Project Gutenberg's Heart of Oak, vol. 1., by William Clark Russell

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Title: Heart of Oak, vol. 1.
       A Three-Stranded Yarn

Author: William Clark Russell

Release Date: June 8, 2020 [EBook #62341]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


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Transcriber's Note:

Obvious typographic errors have been corrected.

















I.   Miss Otway opens the Story 1
II.   Marie's Sweetheart 16
III.   The 'Lady Emma' 30
IV.   Marie begins her Voyage 57
V.   The Hidden Life of the Ship 85
VI.   A Strange Man on Board 112
VII.   A Race and a Roller 136
VIII.   A Hurricane 161
IX.   Dismasted 190
X.   The Jury-Mast 212

[Pg 1]



I date the opening of this narrative, February 24, 1860.

I was in the drawing-room of my father's house on the afternoon of that day, awaiting the arrival of Captain Burke, of the ship 'Lady Emma,' and his wife, Mary Burke, who had nursed me and brought me up, and indeed been as a mother to me after my own mother's death in 1854; but she had left us to marry Captain Edward Burke, and had already made two voyages round the world with him, and was presently going a third.

[Pg 2]

My father sat beside the fire reading a newspaper. His name was Sir Mortimer Otway; he was fourth baronet and a colonel; had seen service in India, though he had long left the army to settle down upon his little seaside estate. He was a man of small fortune. Having said this, I need not trouble you with more of his family history.

I was his only surviving child, and my name is Marie; I have no other Christian name than that; it was my mother's. My age was twenty and my health delicate, so much so that Captain and Mrs. Burke were coming from London expressly to talk over a scheme of my going round the world in their ship for the benefit of my appetite and spirits and voice, and perhaps for my lungs, though to be sure they were still sound at that date.

Ours was a fine house, about a hundred years old; it stood within a stone's throw of the brink of the cliff; walls and hedges encompassed some seventy or eighty acres of land,[Pg 3] pleasantly wooded in places, and there was a charming scene of garden on either hand the carriage drive. I stood at the window with my eyes fastened upon the sea, which went in a slope of grey steel to the dark sky of the horizon, where here and there some roaming mass of vapour was hoary with snow. It was blowing a fresh breeze, and the throb of the ocean was cold with the ice-like glances of the whipped foam. Presently it thickened overhead, and snow fell in a squall of wind that darkened the early afternoon into evening with smoking lines of flying flakes. The sea faded as the reflection of a star in troubled water. My father put down his newspaper and came to the window. He was a tall man, bald, high-coloured; his eyes were large and black, soft in expression, and steady in gaze; his beard and moustache were of an iron grey, he was sixty years old, yet still preserved the soldier's trick of carrying his figure to the full height of his stature.

[Pg 4]

'At what hour do you say they're to be here?'

'At three.'

He glanced at his watch, then out of the window.

'That doesn't look like a scene where a delicate girl's going to get strong!'

'No,' I answered with a shiver.

'But a crown piece on a chart will often cover the area of worse weather than this, and for leagues beyond all shall be glorious sunshine and blue water.'

'It's hard to realise,' said I, straining my eyes through the snow for a sight of the sea.

'Well,' he exclaimed, turning his back upon the window, 'Bradshaw is an able man; his instances of people whom a sea voyage has cured are remarkable, and weigh with me. Living by the seaside is not like going a voyage. It's the hundred climates which make the medicine. Then the sights and[Pg 5] sounds of the ocean are tonical. Are sailors ever ill at sea? Yes, because they carry their sickness on board with them, or they decay by bad usage, or perish by poisonous cargoes. The sea kills no man—save by drowning.'

He took a turn about the room, and I stared through the window at the flying blankness.

'Steam is more certain,' he went on, thinking aloud. 'You can time yourself by steam. But then for health it doesn't give you all you want. At least we can't make it fit in your case. It would be otherwise if I had the means or was able to accompany you, or if I could put you in charge of some sober, trustworthy old hand. Steam must signify several changes to give you the time at sea that Bradshaw prescribes. It's out of the question. No; Mrs. Burke's scheme is the practicable one, and I shall feel easy when I think of you as watched over by your old nurse. But I[Pg 6] have several questions to ask. When are they coming? Have they missed their train?'

About five minutes after this they were shown in.

Mrs. Burke, my old nurse, was a homely, plain, soft-hearted woman, a little less than forty years of age at this time. She was stout, and pale, though she was now a traveller, with large, short-sighted blue eyes, a flat face, and a number of chins. She was dressed as you would wish a homely skipper's wife to be: in a neat bonnet with a heavy Shetland veil wrapped around it; a stout mantle, and a gown of thick warm stuff. She sank a little curtsey to my father, who eagerly stepped forward and cordially greeted his old servant; in an instant I had my arms round her neck. You will believe I loved her when I tell you she had come to my mother's service when I was a month old, and had been my nurse and maid, and looked after me as a second mother[Pg 7] down to the time when she left us to be married.

Her husband stood smiling behind her. He was short, an Irishman: he looked the completest sailor you can imagine—that is, a merchant sailor. He was richly coloured by the sun, and his small, sharp, merry, liquid blue eyes gleamed and trembled and sparkled in their sockets like a pair of stars in some reflected hectic of sunset in the eastern sky. Everything about him told of heartiness and good humour: there was something arch in the very curl of his little slip of whiskers. A set of fine white teeth lighted up his face like a smile of kindness whenever he parted his lips. He was dressed in the blue cloth coat and velvet collar, the figured waist-coat and bell-shaped trousers, of the merchant service in those days, and over all he wore a great pilot-cloth coat, whose tails fell nearly to his heels; inside of which, as inside a sentry box, he stood up on slightly[Pg 8] curved, easily yielding legs, a model of a clean, wholesome, hearty British skipper.

Of course I had met him before. I had attended his marriage, and was never so dull but that the recollection of his face on that occasion would make me smile, and often laugh aloud. He had also with his wife spent a day with us after the return of his ship from the first voyage they had made together. My father shook him cordially by the hand. He then led him into the library, whilst I took Mrs. Burke upstairs.

We could have found a thousand things to say to each other; there were memories of sixteen years of my life common to us both. I could have told her of my engagement and shown her my sweetheart's picture; but I was anxious to hear Captain Burke on the subject of my proposed voyage, and so after ten minutes we went downstairs, where we found my father and the captain seated before a glowing fire, already deep in talk.

[Pg 9]

The captain jumped up when I entered, my father placed a chair for Mrs. Burke, who curtseyed her thanks, and the four of us sat.

'Well, now, Mrs. Burke,' said my father, addressing her very earnestly, 'your husband's ship is your suggestion, you know. You've sailed round the world in her and you can tell me more about the sea than your husband knows'—the captain gave a loud, nervous laugh—'as to the suitability of such a ship and such a voyage as you recommend to Miss Otway.'

'I am sure, Sir Mortimer,' answered Mrs. Burke, 'that it'll do her all the good, and more than all the good, that the doctors promise. I should love to have her with me.' She turned to look at me affectionately. 'Since you can't accompany her, sir, I'd not like to think of her at sea, and me without the power of caring for her. No steamer could be safer than the "Lady Emma."' The captain uttered a nervous laugh of good-humoured [Pg 10]derision of steamers. 'If you will trust my dear young lady to me, I'll warrant you, Sir Mortimer, there's not the most splendid steamship afloat that shall make her a comfortabler home than my husband's vessel.'

'I have some knowledge of the sea, Captain Burke,' said my father. 'I have made the voyage to India. What is the tonnage of the "Lady Emma"?'

'Six hundred, sir.'

'That's a small ship. The "Hindostan" was fourteen hundred tons.'

'You don't want stilts aboard of six hundred tons to look over the head of the biggest sea that can run,' answered the captain.

'She sails beautifully and is a sweet-looking ship,' said my old nurse.

'When do you start?' asked my father.

'I hope to get away by the end of next month, sir.'

[Pg 11]

'Your little ships, I understand, which are not passenger vessels, often sail very deeply loaded and are unsafe in that way,' said my father.

'There can be nothing wrong with a man's freeboard, sir, when his cargo is what mine's going to be next trip: stout, brandy, whisky, samples of tinned goods, a lot of theatre scenery, builder's stuff like as doors and window frames, patent fuel and oil-cake.'

'Gracious, what a mixture!' cried his wife.

'What I suppose is termed a general cargo?' said my father; 'not the best of cargoes in case of fire.'

'What cargo is good when it comes to that, sir?' asked Captain Burke, smiling. 'We must never think of risks at sea any more than we do ashore. To my fancy there's more peril in a railway journey from here to London than in a voyage from the Thames round the world.'

[Pg 12]

'Miss Otway must be under somebody's care, Sir Mortimer,' said Mrs. Burke.

'How do you think she looks?'

'Not as she'll look when I bring her back to you, sir.'

'It's astonishing what a lot of colouring matter there is for the blood in sea air,' said Captain Burke. 'When I was first going to sea I was as pale as a baker; or, as my old father used to say, as a nun's lips with kissing of beads; afterwards——' he paused with an arch look at his wife. 'And the colour isn't always that of rum either,' he added.

'Where does the ship first sail to, nurse?' said I.

'Tell my young lady, Edward,' she answered.

'We're bound to Valparaiso, and that's by way of Cape Horn,' said the captain. 'We there discharge, fill afresh, and thence to Sydney, New South Wales, thence to Algoa Bay, and so home—a beautiful round voyage.'

[Pg 13]

'Right round the world, and so many lovely lands to view besides!' exclaimed Mrs. Burke, looking at me; 'always in one ship, too, in one home, Sir Mortimer, with me to see to her. Oh, I shall love to have her!'

My father looked out of the window at the wild whirl of snow that had thickened till it was all flying whiteness through the glass, with the coming and going of the thunder of a squall in the chimney, and a subdued note of the snarling of surf, and said, 'Cape Horn will be a cold passage for Miss Otway.'

'It's more bracing than cold,' said Captain Burke. 'People that talk of Cape Horn and the ice there don't know, I reckon, that parrots and humming birds are to be met with in Strait le Maire. I was shipmate with a man who's been picking fuchsias in such another snowfall as this down on the coast of Patagonia.'

'Miss Marie, you should see an iceberg;[Pg 14] it's a beautiful sight when lighted up by the sun,' said my nurse.

'Beautifuller when under the moon and lying becalmed like a floating city of marble, and nothing breaking the quiet save the breathing of grampuses,' exclaimed the captain.

In this strain we continued to talk for some time. My father better understood than I did that my very life might depend upon my going a voyage, and spending many months among the climates of the ocean. All the doctors he had consulted about me were agreed in this, and the last and the most eminent, whose opinion we had taken, had advised it with such gravity and emphasis as determined him upon making at once the best arrangements practicable, seeing that he was unable to accompany me for several reasons; one, and a sufficient, being his dislike of the sea when on it. Our long talk ended in his proposing to return with Captain Burke to London to[Pg 15] view the 'Lady Emma,' which was lying in the East India Docks, and my old nurse consented to stop with me until he returned, so that we could chat about the voyage and think over the many little things which might be necessary to render my trip as happy and comfortable as foresight could contrive. The one drawback that kept my father hesitating throughout this meeting with Captain Burke and his wife was this: the 'Lady Emma' would not carry a surgeon. But that question, they decided, would be left until he had seen the ship, and satisfied himself that she would make me such a sea-home as he could with an easy heart send me away in.

[Pg 16]


My father went to London next day with Captain Burke. I denied myself to callers, and until my father came back remained alone with my old nurse, once or twice taking a ramble along the seashore when the sun shone; but my health was bad, and I had as little taste for walking as for company.

I suffered from a sort of spiritlessness and a dull indifference to things. My health was the cause of my low-heartedness: but there were many reasons now why I should feel wretched. It was not the merely leaving my father and my home for a twelvemonth and longer, to wander about the ocean in a ship in search of colour for my cheeks and light for[Pg 17] my eyes and strength for my voice; but for my health I should have been married in the previous October; and now my marriage must be put off till the sea had made me strong, and I was to be sundered from the man I loved for months and months.

My betrothal had happened whilst my old nurse Burke was away; it was therefore news to her, and she listened to all about it with eager, affectionate attention. I told her that my sweetheart was Mr. Archibald Moore, the son of a private banker in the City of London. I had met him at a ball in the neighbourhood, and within a month of that we were engaged. He was the sweetest, dearest, handsomest—I found I did not want words when it came to my praising him and speaking of my love.

She said: 'Does he often come to see you, Miss Marie?'

'Often. Every week. He is occupied with his father in the bank, and can only spare from Saturday to Monday.'

[Pg 18]

'Will he be here next Saturday?'

'I hope so.'

'Dear heart! Oh, Miss Marie, I have a thought: will not his father spare him to sail with us, so that you can be together?'

I shook my head.

'But why not?'

'Father would not hear of it.'

She reflected and exclaimed, 'And Sir Mortimer would be quite right. To be sure it would not do. Is it not a pity that we have to live for our neighbours? Neighbours have broken folks' hearts, as well as their fortunes. Why shouldn't you two be together on board my husband's ship? But the neighbour says No, and people have to live for him. Drat the prying, squinting starer into one's windows! he forces us to dress out a better table than our purses can afford, and to give balls when we ought to be cutting down the weekly bills. But he don't like the sea, my dear. There are no [Pg 19]neighbours at sea. Unfortunately the wretch stops ashore; people have to come back, and so he has 'em again!'

Mrs. Burke made much of Mr. Moore's portrait. She had never seen a handsomer gentleman. What was his age? I answered 'Thirty.' 'All the sense,' said she, 'that a man's likely to have he'll have got between thirty and forty. It'll comfort you, Miss Marie, to remember that Mr. Moore's thirty when you're away. He's old enough to know what he's about: he's made up his mind; there'll be no swerving.'

This was a sort of gabble to please me. She knew my nature, and when and how to say just the sort of thing to set my spirits dancing. In truth the part of my proposed banishment hardest to bear was the fear that a long absence would cool the heart of the man I loved.

On Friday Mrs. Burke left us to rejoin her husband, whose home was in Stepney, and on[Pg 20] that day my father returned. He was in good spirits. He had seen the 'Lady Emma' and thought her a fine ship. She was classed high, and was yacht-like as a model. Mr. Moore had accompanied him and Captain Burke to the docks, and was wonderfully pleased with the vessel and her accommodation.

'We've got over the difficulty of a doctor,' said my father.

'How?' I answered.

'Burke has consented to engage one. I told him if he would carry a surgeon, by which I mean feed and accommodate him in the ship, I would bear the other charges. He has a month before him, and may find a man who wants a change of air and who'll give his services for a cabin and food. Or, which is more likely, he'll meet with some intelligent young gentleman who wants to try his 'prentice hand on sailors before starting in practice ashore. Doctors find sailors useful[Pg 21] as subjects; they can experiment on them without professional anxiety as to the result.'

Now that it was as good as settled I was to sail in the 'Lady Emma,' I looked forward to meeting Mr. Moore next day with dread and misery. I was going away alone. All the risks of the sea lay before me. I was low and poor in health. Who could be sure that the ocean would do for me all that the doctors had promised? Who was to say it would let me return alive? I might never meet my love again. When I said good-bye to the man who by this time should have been my husband, it might be for ever, and the thought made the prospect of meeting him next day almost insupportable.

He found me alone in the drawing-room. The servant admitted him and closed the door. I stood up very white and crying; he took me in his arms and kissed me, led me to a chair and sat beside me, holding my hand and nursing it, and looking into my face for a[Pg 22] little while, scarcely able to speak. How shall I describe him, whose love for me, as you shall presently read, was such as to make my love for him, when I think of him as he sat beside me that day, as I follow him in memory afterwards, too deep for human expression? He was tall, fair, eyes of a dark blue, deep but gentle, and easily impassioned. He wore a large yellow moustache, and was as perfectly the model of an English gentleman in appearance as Captain Burke was a merchant skipper.

He began immediately on the subject of my voyage.

'It's hard we should be parted; but I like your little ship, Marie. I've not met your old nurse, but I judge from what your father tells me you could not be in better and safer hands. Captain Burke seems a fine fellow—a thorough, practical seaman. I wish I could accompany you.'

'Oh, Archie, I shall be so long alone!'

[Pg 23]

'Ay, but you're to get well, dearest. I've thought the scheme over thoroughly. If there's nothing for it but a voyage as the doctors insist, your father's plans, your old nurse's suggestion, could not be bettered. Who would look after you on board a big steamer? There is nobody to accompany you—no relative, nobody we know, no party of people I can hear of to entrust you to—making, I mean, such a voyage as the doctors advise. I should be distracted when you were gone in thinking of you as alone on a steamship at sea, with not a soul to take the least interest in you saving the captain; and captains, I believe, do not very much love these obligations. Civility, of course, everybody expects, but a big ship to look after is a big business to attend to.'

'It will be a terribly long voyage.'

'To Valparaiso, and then to Sydney and Algoa Bay, and home. About fourteen months. So Burke calculates it. A long[Pg 24] time, Marie; but if it is to make you strong, it will not be too long.'

In this wise we talked; then, there being two hours of daylight left, I put on my hat and jacket and, taking my lover's arm, went with him slowly down the great gap in the cliffs to the seashore. It was sheltered down here. The yellow sunshine lay upon the brown sand, and flashed in the lifting lengths of seaweed writhing amidst the surf, and had a sense of April warmth, though it was a keen wind that then blew—a northerly wind, strong, with a hurry of white clouds like endless flocks of sheep, scampering southwards. The sands made a noble promenade, surf-furrowed and hard as wood; the breakers tumbled close beside us with a loud roar of thunder, and exquisite was the picture of the trending cliffs, snowclad, gleaming with a delicate moonlike light in the pale airy blue distance. All sights and sounds of sky and sea appealed to me now with a meaning I had[Pg 25] never before found in them. I would stop my lover as we walked, to observe the swift and beautiful miracle of the moulding of a breaker as it arched out of the troubled brine, soaring, into a snowstorm, arching headlong to the sands with the foam flying from its rushing peak like white feathers streaming from a dazzling line of helmets; and once or twice as we talked, I would pause to mark the flight of the gulls stemming the wind aslant in curves of beauty, or sailing seawards on level, tremorless wings, and flinging a salt ocean song with their short raw cries through the harsh bass and storming accompaniment of the surf.

'If the breeze does not make me strong here, why should the sea make me strong elsewhere?' I said.

'It is the change. I have heard of desperate cases made well by travel.'

'It is hard! To think that my health should force me to that!' I exclaimed, [Pg 26]pointing to a little vessel that had rounded out of a point two miles distant, and was lifting the white seas to the level of her bows as she sank and soared before the fresh wind, every sail glowing like a star, her rigging gleaming like golden wire, her decks sparkling when she inclined them towards us, as though the glass and brass about her were rubies and diamonds. 'I wonder if she will ever return, Archie?'

'Why not? Cheer up, dearest.'

We watched her till she had shrunk into a little square of dim orange, with the freckled green running in hardening ridges southwards, where the shadow of the early February evening was deepening like smoke, making the ocean distance past the sail look as wide again to the imagination as the truth was. I shuddered and involuntarily pressed my lover's arm.

'The wind is too cold for you,' he said, and we slowly returned home up through the[Pg 27] great split in the cliff amongst whose hollows and shoulders the roar of the surf was echoed back in quick, sudden, intermittent notes like the sound of guns at sea.

From this date until I sailed my time was wholly occupied in preparing for the voyage. I went to London with my father to shop; Mrs. Burke accompanied us, and half our purchases were owing to her advice. Fortunately for her, as the wife of a sailor who was able to take her to sea with him, she was childless, and could afford to give me much of her time. They reckoned I was to be away fourteen months, but Captain Burke advised us, having regard to the character of the voyage, especially to the passage from Valparaiso to Sydney, to stock for a round trip of eighteen months: this he thought would provide for a good margin. Clothes for all the climates, from the roasting calms of the line down to the frost-black gales of the Horn, were purchased; many delicacies were laid in—a[Pg 28] hundred elegant trifles of wine and condiments, of sweetmeats and potted stuffs, to supplement the captain's plain table or to find me a relish for some hungry howling hour when the galley fire should be washed out. Mr. Moore wrote that he frequently visited the ship, and that he and Mrs. Burke between them were making my cabin as comfortable as my old nurse's foresight and experience could manage.

So went by this wretched time of waiting and of preparation.

About a fortnight before the ship sailed my father received a letter from Captain Burke, telling him that he had engaged a surgeon. His name was Owen. His age he said was about forty-three; he was a widower. The loss of his wife and two daughters three years before this period had broken him down; he was unable to practise; had travelled in the hopes of distracting his mind, but his means were slender and he was unable to be[Pg 29] long away or go far; yet when he endeavoured to resume work he found himself unequal to his professional calls. He thereupon sold his practice and had lived for some months in retirement upon a trifling income. Having seen Captain Burke's advertisement he offered his services in exchange for a free voyage. The captain described him as a gentlemanly man, his credentials excellent, and his experience considerable.

[Pg 30]


On the morning of a day for ever memorable to me as the date of my departure from my home—namely, March 31, 1860—my father and I went to London, there to stay till April 2, when it was arranged that I should go on board the ship at Gravesend. My grief worked like a passion in me; yet I was quiet; my resolution to be calm whitened my cheeks, but again and again my eyes brimmed in spite of my efforts.

Oh, I so feared this going away alone! Even though I was to be in the company of my faithful, dear Mrs. Burke, my very heart so shrank up in me at the idea of saying farewell to my lover, with the chance of[Pg 31] never seeing him more, that sometimes when I said my prayers I would ask God to make me too ill to leave home.

It was a melancholy grey day when I drove with my father to the station; the east wind sang like the surf in the naked, iron-hard boughs, and the sea streamed in lines of snow into the black desolate distance, unbroken by a gleam of sail, save, as we turned the corner which gave me a view of the ocean, I caught sight of a lonely black and red carcass of a steamer staggering along, tall and naked as though plucked, with a hill of foam under her counter; the melancholy and desolation of the day was in her, and no picture of shipwreck could have made that scene of waters sadder.

I had bidden good-bye to all I knew during the week: there were no more farewells to be said. We entered the train, and when we ran out of the station I felt that my long voyage had truly commenced. I'll not linger over[Pg 32] my brief stay in London. Mr. Moore was constantly with me: indeed we were seldom apart during those two days of my waiting to join the ship at Gravesend. His father and sister called to say good-bye; I was too poorly and low-spirited to visit them. In truth I never once left the hotel until I drove with my father and Mr. Moore to the station to take the train to Gravesend.

Before embarking, however, I made the acquaintance of Mr. Owen, the surgeon of the ship. He had occasion to be in the West End of London, and Mrs. Burke asked him to call. I viewed him with considerable curiosity, for it was not only he was to be my medical adviser—I could not but reflect that I was to be locked up in a small ship with this man for very many months, with no other change of society than Captain and Mrs. Burke. I was pleasantly disappointed in him. I had figured a yellow, long-faced, melancholy man, with a countenance ploughed by frequent secret[Pg 33] weeping, and furrowed by pitiful memories and night thoughts black as Dr. Young's. Instead there entered the room briskly, with a sideways bow cleverly executed whilst in motion, the right arm advanced, a short, plump figure of a man in a coat cut in something of a clerical style, short legs, and a face that would have been reasonably full but for its long aquiline nose, and contraction of lineaments due to a big bush of hair standing out stiff in minute curls over either ear. Otherwise he was bald.

My father was extremely polite to him. He stayed an hour and partook of some slight refreshment. He stared at me very earnestly, felt my pulse, considered me generally with polite professional attention, and, after he had put certain questions, said to my father with significant gravity:

'You may console yourself, sir, for the temporary loss of your daughter; I do not scruple to say that in sending her on this [Pg 34]voyage you will be saving her life. I believe I can recognise her case, and strongly share the opinion of those who prescribe a long residence on board ship upon the ocean.'

My father's face lighted up: nothing I believe could have heartened him more at the moment than this assurance. Mr. Moore took Mr. Owen by the hand and said:

'We shall be trusting her to you, sir; she is very dear to me. We should be man and wife but for her health.'

'All that my anxious attention can give her she shall have,' said Mr. Owen, bowing over my lover's hand.

Yet he did not stay his hour without letting us see, poor fellow, that in the depths of his heart he was a grieving man. He said nothing; no reference was made to his affliction: but in certain pauses the pain of memory would enter his face like a shadow, and sometimes he would sigh tremulously as[Pg 35] one in sorrow sighs in sleep, scarcely knowing you saw, that he did so.

When he was gone, my father said to Mr. Moore that his spirits felt as light again now that he had seen what sort of man it was who would have charge of my health.

'Taking all sides of it,' he said, 'I don't think we could have done better. Marie goes with an old nurse who loves her as her own child; Mr. Owen seems a kind-hearted, experienced, practical man. I hope he understands that our appreciation of his kindness will not be restricted to bare thanks on the return of the vessel. The more I see of Burke, the better I like him. He is an honest, experienced seaman from crown to heel, and in saying that I am allowing him all the virtues. No; the arrangements are wholly to my satisfaction and my mind is at rest. It will be like a long yachting trip for Marie: she will have a fine ship under her,[Pg 36] and all the seclusion and comfort of a yacht combined with the safety of ample tonnage. I am satisfied. It was a cruel difficulty; we have had to meet it; it is well met, and now, Marie, there is nothing to do but wait. Have patience. The months will swiftly roll by—then you will return to us, a healthy, fine young woman, full of life and colour and vigour, instead of——' His voice broke off in a sob and he turned his head away. I ran to him and he held me.

On April 2 we went down to Gravesend. Mr. Moore accompanied us. Captain Burke had telegraphed that the 'Lady Emma' was lying off that town and would tow to sea in the afternoon of the 2nd. We arrived at Gravesend at about twelve o'clock and drove to a hotel. All my luggage had been sent on board the ship in the docks. Mrs. Burke waited for us in a room overlooking the river; here she had ordered luncheon to be served. She seemed hearty and happy: [Pg 37]kissed me, and curtseyed to my father and Mr. Moore, and taking me to the window said:

'There she is, Miss Marie. There's your ocean home. What do you think of her as a picture?'

She pointed to a vessel that was straining at a buoy almost immediately opposite. A tug was lying near her. It was a young April day; the sunshine thin and pale, the blue of the heavens soft and dim, with a number of swelling bodies of clouds, humped and bronzed, sailing with the majesty of line-of-battle ships into the south-west. A brisk wind blew and the river was full of life. The grey water twinkled and was flashed in places into a clearness and beauty of bluish crystal by the brushing of the breeze. The eye was filled and puzzled for some moments by the abounding tints and motion. A large steamer with her line of bulwarks palpitating with heads of emigrants was slowly passing[Pg 38] down; another with frosted funnel and drainings of red rust on her side, as though she still bled from the scratches of a recent vicious fight outside, was warily passing up: beside her was a large, full-rigged ship towing to London, and the sluggish passage of the masts, yards, and rigging of the two vessels, the steamer sliding past the other, combined with the sudden turning of a little schooner close by, all her canvas shaking, and with the heeling figure of a brig, her dark breasts of patched canvas swelling for the flat shores opposite, a spout of white water at her forefoot, and a short-lived vein of river-froth at her rudder; then, close in, two barges heaped with cargo, blowing along stiff as flag-poles under brown wings of sail; these with vessels at both extremities of the Reach, coming and going, interlacing the perspective of their rigging into a complication of colours and wirelike outlines, for ever shifting: all this wonderful changing life, I say, adding to it[Pg 39] the trembling of the stream of river, the pouring of smoke, the pulling and shivering of flags, put a giddiness into the scene, and for some moments I stared idly, with Mrs. Burke beside me pointing to the 'Lady Emma.'

My eye then went to the ship, and rested upon as pretty a little fabric as probably ever floated upon the water of the Thames. I may venture upon a description of her and speak critically: indeed I must presuppose some knowledge of the sea in you, otherwise I shall be at a loss; for as you shall presently discover I was long enough upon the ocean, under circumstances of distress scarcely paralleled in the records, to learn by heart the language of the deep, how to speak of ships and tell of sailors' doings, and I cannot but name the things of the sea in the language in which the mariner talks of them.

The 'Lady Emma' was a full-rigged ship,[Pg 40] between six hundred and seven hundred tons in burthen; she was a wooden ship—iron sailing vessels were few in those days; she was painted black; but though loaded for the voyage she sat lightly upon the water, and a hand's-breadth of new metal sheathing burned along her water-line like a gilding of sunlight the length of her. Her lower masts were white, her upper masts a bright yellow; her yards were very square, or as a landsman would call them wide: the most inexperienced eye might guess that when clothed in sail she would spread wings as of an albatross in power, breadth, and beauty for a meteoric flight over the long blue heave.

'How do you like her, Miss Marie?' said Mrs. Burke.

'She is a pretty ship, I think,' I answered.

'She is a beauty,' said the good woman; 'she outsails everything.'

'She has a fine commanding lift about the bows,' said Mr. Moore, passing his arm[Pg 41] through mine. 'Captain Burke tells me she has done as much as three hundred and twelve miles in the twenty-four hours.'

'So she has, sir,' said Mrs. Burke.

'I wish she'd maintain that rate of sailing all the time Marie is aboard,' said my father.

'Oh, Sir Mortimer, this going will seem but as of yesterday's happening when yonder ship's out there again, returned, and your dear girl's in your arms, strong, fine, and hearty, rich in voice, and bright-eyed as she used to be when a baby. These voyages seem long to take, and when they're ended it's like counting how many fingers you have to remember them, so easy and quick it all went.'

Lunch was served and we seated ourselves, but my throat was dry and I could swallow nothing but a little wine. My father and Mr. Moore pretended to eat; suddenly looking up I met my sweetheart's gaze: a look of [Pg 42]inexpressible tenderness and distress entered his face, and starting from his seat he went to the window, and kept his back to us for a few minutes. Mrs. Burke went to him and whispered in his ear; I perfectly understood that she begged him to bear up for my sake: indeed it needed but for my father and my lover to give way, for me to break down utterly, with a menace of consequent prostration that must put an end to this scheme of a voyage on the very threshold of it.

We left the hotel at two o'clock and walked slowly to the pier. I was closely veiled. I could not have borne the inquisitive stare of the people as we passed. Whilst we waited for a boat, I watched a mother saying good-bye to her son, a bright-haired boy of fourteen in the uniform of a merchant midshipman. She was in deep mourning, a widow, and I had but to look at her pale face to know that the boy was her child. The lad struggled with his feelings; his determination[Pg 43] to be manly and not to be seen to cry by the people standing round about nor to go on board his ship with red eyes doubtless helped him. He broke away from her with a sort of sharp sobbing laugh, crying, 'Back again in a year, mother, back again in a year,' and left her. She stood as though turned to stone. When in the boat he flourished his cap to her; she watched him like a statue with the most dreadful expression of grief the imagination could paint. Never shall I forget the motionless figure of that widow mother and the grief in her face, and the look in her tearless eyes.

'There's plenty of sorrow in this world,' said Mrs. Burke, as the four of us seated ourselves in the boat, 'and there's no place where more grief's to be seen than here, owing to the leave-takings and the coming back of ships with news.'

'Master of a ship fell dead yesterday just as he was a-stepping ashore,' said the [Pg 44]waterman who was rowing us. 'Bad job for his large family.'

'You'll take care to have a letter ready before the ship is out of the Channel, Marie,' said my father. 'Mrs. Burke, your husband will give Miss Otway every opportunity of sending letters home?'

'I'll see to it, Sir Mortimer.'

We drew alongside the ship. Captain Burke and Mr. Owen stood at the gangway to receive us. When I went up the ladder, supported by my father, Captain Burke with his hat off extended his hand, saying:

'Miss Otway, welcome on board the "Lady Emma." She has received my whisper. She knows her errand and what's expected of her. She'll keep time, Sir Mortimer; and the magic that'll happen betwixt the months whilst our jibboom is pointing to as many courses as the compass has marks is going to transform this delicate, pale young lady into the heartiest,[Pg 45] rosiest lass that ever stepped over a ship's side.'

'I pray so, I pray so,' exclaimed my father.

'Captain Burke is not too sanguine,' exclaimed Mr. Owen with a smile.

'When do you start?' asked Mr. Moore.

'Soon after three, sir, I hope,' answered Captain Burke.

I ran my eye over the ship. The scene had that sort of morbid interest to me which the architecture and furniture of a prison cell takes for one who is to pass many months in it. I beheld a long white deck, extending from the taffrail into the bows, with several structures breaking the wide lustrous continuity: one forward was the galley, the ship's kitchen; this side of it was a large boat with sheep bleating inside her; whilst underneath was a sty-full of pigs, flanked by hen-coops whose bars throbbed with the[Pg 46] ceaseless protrusion and withdrawal of the flapping combs of cocks and the heads of hens. Near us was a great square hatch, covered over with a tarpaulin, and farther aft, as the proper expression is, was a big glazed frame for the admission of light into the cabin; some distance past it a sort of box, curved to the aspect of a hood, called the companion-way, conducted you below. At the end of the ship was the wheel, like a circle of flame with the brasswork of it flashing to the sun, and immediately in front stood the compass box or binnacle, glittering like the wheel, and trembling to its height upon the white planks like a short pillar of fire.

A number of sailors hung about the forecastle, and a man leaned in the little door of the galley in a red shirt, bare to the elbows, eying us, with a pair of fat, dough-like, tattooed arms crossed upon his breast, a picture of stupid, sulky curiosity.

We stayed for a few minutes talking in the[Pg 47] gangway; Mrs. Burke then asked me to step below and see my cabin, and I went down the steps followed by the rest, and entered the ship's little plain state-room.

I stopped at the foot of the ladder and drew my breath with difficulty. What was it? An extraordinary sensation of icy chill had passed through me. It was over in an instant, but it was as though the hand of death itself had clutched my heart. Was it a presentiment working so potently as to affect me physically? Was it some subtle motion of the nerves influenced by the sight of the interior, and by the strange shipboard smells in it which there was no virtue in the hanging pots of flowers to sweeten? I said nothing. My father halted to the arrest of my hand, supposing I wished to look about me, and yet, oh, merciful God! when I date myself back to that hour, and think of me as entering that cabin for the first time, and then of what happened afterwards, I cannot for an instant question—nay, with fear[Pg 48] and awe I devoutly believe—that the heart-moving sensation of chill which came and went in the beat of a pulse was a breath off the pinion of my angel of fate or destiny, stirring in the thick-ribbed blackness of the future at sight of my first entrance into the scene of my distress. Do not think me fanciful nor high strained in expression or imagination. My meaning will be clear to you.

The Burkes had done their best to make this state cabin comfortable to the eye. Shelves full of books were secured to the ship's wall: a couple of globes of gold and silver fish hung under the skylight, where too were some rows of flowers hanging in pots. A couple of tall glasses were affixed to the cabin walls, and the lamp was handsome and of bright metal. A new carpet was stretched over the deck, and the table was covered with a cloth, so that the interior looked like a little parlour or living-room ashore. I also observed a stove in the fore end of the cabin; it[Pg 49] looked new, as though fitted for this particular voyage.

'Dear Miss Marie, let me show you your bedroom,' said Mrs. Burke.

A narrow corridor went out of this living room in the direction of the stern; on either hand were cabins, four of a side. Mrs. Burke threw open a door on the port or left hand side, and we entered a large berth. Two had been knocked into one for my use.

'This is bigger than anything I could have secured for you on board a steamer,' said my father.

My old nurse's eyes were upon me whilst I gazed around. They had made as elegant a little bedroom of the place as could possibly be manufactured on board a plain, homely sailing ship. Every convenience was here, and the furniture was handsome. They had put pink silk curtains to my bunk which was single—that is, the upper shelf was removed so that I should have the upper deck clear[Pg 50] above me when I pillowed my head. They had prettily decorated with drapery a large oval glass nailed to the bulkhead: this mirror caught the light trembling off the river, and brimming through the porthole and filled the interior with a radiance of its own as though it had been a lamp. The carpet was thick and rich; the armchair low and soft. A writing table stood in the corner, and on it was a lovely bouquet; the berth was rich with the smell of those delicious flowers; the atmosphere sweet as a breeze in a garden of roses. It was my lover's gift, sent on board the ship just before she left the docks, but I did not know this until after I had said good-bye to him.

'It is as comfortable as your bedroom at home, Marie,' said my father.

'I find your thoughtful heart everywhere here, nurse,' said I.

'We have all done our best, and our best shall go on being done,' she answered, smiling,[Pg 51] and meeting my father's gaze she dropped him one of her little old-world curtseys.

'I don't think you'll find anything missing, sir,' said Captain Burke, 'from Mr. Owen's medicine chest down to the smallest case of goodies in the lazarette.'

'My daughter is in kind hands. I am satisfied,' said my father, and he came to me and put his arm round my neck.

Captain Burke, saying he was needed on deck, went out. Mrs. Burke and Mr. Owen followed; my father stepped into the state-room that I might be alone with my lover.

He caught me quickly to his heart and kissed me again and again with a passion of grief and love. We had exchanged our vows before, over and over. We could but kiss and whisper hopes of a sweet meeting, of a lasting reunion by-and-by. It was like a parting between a young bride and bridegroom, but with a dreadful significance going[Pg 52] into it out of my health and out of the thought of the perils of the sea. Indeed, a sadness as of death itself was in that parting, and I know Archie felt that, as I did, when he released me and stood a moment looking into my white face.

When we went into the cabin I found my father earnestly conversing with Mrs. Burke. He was asking questions about my luggage and effects, and impressing certain things upon her memory. A few minutes later Captain Burke came down the companion-steps, and, halting before he reached the bottom, exclaimed:

'Sir Mortimer, I'm sorry to say the tug'll be laying hold of us now almost immediately.'

My father started, looked at me with something frantic in the expression of his face, then crying 'Well, if the time has come——' and took me in his arms. Then with tears standing in his eyes, and gazing [Pg 53]upwards, he asked God to bless and to protect me, and to restore me, his only child, in safety and in health to him; and now speechless with grief, mutely looking a farewell to Mrs. Burke, who herself was weeping, he went on deck, followed by Mr. Moore, whose leave-taking here had been no more than a single kiss pressed upon my forehead as I stood beside the table after my father had released me.

When they were gone I sank into a chair; Mrs. Burke looked with wet eyes through a cabin window. She was right to let my grief have its way. After a little I heard the voices of men chorusing on deck; overhead people regularly tramped to and fro. Mr. Owen came into the cabin and said:

'Pray, Miss Otway, let me conduct you above. The air will refresh you, and the picture of the river is striking and full of life.'

'Come, dear Miss Marie, with me,' said[Pg 54] Mrs. Burke, and I put my arm through hers and went on deck.

I stood still on discovering that our voyage was begun. Our ship had been moored to a buoy; there had been no anchor to weigh, no wild music of seamen nor hoarse quarter-deck commands to give the news of departure to those under deck; the little tug had quietly manœuvred for our tow-rope, and now the ship's bows were pointing down the river, her keen stem shearing through the froth of the paddle-wheels ahead, with some sailors heave-hoing as they dragged upon the ropes which hoisted certain staysails and jibs; the old town of Gravesend was sliding away upon the quarter. I strained my eyes in vain for a sight of the boat in which my father and Mr. Moore might have been making for the shore. Well perhaps that I could not distinguish her. I think it would have broken my heart then to have seen them, thus, for the last time, making their way ashore for that home[Pg 55] I was leaving for months, and perhaps for ever!

'We have started, nurse!' I exclaimed.

'Yes, dear,' she answered. 'Do not make haste to cease crying. Let nature work by degrees in her own fashion. I shall soon see my dear girl looking proudly with health, and oh, the joy of your meeting with your father and Mr. Moore, and my happiness when I see them staring at you, scarce knowing you for your beauty and brightness!'

The water blazed with sunshine, the merry twinkling of it by the fresh April wind made the whole Reach a path of dazzling light. Twenty vessels of all sorts were about us: some leaned with rounded canvas soft as sifted snow, with yellow streaks of metal glancing wet to the light out of the brackish foam, that wanted the shrillness and spit of the froth of the brine; some lifted bare skeleton scaffolds of spars and yards as they towed past; some were no bigger than a Yarmouth[Pg 56] smack, and some were great steamers and deep and lofty ships from or for the Antipodes. But whatever you looked at was beautiful with the hues of the afternoon, the backing of the green land, the inspiration of the sea, the spirit of ocean liberty wide as the horizon that is boundless, and high as the air through which the clouds blew.

[Pg 57]


This was the first voyage I had ever made. I was born in England, and was left at school when my mother went round the Cape to India on the second visit my father paid to that country. I had never in my life crossed a wider breast of water than the English Channel between Folkestone and Boulogne. Everything here, then, you will suppose was wonderfully new to me; infinitely stranger indeed than had the ship been a steamer whose funnel and masts have commonly but little in them to bewilder the landgoing eye.

Hundreds of times had I watched ships passing over the blue or grey waters which[Pg 58] our house overlooked; but they were as clouds to me, indeterminable though beautiful decorations of the deep: I knew nothing of their inner life, of one's sensations on board, what the sailors in them did. I looked up now and beheld three masts towering into a delicate fineness to the altitude of their own starry trucks, with yards across, rigging complex as the meshes of a web, white triangular sails between. A sailor stood at the wheel, floating off from it with the easy, careless posture of the sea, his knotted hands gripping the spokes of the gleaming circle. A stout-faced man in the tall hat of the London streets, his neck swathed in a red shawl, walked up and down the deck near the cabin skylight. Mrs. Burke told me he was the pilot. She pointed to a man who was standing on the forecastle as though keeping a look-out on the tug, and said that he was Mr. Green, the first mate of the ship: indeed the only mate. The boatswain, she informed me, who was not a certificated[Pg 59] officer, would take charge of her husband's watch when the ship was at sea.

She talked thus to distract my mind. I asked her what she meant by her 'husband's watch,' thinking she meant the timekeeper in his pocket.

'Why,' she said, 'every ship's crew is divided into two companies or watches, called port and starboard; the starboard watch is the captain's and the other the mate's. Let us walk a little. Already you are looking better, positively.'

Here Mr. Owen joined us.

'I declare, doctor,' exclaimed Mrs. Burke, 'that Miss Otway has already got a little colour in her cheeks, more even since we left Gravesend than, I warrant, Sir Mortimer has seen in her the last twelvemonth gone. If she means to begin to look well so soon, how will it be with her, sir, when this ship's bowsprit is pointing the other way and we shall be all ready to go ashore?'

[Pg 60]

Mr. Owen, in a soft felt hat, an academic bush of hair under either side of it, like the cauliflower wig of olden days, and a warm, heavy black cloak, might have passed for a clergyman. He asked permission to stroll the deck with us, and pointed out objects ashore and upon the water with an intelligence that proved him the possessor of a talent for colour.

Once he broke off in what he was saying to look at the land; he sighed deeply, yet, forcing a smile, said to Mrs. Burke:

'That parting should never be a sad one which promises a happy meeting, at the cost of no more than patience.'

'Truly indeed not,' said Mrs. Burke cheerily.

'It is the meeting! it is the meeting! promise that, and what is the leave-taking?' he exclaimed, and was all on a sudden too moved to speak: he faintly bowed, and went to the ship's side and looked at the shore.

[Pg 61]

We did not long remain on deck. I found the wind cold, my head slightly ached; I was weary with the exhaustion which follows upon fretting. Mrs. Burke went with me to my cabin, and we spent a long while in talking, recalling old memories, and most of the time she was cheerfully busy in seeing that my things were in their place and that I wanted for nothing.

The night had drawn down dark over the ship when we passed from my berth into the state cabin. It was about seven o'clock. Supper was ready. The table was bright with damask and silver and flowers; under the skylight the large globe lamp glowed steadily, and filled the interior with the soft radiance of sperm oil. I heard some men singing out on deck and the noise of ropes flung down upon the planks. The sound was strange and put a sort of wildness into this interior, despite its fifty civilising details of furniture.

[Pg 62]

A young sandy-haired youth, long and lank, in a camlet jacket, stood at the foot of the companion-steps, and swung a bell with evident delight in the noise he made. Mr. Owen started up from a locker in the corner of the cabin on seeing us, and exclaimed:

'There is a brave wind blowing. Captain Burke hopes to be off Deal by midnight.'

'That will be famous work,' said Mrs. Burke. 'But this is a clipper ship.'

'Are we sailing?' said I.

'Yes. Some canvas is spread. But the tug still has hold of us,' responded Mr. Owen.

I felt no movement in the ship. She was going along with the seething steadiness of a sleigh. Just then Captain Burke came below. His composed, cheerful face, peak-bearded with red hair and arch, merry Irish eyes, seemed to bring a new atmosphere of light into the place. He addressed some friendly sympathetic question to me; we then seated[Pg 63] ourselves, I on the captain's right, and Mr. Owen at the foot of the table.

It was my first meal at sea, if indeed the ship could then be called at sea, and memorable to me for that reason. I had tasted no food since breakfast, and now tried to eat, but less from appetite than from the desire to please my old nurse. My chat with her before supper had determined me to fight with my grief, to regard the voyage as a long holiday yachting excursion, which should be happy if I accepted it as a twelvemonth's diversion that was to end in making me a new woman, and in fitting me to become a wife. It was this last point that Mrs. Burke had insisted upon, and, like a good many ideas which are obvious and commonplace when uttered, it took my fancy, lighted up my views as though it had been a sort of revelation, and whilst I sat at supper I was so composed that more than once I caught Mr. Owen[Pg 64] dart a glance of surprise at me when I answered or put a question.

'The sea is very smooth here, Edward,' said Mrs. Burke.

'There's no sea yet,' he answered. 'It's river so far. We're towing through what's called the Warp, near the Nore, whose light ye should be able to see, Miss Otway,' said he, getting up and ducking and bobbing to command the whole compass of a cabin window.

'I wonder the ship doesn't run the tug down,' said Mr. Owen.

The captain looked at me with his merry eyes and chuckled.

'Ay, we're a match for the old slapper even with nothing on us but fore and aft canvas and two topsails,' said he. 'I wish Sir Mortimer was with us. Here's a voyage to thread a heart through the strands of his years. I don't know that ever I met a gentleman I took a greater fancy to, unless it's Mr.[Pg 65] Moore,' and he gave me a bow, whilst I smiled, feeling a faint glow in my cheeks.

'There'll be a full moon at eight,' said Mr. Owen.

'So there will, sir, thank God,' answered Captain Burke. 'We sailors can never have too much light. No, not even in our wives' eyes,' said he, with an askant arch look at Mrs. Burke.

And now he began to talk. Though without the brogue in his tongue, he had the fluency and humour of his country. He was full of stories of adventure and experience; scarce a sea he had not navigated in his day. His wife watched me eagerly, and if ever I smiled her face lighted up and her kind eyes shone. All his efforts were directed to cheer me. Observing Mr. Owen smelling at an egg he exclaimed:

'What's that you've got?'

'Something laid too soon, captain.'

'Doctor,' said the captain, 'I know a[Pg 66] sailor who made an experiment: he put a number of French eggs under a sitting rooster, and what d'ye think was hatched? Cocks and hens in the last stage of decrepitude! They hopped and staggered about in his little back-yard, and died of old age in twenty-four hours. That was his test of a bad egg. If he wanted to make sure he hatched it.'

Thus ran his careless, good-humoured gabble, and perhaps had he talked wisely and soberly he would not have done me any good.

He went on deck presently, and the mate, Mr. Green, came below to get his supper. He was a middle-aged man, of a very nautical cut in figure and clothes, with a sneering face, and a beard of wiry iron hair covering his throat, though he shaved to the round of his chin, and a droop of left eyelid put the expression of an acid leer into that side of his face.

Mr. Owen had withdrawn to his cabin.[Pg 67] Mrs. Burke and I sat at a little distance upon a comfortable sofa near the stove. The mate squared his elbows and fell to work slowly but diligently, often lifting his knife to his mouth and chewing with the solemnity of a goat.

'He rose from before the mast,' said Mrs. Burke. 'I hope he's a good sailor. This is his first voyage with my husband. He holds a master's certificate, but that don't signify much, I expect. A man wants to know human nature to command a crew of sailors. He's been a common seaman himself, and fared ill, and worked hard on a starvation wage, as most of the poor creatures do, and that's likely to make him hard with the men and unpitying. It's always so. It's the person who's been in service that makes the exacting mistress.'

All this she spoke softly. She then inquired of the mate how the weather was on deck.

[Pg 68]

'Why, not so fine as it is down here, mum,' he answered. 'There's a vast of stars, but 'tis black till the moon comes up.'

'Where are we now?'

'The Girdler ain't far off,' he answered, masticating slowly.

'Is the tug still towing us?'

'Oh, certainly yes, mum!'

He did not seem disposed to talk, and answered with grimaces and the awkward air of a man ill at ease.

I was looking at his square sturdy figure, with his weather-ploughed face and the muscles all about it working like vigorous pulses to the movement of his jaws, when I felt a slight motion of the ship, a gentle, cradling heave of the deck: the lamp and all things pendulous swayed; creaking noises arose from all parts; a sudden giddiness took me. The movement was repeated with the regularity of a clock's tick.

'Isn't the sea getting up?' exclaimed[Pg 69] Mrs. Burke, staring at the gleaming ebony of the skylight windows and then around her.

The mate arrested the tumbler whose contents he was turning into his mouth to distend his lips in a grin, which he probably thought concealed.

'Why, I thought we were still in the river!' cried Mrs. Burke again.

The mate, picking up his cap, rose, contorted his square figure into a bow to us, and went up the companion-steps.

The motion of the vessel affected me. Mrs. Burke got a pillow and made me comfortable on the sofa, and, wrapping herself in a shawl, went on deck. She returned presently and said that the river had widened into a sea, with danger-lights sparkling here and there, and the full moon rising solemnly and beautifully upon the port bow. She hugged herself and said it was blowing fresh, and the ship under several breasts of canvas[Pg 70] was chasing the little tug, which was splashing ahead as fast as she could go.

'We're doing between seven and eight miles an hour. Only think!' she cried. 'We shall be opening the lights of Margate very soon. To think of Margate and the sands and the shrimps, and us sailing past it to the other end of the world. How do you feel, my dear?'

I answered that I felt sick.

'You will suffer for a day or two,' said she, 'and then you'll take no more notice of it than I do. Hark! what is that?'

The sounds proceeded from Mr. Owen's cabin.

'They'll never get a cure for it,' said Mrs. Burke, looking in the direction of the doctor's berth.

I lay motionless, feeling very uncomfortable and ill. Mrs. Burke gave me some brandy and put toilet vinegar to my head. She advised me to go to bed, but I begged[Pg 71] leave to rest where I was. The motion of the ship grew more lively the further she was towed towards the mouth of the river, where the weight of the field of water past the Forelands would dwell in every heave. At last, a little while after ten o'clock, I told Mrs. Burke I felt as if the fresh air would revive me, on which she wrapped me up in shawls and helped me on deck. She walked on firm legs with the ease of an old salt, whilst I so swung and reeled upon her arm that I must have fallen twenty times but for her support.

But, nevertheless, the moment I emerged through the little companion-hatch, with its load of warm atmosphere closing behind me in a sensible pressure of mingled cabin smells and heat, I felt better; a shout of bright strong moonlight wind fair betwixt my parted lips swept away for the time all sensation of nausea: I breathed deep and looked about with wonder.

[Pg 72]

It was a fine, noble night-scene of water and ship. We were following the tug under three topsails and a main topgallant sail and a flight of fore and aft canvas; the sails swelled pale as steam into the moonlight air, carrying the eye to the fine points of the mastheads, whose black lines were beating time for a dance of stars. High up was the moon, full, yellow, and glowing; if land was near, it was buried in the wild windy sheen under the orb; the water rolled in liquid silver, islanded here and there by the black flying shadows of bodies of vapour hurling headlong, down the wind north-east: ahead the black smear of the tug's smoke full of sparks, with a frequent rush of crimson flame out of the funnel's throat, was flying low.

Captain Burke came from the pilot's side to salute me, and pointing abeam to starboard (I offer no excuse for writing of the sea in the language of the sea) exclaimed:

[Pg 73]

'There's Whitstable somewhere down there, Miss Otway. And yonder should be Herne Bay. With a powerful telescope we should presently be able to see the bathing machines on Margate beach.'

'What is that out there?' I asked.

'A Geordie,' he answered, 'a north-country collier.'

She was swarming along, a very spectre of a ship, lean, visionary, glistening like the inside of an oyster shell in the moonlight, which whitened the black hull of her into the same sort of misty sheen that was upon the water, till she was blended with the air brimful of moonlight, making a mocking phantom of her to fit in with the desolation beyond, where you saw a red star of warning hinting at ooze, and white crawling streaks and a pallid rib or two, with some fragment of mast upward pointing in a finger of wreck, dumbly telling you whither the spirit of the rest of it all had flown.

[Pg 74]

I watched our little ship bowing in pursuit of the tug; she curtseyed her white cloths to the moon, and the brine flashed at her bows at every plunge, and went away in a wide, rich race astern, for there was the churning of the paddles in it too.

But soon I was overcome by nausea once more, the magic of the fresh air failed me, and, yielding now to Mrs. Burke's entreaty, I suffered her to carry me to my cabin.

After this for the next four or five days I was so miserably ill that I lay as one in a fit or swoon, scarcely sensible of more, and therefore remembering but little more, than that Mrs. Burke was hour after hour in my cabin, sleeping beside me on a mattress during the night, and watching over me throughout that distressing time with touching and unwearied devotion. Mr. Owen was too ill to visit me; but what could he have done? Did he cure his own nausea? I think he knew of no physic for mine.

[Pg 75]

Indeed we met with very heavy weather in the Channel. The wind shifted shortly after the tug had let go of the ship and blew a moderate breeze out of the south-east, but in the morning the breeze freshened into a gale; a head sea ran strong, short, and angry; the captain drove the vessel along under shortened canvas, with sobbing decks and spray-clouded bows as I learnt; but to me, inexperienced as I was, her behaviour seemed frightfully wild and dangerous. I sometimes thought she was going to pieces. My cabin was aft, the machinery of the helm was nearly overhead, and the noise of it when she plunged her counter into the foam, and the rudder received the blow of some immense volume of rushing brine, sent shock after shock through the planks, and through me as I lay in my bunk.

But the stupor of sea-sickness was upon me, I had no fear; had the ship actually gone to pieces I do not think I could or should have[Pg 76] opened my mouth to cry out. All that I asked for was death, and I was so sick even unto that state that I cannot remember I once wished myself at home, or thought for an instant of my father or Mr. Moore.

But on the fifth day I was well enough to sit up and partake of a little cold fowl and wine, and next day I was able to go on deck.

By this time we were clear of the English Channel, and I looked around me at the great ocean, swelling in long lines of rich sparkling blue under the high morning sun. Far away, blue in the air, were some leaning shafts of ships, and at the distance of a quarter of a mile a large steamer was passing, steering the same road as ourselves.

Weak as I was after my long confinement below, dazzled and confused too by the splendour of the morning, and the novelty and wonder of that windy scene of our bowing ship, clothed in canvas, gleaming like silk to the trucks, I could not but pause with[Pg 77] a start of admiration when my sight went to that steamer. Captain Burke, seeing me as I leaned on his wife's arm, crossed the deck, and after some commonplaces of genial greeting told me that yonder vessel was a French man-of-war. She was round sterned with portholes for guns there, and two white lines full of gun-ports ran the length of her tall, shapely sides. She was ship-rigged, and lifted a lustrous fabric of square canvas and delicate cordage to the soft blue skies, a wide space of whose field the gilded balls of her trucks traced as she rolled heavily but with majesty, crushing the water at her bows to the impulse of her sails and propeller into a heap of splendid whiteness, like to the foam at the foot of some giant cataract. She was the noblest sea-piece I had ever beheld: the tricolour was at her gaff-end, a blue vein of smoke, filtering from a short black funnel, scarcely tarnished the azure over the horizon betwixt her fore and main masts; a great[Pg 78] gilt eagle was perched with outstretched wings under her bowsprit, and seemed to be poised for a soaring flight as though affrighted by the roar of spume beneath; her decks were a blaze of light and colour when she rolled them towards us, with the sparkle of uniforms, the flash of sun-stars in bright metal, and gleams breaking from I know not whence, like sudden flames from artillery.

'I think I see her in charge of an English lieutenant,' said Captain Burke, 'making a straight course for Portsmouth. They have built good ships for us and will build again.'

He placed chairs, and Mrs. Burke and I seated ourselves. I could now look about me with enjoyment of what I beheld. The sun shone with some warmth, and the wind blowing freely out of the west was of an April mildness. The whole life of the universe seemed to be in that ocean morning, with our ship in the middle of it bowing as she drove over the long blue knolls. The hour was half-past eleven.[Pg 79] Smoke was feathering down upon the water over the lee side out of the chimney of the galley, through whose door as I looked I saw a sailor emerge holding a steaming tub, with which he staggered in the direction of a little square hole on the forecastle. Immediately after a second sailor rolled out similarly burthened.

'The men are going to dinner,' said Mrs. Burke.

'What do you give them to eat?' I asked the captain.

'To-day,' said he, 'they'll dine on beef and pudding.'

'It sounds a good dinner,' said Mrs. Burke. 'But all the while I'm at sea, I'm wondering how sailors contrive to get through their work on the food they get.'

'Go and put those notions into their shaggy heads forwards and there'll be a mutiny,' said the captain.

'Beef as tasteless as one's boot if one could[Pg 80] imagine it boiled,' said Mrs. Burke, 'pudding like slabs of mortar, biscuits which glide about on the feet of hundreds of little worms called weevils. Edward has had to live on such food in his day, and I believe it is the beef and pork of his seafaring youth that give him his premature looks. He oughtn't to seem his age by ten years.'

He eyed her archly and kindly. 'Premature is a good word,' said he. 'Sailors are always too soon in life. Soon with their money, and soon with their drink and pleasures, and soon with their years, so that it is soon over with them.'

'They're a body of workmen I'm very sorry for,' said Mrs. Burke; 'their wrongs are not understood, and they've got no champions.'

As she pronounced these words the hairy head of a man, clothed in a Scotch cap, showed in the little square of the forecastle hatch; he took a wary view of the quarter-deck, [Pg 81]then rose into the whole body of a man picturesquely attired in a red shirt, blue trousers, a belt round his waist, and a knife in a sheath upon his hip. He was followed by three others, and after a short conversation they came along the decks towards us.

Captain Burke, appearing not to notice them, told his wife he was going to fetch his sextant. Mr. Green, the sour-leering mate, was trudging the weather side of the quarter-deck. The man who had first risen, the hairy one of the Scotch cap, exclaimed, as the four of them came to a halt in the gangway:

'Can we have a word with the capt'n, sir?'

'What d'e want?' answered the mate, speaking with half his back turned on them as though he addressed some one out upon the water.

'We're come to complain that the beef to-day ain't according to the articles.'

[Pg 82]

'As how?' said the mate, still looking seawards.

''Tain't sweet, sir.'

'No call to eat of it,' said the mate, turning his head and letting his leering eye droop upon them.

'That's not the way to speak,' whispered Mrs. Burke to me with a note of impatience and temper. 'Why shouldn't the meat be tainted? It's so in butchers' shops often enough.'

'If there's no call to eat of it there's no call to turn to on it,' said one of the men with a surly laugh.

Here Captain Burke arrived with a sextant in his hand.

'What is it, my lads?' said he quickly, but good-humouredly.

'The starboard watch's allowance of meat's gone off, sir,' said the man in the Scotch cap civilly enough.

'The fok'sle's dark with the smell of it,' said another.

[Pg 83]

'Notice a blue ring round the flame of the lamp?' said the captain.

''Tain't meat for men,' exclaimed the man, who had growled out a laugh.

'Go and bring aft what remains of it,' said Captain Burke, and he stepped to the side and adjusted his sextant to get a meridional observation.

The men trudged forward. I could not but notice how eloquent of grumbling their postures were as they walked. Experience has long since assured me that no man can so perfectly make every limb and lineament of him look his grievance as the sailor.

They presently returned, bearing a dish: Captain Burke stooped to it and sniffed.

'You are right,' he exclaimed. 'Overboard with it, my lads. This should never have been served out to you. 'Tis the cook's fault to boil such offal. Mr. Green, see that the starboard watch have some canned mutton for their dinner at once.'

[Pg 84]

The men emptied the contents of the kid over the side, looking very well pleased, and then went forward.

'They have no champions, my wife says,' exclaimed Captain Burke to me with a smile. 'Poor fellows! But I'll tell you what, Miss Otway: you'll never find Jack's rights wrong for the want of Jack taking the trouble to keep them right.'

[Pg 85]


I devoted the afternoon of the first day of my recovery from sickness to a journal which I meant should serve as a letter both for my father and Mr. Moore, to be transmitted home in sheets as the opportunity occurred. My old nurse told me that her husband had written to my father whilst in the Channel, and had sent the letter ashore at Plymouth by a smack; so they would have news of me at home down to two days before.

I was so much interested in the little incident of the tainted meat I have told you of, that I asked Captain Burke this day to let me taste a specimen of the beef sailors were fed on. He laughed and said:

[Pg 86]

'Miss, your teeth are too little and white for such beef as that.'

'I'll try a cut, too, with your leave, captain,' said Mr. Owen.

The captain grinned at his wife, but complied nevertheless, and when we sat down to supper, the steward placed a cube of forecastle beef before us. There were plenty of good things on the table: my father had half filled the lazarette, or after-hold, with delicacies, and we carried an abundance of live stock: everything in that way, perhaps, but a cow, for which no room could be made; but the steam of the sailors' beef filled the atmosphere; the smells of all the other dishes yielded to it. And yet it was good meat of its sort.

Mrs. Burke wrinkled her nose, and said, 'Miss Marie, please do not touch it.'

'Captain Burke, I will taste a piece,' said I.

'And I will thank you for a slice, captain,' said Mr. Owen.

[Pg 87]

The captain made a great business of sharpening a carving knife, all the while glancing from me to his wife with a laughing eye. The stuff yielded to the sharp blade in a curled shaving: it was like cutting a block of wood, that part I mean where the heart is.

'Don't put it to your lips, my dear,' cried Mrs. Burke.

I tasted a morsel: the steward watched me with an ill-concealed grin; the meat, if meat it could be called, was hard as leather, salt as the brine over the side, of a texture and hue no more resembling corned beef such as we know the thing on shore than a whelk is like a turtle.

Mr. Owen chewed and chewed. 'This is what the sailors make snuff-boxes and models of ships of,' said he.

'Is this as good as can be got?' I asked.

'As good as the best,' said the captain, looking at it earnestly.

[Pg 88]

'You'll have plenty to talk about when you get home,' said my old nurse.

'It is strange that science doesn't provide the seamen with food fit to eat,' said Mr. Owen, helping himself eagerly to a slice of ham. 'I believe I shall give the subject my attention when I get back.'

'Science doesn't think of sailors, only of ships,' said Captain Burke. 'If I had my way my crew should have a fresh mess every day. But you can't go to sea all live stock.'

Thus we chatted. I listened with interest and asked questions. It was a new life to me. Little did I then imagine how fearfully and tragically deep I was to read into the darkest secrets of it.

During a few days, which carried us to the Madeira latitudes, the weather continued gloriously fine. A quiet north-westerly wind blew throughout; the ship leaned gently away from the breeze and rippled through the blue swell dreamily; all was so quiet aloft,[Pg 89] all went so peacefully on deck. I'd hang over the side for an hour at a time, viewing the passage of the foam stars and flower-shaped bells, and wreaths of froth sliding aft into a white line on either hand the oil-smooth scope of wake; I'd watch with admiration the flight of the flying fish, glancing from the ship's side like arrows of light discharged through her metal sheathing; I'd drink in the large and liberal sweetness of the wind, and stand in the sun that its light might sink through and through me.

In those few days Mr. Owen assured me the ocean had already done me good.

'But you are bound to profit,' he said as we walked the deck together, 'because you have not come too late to this physic of climates. People are sent to sea with one lung gone and the other going, and their friends wonder they should die, and talk of a voyage to sea as of no use where there is organic mischief. You are here in good[Pg 90] time, Miss Otway: be that reflection your comfort.'

Then there came a change of weather; a few days of wet gale; green seas ridging into cliffs upon the bow, and all the discomfort of a long pitching and tossing bout. But I suffered no longer from sickness however; I ate and slept well, and spent all the time in the cabin, reading, working, chatting with Mrs. Burke or her husband, or Mr. Owen.

Captain Burke amused me in these early days by explaining how he worked out his sights. He gave me a very good idea of the art of navigation; he and his wife shared a pleasant cabin confronting mine. It was a little parlour in its way as well as a bedroom, cheerful with oil paintings of ships, a small collection of china, and other matters all carefully cleated and otherwise secured. Amongst the pictures was a cutting in black paper mounted upon white of myself when a child in my nurse's arms, the lineaments defined by[Pg 91] streaks of bronze. Captain Burke told me that his wife valued that little memorial above everything in the cabin, including himself and all that they owned ashore.

He showed me his chronometers and explained their use; placed charts before me and talked of the places we were to visit, and promised that I should be able to take sights and work out the latitude and longitude before we returned home.

He said this at the dinner table during one of those days of wet, foul weather.

'Miss Otway,' he added, addressing Mr. Owen, 'is just doing what everyone should do who goes a voyage, whether for entertainment or on business; she's taking an intelligent interest in whatever's passing. If everybody who went to sea did that the case of Jack would be understood, and you'd hear no more of young ladies being astonished on discovering that sailors look exactly like men.'

'I never could make head nor tail myself,'[Pg 92] said Mrs. Burke, 'of my husband's method of finding out where the ship is.'

'No voyage can ever be dull,' exclaimed Mr. Owen, 'that's sensibly lived into. Yet every voyage is found dull.'

'There's too much water,' said Mrs. Burke, 'and not enough things to look at. But dull days have long legs, Miss Marie. Time soon passes,' said she with a cheery look. 'The top's never spinning so fast as when it is asleep.'

'There's plenty to look at,' said I. 'I don't like weather that keeps you under deck; but it can't be always so.'

'Scarce once in a white moon, and never even that for sailors,' said the captain.

'What,' asked Mr. Owen, 'do you consider the great sights of the sea?'

Captain Burke shut his eyes and scratched the back of his head, then looking full at me he said:

'What do you think of a ship in full sail,[Pg 93] becalmed in the heat of the fan-shaped reflection of the moon, Miss Otway? Or would you prefer a whale as big as a brig leaping half out of water with a killer at its throat? Or what d'ye say to a quadrille of water-spouts, the white satin shoes on their feet gleaming as they slide, and the black feathers in their hair nodding stately among the clouds brilliant with electric gems.'

'How?' inquired Mr. Owen, smoothing his bald head.

'But at sea the less you find to talk about the better,' exclaimed Captain Burke; 'I'd like my ship's log-book to be as dull as a parson's tale. Trifles on the ocean become serious in a moment; a slight deviation from dulness will start a tragedy. Give us no excitements.'

The conversation was ended by his going on deck to send the mate down to dinner.

The miserable weather came to an end, and then we took the north-east trades and[Pg 94] swept down the Atlantic under wide spaces of canvas which for many feet overhung the ship's weather side, and she rushed onwards with the salt smoke blowing from her bows, and that swallow of the deep, the stormy petrel, freckling in its swarm the wide hollows betwixt the quartering ridges. For five days we sighted nothing, though Captain Burke promised that the first homeward-bound ship he met with willing to back her topsail should receive my letter.

Once during these mornings, on coming on deck after breakfast, I found the ship steadily washing through the seas with easy bowing motions, leaving a league-long line of white behind her. We were in hot weather now; an awning sheltered the quarter-deck, and comfortable chairs were under it.

It was the improving health in me that gave me the spirit I had; I did not want to sit; the life of the sea seemed to sweep into my being in a holiday dance of heart. Now[Pg 95] that I could feel without the suffering that had before prostrated me, the whole vitality of the ship coming out of the gallant flying fabric of her into the very poise of my form, with a sense as of waltzing in each compelled motion of the figure, I found an enjoyment in her buoyant motions, and in the rolling measures of the surge, beyond anything my poor health had suffered me to know in the ball-room, beyond all delight fine music had given me.

When we came on deck Mrs. Burke stood a little while with her hand on my arm, whilst I looked aloft and around; our gaze met; she laughed in the fulness of some instant emotion of pleasure, and cried:

'Oh, dear Miss Marie, I wish Sir Mortimer could see the light that is in your eyes at this minute!'

'I wonder,' said I, 'if Dr. Bradshaw and the others foresaw that I should enjoy this voyage?'

[Pg 96]

'Are you enjoying it?' she exclaimed eagerly.

'I am constantly pining for home,' I answered, 'and longing—and longing, to see father and Archie. And yet, somehow, this splendid sunshine and wonderful scene of sea, this delicious feeling of being borne through the air, makes me so glad and light-hearted that I believe the strong tonic of the wind has affected my head.'

'No more than it has mine,' she exclaimed.

'It is like drinking wine in sorrow,' said I; 'the mind seems merry with it, and the eyes sparkle, but the heart is sad all the same and will speak presently.'

'I'll tell Mr. Owen how you talk,' said she. 'You're not fair to the remedy.'

'I don't want to sit,' said I. 'Let me look at the ship this fine morning: I should like to take a peep at the sailors' parlour. And suppose we go right into the[Pg 97] bows there and watch the glorious white foam.'

Captain Burke was in his cabin, the surly mate had charge of the ship, so Mr. Owen accompanied us. There was little to see, however; we went to the galley and looked in, and here we found the ship's cook making a pie for the cabin. He was the fat-armed, dough-faced man who had stared at us with imbecile curiosity when we came on board. It was a queer little kitchen, not many times larger than a sentry box. Mrs. Burke asked the man if the oven baked well.

'Too vell, mum,' he answered, turning his face with an expression of dull surprise upon it at sight of us standing in the galley doorway. 'He's for burning up. He vants too much vatching.'

'How do you like being ship's cook?' said Mr. Owen.

'Almost as much, I dessay, as you likes being ship's doctor,' he answered.

[Pg 98]

Mr. Owen looked deaf on a sudden, and, stepping back, found something to interest him aloft.

'What pie is that?' said Mrs. Burke, who had been casting her eye over the little interior, with its equipment of shelves, crockery, oven, coppers and the like, with the critical gaze of an exacting housekeeper.

As she asked the question the ship leaned sharply upon a sea; the cook staggered with a wild flourish of the knife he was trimming the pie-crust with; the pie slipped and fell with a crash, breaking in halves, and out rolled a dishful of preserved gooseberries.

'You can see vat it is for yourself, mum,' said the cook, lancing his knife at the mess on the deck with a force which drove the blade quivering into the hard plank. 'Who'd be a blooming ship's cook? This is the sort of life it is!' and, heedless of our presence, he began to swear, and then roared out for Bill or some such name—meaning, I suppose,[Pg 99] his mate—that the fellow might come and swab up the gooseberry puddle.

We walked on to the forecastle.

'That cook's a very insolent fellow,' said Mr. Owen. 'I hope he will give me the pleasure of prescribing for him.'

'All sea cooks are ill-tempered,' said Mrs. Burke. 'They live in little boxes like that, and are obliged, for want of room, to stand close to furnaces all day long, and their livers swell. But their trials are many. I've heard of a sea striking a galley where the cook was in it full of the business of the cabin dinner, and washing him and his kitchen right aft, where he was rescued out of a depth of water as high as a man's waist holding on for his life to a frying-pan. Cooks ashore never meet with blows of that sort.'

A number of the crew were at work on various jobs in this part of the vessel. Two sat upon a sail, stitching at it. Hard by was a little machine called a spun-yarn winch,[Pg 100] merrily clinking, with a boy walking backwards from it as it yielded the line it twisted.

A man with a marline spike stood in the fore-shrouds working at a ratline. I looked at everything I saw with interest and attention; to me it was like the rising of a curtain upon a theatrical show of incomparable beauty and variety; I found novelty in the very men; I don't remember that I had ever seen such men on shore, least of all down by the seaside, where the landsman seeks the sailor and finds him in anything that wears a jersey and owns a boat. They were hairy, burnt, wildly dressed, half-naked some of them; their trousers turned above their knees, their chests bare, mossy, gleaming with perspiration; arrows in Indian ink pointed like weather-cocks upon their muscular naked arms as they moved them, and every man's fist was barbarous with rings in Indian ink and his wrists with blue bracelets.

'Do you see that hole there, Miss Otway?'[Pg 101] said Mr. Owen, pointing to a square hatch in the forecastle deck. 'Those men sleep down in that hole,' said he.

I drew close to the queer little trap-door to look down, taking care to hold on to Mrs. Burke; for it was not only that the heave of the ship was to be felt here in her falls and jumps, lofty as the peaks and deep as the valleys which underran her: the trade wind stormed in thunder out of the huge rigid hollow of the fore-course with the weight as of a whole gale in the sweep of it, flying in long, steady shriekings and whistlings under the arched foot, and smiting every heave of brine leaping white above the cathead into crystal smoke.

I gazed into a sort of well, at the bottom of which upon an old green battered sea-chest sat a sailor. The man had a squint that had almost twisted each ball of vision into his nose; he was deeply pitted, and had long, curling, sand-coloured hair and a yellow[Pg 102] beard; he was pale and weedy, with but a little piece of nose in the middle of his face, and cheek-bones starting through his skin pale with heat, and when he looked up and continued to stare at us with his desperate squint, he made me guess how drowned sailors look when their bodies are washed ashore. He was a sick man and off duty.

'How are you feeling?' the doctor called down to him.

'Oh, dot I vhas kep' togedder mit red-hot corkscrews,' he answered in a voice that creaked like a sea-gull's note.

'Go on taking your physic,' said Mr. Owen.

'By Gott, yaw, dot vould be easy if der physic vhas rum,' answered the man with a ghastly smile, continuing to stare up at us with an occasional snapping blink of his eyelids. 'But der vater in der bilge—und I gif you all der rats of der ship to be drownt in her too—vas sweet gombared to him.'

[Pg 103]

Mr. Owen drew back and the sufferer ceased to speak.

'A nasty attack of sub-acute rheumatism,' the doctor said behind me.

The rest of the sailors were on deck: this man sat alone on his chest in the bottom of that well, and I pitied the poor solitary wretch from my heart when I considered how every plunge and sharp movement of the ship must serve to give a new twist to all those red-hot corkscrews he complained of. It was too dark below to distinguish more than the man's figure. I observed the fluctuations of a thin, watery yellow light, and tasted in the occasional puffs of thick atmosphere that came up a horrid smell of burning fat.

'Do they cook down there?' I asked.

'It is the fumes of the forecastle lamp Miss Otway smells,' said the doctor. 'It's fed with the slush the sailors make their puddings with.'

I wished to ask several questions, but the[Pg 104] roar of the wind and the sea silenced me. Mr. Owen took me by one arm, Mrs. Burke by the other, and we carefully made our way into what is called the ship's head, past a huge anchor and a little capstan, and ropes taut as harp-strings, and vibrating with the wild drumming music of the sails whose corners they confined. The huge bowsprit shot out directly ahead of us. It ran tapering, and was like the finger of a giant pointing, inviting the eye to the deep blue distant recess towards which we were rushing, and which opened like the whole morning upon the sight each time our bows soared to the foaming summit.

They say that the finest sight in the world is a ship in full sail, and perhaps it is, but I doubt if there's one in a thousand, one in a hundred thousand, who has ever seen such a thing; and the reason is that a ship in full sail means studding sails out on both sides, and every stitch of the rest of her[Pg 105] canvas set, and this figure she can make only under conditions of wind so rare as to render the spectacle, as I understand it, something outside the experience of anyone, sailor or landsman, that ever I have conversed with.

But to my mind there is a finer sight than a ship in full sail: and that is the view of the vessel you are on board of rushing at you, thundering at you, for ever charging into the seething troughs of brine with the white foam scaling her wet and flashing bow, you meanwhile perched out beyond her, watching her coming at you.

They provided this magnificent treat for me that day. It fell out thus: I overhung the rail in the head, looking down at the boiling dazzle there, watching with indescribable delight and wonder the beautiful sight of the cutwater of the ship, metalled high, sliding through the brine, bowing till the ivory-white lady that was her figure-head was depressed almost to the sip of the cloud[Pg 106] of foam which the hurl of the bows sent roaring and flashing far ahead, to rush back in a singing, seething sheet a moment after when the ship's head lifted upon the next swelling heave, bright blue till it was charged and out-turned into a noise and splendour of thunder and snow. Mrs. Burke and the doctor looked down with me. My old nurse would sometimes turn an eye full of satisfaction upon my face, which I felt was glowing with the spirit this rushing ocean picture had kindled. I looked yearningly towards the bowsprit end and exclaimed:

'Oh, now, if I were a man, to be able to get out there and watch the ship coming at me!'

'Here comes Captain Burke,' said Mr. Owen.

He had arrived on deck just then, and, seeing us in the bows of the ship, was advancing.

'Are you going to paint a picture of the[Pg 107] "Lady Emma," Miss Otway?' said he, coming to my side and looking down at the thick and giddy foam, roaring and spitting sometimes within arm's reach, and throbbing aft into a wake whose tail went out of sight in the windy blue haze.


'You are studying every effect!'

'It is worth leaving home to see this!' said I. 'How fast are we sailing?'

'Thirteen knots an hour.'

'Miss Marie wishes she was a man, Edward,' said Mrs. Burke.

'All gallant-hearted girls wish that,' said he. 'But why?'

'That she might be able to climb out on to the bowsprit and watch the "Lady Emma" rushing at her.'

'Is that so, miss?' cried the captain, whipping round upon me with his Irish briskness and arch merry eyes. I smiled. 'It can be managed if you please.'

[Pg 108]

I looked at the long bowsprit forking out into jib-booms far ahead, with white jibs curving upon it motionless as ice, save when now and again one or another breathed to the plunge of the ship.

'There must be no risks!' cried Mrs. Burke.

'Chaw!' exclaimed her husband. 'Will you trust yourself in my hands, Miss Otway?'

'I will indeed.'

He called to the boatswain of the ship, a big seaman with strong red whiskers and a whistle round his neck: the finest specimen of an English seaman I ever saw out of a man-of-war; this man who acted as second mate, though uncertificated, I had once or twice conversed with when he was on the quarter-deck, and found him very civil and communicative, and a relief to the eye after leering Mr. Green.

The captain gave him certain directions. He called to a couple of men, and amongst[Pg 109] them—but I am unable to explain their procedure—they rigged up a chair attached by a tackle to a stay; they bound me securely in the chair, and by some machinery of ropes they gently and slowly hauled me on to the bowsprit, the captain and the boatswain sliding out in company. Mrs. Burke watched us with a countenance of fright: I felt excessively nervous whilst I was being drawn to the extremity of the great spar, and held my eyes closed, but did not shriek nor speak. Indeed, somehow I felt safe, though a landsman might have regarded my situation as in the last degree perilous.

'Now look at the ship and tell me what you think of her,' said the captain.

They had got me to the end of the bowsprit sitting very comfortably and tightly secured in a chair, and the captain and boatswain were on either hand of me, though what they held on by I don't know. I looked, and what I saw I shall never forget. For there,[Pg 110] right in front of me, heeled by the shouting wind, was the whole body of the ship, her milky whiteness, mounting to the royal yards, rounding into violet gloom from the sun, with gleaming half-moons of blue betwixt each yard, and every afterbreast sliding under the netted shadow of rigging. I rose high in my chair above the sea. Under me ran the blue surge sparkling deep and clear to the bows, where it burst into snowstorms. I commanded a clear view of the white decks through the arch of the foresail, a hundred shadows slipped along them as they slanted up and then slanted down with the rhythmic swing of a pendulum; a hundred fiery lights broke from all parts as the ship leaned to the sun. The wind was filled with the music of the rigging: deep organ notes, then a large swelling of fifes and trumpets, coming in a sudden gust or gun of wind, with a drum-like roll trembling out of the taut shrouds and backstays, and a ceaseless bugling in the hollow of[Pg 111] the canvas that arched like some vast pinion close beside me.

They carefully swayed my chair down the bowsprit and got me on to the forecastle.

'If this don't do you good, Miss Marie,' said my old nurse, extending her hand to help me on to my feet, 'what will?'

[Pg 112]


A few mornings after this, whilst we were at breakfast, the mate looked down upon us through the open skylight, and called out:

'There's a sail right ahead.'

When we went on deck we found the vessel on the lee bow, within signalling distance. The wind was the tail of the trade, a fiery fanning out of north-north-east, with the loose scud brown as smoke flying down it. The sea was full of violet gleams and blinkings of froth; the billow ran without weight and its volume was small. It seemed as if the heat was sucking the wind out of the sky, and still we were a good many degrees north of the[Pg 113] equator, though I cannot recollect the latitude.

A signal of flags was run aloft to the end of the mizzen gaff: the string of gay colours painted the wind and made a holiday figure of the ship in a moment. When the stranger perceived our signal she hauled down the red flag of the English merchant service which had been flying at her trysail peak ever since we had been able to distinguish it, and hoisted a long, thin streamer called an answering pennant.

'All right!' exclaimed Captain Burke, putting down the glass he had been viewing through. 'She is an Englishman, and is, no doubt, bound home. Get your letter ready, Miss Otway, and if that brig is for England I will send it across to her.'

I ran to my cabin. The mere thought of communicating with home filled me with excitement. This, though we had been some weeks at sea, was the first opportunity for[Pg 114] sending a letter home that had occurred. And then little things on the ocean stir and move one greatly. Life is so dull that the merest trifle is important, and what would scarcely be noticeable ashore takes the aspect of a wonder.

I had kept my journal punctually down to the preceding evening, and had now only to write that a brig was approaching and would take the letter, and send a thousand kisses to father and to Archie. I added that I was happy and greatly improved in health. I lingered over this bit of writing. It was like holding on to the dear hands of those I addressed.

When I had made an end, I went on deck with the letter. The brig had slided abreast of us by this time: she looked a very smart little vessel, with sharp bows and raking masts, very lofty. She had backed her topsail as we had ours, and the two vessels lay within speaking distance, bowing to one another with all[Pg 115] imaginable civility. I laughed to notice this; you would have thought them old acquaintances who couldn't salute each other too often for delight in this meeting.

'Brig ahoy!' hailed Captain Burke.

'Hallo!' shouted a man standing a head and shoulders above the bulwark rail with a staring negro at the wheel, showing a little past him, whenever the brig swayed, her sand-coloured decks to us.

'What ship is that, and where are you bound for?'

'"The Queen o' the Night" from Mauritius vur Liverpool, a hundred and ten days out. What ship's yon?'

The information was fully given, and then Captain Burke bawled out to know if the other would carry a letter home for him?

'Ay, ay, but ye mun send it,' waved back the head and shoulders, with a flourish of arm.

Captain Burke flourished in response.[Pg 116] Sailors talk more eloquently by gesture than the people of any nation in the world. The contortion of a hump-backed posture will in an instant reveal a voyage full of troubles, and more than half an hour of talk is contained in a peculiar toss of the hand.

A number of the crew came running aft to the call of the mate: a quarter-boat was cleared and lowered, four men entered her along with the mate, who put my letter into his pocket and away they went for the brig, miraculously vitalising and humanising the desert plain of ocean by the mere picture of their straining forms and flashing oars, and the gilt lines running astern from the white sides of the boat as she was swept through it with Mr. Green's square frame, stiff-backed in the stern, bobbing cask-like with the jump of the little craft, his hand on the tiller.

'One could almost think oneself at the seaside to see that boat,' said Mrs. Burke.

'Yes, I just now caught myself half [Pg 117]looking round,' I answered, 'with a fancy of tall chalk cliffs, a little pier, a nest of houses in a split——'

I paused.

'And a fine house on the top of the cliff, and trees at the back, and a flight of rooks going up like smoke out of them,' said Mrs. Burke, smiling.

'It'll not be far off even, when we've gone all the way we've got to go,' said the captain, 'and by the time we've hove it into sight again, we shall have been as good as our word, Miss—good as the doctor's word anyhow. What now would I give for some portrait machine that takes colour and light instantaneously, that when they get your letter they might see you as we do!'

Mr. Green handed up the letter to the man who had hailed us, and returned. The boat was then hoisted, the topsail swung, and the ensign dipped as a farewell and thank you to the little homeward-bound brig. I[Pg 118] stood straining my eyes at her as her topsail swept out of hollow shadow into a full breast of sunshine, and I watched her break the long, soft, glittering wave into a little leap of scaling and combing foam at her bow, leaning from the hot quiet wind with yard-arm sharply pointed to it, in a posture of something living that steadies itself aslant for a firmer grip. She was my ocean post-office. I cannot express my thoughts as I viewed her thinning down and growing blue in the atmosphere that was silver blue with water and blue sky, and brimming sunshine. Captain Burke said she would probably arrive in Liverpool before we were up with the Horn, for all that the catspaw and the calm and the hard head wind had dismally belated her down to this time.

And now it is that a dreadful thing happened, making this day, with what had gone before, the most remarkable of any to that hour.

[Pg 119]

We were standing under the fore end of the quarter-deck awning, where we could command the heights of the main and fore as well as see the brig astern. Whilst Captain Burke was talking to me about her, his wife hard by listening, assuring me I need have no doubt if the vessel safely arrived at her port that her master would forward the letter to my father, seeing that captains of ships hold this sort of obligation as sacred: I say whilst the captain was talking thus, he happened to look aloft, and, following the direction of his eye, I saw a seaman on the weather fore topsail yard; his feet were on the foot-rope, he overlay the yard, the outline of his figure clear as a tracing in ink with his yellow naked calves and feet dingy against the white canvas. What he did I could not see.

The captain broke off and eyed the man intently; then, looking round a little at Mr. Green, he exclaimed, 'What does that fellow mean by sogering up there? I've been [Pg 120]watching him. Who is it? Call him down. I don't want any loafing of that sort aboard my ship.'

The mate went some steps forward and, looking up, bellowed in a voice as harsh as the noise of surf on shingle, 'Fore topsail yard there! Come down out of that, you ——' and here he employed several examples of the forecastle speech which I will not write down because they are not proper to remember, though we are to believe that the business of the sea cannot be got through without brutal language.

The man looked down at the mate, and said something; Mr. Green roared out again to him to 'lay down,' on which I observed the sailor slided a yard or two along the foot-ropes towards the topmast rigging; he then fell!

He struck the deck near the galley. Mrs. Burke shrieked. The man got up in a moment, stood erect with blood gushing down[Pg 121] his cheeks, and smiled at us, and the next moment dropped dead.

I fainted, and when I came to my head was resting on Mrs. Burke's knee, and Captain Burke was fanning me. The body had been carried into the forecastle, a couple of seamen were scrubbing at the stains in the white planks. Mr. Owen came slowly aft, and said that the poor fellow was dead; then saw to me, took me by the hand, and seated me in the coolness under the awning, where the pleasant shadow was fresh with the gushing of the wind out of the hollow of the great mizzen.

It was a frightful thing to have seen. I was looking at the man when he fell, and my sight followed the flash of the poor figure to the shocking thud of the deck! I saw him rise and smile—a smile made dreadful by blood and heart-subduing by the suddenness of his falling back dead.

'How'll Mr. Green like to recall the violent words he used to the poor fellow, I wonder?'[Pg 122] said Mrs. Burke, glancing at the mate, who, to be sure, showed no sensibility. He trudged the deck athwartship with rounded back and arms up and down in the sea fashion; occasionally leering at the sky to windward, or darting a sour look at the canvas aloft. He was no man to muse with regret on the death of the sailor, and lament his own intemperate speech; on the contrary, he was one of those mates who sometimes become masters, to whom human life, provided their own be not imperilled, is of no more consequence than the extinction of the flame of the slush-fed lamp which lights the sailor's sea-parlour. There were many dogs of that sort at sea in those times, and some have survived into these; but the odious breed grows scarce. Indeed, the world has agreed to find the type intolerable, and may the day be at hand when the very last of the race shall be brought to the gangway in the holy grip of the giantess Education, and dropped overboard to[Pg 123] plumb the depths of time, where lie the green bones of Trunnion, Hatchway, and others of the clan!

Mr. Owen recommended that the body should be buried that afternoon. The weather was very hot; the breeze was slackening and the sea sheeting out—full of fitful winding lanes of light as though the sun struck upon wakes and tracks of oil—into the thickening distance, where the heat was showing in a sensible presence of film, blending sky and water till it was like looking at them through tears.

'Very well,' said Captain Burke; 'in the first dog watch, if you please.'

It was at that hour almost calm, with a broad road of hot red light, billowing snakelike from the ship's side over the soft undulations of the western swell towards the rayless sun that still floated at some height in the sky. I stood beside Mrs. Burke on the quarter-deck, prayer-book in hand; the sailors came in[Pg 124] a body from forward, and amongst them they bore the corpse—an outline of tragic suggestion under the large red ensign that hid it. They lifted out a portion of the gangway and rested one end of the plank in the gap, and the captain began to read.

What is there in shore-going ceremony to compare in solemnity, in pathos, in all the deepest of the meanings which are interpretable out of human forms and customs, with the simple burial at sea? All was as silent upon the water as the sinking of the sun himself into the broadening road of gold under him. Aloft was a gentle sound of winnowing canvas; a sob of the sea from alongside sometimes broke in upon the captain's delivery.

The expressions on the faces of the rough seamen were for the most part fixed. How many shipmates and messmates had they helped bury in their time? How should they be concerned by death? themselves having[Pg 125] the Skeleton at their heels every hour of their existence at sea, allowed but a crooked finger for their own lives, all the remainder of their hands being their owner's!

Now, knowing sailors as I do, I can read those seamen's faces by the aid of memory, and almost tell their thoughts as they stood there near the gangway.

'Well, poor Bill, there he lies.'—'My turn next perhaps.'—'What's that yarn the skipper's a-reading? A blooming good job for them it's true of! No call to talk of souls at sea. It's work hard, live hard, and die hard here; and what's arterwards there's Bill there to say.'

At a signal the flag was withdrawn, the stitched hammock was revealed, the plank was tilted, and the grim parcel despatched.

The night that followed was breathless and beautiful. In the south-east under the moon the water stretched in a stainless field of light, flashing, but still as a sheet of looking-glass; [Pg 126]our sails glowed blandly like starlight itself as they rose one above another into the whitened gloom in whose clear profound many meteors were darting, leaving a smoke of spangles for all the world like sky-rockets under the large trembling stars. Lovely they were: but for the moon I think many had studded the water with points of light, to ride and widen upon the black and noiseless lift of swell, thick and sluggish as though it were oil that ran, and scarcely putting three moons'-breadth of motion into our mastheads, though it sweetened the air with the rain of dew it softly beat out of the canvas.

The cabin was too hot to sit in. There was no magic in two windsails and a wide skylight to cool it. I had played at cribbage with Mrs. Burke till, with a yawn, the hour being about half-past nine, I proposed that we should go on deck. The steward followed us with a tray of refreshments; the captain and Mr. Owen joined us, pipes in mouth, and[Pg 127] we sat, nothing betwixt us and the stars but the moonlit shadow of the night through which we saw them.

Four bells were struck, ten o'clock; there was no light forward saving a little sheen of the forecastle lamp round about the fore-scuttle, like a dim luminous mist there. But the moon lay bright upon the white planks of the deck, and though the rigging rose pale as tarnished silver to the mastheads it made a network of shadows black as ebony, which swung with the roll of the ship as though they kept time to music.

I was looking at some of this delicate network on the main deck when the figure of a man passed through it and approached the boatswain, who had charge of the ship till midnight. They talked with a rumble in their notes that was as good as telling you something was wrong. The captain called out:

'What does that man want?'

The boatswain then came to us, leaving[Pg 128] the man standing, and exclaimed, 'He says there's a strange sailor in the ship.'

'What's that?' demanded Captain Burke.

'He says there's a man walking about as don't belong to the ship's company.'

'Whose grog has he been cribbing?' said Mr. Owen.

The captain called to the man, who came and stood before us. The moonlight whitened him: he was a powerfully built fellow, with a quantity of black hair hanging about his ears and dark nervous eyes, which caught the light in silver stars.

'What's this about a strange man being aboard?' said the captain.

'There's a strange man in the ship, sir,' he answered.

And now I observed that in the black shadow of the galley forward there stood a little group of men, apparently striving to hear what was spoken aft.

'Have you seen him?'

[Pg 129]

'Certainly I have, sir.'

'Go on,' exclaimed the captain, impatiently.

'I was on the fok'sle when he passed me. He walked slow. He looked at me as he passed, and his face was wet.'

'How could you tell that in this light?' said Mr. Owen.

'The moonshine rippled in it, sir.'

'Go on,' said the captain.

'He was going aft as though just come out of the head. I made a step or two and lost him.'

'Where did he disappear?' said the boatswain in a voice of awe.

'Why, in the gloom about the foremast.'

'It'll be a stowaway come to light at a pretty late date,' exclaimed Captain Burke, stiffening himself in his chair with a start of temper. 'Bo'sun, get a lantern, and take and give everything forward a good overhaul.'

'It's no stowaway, sir,' said the man who had seen the stranger.

[Pg 130]

'Ho, d'ye know him, then?' cried the captain.

'He was no stowaway,' repeated the seaman in a sudden roaring voice of irrepressible excitement.

The captain stared at him.

'You won't make him a ghost, will you?' said Mr. Owen.

The man viewed the doctor in silence, then suddenly shouted, whipping round upon the boatswain:

'Tom Hartley saw him.'

'Call Tom Hartley aft,' exclaimed the captain.

The name was bawled by the boatswain, and repeated in echoes like distant laughter aloft. Then a man stepped out of the huddle of figures in the shadow of the galley and came through the moonlight, followed by four or five who halted at the gangway.

'What's this you've seen, Hartley?' said Captain Burke.

[Pg 131]

'I was at the scuttle butt with the dipper in my hand, when, turning my head to look forrard, I see the shadow of a man with the glimmer of a face upon it standing near the foremast. I took a step, thinking it was one of the men, and lost it.'

'How d'ye mean, lost it?' said the captain.

'It sort of went out, sir.'

'Take a lantern and search the ship forward, bo'sun,' said the captain.

The three of them went forward, but I heard the first man tell the boatswain that the way to see the stranger that had come aboard was not by showing a light.

'What's the meaning of it?' said Mrs. Burke.

The captain rose in silence and walked the deck, going somewhat towards the gangway, and staring forward and around. The group of seamen had followed the boatswain, and were now on the forecastle, a knot of silvered[Pg 132] figures with their shadows like carvings of jet lying at their feet.

'Was it a strange man they saw?' I asked. 'If so, how did he come into the ship?' and I own a chill ran through me as I asked the question.

The mystery and awe of this wonderful, beautiful night of moonlight and trance of ocean, glazed by the nightbeam as though it were an ice-field, was in this hour to heighten into a sort of horror the fancy of a strange man with a wet face walking forward; and then again there was the memory of the death in the morning and the burial before sundown. Mrs. Burke was silent, and I saw her watching her husband as he uneasily moved here and there.

'Pity it's happened,' said Mr. Owen. 'It's all nonsense, of course. They'll find nobody. A very small optical illusion will carry conviction into the brain of a noodle. All sailors are noodles in superstition. And now all hands'll think there's a ghost aboard.'

[Pg 133]

Captain Burke rejoined us abruptly, and seated himself.

'They'll find nothing,' said he.

'So I was just saying,' said the doctor.

'But that'll be the worst of it,' exclaimed the captain. 'I wish it had been that confounded seaman's watch below. I don't like such things as this to happen in my ship.'

'Why, Captain Burke, you don't mean to tell me——?' said Mr. Owen, catching, as I did, the note of awe and nervousness in the other's utterance.

'I tell you what it is,' burst out the captain irritably; 'it's devilish hot to-night, I know. Is this the Red Sea?'

'Would it were, for that's where all the ghosts are laid,' said the doctor good-humouredly.

'I'm no infidel,' said the captain. 'I thank God I have my faith. There's testimony enough in the Bible to the existence of ghosts to satisfy any Christian man.'

[Pg 134]

'Why, Edward,' cried Mrs. Burke, 'do you want to frighten Miss Marie?' and she poured out a small tumbler of brandy and seltzer for him; he swallowed the draught and said:

'They'll find nothing; which will prove, of course,' said he, looking at me, 'that there is nothing.'

And then he began to talk a little mysteriously of a brig that had sailed out of Cork; the crimps or runners had bundled a man stone drunk into the forecastle, where the captain let him lie for a day or two, guessing he would rally and turn to; instead of which they found him dead, and there was no doubt he had been dead when put on board, the crimps shipping the corpse in order to secure the man's wages. They buried the loathly thing, but every night throughout the voyage the apparition of it moved in the forepart of the vessel, and always its ghostly hand struck one bell, which is half an hour past midnight at sea, after which the shape disappeared, and[Pg 135] the watch on deck breathed freely again. I say Captain Burke talked of this brig a little mysteriously, as though he secretly believed in the story, yet was ashamed we should think he did so.

Whilst Mr. Owen was trying to make Mrs. Burke and me laugh with some silly story of a spectre, the boatswain came aft.

'Well,' said the captain.

'There's no strange man forward, sir.'

'Where have ye searched?'

The boatswain named all sorts of places.

'All right!' said the captain, springing to his feet. 'It's happened right or wrong, and must take time to wear off. The dew is heavy: I recommend Miss Otway to go below.'

[Pg 136]


Mrs. Burke talked with me in my cabin for some time. She wondered that her husband could be so credulous as to believe in ghosts, and said she had never before suspected he was superstitious. She kissed me and said good-night, and went away thinking, I dare say, she had left me fairly cheerful; and so indeed I was while she was with me, but when she was gone, and I lay alone in the darkness, I felt very uneasy. The cabin porthole was high above the low bunk in which I rested; I could not see the stars in it, but the noise of waters fretted by a gentle catspaw of wind came through very clearly, along with a dim sifting of moonshine that ruled the gloom in a[Pg 137] spectral spoke of light which was like dreaming to see; it was a dismal, sobbing, moaning noise of waters whilst it lasted, and made me think of the dead men deep down in the sea, and of the apparition that had moved upon the forecastle, and vanished seemingly as smoke goes out, till I was too afraid to sleep.

The last bells I heard stealing faintly through the calm were eight—four o'clock in the morning.

However, I was at the breakfast table at the usual hour; Captain Burke and his wife and the doctor came below from the deck and seated themselves. Presently I said:

'Are we making good way, Captain Burke?'

'Noble way. We've taken a fine royal breeze right abeam. It's hit our heels to a hair.'

I looked at him as he spoke, and observed a certain dulness in his countenance. The arch expression was gone out of his eyes, and[Pg 138] if they seemed merry it was through their blue glitter, not their spirit. It may have been his face which made me ask:

'Was anything more seen of the ghost during the night?'

'No, miss,' he answered abruptly.

'It was no ghost, Miss Marie,' exclaimed my old nurse. 'Why, as Mr. Owen justly says, you can't have no better ingredients for a spectre than moonshine and the moving shadows of rigging.'

'For such a noodle as the fellow that saw the thing,' said the doctor, with a half-glance of interest and speculation at the captain.

'You're not going to get correct likenesses of living people out of moonshine and shadow,' said the captain.

'Why, yes, out of light and shade merely, captain,' said Mr. Owen. 'What else would you do work with in pencil or crayon?'

'I wonder you can be so silly, Edward,' said Mrs. Burke.

[Pg 139]

I looked at her inquiringly, perceiving that something lay behind this: on which she said, 'The man who saw the ghost has frightened Edward by saying he thought it was the captain at first, the face was so like.'

The captain sipped at a big breakfast cup to conceal his expression, and subdue, as I thought, some temper excited by his wife's remark. He then said, quietly smiling, but with no light of merriment upon him, 'I went forward last night after you were turned in, Miss Otway, to take a look round. I called to the fellow the ghost appeared to, and asked him to describe the thing to me; he did so, and said it had my face. My wife thinks I am frightened. You don't believe that, I hope? You'd not feel safe in a ship commanded by a skipper who's to be scared by a seaman's yarn.'

'Just a little bit of forecastle malice, depend upon it,' said the doctor. 'We'll have the truth of it yet. Perhaps they hope[Pg 140] to justify their charges against your beef by dreaming terrific waking nightmares, and seeing precisely the sort of thing that an unsavoury harness cask would be fruitful of.'

'You'll have the other man saying now that the thing he saw was like you,' said Mrs. Burke.

'He's said it,' exclaimed the captain, with an emphatic nod at her.

Mr. Owen lay back in his chair with a loud laugh; an ill-timed explosion and forced withal, for you easily saw that the mood of the captain was then a distemper, which needed the medicine of a little skilful sympathy. But the subject was dropped after the doctor's laugh, and Captain Burke, turning to me, talked in a gentle voice of the letter I had sent home, and calculated the distance the brig had sailed since we spoke her, and chatted to entertain me and perhaps to brisken up his own spirits.

When I went on deck I beheld one of the[Pg 141] most spacious splendid scenes of morning our ship had ever sprang through. It was blowing fresh, but the seas ran steadily in defined hard blue ridges, smoking as they came at us right abeam. The rolling of the ship was so regular as to be scarcely noticeable. It was all cream and yeast to leeward; I had never seen before alongside such a bubbling, throbbing spread of white spume, winking, seething, crackling like burning brushwood, sweeping off in steam whenever the heel of the ship hurled the blast under the foot of the mainsail sheer into it over the rail. The clouds hung in vast terraces to windward, with bodies of vapour blowing up to the zenith out of the silk-white heaps, then scudding westward to mass themselves low down in a coast of cloud, that looked, with its breaks and tints, like a rich land dimly seen in mist.

It was this cloud scenery, with its steady whirl of vapour between, that made the morning show as wide again as it was. Mr.[Pg 142] Owen, seeing me alone looking at the water, joined me.

'It is difficult to feel superstitious on such a morning as this,' said he.

'If the stranger comes again I hope it will be in daylight,' I answered. 'The thing seems to have affected the captain's spirits.'

'But not yours, I hope.'

'I don't believe in ghosts,' said I, 'but I have faith in portents and presentiments and premonitions.'

He looked grave, and answered so had he, and was about to tell me something, then checked himself; I think his imagination was with his dead then, and that he could have told me of having received some warning of the loss that was to befall him.

'I am sorry,' said he, with a glance at the captain, who was on the weather side of the deck talking with his wife, 'that the sailor should have told Captain Burke the apparition was like him. These reports, if there's good[Pg 143] faith in them, catch hold of a man's spirits. The captain's worried. We must avoid the subject in his presence.'

'I should not like to be told that I had appeared to a person,' said I.

'I don't know,' he exclaimed, 'whether sailors are more superstitious than others; they're thought to be so. They can plead good reasons. Last night, for example, was fuller of the mysterious and the spirit-like than any churchyard scene, however crumbling the church tower, however red the colour than of the moon with a streak of black cloud, like crape, above it. The superstitions of the sea are extraordinary, and some of them beautiful. The Ancient Mariner was a poet.'

'He talks like one in the poem,' said I, smiling.

'Coleridge went to the old sea chronicles for his ideas and imagery,' he exclaimed. 'Shelvocke gave him the albatross, and he found his painted ocean, and the shining and[Pg 144] burning, wriggling things in it, in Richard Hawkins. We can never see again as the old saw. They came with the eyes of children and everything was marvellous. But many of the old superstitions linger.'

'Is there any particular superstition connected with apparitions at sea?'

'I am not well read in that subject,' he answered, laughing. 'Most of the apparitions I have heard about concern the coming on and ending of storms—mercurial spirits, spectres of the barometer. The old Jacks swore that the Virgin frequently appeared in the height of a gale; they had but to vow a taper and down dropped the wind. There was always a gale in the wake of the "Flying Dutchman."'

'There's nothing but weather for apparitions to predict at sea,' said I.

'That wet-faced ghost of last night,' said he, 'reminds me of Lord Byron's tale of a certain captain; his brother, who was in[Pg 145] India, entered his cabin in mid-ocean, and lay down in his bunk; when the captain awoke he found his blankets wet through.'

'Perhaps he forgot to close his cabin window,' said I.

'Anyhow,' said Mr. Owen, 'Captain Kidd afterwards discovered that his brother was drowned at that exact hour of the night.'

'This is not nice talk for such a morning as this,' said I, chilled by a sudden return of the uneasy superstitious feeling.

'There's a fine sight coming along yonder,' cried out Captain Burke just then, and he pointed over the weather bow with the telescope he had been looking through.

I crossed the deck and saw two large stars of light on the sea-line almost directly ahead. Even whilst I gazed they sensibly enlarged. The sun at this time was hanging on the left of them, and his light was on the water between, flashing every headlong ridge into silver, and silvering the sea-smoke till it flew[Pg 146] down the wind with the gleam of a silken veil; and beyond this rushing splendour of silver sea, softened here and there by the shadows of the sailing clouds, hung those two glowing stars, steady as though they were fixed in the heavens.

Captain Burke let fall the glass from his eye and said to Mr. Owen, 'An ocean race.'

'Yachts?' said the doctor.

'Bless me no. Clippers rushing it for a wager. If this was the other end of the year they'd probably prove tea-ships. It should be a fine sight,' he cried, anticipation and spirit working his face into something of its old merry, eager look.

We were ourselves sailing fast, and the two ships were coming along faster perhaps by two or three miles in the hour than we were going; in a magically short time they were two defined shapes upon the bow about a quarter of a mile apart, black spots under brilliant clouds showing like shapes of white[Pg 147] flame through the windy blue dazzle trembling into the atmosphere they were coming through. The sailors dropped their several tasks to look; the surly mate stared with a fixed devouring leer; all hands I guessed understood what they were to see; the cook stepped from the galley to the rail. In less than half an hour from the moment of our sighting them they were abreast, and when they were right abeam this one hid the other, so completely were they neck and neck.

By this time our own ship's number was flying at our peak, and now as they came abreast, each having told us by a thin tongue of flag that our colours had been spelt out, they hoisted their own names.

'An Aberdeen clipper and a Blackwall liner,' said Captain Burke, reading out of a signal book. 'Both from an Australian port. A very pretty race indeed. But it's the spirit of Souchong that puts life into that sort of thing.'

[Pg 148]

Yet spite of that I thought the show as gallant as anything old ocean ever submitted, if it were not a scene of old line-of-battle ships in a gale of wind. They opened into six spires of delicate shadow and snowlike whiteness; they leaned their full and starlike breasts to us, the lustrous canvas tapering to an apex of cloth that was a very puff of sail, wan as some web of cloud near the afternoon moon. Every stitch that would draw was heaped upon them; they had the wind right abeam; to windward they were clothed with studding-sails; betwixt the masts some becalmed wing of fore and aft canvas would swing in and out idly like the pinion of a wounded bird. The sight was a marvellous hurry of shadows, and flashing lights, and steady shining of rounded canvas; and under the bows of each a glass-clear sea arching, flashed into a very snow-storm, and broke aft as far as the gangway.

They passed like clouds, silent and stately,[Pg 149] and I continued to watch them till they were glowing astern, dwindling and dimming, but, as Captain Burke declared, neck and neck yet even when they had sunk their courses, and nothing above the clews of their topsails were 'dipping' upon the horizon.

It was not many days after this that we crossed the equator. A pleasant sailing wind blew us over the line and failed us not till we had reached almost within the Polar verge of the south-east trade wind, into which Captain Burke and the mate sneaked the ship by careful and unwearied attention to every faintest breathing that tarnished the surface of the long, blue equatorial heave. Then one morning, coming on deck, I found a strong wind humming like a concert of organs off the port bow, and the vessel with her yards fore and aft, breaking through a quick spitting sea, and clouds passing like dust over our mast-heads. This was the first of the south-east trade wind.

[Pg 150]

'It's all right with us now, Miss Otway,' said Captain Burke as he shook me by the hand. 'We're making a straight course for the Horn, and we shall be putting her nose off for the great South Sea presently.'

But even though he spoke lightly, and seemed very well satisfied to have taken the trade gale in its strength so young, there was the same suggestion of spiritlessness in his manner that had been more or less visible in him now ever since the sailor had told him he had seen his apparition. Though the ghost had not again appeared; though Mr. Owen, with the hope, no doubt, of settling the captain's spirits, had got the seaman to admit that he might have been mistaken, that he was leaning against the forecastle rail in a sort of doze perhaps when he started and saw the thing, which, he avowed, might very well have been an illusion of shadow and moonlight upon his sleepy vision—it was all one; a weight of dejection had come upon the[Pg 151] captain's mind, and ever since the night of superstition he had ceased to be that merry, arch, humorous Irishman who had called upon my father, and made us laugh almost in the very anguish of my leave-taking. This was so noticeable in him whilst he talked to me about the south-east trade wind, and going for Cape Horn in a bee-line, and our first sunny port—full of quaint costumes and pleasant fruit and queer merry-makings—just round the corner, that on returning to the cabin sometime afterwards and finding Mrs. Burke there sewing, I sat down beside her and talked about him.

'What should there be in this thing, nurse, to dispirit your husband after all these days, now that the man has as good as sworn that he was mistaken?'

'Why, my dear, he is an Irishman, and they are a superstitious people.'

'The crew no longer trouble themselves about that ghost.'

[Pg 152]

'I don't think they do. The boatswain,' said she, laughing, 'told my husband a man had said that as the ghost appeared with a wet face it must have been Old Stormy.'

'Who's Old Stormy?' said I.

'Oh,' she answered, still laughing, 'there is a well-known windlass song called "Old Stormy, he is dead and gone!"'

'Old Stormy wouldn't be like Captain Burke,' said I.

'And that should satisfy him,' she answered. 'I doubt that he's quite the thing. These roasting latitudes use the liver cruelly. Then again there's the anxiety of command. The tone of the mind gets lowered by worry, which a man takes as a matter of routine, and doesn't heed though it's working in him all the same. It'll wear off, I dare say, when the weather gets cold.'

She talked placidly, going on with her work with a comfortable, smiling face. She had married too late in life to take anxious[Pg 153] views of her husband. It's the young wife that frets, I think. Not that Mrs. Burke would not have shown herself deeply anxious had her husband been ailing in his health; it was his fancies she took no notice of, a smile was good enough for them.

It chanced that on this same day there occurred an incident that had nearly verified the judgment of any man who should have accepted the visit of the apparition as a menace. After loitering at the dinner-table in chat, I put on my hat and jacket and followed the captain and Mr. Owen on deck. It was blowing very fresh, and though the sun still nearly centred the heavens we were sailing under, the weight of the blast put an edge into the feel of it. But it was a glorious, invigorating, cordial draught; and I stood for awhile with my hand upon the companion-hood, deeply breathing, and relishing to the inmost pulses of my being that shouting musical tide of liberal gale, blue and salt, yet[Pg 154] sweet as sugar when it came charged with the damp of the spray.

The brown scud was flying off the working ridges on the horizon, and the ship was bowed to her channels, charging the sea-flashes, with the forecastle reeling in the frequent thickness of foam flying athwart. She was carrying all she had of plain sail and clearly more than she needed, for I had not been five minutes on deck when the captain ordered the three royals to be clewed up and furled, and other sail to be taken in.

I continued standing at the hatch watching two men on the main royal yard stow the sail there. It was a giddy sight to my girlish eye. Indeed I had always found something wonderful in the agility and fearlessness of the crew when they sprang aloft, and slided out upon the yards, and struggled with the canvas that soared in huge bladders from their grasp. I gazed up at the two fellows and tried to figure the image our ship would make viewed from[Pg 155] that height, and whilst I was picturing a narrow streak of hull rushing headlong with a wild play of dazzle on either hand of her, and all aslant to her trucks, with yard-arms pointing skywards and stirless canvas thrilling like a thousand drums out of the violet hollows, I was startled by a loud cry directly overhead: and looking up I spied a man in the mizzen-top, leaning off with one hand upon a shroud, and pointing eagerly to leewards with the other, whilst he cried:

'There's a whole coast of water a-coming along.'

I directed my eyes at the lee line of the sea, where I saw, nearly at the distance of the horizon, but clearly coming along at a prodigious rate directly against the wind and rushing surge, a wall of water: it was rounding its pouring volume high above the level of the sea, and the vast bulk of it, stretching north and south, blazed with the flashing of the sunlight upon the savage leaps and [Pg 156]shattering recoils of the surge it was rolling up against. Mrs. Burke, losing her wits at the sight, shrieked out:

'Oh, Edward, it will drown us!'

Scarcely had she said this when her husband, who had taken but one glance to leeward, roared out:

'Hard up, hard up with the helm! Aft to the weather-braces. Square away fore and aft! Lively, my lads, for Jesus' sake! If it takes us abeam it'll sink the ship!'

He yelled the words and they rang through the vessel. The sailors fled to the braces: their practised ears heard in the captain's cry the note that signifies at sea life or death, though some probably did not know what the danger was. The gallant little ship answered her helm like a racing yacht, and seethed aslant down the wind in a semicircle, bowing the hawse-pipes into the billow breaking under her, and slowly righting as she brought her stern to the breeze, till she was[Pg 157] looking at the long on-coming, cliff-like length of brine, with erect spars, rolling never and bowing only as she swept to that wonderful heap of sea.

It might have been hurling towards us at forty miles an hour, when we are going ten, and in a few heart-beats our bows were lifting to it.

'Hold on, all hands!' roared the captain from the wheel, which he was grasping conjointly with the helmsman.

'Hold tightly,' screamed Mrs. Burke to me as we stood together in the companion.

Mr. Owen flung himself on his knees behind the mizzen-mast. Green, the mate, stood at the mizzen-rigging grasping a belaying-pin. It was as though an electric storm was volleying in one continuous roar of cloud battery overhead. The ship seemed to be thrown keel out of water forward. I glanced astern at the instant that her bows took the first of the slant of that mighty[Pg 158] heave of sea, and the line of her taffrail was depressed, like the edge of a spoon afloat in a cup, in the crackling whiteness there, with Captain Burke and the helmsman low down, pale and motionless. The sails throughout came in to the mast with a single clap. In a breath or two we were on the rounded top of that vast rolling lift of water that was roaring along either extremity of it to the horizon; the wind was full of the thunder of the shock and the snap of strong seas staggering on the under run; in that breathless moment of our being poised atop the whole weight of the wind was upon the ship; through the roar of the roller ran the bugling in the rigging, and the low, deep humming of the canvas as it strained with the blast.

Then like an arrow down rushed the vessel. Oh, that was a frightful moment! So steep was the slant that the water poured in tons over her bows as she went. I turned sick. I thought she would take the valley in[Pg 159] a dive and strike clean through under the next sea, never again to rise. Fortunately the run of the mighty roller left the water smooth in its wake. The bows sprang buoyant, the whole ship seemed to leap with a sort of shudder of rejoicing throughout her.

'Trim sail the watch,' shouted the captain, letting go the helm and coming forward. 'Mr. Green, bring the ship to her course again. A desperately close shave. Had it come from the wind'ard, or taken us abeam to leeward, or found us a strake or two deeper——'

There was no need for him to finish the sentence. He came to the companion-way.

'An ocean hurdle,' said he, still very pale, and watching the wheel as the man revolved the spokes to bring the ship to.

'What was it, Edward?' cried his wife.

'A roller,' said he. 'I hope there may not be another.' He looked to leeward. 'One of those volcanic jokes or hurricane[Pg 160] survivals which try periodically to swamp Ascension and St. Helena. Help Miss Otway below, Mary, and give her a little drop of wine, and take a nip yourself.'

[Pg 161]


Our voyage, after this incident of the roller down to below the latitude of Cape Horn, was uneventful. I had looked with dread to the cold of that stormy and desolate part of the world; but when we arrived, having struck a parallel, indeed, beyond which the captain informed us we were not to push much further, I found the ocean climate by no mean insupportable.

My wardrobe had been a liberal equipment. I had furs, wraps and the like in plenty, and all very warm; then again my health had wonderfully improved, and this helped me to find the cold a lesser evil than I had feared. Throughout the days a fire[Pg 162] glowed in the cabin. And yet it was towards the close of June when we were nearly as far south as the captain intended to go, and June is mid-winter in that part of the world, with but four or five hours of light only in the day, and the sun a little scarlet ball whose arc of flight might scarcely frame an iceberg.

All this while the captain remained the changed man I have before attempted to express him. I did not observe that his despondency increased upon him. He was as one who lives with some fixed belief in his head, who, depressing his bearing and manner to a level, leaves himself there, never sinking, but never rising either. For the rest it had been as it still was, a monotonous routine of bells and meals, reading, chatting, playing at games in the cabin; sometimes we had spoken a ship; once we had floated quietly into a school of whales which made the cold black deep lying under the large stars of the south[Pg 163] as beautiful as any dream of poet with the silver willowy curves of light they blew to the moon.

In this time I found no opportunity to send a second letter home.

I cannot remember our latitude on this day I am to write about. I understood that, for reasons my memory will not suffer me to explain, we had made more southing than was necessary, whilst we were further to the east—half-way indeed, to Georgia Island,—than the captain and mate cared to talk about. The weather had been sulky all the morning; large snow clouds in soft dyes of darkness upon the stooping, corrugated, leaden sky, floated sullenly athwart our mast-heads, but without any squally outfly of wind so far, though often the snow fell thickly. A large westerly swell was running, and the ship bowed heavily upon it, finding nothing to steady her in the small beam breeze that blew bitter as ice straight out of the south.

[Pg 164]

I remained in the cabin all the morning, reading beside the fire. Whilst we were at dinner, the mate, shaggy in thick pilot cloth and a great fur cap between whose ear-covers his face lay small as though withered by the cold into a mere leer of eye and a purple nose jewelled with a little icicle, came half-way down the companion ladder.

'There's a big island jumped out of a snowfall on the lee bow,' he exclaimed. 'The lady'll like to see it p'raps,' having said which he instantly returned on deck.

Strangely enough, though we had measured many leagues of ocean often for months and months studded with bergs, we had down to this hour sighted nothing of the sort. I had longed to see an iceberg before all other sights of the deep, and at once wrapped myself up, and went on deck with the captain. On stepping to the lee side, there on the bow about two miles off we beheld a vast iceberg like a mighty cathedral[Pg 165] in alabaster shaping itself out of a soft vapoury shadow! As each feature of the mass stole out it showed with an ivory-like clearness against the hoary soot of the snow-cloud past it; the swell of the sea washed the base in a large surf. The water was lead coloured as the sky; its heavings were slow and stubborn, and each volume rolled along as though it were of oil or quicksilver. Some lovely snow-white petrels darted swallow-like athwart our sluggish wake. I cannot express how their beauty deepened, to the imagination, the sky-wide loneliness of this scene of ocean with its ice-island there, material as rock, dissoluble as the smallest of the flakes falling upon it—a mere dream of substance—a pageant of the deep as illusive as the tapestries of the clouds.

Many shadows of snow hung round the sea. It was like entering a vast arena funereal with draperies.

'What does that iceberg remind you of?'[Pg 166] said Mr. Owen, approaching us with Mrs. Burke.

'Of a cathedral,' said I.

'Exactly,' he exclaimed. 'Winchester and Canterbury combined, with a hint from Strasburg in that corner to the right yonder, where its opening is clear of the snow.'

'A pretty little fairy toy to thump up against on a black howling night,' said Captain Burke, with an uneasy look round at the weather.

'This is as strange a day as ever I saw,' said Mrs. Burke.

'How long could people live on such an iceberg as that?' said I.

'Give 'em wreckage for huts and food and fuel, and they should live long enough to be taken off,' answered the captain.

'Ha!' exclaimed Mr. Owen, pensively regarding the majestic bulk, 'fancy finding one's self alone on such an island as that! An ice Crusoe!'

[Pg 167]

'I've known three whalers taken off a piece of ice four or five days before the lump they floated on would have melted under their feet,' said the captain.

Mr. Owen viewed him with a smile. The captain abruptly left us, and standing at the wheel directed his eyes earnestly round the sea and up at the sky. Mrs. Burke said:

'My husband's uneasy. I hope we are not going to have any very bad weather.'

'Miss Otway,' said Mr. Owen, 'do you know, those birds are the souls of dead ballet-girls? Observe the exquisite time and grace of their measures and curvings, as though they held their white skirts out and revolved to unheard music.'

Here Captain Burke called out sharply:

'Get the main-topgallant sail furled and all three topsails single-reefed.'

In a few minutes the ship was clamorous with singing men and busy with running figures; a pale ray of sunshine glanced just[Pg 168] then at no great height above the horizon and flashed up our ice-glazed rigging and flamed in the spears of ice at the catheads: it touched the iceberg and the cathedral-like phantasy that was now abeam whitened out into a glaring brilliance which flung a sheen of its own round about it; the sky hung pale above and on its left, but to the right of it snow was falling thickly. In a few minutes the whole mass vanished, a deeper gloom closed in upon the sea, and the swell ran with an increased weight.

It was an 'all hands' job as sailors call it, and while the watches were on the topsail yards, the captain bawled out 'two reefs,' and when some hands went on to the mizzen topsail yard he cried out to them to close-reef the sail, which, before the men came down, was clewed up and furled. Even whilst I remained on deck a sort of vapourish thickness had gathered round the horizon, as though the several draperies of snow-cloud had compacted[Pg 169] into a huge circular wall, blotting out everything a mile off, whilst overhead the sooty stuff, like scud held in suspense, floated low down till the sweep of the dog vane at the royal mast-head seemed to rend it.

It began to snow in large soft flakes. I went down the companion steps, and Mrs. Burke and Mr. Owen followed me. I heard Mr. Owen say softly, as though he would not have me overhear,

'I wish the mercury had not sunk so low.'

'I shall be glad to get out of this sea into the north, where the sun is,' answered Mrs. Burke.

It was after two, and the cabin lamp was alight. I removed my wraps and took a chair close by the stove. The motion of the ship was large, and sweeping upon the swell. You could judge of its character by watching the oscillation of the lamp. Presently Mrs. Burke came from her cabin and sat beside me.

[Pg 170]

'We are going to have heavy weather, I fear,' said I.

'Oh, well, this is a brave little ship,' she answered. 'We are a long way from home down here, but she's carried us safely so far.'

'She has truly, nurse. I cannot wonder that sailors should feel towards ships they have long lived in almost as towards the women they love. A ship is alive. I can think of her as with passions and feelings. I've seen the "Lady Emma" erect her spars and look at a sea as a horse cocks its ears at a gate—I once heard Mr. Green talking to her, and I laughed to find myself thinking she understood him.'

'What did he say?'

'"Go it, old bucket"—I forget what more,' said I.

'If it were not for Mr. Moore,' said she, looking at me with affectionate eyes, 'I would stake all that my husband owns in this ship that you ended in marrying a sailor.'

[Pg 171]

I quietly shook my head.

'Well, the sea has used you handsomely, anyway,' said she. 'I dare say Sir Mortimer is at this minute wondering where you are. How he and Mr. Moore will have pored over the map of the world, to be sure. But little can they guess where you are this very day. This is the terrible Horn your father was so afraid of for your sake. It's not so cold, is it? And yet we are further south than it is customary for ships to venture. What would Sir Mortimer think of such a sight as you saw to-day—that great iceberg, I mean? Fancy such an object floating just opposite your house. What a fortune for the boatmen!'

Just then I heard a shouting on deck; it came dulled through the planks, yet I caught a sharp, fierce note of instant need in it. A minute later the ship leaned down to an outfly of wind that seemed of hurricane force. I heard the thunder of the storm, and saw the lee cabin windows drowned in the green brine,[Pg 172] whilst the weather ports winked like blinded eyes with the sudden lashing of foam. My chair gave way, and with a shock I fell with it and rolled down the deck, and for some moments lay helpless, astonished, terrified to the last degree, but unhurt.

Mrs. Burke clung to a stanchion, and I feared, whilst I watched her stout form swinging off it, to see her let go, lest she should flash down upon me and break my neck or maim me for life with her weight. I could not imagine what was happening save that a sudden hurricane had struck the ship and thrown her on her beam ends. She lay as though capsized, with a horrible roaring, pounding thunderous noise of water on the weather side of her, and frightful sounds in her hold, threaded with dim notes of rending, as though sails were flogging in rags, or masts going over the sides.

I managed to get on my knees, and in that posture remained a minute like one on the[Pg 173] roof of a house. Such was the slant of the deck I could no more have crawled up it to where Mrs. Burke hung by a stanchion than up a wall. This awful sensation of the ship being upset was dreadfully increased and made a sickness of for the very soul itself to faint under, by her motions in the vast hollow swell which the hurricane was tearing into shreds. Whenever a pause of the beating sea left a weather cabin window weeping, yet clear to that extent, I could judge it was about black as midnight outside. The globe of the lamp had swung hard against the deck, and rarely came from it even with a windward roll. All in a moment the ship lurched over yet, till you would have thought she was turning keel up, and this motion was accompanied by such a thump of the sea, such a shattering inleaping of tons of water, it was as though a huge gun or a whole broadside of pieces had been fired on board of us.

[Pg 174]

And again through the roaring blow of water I caught the muffled noise of the rending of wood. I shrieked out in that moment of agonising suspense, 'We are sinking!' and indeed so blinding was the eclipse of the window glass that I did truly believe we were going down and were even then below the surface.

Mrs. Burke was unable to make any reply. She was almost black in the face with the anguish of supporting her weight and with horror and fear. In a few moments the strength of her arms gave out; but by relaxing her grip she doubtless saved her neck; her grasp loosened and she slided her embrace down the stanchion to the deck, and then let go and swept silent and helpless as a length of timber down to close beside me; her feet struck the cabin wall hard, and she lay a minute without motion as though the breath had been shocked out of her. She then grasped my hand and cried out:

[Pg 175]

'Oh, what can have happened? Are we amongst the ice? Did you hear a noise as if our masts had been splintered?'

I shrieked back—I put it thus strongly, for you cannot imagine the uproar in that cabin, what with the grinding of the ship and the freight, the creaking of a hundred strong fastenings, the cannonading of flying tons of brine against the lifted exposed weather side of the vessel—I say I shrieked back:

'Let us try to get on deck. It is horrible to drown down here.'

'Don't talk like that. What can have happened? Is Edward safe? What has become of the ship? Oh, the suddenness of it! Are we amongst the ice?'

Thus the poor woman raved. She was silenced by a roar of water like a crash of thunder close overhead; a sea of giant bulk had swept the quarter-deck, and in a breath a cataract, sparkling in the lamp light, rushed smoking down the companion, and before[Pg 176] we could deliver a scream we were up to our waists.

The water must have been of an icy coldness, but I felt it not—at least in that way; it was no colder than the summer ripples which I would paddle in when a child. Terror had rendered me insensible to pain.

'Cannot we drag ourselves out of it before more comes, or we shall be drowned?' screamed poor Mrs. Burke.

Then it was that the ship began to right. She righted slowly at first, then came to a level keel with a sickening jerk and a wild leap of her whole frame that sent the water in the cabin speeding and roaring white as milk.

A door opened and Mr. Owen stumbled out.

'Oh, my God!' he cried. 'What has happened? I have been unable to release myself. My berth is half-full of water.'

And then he came splashing over to[Pg 177] where Mrs. Burke and I stood with an arm writhed about the stanchion. But oh, the soul-lifting sense of relief that came into one with the feel of that level deck and the rise and fall, hard and furious as the tossing was!

'What has happened?' cried Mr. Owen.

'Hark!' was Mrs. Burke's answer, in so shrill a note, that it pierced the ear like a whistle. We heard the voices of men on deck. A few moments later the figure of Captain Burke appeared in the companion-way. He looked down and cried out:

'Are you all right below there?'

'Edward, come to us. What has happened?' shrieked Mrs. Burke.

'How much water have you taken in down here?' he cried, and descended to the bottom of the steps, where he stood looking round him like a man bereft of his mind.

'What is it, Edward?' screamed his wife. 'Tell us. We are half dead with fright and nearly drowned.'

[Pg 178]

'The ship's a sheer hulk—totally dismasted,' he cried, in a raving way, still looking round and around and around.

'Oh, oh,' wailed the poor woman, and the doctor, grey as ashes, floundered through the rushing flood upon the cabin floor towards the captain.

'Not yet, sir, not yet, sir,' roared Captain Burke, holding him off with both hands out. 'See to the ladies. Let them shift their clothes. This water will drain off quickly. Give them brandy and take some. Mary,' he shouted, 'the ship's alive, but if she's to remain so I must see to her,' saying which he went up the steps, closing the companion-way behind him.

Mr. Owen splashed and staggered after him. He ran up the companion steps bawling, 'Don't lock us up down here,' and tried the doors, but was unable to open them.

'Why has he shut us up?' I cried wildly, for this imprisonment was the most dreadful[Pg 179] passage of all; I felt as if I should suffocate.

'He's afraid of more water pouring down and considers we're safer here than on deck. He'll not leave us to drown. He'll not forget we're here,' exclaimed Mrs. Burke.

'He may be swept overboard, and the others will forget us.'

'Come to your cabin and change your boots and dress. No more water is coming in, you see. What is that noise? Hark! Oh, it is the clanging of the pumps. How fearfully sudden! But it is always so at sea. Oh, my poor husband! Come, Miss Marie, come and change, or this will be giving you your death,' and grasping me by the arm the dear, poor, good creature led me towards my cabin.

As we stepped, moving very slowly with frequent abrupt halts and mutual clingings, for the jump of the dismantled hull from hollow to peak, her helpless beamwise lurch[Pg 180] from summit to valley, were a brain-sickness in sensation, Mr. Owen came out of the pantry holding a bottle of brandy and a glass. He bid me take a small glassful. I told him no, and Mrs. Burke said it was no time to think of drinking. It might be that we should be called upon very soon to save our lives, and every one would want the best of his wits.

'The captain recommended a draught of the spirit, and so do I,' said Mr. Owen, reeling in the doorway with the motion of the ship and submitting a figure which I must have laughed at, at a time less appalling, with his short legs set apart, their shape defined by the soaked small clothes which hung like loose plaster upon them, his bushy mass of minute curls over either ear seeming to enlarge like the puff from the mouth of a cannon even as the eye rested upon them, a bottle in one hand, a wineglass in the other, and his face as pale as tallow.

[Pg 181]

Mrs. Burke made no answer, and we gained our cabin.

The stout door and high coaming had kept the interior fairly dry. I changed, but though I immediately felt the comfort of the dry thick clothing I cannot recollect that I shivered, that I even felt cold, so completely was all physical sensibility in this dreadful time dominated by my horror and surprise and my fright lest the ship should go down with us whilst we were locked up below. Mrs. Burke left me, to shift some of her own clothes.

I stood at the cabin porthole, holding on by a stanchion that served as a bed-post, and looked out. The thick glass was so blind with the ceaseless wash of the roaring sea-flashes that I could distinguish nothing save dissolving, shifting, shapeless bulks of dim white, vague as snow-clad mountains beheld in starless gloom. But their thunder was without, close beside; and their strength was[Pg 182] in the hurl of the ship. Indeed a vast dangerous sea had been set running almost as swiftly as the hurricane had burst upon us, and running athwart was the huge swell filled with the might of the greatest stretch of ocean in the world.

In about half an hour Mrs. Burke came to me. The cabin lamp continued to burn brightly, but the fire in the stove had been extinguished by the water. She made me put on a pair of india-rubber shoes, for though the brine had drained off the cabin floor, the thick carpet squelched under the tread like wet sand which leaves a pool in your foot-print. The keen edge of this swamp of brine was in the atmosphere, raw and weedy and death cold; it was like entering a ship's hold under sea.

Mrs. Burke got me to the table, and procured some stout and cold chicken, and compelled me to eat, herself setting an [Pg 183]example. She struggled with her spirits, and sought to talk a little cheerfully.

'We are still alive, you see,' she said. 'The "Lady Emma" is one of the strongest ships ever built. I am no longer frightened. I can feel the life in a ship as a sailor does, and this vessel is jumping so briskly that I am certain she is not taking in any water. My husband, besides, is a thorough seaman. He knows exactly what to do, and what is best will be done.' Then turning her head, she exclaimed, 'Where is Mr. Owen?'

She got up and opened the pantry door; afterwards knocked upon the door of his berth. The noises were so many and distracting I could not hear if he answered. She opened the door and exclaimed:

'Won't you come and eat a little supper with us?'

'No, thank 'ee,' he answered, in a thickish voice.

[Pg 184]

Mrs. Burke stared at him awhile, then closed the door and returned to me.

The motions of the ship were so violent that we found it hard to keep our seats.

The food was flung over the fiddles into our laps. Every recovery had the abruptness of the flight of a missile; the water roared about the cabin windows, and again and again as the hull sank or soared, the thunder of the sea swept through her as though she had split.

The companion hatch was opened, and Captain Burke descended. He was cased in oilskins, and one whole side of him was white with frozen snow. He came to the table and sat down.

'Now will you tell us what has happened, Edward?' exclaimed his wife, and she crooked her brows with a straining of her large short-sighted eyes, shining with fear, to catch the expression on his face as it showed and shifted[Pg 185] in a sort of hysteric agility with the leap of the shadows under the lamp.

'All three masts are gone by the board.'

'What's to be done, then?'

'Eh? Done?' he cried, white in the face, his eyes keen and hot with irritability, pulling off his sou'-wester and striking it upon the table with a blow that dislodged a moulded helmet of snow hard as plaster, 'we want daylight first. You don't realise here what it's like on deck. It's a frightful night.' He checked himself with a look at me and added, 'But we'll have the old jade out of it though it should come to warping her with the Horn for a kedge. We'll put ye safe ashore, miss. By God, then, but Sir Mortimer shan't know you for plumpness and bloom!'

He forced a smile that had more the look of a snarl than a grin with the teeth he disclosed, his eyes taking no part in it. His wife caught a bottle from the swing-tray as it swept to her outstretched hand and mixed a[Pg 186] tumbler of drink. He swallowed it, and then picked up a leg of fowl and a piece of white biscuit, and whilst he alternately bit from either hand he talked to his wife thus:

'The first outfly was a squall of hurricane force, and it pinned her right down in the trough. I thought she was gone. The men could only hold on. The boatswain at last managed to scramble forward, where he got hold of an axe. He brought it aft, and others taking heart on hearing him sing out, got into the main chains, and with hatchets and knives went to work at the lanyards. The mast went, and with it the other two. It was like the melting of a shadow aloft, with a crash along the starboard length of her that's made matchwood of the bulwarks, I allow, and in a minute spars and rigging were over the side.'

'Is the ship sound?'

'Oh yes, she's tight enough. We've lost Green and four men.'

[Pg 187]

'Oh, Edward, don't say it! Mr. Green—four men! How did it happen?'

'How does anything happen at sea on a black night aboard a dismantled ship with hills of ink and foam rolling over her? How it happened ask of God who did it. They're not aboard.'

He talked with jerking movements of the head, snapping his speech at her, and his blue eyes were on fire. A look of fear of him gave a new colour to the expression of horror and consternation in his wife's face. I sat white and speechless, listening to him and to the booming artillery of the sea, entering with ceaseless secret terror into the motions of the ship, all so violent, so extravagantly wild at times that I would say to myself, 'Now she is gone!'

'Where are the crew?' asked Mrs. Burke.

'Forward in their quarters. There's nothing to keep a look-out for except daylight.[Pg 188] The wreck's gone clear. The wheel's lashed, and whatever comes must come. Is this the meaning of Old Stormy's visit, miss?' said he to me with another of his desperate forced grins. 'My apparition, you know, with a wet face! At sea omens are omens; the fired part is, you never can tell what form the mischief means to take so that you can provide against it.'

His wife hid her face.

'None of that!' he roared. 'There must be no breaking down in spirit here. Miss Otway's to be returned safe and sound to her father. There's no virtue in snivelling to help that, with all three masts gone and the night like a wolf's throat, and ice islands close aboard. Where's Owen?'

I said that he was in his cabin. He got up, opened the door, and looked at him. There was no lamp in the doctor's berth, but the sheen of the cabin light lay upon the interior. The captain entered the cabin, but[Pg 189] if he spoke I did not hear him. He returned and said:

'He is drunk! I will have a little talk with him by and by. I put you two into his care and he gets drunk!'

He drew on his sou'wester and stood up, holding by a stanchion.

'Are you going on deck, Edward?' asked his wife.

'Certainly I am.'

'You'll be swept overboard.'

'Not I. I'll rout out a couple of the men and we'll have this carpet up. Pah! how the salt water stinks! They shall light ye a fire too. Boil some coffee, Mary. You shall have what you want. I doubt but the galley's stove. The longboat's safe, but the quarter boats are gone. She wants steadying—she wants steadying;' and making a step or two he sprang up the companion ladder and was gone.

[Pg 190]


Captain Burke's manner of going persuaded me his mind was unhinged. He had talked with excitement, shouted at his wife, his eyes had been full of fire, and still it did not seem that he had fully grasped the whole dreadful meaning of the disaster.

After he had been gone a little while two men came into the cabin with fuel for the stove. One had a bloodstained bandage round his forehead under his sou'wester. The snow fell in pieces of white crust from the oilskins of the seamen as they reeled with their hands full to the stove. In the instant of their descent the sweep of the black gale followed, and filled the[Pg 191] atmosphere with darting needles of stinging cold.

'Is any water coming into the ship?' cried Mrs. Burke.

'No, mum. The well's just been sounded. She's right enough in the hull,' answered the man with a bandage round his head.

'Aren't the decks being swept?'

'Now and again a spray,' answered the same man. 'She's a-jumping of it drily enough. She'll not hurt as she lies providing there's nothen knocking about to run foul of.'

'Is your head badly hurt?'

'Just a little bit of a cut. Nothen to take notice of, thankee,' answered the man, and he knelt down and lighted the fire, the other looking on and around him with a gleaming gaze of curiosity.

The lighting of that fire was a marvellous piece of rich deep colour as I see it now, though I had no thoughts that way, I assure you, as I sat watching the kneeling figure on[Pg 192] that frightful night. He was in black oilskins bright with snow; the other in yellow, snowclad likewise, and as the kindling shavings spat out their yellow flames, the two men showed more like some wild startling imagination of a poet done into a grotesque glowing canvas, than a commonplace detail of shipboard life; their faces sharpened and shrank, grinned and grew grim with twenty shadowy expressions, their roaming seeking eyes burned like rubies under the pent-houses of their sea-helmets; add the convulsive motions of the dismasted hull, the ceaseless roar of seas pouring in mountains, the dizzy flight, the sickening fall, the wild play of the lamp, the deep, almost human groanings of the fabric with blows of the surge, like bolts from the sky, shocking to her heart in sounds of rending.

I hoped Mrs. Burke would ask questions of these men as to the safety of the vessel, what would be done, our chances for our[Pg 193] lives, and the like, seeing that they were able seamen, mariners of experience with memories perhaps of such things as this too; but she was the captain's wife; so I held my peace and watched the men, clasping myself close in the furs I sat in.

Scarcely was the fire alight when again the cabin was made bitterly raw by an icy-shriek out of the blackness, and three men, one of them the steward, all clad in oilskins and hardly recognisable, descended. A couple bore some galley things, a coffee pot, a saucepan, a gridiron, some drinking mugs, and such matters. One of them said, 'By the captain's orders, ladies,' and put the utensils on the deck near the stove. Another exclaimed, 'We've been told to stop here. We can't get a fire to burn in the galley. The fok'sle's cruel cold.'

'Where's the cook?' said Mrs. Burke.

'Overboard, along with the mate and three others,' said one of the men.

[Pg 194]

Mrs. Burke tossed her hands and after a pause said:

'I'd cook a meal for you with pleasure, men, but I cannot bear this motion—I cannot stand. Steward, fetch a ham from the pantry; there's coffee there and biscuits. Get what's needed for a plentiful supper. Four overboard! How many are left?'

'Nine foremast hands, counting the bo'sun,' exclaimed the seaman with the blood-stained bandage, looking round from the stove.

Just then the rest of the seamen came below, a shaggy, snow-bleached huddle, the gale following in a howl, with the captain's voice in the frost-keen sling of it, shouting, 'Give them all they want to eat. Let them have plenty of hot coffee, and top the meal off with a dram of rum apiece.'

The companion doors were then closed, but in such wise as to be easily opened from within. After that moment's roar of ocean[Pg 195] and volley of iron blast, the comparative calm in this interior seemed like peace itself.

'Isn't the captain coming down?' said Mrs. Burke in a voice something wild with anxiety.

'Presently, mum,' answered the boatswain, swaying easily from leg to leg, his huge form thickened out by an immensely stout pea-coat; he pulled his sou'-wester off as a mark of respect, and the snow on the hatch of it flew to the deck compact, and lay there like a white wreath on a grave.

'He'll be frozen,' cried Mrs. Burke.

'He's a-watching of an ice-mountain out over the bows,' said a man.

I clasped my hands, and felt the blood forsake my heart on hearing this. One of the men observed me, and in a voice that went through the straining noises, like the sound of the sawing of wood, cried:

'There's no call to frighten the ladies, Jim.[Pg 196] That there block ain't agoing to hurt us, anyhow.'

They then settled who should cook; a man undertook the job; the steward cut the ham into rashers, and after a little the place was full of the smell of frying. They had their orders, and went to work. You would not have guessed from their behaviour that we were a dismasted hull, low down past the Horn, ice near us, ourselves rolling helpless on a mountainous sea, a hurricane blowing, often blind with snow, our situation so frightful that every next lurch, every next drive, might carry us headlong out of hand. They fried the bacon, they boiled plenty of coffee, they overhauled the pantry, and got out biscuit and jam and such things; but all very quietly; I saw respect in their behaviour; yet what I best remember was their easy, unconcerned way of going about this business of getting supper. Whilst one cooked and others prepared the table, others again rolled[Pg 197] the wet carpet off the deck and stowed it away in a corner.

All this while poor Mrs. Burke kept straining her weak eyes at the companion way. At last she jumped up and shrieked out:

'Why doesn't the captain come down? He'll be frozen to death or washed overboard. Which of you'll go and tell him to come to me?'

The boatswain instantly went. He was absent five minutes, then returned followed by the captain, who merely saying in a voice I should not have known but for seeing him, 'Get on with your supper, my lads, get on with your supper. 'Tis a bad job,' came to the stove and stood before it warming his hands.

His wife began to reason with him in a crying appealing voice for remaining on deck: he looked at her and shook his head. She saw something in his face that arrested her speech, and when I glanced at the poor man I was thankful she ceased to worry him. He[Pg 198] stood on wide straddled legs at the stove with his hands behind him, and the snow draining into a pool at each heel, watching the men eating and drinking.

I never should have imagined any ocean interior could make such a picture as this. The wonder came into it out of the contrast betwixt the rough coarse forecastle hands gathered around the table, with the sparkle of silver plate in their fists, and the comparative elegance of the state-room in which they sat, with its few looking-glasses and other odds and ends of decoration as before described; and always present was the overwhelming thought of the vessel's loneliness. I could not indeed then figure her in her wretched state, but with imagination's eye I saw the pale sweep of the decks glimmering with snow, the deserted wheel: with each heave and fall I figured the climb and plunge of the desolate mutilated craft upon the huge seas, black and roaring as thunder, with a[Pg 199] hanging, steadfast faintness out upon the bow whenever the snow squall slackened and gave a view of a mile of the flashing froth breaking in sullen glares between the iceberg and the ship.

'Eat hearty, lads,' said the captain, 'eat hearty. There's nothing to be done with the ship till the dawn gives us a sight of her. Four of ye gone....' He gave a sort of gasp, and stared a moment or two at his wife, and then said to the boatswain, 'Wall, would she have righted, think you, if the masts had stood?'

The boatswain swallowed the contents of his mouth, and said emphatically, 'No, sir. That second bust-down must ha' done for her.'

A growl of assent ran round the table.

'Well,' said the captain, 'we all know what's to be done. We've to stick her northwards anyhow. Something may come along to give us a tow. Failing that, there's enough of foremast standing for a jury rig. The[Pg 200] machinery of the helm's sound. We've to blow to the nor'rards, I say, edging that way for the crowded track.'

The men said nothing. I seemed to find something ominous in their silence. At the same time it rejoiced me to observe that the captain talked collectedly, as though he had rallied his wits, and had clear ideas and intentions.

When the men had supped and cleared the table, they made as though to go. The captain told them to occupy the cabin for the night. They looked grateful at this, and then around them, as though considering where they should lie. Their awkward grins, queer swaying postures, backs curved, arms up and down, and fingers curled, their bearing, glances, and manners, which expressed but little reference to our lamentable and awful situation, gave me, I own, a sort of heart. They looked as though, but for the captain and us women, and the quarter-deck restraint[Pg 201] of the cabin, they'd have gathered about the stove, and roared out hearty songs, drowning the fury without with hurricane lungs of music, and spun yarns, and smoked their pipes with as much thoughtless gaiety as they carried to their diversions ashore.

The captain begged me to go to my cabin, and turn in and lie warm.

'Will you go to bed at all to-night?' his wife asked him.

'No,' he answered.

'I suppose you mean to do all the looking out yourself, and end in being found a frozen corpse, while Jack here is to sit by the stove?' said she in a low voice, but audible to him and me, glancing round her at the men.

He peered at her with a scowl, and answered, 'I'm nearly crazy. Say nothing if I'm not to go raving mad.'

'May I not stop here?' said I.

'What, with these men, miss?'

[Pg 202]

'I like the company of sailors. The sight of these seamen keeps up my spirits.'

'My poor, dear Marie!' cried my nurse, putting the back of her hand against my cheek. 'You can't sit here. Your father would not thank us for throwing you into such company.'

'How can you talk so at such a time?' I exclaimed. 'I dread to be alone in my cabin. Where is this ship being hurled to? If she should be flung against an iceberg——'

'If that,' cried he, abruptly, and with temper, 'then as lief be in your cabin as here, as here as on the deck.'

Then, softening his voice, he said some reassuring things—I forget them—I was crying with my face averted, that the men should not see me. Mrs. Burke took my arm, and we entered my berth. She called to the steward to light the lamp, and named some refreshments which he presently brought, but[Pg 203] it was too bitterly cold to talk; nay, our voices here, right aft as my berth was, were almost inaudible for the thunderous wash of the sea along the slant of the side, with a lift of it, when the toppling, helpless hull tumbled my cabin window to the foam, that must again and again have soared high above the line of her bulwark rails.

I would not undress, but after I had drunk some wine, I got into my bunk, where Mrs. Burke made a heap of me with bedclothes and furs; then, kissing me and promising to look in from time to time, she dimmed the lamp and went.

I afterwards passed many terrible nights in this ship, but none worse than this—perhaps because it was the first of them. The noises of the sea and straining fabric drowned all sounds in the state-cabin. I could not hear if the men talked, nor tell what they were doing. I terrified myself by imagining that they would get at the spirits and make[Pg 204] themselves drunk. Then there was always the haunting horror of ice near us. At any moment I might feel a rending shock of collision. I was sailor enough to know that if our ship was thrown against such a berg as we had sighted that day, nay, even against a piece of ice of her own bulk, she would be shivered into staves, and all before we could put up one prayer to God. And often did I pray that night, and with plenty of fervour of tongue, I don't doubt, but with little heart, I fear; I was too frightened to realise the meaning of the words I used. Twice Mrs. Burke visited me and said all was right; the sailors had been on deck to pump the ship out; the hull was dry and buoyant, and the gale abating. This news she gave me on her second visit. There was a vast deal of snow in the wind, and the blackness was so thickened by it there was no power in the rushing sea-flares to make a light for the eye beyond a pistol shot; but the captain believed, she[Pg 205] said, there was no ice nearer to us than the cathedral island we had seen that afternoon.

Nature, however, was worn out at last and I fell asleep, and when I awoke it was daylight, by which I guessed it was not much earlier than noon; I looked through the porthole, a large lead-coloured, confused swell was running, but it was unwrinkled and frothless. The motions of the ship were extraordinarily wild and agitated; she was flung into twenty postures in a minute. When I got out of my bunk I found it impossible to stand without holding on. The water in the wash-stand was a solid block of ice, but the cold did not seem so piercing, nor of an edge so saw-like as I had found it yesterday. I contrived to wrap myself up, and went out and saw Mrs. Burke sitting alone near the stove. She sprang to help me, and said that a few minutes earlier she had looked in, and left on finding me asleep. A pot of coffee was beside the stove,[Pg 206] and a breakfast of cold ham, tinned meat and other things on the table.

'Where are the crew?' I asked.

'On deck,' she answered, 'endeavouring to rig up a mast.'

'Is the captain hopeful?'

'He means to stick to the ship,' she answered. 'Some of the men talk as if there was nothing to be done with her, and spoke of going away in the long boat.'

'Is the vessel utterly dismasted?'

'She is in a terrible plight. But make a good breakfast, dear. It is quiet weather in spite of this horrible rolling. The hull is sound, and we are sure to be fallen in with by some vessel that will help us.'

As she spoke Mr. Owen came out of his cabin. His face was the pale shadow of the countenance he had brought on board. He blinked his eyes, and they were bloodshot; his very hair seemed to have been toned by emotion into a sort of ashen colour. He made[Pg 207] a slight bow, and sat down at the table without speaking. Evidently he had breakfasted. Also, no doubt, he had previously met Mrs. Burke. I judged by his behaviour that the captain had talked to him; it was a mixture of sulkiness and dislike.

He had been kind and attentive to me on many occasions during the voyage, and, full of fear and other crowding passions as I myself was, I yet felt sorry for him. I bade him good morning and asked him if he had been on deck. On this he rose, and clawing his way round the table, so as to get near to me, he said:—

'I owe you an apology for my conduct last night. My indiscretion was not so much the result of cowardice as the state of my health. Much less than I took in the hope of obtaining a little warmth and spirit must have overcome me. I trust I have your forgiveness.'

'There is nothing to forgive, Mr. Owen, nor is this a time to talk of such things.'

[Pg 208]

'The captain was scarcely manly in his language,' said he, turning to Mrs. Burke. 'I am not an officer of the ship nor one of his crew. I am practically a passenger, and claim the privileges of a passenger.'

'Passengers are not allowed to take too much. All captains object to drinking in their ships, particularly in such dreadful times of excitement as last night,' said Mrs. Burke.

I lifted my finger to call attention to the cries of men and the tread of heavily shod feet overhead. Mr. Owen returned to his seat at the table. Soon after this the skylight that was thick with frozen snow whitened as to a watery beam of sunshine, or to some transient glance of clearer day in the sky. I asked Mrs. Burke to take me on deck. She seemed to shrink. I asked her if she had been on deck.

'Yes,' she answered.

'Then why should not I go?'

'Feel how dangerously the hull rolls,'[Pg 209] said she. 'You might be thrown and break your neck.'

But I saw that her real objection did not lie so much in that as in her fear of the effect of the scene of the wreck upon me. Thus reading her mind, I exclaimed:

'I will go alone; but why will you not come?' and went to my cabin for more wraps.

She was ready before I was, and we clasped hands, and holding on carefully likewise, stopping always for that sudden recovery of the deck which would happen out of its slant with the rush of a cannon ball slung by a line and let go at an angle, so ungovernable were the motions of the dismasted hull, we gained the companion ladder, and crawled to the head of the steps, where we stood in the companion itself, with our heads above the hood.

I shrieked on looking! Let my imaginations have been what they would, here was the reality! I could not credit my sight. All three masts were gone! nothing of the lower-masts [Pg 210]remained saving a height of two or three feet of jagged and splintered trunk-sheaves of barbed milk-white wood on the main and quarter decks, and about ten to fifteen feet of the foremast. On the right or starboard side, lengths of the bulwark were crushed flat. The decks were littered with gear, ropes' ends were swimming overboard in the leaden swell like huge eels and sea-snakes making from the wreck. On one side, dangling between the irons, was the keel of a quarter-boat—all that remained of her; the opposite davits were empty.

But what idea can such talk as this give you of that wonderful dismal picture of shipwreck, that spectacle of decks covered with snow, of rails like an armoury with their bristling pendants of bayonet-blue icicles? The galley was partly wrecked; the bowsprit stood soaring and sinking upon the leaping waters, but the jibbooms were gone. I did not know the hull. She looked shrunk to[Pg 211] half her former size. The sky stooped to the sea with its burden of vapour, but a break right overhead hovered in a colour of sulphur. No wind stirred. Never was there a deader stagnation in the atmosphere under the height of the Line. Yet you were sensible of the presence of the spirit of this wild, desolate part of the world even in such pauses as this, when you watched the sullen motion of that troubled breast of deep, hurling its glassy folds in comminglings which ran in silent warring to the horizon. Far astern was a shape of white, a gleam in the sallow air there, like that of a sail; but my eye was now experienced, and since that dash of radiance was too big to be a ship, it must needs be ice. I saw a collection of white tips on the starboard quarter when the swell threw us high, and some points or shafts faint and bluish over the bows. Otherwise the ocean line swept clear.

[Pg 212]


All the remaining hands of the ship's company were at work forward. A number of spare booms were stowed on top of the galley and had probably saved the long-boat from being crushed when the masts fell. The sailors had rigged up a triangle of booms with blocks and tackle dangling, and even as Mrs. Burke and I stood in the companion way, they broke into song as they hoisted a huge spar that was to serve as a mast. Their hearty chorus was frequently interrupted by sharp, eager shouts from Captain Burke or the boatswain Wall.

The break overhead thinned out yet and made more light. A strange dim dye of sulphur went sifting down to the horizon, and the[Pg 213] sea in places worked against it dark as bottle glass. About two miles off some whales were blowing; their vast bulks showed in a black wet gleam amid the swell; but even then such was the blending of their curved forms with the confused running, that, but for their fountains, the eye had missed them.

We stood watching in the shelter of the companion way. The longer I looked, the stranger, the more forlorn, the more lamentable the scene showed, the more perilous and hopeless our situation seemed. What sort of cloths were they going to spread upon such a height of boom as they were chorusing at? I thought of the spacious concavities which had risen to the stars, and to the blue heavens of our voyage, those symmetric breasts of lustrous canvas which, when trimmed, snatched an impulse for our clipper keel, from the antagonism of the head wind itself; I saw the ship robed in the beauty of her sails, lifting her star-saluting royals to the very path of the[Pg 214] flying scud with jibs and staysails yearning from bowsprit and jibboom towards some deeper ocean solitude past the horizon; and then I looked at the naked boom the men were hoisting at the triangle or shears.

'Oh, that cannot help us,' I cried; 'what does Captain Burke intend?'

'Even if it should fail as a mast,' Mrs. Burke answered, 'it will be useful as a flag-post. Why, this hull lies so flat without spars a ship might pass three or four miles off and not see us.'

Here the captain looked round and spied our heads. With a note of his old cheerfulness he called out:

'Many a good prize has been navigated out of an ocean battle-field under leaner sticks than that, and added to the Royal Navy after tasselling Jack's pocket-handkerchief with dollars.'

This he seemed to say as much for the men as for me. He then approached and[Pg 215] asked me how I did; and told me not to look too long at the wreck.

'Keep up your heart, miss,' said he. 'We'll have you out of this in good time. Mary, don't let her stand here dwelling upon this scene. Why, it was a nightmare even to my seasoned eyes when it first came out of the dawn.'

'Is that mast meant to carry a sail?' said I.

'When we fix it and stay it we'll set something square upon it, certainly. There'll be room for a bit of fore and aft canvas between the head of it and the bowsprit end. Then let the wind blow south with God's blessing, or east or west will do, to edge us north. We need but steerage way, after which there'll be nothing to do but keep warm till all's well. Take her below, Mary. Look at her face! She'll wither here.'

The hours of daylight were so few that the night was upon the rolling hull before the[Pg 216] seamen had done more than lash the jury-mast to the stump with a stay or two for support. And with the darkness of the night there came along a black Cape Horn snow squall, like a dust storm in its blinding power, with a thunder of wind in it, and so much more afterwards that by five o'clock as high a sea was running as that of the preceding day.

The crew came into the cabin for shelter, and cooked their own supper as before. They ate and then went to the stove, and afterwards Captain Burke and his wife and myself sat down to some cold food and a cup of hot coffee. Mr. Owen came to the door of his berth, but seeing the captain at table at once retired, closing the door upon himself. The captain took no notice. His good spirits were gone again. He drank some coffee, but scarcely tasted food. His posture was one of gloomy despondency as he sat at table, and he rarely lifted his eyes save to dart a glance now and again at the sailors, which put it[Pg 217] into my head to think that more worked as causes for his dejection than the new fierce gale and our awful situation. His wife often furtively looked towards him but never ventured to address him, no, not even to ask him if he would eat.

Well, just such another evening and night as had passed happened with us now. From time to time one or another would go on deck and come below and report the night a flying blackness. On the boatswain returning from one of these errands of observation the captain said:

'Does it clear at all?'

'Still as thick as muck, sir.'

'Any smell of ice about?'

'No, sir.'

I wondered to hear them talk of smelling ice in a snow storm as thick as froth, and said to the captain:

'Is ice to be smelt?'

He looked at me as though he had no[Pg 218] mind to answer, to be even civil, then said sharply, 'Yes.'

My poor old nurse bristled like an angry hen at this behaviour, though she was still afraid of the mood upon him, yet being determined that I should get all the comfort possible out of any information the men could give, she turned upon the boatswain, whose bulky, oilskinned figure swung on frock-shaped leggings beside the stove, and said:

'Did you ever smell ice, Mr. Wall?'

He looked doubtfully at the captain, and answered awkwardly, 'Yes mum, scores of times.'

The captain rose and went on deck. At the same moment Mr. Owen came out of his berth. It might have been that through some crevice in the cabin bulkhead he was able to observe the captain's movements.

'What sort of smell has ice?' I asked, for I could think of no thing but icebergs, of the helplessness of our hull, of our being[Pg 219] swung by these giant seas against a berg, and I wanted to hear how sailors tell that ice is near without seeing it.

'It's the extra coldness that makes the smell. Tain't no smell in the or'nary meaning,' said the boatswain after a pause. 'The first time I ever learnt that a man could smell ice in a breeze full of frost and snow was in my first voyage in these parts. We was running off the Horn, not so low as this here, in a smother o' flakes, nothen visible of the ship from the wheel but her mainmast. I and another was steering the ship, the mate comes rushing aft and sings out to the captain who was walking abreast of the wheel, "I smell ice, sir." They both took a sniff, and I could see by their way of snuffing they both smelt it plain. They looked into the driving smother to starboard and then to port, and then all on a sudden a man on the fok'sle cries out, "Ice right ahead." "Hard aport!" sings out the capt'n, and out it jumped, big as a[Pg 220] church, right on the bow. Smelt it myself then.'

A low growl of laughter ran amongst the men, and several looked as though they too had yarns to spin.

I scarcely slept that night. The cold was terrible, and there were the noises of the sea and the gale, and the heart-maddening rolling and plunging. Yet, wonderful to relate, next morning, exactly as on the day before, a dead calm was in the air, and the swollen hills of swell ran in liquid lead in a confused shouldering. I went on deck with Mrs. Burke at about twelve, and watched the men completing the captain's toy-like affair of jury-mast. They had set a jib upon the bowsprit, and were now bending a sail to a yard which was to be hoisted to the head of the jury-mast. The lean stick was so abundantly stayed that it looked like the inside of an umbrella. The rolls of the hull were dangerous and very fierce; it was impossible to walk the deck.[Pg 221] This morning they had got a fire in the galley, which had been roughly repaired. The brown smoke floated straight up out of the swaying chimney, and, trifling as that detail of colour and life was, yet somehow it brought back to the poor old hull something of her old spirit and look. No farmyard sounds came from forward; no grunt from the long-boat, no cackle nor crow from the hencoop; all the live-stock had been frozen or drowned during the first night of the gale, when the masts went.

I saw those glancings of ice on the horizon which I had taken notice of yesterday; they hung in the same quarters, and flamed at the same distance against the dark sky with a fairy, star-like brightness. I turned my eyes in every direction for a sail.

'Don't ships ever come this way?' I asked.

'Oh, yes, many,' answered Mrs. Burke.

'What sort of ships?'

[Pg 222]

'Whalers chiefly, Edward says.'

'Suppose one should come; what will Captain Burke do?'

'Ask her to tow us.'

'If the master declines? This is a big, helpless vessel for another ship to tow in such seas as run here. And what would a ship do with us in tow should we meet with such weather as blew last night or the night before?'

She made no answer.

'Surely Captain Burke will transfer us all.'

'He'll not leave this vessel,' said she. 'It is not only that he has himself an uninsured venture in her, his obtaining further employment might depend upon his carrying the "Lady Emma" into safety. And if it can be done, it ought to,' she added, with a flat, peering, anxious look around the sea.

Presently all was ready with the sail. The seamen raised a song, and, to a steady, shearing noise of ropes in sheaves, with a [Pg 223]frequent chorus that swept like a shout of hope into the bitter, motionless atmosphere, the yard slowly ascended the jury-mast. It was like a huge lug-sail in form and fittings. Tauten it as they would, the breast hollowed and rounded with such blows as of a cudgel, and such claps as of musketry, that the boom sprang and buckled like a willow in a breeze; the sail was therefore lowered until wind came to steady it.

It put a weariness as of rheumatism into the body to stand long, and when we saw the sail hoisted we went below.

Mr. Owen was sitting beside the stove; he rose on our descending, and went on deck to look around, then, after a brief halt in the shelter of the companion-way returned, and sat him down at the table with the fingers of his right hand buried in his right bush of hair, his whole bearing abjectly disconsolate. Presently, looking at Mrs. Burke, he exclaimed:

'Is that single pole on the forecastle all[Pg 224] the mast the captain means to navigate this ship with?'

'I do not know. My husband will be glad to tell you, I am sure,' answered Mrs. Burke.

He gave a ghastly sarcastic smile, that instantly vanished in his former expression of sullen, resentful grief and dismay, showing, as a man might, who is under a sudden tragic surprise, which enrages him also. He looked down, shaking his head softly, and drumming, then started as if he would walk, but the jerk and tumble of the deck was too strong. I began to fear for the poor man's mind.

Mrs. Burke told me the men would get dinner in the forecastle that day—there, or in the galley. They did not come to the cabin. The only man of them who arrived was the steward. He clothed the table, and made us a tolerable show of dinner. I beg to recall to your memory the many delicacies my father had laid in for me.

It was about half-past one, I think, and[Pg 225] about the time when the steward was done with the table, when the companion doors were opened, and the captain came below. The lamp burned brightly: indeed, it made most of the light we had. The skylight was, perhaps, half a foot thick with frozen snow; the companion doors were kept closed to exclude the cold; and little light came through the cabin windows, which the hull dipped with pendulum-like monotony into the thunder shadow of the swollen brine. Yet by the lamp-light we saw very clearly, and I observed that the captain's face was lighted up with some life and hope. I thought a sail was in sight, and started, expecting to hear him say so.

'There's some luck for us in this devil's own ocean after all,' said he, swinging his figure towards us, eagerly watched by Mr. Owen, who was on his feet leaning upon the table, and staring with head moving as the captain moved.

[Pg 226]

'What is it?' cried his wife hysterically.

'Why,' said he, 'there's a breeze sprung up out of the south'ard: I've been watching the ship; there's drag enough in the rag we've got upon her to give her way. And so, Miss Otway, be easy, now that we're heading for the sun afresh, with a man at the wheel and a little scope of wake astern of us.'

'Anything better than lying like a log,' cried Mrs. Burke, with a short swallow in her speech. 'I had hoped from your face there was a ship in sight.'

'And so did I,' I exclaimed.

Mr. Owen sat down suddenly, and again buried his hand in his hair.

'But this is as good as a ship being in sight,' cried the captain irritable on a sudden. 'I want to blow north where ships are to be fallen in with, and we're something to see now, with a thirty foot hoist of canvas on top ten foot of freeboard; whereas, before—but let's get something to eat.'

[Pg 227]

We seated ourselves. Mr. Owen took a corner chair and spoke not a word for some time, till at last, on the captain saying that if he fell in with a vessel he would offer handsome sums for a tow, the doctor said abruptly:

'To where?'

The captain eyed him with an unfeeling pause of contempt, and then answered:

'That would not rest with you, sir.'

'I must request you to transfer me, if we fall in with a ship,' said Mr. Owen.

'I shall be happy,' said the captain, nervous and convulsive with temper, 'at least—you've got to remember the object you're here for.' He looked at me. 'Miss Otway is not likely to accompany you, and you'll be no gentleman if you desert her.'

'Miss Otway will accompany me if you give her an opportunity of leaving this wreck,' said Mr. Owen.

'This is no wreck, sir,' said the captain in[Pg 228] a low-level voice of menace, stooping his head and looking at the doctor under crooked eyebrows.

Mr. Owen muttered that he intended to save his life if he could, and Miss Otway's too if he was allowed—the rest he mumbled: after ceasing to articulate his lips moved; then, with a sudden impassioned motion of despair and horror, he sprang from his chair and disappeared in his berth, having barely taken three bites.

'I fear his intellects have become disordered,' said Mrs. Burke.

'He'd like to drive me out of the ship. The lily liver would have me abandon a craft that's as staunch as the newest line-of-battle ship afloat. What would it signify to him that I left a couple of thousand pounds of my hard earnings to go to the bottom here, so long as his dingy skinful of bones and bobs of curls were safely landed?' exclaimed the captain in a low-pitched deliberate speech,[Pg 229] that trembled nevertheless with emotion and temper.

His wife gave me a look as though she would entreat me not to talk to him. Now and again he lifted up his eyes to a tell-tale compass that hung exactly over his chair; almost as regular as the beat of a clock was the plunge of the ship from right to left, from left to right. The blinding green sense of one side and then the other of the cabin portholes, and a loud yearning thunder of water washing past.

After a little the captain went to his cabin. I said I would like to see the ship under sail, and when we had clothed ourselves for the deck Mrs. Burke and I went to the companion-steps.

A seaman, clad in oilskins and swathed about the neck till he showed nothing of his face but a pair of eyes, stood at the wheel. Some delicate stars and darts of snow were falling, but they did not cloud the view.[Pg 230] The square of white canvas was stretched by a fresh following breeze of bitter coldness, beyond frost itself: the sea was feathering upon the swell, and a number of grey and white petrels skimmed the flashes as they moulded their flight to the wind-furrowed rounds. The white sail looked like a wild and sickly light when the hull swung it athwart the soot over the horizon, but there could be no doubt that the vessel was in motion. We durst not leave the holding place of the companion-hood to look over the taffrail or side, but you saw she had steerage way by the manner in which the fellow twirled the wheel.

A group of seamen with their hands deep buried, some of them sea-booted fisherman-like to their knees, trudged the white frozen deck opposite the galley. It was wonderful to see them keep their feet; the rumbling hum of their strong, lungs stole aft against the wind; they swayed in earnest talk, and minded us not when they faced our way, again and[Pg 231] again staring round at the sea as though for a sail.

Now we had not been looking about us above five minutes when, happening to glance aft past the helmsman, I saw the ocean not above half a mile distant, white as milk, the forestretch of it was about two miles long; how wide it went back I could not say, nor could I guess what it was; there was no snow nor any particular blackness of cloud over it, nor uncommon wildness of flight in the vapour overhanging us. Before I could call Mrs. Burke's attention to the wonder, the seaman at the helm turned and spied it, and instantly roared out in a voice that swept past the ear like the wind of something heavy swiftly flying.

'Why,' cried Mrs. Burke—but the rest of the sentence was clipped sheer off her lips in a yell of squall, a very hurricane blast; the air was dark with spray, in the midst of which I just caught sight of the jury-mast and sail[Pg 232] disappearing—not abruptly, but in a dissolving way, as a snowflake dies on water. The whole thing went in the shriek of the blast, with a single report and a snowstorm of flying tatters; the next instant Mrs. Burke was dragging me down the companion-steps and we both got into the cabin dazed, frozen to the marrow, as much confounded and terrified by that sudden meteoric shock and blast of wind, with its burthen of white brine and its noise of fierce yells and whistlings, as though we had scarcely escaped with our lives.

The captain heard, or guessed what had happened; he rushed from his berth on to the deck, but the squall pinned him in the companion-way for a minute, and he stood struggling as though some man had taken him by the throat. In five minutes, however, the furious outburst was spent or had flown ahead; I could tell that by glancing at the cabin windows whenever they lifted clear. The steward came below to trim the lamp.[Pg 233] Mrs. Burke asked him what was doing on deck. He answered, nothing, and told us what we knew, that the jury-mast and sail had blown over the bows.

It was now to be felt by the distressful, horrid, jerky motion, that the hull had taken up her old situation in the trough.

'What has happened?' said Mr. Owen, coming out of his berth.

Mrs. Burke told him. He groaned, and sat down close beside the stove, folding his arms tightly, and said:

'What is to become of us? This is distracting. I am prepared to meet my Maker, but it is the suspense—it is the suspense—it is the having to wait for death that crazes.'

'I am surprised at you,' exclaimed Mrs. Burke, drawing herself up. 'How, as a man, can you talk so before this young lady? As for me, I don't mind what you say; I am the wife of a sailor, and it's not in you to improve my spirits or make me despair. But you[Pg 234] have no right to forget yourself as a man before Miss Otway.'

He slapped his knee violently, crying out, 'Poor as I am, I would give five hundred pounds had I never heard of your husband or his ship.'

The poor woman looked at him with her flat eyes and curled her lip, then gave me an expressive glance when he arose and began to move about the cabin, holding on and looking at the windows to left and right as they soared blind with the foam dazzle.

It was dark as midnight on deck before the captain came below, and yet it may not have been three o'clock. He approached the fire and stood before it, his wife and myself sitting on either hand of him. He seemed to steadfastly regard Mr. Owen, who was on a locker at the after end of the cabin, but did not offer to speak. Presently his wife said:

'Are the mast and sail lost for good, Edward?'

[Pg 235]


'What was the whiteness that swept them away?'

'What but a squall? This is a great ocean, and mark our luck; there were thousands of miles of water for that squall to sweep over on either hand of us, but Old Stormy bestrode it, and, scenting us, made for the hull.'

'There are other booms to rig up a mast with.'

'So there are,' he answered, speaking quietly, with his eyes fixed upon the form of the doctor as though he addressed him. 'There are other spars, but there's not another crew to do the work.'

His wife gave a start at this and looked up at him with a passion of anxiety, putting her hand upon his arm.

'The men have as good as told me,' said he, 'through the bo'sun, that there's nothing to be done with jury-masts. They're willing[Pg 236] to try their hands to-morrow on another—to oblige me—but they'd rather get my permission to prepare the long-boat for leaving the ship so as to give chase to a sail if one should show too far off to speak us: failing that, then to take advantage of a smooth in the weather and to make for the northward in an open boat—in this sea—the idiots!'

'But something must be done,' shouted Mr. Owen from his corner. 'The ship will go to pieces if she's to be left to knock about in this hollow sea.'

Captain Burke took no more notice than had the doctor's voice been the creaking of a bulkhead.

It was quieter on that than on the preceding night. The wind, we learnt, was a scanty breeze out of the south; here and there the vapour had thinned, and a pale star shivered in the openings: our drift that day had lifted some northward point of ice, and[Pg 237] the dim faintness of it was visible on the port beam, as the helpless hull lay; that was all the ice to be seen, and it was far enough off to keep us easy. A large black swell was flowing north and south, but the folds were wide and regular and the motion of the hull was almost easy upon it. These matters about that scene of night outside I got from the captain and steward.

The sailors remained forward. I understood they managed very well now they could keep the galley fire going. Once during this evening I asked Captain Burke, when he came below for a glass of hot grog and biscuit, why he did not burn a signal fire.

'And risk setting the hull in a blaze?' said he, 'with the chance of there being nothing within five hundred miles of us.'

'It might bring help, Edward,' said his wife.

He flung from us in a passion. It was a bad sign with him now, that the merest[Pg 238] nothings, such as my question, put him into a rage. He swallowed his glass of grog and returned on deck, and when half-way up the companion ladder he paused to shout back, 'No use in making a flare unless there's something to signal to,' and then stepped into the blackness outside.

It was fine weather next day—fine for that part of the world, I mean; glimpses of watery blue, betwixt curtains of ashy yellow and brown vapour, some slanting pencils of dull sulphur in the north, striking the line of the horizon out of a long ragged edge of cloud. The wind was west, fresh enough to flash plumes of spray out of the running wrinkles; there was the head of an iceberg away north to the right of the weak shower of sunshine. This was all to be seen—saving always the hull with her deck of frozen snow, and her catheads barbed with ice, and her lines of rails bristling with daggers and small arms of frozen dew and brine—when I looked[Pg 239] through the companion hatch after leaving my cabin.

Whilst Mrs. Burke, Mr. Owen and myself breakfasted, we heard the people on deck busy with another jury-mast. The captain's voice rang out again in loud eager shouts. Mrs. Burke sent the steward up to beg her husband come below and breakfast whilst the coffee was hot; he sent answer that he could not leave; but even whilst the steward was delivering the captain's reply, a long strange hallo was delivered by one of the men; the sounds of bustle ceased; in a minute or two we heard a rush of feet; Mr. Owen jumped from his chair and ran up the ladder, whence, after he had paused to stare round, he shouted down in a voice of ecstasy:—

'A sail, Mrs. Burke! There's a ship in sight, Miss Otway!'

I screamed with a sudden impulse of delight; I could no more have arrested that cry than have stopped the hull from rolling;[Pg 240] then, swiftly as my legs would carry me and my arms would work, I gained my berth and attired myself for the deck, and rushed up reckless of foothold.



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