Off the Skelligs (3)

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CHAPTER IX.

'They are faint-hearted; there is sorrow on the sea.'—JER. xlix. 23.


WE lay at anchor that night in Portland roads, and I enjoyed the calm.  In the morning the sea was smooth, and, to my delight, the sickness did not return.  Miserable as it had been, it had not for a moment made me forget my happy position, or wish myself on shore again.

    Tom and I spent part of the next morning together.  He was amused, I think, at my return, but I observed that if I mentioned Ipswich or my school life it did not excite the least interest, but rather seemed to tease him.  He naturally could not feel that absorbing interest in me and my concerns that I did in his, and I wished then, and do now, to remember that he had passed several happy years without me, but my years had not been happy without him: no new interest had sprung up to supply his place, no present joy or adventure to blot out the memory of the past; this was one great reason why I remembered him and my uncle so keenly and lovingly.  I know that we partly remember the absent because we want them—if their places are fully supplied, after a time it is not natural that we can want them so much, and reason ought to make us consent to their being comfortable and happy without us, if they can.

    In the pleasant weather of that day Tom proposed that we should arrange the after cabin so as to hold my possessions comfortably and yet retain many of his.

    It was a delightful and luxurious room, this cabin.  In one of the berths shelves had been fitted, to to hold Tom's books.  The ordinary contrivances for keeping these steady during a voyage caused much admiration in my mind; so did his beautiful telescope and his scientific instruments.  He emptied as many lockers for me as I had any use for, and I found that he had a considerable command of money, for he spoke of the books he bought, and of his subscription to more than one London library, as if he could do anything he chose and have anything he wished for.  I did not, however, venture to ask him about this, for he did not invite confidence; and I felt with him, as I have done with Mr. Mompesson, that I was a stranger to him, though he was well known to me.

    When he had made a place for my possessions, he took away those of his own that had been displaced, and I, knowing that we were bound for the Great Skellig, went to the chief cabin, where most of my brother's books were kept, and privately made myself fully acquainted with the hard-hearted monster, an isolated rock standing about ten miles out to sea, off the south-west coast of Kerry.

    My heart exulted as I read, and I longed for calm, that I might see it well.  How grand, how sublime to approach this the extreme point of British land, this mighty pinnacle nearly a thousand feet high, shooting up alone from the abyss of waters, and to know that in a storm the vast heaving waves of the Atlantic flung themselves heavily over ledges that are one hundred and seventy feet above their level during a calm, and wet the rock with their powdering spray four hundred feet higher still, charging it and roaring and foaming against it with a power and fury inconceivable!

    The Lesser Skellig, too, I wished to see, for I found it was one of the breeding places of the gannet, and that millions of young birds at that time of the year would be squatting on it, incased in their thick down, and screaming for fresh fish to their laborious parents.

    That was a delightful day; and if a little breeze had not sprung up the next morning, and sent me to my berth, making me doubt whether when the rocks appeared I should be able to sit up and look at them, I should have been as happy as youth, health, and a clear conscience can make one in this sublunary sphere.

    This was a most dismal attack, but happily it was the last I ever suffered from.  There had been a stiff breeze, and all in our favour, I was told; and after what seemed a long time, I felt not only that I was much better, but that the water was becoming every quarter of an hour more smooth.  I could soon sit up, and though faint for want of food, I was not giddy, and when Mrs. Brand had dressed me I crept on deck and found the water all lulled and hardly moving against the bows.  We were in the midst of a sea fog, and everything was muffled and still.  We were about sixty miles out to sea, as Mrs. Brand told me, and what wind there had been when it died away was almost due south.

    She thought it was likely to be calm all night, and told me that while the fog lasted we should not make for the shore, the coast being very dangerous.  I asked her, while eating a good meal of meat and bread on deck, how fast we were going, and she laughed and replied, 'Not a quarter of a knot.'  My uncle and Tom were sitting at wine, for they had dined.  It was about six o'clock, and though the fog was so thick that I could not see the top of the mainsail, I felt the air oppressively warm.

    When my uncle and Tom came on deck they were very kind in their congratulations, and stimulated me in my efforts to look and talk as if nothing had happened, by saying that if this sickness had lasted another day it would really have been necessary to put me on shore.

    I declared myself to be quite well, and so I felt; but any one might have felt well then, for the yacht was almost as still as a house.

    Before sunset the fog cleared off sufficiently to show to us a vast flock of white terns flying over us, their feet stretched out and their heads hanging so low, that we expected them every moment to overbalance themselves and come tumbling down.  They did not however, but fled on until the sun went down, and then we still heard their shrill cries overhead, as they flew landward.

    Then the mist seemed to come about us again, and when after a sociable tea I came on deck, it was so dusk and damp, that Tom advised me to go below to my berth.  Not very bad advice, for I was tired and sleepy.  I went below, intending to lie down, but only for an hour, and come on deck again, but had scarcely laid my head on the pillow when I fell very fast asleep, and slept sometime, probably until within an hour of midnight.

    In a dream that was a rapture of conscious rest, and which concerned imaginary cups of coffee and bread and butter, I slept most quietly until I was suddenly awakened by a violent and tremendous noise on deck.  I started up in my berth, and instantly observed that the cabin lamp was lighted, and that Mrs. Brand, who had been sitting under it reading, had put down her book and quickly opened the door.  Just as I was about to call her, her shirts disappeared as she shut it behind her.

    It was not nearly so calm now as when I had fallen asleep, and I felt that the whole vessel was in commotion.  First I thought we must be shortening sail, next I thought I heard something about lowering a boat.

    I was not alarmed at this, but still sat up to listen.  The helm seemed to have been violently put about.  That was not surprising, if it was the case, but we were sixty miles out at sea.  What could they want with a boat?

    Yes, in less than a minute I felt sure something was the matter, and the stamping above, the shouting and dragging of ropes, so distracted me that I sprang from my berth, and slipped my feet into my shoes, for otherwise I was completely dressed.  I knew that any needless alarm on my part would irritate my uncle; but ignorant as I was of what different noises portended, I could not keep below, but, softly opening my cabin door, I stole a step or two up the companion, and directed my eyes upward among the rigging and the overhanging stars.

    These last were visible, but looked watery through the remains of the mist.  I crept softly up to the top step of the companion, where Mrs. Brand was standing, and would have passed her, but the sailors were in every part of the yacht, lowering the foresail and heaving her to.  Long ropes were being trailed along, and Brand as he passed exclaimed to his wife, 'Don't let our young lady step on deck; she would put her foot on some of the ropes to a certainty, and get thrown down.'

    'What is it?' I exclaimed; 'what can it be?'

    She pointed with her finger, and as the yacht swung round she said, 'Look there, ma'am, look!'

    As she spoke two strange objects came into my view.  One was a great pale moon, sickly and white, hanging and seeming to brood over the horizon; the other, which looked about the same size, was red and seemed to lie close at her side.  It was not round, but looked blotted and blurred in the mist.  Could it be a meteor? a light house?  Whatever it was, it was the cause of the commotion which had been so intense, and which now seemed to be already subsiding.  I had heard the men called up not three minutes before, and now two boats were already lowered, and Tom was in command of the foremost.  I heard his voice coming from the water, and no one prevented me now from rushing to the side to look over, turning my back on the moon and her lurid companion.  Though the night was not dark I could not discern the boats; and after straining my eyes into the mist, I observed that it was rapidly melting away, and rolling on as well as rolling together, so that spaces of water here and there were clear, and moonlight glittered on them.  The binnacle light glared in my uncle's face as he stooped over it.  I heard Brand whisper to his wife that he had taken charge of the yacht, and I did not dare to speak to him, though what it might be that alarmed them I could not tell.

    It was as it seemed but a moment that I had stared out into the mist, looking for the boats with still sleepy eyes; then, as the sailors that were left tramped back to the fore part of the yacht, I turned again.  The mist had shaken itself and rolled on before a light air that was coming.  I saw two great pathways now lying along the waters; one was silver white, the pathway of the wan moon, the other was blood-red and angry, and a burning vessel lay at her head.

    Oh, that sight! can I ever forget it?  The fire was spurting from every crevice of the black hull, her great main-mast was gone, the mizzen-mast lay with several great white sails surging with in the water, and she was dragging it along with her.  The foremast only stood, and its ragging and sails had not yet caught.  A dead silence had succeeded now to the commotion in the vessel; men were standing stock-still, perhaps waiting for their orders, and my uncle's were the only eyes that were not strained to follow the leaping and dazzling spires.

    Every moment we approached.  Now the first waft of the smoke came in our faces, now we could hear a cracking and rending, the creak and shiver, and the peculiar roaring noise made by a mastering fire.

    'A full-rigged ship,' I heard Brand whisper to his wife.  'Eleven hundred tons at the least.'

    'Merciful heaven!' she whispered in reply.  'I hope she won't blow up.  Anyhow, I thank the Lord we've got Master in command himself.'

    I never saw anything like the horrible beauty of that red light.  It added tenfold to the terror of the scene to see her coming on so majestically, dragging with her broken spars and great yards and sprawling sails.  She looked like some splendid live creature in distress, and rocked now a good deal in the water, for every moment the wind seemed to rise, bringing up a long swell with it.

    The moon went down, and in a few minutes the majestic ship supplied all the light to the dark sky and black water.  I saw the two little dark boats nearing her; knew that my brother was in the foremost, and shook with fear, and cried to God to take care of him, but while I and all gazed in awful silence on the sailing ship, the flames, bursting through the deck in a new place, climbed up the fore-rigging, and in one single leap, as if they had been living things, they were licking the sails off the ropes, and, shooting higher than her topsails, they spread themselves out like quivering fans.  I saw every sail that was left in an instant bathed in flames; a second burst came raging up from below, blackening and shrivelling everything before it; then I saw the weltering fire run down again, and still the wreck, plunging her bows in the water, came rocking on and on.

    'How near does our old man mean to go ?' whispered Mrs. Brand; and almost at that instant I observed that he had given some order to the man at the helm, and I could distinctly hear a murmur of satisfaction; then almost directly a cry of horror rose—we were very near her, and while the water hissed with strange distinctness, and steamed in her wake, her blazing foremast fell over the side, plunging with a tremendous crash into the sea, sending up dangerous showers of sparks and burning bits of sail-cloth, and covering our decks with falling tinder.

    The black water took in and quenched all that blazing top-hamper, and still the awful hissing was audible, till suddenly, as we seemed to be sheering off from her, there was a thunderous roll that sounded like the breaking of her mighty heart, and still glorious in beauty she plunged head foremost, and went down blazing into the desolate sea.

    In one instant that raging glow and all the fierce illumination of the fire were gone; darkness had settled on the face of the deep.  I saw a few lighted spars floating about, that was all, and I smelt the fire and felt the hot smoke rushing past my face as the only evidence that this was not a dream.  Oh! the misery of the next half-hour!  The boats, when that ill-fated ship went down, must, I knew, have been very near her.  Had they been sucked in?  Had they been overturned, or had they been so blessed as to be saved and to save some of the wretched passengers and crew?  Of all persons in the yacht then, perhaps I suffered most.  I was the most ignorant; I had no one to speak to; for Mrs. Brand, perhaps lest I should question her, had retreated, and I could not think of addressing my uncle; he had plenty on his mind and on his hands.  I could only observe the activity of others by the light of the many lanterns which were now hung out from various parts of the rigging, and hope that we should soon find the boats, though every light hung up seemed to increase the darkness, and make us more unable to see anything beyond the bounds of the yacht.

    At last, Brand standing near me again, I said, 'O Brand! cannot we go nearer the place where that ship sunk?  Perhaps some poor creatures may be floating on the waters still.'

    'Ma'am,' he replied, 'we are sailing now as nigh as may be over the very spot where she went down; but you have no call to be frightened; everything has been done that can be done.  We hove to directly we sighted her.'

    'Yes,' I said; 'but what good could that do?'

    'Why, ma'am,' he replied, 'we could not have lowered the boats without that; and then, you know, when they were off we filled, and stood in as nigh as we dared.'

    'Then where are the boats?' I inquired.  'God knows, ma'am.'

    'And what are these lights for?  Every one you put up makes it harder to see anything.  How are we to find them?'

    'We have no call to find them,' he replied; 'we want them to find us.  Most likely there are other boats about, besides our own, boats from the ship—we want to make ourselves as conspicuous as we can.  At least, I reckon that is why Master has ordered all these lights out.'

    'And why cannot we pick up any of the poor creatures that may have been on board?  Surely we could have heard their cries, and could now—we are not half a quarter of a mile from her.'

    'No, ma'am; nothing like that distance—not half that distance; that's why our people think she may have been deserted.'

    The steward passed on, and I covered my face with my hands and moaned in the misery of my heart.  Oh! my only brother! had I really lost him so?  I listened.  The silence about me was so intense that I knew there was much anxiety felt; every face as it passed under a lantern had a restless and yet awe-struck look; my uncle's, when he bent over the illuminated compass, did not at all reassure me.

    But such a misfortune as I had dreaded, such a terrible blow, we were to be spared.  I got up again, gazed out over the dark water and longed for the dawn.  Something better than dawn was destined to meet my eyes; between us and a spar that still glowed, two dark objects stood suddenly—a boat and black figures and moving oars, another behind her.

    I shall never forget with what a thrill of joy I heard our people cheer.  In ten minutes we could hear the stroke of their oars, and directly after Tom was on deck and his crew with him.

    'God bless you!' said my uncle to Tom; 'anybody saved?'

    'One,' said Tom: 'only one, sir.'

    My joy was so great that I stood motionless outside the little crowd of the boats' crews and the ship's company until two of them approaching, bearing something heavy between them, brushed past me and laid their burden almost at my feet.

    It was covered with a cloak, and was just where a lantern shed light on it.  I was stooping to withdraw the cloak and see whether I could do anything for the poor sufferer beneath, when Tom put his arm through mine and drew me back gently, but with so much determination that I was obliged to yield, and he led me down to my cabin.

    I felt shocked and almost indignant to think that he should suppose I had not nerve to look on a fellow-creature in distress; but when I asked if the man was dying, he said, 'No, but very drunk; do not waste your sympathy on him.  Come, do something for me.  I am thirsty and nearly choked with smoke.  Is there any water here?'

    I gave him some, and my uncle presently coming down, I followed them into the chief cabin, and listened to an earnest discussion between them as to what ought to be done.

    Tom said the vessel had evidently been deserted some time, that her cargo was cotton, which accounted for the enormous conflagration, and he urged that the yacht should be taken into the nearest port to ascertain whether this drunken fellow's tale was true.

    He had, when first picked up, been able to talk, and I gathered from Tom's account that he had crawled out on the bowsprit, and there had lain for some hours.  'As we cautiously approached the ship,' Tom said, 'we heard some one shouting, and came as near as we dared.  This man was lying out on the bowsprit, and we called out to him to lower himself down to the water, when we would pick him up.

    'It was a touch-and-go business for us, but I never saw a fellow perform such a feat as he did—it was like the trick of a tight-rope dancer.  He knew we should have to cross right under her bows, and he took a rope in his hand and sprung with it, at one leap, to the water, let go, and struck out for us.  He scarcely delayed us three seconds, but I was truly glad when we got clear away from the ship's course, for though the mast went astern directly, it fell first over the very spot where we had crossed.'

    'Yet you say he was drunk?'

    'Yes; and when we picked him up he had a half-emptied rum-bottle in his bosom.'

    After this, seeing something in the ship's wake, but a good way off, that looked like a raft, they had gone in search of it, but found nothing alive on it nor on any of the several spars and planks that they had examined.

    The man when first picked up had been sobered by the shock, and had told them that the fire had been discovered about sunrise, steam and smoke issuing from the cotton in the hold; that at first the captain had hoped to get it under, but about eight o'clock he had had the hatches battened down, and had ordered them to hoist out all the boats and stock them in case of need.  This proved in course of time to be quite a false account, and even then Tom was not satisfied with it.

    What followed, and why he did not go off in one of these boats, this man could not or would not tell, but that the boats were safely lowered, and that all the crew, the passengers, and the captain put off in them he affirmed several times.  This account robbed the recollection of the burning ship of half its horrors, and when my uncle and Tom withdrew, feeling very weary, I went to my berth, and in spite of the past excitement slept until high day.

    Mrs. Brand woke me at last with her usual dismal face.  She gave me some tea and asked if I would rise.

    The water was fizzing past us at a very unusual rate.  I asked if we had reached Valencia.  She said we had, and were leaving it again, Master having landed, and been an hour on shore.  There is a coastguard station, it seems, at Valencia, and there he found that the drunken man's tale was partly true, for one of the boats—the jolly-boat, containing the second mate, and twenty-two of the ship's crew, as well as several steerage passengers—had entered the harbour about an hour before we did.  'And there they were,' she said, 'sitting with the coast-guardmen, and made welcome to the best of everything—just like the Irish horsepitality.'

    She further said my uncle did not at all like the account these men gave of themselves, nor could he make out why they had parted company with the other boat, for this, by admission of one of them, was before the fog came on.  Moreover, one of the passengers had said he doubted whether there was more than one boat—he feared that what the remaining people were on was very little better than a raft.

    'And what made him look for them here?' I asked.  'It is the nearest land,' she replied; 'and, besides, the wind was fair for it.'

    'Well,' I answered; 'it passes my comprehension as yet how the wind can take us in at such a rate as it must have done, and then send us out again at this spanking pace without changing!'

    'We have a pilot on board now,' she replied, shirking the question of the wind.

    I heard distant bells, and remembered that this was Sunday morning.

    'Yes, it's Sunday morning, but for all that,' said Mrs. Brand, 'we took a good deal of provisions on board—fowls and flour and pork, and what not—for we may fall in with these boats, and by all I can hear there are nearly thirty people—'

    'Fall in with them? I answered; 'surely we are going out on purpose to do our utmost to find them?'

    'Certainly,' she replied; 'trust Master for that, but he was in hopes there might have been a tug or two that he might have hired to come out and cruise about for them likewise.  There was nothing of the sort, however.'

    She often called my uncle 'Master,' or my master; and I believe it was because she wished to express her opinion that he really was supreme, for she greatly disliked the young man who was called the 'Captain of the Yacht,' and whose business it was to take charge of her at all times when my uncle did not care to command himself, as well as when he was on shore.

    'He was nothing but the master of a coasting vessel,' she said, while she was brushing my hair, 'and I take no 'count on him, for all he messes in his cabin by himself, as grand as you please.'

    'But no doubt he is a good seaman,' I observed, 'or my uncle would not trust him with the yacht in his own absence.'

    'Oh! he is well enough,' she answered, 'but I have no patience with his airs; not that he claims, though, to hold a candle to Master or to Mr. Graham either.'

    So we were going out to sea to look for this boat or boats, and thus was to pass my first Sunday afloat, for I had been too ill the former Sunday to note the day.

    How sweet and how remote those bells sounded!  I fancied also that I smelt hay, and rose full of hope and perfectly free from sickness.


    I found Tom and my uncle poring over maps and charts, calculating what was probably the present position of the boat, supposing that she had a sail and four oars, then supposing she had no sail, and lastly supposing she had only two oars.

    I heard them argue on these complicated probabilities, discuss how far the vessel had sailed from the point where she was deserted by the crew, which all the men had said was seventy miles west of Cape Clear, how long in the dead calm she had made hardly any way, then mark down exactly where she was when the wind sprung up and we found her.

    These matters all discussed, a circle was drawn on one of the charts, and within its imaginary bounds I was told the boats would be sought; wind, tide, the powers of the rowers, and the known size of the boats, making it almost certain that there they must be.

    I asked why these boats were probably so much behind the others, and they said that almost every man who had come in was able-bodied, and could help to row even when they could not sail, which was during, the three hours' calm; that they had confessed to not having been able to launch the long-boat, and that the two next largest boats were no better than our gigs, and would be crowded with women so as to be dangerously heavy, besides having very few to row.  The weather was very much changed; a breeze had sprung up directly after the late calm, and the wind had been a rising and freshening ever since.  The air was exquisitely clear, and the sea a deep blue; we were sailing at the rate of nearly eleven knots, the yacht was behaving very well—she always did, they said, in a stiff breeze, and I thought my uncle seemed excited and hopeful, but my heart ached to think of the poor women and children who bad been all night cramped up in little boats, and perhaps were drenched with spray and faint with hunger.

    It would be three hours, I was told, before we should reach the edge of our circle.  Accordingly, after breakfast the order was given to 'rig the church,' and all hands that could be spared were summoned.  There is a strange solemnity in the prayers of a ship's company at sea; on board a man-of-war I am told this is especially the case, but even on board the 'Curlew,' and with my uncle for chaplain, I have often felt that no church on shore could be more solemn or have a more attentive congregation.

    During that first service, however, I was far too much excited to join with attention in the prayers—my heart prayed and fainted for the boat's crew, and my ears were strained to catch the slightest sound from the lookout man; but the prayers came to an end, the reading of a short sermon followed, and we knelt down when it was over, and rose again.

    Great gravity and no impatience had characterized my uncle's reading; but the instant all was over he clapped to the book, called for his glass, and while he swept the horizon with it, the 'church' disappeared as if by magic, the wind kept still rising, and we spun on, bowing and bending under more sail than I could have thought she would bear, when Tom came up as I was trying to look through a glass, and said,—

    'Dolly, if we should fall in with the boats, are you ready?'

    'Ready?'

    'Why, more than half the passengers are women, and who is to attend to them but Mrs. Brand and you?'

    'May they come into my cabin, then?'

    'May they?—they must.'

    'O Tom!  I will go and prepare for them.'

    'Yes; but you need not make any great commotion.  I am afraid this is a wild-goose chase.'

    'Is it?  What chance is there?'

    'About as much chance as a dozen boys would have of finding a marble that one of them had dropped in a ten-acre meadow.'

    'I believe they would find it, and that you will find the boats.'

    'You need not say "boats,"' he answered.  'I am sure there is but one, and I fear it is dreadfully crowded.  The passengers declare there was but one; and as to the finding of a marble, the boys no doubt would find it if they looked long enough, and when found it would be none the worse; but if we cannot find this boat in the course of a day or so, we had much better not find it at all, for it is sure to be keel upward.  Still you may go and prepare—very unlikely things do happen.'

    I went below and summoned Mrs. Brand.

    'Why, Lord,' she said, half-whimpering with anxious sympathy for the sufferers, 'what is the use of tearing the things out of the berths?  Mr. Graham knows that if the wind keeps freshening at this rate it will blow a gale before night; and how is a boat like that to live in such a sea?'

    We, however, cleared the berths, and made up beds in them.  I brought out some of my clothes and put them ready, listening all the while, but in vain, for the least signal from the lookout men.  So the weary, anxious morning passed.  Once Mrs. Brand came in and told me we had changed our course, by which I judged that we were well within the imaginary circle, and for a while I was full of hope, but hope was not the prevailing character of her mind.  She always foreboded evil, and I was less restless and miserable alone when I could kneel down in my cabin and pray that our efforts might be blessed with success.  All dinner-time my uncle and Tom were very grave, and afterwards they had another long discussion as to the probable position of the boat.  If she had a sail, it was certain she could not have used it now for some hours, and if she was rowed, they thought she could hardly be making any way.

    There was now so much motion in the yacht that though it did not make me ill, I could not walk without holding to things about me, nor venture on deck, for it poured hard with rain.  Tom and my uncle were in no mood to be questioned, their anxiety was so in tense.  I got back to my cabin with the help of Tom's arm, and then learned from Mrs. Brand, who had come there on purpose to tell it me, that the general belief, in the yacht was that the boat would not be rescued; the boatswain thought so, and his opinion always carried weight.

    'There was quite enough sea on to swamp a small boat, and one so heavily laden.'

    'Why could they not bail out the water?' I inquired.  She held up her hands and eyes.  'Bless you, ma'am, bail out a boatful every half minute!  And what are they likely to have to bail with?  No, no; a boat has little chance when it blows so fresh, with drenching rain, and such a wild sea.'

    'It makes me tremble to hear you talk.  I do not believe the boat is lost; I believe we shall find it.  I pray God that we may.'

    'You'd better pray that it may be afore dark, then,' she answered, 'for nothing can save her after.'

    'What do you mean?'

    'Why, ma'am, when the wind goes off like great guns, and every wave that strikes the yacht is like a clap of thunder, how could we hear them hail us in the dark?  You don't understand—that is why you are so hopeful.'

    'I think God will let us save them.  There, I heard a noise on deck.  What is it?'

    She listened an instant.  'One of those lookout men certainly sung out,' she answered, 'but all's quiet again.'  She opened the door.  Brand was coming down the companion, and with infinite disgust explained that the man at the mast-head had sung out, 'Boat on the weather bow!' but directly after had corrected himself—the object was not far off, and he had recognized it as part of the wreck of the last evening.

    'I cannot understand why these men, all of them, could not launch the long-boat,' I remarked.  'It only took us two or three minutes last night to lower our first boat.'

    'But consider our crew, ma'am, and all picked men, sixteen, not counting the sailing-master; at least, I'm sure I beg the young man's pardon, the captain of the yacht.  Why, I'll venture to say in that ship they were not thirty, all told.  Then think of the size of the long-boat!  It generally takes an hour in a merchant vessel to unlash and lower a large boat.  The long-boat, too, is often hoisted on to the house-on-deck.  When Brand and I were steward and stewardess on board the "Dora Grant," from Melbourne, the boats, I consider, would never have been any use if we had needed them.  Why, the two that they kept slung up over the poop used to be lashed bottom upwards—they used to make roofs of them, and hang ropes of onions under one; the carpenter used to lash his spare planks and things under the other, and both of them were so dried and warped by the sun, that you might see daylight between the planks.'

    'Then were they spoilt?'

    'No; but if the carpenter could have had two or three days' notice that they would be wanted, he would have taken a chisel and caulked them well with oakum.  I used to be uneasy sometimes when I considered that he certainly never would have notice; but I made three voyages out and home in her, and we never wanted them at all, so I got used to it.'

    After this conversation, which made me yet more uneasy, I remained alone until dusk.  Sometimes I peered through the scuttles at the grim grey sea, and sometimes tried to read.  I thought both the noise and motion became less as evening advanced, but was afraid to believe it until I was called to tea and told that the wind was moderating.  I went into the chief cabin; the charts were put away, and I saw plainly that expectation was over, so I said nothing, but after tea came and read the evening lessons to my uncle, for he loved reading aloud.

    The wind still continued to moderate, but I was told it would be many hours before the sea would go down.  Neither Tom nor my uncle went on deck.  The latter seemed tired and lost in thought; but perhaps, in order to prevent my asking any questions, he still asked for more reading, and I read South's Sermons until my voice failed, and all the time I was conscious that he could not listen, but was lost in cogitations about the boat.  It was nearly midnight when he said, 'There, child, there! you can do no more; the Lord have mercy on them!  Tom, take your sister on deck—she wants a little air before she goes to her berth.'  This was a surprising idea to me; but as it was meant in kindness, I went and got a shawl and hat, and came up with Tom as well as I could.  When on deck, however, I found it pleasanter than I had expected; I could stand very comfortably in the shelter where Tom put me; the wind, though high, was not cold, the sky was full of stars, and the rain had long been over.

    We stood together for a few minutes in silence.  My heart was oppressed and expectation was over, when to my surprise and joy Tom said, 'You see he soon gives up hope.'

    'HE, Uncle Rollin?  What, have not you given it up, then?'

    'I never was sanguine.  No, I do not give up the boat.  I think it might live in that sea.  He thought not.'

    'O Tom!  I am thankful for this respite from certainty.  Tell me where we are now.'

    'Due west of the Skelligs, and two hours' sail from them.'

    'Then could we see the light on the Great Skellig?'  He laughed and answered, 'Why, Dolly, you are looking due west.'

    I had spoken, because for an instant I had seen a tiny red spark on the distant water, and had thought it might be the lighthouse.

    We came out from our shelter, and with his arm I took a turn on deck.  Again I saw it.

    'Look at that little red thing,' I said; 'it is like a fire-fly quivering on the water.'

    'It is only, a light,' he answered; 'all vessels are bound to hang out lights.'

    At that same instant, as we rose on a wave, the lookout man sung out.  'Light ahead!'  I thought he said, and a confusion of voices repeated the words from all parts of the yacht.  Then the light was gone.

    'What do you take it for?' cried Tom, suddenly turning on Brand, who was now standing behind its.  My uncle was on deck before Brand could reply, and I heard his order to the man at the helm, 'Starboard helm!' whereupon the yacht presently swung round to the left, and as I looked over the bulwarks I saw the little red light again.  It was apparently bearing down upon us.

    'That light hangs uncommon low, sir,' said Brand, touching his sailor's hat.

    Tom replied, 'It may be a fishing vessel, but I hope to God it is a smaller craft:

    He spoke in an excited tone, and it was evident that the sailors did not take this for an ordinary light, nor did my uncle, for in two minutes I heard orders given to shorten sail, and a great fog-horn was sounded, which I suppose was a signal to the bearers of the light, for our lights were put out.  We lost sight of her then, and when she danced up again the sailors followed close on the horn, alternately cheering and shouting, 'Light ahoy!'  But the little red eye drifted down upon us and,
 

"Like ships dismasted that are hailed,
 And send no answers back again,"


she vouchsafed us no reply.

    There was a pause of expectation.  'I never saw such a strange light before,' said Mrs. Brand; 'it's like a cabin lamp.'  They generally did the last thing I should have expected, and as I stood by Mrs. Brand almost in the dark, I said to her, 'They cannot see us.  If we do not hang out more lights, now are they to find us?'

    'O ma'am!' she answered, 'never fear; we are not leaving it to them to find us.  We want to keep them in sight if we can.'

    Still no sign from the little red eye; then another rousing cheer burst from our company, and in a lull of the wind during the silence which followed there came up from the water something that surely was meant for a reply, a feeble wavering cheer, half joy, half wailing, but pitched high.  Those were women's voices I knew, and tears of deep delight almost choked me.  In the darkness came all the confusion instantly which had woke me the previous night.  We hove to, and hauled down a sail; but lights began to appear, and dazzled me, and men darted about, and confused me.  I could see a great sail coming down, but I by no means expected it to interfere with me, and as it swung around, I, trying to get out of the way, did the very thing Brand had spoken of the night before, put my foot on the boat's fall, and, slipping, down, struck my temple slightly against some projecting corner.  I felt sick for a moment, and found that blood was trickling down my cheek.  It was bitter to lose sight of the lamp; but there was confusion and terror for me on deck now that I was giddy and unable to stand.  I accordingly staggered below.  The lamp was burning in my cabin.  I lifted my hair, and saw in the glass a very small cut on my temple.  I began in all haste to stanch the blood and wash the traces of it from my face, that I might return; but I could not ascend in time to see the approach of the boat, and before I had quite recovered from the giddiness I heard such stamping, shouting, and cheering, that I knew the boat must have come alongside, and that her occupants, whoever they might be, were on board.  The yacht appeared to plunge her bows in the water, and shake herself strangely.  I could hardly stand, and was cold, and shivered, partly from the hurt, partly from excessive excitement; but it is certainly true that some sights are good 'for sair een.'  I saw one which cured the blow on my temple, for I never felt it after.

    I heard, and saw when I looked up, a strangely eager and motley crowd—two or three men, and a good many limping women, wet and staring.  Then followed another man, who came stumbling down with great difficulty; two little children preceded him, and he had a bundle strapped on his back.  I touched him on the arm, and said, 'Come in here,' and he turned into any cabin with the children.

    The man could not speak.  One arm seemed to be a good deal burned, and his bare feet and hands were blistered and raw from rowing and exposure.  He sank down on the floor, his hands hanging at his sides, and he appeared to be even more exhausted than the children, who lay down beside him, their clothes all drenched with spray, and their hair matted with wind and rain.

    The first thing I thought of was to feed these poor creatures.  A glorious supper had been cooked in readiness hours ago, and Brand and his wife were flying about in the chief cabin, bringing in hot soup, and meat, and wine, and all the good things required for starving people.

    I took the children for passengers and the man for their servant, otherwise I knew he would not have come to the after part of the vessel, for he seemed to be a seaman, and seamen go by instinct to the other end.

    Brand and his wife had, however, received orders to bring the passengers and the women into the chief cabin for the present; and when I slipped in to see what I could get, these poor creatures were making more noise and confusion than forty sailors would have excited, and some were in a half-fainting state, and one in hysterics.  I seized the first thing that came to hand, which was some macaroni soup that Brand was just bringing in.  I ladled it out of the tureen into a basin, and crumbled bread upon it.  The force of the wind appeared to be a good deal spent, for I could now walk tolerably and carry my soup with me.  I was very glad to escape from the noise and turmoil; and when I got to my own cabin I knelt on the floor and put a little soup into the children's mouths, feeding them by turns.  They soon ceased to cry and moan, and ate eagerly, but the man took no notice, though I spoke to him.  He seemed hardly conscious; and when I found that he could not rise and get supper for himself, I went back again, got a glass of red wine and a roll, and put my hand on his forehead, and the glass to his mouth.  At first this was all to no purpose, but shortly he smelt the wine, opened his bleared eyes, and seemed to revive a little.  I got him to drink some, and, breaking off bits of bread, put them into his mouth, after which he seemed to sink back again into a kind of torpor.

    The poor little children appeared to be about three or four years old.  They had no sooner done eating than they began to fret and wail again, and no wonder, for their pretty limbs were sore with salt water, and their weakness was pitiable.

    I ran to Brand, and made him bring me a large jug of warm water.  In the meantime the man had roused himself sufficiently to loosen the bundle from his back, and when I turned from the poor little creatures whom I had washed as well as their weakness would permit, I saw that he had laid it across his knees.  I could not attend to him, the children absorbed all my care—they were so weary and querulous that it was not without great difficulty I cut away their drenched clothes, clothed them from my store, and put them into the berths; but this once done they were soon quiet, and sobbed themselves to sleep.  Then, before I could succeed in rousing my sailor, Mrs. Brand brought in two women who looked the picture of misery and fatigue.  One was so faint that we had great difficulty in getting her into her berth; the other was not so weak.  I left Mrs. Brand to do what she could for her, and returned to the man.

    That bundle which lay across his knees—I little thought, when moving past him I had touched it with my dress, what it was.  I approached death for the first time.  It was an infant.

    I saw the light of the lamp upon a white, calm face, and two little plump hands.  I could not doubt for an instant that it was dead, and when I came and knelt by the man as he sat on the floor, I touched the fair little arm and found it cold.

    As he sat in the corner, propped up by the settees, his head hung forward, and two or three tears had dropped down his rough cheeks on the waxen face of the babe.  I asked the poor fellow if I might take it away, and he looked at me with stupid bloodshot eyes, but did not answer, so I took it from him, carrying it to my own berth, cut off the little frock which was soiled and wet, wrapped it in a small white shawl, and laid my white veil over its quiet face.

    Though it has taken a long time to describe all this, I do not think it was half an hour in the doing.

    The next thing was to go to the chief cabin and see what could be done for this man.  I wanted to find some one to attend him and take him away, but was very glad to retire, for the noise and excitement of the rescued people were distressing to witness—some of the women were asleep with heads on the table, and some seemed almost beside themselves.

    My uncle sat very gravely, but with rather a puzzled air, at the head of the table; the American captain was at his right hand, and looked as composed as if no such things as shipwrecks had ever been brought under his notice; opposite to him were the two passengers, one of whom when I entered was proposing my uncle's health, and when the other arose to second it, he staggered back, and subsided quietly on to the floor, contriving to make his speech in this new position, and wave his hands with great politeness and elegance.

    'The poor souls,' observed Mrs. Brand, speaking of the women, 'ought not to have been allowed to eat and drink as they pleased.  It's no use Master telling me to speak to them—they are quite past listening.'

    I retreated hastily.  They had quite enough on their hands without helping me, so I resolved to do what I could for my sailor by myself, and on returning found that he had managed to raise himself, and was kneeling, with his elbows on the settee.  I thought he was muttering a prayer; and though sailors are not irreligious folks, I did not see this without surprise.  I waited until he should have finished; but fatigue overcame him, his head dropped, and he dozed; so I touched him, and asked if I should wash his arm, for it seemed to have been burnt.  I had warm water; but when I set it beside him he said in a hoarse whisper, 'I can get up if you like,' and accordingly he rose with difficulty, and sat by the table under the lamp.

    Never in my life had I touched anything so utterly begrimed.  Some of his matted hair and whiskers had been singed off; he must have put his head into the thickest of the smoke, for the rain had washed enough black out of it over his face to give him the complexion of a mulatto.  His old burnt jacket was stiff with wet, and stuck to the injured arm; but nothing could be done until it was removed, so I took a sharp pair of scissors and cut it up the sleeve and shoulder as gently as I could.

    The pain this gave him roused him effectually, and he writhed in his seat, but did not utter any exclamation.  I had only olive-oil and cotton-wool to dress the burn with; but they would be of no use I knew while the salt water was in it, so with the courage of desperation I proceeded to bathe it, trembling from head to foot with fear, as my patient did with pain.

    No one to help, no use calling anybody, so on I went until the poor fellow's arm was bandaged and his blistered hand tied up in one of my finest pocket-handkerchiefs.

    The left hand also was a good deal swelled and blistered, so I washed it also and tied it up, which done, in a hoarse whisper he begged me to wash his face.

    Accordingly I went to my can for fresh cold water, turned a towel over my hand, held back his thick hair from his forehead, and washed and dried his face deliberately and comfortably; but it did not look much the better for this attention—the shock head of curly hair was half singed off, the whiskers were burnt, the lips cracked, and altogether he was an ugly specimen of a seaman, and his head being still wet from the rain, little ink-like streams were trickling down his neck.  I dried his hair, and made three towels quite black in the process.  He certainly was an uncommonly dirty fellow, and looked as if he had never been clean; but then he was my own particular patient, so I shut my eyes to that and was proud of him.  Besides, the courage he had displayed while I was torturing his arm made me admire him.

    I now told him to sit quietly while I went to inquire for a berth for him.  Brand, whom I consulted, said that my uncle and the captain of the burnt ship were on deck.  They had given up the chief cabin to the women; the captain would have Mr. Graham's sleeping cabin; and he did not know without inquiring where the man was to be lodged.

    He was just starting on his errand when I remembered that my poor sailor had no supper excepting the morsels I had put into his mouth at first, so I told Brand to bring me something good for him, and he soon returned and followed me down with a glorious basin of soup, a plate of roast beef, and some salad, and a stiff glass of spirits and water.  When I entered, however, I found Tom and Mrs. Brand both looking a good deal frightened.

    'Where is my man?' I exclaimed.

    'You should not have left him,' said Tom; 'when I came in he was almost fainting, lying on the floor.  I thought he had better be with the children than anywhere else; in fact, he cannot be moved, so as soon as he came to a little, Mrs. Brand and I helped him to turn into this empty berth'

    'I thought he was dying, I declare,' said Mrs. Brand, who always thought something dreadful.

    I went up to the berth, where the man, who looked as if he had boxing-gloves on, was lying half insensible.  I was sure he wanted food.  I could not bear that these delectable viands should be wasted, so I resolved to shake him if nothing else would do, and make him eat if I possibly could.  I gave the meat to Tom to hold and the tumbler to Mrs. Brand, for the yacht pitched a little; then I brought the soup close to him and told him his supper was come.

    The smell of food is sweet to the starving.  My sailor presently came out of his stupor, raised himself on his elbow, looked into the soup-bowl, and his whole countenance lighted up.  I began to feed him, and he ate every mouthful; we then cut up the meat and brought him his grog.  His great hungry eyes followed us, and with a murmur of satisfaction he opened his mouth for my fork, and went on calmly and deliberately eating and drinking until all was consumed.

    Just as he had finished, laid himself down, and begun to snore, one of the children reared up its head and cried out, 'Oh! please, I want some tea, and I want some corn-cakes and some plums and pudding.'

    'Why, you stingy thing!' said Tom to me, 'you have not given them half enough to eat.  You should have seen the people eat in the chief cabin.'

    I took the little creature up, wrapped her in a shawl, and when I said she should have some more supper she laughed for joy.

    We drew the curtains to shut out my sailor that he might sleep in peace, and we might enjoy ourselves at our ease.  My sickness was now so entirely gone that though the vessel heaved and pitched a good deal, I felt quite well, and so hungry, that when Mrs. Brand appeared with a world of good things, I sat down to make a late supper with Tom in my own cabin, he and I each holding a child, for both were now awake.  Mrs. Brand, standing by, pinned the joint of beef with a fork that it might not bounce off the table, and held the salad-bowl in her hand for the same reason.

    I had drawn the curtain across my own berth, in which the dead infant lay, and I did not mean to mention its presence to any one, least of all to Mrs. Brand.  Yet though we had such cause for joy in the saving of many lives, I felt as if guilty of great heartlessness in eating and enjoying myself while the little body lay so near to me.

    But the occasion was peculiar.  Tom was in a genial humour, like his old self; easy and affectionate; the children were in ecstasies over their supper, and Mrs. Brand in high spirits, as was usual when her hands were full, so I ate and delighted in Tom's talk, and felt the pleasure of success after anxiety.


 
CHAPTER X.

The wills above be done, but I would fain die a dry death.—Tempest.


THAT was a night of considerable fatigue, for an fast as one child fell asleep the other woke and cried, and there were two women who were ill, and I had to go to them.  Poor creatures, they did not complain of past suffering, but they evidently had suffered sorely.

    My sailor was so quiet that once in passing I opened the curtains of his berth and looked at him;—sound asleep, eyes shut, mouth open, the pillow black from contact with his hair, and the sheets in the same condition wherever his torn and scorched shirt had come into contact with them.

    At last, when all was quiet, and Mrs. Brand was dozing on the settee, Tom came in and asked if I could do anything for the American passenger; he had been very much hurt, but had not complained.

    We made him welcome, and I recognized him as the man who had proposed Uncle Rollin's health.  He hobbled in with groans of pain.  'His feet had been burnt,' he said, 'by the dreadful heat of the lower deck when he went below with the captain to investigate the cause of the fire.'

    He had taken off his shoes shortly after on account of the unbearable heat they retained, and at first the burns had seemed mere trifles, but salt water had got into them and he was suffering agony.

    'I have not been able to do as much as I could have wished,' he said, 'for I am coming over to Europe for my health, so I tried to give as little trouble as possible, for you may suppose we have had a hard time of it.'

    He had a loud hollow cough.  I woke Mrs. Brand, and we did what we could for him, but did not relieve him much.

    He had been a passenger on board the burnt ship, and as he sat, propped up with pillows in a corner, he gave us an account of their numbers, by which I found that we had rescued thirty persons, only six of whom, beside the captain, were seamen.

    'A queer lot we were,' he observed; 'those women that you saw in the chief cabin belong to a trapeze company—"a show," we call it in the States—and some of them were dancers, some conjurors, and some actors, fairies in a sort of pantomime, which, as far as I can make out, their show partly consisted in.  Sallow stunted young things they were; the superior members of the troupe had gone up to New York, and come home in a steamer, these were following in a merchant ship, and very decently they behaved themselves,' he continued; 'that old Irishwoman snoring yonder acted mother to them.  She swore at them now and then, but to do her justice she kept them out of harm's way.'

    'None of the women in the cabin looked young,' I said, surprised at this account of their calling.

    'No, they wither early, I should judge.  But some are not young; one is the mother of three strapping girls that are here with her: they dance and she is a fairy.'

    As he spoke like an American I thought he was one till he told me he was of English birth.  'Though I have lived in the States twenty years,' he observed, 'and belong to them now both heart and tongue.'

    In spite of his past fatigues he could neither rest nor be silent, but by little and little as the night wore away and daylight came in from above, he told us the story of their misfortunes.

    'The ship was laden with cotton, and about eight o'clock on Friday evening a steam was perceived to be rising from the hatches over the main hold; every minute or two a whiff of light smoke came after it, and fears were entertained that it might be caused by firedamp.

    'There was some secrecy at first, but the men were sent below to the pumps, I know, and there was some notion of cutting holes over where the cargo was stowed so as to pour down water on it, while letting in as little air as possible; but it seems that if cotton is well flooded, it is liable to swell so as to burst the deck open, and I made out that this plan was given up.

    'But in less than an hour,' he continued, 'things looked so much worse that the captain ordered all hands on deck and summoned the passengers; he told them that a portion of the cargo certainly had ignited, but that as we were only seventy miles from Cape Clear, he hoped we might make it, and also get the fire under.

    'The steerage passengers were at their supper when they were sent for.  I heard them as they came up saying what a mighty hot night it was, what an uncommonly hot night: he told it all out in two minutes, and began to give his orders to his men instantly.  It was a very sudden blow, and not one of those people, man or woman, said a single word.

    'Nobody took any further notice of them,' he continued, 'all hands were set to work to extinguish the fire.  Did you ever see a fire?'

    'No, never.'

    'I never saw one the least like this; a little steam would come puffing out over a spot in the deck not larger than the crown of a man's hat, and then blue flame would hover in it, but not touch the deck.  They would put it out directly and it would appear in another place—wherever it had fed, the place was rotten.

    The crew consisted of thirty all told.  The passengers were twenty, not including these children.

    'Excepting myself, Mr. Brandon, Mr. Crayshaw, and the children, they were all steerage passengers.  We stood at first a good deal huddled together, but as soon as I had passed to the front I saw that the main hatchway had been lifted, that the bales might be raised by a crane; but the heat and steam seemed to drive the men back, and the bales were so rotten that they would not hold together on the crane hook, but kept falling back with a dull thud, and when this had happened several times, the captain ordered the hatches to be battened down, and all sail to be crowded.

    'It was now dark, and though the heat increased, I did not see that the fire gained on us at all; they kept flooding the deck with water and throwing it up into the rigging.  I was full of hope that it would be kept under, and therefore it was a horrid blow to me when the captain had the lower sails hauled up, and gave orders for unlashing and launching the long-boat and the jolly-boat.  I do not believe this was a quarter of an hour from the time he had battened down the hatches.  Well, the jolly-boat was stowed inside the long-boat; they succeeded in getting her unlashed; we hove to and she was launched.  Brandon and Crayshaw had volunteered to go below and help the men to fetch up biscuit, flour, water, cocoa, and any other provisions they could lay their hands on.  I saw them come on deck again all right, and one boat was ready, but when they tried to get the long boat unlashed flames broke out, and before these could be got under she was so damaged that they dared not use her.  Those two boats would have held us all.

    'An hour at least was spent over those boats.  I had volunteered to do what I could, and the captain ordered me to take all the women below that they might put on their warmest shawls and fetch up their money and what valuables they had.  I was to make them keep together and be ready to bring them up at a signal from him.

    'My legs trembled under me as I marshalled them, for I was shocked to hear that he did not think there was any use wasting time over the small boats, and meant to give all his mind to the making of a raft.

    'It all seemed so sudden!  As I went after the women I shouted to Crayshaw, "What on earth does it all mean?"  He was just flinging off his velvet coat, and answered, "Depend upon it he knows what he is about."  I felt, as I suppose a man may, when not thinking he is at all near death, he is told by the surgeons that he has only an hour to live.  They were already flinging overboard every spar and plank and spare yard they could lay their hands on to construct a raft as fast as ever they could.

    'Never shall I forget how the women tore out and tossed over their things, nor how their tongues went.  I helped them to make up their bundles as well as I could, but nobody knew what to save.  We did not know what to be at, and before we were called they would go up again carrying arm-loads of rubbish, old shawls, old baskets, bandboxes, bundles, and even old shoes.

    'I had heard the constant splash and shouting as the materials went over the side, and as I looked over what would I not have given to be young!  A dozen men were working with a will.  There was that dandy Crayshaw lashing away, and Brandon as nimble as a cat following out all his directions, for the captain knew that Crayshaw had experience, and had given him the command.  They were making it on the lee side, of course, but still it pitched about more than was agreeable.  It was a strange sight, but dear me, what should a young lady know about the making of a raft!'

    'How large was it?' I asked.

    'How large? well, about five-and-thirty feet long, and rather narrow in proportion.  I am amazed when I think how the time appeared to spin on, for it was now eleven o'clock, and I was still standing among the rubbish and luggage of different sorts when Brandon came up to the captain and reported the raft ready.  Crayshaw followed in a moment, and the captain said, "Gentlemen, there is no time to be lost."  "We are under your orders, captain," said Brandon.  A great burst of smoke came between us, and I did not hear the answer, but I saw that a good many of the women had disappeared; they had gone down again, hoping to save something more, poor souls, and I ran after Brandon, and between us we argued and pushed them up, stumbling as they came with quantities of bedding and boxes, not a particle of which ever was lowered.  The change was amazing by this time; the whole place was gleaming with little spurts of flame, but there was a great noise and confusion, screaming of women, and cries of shame.  "What's up now?" we shouted to Crayshaw, who was kicking the bundles aside as they fell, and pulling the women on.  The passengers, he told us, and some of the crew had made a rush for the jolly-boat.  It was manned by the most able-bodied of the crew; it had dropped astern and disappeared.

    'When, hours after that, we counted out the people left behind, twenty-three were missing; they had stolen away from the ill-fated ship, and no doubt their excuse to themselves was that if they had taken in any more they must have been swamped.

    'The captain, however, was quite equal to the occasion, and after swearing at the boat to relieve his mind, he vowed he didn't see what there was to make such work about.  "And Mr. Crayshaw," said he, "that is your opinion."  Crayshaw was an American, the only one of the passengers that was American born.  He took the captain's meaning instantly, and between them I believe they actually made the women think the raft was safer than the boat.

    'Very nasty work it was getting them lowered, and before this was half done, one of them cried out, "Merciful heaven, I forgot the baby!"  She had been very good to the orphan children, but the second time she went down she had laid this one in a berth, and only just found out that no one had brought it up.  She was like a mad creature, and down she flew, Brandon after her.  They found the child asleep—a wonderful thing that was surely.  He wrapped a blanket about its head to keep the smoke off, and tried to get on deck following her, but they were met by such a volume of smoke and steam that she fell down choked, and he got hold of her by the arm and hauled her up by main force; he fell twice, but when he was down he could breathe, and he crawled on deck dragging her after him.  They were not five minutes below, but when he got her on deck he was badly burnt and she was stone dead.

    'He never knew that.  I took the child and he staggered on between two till he got his breath, and soon none of us doubted that our best chance was to embark on the raft, for the beams were creaking and splitting, and the flames curling round the main-mast, and with a loud singing noise the pitch seemed to boil.  The fire did not appear as yet to have possession of a large space, but it was all about the main-mast, and that made us long to give it a wide berth.

    'We were all lowered without accident, and it was a strange thing to see her go sailing on when we had cast off and were drifting astern.

    'The captain had a pocket compass, the Lord be praised for that, and for my fellow passengers never were there such ridiculous fellows I do believe.'

    'Ridiculous!' I exclaimed, with astonishment.

    'Well,' he replied, as if apologizing for them; 'there was hardly any motion on the raft at first, but one woman had brought a pillow-case half full of oranges and apples with her; some of them got loose, and Brandon and Crayshaw had to lie down on their stomachs to catch them for fear they should lose any and roll off.  Crayshaw as he did it actually whistled and sung.  Another woman had brought a rope of onions that she snatched from under one of the boats on the poop (good luck to her for it).  Brandon tied it together with the string it had hung by, and put it round his neck as the easiest way of carrying it.  As he stooped it flew over his head, and he called to Crayshaw, "Look out, America, my necklace is coming!"

    'I felt confounded at their behaviour.  I said to the captain, "Well, this is a most amazing way of committing ourselves to the sea.  Anybody to see them go on, might think we'd met with some great deliverance."

    ' "Well, Mr. Dickson, sir," replies the captain; "I reckon they perhaps think so;" and he looked on uncommonly satisfied.  As the last orange went in and the pillow-case was tied up, they began to overhaul the onions, and Brandon insisted on filling Crayshaw's pockets with them; they seemed indeed so light-hearted and so excited that at last I could bear it no longer, and I burst out, "What in nature all this means, I suppose they know themselves, for I don't."

    ' "Means," replied the captain, turning his head over his shoulder and staring at me.  "Why, ar'n't you aware that every minute of the last hour she has been just as likely to blow up as not! ay, and a great deal likelier."

    'He confirmed his opinion with various strong expressions that I need not repeat to a lady.

    'But the notion of the blowing up stopped my remarks for some time.  I had thought all along that they had both seemed in a frantic state of eagerness to get that aft ready, and when Brandon had been helped down, or he was terribly bruised, I saw them take each other by the hand.  Bruised they both were, but neither of them seemed to feel their hurts at first.

    ' "Fire-damp's an etarnal risky article," continued the captain.  "Mr. Brandon, sir, I'd be much obliged to you for an apple, I'm a'most choked."  Brandon turned as he lay and gave him one.  The captain took out his pocket-knife and peeled it in quite as particular a way as ever he would have done in his own ship.  Then he jerked the peel overboard, and while he was eating he and his chief mate watched it.

    ' "We shall do now," said he; "we're making no way at all, and she's forging on pretty fast ahead."

    'In fact, it had fallen very calm, and I calculate we had been on the raft half an hour, when he gave orders to his men to see about getting up the sail that we had brought with us.  It took some time to fix that, as you may suppose, but the ship, though she was sailing wildly, was well out of our way by that time, and during the whole remainder of that first night nobody seemed to feel either fear, fatigue, or hunger.  The excitement had been great, and there was a good deal to do, the boxes, bags, and what-not that the women sat on, had all to be fastened together, and by means of a cabin lamp that we had brought with us, we did this pretty well.  Then the raft had constantly to be lashed afresh in one place or another, and as soon as it was light the captain had a great sea anchor made in case the wind should freshen.

    'It was not till high day that we all knew where our real weak point was—we had hardly anything to eat; almost all the women as they passed the boats where they were stored had filled their pockets with onions, and, as I said, we had a pillow-case half full of oranges and apples—besides that we had plenty of water; but only a very small keg of flour, and it was not half full; of course, the children would not touch the raw onions, nor could we, but we each had an apple, and we turned the onions over to the seamen and the women.  Then we kneaded up a little flour in water for each person.  It made a kind of paste, and we coaxed the children to eat it, putting bits of orange into it, but we began to feel the pangs of hunger by that time, and Brandon and Crayshaw were very stiff and sore.  It fell calmer and calmer till the raft hardly swayed on the sea, and the fine warm air comforted us after the chill of the night.  Brandon and Crayshaw, who had been amusing the children since daylight, whistling and singing to them, telling them queer stories, setting up little whirlygigs for them, which they pulled with strings, settling the women's shawls and serving out the rations, had now begun to be very quiet; they were nearly used up, I calculate.

    'But about ten o'clock the women began to show themselves weary and out of spirits; first one shed a few tears and then another.  Then Brandon asked if any of them had got a Bible or a prayer book, and one of them produced a dirty little prayer book.  So he proposed to the captain to have morning service, and they were all pleased, poor souls; it seemed not only something to occupy them but the right sort of thing.  So he read over the English morning service, and then some collects and hymns.  He sang several hymns for them to please them, and they joined as well as they could.  Then after that, it being almost a dead calm, he and Crayshaw laid themselves down in the sun, and if you'll believe me, they both fell sound asleep, and slept as soundly as they could have done in their berths, and I think as sweetly.

    'That was something for us all to look at, and for some of us to wonder over.

    'The captain had his compass in his hand, and the great sail shifted and flapped.  Another onion was served out all round, and the children had their paste again; they would have cried if they had been hungry, and none of us could have borne that, it lowered our courage so.

    'The baby had been a great pleasure and occupation to the poor women and girls.  He was ten months old, and I actually fancied that when he woke in the morning, after sleeping all night, he looked about him as if he had the wit to be surprised.  He spluttered a good deal over his paste, but they made him eat it, and he crowed at the sails and the sparkles on the water and his little sisters almost all the morning.  He was asleep now, and all was very still, but at last the captain, not without unwillingness, gave the order to haul down our sail.  There was hardly a waft of air, he said, but what came being now off shore, down it must come.

    'Oh! you cannot think how much worse for us that quiet was than all the noise and fright and hurry that had gone before.

    'With the noise of hauling down the sail, Brandon and Crayshaw woke, shivered a little, sat up, and glanced at one another.  It always hurt me to see them do that,' he added, and paused.

    'Indeed, why should it have done?' I inquired.

    'Well—yes, ma'am, thank you, I'll take some tea (this was to Mrs. Brand, who came in and offered him a cup)—'because it made me feel that they knew theirs were the most valuable lives on the raft: we were oldish and they were in their prime.  O those feet of mine!  I know I shall never stand on them again.'

    'O yes, indeed you will.  We shall get into Valencia shortly, and you will have a surgeon; but tell me about the raft, that seems to make you forget the pain.'

    'Why, as I said, those two woke and looked about them, and all seemed changed to them and to us; they were cold and hungry, and dirty, and wet, all the excitement was over, and they were both so stiff now that they could hardly drag themselves upright.  I could see, too, that they were sorely vexed to find that the sail was lowered.

    'Brandon twisted himself round that the women might not see his face; Crayshaw made an inspection of the raft, and saw that she lay as still as a tub on a pond—made an inspection of the water, but not the remotest flutter of a sail could be seen anywhere.  He looked for a moment dumbfounded, then he drew a diamond ring that he wore from his finger, and with a sort of rage of impatience chucked it into the sea.

    'Nobody but the captain and I saw the action, unless Brandon did.  I saw the little sparkle flash and go down.  Then he looked up and catching the captain's eye he said, for an excuse, "It cut my hand last night; I suppose I have a right to fling it away if I choose."

    ' "Well," answered the captain, "my opinion is contrary to that."  "I should like to fling myself after it, I know," Crayshaw went on, in a bitter tone, poor fellow, but speaking low.

    ' "Well," replied the captain; "and for aught you know, sir, so should I, but my conscience is clean contrary to that sort of thing.  It wouldn't square with what I have to do."

    ' "I have nothing to do," said Crayshaw.

    'The captain put his hand in his coat pocket and pulled out a parcel.  "Mr. Dickson," said he, "if these two gentlemen are agreeable, will you serve out an onion to each of 'em, for they've not had their rations.  And, gentlemen," said he, looking straight at Crayshaw, "you are always in such spirits as I've never found opportunity hitherto to put in a word, but now, if you are agreeable, I propose a smoke;" with that he opened the parcel, and there were enough cigars in it for every man to have one, and there was one over.  The sailors would rather by half have had a pipe, but O! how glad we all were of those whiffs of comfort, they seemed to put heart into us, and after that Crayshaw said he thought the onions smelt rather relishing, and ate his; Brandon had got one down already without the least ado.  Now it seems odd to you, I dare say, when we were at that pass—no signs of rescue and hardly anything to eat—that we should have cared about the eating of an onion.'

    'Yes,' I said, 'I should have expected that you would all have been more frightened—more serious.'

    'Ah! well that stage came next; it had fallen perfectly calm, and now a fog came up and wrapped itself over us, so as we could hardly see from one end of the raft to the other.  As long as the captain's steady face could be seen the girls could keep quiet, but when it grew dim in the mist they got afraid, first one began to fret and then another.  Crayshaw was himself again, and he scolded and joked and encouraged as well as he could, but all to no purpose; "we weren't making a mite of way, they knew; they should all go down to the bottom or be starved; they hadn't been half such good girls as they could ha' wished to be if they had but know'd how it would end," and with that they began to talk about their sins, and next about their souls!  Crayshaw turned himself round then, for he knew he was done for.  And Brandon said if we would light the lamp he would have another service.  They were all in a terrible fuss by that time, sobbing and wringing their hands, but he managed to get the command, and when they cried out that he must pray for them as he did by the poor lady that died on board, he said, quite cheerfully, yes, he would, there could not be a better time.  Well, I know the captain was as frightened as could be, their crying and their talk made him groan and wipe his forehead as the burning ship never did, "Good God, Mr. Brandon," said he, "if anything can be done you are the man to do it; won't you act parson and tell 'em they're all right?"

    'I was nearly used up by that time and lay still, but I got aware by degrees that Brandon was half reading, half discoursing to them, talking about the love of God to man, if you'll believe me.  My word! he almost made out it was well for them that they were sinners, because it was for such, said he, that the Son of God had died.'

    'Don't you think he was right?' I said, observing that he paused and seemed to reflect. 'The women and girls were dreadfully frightened because they suddenly felt that they were sinners; how natural then, and how right to show that for sinners Christ had died.'

    'Well, I suppose it must have been right, for it answered; but I thought it strange when they all felt how hard it was to go down—that he should talk about the love of God.  But,' he continued, 'though I haven't got religion myself, I agree that he behaved himself grandly.  If he was a parson and preached anywhere, I'd go twenty miles to hear him, not only for what he said but because he had a voice that's almost enough to charm up the dead.

    'He never said a word about death, either drowning or starvation.  If Christ was here now, he asked them, standing on the raft, and they could see Him, should they be afraid to ask Him to forgive them and help them over their last trouble and take them home?  Some of them said, "No."  Well then, ask Him, says he, for He is here standing on the raft.  I feel that He is, though I cannot see Him.

    'And so then he began to pray.  That sort of religion is not what I've been used to, but it seemed to warm my blood and make death bearable.  He made out, you see, that Christ was the love of God waiting with us, till we were ready for Him.  Well, I shouldn't wonder if I've heard that said before, but sitting still on the raft on the still water, and the still mist lying as thick over us as a shroud, lowered down ready because there'd be none to do it for us after death, it sounded different, and I calculate you'll not be sorry to hear that before I went off into a faint, as I did from hunger and a sore fit of coughing, I made up a prayer my self, and felt easier for it.'

    'You must have suffered more than any of them, you are such an invalid.'

    'I don't know about that, I had neither burns on me nor bruises, and I was not fatigued, I had only to lie still; and through all the faint or the sleep (part both, I guess) I heard him talking to them with a sweet man's voice, always quite cheerful, and then I heard him sing for them, and then I grew quite insensible.

    'I believe it was pain that woke me at last, more than motion and noise.  I sat up; there was a swaying and a surging of water, and the sea anchor was just about to be launched overboard.

    'What is that like, do you say?  Well, it's something like a sort of a huge kite, weighted at one end so as to keep it up and down in the water; we were fastened to it by a rope about twenty fathoms long.  The object of it was to keep the raft end on to the sea.'

     'Was that about midnight?' I inquired.

   'I think so; the full moon was just going down, and the sea had risen when I sat up.'

    'Then you had the sail again, I suppose?'

    'Not so, a raft can only sail before the wind, and now the wind that had come up, suddenly pushing the mist before it, was from the south-east.'

    'Then I am afraid you were in worse case than ever?' I observed.

    'No, not altogether, for at least we had something to do; we had to hold on and take care of the children.  It is astonishing to me, considering all we went through, that the time seems so short.  There was no reading, no praying, and no singing now, you may be sure.  The baby cried and wailed all night, but the other children were tolerably quiet.  We had hardly anything left by that time to give them, and they were perished with cold and wet with the salt water.  By eleven o'clock the women all tied themselves together, and as well as we could hear ourselves speak, we shouted to them and to one another to keep up heart, for if we did not soon fall in with a sail we should be swamped, and then, we said, the Lord would have mercy on our souls.  Oh, that was a dreadful day, but yet if it had to come over again I would rather go through with it than with the calm.  I cannot speak of it any more, and these feet of mine shoot fire.  The whole day long we were knocked about by the wind and drenched with rain and salt spray; sometimes the waves that struck us loosened a spar or plank and it was flung among us, striking us and loosening our hold.  It was when one of those seas struck us that the baby got a blow; Brandon had it on his arm at the time, the poor women being all so spent with fatigue that they could not hold it.  But I don't remember much more, except that they lashed me to Crayshaw that he might hold me up—in short we were all knotted and held together round the spar that we set up for a mast, and how we got over the day I cannot say that I know.  Yet, though I seemed to others to be insensible, I revived the instant I heard the captain call out that he saw a light.  The carpenter roared out, "A sail, a sail, right ahead," and a minute after we heard a rousing cheer.'

    'And that lamp?' I inquired; 'it was a cabin lamp, was it not?'

    'Yes,' he answered; 'the captain allowed it on account of the infant.  I noticed it and brought it up, for I thought it would be a comfort, as it proved.'

    'Did you bring it on board?'

    'I can't say: your people may have done so, they did everything for us.'

    'I hope it is not lost.  I should like to have it'

    'Would you, though?  Well, you are a very nice girl, miss, I will say—not a bit of pride, uncommonly like an American!'


 
CHAPTER XI.


As proper men as ever trod
Upon neat's leather.—Julius Cæsar.


ABOUT seven o'clock I looked out and found we were getting very near Valencia.  My poor patient, who was in constant pain, expressed a wish to be carried on deck, and I was not sorry for this, as I had the children to dress and feed before they could be sent on shore.

    Brand, however, who came in with the captain of the yacht to assist Mr. Dickson on deck, told me that 'master' intended to keep the children on board, and only send the other passengers and the sailors on shore: a good breakfast was to be prepared for them at the inn, for we had not provisions and accommodation enough.

    Accordingly I went to help Mrs. Brand in dressing the women: to some we gave a shawl, to others a cloak, and I had to take off the muslin gown I was wearing for a poor girl who was almost in rags.

    The old Irishwoman was very weak; but as I helped her to array herself in a dark winter gown, that I had altered for her in the night, while listening to the story of the raft, she showed that she had some strength left in her voice; and when I plied her afterwards with tea and bread and butter, she called down all sorts of incongruous blessings on me from the Virgin and the saints.

    'May ye have heaps of lovers, ma'am dear; may your husband be a Lord High Admiral, and bring ye boat-loads of jewels and handsome things'

        At eight o'clock we came alongside the wharf, and as I wanted very much to see both Crayshaw and Brandon I darted up on deck, holding up as well as I could the train of a white alpaca gown that I was wearing, for my morning dresses were all gone.  It was trimmed with apple-green ribbons, and was far too fine for the occasion.

    A basket of fresh vegetables and flowers was already on board, showing that I was but just in time.  As I passed it, I lifted out some roses and stood shading my eyes with them, for the low sunbeams dazzled me.

    I saw several men about to land, and one sitting on a deck seat who I was instantly sure must be 'the dandy Crayshaw;' not that there was anything of the dandy about him, but that he was manifestly so handsome that whatever he wore would appear to become him.

    Brand was standing beside him, holding a brown glove and a pair of glove-stretchers, and no doubt had assisted at his toilet, having had two wardrobes to choose it from.  He looked fatigued, but most peacefully happy.  One of his hands was disabled for the present; but he was safe, he was clean, and he had breakfasted.

    He pulled off his hat with his left hand, and, if I had felt any doubt as to his identity, his tone of voice when I answered his greeting would instantly have betrayed him.  As I sat down by him, his eye was caught by the flowers, and he said something about the rose of England: he had always thought of it as a pink flower, 'but he perceived,' looking at the flowers and at me, that it was white.'

    I proposed to put one of the rose-buds into his coat for him, and he looked pleased, but said nothing; perhaps he thought it was a common custom in these islands for girls to go about decorating strangers with the national flower.  It was not the first time I had put a flower into that coat.  It was one belonging to Tom, and I knew there was a little band below one of the button-holes for confining the stalk.  Mr. Brandon, he told me, had not yet come on deck; but the captain was with my uncle, making arrangements for the passengers and the crew to land.  I should like to have spoken to him, but the girls were beginning to come on deck, and one, I was told, had no shoes to land in, so I went down to find a pair for her; their poor array had been sorely damaged in the drying, and when the last pair of feet had been fitted with some embroidered slippers I came up again, and was only just in time to see the American captain, who had already landed, standing hat in hand on the quay, with his men behind him acknowledging the cheer from the yacht.

    The women were then sent on shore to the inn, and we sailed into the middle of the harbour, where we cast anchor, and I had a good breakfast on deck; for the chief cabin was in a state of great confusion, and my own cabin was occupied.  It was a beautiful summer morning, warm and calm; the lovely rocky coast appeared to cut itself holes in the sky, and the dazzling water was so brimful of light that one could not look at it.  Just as I had finished this breakfast (which I shall never forget, for I had never been really hungry in my life before, and did not know how delicious a thing is eating in such circumstances), I heard a strange voice in my cabin, and straightway proceeding thither I found that Tom had been ashore, had brought a surgeon on board, and they were standing together by my sailor's berth.  Mrs. Brand, who was very tired, was gone to rest; but Brand and I produced various things that the surgeon wanted—sponges, warm water, &c., and at his desire we held them for him while he examined the injured arm.

    My sailor was awake, and staring at us all with such evident surprise as gave his features almost a ludicrous expression—singed, bruised, and scratched as he was, it was hard to say what he might have been like under other circumstances, but I could not help perceiving that when he looked at me he appeared excessively disconcerted.  I did not see any reason for this—I was not at all disconcerted myself: a girl no older than I was had left Ipswich to be a nurse in King's College Hospital, and why should not I do a little nursing too, when it had come in my way so naturally?

    'Well,' said the doctor, as with great difficulty the poor man wrenched himself round so as to face us, 'I hope, my man, you feel yourself able to acquiesce in the will of Providence?'

    The man looked at him.  'I feel nothing of the sort, he answered bluntly, at the same time turning, with a grimace of pain, to suit the surgeon's convenience.  'If you had asked me whether I felt grateful,' he presently added, 'I should have answered heartily "Yes;" but if fire and water had both done their worst on me, I could but have acquiesced.'

    The doctor, on this unexpected retort, looked a little crest-fallen; for the tone of it was to the last degree hoarse, and the manner of it was irascible.  I was delighted, for I have always thought it very impertinent in the educated classes to be so fond of driving morals home to those whom they consider beneath them.

    'Well, my man,' he muttered, 'just as you please.'

    In the meantime Tom had retreated, and I did not like to have Mrs. Brand called for, for I knew how timorous and tearful she was, so when the surgeon said, 'Who is to attend to this arm for the future?' I replied, 'I believe I shall, if you will be good enough to tell me how.'

    'You shall?  Very well, ma'am; you think it won't frighten you—make you nervous?'

    'No.  I hope such a burn on my own arm would not frighten me; why should I then be afraid of it on another person's?'

    'That,' said the patient, faintly and with another grimace, 'has very little to do with it.'  I knew it had not almost as soon as the foolish words were spoken; for when I saw the drops of perspiration stand on his forehead, and his features redden with pain, I felt my heart and courage sink; but I recovered myself presently, and stood by till the surgeon had finished, and had given me his instructions.

    The man looked at me several times.  I was quite aware that he had seen my momentary failure of courage: he was an observant fellow.  I thought his last remark, though perfectly true, was uncalled for; but then, as I repeated to myself, he was an American!

    He complained of violent pain and stiffness across his shoulders, and was desired to remain all day in his berth.  His other hand was then looked at.  Lashing ropes had taken the skin off the palm; but it was declared that nothing more was the matter with it, excepting that the salt water had caused some irritation.  I was rejoiced at this; there was at least only one hurt for me to attend to, and I obeyed with a degree of alacrity that I was ashamed of, when the surgeon said he had done with me, and would trouble me to tell my brother he was now ready for the clean shirt that he had proposed to lend the patient.

    Yes!  I went out of the cabin quicker than there was any need for, and being very tired I had no sooner delivered the message than I curled myself up in the corner of a settee, fell fast asleep, and never woke till a rush of water broke the stillness and told me that we were leaving the harbour.

    Uncle Rollin and Tom were both in the cabin, and when I woke and looked up the former said, 'Well, well, no wonder she was tired; she was not at all in the way during the night,—was she, Tom?'

    'Quite the contrary,' answered Tom, pleasantly; and men are so apt to look on women as encumbrances at sea, that this admission more than contented me.

    I was told that we had put the doctor on shore; he was an Englishman, and had come with an excursion party from Killarney.  'He had said the children were very weak, and ought to have food every two hours—and—and—I'm sure I forget his name,' my uncle continued, 'but it seems he mainly wants rest, food, and care, so I shall not put them on shore for the present.'

    I went softly to my cabin with some soup for the children; the door was propped open, and I saw my sailor in his berth, and Mrs. Brand nodding on a seat fast asleep; both the children were asleep also; and I set down the soup, and stole softly to my own berth; for it vexed me to the heart to think that I had been overcome by that drowsy fit, and had not spoken to any one respecting the little infant whom I had laid there.

    I opened the curtains, intending to look at it and lay my hand on its pure white forehead; but to my surprise it had been removed: there was a slight depression on the pillow, but the babe was gone.

    'Miss Graham.'

    I closed the curtain, and went to my patient.  It was he who had spoken; but clean surroundings and brushed hair had made another man of him; he was not quite so hoarse either: rest and food had partly restored his voice.

    I asked if he knew anything of this removal.  He said yes, that the captain had come in before the surgeon left; that he had mentioned the subject, and the surgeon had landed in charge of the babe, and with all proper directions.

    He told me that he had breakfasted; and in reply to my question, said he did not want anything, unless I would be kind enough to examine his jacket and see whether there was a book in it.

    This singed and soaked garment lay on the floor: I picked it up and brought it to the side of his berth.  First came out a short bit of tobacco-pipe; then a knife; lastly, a shabby book, blistered and bulging with sea water.

    I felt sorry to see how completely I had cut the poor man's jacket to pieces; for I knew it was the only upper garment he possessed, and as I turned it over I said—

    'I am afraid this jacket is quite spoilt.'

    He smiled and answered gently, 'Oh, it is of no consequence; I dare say your brother will lend me something to land in.'

    Fancy a sailor dressed up in Tom's clothes!  My brother, indeed!  I was surprised at the man's quiet assurance.  This was American equality truly; and when he added, 'And if the same kind hand to which so many of us are indebted will produce a hair of scissors to trim my hair,' I felt my cheeks glow with discomfort.  I could not wait on this sailor so comfortably, if he smiled in my face and asserted such perfect equality.

    'My maid shall bring you a pair of scissors,' I answered, speaking as gently as I could, but gravely; and I was moving away when he said in haste—

    'Excuse me, have I annoyed you?'

    Nowhere on land is so much difference acknowledged between the employee and the employer as there is in every vessel at sea.  Discipline forbids the 'man before the mast' to assert equality.  I did not then know that this was just as much the case in American ships—I thought perhaps it was not, and felt vexed with myself; for what right in such a case had I to be offended?  So Brand at that moment coming in with a message to me, I sent him for the scissors; and when the man repeated, 'I have annoyed you,' I replied, 'If so, it is only because I am not accustomed to the manners of Americans : they differ so much from ours.'

    'In what respect?' he asked, and he looked puzzled.

    I was a little frightened, but could not now withdraw from the discussion.

    'English sailors all speak to ladies as that one did whom you have just seen,' I answered.

    The look of surprise increased; but yet he seemed to catch a part of my meaning instantly, for he replied—

    'He did not speak with half the respect that I feel—madam (this last word he added doubtfully, and as an after-thought).  I had not expected such an answer, and began to feel puzzled in my turn.  'Here is your book,' I said, handing it; and as I glanced at him I encountered, instead of the respect he had mentioned, a countenance in which amusement seemed to be struggling with a kind of tender admiration.

    No one had ever looked so at me before—no, never in my life; and I was ashamed of myself to feel how it made me blush (oh, how could I have been so foolish?); and what was worse, the man was actually aware of my confusion, and meant to help me out of the scrape; he said—

    'I am not a sailor nor an American—madam,' again added doubtfully, 'but I feel the justice of your remarks.  Very few of us can claim equality with one of your sex and character, it is so much above us.'

    'Here is your book,' I interrupted hastily.  'There was no inequality thought of but that of station—a trifling one, which I only wish to have admitted, because it makes it easier for me to offer you my assistance.'

    I laid the book on his counterpane, intending to withdraw, feeling thoroughly worsted and puzzled as to whom and what this man might be; but the swelled leaves fell open, and I saw that it was a Greek Testament.  Quite involuntarily a slight expression of surprise escaped me, and, relieved at anything which changed the subject, I said—

    'This is a Greek book; is it yours?'

    'Yes, it is;' and with ready tact he did not add the 'madam.'

    'You are an educated man, then.'

    The same smile shone in his eyes, and softened the corners of his mouth.

    'Does that surprise you?' he asked.

    'Very much indeed: I believed you were one of the sailors.'

    I saw that I had made myself ridiculous, but that he was indulgent towards my youth.  He, however, did not refrain from laughing, and I laughed too; but, though it was at myself, I was relieved at the turn things had taken.  We both became grave again suddenly; he, probably, from politeness; I, because I remembered that, after all, he was a perfect stranger to me.  In grasping the book, he had forgotten the blistered hand, and now dropped it hastily; upon which I took it up and said, 'You cannot hold this Testament?  I shall be happy to read some chapters for you.'

    His eyes opened wider as he lay, and he looked very much surprised; but he said not a word.

    'Where shall I read?' I inquired.

    He asked for a chapter in Hebrews; and I read it and the two following ones.  I should have stopped sooner but for the knowledge that if I looked up, I must encounter his eyes.  The task was a pleasant one too: I had not read Greek aloud for some time, and the effect of it, and that time and that place, was strange even to myself.  The last time I had read it, was with my dear old master at school: now I was my own mistress, it was even my turn to minister.

    It was a daring thing to read Greek to a man and a scholar, and I had done it of my own accord in order to escape from the awkwardness of further conversation, or of a precipitate retreat.  I felt all this strongly at first; but, as the reading advanced, the wonderful interest of the subject made me forget myself, and as I read more seriously, my listener became more and more still.

    The third chapter, which was the tenth of Hebrews, came to an end at last; and as it was finished, the first verse I had read recurred to my thoughts, and seemed to echo in my ears—'Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum.'  This! what was this?  Why, that we had such a High Priest as we needed—one whose sacrifice had been accepted.  What then?  We must 'hold fast this faith,' and be thankful.  It seemed to me, as I sat there silently, that I did hold it fast—I did believe that Christ had saved this lost world and me; but then what had followed?  My eyes glanced on at the next chapter: the result described there had not followed.  It was a chapter which often disturbed me.  'By faith,' it said, 'Abel offered a more excellent sacrifice.  By faith Noah prepared an ark.  By faith, Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son.'

    Wonderful truths these.  Where was my sacrifice?  Was it ready when it should be called for?  If it was not ready as a proof of my faith, how could I hope that I possessed any?  To believe that if God called on me to make a sacrifice I could not do it, was, as I knew, in itself, a proof of this want of faith in Him; for I had read expressly that faith is the gift of God; why did I not believe, then, that He would give it me, and make me able to receive it, specially as He is a God who, when asked, giveth liberally, and upbraideth not?

    It is a remarkable thing, and I have noticed it too often to think I can have been deceived, that moods of mind, and sometimes even thoughts, will occasionally pass from one person to another, while both are silent, almost as distinctly as they can be conveyed by words.  So that day, as my thoughts went in and in, searching for the faith they hardly dared to find, my eyes at last encountered those of my companion: he was quite as much absorbed as myself, and seemed to rouse himself with difficulty, and said very slowly,—

   'Thank you—when a man has just escaped from what seemed inevitable death, those chapters take a more solemn meaning for him.  There was something so real in Paul's religion; he was not afraid to say, "If these things are so, what manner of persons ought we to be?" '

    'I should have thought the more difficult thing to say, was, "What manner of things are we to do?" '

    'That was included in a mind like his.  The doing is an inevitable result of the being.  And yet he went on, touching very nearly on my thought, 'the particular line that should be taken up, the particular sacrifice to be made, is not always a problem easily solved.  The more free a man is to do as he chooses, the more difficulty in offering the sacrifice that God demands, and not one of his own inventing.  But some people have a way of thinking that what they are about must be pleasing to God, if only it is unpleasant enough to themselves.  And then,' he continued, 'if we do give up a few years or a few pounds, how mean we are about it!  Some of us, in our prayers, can even ask God to enable us to do YET MORE, flaunting our charity, as it were, in the face of our Maker.  I have done it myself,' he added, slowly, and as if the remembrance of it astonished him.

    'Oh, but St. Peter was beforehand with us there,' I answered.  'I have often thought how mean it was in him to remind our Lord that he had left all, and to ask what he was to have in return for this great act.'

    'When all he had to forsake,' said my patient, 'was his share in a rotten old tub of a fishing-boat, and those nets that he had not finished mending.  I should not wonder if, on the whole, he was glad when he reflected that he had not mended all the holes.  He was content to give them up; but, as he was not to use them again, it was not such a heart-break to leave them torn as whole.'  He laughed and went on, 'At least, that is the sort of feeling I have had now and then.'

    I thought this willingness to talk of his meannesses, and his feelings in general, was most likely in consequence of the extreme danger he had just escaped from.  People forget their shyness and their reserves at such times.  As for me, I liked his straight-forward openness; it suited my humour and his circumstances.

    'And yet,' I answered, speaking up for St. Peter, 'the boat and the nets were all he had; and so they were as much as any of us can give.'

    'Certainly,' he replied, 'and we must all be willing to give everything.  Nothing is so little worth while, even here, as being religious by halves.  It's not worth while looking out for heaven on the whole, and yet going as near the edge of hell as we dare, and as we can find footing.  What we want is a heedless daring and a wise improvidence the other way.  The right man to follow any cause, let it be what it will, is he who loves it well enough to fling to it everything he has in the world, and then think that not enough, and so fling himself after it.  This last item often weighs down the scales held in heaven, and the man gets what he gave himself for.  God concludes the bargain, and accepts the pay.  These things are reflections of the great sacrifice—"Lo, I come."  And the need for self-sacrifice is so completely the law of the world, that it is not merely in religious matters that we must give all, or get nothing.  If we want to do any great good to our fellow-creatures, though it be solely a temporal good, it is just the same.  Give yourself and all you have, and most likely you will get it; give half; and you get nothing worth mentioning.'

    'I wonder what you give,' I thought; and then I said aloud, 'Do you think St. Paul expected the world to last as long as it has done?'

    'No,' he answered, 'nor (if he had known that it would last to this epoch) that he would have pictured to himself such a world as this is.'

    'Because he would naturally expect that all Christians were to be like the first,' I replied; 'instead of which, if he could see us now—'

    'Well?  If he could see us now, Miss Graham.'

    'He would perhaps suppose that we were not Christians at all.'

    'Indeed!—yet he had a good deal of that most excellent gift of charity.'

    'I hope, if our Saviour came, He would acknowledge a great many of us as Christians.  But Paul!—I cannot see how Paul could.  He could not see into our hearts, or make allowance for circumstances.  I think he would be very indignant with us.  Perhaps he would consider Christianity to be extinct, and want to found it over again.  And, you know, we could not argue with him about apostolic succession.'

    'That would be very awkward,' said my patient, and to my surprise he laughed; 'but I think you would find,' he added, 'that we should all come in for his censure with mortifying equality.  We should see the wonderful balance weighted again, and learn which weighs heaviest—light or love.  I must remind you, though, that if St. Paul came again he would find some virtues among us, that, if all Christians had been like the first, could have no longer any existence.'

    'Would he?'

   'Certainly; for if the world had been thoroughly Christian, there would by this time be no oppression, nor ignorance, nor squalor, nor crime.  The whole having been done, Paul would have found us either attending to our own concerns, or waiting to see what was to be done next.'

    'But, if we were all Christians, are you sure that there would be no more poverty?'

    'Certainly not —that is, if (as we are pleased to suppose) we were such Christians as the first; for their crowning virtue was the conquering of their selfishness, and selfishness is the vice which stands in the world's light at present.  Instead of subduing poverty by helping and inducing the poor to go out and inherit the earth, many of us wish to keep them crowded here, because their poverty is their inducement to labour for us, rich.  Why, if the swarms in the weaving and the spinning world are to be thinned, who will bring a revenue to the cotton-lord?  If the crowded alley is to be deserted, who will make our shirts and our gowns? and if at the parish school we bring up all the children to fly like nestlings as soon as they are fledged, where are our housemaids and nursemaids and cookmaids to come from?  Am I bound to reap my own corn, because a long way off a field lies fallow, that starving Jem Brown might reap for himself, if I would send him to it?  Must my wife dress herself, because she has taught her pretty maid to sail for a place where she can be her own mistress?  Must my daughter sit in the nursery, and sing her little brothers and sisters to sleep, because the village maidens grow too wise through her lessons to do the work of my house, and wish to go away, and be welcomed to houses of their own?  No; truly God made my servant what he is; God placed me over him: let him work—it is his duty; let me play—it is my birthright; and let none of us presume to wish that God had placed us otherwise!  That is what people say—at least a great many of them.'

    What a singular man my supposed sailor now seemed to me,—vehement as a boy—eyes dilating and flashing, but otherwise motionless as a log.  Strange that he should say all this to a young girl of whom he knew nothing, and that he should put such energy into his words when the pain in his shoulder absolutely forbade him to turn on his pillow.

    He complained that the bandage on his arm was tight, so I brought scissors to cut the thread, and a needle to fasten it again.  As I handled his arm my hand trembled a little, and he said hoarsely, 'Indeed, you do it excellently well; I am grieved that on my behalf you are obliged to undertake what alarms you.'

    As pain made him wince once or twice, I was a little frightened; for the excitement was over now, that in the night had made it easy.

    I had thought, several times during our conversation, that this must be the man whom I had heard so much of from Mr. Dickson, and, unable to repress the wish to know, I said, 'May I look at your book again—at the fly-leaf?'

    He smiled, and asked 'Why ?'

    'Because I wish to know who you are.'

    He pushed the Testament towards me with his better hand, and said, 'Perhaps I feel the same curiosity as to you: first, a brave lady waiting in the night on the dead and the living—'

    'Oh, it is easy to do anything when one is excited.'

    Is it?  So much the better; and then—'

    'And then a silly girl, I suppose, taking for granted that you must needs be a sailor—a man before the mast—and also afraid to look at a burn.'

    'Having previously declared that she should not be afraid to bear it.'

    'I think so still.'

    'And then reading Greek; and now—'

    I was looking at the fly-leaf.  Yes, it was as I had expected: there stood the name—'Giles Brandon'!

    'I hope my name does not displease you,' said my patient quietly.

    It pleased me at my very heart; but I did not say anything, only laid the book down again, and went to the berth of one of the children who had just awoke.

    The little three-year-old cherub had not forgotten her 'banyan' days, and, holding out her chubby arms, said 'Oh, please, I want some pudding.'

    I wrapped her in a shawl, and took her into the chief cabin, where were Tom and my uncle; and while we sent Brand to fetch her some dinner, I said, 'Why did you not tell me that was Mr. Brandon?'

    'How could I suppose you did not know it?' was his not unnatural answer.  As he spoke, he was admiring the child's rosy little foot, holding it in his hand.

    'I shall have to change berths with you to-night,' he presently said.  'Of all things I dislike being near people when they are ill.'

    'I do not mind it in the least.  I wish to be able to attend on them.'

    'Oh, Brand must do all that to-night,' said Tom; 'and if you can do it in the day, well and good.  I couldn't—'

    'Pooh!' said my uncle, mistaking the drift of our words.  'I am very glad that Dorothea is not lackadaisical.  If this Mr. Brandon were a young man, there might be some excuse, but he looks old enough to be her father:

    'His face is scorched and swollen,' said Tom, 'but I do not think he can be more than forty.'

    Some cold rice pudding now appeared, and my little darling made with hands and tongue demonstrations of ecstasy.  I began to feed her, and in the midst of the meal Mrs. Brand appeared with a frock, made of part of a gown which I had given her in the morning to cut tip for the children.

    She had been very diligent.

    'It is all cobbled up, ma'am,' she said, 'and so is the petticoat; but they will do for the present.'

    'Oh! it is beautiful, Mrs. Brand; and the next time my uncle and Mr. Graham go on deck, we will wash and dress the children here.'

    'Which is as much as to say, that the sooner we go the better,' observed my uncle.

    Mrs. Brand had been so busy, that she had forgotten her usual discontent; but now she suddenly remembered a new source of sorrow.

    'And whatever is to be done,' quoth she, ' if we don't soon go into port, I'm sure I don't know; for our young lady has hardly a thing left to wear.  Her gowns, her while petticoats, her pocket-handkerchers gone to the Irish folks; and these pretty ones, and that blessed little cerpse that I'm sure I haven't a word to say against!

    My uncle on hearing this looked aghast, and I said,—

    'I think you and I can arrange this little matter without troubling the gentlemen about it.'

    'Have you parted with much, Dorothea?' said my uncle.

    'Not with much, uncle, that was of use at sea.'

    'Why, lor', Miss Graham, your good purple coburg and that excellent black cloth cloak.'

    'Well, we will talk of this some other time: that cloak was very unbecoming to me.'

    'Would ten pounds set the damage right?' asked my uncle of Mrs. Brand.

    'Yes, uncle; and five pounds I still have left of my allowance.  Now, Mrs. Brand, go and fetch the other child; I hear her crying.'

    'Ten pounds you shall have,' said my uncle, very angrily, just as if he was decreeing me a punishment.  I did not want him to find me such an expense just at first, but it was of no use disputing the point, so I thanked him with as good a grace as I could, and resolved that Mrs. Brand should have a scolding for her interference on the first convenient opportunity.

    The gowns I had given away were of very little use at sea.  A black silk, a blue one, and the brown-holland affair that Mrs. Brand had made for me, while I was ill, were all I now cared to retain, excepting some muslins which I kept to wear on shore; for a starched muslin becomes limp directly at sea, and most colours fade, so there was no self-denial in what I had done.

    In came Brand with a roast chicken, bread-sauce, and green peas; and Mrs. Brand with the other child, who was very cross and hard to please, did not want to be dressed, did not want any dinner, did not think the chief cabin was at all a pretty place—no, and did not mean to be good.

    The roasted chicken, etc., were intended for Mr. Brandon, and Tom volunteered to go and give him his dinner, Brand following with the tray, and my uncle marching in brimful of hospitality, and probably bent on making his guest eat and drink more than was good for him.

    'It's the queerest thing I ever knew, ma'am,' said Mrs. Brand, 'that our name should be Brand and the gentleman's name Brandon:

    I admitted that it was odd, but it had not struck me before; and we were soon fully occupied with the children,—my little pudding-eater beginning to cry because her sister did, and both fretting and pining all the time we were dressing them.

    Their new pink frocks pleased them, however; and the elder, after due persuasion, ate a little piece of bread and marmalade.

    I was bent on making them look nice to please my uncle; their wet shoes had been dried and blacked, their little socks washed, and their hair carefully brushed,—it hung down straight and silky over their cherub checks; but, though they looked rosy, they were still fatigued and listless, and at last, as nothing pleased them—it rained so that they could not go on deck—I let the elder go back to her berth with Mrs. Brand, and kept the little one, thinking to manage her by myself.  But I was deceived: no sooner was the elder child withdrawn than this little thing broke forth afresh into the most dismal wailing.

    'Oh, I want to go too!  Oh, I want to go to my Mr Bandon!  Oh, I do, I do, I do!  I don't like this place at all.'

    I was soon obliged to promise that as soon as she was good she should go; thereupon came a smothering of the sobs, and the prompt assurance, 'I are good.'

    So I took her up and joined the assemblage in my cabin, where I found my uncle chatting to Mr. Brandon, while Tom carved for him, and Mrs. Brand sat in a corner nursing the elder child, who was gradually sobbing herself to sleep.

    More rest and more food had restored the voice which was so hoarse before; it was now deep and decided, but, like many another man who is fond of children, Mr. Brandon could soften his tones when he spoke to them, and make them caressing and tender.

    I held my pretty little tyrant in my arms, and she intimated that it was her pleasure to go and look at 'her Mr. Bandon,' so I took her up to his berth ; and she gazed at him for awhile, saying, with a sage gravity,—

    'He's got a very ugly face to-day; it's all over scratches.'

    An ugly face every day, I thought, as I looked at it, though no doubt the singeing of the hair and whiskers, and a bruise across the bridge of the nose, had not improved it.

    'I want to kiss he,' were her next words, so I put her dimpled cheek down to his face.

    'I thought I heard somebody cry,' said Mr. Brandon.

    'That was me—I did cry.'

    'What did you cry for?'

    'Because I did.'  There must be some inherent reason in human nature to account for this answer: all children give it.  I wonder what equivalent for it French children have.  'Where's my baby?' continued the child; 'my baby didn't have any pudding.'

    'Baby is not here,' said Mr. Brandon, gently.

    'Is he in that other ship, sailing away?'

    'No.'

    'I want he.  Look at my new frock; this one,' touching my cheek with her finger, 'this one did give it me; it has pink buttons—look,' and she held out her sleeve.

    'What a kind lady!'

    'It has pink buttons; but,' in a low voice, 'I don't want her to carry me.'

    'You little ingrate!  But I think you tire Miss Graham's arm.  You don't want to look at me any longer, you know, as I have got such an ugly face:

    'Yes, I do:

    But I thought I had stood there long enough, so I bribed her with the promise of some pictures to come away; but even then she would not leave the cabin; she must stay, she said, and take care of Mr. Brandon; so the dinner being now cleared away, I retired, and left her there under the charge of Mrs. Brand.

    The sea-sickness, though it was quite gone, had, of course, left me rather weak; so I was not sorry to find the chief cabin empty; and I took a couch and sat down, to think over the events of the last few days and hours.

    The rain had ceased; I did not care to go on deck, but sat there reflecting till the natural consequence followed: I again fell asleep and dozed deliciously, till a sudden clatter of footsteps startled me, and Tom came in, crying out, 'Come, Dorothea, come; your laziness astonishes me.  Don't you want to see the Great Skellig?'

    Of course I rushed on deck.  The Great Skellig!  I had seen a picture of a rock—a hard material thing; I had read descriptions of its geological strata; I knew it was a thousand feet high—but was this the Great Skellig?  I stood amazed; there was a pale glassy sea, an empty sky, and right ahead of us, in the desert waters, floated and seemed to swim a towering shire of a faint rosy hue, and looking as if, though it was a mile off, its sharp pinnacle shot up into the very sky.

    The 'westernmost point of British land, and out of sight of the coast,'—was this that cruel rock on which the racing waves had driven such countless wrecks, and pounded them to pieces on its slippery sides?

    A boat was lowered.  Tom was going to row round it, though he said that, calm as the water was, it was still not quite safe to land.  To my delight, he volunteered to take me with him; so I sent for my hat and cloak, and we rowed towards the great rock in the glorious afternoon sunshine.

    How often have I been disappointed in the outline of hills and mountains: they seldom appear steep enough to satisfy the expectation that fancy has raised.

    Here there was no disappointment.  The Great Skellig shot up perpendicularly from the sea—not an inch of shore, the clear water lapping round it was not soiled by the least bit of gravel or sand.  As we drew near, its hue changed; a delicate green down seemed to grow on it here and there.  I sat in the boat and looked up, till at last its towering ledges hung almost over us, and its grand solitary head was lost, and the dark base showed itself in all its inaccessible bareness.

    As we had lain half-way between it and the vessel, I had looked back and seen that our floating home was but like a green duck riding on the water, while the Great Skellig in comparison was like the ramparts of some city whose crown was in the sky.

    Now we were near, Tom said to me, 'Do yea see those peaks that look like little pinnacles?'

    I looked, and his finger directed me to a row of points about a third of the height of the rock, and projecting from it.

    'Those points,' he continued, 'are as high as Salisbury spire; when there is a storm, the wave breaks high enough to cover them with spray.'

    So sweet and calm they looked, serene and happy, I could hardly believe what I heard, nor picture to my heart the cries and wailing of human voices, the rending, pounding, and wrecking of human work that had been done on them, tossing from peak to peak, and ground on the pitiless rock since first men sailed.

    I was not sorry when we left the rock behind us; but Tom was bent on landing, if possible, and he also wished to see the Lesser Skellig; so as this could not be done that day, my uncle, who loved to give rocks a wide berth, meant to put out to sea for the night, and return so as to sight the Skelligs about morning dawn.



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