing much kindness in tone
and manner, and some culture in enunciation.

"No, I've eaten nothing since yesterday," answered Reynolds.

"Then step below, sir. Joe!" he shouted.

A young sailor started from the rail over which he had been hanging in
the lazy lounging posture of the merchant seaman when he is idle on
board ship.

"Bring some hot tea aft to the cabin. Get some coffee made. Tell the
cook to fry some bacon, and put some salt beef and marmalade and ship's
bread on the table."

And he led the way down into the cabin through the little
companion-hatch, a brown, dusky interior with lockers for seats and a
chair for the skipper at the head of the table; a dingy skylight, a
stove, and two little cabins aft, and two little holes of berths in the
fore part.

Reynolds, cap in hand, stood gazing around him dumb with the transport
with which the sight of the cabin fired him. This interior, gloomy
as it was, was raised to the spirit of this rescued man to the
magnificence of a palace by the royal quality of liberty with which its
darkling atmosphere was instinct.

"I thank Thee, O God!" his heart said mutely, and he turned up his eyes
with a beautiful and touching look of adoration and gratitude.




CHAPTER XII.--AFTER EIGHT YEARS

ONE morning in May, 1898, a gentleman was driven to the Tavistock
Hotel, Covent Garden. He alighted, and entered the house, and having
viewed his bedroom, proceeded to the coffee-room and opened the London
Directory. His beard and mustache were scissors-trimmed; he wore his
hair short, but this was white, whilst his beard was iron grey, dappled
with white. The change which the hurl of the breaker had wrought in his
face had been confirmed by time, and no two men could have been more
dissimilar than the Frank Reynolds who had married Lucretia Lane in
1890 and the Francis Reynolds who had driven to the Tavistock Hotel on
the morning of May 14, 1898.

He turned to the addresses under the heading "Chepstow Place." The
house in which Mrs. Lane had lived was now occupied by one William
Johnson. He looked down the list of court addresses, and found so many
Mrs. Lanes that he easily saw he might spend a fortnight in driving
about all over London, only to fail to verify the individual he had in
his mind. He shut the immense volume, and went to eat the breakfast he
had ordered.

There was no need for him to report his safe arrival to the owner
of the Flying Spur, Mr. George Blaney. Long before, whilst in
Australia, he had learnt that this gentleman, like his ship, had gone
under, and that Mr. Blaney, as man and owner, was as extinct as the
crew who had never returned to take up their wages.

Whilst he breakfasted his thoughts were with his wife. He did not
intend to justify Goodhart's prophecy that he would seek her out if
living, and endeavour to woo her back to him, but he most passionately
desired to know if she was alive, where she was, if she was married, if
she was well or badly off. The mould of his character was very visible
in his face. You witnessed habitual melancholy, a habit of thought that
was often carried into the recondite, deep sensibility, the look that
the practice of patience paints upon the human countenance, with a firm
cohesion of the whole in a spiritual tissue of resolution. This, in a
brief survey, the gifted eye could easily construe.

No, it was not his intention to woo his wife afresh, if she was still
in a state of life to be won. But he could not be in London, he could
not see, and hear, and smell, and taste London without the sensations
thus excited attacking memory and troubling it into the presentment
of hot and oppressive images: the marriage, the delirious refusal to
see or have anything to do with him, his visit to a solicitor, the
stratagem that had decoyed her to the ship, her insensate, unwomanly,
unwifely aversion whilst on board, and the inglorious victory of her
departure at Falmouth.

After breakfast he called a cab and drove to the office of a shipping
paper off Gracechurch Street. He said to a clerk--

"Do you know if there is any reference to the loss of a full-rigged
ship called the Flying Spur in one of your back numbers?"

"What date, sir?"

"She was lost February 2nd, 1891. But I could not tell you the date
when the news was published."

"They'll know all about it at Lloyd's," said the clerk.

"I want to know if the news was published in the papers."

"You're welcome to turn over those back numbers, sir," said the clerk,
eyeing him with some curiosity, and indicating a table on which reposed
a number of bound copies of the journal, going back some years.

Now, Reynolds never had a doubt in his mind that all hands of the
ship's company, saving himself, had perished; in which case, having
regard to his own situation on the island, the ship's loss could only
have been assumed: she would have been posted at Lloyd's, ranked
amongst the missing, and then dismissed from commercial memory
as something extinct. But the boat of the Esmond, it will be
remembered, had gone away to intercept a distant ship on October 2nd,
1891, and it was possible that her people had been taken out of her, in
which case they would report that the Flying Spur had been lost off
the island of Santo Cristo, and that out of her whole crew the captain
alone had survived by being cast in a life-belt upon the island.

So Reynolds turned to the volumes containing the issues of November and
December, 1891, and to the succeeding volumes of 1892 and 1893. These
he painfully and laboriously examined through a pair of spectacles,
and spent nearly two hours in this study, but found not the smallest
reference to his ship or her loss, nor to the escape of the Esmond's
crew that had left the island. It was clear from this that Captain
Muddell had omitted to report the circumstance of Reynolds' escape,
and Reynolds himself had been silent. The clerk said there was no
fee. The volumes were for the convenience of the public, particularly
subscribers, and Reynolds departed.

It was quite certain that if the Shipping Gazette, which records
everything about the merchant service, had made no reference to the
loss of the Flying Spur, all papers in any way likely to meet the
eye of Lucretia would be, and had been, silent also.

Next morning Reynolds travelled by railway to Bayswater, and walked
from the station to Chepstow Place. His breath grew somewhat
difficult as he approached the house. All that had happened between
pressed heavily about his heart in a sensible weight of intellectual
atmosphere. This was the pavement they had walked on when they returned
from church, she with arms hanging by her side, as inflexibly mute as
the corpse in its grave. What had provoked this cruelty in her? Why had
she married him? Everything was present as though all were of to-day.
But the chasm demanded for its passage a bridge of sighs that had taken
eight years to make; and was it for him, a husband scorned, humiliated,
forsaken, on one side, to measure that length, or for her, on the other
side, to cross, if alive?

He summoned the servant, and was admitted. The card he gave her was
plain, and on it he had written, "Mr. John Goodhart, Tavistock Hotel,
Covent Garden." He was shown into the parlour. This was the little
room in which Mrs. Lane had displayed those refreshments of which the
wedding guests had not partaken. The image of Lucretia shaped itself
with the velocity of memory upon the eyes of his spirit. He was alone,
and there she stood--in the doorway, at the window, at the table--as
she had again and again stood, tall, nobly moulded, with a light that
should have been love in the luminous gloom of her eyes, with glowing
hair and firm lips, and a demeanour of tranquillity which he had long
ago translated into a passionless nature, ice-cold in chastity, bleak
and sterile by refrigeration of virginal impulse; a beautiful flower
without odour, a lovely star without heat, a woman into whose creation
entered many of the perfections of her sex, but from whom had been
withheld the sanctifying touch that creates womanliness.

Mr. William Johnson walked in, a white-whiskered man and bald, who
apologized for presenting himself in a dressing-gown.

"This house," said Reynolds, after a few sentences had been exchanged,
"was occupied a few years ago by a widow named Lane--Mrs. Lane."

"Yes; I took it after her death."

"Oh, she is dead, then?" exclaimed Reynolds, with the calmness that
betrayed the preconcerted arrangement between the nerves and the
understanding.

"Yes; I happen to know something about her. As a matter of fact, I am
the late manager of the insurance office in which Dr. Lane purchased an
annuity on the joint lives of self and wife."

"There was a Miss Lane."

"I believe there was."

"Do you know if she's alive?"

"I am afraid I can tell you nothing. I merely happen to remember the
name of Lane as a client of the office."

"I know a friend of hers," said Reynolds, "who wants to hear about her.
How shall I go to work to obtain information?"

Mr. Johnson studied Reynolds' face with some attention, with the
attention of a man who has passed his life in "taking lives;" it was an
interesting; a striking, in all respects a very remarkable face.

"I rather fancy," said he, after a little reflection, "that if you were
to call at my old office they will be able to give you the name of Mrs.
Lane's solicitor, who had something to do with her will, for I remember
that he wrote to us about the annuity."

"I am greatly obliged. How long has Mrs. Lane been dead do you suppose?"

"I took possession here in February, 1895. I was her immediate
successor, and as these houses do not long remain empty, we may assume
that her death was then comparatively recent."

Reynolds bowed and left the house. After transacting certain business
at the London and Westminster Bank, he walked to the insurance office,
which was within a couple of streets. The letter-book was examined,
and the address of the late Mrs. Lane's solicitor found. He was Mr. J.
Wembly-Jones, Lincoln's Inn Fields. It was too late to call that day.
Reynolds returned to the hotel.

A man alone in London, without friends or acquaintances, seldom feels
lonelier than when in a London hotel. The bigger the hotel, the vaster
the desert, the wider the amplitude of the swing of the pendulum of
dullness. And perhaps what is least agreeable of London in flavour,
sound, and sight you will discover by putting up at a hotel in Covent
Garden. The prevalent property of the district is cabbage. The residual
music is the 'Ebrew throat of the salesman and the bray of the coster's
donkey. The climate is fog, and the prospect strictly limited. Reynolds
had felt with crushing severity the burden of solitude imposed by his
island; but the feeling of loneliness which depressed him that evening
as he sat, now in the coffee-room, now in the smoking-room of the
hotel, though differing in kind, was not in degree very remote from the
feeling that had weighed him down in Santo Cristo.

Was his wife alive? He could form no reasons to suppose her dead.
He assumed her living, and logically thought, therefore, of her as
alive, and, it must be added, alone. For to presume her married, in
the belief that he was dead, was to mangle and ruin his theory of her.
That bayonet-keen principle of chastity that had kept him at bay, that
had despatched him to a remote part of the globe as much a bachelor as
if there was not a woman in the world, must surely have kept another
off--all others off--unless, indeed, the cold and pitiless weapon had
sunk at the cat-call of poverty, or to the rainbow eloquence of title
and estate. But it was his habit to think of Lucretia as alive and
alone, and this conception, working in him as a truth, troubled him
by the creation of a subtle yearning, a straining of mind which his
consciousness refused to heed, because he had resolved not to seek nor
to have relations with her; but desire was in him, nevertheless, as
pain is in sleep, causing the sufferer to moan and toss.

He sent in the same sort of card he had delivered at Chepstow Place
next day to Mr. Wembly-Jones in Lincoln's Inn Fields, and entered an
office, where he was received by a tall, thin, whiskered man, with a
big hooked nose and a Caspian Sea of shirt-front, on the top of which,
under stiff stand-up collars, sat a black bow. He took a chair, and Mr.
Wembly-Jones examined him with keen attention.

"I have ascertained," said Reynolds, "that you were the late Dr. Lane's
solicitor."

"That is so."

"Dr. Lane apparently had a daughter," continued Reynolds, "who became
Mrs. Reynolds, and as I have a communication to make to her, I should
feel obliged if you would give me her address."

Mr. Wembly-Jones summoned a cleric from the adjacent office.

"Find out, if you can, in the letter-book Mrs. Reynolds' last
address--the Mrs. Reynolds who is daughter of Dr. Lane."

"I will explain to you as briefly as I can the object of this visit,"
said Reynolds. "I happened to be off the island of Santo Cristo
becalmed and sent the mate ashore to examine and report with respect to
fresh water and provisions."

"When was that, sir?"

"Last year."

Mr. Wembly-Jones bowed.

"The mate returned and brought a letter which he said he had found
nailed to the lid of a chest in a cave. It was addressed to The
Honourable Stranger. It contained one hundred and fifty pounds in
bank-notes and a letter signed by one Francis Reynolds, begging the
finder to send the money to his wife, Mrs. Reynolds." Here Reynolds
pulled out a pocket-book and seemed to refer--"Care of Mrs. Lane,
Chepstow Place, Bayswater. These are the notes," said he, taking them
from the pocket-book.

"Have you the letter?"

"I put it into a locker for safe keeping, and when I wanted it I could
not find it."

"These notes were nailed to the lid of the chest, but you'll observe
that they are not perforated," said Mr. Wembly-Jones, blandly, but with
professional suspicion colouring his smile.

"The notes were folded thus," said Reynolds, with dramatic emphasis and
a warm cheek. "The envelope was large; the nail obviously missed the
notes. How else should it have been, pray?"

"Do you know what has become of Francis Reynolds?" inquired the
solicitor.

Reynolds shrugged his shoulders.

"Do you think that he died on the island?"

"A man who writes such a letter as I read is not far from his end," was
the answer.

"But, all the same, he might have been rescued. Certainly, in the face
of this evidence, he would not, in the eyes of the law, be considered
as dead."

"How about the disposal of the money, sir?" said Reynolds, with an air
of carelessness, as though he wished to complete his mission without
further trouble.

At that moment the clerk entered with the letter-book.

"Yes," said Mr. Wembly-Jones, after humming through the impression of
a letter which the clerk had placed before him. "Mrs. Reynolds had
occasion to write to me about an investment under her father's will.
The date, I see, is June, 1896. Her address then was--Mrs. Reynolds,
Ladies' School, Cathedral Place, Canterbury. I have not heard of or
from her since."

"Will you take charge of this money on her account?" said Reynolds,
with the tranquillity of a man whom many months of ocean solitude had
converted into an admirable artist in self-control and facial tokens.

"I'll first ascertain if she's in Canterbury," answered the solicitor,
"and then communicate with you," he added, picking up the card; "you
will then instruct me or act for yourself as you think proper. Did the
officer you sent on shore observe no signs whatever of human life upon
the island?"

"The place was as empty of life as that hat," said Reynolds.

"It is important that Mrs. Reynolds should be made acquainted with
what you have told me. It might rescue her from a very disagreeable
position. We cannot be convinced by your statement that Francis
Reynolds is dead, and his wife should be advised not to entertain the
idea of a second marriage for some time to come."

Reynolds inclined his head as though he should say, "This is no
business of mine."

"Are you making any stay in town?" inquired the solicitor.

"I shall stop at the hotel for a few days."

"Then, Mr. Goodhart, you shall hear from me when I have news to send
you about Mrs. Reynolds."

Reynolds rose, bowed, and walked out.

"Mr. Simpson," said Mr. Wembly-Jones to the clerk, who had been a
silent auditor since his arrival with the letter-book. "Did you ever
see a more remarkable-looking man?"

"Never, sir. I was thinking so."

"That man," said the solicitor, "has known trouble; he has suffered
hardships."

"What's his calling, sir?"

"Why, the sea, I suppose. He talked of being off an island and sending
his mate on shore. An interesting face--almost fascinating. A very
honourable man, too, to bring the handsome sum of a hundred and fifty
pounds in notes for remittance to a stranger."

He drummed on the table for a minute, lost in thought, with his eyes
planted on the window like a doctor thinking of a prescription whilst
the patient waits. "Send Mr. Wilkins here, please."

Five days after his visit to Mr. Wembly-Jones, Reynolds received a
letter from that gentleman, informing him that Mrs. Reynolds had
left Canterbury in October, 1896, and taken a situation as governess
at Margate. She was there in August, 1897. He had written to her at
Margate, but down to the present had received no reply. Reynolds
in answer said he would place the amount in his bank, that letters
addressed to him at the hotel in Covent Garden would be forwarded, and
that on his hearing that Mrs. Reynolds' address was known he would send
Mr. Wembly-Jones a cheque.

All this seems little better than beadle's talk; but it is necessary
as containing particulars which are links that must be made visible in
this chain of sequences.

Two facts Reynolds had come to discover: first that his wife was alive,
next that she was poor. Poor she certainly must be, because had her
income been sufficient to enable her to live without work, she, though
a clever, well-read, even an accomplished woman, by which is meant that
she sang well, played the piano well, danced with splendid grace, could
speak French and read in German, a language she had taught herself,
and had covered a range of English literature which very few young
ladies have ever heard about,--was one of the last of her sex to have
dreamt of offering her services in a walk of life whose thankless and
underpaid toil she would speak of with pity and aversion. Evidently
she had started a school and failed. He was moved to think of her as
alone and struggling, as alone and poor in a world where to be poor
is to entitle man or woman to the sympathy of the mongrel dog, that
despite fleas and the mange is taught by Nature how to earn a living;
to rejoice in the sunshine and exalt with complacency its stumpy vibrio
of tail. And the emotion thus induced quickened yet that subtle and
finely burning desire which his reason declined to recognize. But then
he would argue in varying terms over and over again, "If suddenly she
found me loathsome enough to abandon eight years ago, when I was comely
and younger, how shall it be now, if she meets me and sees me with this
broken face, this changed and charged expression? if she should see
the man she had shrunk from and hissed at and forsaken, clothed in a
trunk of flesh moulded by the fingers of the breaker and painted by the
viewless brush of the island's spirit of solitude!" In short, he feared
to meet her, dreading the horror and wrath which would flame in him and
consume him and make a pitiful wretch of him, if, forgiving the past,
he opened his arms to her, and if, neglectful of that past, she spurned
him and turned from him as at Chepstow Place, as on board the Flying
Spur, as at Falmouth, when she departed without giving him a single
look.

When he was on the island his heart clamoured for the civilization of
great cities. His dreams were of crowded streets and bustling shops.
Now that he was in the middle of the greatest city the world has ever
probably known, he began to pine for the repose of the country, or
the hundred pictures of the coast. He was consistent, however, in his
dislike of London. His might have been likened to the case of a man
who, having received a blow on the head, loses a sense, it may be taste
or smell, or both. Reynolds associated London with his marriage. His
marriage was intellectually a knock on the head, and it extinguished
all capacity of relishing London. It was not because he believed his
wife to be in Margate that he resolved to spend a month or two in
Ramsgate. As you have just heard, he trembled at the idea of meeting
her, not because he did not most passionately desire to behold her, but
because he feared the moral, the ruining consequences to himself of an
encounter. But even supposing Lucretia to be in Margate, that town was
as far from Ramsgate as Ramsgate from Deal, or Deal from Dover, and
there was no more reason why he should come across her in Ramsgate than
if he remained in London or vindicated his pre-nuptial aspirations by
making the tour he had planned for his honeymoon.

He liked the old town of Ramsgate; he had spent many a holiday there
in his boyhood. His recollection of its embracing piers, the bright
enfolded water of the harbour reflecting the red or brown of the
drooping sail of the smack or collier, the sparkle of windows looking
eastwards over the edge of the low white ramparts, the placid hours he
had passed in fishing over the side of a boat when to the thrilling
tug at the baited hook he would strike and haul up hand over hand a
plaice as big as a turbot who made sport choice and delicious by the
resistance of its heavy curved shape in the water; his recollection of
these and more, when life was young and the blood romped through his
heart, and the horizon of the passing year was gay with the pennons
hoisted by hope, or remembered as pleasures, freshened him to the very
spirit, as the salt sweet breath of the sea vivifies and enriches to
the inmost depths of existence; and one morning about three weeks after
his arrival in London he packed his portmanteau and drove to Charing
Cross Station.

It was the month of June, a pleasant month in Old England, nowhere
pleasanter than by the sea when the ocean blends her gifts of weed and
shell and sand with the coloured and odorous produce of the land. In
Australia he had added four thousand pounds to the value of Goodhart's
bonds by prudent speculation or wise investment, and his income was
about six hundred a year. On this amount a single man may, if he is
discreet, make a figure. He cannot; indeed, run a theatre, or start a
London daily paper, or race, or keep a yacht, but he can, for instance,
when he arrives at such a place as Ramsgate, treat himself to the best
hotel, and this Reynolds did, putting his name down as John Goodhart.
This hotel is situated on the East Cliff, and bears the name of a bland
old politician who was long a Lord Warden and rememberable for his
affirmation: "That on the advice of his doctors he dropped port for a
year, at the end of which the gout had not only returned in full force,
but had made room for seven even worse fiends, so that he not only had
to writhe under his disease but also under the memory of having lost
twelve months of port wine to no purpose."

Reynolds arrived in time for the table d'hôte, and then strolled
out to view the place. Ramsgate, it is said, has been greatly improved
by its new road and the disappearance of parts of the old town.
The improvement is much the same as that made by the erection of a
red-brick jerry-built villa in the midst of houses whose architecture
is Tudor or older yet, where everything but this flaunting piece of
worse than cockney impertinence, with its farthing affectations of
porch and pillar, its carrot-haired roof and impudent assertion of bay
window, where everything else breathes in a poetry of soft and happy
keeping, style blending with style, shadow with shadow, decay with
decay, until the soft and pure rhythm, the adjustment of harmonies,
the gradual but beautiful revelation of meaning both in man's work and
time's relation with his work, make an idyl or sonnet of the spot.

This was much about Reynolds' judgment of the improved Ramsgate he
viewed as he strolled, with memory eagerly and fondly painting the
old sea town, with its gap of harbour street betwixt two cliffs, like
Dumpton Gap a little way beyond, its terraces of chalk, in those days
undisfigured by the railway station and the black hole of tunnel
that belches sulphurous vapour at the glaring advertisements hung up
just outside, its spacious stage of sands on which were enacted a
hundred agreeable buffooneries--the fat women screaming with laughter
on the galloping donkey; the milkman limping under cans and yelping
"Goat's milk fresh from the cow;" the sweet song of the brandy-ball
man; the orgies in the surf "where shrieked the timid and stood
still the brave;" where elderly men fell out of machines like little
cottages, and disappeared in foam; where figures of blubber bobbed and
vanished; where girls who, when apparelled for the esplanade looked a
dream of fair women, emerged in shrunk and clinging shapes, pallid,
hair-wrenched, and sexless to the male eye.

It was the hour of sunset. Over the levels between Minster and Sandwich
the red light was streaming in pennons of glory which certain large
clouds over the town reverberated and despatched in a delicate orange
into the liquid velvet softness over France. Yonder, opposite Deal
and Walmer, were the Downs with a sea-line covered with small dim
sketches of ships motionless in the distance. Reynolds leaned upon
the rail that stops people from falling over the cliff, and gazed at
that remote prospect of water. A head wind had forced him to bring up
there eight years ago in the Flying Spur, with Lucretia on board
disdaining him, acting indeed as though she loathed him. Eight years
ago! Right opposite, a collier was slowly flapping along for Ramsgate
harbour; her sails were coloured by the sun-glow, and they panted like
the human breast as she strove with the stream of tide. Eight years
ago! Where was Lucretia now? To-morrow he would go to work to find out
if she was at Margate, and if she was in that town he would instruct
Mr. Wembly-Jones to send her the money, for which he would remit his
cheque. He could not endure to think of her as alone and poor and
struggling. How could he tell but that she might be in actual want?

The dusk drew down and found him watching the sea. A few people paced
the esplanade to and fro. The lights of the Goodwins sparkled, and the
Calais lantern glanced its lightning into the distant gloom. Yonder
lurid spark is the brilliant star which the Frenchman's kindly hand
has set upon the forehead of his rock of Gris Nez. A band was playing
somewhere, but not too near to trouble the weaving mind. Lights, like
the glowing tips of cigars, burnt at the ends of the piers, whose dark
curves framed a gleaming shadow, restful with slumbering shapes of
moored craft, a rest not broken by a vision of white wing creeping from
seawards betwixt the pier-heads like a wreath of mist in the sad colour
of the dawn.

What was that light making the dark atmosphere look sultry with
its tincture as of volcanic vomit beyond the Goodwins? It was the
rising moon. She lifted a swollen, distorted bulk, freed herself from
the clinging draperies of the atmosphere and soared into an orb of
brilliance, rolling down the water under her a fan-shaped river of
brightness.

Some one stopped just behind Reynolds. He turned to see who it was who
stood so close, and beheld his wife, in the cold clear glow, watching
the moon.




CHAPTER XIII.--AT RAMSGATE

SHE stood so close that he could see the stars of the moonlight in
her eyes. Her face was pale as marble in that sheen. She was dressed
in dark clothes that expressed her figure, and her sailor hat was
of coloured straw. She gave him no more heed than she bestowed on
the people who passed. The lovely picture of the rising moon and its
rippling reflection, and the black brig sulkily stemming and panting
to the right of the flowing radiance in the sea, appeared to have
fascinated her.

A sensation of tightness was about his heart, and its pulse throbbed
half strangled. His throat grew dry as in fever, and the sudden passion
of his spirit ran a momentary paralysis through him, and he stood as
one seized with tetanus after taking poison. She was before him even as
he had viewed her spiritually from his fissure in the dell, pallid in
the star-white light that clothed her.

Who is the artist that can throw such a passage of life upon the mental
gaze of his reader without shrinking from the dread of the derision
that attends exaggeration?

She passed on without noticing him, for this was a figure to court the
male eye, and she was used to being stared at. He watched, and then
followed her.

That "old mole i' th' earth," Goodhart! Was his prophecy to be
fulfilled? Was the old magic to exert the old spell now that she was
there, stately in form, unchanged--unless the moon lied--by so much as
a single stroke of the pencil of time?

She stopped again to look at the sea, and he halted and turned his
back, again followed when she moved, and so kept her in sight down
Augusta Road into the Belle Vue Road, where she vanished. But he had
marked the house she entered, and presently passed it and read the
number. It was a road mainly of poor lodging-houses.

He returned to the esplanade and sat down to think. His heart had
cooled; memory had flooded and chilled him as the night with its cold
moisture descends upon the sea.

Moonlight makes all things beautiful. Says Wordsworth--


"The moon doth with delight
Look round her when the heavens are bare."


But it had not adorned the beauty of Lucretia by throwing over her
its concealing ethereal veil of silver. In eight years she had not
physically changed; he was sure of that. If materially she had not
altered, why should he expect or hope that she had morally altered?
What right had he to believe that her passionless nature was not still
as frosty as it was eight years ago, with its ice-bleak presence of a
form of chastity that was a distemper of mind? And if this was true,
would it not be equally true to predict that the revelation of his
identity, the confession of his individuality as Francis Reynolds would
provoke precisely the same disgust, induce exactly the same horror
and revulsion which had attended her marriage and made of her a moral
phenomenon?

This was a consideration that brought his brows together, and his hand
lightened upon his stick. For he knew himself well enough to understand
that his self-respect as a man, that the honour in which it is the
duty of every man to hold his own character, seeing that to the degree
of honour a man does himself is the dignity of his manhood lifted,
must fall irretrievably into ruin if he again courted and gained the
aversion which had despatched her to her bedroom from the church, and
filled his arms with the killing mockery of a phantom.

He resolved to pursue a course, and walked to the hotel. He entered
the reading-room, and seated himself at a desk at a table and wrote to
Mr. Wembly-Jones:


"I am here, and by accident have discovered that the
Mrs. Reynolds whom you were good enough to inquire about is lodging at
28, Belle Vue Road, in this town. Will you kindly send her the enclosed
draft for £150, stating the facts as I related them to you, and oblige,
etc.?"


He signed the name of John Goodhart.

He mused a bit after writing and stamping his letter. Suppose, he
thought, on receipt of this money Lucretia leaves Ramsgate? I may be
unable to trace her again. And he plausibly represented to himself
that his desire to hold her in view was because she was obviously poor
and apparently alone and might want a friend. The judgment is always
willing to be betrayed by one's tastes rather than be controlled by
one's interests. He entered the hall and posted the letter.

"The morning," said a gentleman who next day was seated at breakfast
at the same table with Reynolds, "is always the pleasantest part of
the seaside in June, when fine. The dip, then the breakfast, then the
pipe. Where does tobacco discharge so delicate a richness, so nutty
an aroma, as by the sea? The fresh fried sole for breakfast yields a
sweetness and flavour it never delivers inland. There is a savouriness,
by the sea, in the incense sent up by the dish of eggs and bacon which
must often make the gods lament their divinity as a form of being which
requires neither palate nor stomach."

This rhapsodist, who was rather deaf, and who had told Reynolds that
he was a stockbroker with a great taste for literature, in which he
had sought eminence without achieving it; this man who had informed
Reynolds in the smoking-room that he had read Burton's "Anatomy"
fourteen times, that he possessed the first folio edition of Beaumont
and Fletcher, and that he had refused six hundred pounds for a
collection of autographs from Wycliff to the Prince Consort, might have
added to his list of the engaging pleasures of the seaside on a fine
June morning, the breakfasting at an open window which frames a broad
plain of water sparkling with sun-stars, over whose surface, firm ruled
against the sky, glide shapes of steamer and sailing-ships--the solemn
mail-boat, stately in sentiency of human life, of precious freight,
of beautiful enginery, of elegance in mould of hull; the cargo tramp
that, perceptive of the under-manned look-out aboard her, strains the
eyes of her hawse-pipes at the sea from her rearing bows; that coster
of the coast, the barge, discolouring the water under her with dyes
of red mainsail and white topsail. Pleasant, also, is it to breakfast
in the fanning of the fresh salt air, to the stealthy seething of
waters upon the sands and rocks, to the thin undistracting orchestra
composed of the town band afar, piano organs muffled round the corner,
blackened minstrels upon the beach, human voices calling or singing,
the vibration of bells, the cries of the hawker, faint as though in
partial vacuo, blending and contained within that frame of open window,
with the hollow dome on high full of blue air and moving clouds.

Before and during breakfast Reynolds had kept a look-out for his wife.
He was consumed with the desire to behold her by daylight. One road
to the town, from the place where she lived, would carry her past the
north and east windows of the hotel. How did she occupy the day? Did
she teach, and if so, at a school, or did she receive pupils? After
breakfast he went for a walk. His heart prompted his legs, and he made
for the harbour by way of Augusta Road and the road in which Lucretia
lodged. He looked at the house as he slowly passed--a somewhat dingy,
poorly draped, fifth-rate lodging-house, whose character was not
improved by the yells of a man gutting fish at a barrow opposite the
door, with a couple of cats rubbing themselves against his fearnaught
trousers, and by another fellow with a basket on his arm, trying to
burst through the first man's shouts of "Beautiful fresh soles" by
bawling, in ear-splitting notes, "Ho, the beautiful fresh Pegwell Bay
shrimps." Lucretia was not to be seen.

He walked on, lost in thought about her, and passed through the pier
gates into a scene that was as familiar to him then as it had been
a quarter of a century before. It was a richly coloured picture of
English longshore life. The breeze filled it with motion. In places
it was a dance of prisms. Every flag rippled and waved seawards; the
wherries swayed upon the pulsation of the waters; shadows like that
of gigantic fingers ran through the white heights of hoisted canvas;
marble-like forms of sea-gulls hovered on tremorless wings between
the pier-heads, where the surface of the brine glanced and frolicked
with the splendour of a herring shoal. Reynolds, pensive with memories
of boyhood, watched a tug head slowly out, slapping her wake of foam
at the mud-barge she towed. A cluster of large pleasure-boats called
yachts lay at the pier steps, and their captains were competing for
fares in voices which could be heard half a mile off. Some way this
side lay the lifeboat reposing peacefully at her buoy, a noble, a
significant symbol of the life of the sea to the sailor. One of those
yacht-masters on the pier was exhorting the public to step on board his
swift and lovely ship and sail to the Goodwin Sands, where they would
land to play at cricket--an incident of travel to boast of on their
return home; and hard by was the lifeboat, so fraught with memories
of those same deadly Goodwins that you might almost fancy, if you
pressed your ear against one of her thwarts, whispers of tragedies,
breathings such as fabrics made sentient by their burden and business
of humanity converse with would penetrate to your consciousness and
group upon your spiritual retina many shocking, many wild, many ghastly
visions. What sailor but knows them? The dead bodies lashed in the lee
mizzen-rigging, men who had drowned in the freezing foam when the mast
went, watched by a shivering crowd of wretches in the fore-top; the
saloon of the stranded liner with the dead bodies of nuns and others
floating about; the streaming, reddening flare that lights up the sea
for miles, and flings upon the flying raven wings of the storm a low
sullen radiance, in which the rocket of the lightship flashes and fades.

"Would you like to go for an hour's row, sir? Beautiful day for a sail.
Some nice fishin' ter be 'ad--very fine poutin', codlin's long as my
arm," said an elderly man, coming up to Reynolds.

His face was like the inside of a crumpet with its recollections of
small-pox, and, though the dog days were not far off, he wore a yellow
sou'wester, and lounged in breeches as heavy as winter blankets.

"Aren't you Joe Cooper?" said Reynolds.

"Yes."

"I remember you twenty-five years ago. Have you been here ever since?"

"Ay, ever since I was born. So'd father. So'd his father. Shall I get
the bort ready, sir?"

"How's old John Goldsmith?"

"Old John! him as 'ad the Pilot? Why, e' conies down 'ere three
years ago, just where we're a-standin', and, arter lookin' at 'is
Pilot, 'e says, 'Joe;' he says says he, 'the ole bort lies safe.'
'Ay, safe enough,' says I. 'I feels a bit tired,' says he, in a soft
way. 'I think I'll go and loy down.' Loy down he did, and he's still
aloyin'. William," he bawled, "got any bait in that there can?"

Reynolds gave him two shillings, and walked away. He had fished so
much in his day that he wanted no more of that sport. He went on the
pier, but all the time that he walked his eyes hunted for a sight of
Lucretia. But throughout that day he saw nothing of her, though he
was studiously much about, on the sands, on the west pier and west
cliff, and at ten o'clock that night, when he sat in the smoking-room
conversing with the stockbroker and one or two others, he had not seen
her.

Next morning he received a letter from Mr. Wembly-Jones, acknowledging
the receipt of his cheque for one hundred and fifty pounds, and
informing him that he had sent the money to Mrs. Reynolds at the
address given by Mr. Goodhart, together with the particulars which he
had been asked to communicate. He added that he did not doubt that
Mrs. Reynolds would do herself the pleasure to call upon Mr. Goodhart
to personally thank him for his kindness. This was naturally Reynolds'
expectation, but he did not suppose that she would call in the morning.

On his return, however, to the hotel to lunch, a card was given to him,
and the porter said that a lady had called to see him, and that she
would come again at half-past four. The card bore the engraved name of
Mrs. Reynolds, and she had written her address in the corner. He had
flattered himself that he had schooled his face and drilled his spirit
into qualifying him for such a meeting as to betray on his side no more
than if indeed he was veritably the man he personated, but as he walked
to the luncheon-table with his wife's card in his hand he was conscious
of a perturbation, a hurry and tumult of mind, a collision and recoil
of sensations which assured him it was vastly well, truly, that he had
not met his wife without this advice of her coming. Indeed, he could
scarcely swallow the meal he ordered, and when his acquaintance, the
literary stockbroker, asked from an adjacent table if he would join
him in a shilling trip in one of the pleasure-boats that afternoon,
the answer he received was so abrupt in a person whose demeanour was
uniformly mild, somewhat melancholy, but pleasantly flavoured with
geniality, that the stockbroker thought that Mr. Goodhart must be
feeling ill, and looked at him for a little while in friendly inquiry.

Reynolds, conceiving that the ordeal of the first meeting with his wife
would lose in tension if it were unwitnessed, asked for a private room
in which to receive his visitor, and at half-past four he was pacing
its carpet. Precisely at the time named in the message the knuckles
of a waiter drummed on the door, which was flung wide open and "Mrs.
Reynolds, sir," was announced in a strong German accent.

Reynolds stood with his back to the light, and bowed low with a
tranquillity that would have reassured any secret spectator who had
been his well-wisher. Had the moon the night before last told a
flattering tale? Had she deceived him with her cold pencils of white
brightness? It is a fact that eight years had robbed Lucretia of
nothing and had added something; as the red rose of June is to the same
red rose of July, was Lucretia of the altar in St Stephen's Church
to the Mrs. Reynolds who sank her head in a queenly movement to Mr.
Goodhart. Hers indeed had been some trial of poverty, not severe; but
no discipline of maternity, no death of babe nor anxiety of always
ailing child, no kitchen murmurous with grievances and the poor pay
of a shipmaster as a thread for the pearls of the faith of Hymen. She
was richer in colour, fuller and rounder in figure than when they had
parted; but one characteristic time had wrought no change in, and this
was the inherent quality of coldness in the residual expression of her
face, which, had she been ugly, would have ascended to the degree of a
virile austerity. But though her beauty held this element in solution,
it was present and visible as the label of her nature, and Reynolds
at a glance saw that if Lucretia had not lost in external charm as a
woman, neither had anything come on the spiritual side to help her as a
woman.

Her sailor's hat suited her, and her dress fitted her. Her left hand
was gloved. He could not know at once if she wore his ring. She put her
right hand behind her in search of her pocket, and said, with calmness
a little coloured with the glow of gratitude, "I have the pleasure of
addressing Mr. Goodhart?"

Again he bowed, and begged her to sit. There was clearly nothing in the
sound of his voice that struck her. Her demeanour proved this; it was
the self-possession of a lady in the presence of a stranger.

"I received this morning this letter," she said, producing it, "from
my father's solicitor, Mr. Wembly-Jones. He enclosed your cheque for
one hundred and fifty pounds, for which I do not know how to express my
gratitude to you. The story you told him is naturally of the deepest
interest to me, and I shall feel greatly obliged if you can add
anything to what Mr. Wembly-Jones writes."

"I fear I can add nothing," said Reynolds, in a low but steady
voice. "It was my duty as a man and a sailor to carry out this poor
shipwrecked fellow's wishes. It has given me no trouble; it has been
a pleasure. I could enter into the feelings that governed him as he
wrote. I wish I had preserved his letter."

So far absolutely nothing in his voice nor in his aspect to invite her
regard outside the interest of the subject she had called about.

"You may have been told," she said, "that Captain Reynolds was my
husband."

"Oh yes."

"Do you believe he is dead? Mr. Wembly-Jones does not seem to consider
your discovery of his letter a proof of his death."

"He wrote in words such as only a man who is convinced that his death
is at hand would use."

"And yet that is no proof. He might have been taken off the island."

"Would not you have heard from him?"

She was silent whilst she looked at the letter she held, and he watched
her.

"Can you tell me when his letter was dated?" she asked.

"To the best of my recollection," he answered, "it was dated January,
1892."

"Six years ago!" she exclaimed, and the shadow of thought was on her
face as her large dark eyes fastened themselves on the carpet. She
looked up and exclaimed, "There has not been a line of reference to the
loss of his ship in the papers! The uncertainty has been very hard to
bear. But time reconciles us to much."

The waiter entered with a tea-tray. Lucretia took off her gloves, and
Reynolds saw his wedding-ring.

"May I give you a cup, Mr. Goodhart?" said she.

The same graceful posture at table; the same fine motions of arm, like
the swaying of stately branches in summer winds; the same flower-like
curve of neck; the same glow of hair and brilliancy of teeth! The magic
was there, and the spell was working--but in a way.

"Shall I call you Captain Goodhart?"

"No, madam; I have given up the sea."

"You retired as captain?"

"I am Mr. John Goodhart. In the Merchant Service we are not entitled to
be called captains; we are master mariners."

"Will you tell me about that island?"

"I will tell you what I saw, and what my chief officer reported."

When he used the words "chief officer," she looked at him intently,
under slightly knitted brows, as though something in the tone in which
he pronounced the words affected her; but the expression vanished
like the shadow of a cloud crossing a brook, and she listened with
single-hearted attention.

"The island is called Santo Cristo. It is about a mile long, and not a
mile broad. It rears a green hill in the middle, out of which, half-way
down, spout two cascades. Its foreshore is of white coral sand. It's an
island of which something could be made were it situated in a lake on
an estate."

"Did the officer see no signs of Captain Reynolds?"

"None."

"If he died on the island----" She did not like to continue.

"Nature is kind," said Reynolds, calmly and gravely, "and in six
years she would not only have found him a tomb, but ornamented his
resting-place with a memorial--a bush, a little growth of flowers."

"It is shocking to me to think of his dying on that island. Was he
alone, do you think?"

"I should say so. Few ships sight that bit of land. Had we not been
blown out of our course, we should not have come within fifty miles of
it. Then, again, the mere circumstance of his letter about you lying
nailed on top of a chest in a cave for nearly six years proves that the
island was unvisited. Anybody who landed and explored the island would
find the cave and take the letter." He paused and added, "Have you any
children?"

"No," she answered, with an expression of face which he readily
translated into an emotion of tingling self-consciousness, but it never
could have been so construed by a stranger. "How did you find out where
I lived, Mr. Goodhart?"

It was necessary to fib. He was acting a part; the actor must tell lies
off the stage as well as on. He was Goodhart to this spectator, and he
must play up to the part, just as though he was King Lear or Joseph
Surface, watched by rows and tiers.

"I saw you on the esplanade the other evening; and ascertained your
name, which induced me to inquire after your address, in the conviction
that, if I was mistaken, a plain explanation of the facts would be
accepted by you as my apology."

Never was falsehood nearer the truth nor more satisfying. He saw that
she was not displeased by the initial curiosity the incident implied.
He had manifestly been attracted by her appearance, had asked who she
was, had been surprised on hearing her name, sought her address, and
taken his chance of her proving the woman he wanted. She began to put
on her gloves.

"How do you think," she asked, "did my poor unfortunate husband
contrive to clothe and feed himself on that wretched lonely island?"

Reynolds gravely shook his head, and slightly shrugged his shoulders,
as though he should say, "How can I tell?"

She rose. "Is Mrs. Goodhart with you?" she asked, with a smile that was
easily interpreted into meaning that "if Mrs. Goodhart is here, I will
formally call upon her."

"Mrs. Goodhart has been lying in her grave in Sydney since 1878,"
answered Reynolds.

She bowed her head in apology for asking the question.

"I wish you to believe, Mr. Goodhart, that I am deeply obliged to you
for your kindness."

"Nothing could have given me more pleasure. I trust this may not be our
only meeting."

"Are you making any stay here?"

"I like the place, and shall linger until I weary of it. And you, Mrs.
Reynolds?"

"Oh, I'm a fixture, I'm afraid. My mornings and afternoons are
occupied. One must live, Mr. Goodhart. Women's opportunities are
fearfully limited. If I had been born a man, I should not teach for a
living. This money is a great godsend." She looked away to the window,
and her fine eyes wore the softened glow which tells of abstraction,
but she was back again in a second. "So many, many thanks for your
kindness."

She extended her hand. He clasped but released it swiftly; then opened
the door and attended her as far as a corridor that led to the hall,
bowed, and returned to sit down and think.

It will seem incredible that Lucretia should not have recognized her
husband. Put it thus: for six or seven years you have thought of a man
as dead. The conviction of his death is a custom, and custom lies upon
us "like a weight, heavy as frost and deep almost as life." Suppose
this man to reappear, absolutely transformed in aspect, would you,
without information, accept him as the person you know is dead? You
might witness features physiological and moral to suggest resemblance,
but this resemblance would be accident, and not revelation; and,
short of revelation, you are bound by the custom of your thought to
believe the person you knew dead, and the same man, when he presents
himself, another. How stood the thing with this couple? In the first
place, it had been a sailor's courtship. She had not seen half as
much of him in the wooing-time as she would have seen had he filled
a shore appointment. Next, she had not been a wife to him. She could
not found herself on such knowledge as would have been hers had they
lived together. She had abandoned him on her wedding-day, and believed
him dead after eight years, during which time she had not heard of him
or set eyes on him, and memory now was holding only the image of him
as he figured whilst he courted her--a fugitive figure, thanks to his
calling. Here he was now as Goodhart, not as Reynolds; so changed in
face, he had started and not known himself when, for the first time
after twenty months, he had looked at himself in a looking-glass in a
cabin in the Chanticleer. The sight of his left eye was so impaired
that he could barely see with it The orb was lustreless and charged
the face with a new expression. He used spectacles for reading, and
pince-nez for surveying distant objects. His left eyebrow and side of
the head were warped by the healing of the wound, and this, combined
with the blow which had wrecked one side of the mouth, completed a
metamorphosis, of which other features were the white hair and grey
beard and mustache, a singular modification in his normal enunciation
owing to the damage done to the mouth, a shadow of melancholy that
had never before been visible--that is, in Lucretia's time. It was
inconceivable that the wife, believing the man dead, should translate
this unfamiliar figure of Mr. John Goodhart into her husband, Frank
Reynolds. She had not done so, and when Reynolds returned to the
private sitting-room, whose atmosphere still cherished the memory in
fragrance of her presence, he felt that he was as dead to her as though
he occupied the grave he had dug for his friend.

This had been a meeting that had imposed a desperate restraint on him,
and now that the pressure was removed, his spirits and feelings swelled
into turbulency, and he paced the room deeply agitated. As his passions
cooled, he asked himself, What should he do? Nothing was more certain
than that his wife, unchanged by time, unsoftened by experiences, was
still that same Lucretia of the altar, who had repulsed him after she
had vowed before God to love, honour, and obey him. But he loved her;
he desired her. The secret of his heart was not to be concealed from
his understanding. He thought her a nobler-looking, a more beautiful
woman now than when he had first met and fallen in love with her. What
depth of spirituality in those dark eyes! How sudden, like the play
of light, was the sweetness of her smile! How tranquil her brow, as
virginal to his, her husband's eyes, as an angel's who in this world
was a little child! How resolved the expression of her bright lips!
How excellent, in this ignoble world of carnal sensation, whether of
finger, or nose, or eye, that spirit of chastity which had held her
from him! He must woo and try to win her as Goodhart.

But though in his wife's unchanged nature he thought he saw the
necessity for this, it was a prospect his vanity by no means relished.
Good God! what would be his feelings to find himself accepted as
Goodhart, when he had been spurned as Reynolds? to find himself
accepted as another man by the wife who would have none of the real
man? It was enough to make him feel jealous of himself as Goodhart!

Next afternoon, at about five o'clock, Reynolds was seated with his
acquaintance the stockbroker on a bench on the East Cliff. A very
flowery young lady of about thirty-eight passed. She was powdered and
vermillioned under a white veil to the aspect of about twenty; eyes
doctored by pigments into an expression of lickerish langour, dangerous
to old and middle-aged men; round in hip, plump and clean in waist,
ripe in bust.

"Ha!" exclaimed the stockbroker, fetching a sigh, and following the
gaudy nymph with his eyes; and the rhapsodist burst out, "How beautiful
and mysterious is that creature--Woman! Think of the loveliness of
her shape, its marvellous adaptability to the purposes for which it
is intended, her power of germinating; the rapture she can excite,
the inspiration she can fire the imagination with, the mighty or the
mean actions she can induce the performance of; think of her, too,
as incarnating that holy mundane trinity--wife, mother, sister! Mr.
Goodhart, of all God's miracles, woman is the greatest."

"And what is your opinion of man?" asked Reynolds, a little drily.

"I have the highest opinion of man in the aggregate; but the individual
man does not always recommend himself to me. He does not always pay his
bills; he tells lies; he runs away with your wife."

"With the greatest of all miracles?"

"Yes, he'll even go so far as that. But the aggregate man! Look at that
noble steamer yonder. Look at that pier down there. Feel the rumble of
the train passing through the tunnel cut in the solid chalk on which we
are seated. It's not man's failures that should dismay us; it is his
achievements that should astonish and stimulate us. He comes into the
world with five senses only; in most cases these senses are defective.
His knowledge is limited to his capacity of perceiving by these senses.
And their doubtful reports are to be construed by that fallible organ
the brain. Thus slenderly and, indeed, almost impotently equipped, the
man you ask me my opinion of points to the noble bridge that spans the
river, to the locomotive shrieking into the tunnel, to the steamship
tearing with iron tooth through the mad heart of the living gale, to
the message that passes to the Antipodes in the twinkling of a star.
Think of these products of five senses only, two or three of them
abortive, depending in their poor efforts to report aright on the
interpretation of that misleading condition of life, the human reason.
I say that, on the terms of his existence, man's achievements are
god-like."

"Not bad for a stockbroker," thought Reynolds, who sincerely agreed
with the rhapsodist.

Just then Lucretia turned the corner of the esplanade. As she
approached, Reynolds stood up, and raised his cap. The stockbroker,
after a glance at this further illustration of the greatest miracle,
walked off. They saluted each other. They agreed that it was a fine
evening.

"I should like to hear more of---- What's the name of the island?" said
she.

"Santo Cristo. Won't you sit?"

She took the place vacated by the rhapsodist She was slightly flushed;
it was not the heat. She was fresh from teaching, and all the while
she had walked from the house, she was secretly resenting the manner
in which her two pupils' mamma had expressed her regret that Lilian's
handwriting should show no signs of improvement, and that Violet's
spelling should continue wretched.

"As if I had had any share in giving those creatures their brains!"
thought the proud and passionless Lucretia as she left the house, which
was in Wellington Crescent.

"I don't think that I could add a sentence to the description I gave
you yesterday," said Reynolds, "It's just a poor little uninhabited
island. Nothing, I should suppose, could live upon it but a man or a
sea-bird."

"If my husband had been taken off by a ship, should not I have heard?"

"Undoubtedly, either through the owners of his ship or from himself."

"What do you really think?" she asked, fastening her full dark eyes
upon him.

"You are reconciled to the idea of his death?"

"His ship was never accounted for after she sailed, and I am forced to
believe that he is dead."

"Since you are reconciled, I should hold to that view if I were you.
Had you been married long before he sailed?"

"No," she answered, slightly contracting her brow as she looked at the
French coast, which was lifted in a delicate orange mirage, and hovered
like a cloud over the sea-line.

"Do you like Ramsgate?" he asked.

"Yes, but not the reason that keeps me in it. There is nothing that
worries the nerves so much as teaching stupid children, whose mothers
think them clever and capable of rapid progress."

He looked at her with a quiet face, when again she gave him a steady
view of her profile, which was the aspect of her beauty he most
admired, whilst she gazed at the French coast.

"You have friends here, of course?"

"None; I have not been here long enough to form acquaintances.
Besides, teaching makes one unsociable. I used to think schoolmasters
disagreeable company, because they bring with them the peremptory,
domineering, correcting ways they employ in the schoolroom. I am
afraid, if I went into society, people would find me objectionable for
the same reason--which, indeed, I can't help, for one contracts bad
habits insensibly in this world of all sorts of misdemeanours." She
rose. "Good afternoon, Mr. Goodhart."

"I am sorry you should be in a hurry."

"I am not in a hurry. I am going to my lodgings to drink a cup of tea,"
said she, with a smile.

"Will you do me the pleasure to drink tea with me at the hotel? I am a
stranger here, and I assure you your society is a singular privilege
which you will not allow me to lose for a cup of tea?"

"I shall be very pleased," she answered, without hesitation. "I'm sure
your thoughtful kindness, the trouble you have taken in carrying out my
husband's wishes, make me very glad, indeed, to meet you."

Naturally, as a lady whose income was very limited indeed, and who
was obliged to teach in order to live she was greatly touched by the
kindness of the man who had taken the trouble to find her out that he
might hand her the handsome and welcome sum of one hundred and fifty
pounds, her husband's farewell gift.

They walked slowly to the hotel.




CHAPTER XIV.--A RESCUE

AS they walked, Reynolds said to Lucretia, "It is sad that you
should be obliged to follow an uncongenial calling for a living. Mr.
Wembly-Jones told me that your income was small--I think he said
seventy pounds a year."

Mr. Wembly-Jones had said nothing of the sort; but then, Reynolds
thought that he knew what he was talking about.

"It is less than that," answered Lucretia, with her cheek warmed by a
little colour discharged into it by half a dozen different feelings.
"Indeed, it is barely sixty."

Their eyes met as she spoke, and she witnessed a sympathy that was
deeper than any that could give life to pity in a stranger in his look.
He saw a sudden trouble of mind as of perplexity in the shadow her brow
took, and in the compression of her lips.

"Had I thought of it," said he, "I might, on learning the name of your
father, have found out where you lived by looking at his will. Your
trustee would have given me your address."

"There were two, and both are dead."

"Who sends you your money?"

"It is received by the bank and forwarded to me. Mr. Wembly-Jones told
me that you were an Australian."

Reynolds did not speak.

"The income I receive," she said, "is derived from Australian bonds. I
should know what they are called if I heard the name."

"New South Wales?"

"No."

"Victoria?"

"Yes."

"I also hold in Victoria. They are very safe."

She asked him some questions about Australia, and this brought them to
the hotel.

As they entered, one of two men who were conversing in the hall
shrieked like a locomotive whistle and fell in a fit. From all parts,
from offices and rooms, people rushed. Who was it? Only his grace the
Duke of------. When a duke has a fit the flap is usually great in the
barnyard that is the theatre of his exploit. A duke's a duke. Reynolds
and Lucretia blended their gaze in an expression of awe at the noble
figure (five feet eight) as it was lifted and carried away.

"Who is it?" asked Reynolds of a waiter.

The fellow told him.

"What was the matter?"

"A fit, sir. But it's well known his viscera's wore out."

After an uncontrollable fit of laughter, Reynolds ordered tea for two
and passed with Lucretia into a great room and sat down with her at a
table at an open window which framed the sea. When events come to pass,
they lose the weight of meaning they held whilst in contemplation. Had
Reynolds been told, whilst on the island of Santo Cristo, that a day
might come when he would be sitting at tea opposite his wife in a hotel
at Ramsgate, he personating the part of Goodhart, and she accepting it
to the very root of the credulity in her, he might, with a shrug and
a smile, have held such a circumstance faintly possible, but in the
uttermost degree improbable. Now that they were together he found the
situation reasonable, logical, easy, though, to be sure, curious. Very
soon after they had seated themselves, she said to him--

"Do you know, Mr. Goodhart, that in some way I'm not able to explain
you recall my husband."

"And do you know, Mrs. Reynolds," he replied, "that in some way I can
explain you recall my wife."

"Not that you are a bit like Captain Reynolds," she went on. "And yet
you have that sort of resemblance which, if you were his brother, would
be called a family likeness."

"You are like my wife in eyes, hair, colour, and figure," said he. "But
she was slimmer, and had not your voice nor the power of expression I
find in your eyes."

Lucretia believed that she concealed her pleasure, the pleasure of
tickled vanity: but it is seldom that gratification can be so obscured
that its light shall not appear in the face.

Reynolds' instructions for tea had been liberal. Strawberries and
cream, prawns, brown and white bread, butter, cakes, and such things.
He easily guessed that Lucretia dined in the middle of the day, and
that her lonely repast would be very homely indeed--a mutton-chop say,
cooked in a frying-pan, ill-dressed and ill-served, a lone lorn Mrs.
Gummidge of a potato, and perhaps a sponge-cake for pudding. He had fed
for twenty months upon fish fried in a shovel, and he was naturally in
sympathy with Lucretia, who lived in a fifth-rate lodging-house.

If he had been pleased with his breakfast at an open window with a
London stockbroker, we may conceive him immeasurably happier at tea at
an open window with Lucretia. It was the singular case of a man who
had resolved to woo and win, in another name, and in an unrecognized
aspect, the handsome and indecorously chaste woman who had married him,
and then cast him out as though he had been one of those abominable
fiends whose misdeeds are recounted in Holy Writ. They had been married
eight years. Commonly after eight years the most impassioned couple
grow a little used to, if not a little tired of, each other. But here
was a man who had got married, and had been immediately prohibited to
find out what a wife meant, or what marriage was like. The painted
dust still glorified this butterfly. The first love of his life still
preserved the freshness and the glory of the dream. The virgin still
slept in the shape of the married woman, and the wooing of her was to
be made as sweetly and deliciously ardent, as though she had never been
won. An odder contradiction in human affairs could not confound the
understanding. Nevertheless, there they sat at tea, at an open window
in a hotel in Ramsgate.

He opened his purse, and took out two guineas.

"The mate I sent ashore," said he, "found these coins in the old chest
to which your husband's letter and enclosures to you had been nailed.
As they may have belonged to him, will you allow me to present them to
you as mementoes of his shipwreck."

She slightly flushed, bowed with the stateliness her fine figure and
shape enabled her to command, and, taking the guineas in her hand and
examining them, said--

"I shall value them very much indeed."

"I have no doubt they belonged to him," said Reynolds, "and that he
put them into that mysterious old chest in preference to making a
hole in the earth as the mariner's custom is when he meets with booty
or disburdens himself of treasure. If he was long on the island his
clothes would fall into rags, and he would be as badly off for pockets
as young Colonel Jack."

She looked pensively out of window, then her eyes came back to the
money in her hand; she examined the coins afresh, and put them in her
purse.

"How long were you at sea, Mr. Goodhart?"

"Many years."

"It is a hard calling and badly paid."

"Very--very."

"The only charm of the ocean as a life lies in it making you see the
world. How mean I used to feel sometimes when Captain Reynolds was
talking about the places he had visited! He'd tell me about Hong Kong,
and Calcutta, and Sydney, and Cape Town, and dozens of other places,
and all I could answer was, 'Do you know Ramsgate, for I've been
there?'"

Reynolds was holding himself under wonderful control; such control as
he never could have exercised but for two reasons: First, he was a man
of great intelligence, of instant sympathy, and at this particular
juncture you will suppose that every instinct bristled in him with
the spirit of alertness. Second, he was used, as a sailor, to sudden
confusing and amazing confrontments, and had taught himself never to
be at a loss, and this professional habit had been matured by his
island-isolation, by months of enforced introspection, by frequent
contemplation of contingencies, such, for example, as suddenly meeting
his wife, and how he should act; and the like. He listened to Lucretia
with an unchanged face whilst she talked.

"Though sailors travel far, they see little," said he.

"I want to ask you this question whilst I think of it: do you suppose
the sea-chest in the cave belonged to Captain Reynolds?"

"To judge from the chief officer's description of it I should say
certainly not. He considered it about a hundred years old."

"I don't think I ever saw his sea-chest," said she, musingly. "And
now another question, Mr. Goodhart. What chance do you think would a
person, placed as I am, find in Australia?"

"A very poor chance."

"Surely a better chance than England offers?"

"No; you are not a cook or a housemaid. Governesses are not in demand
in Australia."

"Where are they wanted?" she exclaimed, with a glow of eye, a
colour of temper he remembered well, and remembered only to admire as
he again admired. "Where is the governess paid as a person who must
look like a lady if she is unable to live as one? I started a young
ladies' school at Canterbury; two pupils could not maintain me, and I
lost money, which reduced my income and drove me to Margate, where I
was most unhappy. I cannot see why governesses should not be wanted in
Australia."

He laughed softly, and answered that she would be deceiving herself if
she acted under that impression.

"Forgive my apparent curiosity," he said, "my desire is to be of use
to you. Did not Captain Reynolds leave anything--any property--cash--a
house?"

"I believe he had two or three hundred pounds lying in savings at the
London and Westminster Bank," she said, viewing him steadfastly as
though struck by the idea he had put into her head.

"Have you claimed the money as his widow?"

"No."

"Why?"

"Because I never thought of doing so."

"Have you had no adviser in your time?"

"I have consulted one or two solicitors, but on business that never
could have suggested the thought you have given me."

"If you will authorize me to make a claim for this money as Captain
Reynolds' widow, I will go to work. How much is it?"

"Frank told me it was between two and three hundred pounds. But I know
that he drew a part of it before he sailed on his last voyage, and
perhaps that was the one hundred and fifty pounds he wished me to get,
and which, thanks, so many, many thanks to you, I have got."

"Will you address a letter to me here, authorizing me to act for you?"

"I will most gladly; indeed, Mr. Goodhart, you are very, very kind,"
she exclaimed, and her voice trembled, and the extremities of her
mouth twitched, and her eyes softened with the shadow of an emotion
as the sunbeam on the river gathers tenderness from the shadow of the
delicate film of cloud. "But," she continued, after a few moments'
consideration, "if my husband is alive, ought I, have I a right to take
the money?"

"My dear madam," he answered, steadily returning her gaze, "I
understand that it is eight years since you parted from your husband.
His ship has been overdue seven years. In those seven years you have
not heard of or from him. If he were alive would not he, on his rescue,
have made haste to communicate with you? You must either take it that
he is dead or that he has abandoned you. You knew your husband. Was he
the man to abandon you?"

Her face expressed the complexity of her mood. She faintly responded--

"I do not know--I should hope not."

"Then, as he was not the man to desert his wife," continued Reynolds,
repressing with a violent effort the animation his voice and manner
were beginning to betray, "it must be that he is dead. For how is it to
stand with you if you are to go on thinking of him as alive, yet never
hearing from or knowing where he is? You told me you were newly married
when he sailed. You were, so to speak, his bride. Do men desert their
brides--and such brides as you? I do not think I could have deserted my
wife, whom I loved, and I am sure she would not have thought I deserted
her if I had sailed and had not been heard of for eight years."

She listened to him with an attention that made her beauty severe and
colourless with the pain of that attention. She sighed suddenly, and
gave her body a little shake, as though by the physical effort she
could dislodge the gnats of thought which stung her.

"You are extremely kind to take so much interest," she said, feeling in
her pocket for her gloves. "I will gladly take your advice."

"You will write authorizing me to apply for the money?"

"Yes--this evening."

"It will save a post if I send for it."

"I will leave it here."

She looked about her for a clock.

Reynolds pulled out Goodhart's splendid gold watch, somewhat
ostentatiously surveyed it, and said--

"It is half-past six."

"I will leave the letter at about eight o'clock."

He sprang the lid of the watch as if to inspect the face, so held it
that she could not fail to see the monogram, "J.G.," on the back, then
closed and pocketed it.

She stood up.

"When shall I have the pleasure of seeing you again?" he said, rising.

"I am engaged morning and afternoon."

"And after?"

"I usually take a walk on the pier after tea."

"Shall we say this hour on the pier to-morrow evening?"

She bowed.

As they walked to the hall of the hotel they met the London
stockbroker, who, after staring at Lucretia, thought to himself, "Well,
this is coming it a bit thick! A pale, melancholy, white-haired man,
well on for sixty, professing to love science and philosophy, and he
has not been in Ramsgate a couple of days before he has managed to pick
up the handsomest woman in the place!" So accurate are men's judgments
one of another!

That evening Reynolds received the following:--


"28, Belle Vue Road, Ramsgate.

"DEAR MR. GOODHART,

"My husband, the late Captain Francis Reynolds, told me before we were
married that he had saved up two or three hundred pounds, with which he
intended to furnish a little house for me on his return.

This money he said he had placed in the hands of the London and
Westminster Bank. I am quite sure this was the name of the bank in
London. He sailed in the ship he commanded, the Flying Spur, from
Falmouth, in October, 1890, and I have never heard of or from him
since. As you inform me that I am entitled to this money as his widow,
I should feel deeply grateful to you if you would help me to receive
it, as I am poor and working as a governess, and this sum, whatever it
may be, would be greatly helpful. I believe he drew a portion of it
before he sailed. Thanking you again and again,

"Believe me, sincerely and gratefully yours,

"LUCRETIA REYNOLDS."


He slightly smiled, but his face swiftly resumed its habitual grave and
melancholy expression, and he put the letter into his pocket with the
slow motion of hand which is one of the body's visible tokens that the
spirit within it is in labour.

Reynolds was a sailor, but he was also a good man of business. He
easily understood that, as a stranger to Lucretia, he could not help
her to get the money her husband had left on deposit--the procedure
would have involved the starting of the gigantic mill of the law.
First, Mrs. Reynolds must apply to the courts for leave to presume
her husband's death; and this leave being granted, she must take out
letters of administration or obtain probate of her husband's will, and
in this case there was no will. The letters of administration, or the
probate, would then have to be lodged with the London and Westminster
Bank for registration, after which the money standing to the credit
of the husband could be withdrawn. Reynolds had no intention to
disclose his identity, and his secret must be imminently jeopardized
if, feigning to be Goodhart, he placed himself within the radius of
the light of that searching bull's-eye, the law. He quite knew what
to do, and how to continue his appeals to the gratitude and to the
deeper emotions of his wife, by holding her as a lady who would be very
willing to accept Mr. Goodhart's word, providing Mr. Goodhart's or
another's cheque confirmed it.

That was a fine month of June, and the following day was as brilliant
as any of the vanished flock of sunlit hours. At half-past six Reynolds
was on the East pier. The sun was reddening westwards, and clouds, as
soft and white as foam, came out of the east from the lips of the wind
and floated across the sky to make more glorious the pavilions and the
couch of the sinking god of day. Many people walked upon the pier. Here
and there, within a mile or two, gambolled a boat, with men in her,
fishing; and here and there the canvas of a sailing-boat resembled the
breaking head of a little sea. The Sandwich shore swept along in purple
shadow until it soared in dimming brightness where the Foreland exalted
her star. Whatever took the eye was rich with the colours of the dying
day--the blue of the sea a deeper blue, the commonplace sail of the
smack a symmetric space of cloth of gold, the granite of the quay
mellow as ancient marble, the staring chalk of the cliff as bland as
the softness of cream, and every glass-sparkle was a little golden sun,
and every reflection in the water the poetry of what was mirrored.

Reynolds stood at the end of the pier, and looked down upon the water,
which raced with the tide of flood, and spat and snarled about the
solid masonry, leaping in bayonets of blue brine, foaming in eddies,
waltzing in mimic whirlpools away eastwards with an inward swirl that
made somewhat heavy weather of it close in against the seaward-facing
pier-wall; and by looking apace steadfastly down you would have thought
that the pier itself was shouldering through it at the rate of knots.

"Good evening, Mr. Goodhart."

Lucretia stood behind him. He could never weary of admiring her. Every
time they met she grew in charm; her presence was fairer with beauty.
Though English to the root, she had, he always thought, a something
French--Parisian--in her several graces of demeanour and attire. Could
she, even at this early date, fail to see that Mr. Goodhart was very
seriously attracted by her, found her gravely engaging? Though his
face was half buried in hair, and one eye lustreless, and the side
of his face wrinkled like the shell of a walnut, there was window
of countenance enough left for the man inside to peep out of and be
detected, and she would not have been Lucretia Reynolds, in short, she
would not have been a woman, had she missed the import of Reynolds'
spirit that came and went in that facial show-box as an actor struts
and withdraws. Was the spirit of chastity, adorable and thrice-blessed
in the maid, but bitter and false in its animation of Lucretia as a
wife, was the spirit that had expelled her lover and her husband from
her life, to influence her afresh with like results on the cognition by
her heart of Goodhart's meaning? This was the problem Reynolds intended
to solve one way or the other in his own fashion and by the light shed
by his past.

"How do you do, Mrs. Reynolds? I received your letter last evening, and
the matter is in hand. You shall not be kept waiting, if I can help it."

She thanked him, smiling, and no smile of royalty--taking its value
from homage--could be more gracious than hers.

"Have you been at work?" he asked, whilst they seated themselves on the
low coping that protects the extremity of the pier.

"Yes; from half-past two to half-past four. But I have done with that
family. Mrs. Kendal is difficult to please. She has thin lips and pale
eyes, and is one of those economical women who at table asks you to
help the children plentifully to vegetables. She is a second wife, and
calls herself number two."

"Who's wife is she?"

"An infatuated old man's, whose only son by his first wife was sent to
sea as an apprentice."

"She is naturally proud of her own children, and spends all the money
she can afford on them?" said Reynolds.

"Yes; her baby is the most handsomely dressed infant in Ramsgate, and
although the old man is always appealing for funds, Mrs. Kendal manages
to keep two nurses."

Lucretia spoke with a fine sultry glow of resentment and contempt in
voice and eye.

"I'm glad you've done with them. You'll enjoy more liberty," said
Reynolds.

"I wish you would encourage me to try my fortune in Australia, Mr.
Goodhart. If I come in for any money from my husband--a thing I never
should have thought of but for you--that, with the money you kindly
sent me, would help me to start a school."

"I cannot encourage you," answered Reynolds.

"This visiting-governess work is a pitiful outlook--a hand-to-mouth
struggle which subjects one to endless mortifications."

"Meanwhile we will see what money Captain Reynolds left at the bank,"
said Reynolds.

"When I was at Canterbury I had some idea of starting a milliner's
shop. But I am a miserable hand at business, and am sure I should lose
every penny I embarked."

"There is no particular hurry, I hope."

"I mean this, Mr. Goodhart!" she exclaimed, with energy: "the money
your goodness has been instrumental in getting for me, and the money
you may succeed in obtaining on my behalf, must soon be spent if I do
not apply it to some practical purpose, and then I shall be reduced to
my former position--I shall have to teach to eke out an income that
does not support me; and I hate teaching."

"You don't mean to leave Ramsgate yet?"

"I don't see why I should. What can I do elsewhere?"

"I intend to remain here for some time. The place pleases and agrees
with me. Between us we may yet devise some scheme that shall result in
your establishment."

The wistful expression vanished from her eyes. Her look indicated a
faint inward recoil, an appearance of surprise which needed but a touch
or two with the pencil of the emotions to deepen into dismay. He gazed
at her calmly; his heart was well pleased. Certainly he was not very
eager that Goodhart, on the merits of her needs, should lightly win
the woman out of the little horizon of whose life Reynolds had been
spurned. But she was bound to be grateful; so, inclining her head, she
said--

"Your honourable conduct, Mr. Goodhart, and your kindness and sympathy
assure me that I could not do wrong by accepting your advice."

He smiled at her, and in a breath her face changed.

"It is very curious," she said, viewing him intently, "but there are
moments when you strikingly recall my husband to me. It is not the
voice, nor the appearance in the least----" She paused and again
searched him with her gaze.

"Resemblances are often startling, though there may be no affinity
between the people," said Reynolds. "Have you a portrait of your
husband?"

"Yes."

"I should like to see it. His story, and yours, make him an interesting
character."

She pulled a locket out of her breast, and he recognized one of his
gifts, a locket containing a portrait of him cut from a photograph. It
was suspended round the neck by a thin gold chain. She unclasped the
chain, and gave him the locket opened. He inspected it with a tranquil
face. He was indeed acting his part phenomenally well. But then he was
acting that he might conquer, and he flung his whole genius into the
effort as one who must either win a life or break a heart.

"This is a fine face," said he, dwelling with affected attention upon
the photograph. "I like it. It is honest, open, handsome, I think.
You flatter me by finding a resemblance. Take it, Mrs. Reynolds, and
compare it. Why, this is a fine young man of thirty."

She took the locket, glanced at it, and then looked at Reynolds. Their
eyes met.

"It is not the face," she said. "The likeness is in characteristics of
speech and manner, and sometimes you wear an expression which might
certainly easily make you pass as my husband's brother. It is a family
resemblance."

He asked for the locket, and again fastened his eyes upon it.

"There is thought in this face. There is much character in the mouth,
and the eyes are those of a thinker. I should say this man was of a
poetical cast of mind."

"Distinctly."

"A bit of a dreamer--some sailors are. I incline that way a little. The
middle watch makes one so--I mean if you are gifted with the poetic
impulse. To most the middle watch is a prolonged yawn and a dreary
stump of a dreary deck. I cannot believe that the owner of this face
deserted you."

"I never said he did!" she cried, with some vehemence.

"If you have not heard from him it is because he is dead. So! this is
that shipwrecked mariner whose legacy to his wife I was instrumental
in discovering! Poor fellow! There is honour, there is loyalty in this
man's face. I am certain that the character this face proclaims was too
good, too honest, too faithful to desert such a bride as you made him."

"Oh, Mr. Goodhart, do not persist in telling me what I have never
believed and never wished to believe. Could he have written, he would,"
she said, with her eyes womanly with that softness of shadow which
betokens the possession of the mood of tears.

"His thinking of you, and leaving you what he had, is a proof of
loyalty to the last," said Reynolds, gently, returning the locket to
Lucretia. "And surely it must make you happier to know that, though
dead, he was yours to the end, than to suppose that he lives and has
abandoned you--at a time, too, of your life when you need the support,
counsel, and home which only a husband can give you."

She was looking away from him across the harbour, crying silently.

An expression of deep love, the light of a heart glowing with the
purest and most exalted emotion, was upon his face as he watched her.
He rose, walked away a few paces, and seemed to be interested in the
manoeuvring of a boat that was making for the harbour, steered by a
Cockney in a cricket suit, apparently drunk. A short way down the pier,
standing against the side that fronts the sea, was a young woman who
held her little boy of some two or three years on top of the coping.
This was one of those persons who should not visit the seaside unless
attended by a sentry. It is this sort of person who, with a baby in her
arms, enters a boat loaded down to her gunwales by tipsy excursionists,
and screams with laughter when a young, red-faced man with a hard round
hat at the back of his head gets upon a thwart or seat on straddled
legs, and dangerously sways the boat from side to side to some roaring
vulgar song of "Send me a letter from 'ome." This is the sort of person
who, with a child, a spade, and a bucket, is always caught by the tide,
and stands in a swiftly diminishing island of sand. This is the person
who sits perched on a rock reading a cheap magazine whilst the flood
is making, and who must be washed off and drowned if a coastguardsman
is not lowered and hauled up again with the "party" in his arms. This
is the party who (always with the baby) is pulled out to sea by her
husband or a friend without regard to the aspect of the weather or
the set of the tide, and who is as charmed as the man is who rows
her by the velocity of the boat through the water, overlooking the
trifling circumstance that two-thirds of the speed must be attributed
to the tide, which is despatching the boat into dangerous distance and
ugly waters, from which her inmates must be rescued by three or four
longshoremen who put off, and who, when they have towed the boat into
harbour and safety, are rewarded by the man with an offer (after much
heated talk about payment) to fight them all, one after another.

Suddenly Reynolds--but not only Reynolds, everybody within the area of
the vibration--was startled by a fearful scream. What had happened? The
young woman holding the boy on top of the coping had relaxed her grasp
whilst turning her head to critically inspect the costumes of a couple
of young ladies who were passing. The straining child broke from the
weakened grip, and fell like a stone into the troubled waters beneath.

This end of the pier was well covered by people moving in procession,
or lounging, or sitting. The shriek of the mother appeared to paralyze
every limb; the walking figures stopped dead; next followed a rush of
men and women, and the coping was clothed with a mass of variegated
projected shapes, in the midst of which stood the mother, yelling as
the vulgar exactly know how to yell in affliction, tossing her hands,
and crying, "Oh, somebody save him! he is my only child! Oh, somebody
save him!"

Reynolds ran and looked over, and saw in the trouble of water below a
little mound of foam, due to the windmill pantomime of the drowning
child. Shouting to a man next him, "Heave me that rope, there, and
send a boat!" he pulled off his coat and cap, flung them down, sprang
with a sailor's grace on to the coping, and with the swimmer's art,
with outstretched hands meeting cutwater fashion, went a header. He
rose buoyant: he swam well; no man ever carried a cooler heart or
swifter prompting brain in moments of extremity. He caught a glimpse of
the vanishing child, and in a few powerful strokes of arm was beside
him, had gripped him, had hoisted him breast-high out of the snappish
wobble, and was making for the line which had been flung, and which he
speedily got a clutch of; and there he hung, holding the child on his
shoulder, lifting and falling with the tumble of sea--a white-haired
man, a most noble and heroic figure truly, and amongst those who looked
down was Lucretia.

The harbour boat lay at the foot of a fall of pier steps, almost
abreast of the watch-house. Men are always on the look-out on Ramsgate
pier. The moment those on watch--these watchmen are gallant fellows;
their ranks have supplied the lifeboat with magnificent examples
of British pluck and endurance in coxswains and men--knew what had
happened, three of them sank down the pier-ladder into the boat, and
pulled round the pier-head with the steady controlled rage of seamen
who perfectly understood the significance of time--yea, of one moment
too late--in all sea peril.

"The boat's coming!" they roared from the coping to Reynolds, who
smiled, and spoke to the child on his shoulder, who answered him.

The boat came hopping over the foam she made.

"Catch hold of the child," cried Reynolds, and the baby was seized and
lifted in; and Reynolds, putting his hands upon the gunwale, hoisted
himself in his sailor's way, and with his sailor's knack to the height
of his waist, and then flung a leg over, and rolled inboards. "Thanks,
my lads," said he. "Now bear a hand. This youngster wants his mother.
Hand him to me, and then give way with a will."

No need for the piermen to ask this white-haired, gray-bearded old
gentleman, "Was you ever at sea, sir?" There is what scientific men
call a natural affinity among sailors. They mutually attract one
another, and are drawn together by a law which is as much ocean's
secret as that of gravitation is the earth's.

The men pulled the boat round to the harbour landing-steps. A great
crowd was there to witness what was to happen. Lucretia made one of
that crowd, and stood very near to the mother of the child, who was
crying and trembling at the head of the flight of stone stairs. When
Reynolds stepped out of the boat, sopping, a soaked parcel of manhood,
clasping another but a smaller parcel equally soaked, up went a cheer
that was louder than the roar of the surf upon the sands.

"Oh, my ducky! Oh, my darling!" sobbed the young mother, taking the
streaming child from Reynolds. "How did I come to do it? Oh, I have
nearly drowned you! Oh, my sweet pet lamb!" And she kissed the child
and mouthed, and then burst out weeping hysterically. "Oh, sir, how
am I to thank you! How noble you are! How good you are! I shall
always--always ask God to bless you."

"Now, my dear lady," said Reynolds, "your child needs attention. Walk
away home with him as fast as you can. You'll know what to do. If not,
send for a doctor."

He offered to make his way through the crowd, who formed a lane for
him, and groaned at him in exclamations of respect and admiration. But
Lucretia, who stood near, advanced with outstretched hand.

"Mr. Goodhart," she said, speaking with a vibratory note, so
impassioned was the emotion that possessed her; "I cannot express how
much I honour and respect you for this act. It is beautiful----" She
wished to say more, but she had been crying just a little time before
he jumped into the sea, the weakness of tears was still hers, and she
turned away her head.

"We shall be meeting soon," said he, and walked down the pier as fast
as he could, leaving a wake of wet behind him, for his pockets and
boots were full, and he was buttoned up in a waistcoat that held water.
A watchman ran after him with his cap and coat. He overtook the mother
hurrying home with her damp, but apparently cheerful burden, and begged
her to be quick, and dry the child, and get it into blankets. He then
walked to a cab-stand, jumped into a cab, and was driven to the hotel.




CHAPTER XV.--MR. GOODHART OFFERS MARRIAGE

ON the morning following the life-saving incident, Reynolds awoke
and found himself heavy, depressed, low with malaise. He felt his
pulse--seventy. He got out of bed, opened the dressing-case, and
took out a clinical thermometer. His temperature was 103½º. He quite
understood that this signified a return of Malta fever, whether due
to his plunge last evening, or to the perception of certain secreted
microscopic bacilli that a time had come when they should make their
presence felt, was not of the smallest consequence. The remedy was bed,
patience, and abstinence.

He kept his room all day, but his yearning after Lucretia was so great
that he must needs write this note to her--


"DEAR MRS. REYNOLDS,

"I am confined to my room by a slight attack of Mediterranean fever,
but hope to be well to-morrow, and in any case to be able to meet you
on the day following. Possibly I shall find you on the East Cliff
esplanade at five o'clock (let me definitely name the day after
to-morrow), when I hope you will return with me to drink tea. I am
afraid I shall not be able to tell you anything about Captain Reynolds'
money by then, because before the Bank remits they will require proof
of Captain Reynolds' death. But I have referred them to Lloyds' and to
other authorities, and have little doubt that before a week has passed
I shall have the pleasure to hand you a cheque. With kind regards,

"Yours very truly,

"JOHN GOODHART."


He used pencil and took great care to disguise his hand which he
readily contrived as he wrote in bed, and his writing was a ragged
scrawl. He sent this note to be delivered by hand. Next to talking
to her it pleased him to write to her. Goodhart's prophecy had come
to pass: the old magic had done its work: the spell was on him. How
passionately was he loving her!--never more so than now--never even in
days when his heart was younger by eight years, when it had not been
chilled and sickened by unnatural and unwomanly revolt, when love was
sweet and fresh with the glory of the rose on the bush, not the rose
in the hand, nor the petal of memory betwixt the leaves in the shut
volume of years. And it was his passion to possess her that determined
him to go on wooing her as he now was, as Goodhart, a stranger, an
acquaintance, a fast-ripening friend of deep sympathy, a man to be
trusted and honoured, to whose custody, absolutely convinced that her
husband Frank was dead, she might in time be coaxed and courted into
committing the delicate precious charge of her virginal being.

And you will suppose that to the degree of his desire for her was his
fear of detection lest the old loathing should return, like the entry
of a hideous fiend, to tear and rend to pieces the machinery of a mind
that was to be likened to some hall of ice far north, a moonlit vision
of white pillars, and roof gleaming with cold stars, and a floor upon
which no fairy that ever sang with the grasshoppers in the land of
romance would choose to dance!

He lay in a bedroom from which he could view the sea shining in a blue
lake-like surface, and lying alone he thought much of his term of
solitude on the island, how different his condition when he had the
fever there from what it was now, how he had dragged his legs of lead,
and poised his head like a hot cannon-ball between his shoulders, to
the foam of the cataracts' stroke, how he had lain in his cheerless
crack of earth gazing with fevered eyes at the stars, and wondering how
long he should live, and thinking of Lucretia as he now thought of her.
His mind rambled to the old sea-chest and to the letter he had nailed
to the lid, and this memory caused him to consider that he had not made
a will, and if he died and nobody could prove his identity his money
would be lost to Lucretia.

He deliberated how he should go to work. He would not trust a local
lawyer with the secret. The gentleman might be a member of the club
at Ramsgate, and some provincial lawyers talk about their clients as
some provincial doctors talk about their patients, so that if he went
to a lawyer in Ramsgate to make his will, his secret business might,
God knows how, leak out and trickle to that one ear in the world whose
reception of it might desolate his heart, and bring his fabric of
self-respect down upon his head in dusty ruin.

He rose early next day, being perfectly recovered from his attack, and
took the train to Deal. This little town is seated opposite the Downs.
It is remarkable for the number of its public-houses. Its beach is a
shelving shore of shingle, up which the surf rushes with a noise like
the escape of steam, and down which it shales in a conflict of foaming
water and dark gleaming pebbles which rattle as they are torn along.
Boats, called galley-punts, repose on this shingle with their noses
pointed at the sea and their sterns at tall skeleton capstans to which
they are connected by ropes; and when one of these boats comes ashore
from a cruise, a number of aged men, who shape themselves out of you
don't know what or where, gather about the capstan the boat belongs to,
ship bars, and begin to wind round and round, a slow, tuneless, and
melancholy circus of very old men in broken boots, patched breeches,
tall hats discoloured by age and weather into the aspect of bronze, and
faces often so ancient that to explore them is like opening old coffins
or like watching a mask of almost eyeless wrinkles, vital in nothing
save a movement of jaw which betokens that the withered curve of gum
with its one stump of ninety-three years is still busy with the little
cube of tobacco.

The beach and esplanade are noticeable for a class of persons called
boatmen, who wear yellow trousers and blue jerseys, from the breasts
of which they will pull down a newspaper or a parcel of letters sent
ashore by a skipper for the post, and these men, who are nearly always
starving, and therefore ask most fraudulent and monstrous sums of money
to take you off or put you ashore, devote the greater part of their
lives to the study of that fine art of the British longshore, the art
of lounging.

No boatman in Great Britain can loaf, lounge, and lean with such
superiority of lazy, drunken, idle, sulking, dumbly-cursing postures
as the Dealman. He is born for something to lean against, to lean upon
with folded arms, to lean over, to loll at; the whole indolence of the
man blends with the object he polishes with breech, elbow, or hip, and
he and the capstan he sprawls upon, or he and the pillar or post he
leans against, are so much one, that a dog and his tail are not more
united.

Reynolds walked from the station to the esplanade. The hour was a
little after ten: early, but Reynolds desired to do his business and
return to entertain Lucretia at his hotel. Ramsgate was lost to sight
in the milky softness of cliff that contained it, and that faded in a
glimmering white film in the blue air. The sea was brushed by a soft
south-west wind, and glanced and danced in little frolicking curls,
every one of which ran with a white feather in its head, and the broad
liquid table, upbearing its burden of curtseying ships in the Downs,
was a wide and lovely tremble of sparkles like the shivering of the
tiny suns in summer trees when the green leaves are fretted by the
kisses of the breeze.

Just there, where that brig with grey hull, raking masts, the flag of
Brazil at her trysail gaff, her chocolate-coloured girl of figure-head
sinking in endless bows to the gaunt steamer ahead, sitting hollow upon
the water with the bewildered look of a balloon that comes down from
the clouds suddenly to sea and strains and floats for a little while
aimless and imbecile,--just there lay the Flying Spur, in October,
1890: and this was June, 1898. Lucretia was on board, loathing him:
Lucretia was now yonder where the low land lifted into a rampart of
chalk. He was Goodhart, and she did not loathe him. What would be the
mood that fired her, that should sweep her into his arms, or drag her
back in renewed access of the passion of chastity when she discovered
that he was her husband? Which must certainly happen before they came
together, and therefore would happen, for he meant to possess her!

A boatman who was leaning over the back of a seat--called out--

"Put you aboard any ship out there, sir?"

"No. Do you belong to Deal?"

"Whoy, I should rather think I dew," answered the man, grinning over
the folded arms he leaned upon.

"Who's a good lawyer in this town?"

"A good lawyer?" echoed the fellow, with a large and silly stare at
another man who had indolently strolled up, scenting half a pint.
"If yer want a good lawyer you'll find him in one of them ship's
forecastles," with a nod at the ships in the Downs. "They knows
what's what, and mor'n what's what, if they're furriners. You'll get no
advice worth listening to at Deal onless it's the magistrates', who'll
lock yer up for a month if it's the bobby's wish and 'im in with yer
wife, and both wantin' yer out of it."

He scowled at his mate. The question appeared to have touched a sore in
the man's mind: indeed, his feelings were so strong that he even stood
upright to deliver his views.

Reynolds walked into the High Street, obtained the address of a
solicitor from a stationer who produced a directory, and called at once
at the office. He was kept waiting, and sat listening to a bald-headed
clerk on a three legged-stool, scratching time with his pen to the
ticking of a large leering clock over his head. A man entered: he was
dressed in blue cloth, and kept his cap on. His face was like a piece
of underdone beef, blue and red, cobwebbed with scarlet filaments, and
his eyes glowed damply like the reflection of the sun in the Thames on
a foggy day.

"Mr. Grundy in?" he asked.

"Engaged, sir," answered the clerk.

"How long'll he be?"

"A few minutes. This gentleman's waiting."

"Good morning," said the man, bestowing a purple nod on Reynolds, and
sitting down.

Reynolds slightly started. He knew the man as one Captain Carson, had
met him at several ports, and had dined with him at Singapore. His nod
alarmed him. Was he recognized? His mind speedily cleared. Captain
Carson did not know him.

"Ashore on business, sir?" said Captain Carson, pulling out a case of
cigarettes, and extending it to Reynolds, who declined, then to the
clerk who, with obvious regret, also declined.

"All my business is done ashore," answered Reynolds.

"Oh, I thought you belonged to my cloth. You're lucky not to be master
of a ship."

And he began a story about his crew, how they all came aboard drunk,
how the ship was brought to Gravesend by lumpers and runners, where
she was left to swing till her men were sober enough to stand upright,
how, after letting go the anchor in the Downs, they all lay aft, and
said they didn't mean to proceed in the ship, as she leaked, which was
a lie, as most of her principal masts were sprung, which was another
lie, as she was down by the head and all her running gear rotten, and
not a ratline strong enough for a rat to sling by. All lies. They were
ashore, and so was he.

All the time this captain talked, Reynolds marvelled at the change
that had been wrought in his own personal appearance, so that this man
should not have the least idea who he was: which somehow impressed him
even more than his wife's failure to detect him.

He was liberated from the obligation of following a violent attack on
the character of the merchant sailor by somebody stepping out of the
inner office, and the solicitor in the doorway asking him to walk in.
His business was simple, and was to be easily disposed of. He wished
to leave all that he owned to his wife in language unclouded by legal
verbiage, so that his intention could not be misunderstood. He named
the manager of the bank he did business with in London, and a gentleman
who resided in Sydney, New South Wales, as executors.

"When can you let me have this will?"

"The day after to-morrow. To-morrow is County Court, and I have a
number of cases to attend to."

"A good deal of quarrelling goes on here, I believe?"

"The boatmen love the law, and numbers of petty tradesman in the
district, village grocers and the like, who sell everything from a
joint of beef to a bird-cage, are constantly failing, or suing or being
sued."

"Kindly address the document to Mr. John Goodhart," said Reynolds,
naming the hotel and town; and, paying the fee, he walked out,
exchanging a nod with Carson as he passed.

He returned to Ramsgate with a heart as light as the June day about
him, that rejoiced in the blue sky, in the song of the lark. He
was acting his part well, and who or what sings more sweetly and
gratefully to a man than his own conscience when it is happy and at
rest? His heart was putting in some special pleading for Lucretia: his
concessions were liberal. If her faith had been unfaithful, she had not
been falsely true. She wore his ring, and his likeness rose and fell
with the breathing of her breast and the beating of her heart. She had
remained his wife, though she believed herself a widow. In this was
she true to herself or to him? The solution of such a problem could
signify nothing. Few know themselves: perhaps no man, however searching
in lifelong introspection, knows himself; the mood of the hour before
dinner is not the mood of the hour after dinner; Lucretia before her
marriage was surely not the Lucretia she was changed into by her
marriage, or would she have married?

At half-past five he was on the esplanade, waiting. A pale young woman
of London, holding a small boy by the hand, came along. When she saw
Reynolds she cried out--

"Oh, Georgie, there's the gentleman that saved your life;" and with an
emotion of gratitude that gave a moment's refinement of beauty to the
coarseness of her prettiness, she added, "I do thank you so much, sir;
I couldn't have borne to lose him. What would my husband have thought?
He'd write, and gladly, to thank you, if not too great a liberty; but
your name and address are unknown."

Reynolds smiled, and called the little boy to him, and taking a crown
piece from his pocket, said--

"Georgie, you can be a sailor, and feel easy; you are not born to be
drowned. Which would you like best, a horse and cart, or a ship to swim
in a pool in the sands?"

"A ship to swim in a pool in the sands," echoed the boy, in a level
voice.

"Then, go and buy her," said Reynolds.

The boy's small fingers hooked themselves upon the big coin with the
avariciousness of tender youth.

"I thank you kindly, sir," said the London mother. "Thank the
gentleman, Georgie. Every night you kneel down you will ask God to
bless him, won't you? I'd like him to thank you, sir, by singin' a
little song his father learnt him."

But just then, Lucretia turned the corner. The London mother's eyes
followed Reynolds' gaze, and she saw it was time to go.

"I hope you are very much better, Mr. Goodhart," said Lucretia.

"Malta fever is like a brother who has gone wrong: he makes you hear of
him from time to time," answered Reynolds.

She was dressed in white, and was, in truth, a very handsome, indeed
beautiful, presence, princess-like, if by that term, dignity, stature,
carriage, and command of person be meant. Never a man passed by who did
not favour her with a glance or stare. Nor were her own sex unobservant
of her.

"I hope I made my meaning clear in the scrawl I sent from my bed," he
said.

"Perfectly. I thought it so very kind of you to think of me when you
were ill."

"It gives me pleasure to serve you," he exclaimed, with cautious
warmth, feeling his way.

"It seems strange," said she, "that one who reminds me indefinitely of
my husband should have found his letter, brought his gift, and continue
to act towards me as though you had been friends. I showed you his
likeness--I suppose you never met him?"

"What commands did he hold?"

"Oh, he went as captain of two or three mail steamers--I think the line
was the Elder Dempster. There is such a firm?"

"Certainly."

"And he also commanded several sailing-ships. One was a celebrated
clipper, and he would speak with enthusiasm of her beauty under sail or
lying at anchor. She was called the Lancashire Lass."

"I know the ship," said Reynolds, gravely.

"My husband, when he sailed on his last voyage, in 1890, had been about
eighteen years at sea."

"He must have been young when he held command."

"He was. But in these days of steam, voyages are so rapid, that, as
Captain Reynolds used to say, you can pack three or four voyages into a
year, and if you obtain fresh appointments, whether in the same company
or others, a comparatively young sailor may claim to have seen a great
deal in a short time."

"True."

"It would be strange," she exclaimed, looking thoughtfully upon the
ground as they walked, "if you had met him--unconsciously, I mean--on
a pier or in a street in a foreign port, and in ignorance that you had
once looked at him, or he at you, you had brought home his letter."

"It may be that Reynolds and I have met in the way you suggest.
Englishmen are plentiful. They are repeatedly coming across one
another," said he, speaking behind his beard, mustache, and pince-nez,
with a face that was purely Goodhart to her.

They entered the hotel, and were presently seated at a tea-table at an
open window. He told her that he had run across to Deal in the morning,
and they chatted on several no-matters till Reynolds brought the
conversation back again to them both.

"I think you told me that Captain Reynolds meant to take you to sea
with him when he went on his last voyage."

She raised her eyebrows and exclaimed, "Did I? I don't remember."

"Had you gone," he continued, "you would have been shipwrecked. It's
true your life might have been preserved as his was, but if he was the
only survivor no sailor would give the value of that strawberry in your
hand for your chances, for your husband's first care would be for you.
It must have been the lowered boat, and since none lived but he, you
would have gone with the rest."

"Yet my place as his wife was with him," she said, looking through the
window at the sea.

It was fortunate for the concealment he sought that their eyes did
not meet, whilst the sudden look that almost transformed his face
stayed for a few breaths only. He took up a prawn, and seemed lost in
contemplation of its workmanship, but after no very long pause, said--

"No doubt a wife's right and only place is at her husband's side."

"I have felt the truth of this since you brought me Captain Reynolds'
letter," she said quietly.

"I understand. You feel, as all must see, that your husband's last
thoughts were with you."

"The subject is a sad one, Mr. Goodhart."

He was very willing indeed to change the conversation; but, though his
heart was on fire with her words, he perfectly understood that, if
ever a moment for the revelation of his identity was to come, it had
not come yet. Memory rising between them, shaped herself spiritwise,
forefinger on lip, hand lifted in command of silence. She spoke in
intuition, exhorting him not to hasten, but to consider that his avowal
of imposition as Goodhart might flood his wife with the disgust that
had been excited by the Gravesend stratagem which had kidnapped her--to
no purpose.

"I find this hotel expensive, at least for my purse," said he. "But I
am so well pleased with Ramsgate, that I mean to stay on."

He looked at her significantly. She did not seem to heed him, but if
any thought present in him was interpreted by her, its construction
produced not the slightest change in her face.

"I shall go into lodgings. I have no home. Indeed, I have had no home
since my wife left me. The colonial is more cosmopolitan than other
peoples who have countries. He loves the land of his birth, and would
die for her with as much enthusiasm and loyalty as any Briton for the
old home; but he does not suffer as others do from contraction of mind
in respect of his thoughts of his country. The roving spirit that made
his sires colonists is still unquenched, though in a few generations
it will be extinct. The Australian can make himself a home anywhere
and be happy in it. The Briton is always yearning to return. I could
make myself very happy in Ramsgate." He was again addressing her with
significance of look and tone. "Where shall I find a comfortable
lodging?"

"I doubt if I know as much of the place as you do."

"Shall you seek another afternoon engagement?" he asked, smiling at her.

"Yes, and I shall be thankful to find one."

"Meanwhile, as you are at liberty, it would be delightful to me to
enjoy a larger share of your company than your time has permitted."

If instead of being Reynolds he had in good sooth been Goodhart, it
might be held that he was pressing her a little unhandsomely. For she
was under a great obligation to him, and he was still in course of
obliging her; and his advance would appear as though he was taking
advantage of his singular relations with her. Her colourless cheeks
slightly flushed, but she smiled whilst she said--

"I must hope not to have too much time on my hands."

"Are you disengaged to-morrow afternoon?"

"Yes."

"Will you come for a drive and dine with me here?"

"I will go for a drive with pleasure, but you must excuse me for
declining your kind invitation to dine."

"Now why?" he asked, with a broad, blunt candour that caused her to
bring her brows a little together in the seeking, the penetrating look
she fastened upon him.

"What time shall I be here, Mr. Goodhart?" she inquired, with a release
of gaze that left her face charged and troubled with thought.

He named three o'clock, perceiving it was not her wish he should call
for her. They lingered awhile in odds and ends of talk. She then put on
her gloves, and he conducted her to the entrance of the hotel, where
they parted.

At three next afternoon a carriage stood at the door of the hotel.
Lucretia arrived with the punctuality of royalty. She got into the
carriage, Reynolds followed, and they were driven away for a summer
jaunt through Broadstairs to the North Foreland. There is no pleasanter
drive in this smiling country of green lanes, and spreading orchards,
and gleaming coil of river, and green slope of down, and large moist
eye of violet sea betwixt the breaks of coast, than this that Reynolds
and Lucretia were taking. She was dressed as on the previous day, and
her enjoyment of the drive was soon expressed in a clearer brilliance
of eye and in that illumination of face which is not a smile, though it
produces the effect of one.

Their talk was for a long while on very little matters. She was
particular in her inquiries about Sydney. She avowed a very strong
leaning towards making use of the money Mr. Goodhart had kindly sent
her through Mr. Wembly-Jones by trying her fortune in Australia. If
more was to come, then, if the sum amounted to even a hundred pounds,
she believed she would make up her mind to go out and start a school.
Reynolds smiled, but offered no further opinion.

"Here," said he, as they drove through Broadstairs, "lived a man who
knew human nature as well as Shakespeare. You might give offence if
you said that he knew human nature better. But if you find no Lear,
nor Hamlet, nor Macbeth in the works of Dickens, neither in the works
of Shakespeare do you find Mrs. Gamp, nor Mr. Bumble and Mr. Squeers
and Mantalini, and how many more immortals? They say he wrote 'Bleak
House' in that building perched up yonder. Of course you love
Dickens?"

"I remember that my husband was always quoting from him."

"The more you tell me about Captain Reynolds the higher you raise him
in my esteem. I wish it had been my good fortune to have found him on
the island and brought him back to you. Coachman!"

"Sir."

"You can stop at the lighthouse. We'll get out and take a turn."

This foreland cliff is not tall, but it is bold, and its face of
rugged chalk stares upon the most wonderful maritime highway in the
world. Ships pass comparatively close in, and the picture is vivid
with dimension, grand and romantic in colour and shape, and profoundly
interesting, one should imagine, to even a thin thinker, by virtue
of its infinite variety and the ideas with which contemplation of it
swells and elevates the mind. As they alighted from the carriage a
bright sketch was in full view large upon the water. It was a steel
sailing-ship, close-hauled, luffing up for the Downs, under all plain
sail, three pyramids of ascending clouds of snowy whiteness, with many
silent delicately shadowed wings between; the foam was rolling forwards
from her sharp metal forefoot, but a steady stream of it ran along her
sides to unite at her rudder in a wake of prisms and bells of froth and
leapings and lights which struck into the blue air, closing down with
the sudden transcendent splendour of the diamond. She was not so far
off but that you saw a figure or two moving upon her quarterdeck.

Reynolds stood still and looked at her. Lucretia was by his side.
Within a short distance rose the sturdy, storm-defiant figure of the
lighthouse, with its building, and its lantern, that at nightfall
should change into a roaring star, reverberating in flashes the light
of a sun.

"What a very pretty sight!" exclaimed Lucretia. "I always think a
sailing-ship makes a daintier picture than a steamer. It may be because
sails give a blandness and fullness and dignity which a chimney-stack
can never supply."

"She should remind you of a ship your husband commanded," said
Reynolds, bringing his thoughts away from a sudden vision of a ship on
fire in the thick of a living gale, and a little island close aboard.

"The Flying Spur?"

"No; that clipper you spoke of--ah! the Lancashire Lass. I wonder
what will be the fate of yonder craft? Every ship has her destiny,
as man has. If I were a ship, I should say, 'Let me perish by fire
or foundering or in any fashion that touches not the honour of the
ship; but do not make me a coal-hulk.' Were you ever at sea in a
sailing-ship?"

"I accompanied Captain Reynolds to Falmouth in the Flying Spur."

"How did you enjoy the trip?"

"I was very sick and----" she turned her eyes a little round about her,
and added, "I could not enjoy myself for I was angry at being taken.
And you cannot enjoy yourself when you are in a bad temper."

"Why should you have gone if you didn't like the idea of the
trip? . . . But, of course, Mrs. Reynolds, you went to gratify your
husband. Had you persevered your sickness would have passed, and with
it naturally your bad humour."

It would tease the reader to be informed of every turn of eye, every
tone of speech, every shade of gravity, which was, indeed, in his case,
irony and satire, the several manners he put on when he conversed with
her. Sometimes he would observe her silently and intently regarding
him; but his performance was so adroit, he was so deceptive in his
language about his wife having left him, by which she understood him
to mean Mrs. Goodhart's death; to his references to himself as if he
were an Australian and the like, that, believing her husband dead in
his island, and perceiving nothing but certain traits or opinions in
this Mr. Goodhart that in any way brought up her Frank Reynolds of St.
Stephen's Church before her, she lay under as complete a deception
during this drive as she had in all their previous meetings and
conversations.

They were now addressing each other with that easiness, it need not
be called familiarity or freedom, which results from association.
They roamed about for a short while inspecting the interior of the
lighthouse, chatting with the keeper, who told them of beautiful and
strange birds swept by the storm of the night against the radiant
glass, and found dead, and of the dullness of his life when he was
lightsman aboard the Gull, and afterwards the East Goodwin, and then
the South Sand Head light-ships; how, in his day, the old Triton
did the relieving work--a vessel that rolled heavily in still waters
at her berth at the West Pier; that could not steam above four and a
half knots; that could not do six with a gale of wind astern of her, so
that in heavy weather the lightsmen, who kept watch in the lonely hulks
round about the sands and from the North Foreland to Dungeness, were
sometimes obliged to wait a fortnight and three weeks for the relief.
"Hard upon men, sir, who, in winter, consider a month's-old newspaper
fresh, and have nothing to do but tend the lights and watch for ships'
flares to send up rockets for the lifeboat."

Lucretia declined to ascend to the summit of the lighthouse. She said
she was afraid. So they returned to the carriage and drove away towards
Ramsgate.

"Won't you reconsider your decision as to dining with me, Mrs.
Reynolds?" said he.

"I am sure you'll excuse me."

"Will you drink tea at Broadstairs? It is disagreeable to me to think
that you should bear the fatigue of this long drive, and the heat,
without refreshment."

"I shall enjoy a cup of tea very much indeed. But there is no
fatigue--the drive is charming, and the heat, with this breeze, is
delightful."

Reynolds told the coachman to stop at the best hotel in Broadstairs.
There they stayed for half an hour, drinking tea and eating brown bread
and shrimps. Though their talk was of anything, she could not fail to
notice that Mr. Goodhart's eyes were very constant in their observation
of her. She was perfectly sensible that she was in the presence of a
man who admired her, and was even in love with her, and her manner grew
very thinly glazed as they sat at the tea-table in the bay-window. This
cold surface, though transparent enough to suffer the visual expression
of any play of feeling, tranquillized her exterior to a calmness
that was not remote from austerity. He recollected that much such an
expression of face was hers when they had stood side by side at the
altar, and walked side by side back to Mrs. Lane's modest little house.
There was a tone of constraint in her voice. If she attended to his
speech with a look it was soon averted. Indeed, in her eyes he saw that
her spirit had hoisted its glittering storm-signals, and it was with
the transport of a husband about to attempt an experiment whose success
would be a death-blow to his vanity and his love, that he saw that
any claims which Mr. Goodhart might have upon her gratitude would not
entitle him even to a peep into that sanctuary of her heart in which
the flame of the one love of her life, though burning dimly, was to be
found, and perhaps--he could but hope it--to be fanned and fed into
the sweet clear light it was when she consented to be his wife.

They left the hotel and again entered the carriage. The way before them
was a short drive. Scarcely were they in the carriage, and in motion,
than, planting his eyes upon her through his pince-nez, he exclaimed--

"It has given me a great, a singular pleasure, to make your
acquaintance."

She bowed and smiled, but her smile was no encouragement to him to
proceed.

"I am alone in the world," he continued. "I have often regretted that,
since it was the will of God Mrs. Goodhart should die, her little one
had not been preserved to yield the sunshine and warmth of a child's
love to its parent. You too are alone, Mrs. Reynolds."

"I do not know what you would wish to say to me, Mr. Goodhart," she
answered, with a visible hardening of her whole demeanour, and an
undissembled shrinking of her fine figure into the corner of the seat
she occupied.

"I have never felt less lonely--since the term of my loneliness began,"
said Reynolds, with a melancholy and solemnity of tone and look that
was markedly effective in its impression on her, as he easily saw in
the shining inquisitorial stare of her enlarged eyes, "than during
the time I have spent in Ramsgate and in your society. I am a man of
independent means. Nothing could render me so happy as to feel that I
was the instrument of providing you with a settlement that should make
you independent of a vocation you abhor, that should indeed keep you
easy and comfortable in your circumstances for the rest of your life.
It is true I am not a young man. I have no special favours of face or
person to grace my suit or enrich it by that silent eloquence which
women much, indeed chiefly, admire in men. I have led a hard life. The
sea is an exacting calling. It has left me rugged. But it has left
me an honourable man, with a heart capable of dedicating itself in
lifelong affection to such a woman as you, Mrs. Reynolds. Will you be
my wife?"

She looked steadily away from him for some moments; her face was as
rigid and, in truth, as colourless as marble.

"I am sorry, Mr. Goodhart," she said, turning slowly in her stately way
upon him, "that you should have asked me that question. You have been
so kind to me, that the pain you cause me by obliging me to absolutely
refuse you must be keener than any I can inflict."

"No, no."

"I should be grieved indeed to lose your friendship, but our relations
could never go beyond that."

"Am I to think that you still believe your husband to be alive?" he
asked, always preserving his gravity and his melancholy.

"I was not the wife I should have been to my husband. I remember all,
and before God I vow that whilst life remains I shall be his wife, and
true to him."

She spoke with a vehemence that was dangerous in one so passionless,
so collected, so resolved, of a deportment and exterior so admirably
under control. Why did he not then and there confess himself? His
making love to her, as Goodhart, had touched the mute chords of her
memory of Reynolds, and woke them into music and feeling. The hand
seemed upon the second; the mood seemed to exactly fit the wish; the
ripened fruit, to fall, seemed to need no more than the breath that
is between lips meeting in a kiss. Thoughts flew through his brains
with the velocity of the clouds, of the mind driven by the gales of
the passions. He reasoned, "If I say I am Frank Reynolds, she, after
the first convulsion and riot of feeling, might find herself possessed
again by the spirit that banished me and widowed her; and chagrin and
mortification might accompany the discovery that, for the second time,
I had duped her." Memory exhorted him to hold his peace in the name of
his love, his honour, and his dignity. After a silence that ran into
many moments, he said, without looking at her--

"You are infinitely raised in my admiration. You do well to be loyal to
a man who was manifestly loyal to you even in his lonely, dying hours.
You make me feel ignoble as an intruder."

"No, no, Mr. Goodhart," she cried, in a sobbing voice. "I thank you for
the gracious way in which you have taken me."

"We shall remain friends?"

"Oh, I hope so!" she exclaimed cordially, with emotion colouring her
smile with a tender sweetness her lips did not always wear in approval
or mirth.

The hotel was in sight. She asked that the carriage might be stopped.

"I have thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon," she said, as they stood
together at the side of the carriage. "But the pleasantest part has
been the last part, because now you allow me to think of you as a
friend, and, above all, we understand each other."

They shook hands, and she walked towards her lodging, whilst Reynolds
re-entered the carriage to be driven to the hotel.




CHAPTER XVI.--HUSBAND AND WIFE

THE Deal solicitor was punctual in sending Captain Reynolds his will.
It was witnessed by the manager of the hotel and a bookkeeper, to both
of whom, of course, Reynolds remained John Goodhart, Esq., because, as
a rule, testators do not read aloud the contents of their wills to the
people who attest them.

The possession of this will made Reynolds very happy. Happen what might
to him, Lucretia would be provided for, and though they should never
come together as husband and wife, he was still, though masquerading as
Mr. Goodhart, the Frank Reynolds of her choice and denial, who would
watch over her and provide for her by such expedients as love--such
honourable and such noble love as his--"is very cunning in."

Two days after he had taken the drive with Lucretia, he went to
London and called at his bank, where he had a short interview with
the manager, who wrote and signed a cheque upon the bank that was
countersigned by the accountant. He returned from London by a late
train, and next morning took lodgings in the Augusta Road, so that by
looking out of the window he could see the house in which Lucretia
lived. After lunch he strolled out with the hope of meeting her; he
returned to his rooms and wrote this note--


"I was in London yesterday, and have good news for you. As you seem to
have an aversion to invitations to dinner, will you drink tea with me
this evening at 5.30?

"Yours sincerely,

"JOHN GOODHART."


As before, when he scrawled a letter to her in his bed, he wrote with
studious ambition of concealment in handwriting, and was as successful
in this art as in nature he was a triumph in his representation of
Goodhart.

Within half an hour a note was left at his lodgings. Mrs. Reynolds
would do herself the pleasure to drink tea with Mr. Goodhart. She came
with the punctuality that was one of the graces of her characteristics.
Is it necessary to describe her dress?--close fitting navy blue serge,
and sailor hat. The weather was sultry, and she was pale, and carried
a fan. A lovely bouquet of flowers stood upon the table, and refreshed
the atmosphere with the incense of half a score of different growths of
beauty. The window was still open, but the road was a quiet one, and
the lace curtains effectually screened the occupants of the room from
the inspection of the profane and vulgar passer-by, who, with a packet
of shrimps in his pocket, which he picks at and eats as he rolls along,
his hard hat on the back of his head, and his legs travelling somewhat
tipsily in a pair of check trousers of a pattern so enormous that a
giant of fifteen feet high could not reduce the eyesore to proportion,
holds Ramsgate to be after Margate the only place in all England to "do
himself proud in" with what he calls a "houting."

They had not met since the day of the carriage drive. But neither
exhibited embarrassment. She was too self-possessed to be disturbed
by a feeling, that like naïveté, may be defined in the Frenchman's
expression as "une nuance de bas, presque jamais d'élévation," whilst
he found all the fortitude he needed in the circumstance of his being
her husband.

"You have not gone very far," said she, sitting and fanning herself and
looking at the flowers on the table.

"No; I can easily see where you live."

"What glorious flowers!"

"I was sure you would think them worth the trouble of carrying home."

"Thanks so much. They will grace my poor room. It needs it."

"No one will say that whilst you are its occupant."

He rang the bell for tea.

"Have you found any afternoon pupils?"

"Not yet. I have put an advertisement this week in a Ramsgate paper."

"I have some news for you, but I'll wait till the servant has come and
gone."

She looked about the room, and said, "Won't you find it very dull here
after life in a hotel?"

"I dislike life in a hotel. As Dickens--the writer your husband
admired so greatly--truly says, in a hotel nobody is glad see you, nor
cares how long you stop or when you go. You become a number; you lose
individuality and are changed into a particle in a stream of figures
in a ledger. You can't enjoy seclusion unless you invoke the genius
of insolvency, and establish yourself in a set of private apartments
from a price which would yield a comfortable income apiece to four
or five vicars and beyond the most strenuously exerted earning-power
of even a popular country medical practitioner to a price which, if an
American girl had it in the shape of a weekly revenue, would buy her
a British lord or an Italian prince. Now, in lodgings, you can dine
off a chop, smoke a pipe, drink stout from the public-house, humour
the landlady's cat, and live through the life of the day without that
critical inspection from which all human beings suffer in the public
rooms of hotels and boarding-houses. And then, Mrs. Reynolds, lodgings
may be cheap."

It was manifest to him, even whilst he spoke, that the attention with
which she accompanied the movements of his lips was due, not to the
amiable desire to be amused, but to something lying very much deeper.
When he ceased, she exclaimed--

"If my husband had been pleading on behalf of lodgings against hotels,
he would have put his views just as you have--in the same spirit; I
might declare, in the same words."

"Very likely," said Reynolds, quietly, looking at the tea-tray, which
the servant was then placing on the table.

But his answer would not do. She was troubled; she directed at him a
scrutiny that made her frown; her toe tapped the carpet, and she looked
down.

"Will you give me a cup of tea?"

She drew to the table, and filled two cups in silence; but three
or four times whilst she did this, she darted her brilliant gaze
at him. His breathing grew a trifle laboured; the motions of his
heart a little swifter. He believed that her mind was at the very
touch-hole of detection, and he waited for the flash and what was to
follow the flash. But the suspicion that discoloured, and even in its
way distorted, her beauty soon dissolved under the warm breath of
conviction. Indeed, she never had supposed, she never could suppose,
the man who confronted her to be her husband. He was an Australian; his
wife lay buried in Sydney; he had come to hear of Captain Reynolds by
one of the hundred accidents of the sea. He had not her husband's face,
nor his voice, nor enunciation. And if Frank had been alive through
eight years, why did he return now? Why not earlier? She drew a breath
that had the depth of a suspiration, and said--

"It is very strange."

"Coincidences are strange," he answered, breathing easily again.
"I never allow them to weigh. They resemble dreams. We remember the
two or three that come to pass, and forget the thousands that vanish
unverified."

She seemed to acquiesce in this opinion by an inclination of the head.
He looked at her, and thought to himself, "It is wonderful that, loving
her, as I find I do, as deeply as I loved her when I married her, I
should have waited eight years to return and seek her. But Goodhart was
right. I did not know myself." He pulled out a pocket-book.

"I was in London yesterday," he said, "and went about your business.
The bank is satisfied with my representations, and the information I
obtained from Lloyds' and other sources as to Captain Reynolds, and I
have much pleasure in handing you this cheque--the balance of the money
your husband left at the bank before he sailed."

He extended an envelope with a large official red-wax seal; it was
addressed to Mrs. Reynolds, care of John Goodhart, Esq. She broke open
the envelope, and withdrew the cheque that was folded in a sheet of
paper, on which was lithographed "With the Managers Compliments." The
cheque was for two hundred and eighteen pounds. She coloured; her eyes
brightened; gratitude sweetened her beauty with the tender, smiling
light which that gentle and lovely quality casts upon the face.

"How am I to thank you, Mr. Goodhart? I should never have heard of
this--or thought of it--but for you."

He raised his hand in a cordial gesture of remonstrance.

"Two hundred and eighteen pounds!" she exclaimed. "Why, this and the
money you brought to me from the island are a fortune. I feel rich.
How good of you!" She paused, and, looking at the cheque, said, with a
sudden sorrow in tone, a sudden sorrow in look, "Poor Frank!"

He fastened his gaze upon the ground, for he knew just then that there
was a dangerous moisture in his eyes, and not for the life of him durst
he have spoken. Her "poor Frank!" had struck to his heart, and for a
moment or two the man wept inwardly.

"To whom shall I send a receipt for this cheque?" she inquired, after a
welcome interval of thought.

"Acknowledge it to me, and I will forward your letter to the bank," he
answered, managing his voice by speaking low.

She asked no more questions. It did not occur to her to inquire how
it happened that the bank should pay over her husband's money to a
stranger without her authority; how Mr. Goodhart had succeeded in
satisfying the law, and, sequentially, the bank, that Captain Francis
Reynolds was dead. Mr. Goodhart had behaved most nobly and honourably,
and the money was a godsend.

"Will you give me another cup of tea, Mrs. Reynolds?"

She put the cheque in her pocket. He took the cup from her. Her smile
was gracious as she handed it to him. The distressed poet, scratching
verses under a map of the gold-mines of El Dorado, dunned by his wife
and the milkman, may, and as a matter of fact does, call money dross,
filthy lucre, and the like; but there seems to exist in this dross an
inherent property of such electrical vitality that, when applied, it
will force laughter from anguish, illumine the sickliest countenance,
inform with a passion of dance the gout itself, and liberate the
virtues from the webs into which the spider Poverty coaxes them to roll
them up.

"By the way," said Reynolds, looking up from some notes he had made on
a piece of paper. "Did you ever meet a man named Featherbridge?"

She started and stared hard at him, and answered, "I knew a Mr.
Featherbridge."

"The man I mean," continued Reynolds, "sailed with your husband as
chief mate of the Flying Spur."

"Yes; I knew him. Indeed, he acted as my husband's best man at our
marriage."

She spoke in a wary way, as though she distrusted this subject.
Suddenly her mood burst into impassioned life, and she cried--

"Why do you ask if I know Mr. Featherbridge? Is he alive? Have you met
him? Have you news of my husband?"

He had by this time wholly mastered himself.

"I was in the City yesterday," he said, "and turned into some
dining-rooms near the Mansion House for lunch. I took a seat opposite
a man who, after viewing me awhile, pronounced my name; I immediately
recollected him. He was Mr. Charles Hall, member of a firm of London
shipbrokers. He had sailed with me as passenger in a vessel I
commanded. We fell into a conversation, and it was natural, perhaps,
that our talk should have large reference to the sea. He told me that
in all his experience he never remembered so many ships posted as
missing. I can scarcely tell you how it came about, but, in speaking of
missing ships, he mentioned the Flying Spur, in whose fate he was
interested, as his firm had negotiated the sale of her to the person
who owned her when your husband obtained command. I told him that I
had the pleasure of knowing the widow of Captain Reynolds. 'Indeed!'
said he. 'That's strange. Reynolds' chief mate was a Mr. Featherbridge,
whose mother lives where I do--a pleasant old lady, whom my wife
and I have been acquainted with many years. The last letter Mrs.
Featherbridge ever received from her son was dated at Madeira, where
the ship had called.' Did you hear from your husband at Madeira?"

"No," she answered.

"It was a long letter, Mr. Hall said, and it was nearly all about
Captain Reynolds and you."

Lucretia slightly coloured, but remained silent.

"Shall I proceed, Mrs. Reynolds? I don't want to pain you. But I
believed that whatever concerned your husband after his departure would
interest you, and so I took down some notes of Mr. Hall's conversation
to help my memory if it is your wish that I should tell you what Mr.
Featherbridge wrote to his mother."

"I should be glad to hear," she said distantly.

He returned to his notes.

"You were living with your mother in Bayswater when you were married.
After your marriage you locked yourself up in your bedroom and refused
to see, to speak to, to have anything whatever to do with Captain
Reynolds."

"It is very wonderful that Mr. Hall should remember the contents of a
letter all about a stranger so very--very accurately!" exclaimed
Lucretia, darkly, nervously, suspiciously, as though she thought that
Mr. Goodhart had something of the devil in him.

He removed his glasses to polish them. Whenever he was without
spectacles or pince-nez the dulled ball of left eye, lustreless,
stained and veined like those marbles boys call alleys, haloed by a
sort of arcus senilis: these and the wrinkles where he had wounded
himself, the scar, the deflected arch of eyebrow utterly changing the
character of the face, were very visible and instantly took the eye.

"I certainly shall not go on if I annoy you. But I thought that,
knowing what your feelings are for your husband, the latest news of him
down to vanishing point--for he disappears afterwards as a soap-bubble
explodes--would interest you."

"It does. But you can't say he disappears. You brought news of him from
the island; news that is later than this Featherbridge letter that was
posted--you say--at Madeira."

"Oh, that island news is very negative news. Its report is merely that
Captain Reynolds was on the island, conceived himself dying, nailed all
he was worth to the lid of a sea-chest with an appeal to the honour of
the stranger who found it to hand it to you, and then we must suppose
that one day or night he stiffened his spine and, looking up to God,
passed out. That's not the news I got from Mr. Hall."

"There is no reason to believe that my husband is dead, because he
was not seen on the island by the officer you sent on shore," she
exclaimed, with temper in her eyes and voice.

"Shall I go on?" he asked

"Oh, certainly," she replied, in a large, sarcastically bland manner.

He resumed his spectacles and seemed to consider his notes.

"Featherbridge told his mother that he had helped Captain Reynolds to
decoy his wife to the ship. So I gathered from Hall. But her aversion
was so violent, so menacing to Reynolds' character among the crew, that
in despair he sent her ashore at Falmouth and proceeded on his voyage
alone. Hall told me that Featherbridge, who appears to have been a
gentleman and a man of education, described your husband's grief as a
form of sorrow that affected him more than any sort of human misery he
had witnessed. He forsook his food, his cheeks fell in, he would often
in pacing halt, and stand rooted and gaze at the sea in an agony of
mind; and once he clutched Featherbridge by the arm and looked him in
the face with swimming eyes and after such a groan as a man gives whose
heart breaks, whose spirit flies, whose whole moral being falls into
ruin; he cried, 'Oh, my God, what have I done that she--the one, the
only love of my life, my own, my beautiful, my dearest wife,--what have
I done that she should abandon me?'"

Lucretia shrieked and sprang to her feet.

"I can endure no more--I cannot, indeed! You will drive me madder than
I then was. No more, I beg!"

She brought her foot to the ground with a stamp that shook the
ornaments on the mantel-piece, and fanned herself with extravagant
motions.

He pocketed his glasses and his notes and put on his pince-nez, and as
she was standing he stood.

"It is too much," she exclaimed, with mounting colour and enlarged
nostril, and eye dramatized into a fine expression of wrath in beauty
by her spirit's adjustment of the mobile lid, lash, and brow, "that a
matter so sacred and personal to myself as the relations between my
husband and me should be talked about in a London eating-house."

"Nothing of the sort, Mrs. Reynolds. Mr. Hall and I sat apart. He spoke
of you and your husband in terms of sympathy. I am sure you would
appreciate. Mr. Featherbridge----"

"I hated that man!" burst out Lucretia. "He could look you in the face
and tell a lie."

"Mr. Featherbridge," continued Reynolds, approaching her by a step or
two and keeping his eyes steadfastly bent upon hers, "referred to you
in his letter as one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen,
and he declared himself utterly at a loss to understand why you, who
did undoubtedly love your husband well enough to marry him, should,
immediately after the marriage, find something in the man of your
choice, this comely, honourable sailor who adored you, to excite the
loathing that broke his heart and widowed you."

She fanned herself furiously. When he ceased to speak a deep blush
burned in her face. The sting of the blood was insupportable. She went
to the open window and turned her back upon him; but, after a brief
interval, without moving her figure, she looked sideways and said--

"How dared that man Featherbridge say that I loathed my husband!"

"Well, Mrs. Reynolds, I trusted that the very last news of your husband
that could be given would interest you. I hope, despite my clumsy
method of communicating it, we still remain friends."

He saw her swaying as she stood; in an instant she was in his arms in
a swoon. He carried her to the sofa, laid her upon it, removed her
hat, eased her neck, fanned her. If ever human love spoke in gesture
and face it was to be interpreted in the richest eloquence of exalted
emotion in that man as he stood over his unconscious wife, ministering
to her, wild at heart to kiss her even once, but--not denying himself;
no!--restrained by noble recognition of her rights as a woman whose
heavenly offence was chastity and of her command as his wife who was a
virgin.

After some little time she sighed, opened her eyes, looked at him with
bewilderment, shivered like one suddenly awakened from sleep, and
sitting up said--

"What has happened to me?"

"You are all right now. The heat overcame you. It is certainly very
oppressive."

He stepped to a sideboard and mingled a little brandy with some
soda-water. She drank, seated, upturning her rich eyes to him and
thanking him with a smile which was lovely with its mingled colours of
emotion as the nosegay is sweet and delightful by variety of hue.

"Do you feel better?" he asked, strait-jacketing the deep solicitude of
his soul with the demeanour of commonplace courtesy.

"Much. It was the heat."

"You will send me an acknowledgment of the money?"

"Oh yes. This evening."

"Do you keep a banking account in Ramsgate?"

"I have banked the money you sent me."

"Then you will be able to deal with the cheque I gave you this
afternoon. If I can ever be of service to you in any business or other
direction you may indicate, I do beg that you will command my services."

She thanked him and rose to go, stepping to the mantel-piece to adjust
her hat and collar.

"May I see you to your door?"

"It is but a step. Good-bye, Mr. Goodhart. Believe me sincerely
grateful for all your kindness."

"Do not forget your flowers, Mrs. Reynolds."

He watched her from the doorstep with anxiety until she entered her
lodging-house. He paced his room much harassed by thought. He could
not bring himself into a resolution to confess the truth to her.
Exhibitions of loyalty of love that in her, as a wife, wanted the
consecrating element of amorousness, of gratitude, of contrition,
these had been in sufficient abundance to furnish a basis for hope or
even an incentive to action. Yet could not he persuade himself that
if he pulled the mask off him she would not shrink from the intimacy
of wedded association as she had shrunk eight years before; she might
elude him by silently leaving the town; and he could not find will
enough to determine him to take his chance and challenge a new repulse,
a new insult, a new degradation to his feelings as a man and his rights
as a husband.

He smiled when he opened her acknowledgment of the cheque, and kissed
the signature.

They met only once in the six days that followed. She had found work
for an hour and a half in the afternoon. But he was careful not to lose
his hold of her. Almost every day he reminded her of his existence by a
gift--a box of peaches, a basket of strawberries, a bouquet of flowers.
When he met her on the day preceding the last which was to dawn,
fraught with the issue of a lifetime to this couple, she thanked him
for his constant kindness; indeed, she felt overwhelmed, his persistent
goodness embarrassed her, she really had no claim upon him. Her manner
was gracious, yet there was a constraint in it that was perceptible.
It was, indeed, as though she had said to him, "I do not know if it is
your intention to take advantage of my situation and the obligation
you have placed me under to push kindness into persecution, but you
have done so much that more must cease to be agreeable." Her meaning
was as clearly intimated by her behaviour and speech as though she had
pronounced it in the above words. There was a little coolness in the
way she said good-bye to him. He exactly understood and took delight
in what was passing in her mind, and he also judged--and rightly
judged--that she was not drawn closer to Mr. Goodhart by his knowledge
of her treatment of her husband.

Came the sixth day following the afternoon on which Lucretia had drunk
tea with Mr. Goodhart, and received a cheque for two hundred and
eighteen pounds. She had risen somewhat late. A slight headache had
detained her in bed. She did not feel well enough to walk through the
glaring heat of that July morning--it was about ten o'clock when she
left her room--to teach three young girls, whose parents lived at the
westernmost extremity of the West Cliff. She sat at breakfast in a
shabby parlour. Mr. Goodhart's yesterday's gift of flowers glowed on
the little dingy cheffonier in which she kept her tea and sugar. A man
was bawling "Fresh sawls!" in the street, and his outcry through the
open window was as distracting as though he was in the room. The gilt
of the cheap mantel-glass was carefully estranged by red muslin from
the blow of the house-fly. Lucretia's appetite was not invited by the
plain boiled egg, which she neglected for a piece of toast and butter,
and a cup of tea.

The postman knocked. The landlady, very weedy in widow's weeds, entered
with a letter. It was addressed to her, and the first address had been
to Chepstow Place. This had been erased, and the address of the office
in which Dr. Lane had purchased an annuity substituted. This had been
erased, and replaced by the name and address of Wembly-Jones; which in
their turn had suffered eviction, and yielded to 28, Bell Vue Road,
Ramsgate. The envelope bore the Valparaiso post-mark and the Chilian
stamp.

A sudden sensation of tightness, that made difficult the systole and
diastole of the pulse, came upon Lucretia's heart. She very well
remembered that the South Pacific port to which the Flying Spur
had sailed, was not far distant from Valparaiso, and this--though
as a matter of fact it was perfectly irrelevant as a stimulus to
thought--quickened in her an hysterical, and as she seemed to feel it,
an affrighting imagination that this letter was from her husband. Was
the address in his handwriting? But in eight years the handwriting of
some, of many, will change, more or less.

She opened the envelope. It enclosed a letter and an envelope
containing a letter, the envelope addressed in pencil--


"TO THE HONOURABLE STRANGER."

This envelope was pierced as though a nail had been passed through it.
Her dark eyes took on a light and largeness of wonder with presence of
alarm, the shadow in expression of the dread of calamity, the look of
fear that is in the gaze of one to whom the shape has come to depart no
more. The letter ran thus--

"Ship Wildfire, Valparaiso, April 4, 1898.

"DEAR MADAM,

"I am the third mate of this ship, which sailed from Liverpool for this
port in December last year. We found ourselves becalmed off the island
of Santo Cristo three weeks ago, and the captain sent me ashore to look
for turtle and fruit. I found neither; but, in overhauling the island,
I came across a cave in which was an old sea-chest, with the letter I
enclose, nailed to its lid. I pulled out the nail and read the letter,
but found that the bonds had been dug up, for a shovel lay close
alongside the hole in which they had been buried. It was the hole right
enough, for it was marked as Captain Reynolds describes. I guess he was
rescued and took away the bonds himself, for I hunted right and left
for anything like human remains, and if he had died upon the island he
was bound in due course to become a skeleton; and there is no skeleton,
nor anything answering to a man's bones in that island. In a hollow,
not far from the cave, is Mr. John Goodhart's grave with a cross raised
by your husband as the inscription cut upon it proves. I thought it my
duty to forward the enclosed, as you will naturally wish to hear about
your husband, and trusting this letter may safely come in your hands,

"I am, yours truly,

"SAMUEL MURDOCH."


With no more prophetic insight, with no more apprehension by intuition
of the truth, whose blaze of light was suddenly to flood her than had
the letter she held been a tradesman's bill, she took the enclosure
from the envelope curiously labelled "To the Honourable Stranger."
The paper was very old--over a hundred years old; yellow, stained, of
coarse texture; a most singular piece of paper which with its scrawl
of pencil might, and could the dead write, be just such a letter as
one might expect to receive from a dead man. You will remember what
Reynolds wrote; how, conceiving that he must be left to perish on
the island and his love for ever holding his wife in view, he, with
Goodhart's gold pencil, and an old roll of paper taken from the chest
in the cave, framed the appeal to "the Honourable Stranger," which
Lucretia was now holding, and was now reading. Though it was but a
scrawl, she knew the handwriting, and, indeed, it was contained in an
envelope that she herself had addressed to him, but from which the ink
had been washed by immersion, when he was in the life-belt.

She read--her face blanched into marble whiteness. She read--the blood
stormed in a red-hot torrent to the roots of her hair. She read, and
looked upwards and thought, "He is my husband! Had not I guessed it?
Had not I suspected it in twenty shapes of look and speech and smile?"
Again she read, and when she came to this part she sobbed as if her
heart must break--


"My wife, Lucretia, when I left England, was living with her mother,
Mrs. Lane, in Chepstow Place, Bayswater, London, W., and it is my
earnest wish that she should be the recipient of these bonds and the
property that may be found upon me. To which end I, a broken-hearted,
desolate, dying man, humbly and affectionately greet the reader of this
letter, and do entreat him, as he loves God and the truth and honour,
to convey these words and the property to my wife, Lucretia Reynolds,
who, for the trouble he is at in finding her, if she has removed, and
in acting as my emissary, will receive fifteen hundred pounds, which
he will more greatly enjoy, as money honourably and virtuously gained,
than if he kept the whole sum, thereby robbing the widow, and blasting
the only hope which keeps warm and alive the heart that dictates these
words. Again I greet and bless you, and thank you for the noble service
you will be doing me.

"FRANCIS REYNOLDS."


The truth was very clear to her now. "Mr. Goodhart" was her husband!
It was her husband who had brought her the hundred and fifty pounds,
not from the island, but as a gift from his love and loyalty. But oh,
why had he waited all these years? Why had he not come sooner? It was
her husband who had caused the Bank to send a cheque for two hundred
and eighteen pounds. He had dwelt near her, and brooded over her, and
courted her as Goodhart, and her heart smiled in remembrance of her
triumph in that. Why had he not come sooner? Why had he not revealed
himself? Her instincts as a woman pierced to the very sanctuary where
the truth was enshrined, and his motives were as intelligible to her as
though he had explained them.

She stood rooted in thought, with her eyes on the papers in her hand.
Then took pen and ink, sat down at the table and wrote--


"MY FRANK,

"You are revealed to me by the enclosed. Come to me. Come quickly, and
forgive me.

"LUCRETIA."


She put this note and the letters she had received into an envelope,
which she addressed to John Goodhart, Esq., and rang the bell. The
landlady's daughter appeared.

"Miss Simkins, will you please run with this at once to Mr. Goodhart's
lodgings?"

The girl of fourteen took the letter and vanished, and Lucretia, from
her window, saw her rapidly walk to the house in Augusta Road, hand in
the letter, and leisurely return, for there were dishes to wash and
beds to make, and little Miss Simkins was in no hurry.

Reynolds was reading a London daily paper when the servant gave him
Lucretia's letter. He read it, and sprang to his feet, pausing for a
moment in a swift distraction or delirium of reverie upon his letter,
which he had written in the island. For into it swept, with the
velocity of sunshine, the whole of that heavy term of ocean solitude,
and for an instant the full picture was before him, with Goodhart's
grave, and the cave, and the shovel, and the cook-pit,--just as at
midnight the broad circle of the sea or the hills and plains of a face
of country are flashed into brilliance by a dart of lightning.

He put on his cap, and in a minute or two had measured the distance
that divided his own from Lucretia's lodgings. He knocked, was
admitted, passed into the parlour--the door of which he closed--and
stood, cap in hand, looking at his wife.

Manifestly since sending to him she had been struggling to school
herself for this meeting. You saw that in her posture and demeanour
as she stood at the table which remained covered with the breakfast
things. But the fragile foundations and props of her woman's
resolutions must sink under the weight of her woman's passions and
emotions. She said, "Oh, Frank, I know you now! I see you in your
changed face and--and----" But then the constricted chords in her
throat refused to deliver the message of her mind. All on a sudden she
sank down on her knees by the table, and, hiding her face in her arm,
wept and wept.

He rushed to her side, fell upon his knees, and put his arm about her.
He pressed his cheek to hers and murmured endearments, calling her his
only love, his dear wife, his noble Lucretia. But it seemed that she
would not have any of this just yet. For, rising in a blind way, she
got round to the other side of the table, and he stood up with such a
deadly chill of fear of her reception, that for a space he remained and
looked like a figure in stone.

"Not yet, Frank, not yet!" she exclaimed, extending her hands towards
him, but in the posture of repulsion. "Mr. Featherbridge told a lie
when he wrote that I loathed you. Loathed! Oh no, I loved you. I
loathed myself! But something worked in me with a power that was
stronger than love or loathing, and I could not--I could not! You
violated that mad spirit in me that would have wasted itself had
you given me time, had you gone your voyage, when you brought me by
a falsehood to your ship. But I afterwards knew that, even when I
silently left you at Falmouth, I was loving you as I had loved you when
I accepted you, and I also knew that a power had worked in me which had
made me false. But, oh, Frank, more faithless to myself than to you."

He moved as though to go to her; but her outstretched arms held him off.

"But what was your love?" she continued. "You went away and have
never written, never made a sign, never come home to see if I was alive
and true to you. Eight years! and I have thought you dead. Otherwise I
should have known you--changed as you are, you are the Frank I loved
and married. I should have known you, and you have left me alone; when,
had you returned and sought me and claimed me, you would have found
me your loyal wife, loving you, deploring you, accusing myself of a
wickedness whose memory works in me in torment, and again and again in
thinking of you, and recalling my conduct at our marriage, I could have
destroyed myself."

Her arms slowly fell to her sides; her head sank.

"Lucretia," he said, in a low voice, whose tone thrilled with his love,
and the thoughts her words had excited. "I did not dare seek you,
because I dreaded your reception. I am a man, and have the feelings of
a man, and I feared you. You might have spurned me again--you may even
yet spurn me----"

"No," she cried, and ran to him.

And he folded her in his arms, and pressed his lips upon hers, and thus
they stood--husband and wife.


THE END.



PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.

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